Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I haz screwdrivers (but I lost my hat)

Shopping today, three stops, took the vast majority of my day, most important result: I have a whole extended family of screwdrivers and a screw-remover bit for the drill.

Before I got to the screwdrivers (it was the third of the three stops) I think I lost my hat at stop two.  There's a slim chance it will be found and returned.  More likely it'll be the third hat I've lost.  This is really annoying considering the lengths that I'll go to not lose a a hat.

But the important thing is I haz screwdrivers.  Phase 1 of try in vain to fix the washing machine can commence.

Back to getting the screwdrivers, after that I came across a stone wall topped with these nice flat stone looking things that might have actually been stone colored concrete.  It was broken, the underlying wall was fine but the stuff on top was parially broken and definitely in disarray.  Obviously I couldn't leave things that way.

It was hard work, I ended up taking my coat off to do it.  But it's as fixed as it can reasonably be without professional help.  (I'm sure as hell not a stone mason.)

After that I was exausted but not, thankfully, overheated.  I was, however, deperately in need of some form of hydrating substance  At first I thought, no problem, the place I foodshop is along this path.  Then I remembered that I'd already passed it because the Home Depot, the anti-union brainwashers that my sister once worked for who happen to be a good source when you're entirely out of scewdrivers was on the same road but closer to my house.

I wasn't going back, enough walking already.

I remembered that there was a place I had tried to go to once before that I hadn't passed yet.  Orange something.

It turned out to be Orange Leaf, a Frozen Yogurt place.  I walked in and felt like I was in Mirror's Edge.  The orange leaf logo's colors are white, orange and green.  So is everything in the room except for certain colors of yogurt and the toppings.

The yogurt was good.

Saw a gray bird shaped like an egret but larger and gray (Heron?) take flight.  It was pretty majestic.  This in spite of the fact that it pooped shortly after take off.  Antother of the same type was there too, but wasn't into the big, "Fly off majestically while discarding bodily waste," thing.

And eventually I made it home.

I didn't realize how ehauseted I was until I collapsed on the couch and didn't get up for [I have no idea how fucking long but it definitely felt like hours.]

This was all yesterday,  I never did get around to using the bought stuff to commence phase one of "Attempt to fix the washing machine in vain."

I'll have to do that tonight.

Monday, November 23, 2015

What planet? -- idea for yet another sci-fi setting (or is it fantasy?)

We start off in a city.  The setting is probably near future, near enough that the technology is basically recognizable as today's technology, future enough that it's plausible for it to be city in isolation even though our world is tending toward more connectedness.

Then in wanders a character who isn't quite right.  This is not the main character.  Sidekick at best, if that.  Ze looks a bit off, doesn't quite seem like the underclass person the clothing suggests, has an accent that's almost spot on, but only almost.

It comes out that this character is "a secret keeper who knows the paths between worlds".

Main character is incredulous, especially as the more the secret keeper opens up, the more clear it is that the secret keeper believes in magic and thinks science is nothing more than tracing the patterns on the surface of a much deeper and more complex entity.

But main character follows the secret keeper on one of the paths between worlds (semi-futuristic looking, but no more so than, say, the international space station) for some reason or another and in a certain room the friction they've been having over magic/not magic lights into an argument culminating in:

"You think you know everything just because you can repeat it in a lab; well if you're so smart tell me this: what's keeping us on the ground right now?"

*sort of "ptpht" sound* "Gravity."

"Right, your precious high and mighty theory of gravity.  Objects attract, so for us to be pulled down enough to walk there must be some pretty big object beneath us, right?"

"The planet," *pause* "obviously."

Secret keeper opens the room's windows.  They're on a space station with a multitude of habitation areas, from shallow domes to full spheres.  Some are opaque, some allow you to see inside.  Below them is a bit more station (it's not like they're on the very bottom level) and a total lack of planet.

It's not a spinning space station.  Centripetal force will not explain why they can walk in normal earth gravity.

"What planet?" The secret keeper asks.

* * *

The idea for the setting has a total lack of answers.  Whoever built the space station left it on automatic and did not leave a log or an owner's manual.  Well, for the owners manual, there was sort of something like that as it was designed to be easy to work with and to guide inexperienced people through whatever process is being done.

The secret keepers have been around for a very long time, maintain the station, and understand it better than anyone.  They're also completely convinced it's magic.

Everything that they use would seem to our eyes to be something recognizable as belonging in a sci-fi setting.  Their ritual cleansing after going to unclean areas is decontamination.  Their invocations are voice commands.  Their talismans are sci-fi gizmos.  Their ...

But, at the same time, even as you're tempted to look at them and feel superior because you know what they're doing is sci fi and they think it's fantasy, they know what they're doing.

They're very astute, very knowledgeable, fluent in the cultures of the various habitation pods, aware of the benefits of the scientific method, and running the entire space station as smoothly as can be expected given its diverse and difficult to manage population and the total lack of outside resources, and doing it all on a system that's strongly rooted in a worldview dominated by animism with various other religious and magical ideas assimilated into it.

Besides, when you're walking in the lower observation deck, nothing but very thick glass (well, probably some sort of plastic, maybe transparent aluminum) and a cobweb of metal structural supports under you, whom are you going to trust, the person who says, "There's clearly technology behind this, even though I have no idea what it is and thought it impossible three hours ago," or the one who can describe in detail the process needed to create and maintain a space like this and is telling you that said process is magic?

Plus, some of the habitation areas have dragons in them.  No, the math doesn't say that wings that size can support an animal that size.  The secret keepers have a simple explanation: Magic.  Dragons want to fly and so they've convinced the beckoning honeycomb to beckon them less.

Any sufficiently reliable magic would be as subject to the scientific method as mundane phenomenon, and without the ability to figure out if there are some graviton emitters (when you don't even know if there is such a thing as a graviton (we haven't found one yet)) in the "beckoning honeycomb", how do you know that it isn't working through sheer force of wanting things to come towards it?


Sunday, November 22, 2015

I am entirely out of screwdrivers.

Before we get to the meat of the post, let me first say that by some odd confluence of events probably at least semi-related to me looking for screwdrivers (and finding none) my email happened to open a message from Novemeber 29th, 2013 (I get notified whenever anyone makes a comment, you see):
I also think you are a good thing. I've been struggling with some of these issues myself and trying not to sink into hopelessness. [...] So I'm feeling hopeful and would like to offer through the internet to share it, if that is helpful to you.
Surprisingly helpful.  Thanks, Kay.  If you're still around.

Anyway, once my house overflowed with screwdrivers, big ones, little ones, flathead, Phillips (no apostrophe, the name includes the terminal "s", though you'd think there ought to be one anyway: Phillips') interchangeable ones where the heads were in a circle around the shaft, four ways were you could pull out the head, flip it, put it back in, or do the same thing with the entire shaft and then, possibly with the previously hidden heads, weird ones where someone actually thought it was a good idea to have the heads loose in a hollow cavity inside the grip and then have the grip twist off to get at them, really, really little ones, big ones, screw driving drill heads, all sorts of fucking screwdrivers.

Just recently I had a glasses sized one (not for my glasses, those are held together with twisty ties) and one of the four way ones in this very room and I cannot find either.

It's not actually why I was looking for a screwdriver at the present moment, but the parts that will almost certainly not fix the washing machine (but I don't know what else to try) have come and I need to be able to deal with screws to bring about the inevitiable failure.

This is poor form.  Very poor form.  Especially since (almost) every other part of a melted toolkit (it was too close the stove, the case is made of plastic, these thing happen) is sitting right next to the pieces I will need to use screwdrivers on, in the toolbox mostly where they belong, yet not one of the (I think) three screwdrivers are in evidence.
Tomorrow I'm going to have to get some screwdrivers and possibly screw extractors depending on the luck I have with dealing with the rusted to hell crap screws, which are in the way and stripped, tonight and tomorrow morning.

Also some wood and I think I need to make a

*searches the internet for ages*

fucking hell, I don't even know what it's called.  Good thing I'm thinking of making one instead of buying one.

Anyway, I am completely out of screwdrivers.

Imagine it said like this:

The need to let gamers tinker with controls on a non-trivial level, an example

I have the beginnings of a post on game design and how to not fuck it up that I have no idea when I'll finish.  I have a feeling that it's never going to be a top priority so it will grow and become more expansive in the background until I either abandon it or post it.

What inspired me to start writing was playing DMC: Devil May Cry.  Apart from the rampant misogyny and the somewhat less rampant fat shaming it's a pretty good game.  Of course, I say that not having finished it.

The Devil May Cry franchise actually started by accident.

The Resident Evil series had kind of a troubled history.  Resident Evil 2 started off as something with the same general setting, but was completely different in all other ways.  Fans have come to call that completely different never-released game, "Resident Evil 1.5".  For Resident Evil 3 there are some conflicting reports but, basically, what they had planned was completely upended when the PlayStation 2 was announced.  The upgraded what was supposed to be a minor side project game to become Resident Evil 3.

Resident Evil 4 is where we want to go though.  It started off as an idea to take the game in a new direction by setting it in the past.  A time of castles.  A time when you're not going to be saved by a surreptitiously thrown rocket launcher.  As this game developed, though, it changed.  It became Devil May Cry.  The other major contributing factor was a glitch that allowed for prolonged areal battles (even though the character couldn't fly) because you didn't fall while slashing someone with a sword.  The glitch was turned into a feature.  Thus the franchise was born.

A little while back there was a massive sale on selected Capcom games.  Only selected ones, and it was a steam sale and the first two games aren't on Steam anyway, but when I say massive I mean massive.  80% off massive.  I got the reboot, DMC: Devil May Cry.

So we come to why I'm writing this post.

* * *

I have sympathy for the limitations console developers have to face.  Consoles are nigh impossible to upgrade (and people who try void their warranties and are not the intended audience) and there are limited controls.  The plus side of a controller is that it's designed specifically to have buttons arranged in such a way that the game can access all of them quickly with minimal effort.  The downside is that it has fewer buttons than even the most basic pocket calculator.  (I've made a post about this before, though not the pocket calculator bit.)

23 keys on a "four function" calculator*, 12 on a controller if you count the direction pad as four buttons, 14 if you count the non-gaming buttons (the ones that let you start, stop, pause, and such and basically do stuff to the game rather than in the game), 16 if you count pressing the joysticks down.  The joysticks tend to be eight directional jobs, so they will in fact push you over the cheapest of cheap calculators getting you to 32, but only if you ignore the fact that they're fucking joysticks.

One joystick can be replaced by four direction keys (press two adjacent ones to get the intermediate direction), typically the arrow keys for left handed people and wasd for right handed people.  The other could be replaced by another four keys but why would you even consider that when you've got a much better option with the mouse (which is not limited to eight directions)?

Assume a two button mouse and now you've covered all but 14 of the controller controls and have somewhere between 97 and 101 keys left that you could map those controls to.

Except... 47 of those keys change (21 of them drastically) when you use shift and the number pad can also be used for scrolling so make that 151 to 155 keys.

You see the difference; console developers have 14 options, computer designers have ten times as many and change.  Lots of change  Maybe 11 times as many depending on the keyboard.

* * *

The people who made DMC used some creative tricks to get a whole whopping ten weapons into the game.  Ten weapons is a PC game number.  You map them to the number keys.  Always have.  (Consoles games tend to do more like four (by using the direction pad.))

Doing that on a console controller would leave you with ... well four, not counting using the joysticks to look around and move, nor the non-gaming keys.  Yes, counting pressing down on the joysticks.

They couldn't do that.  Instead they split the weapons into three groups (two groups of three, one group of four) and made it so you could cycle through the weapons in each group.

This is ... far from ideal.  It did allow them to get it done only using the direction pad, and two of the four buttons by your trigger fingers.  That left them eight buttons to work with, they only used seven of them.  Sort of.  Actually they used all eight of the remaining but one was only used in conjunction with another one to act sort of like a shift key because ... I don't even know.  Why not just have that button do the shifted function of the other button on its own and thus not need to use two controls at once?

But that's not really important, what does matter is that a keyboard does have the ability to have any of the ten weapons a keystroke away but does not have the ability to make "shift into one of three modes, cycle weapons in mode" anything but an awkward bit of crap.

As I said the last time I touched on this subject:
[Y]ou 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 so that you can get to an extremely small number of buttons fast and with very little strain on the hands and fingers.  You can quickly hold down six controller keys at once with minimal mental or physical effort and hold that position, more or less indefinitely, without discomfort.  That's their advantage.

Keyboards are completely different.  They have a lot of keys with the idea that most of the time you'll be one keystroke away from what you want, the vast majority of the remaining time it will be but two, and only for really involved things (control alt delete) will you need to hold down three.  They have so many keys that you're almost never going to be forced to take shortcuts and thus can assign every important function its own key.  That's their advantage.

The people porting the game didn't make use of the benefits of a keyboard, basically, because they were lazy.

That's ... well it's not ok, which I was initially going to type, but it wouldn't be that bad if not for the fact that they also took steps to make the usually simple Unreal Engine control binding process so absurdly convoluted and Byzantine that you can't fix it.

I've looked into it, they've buried the controls that actually matter so deep that you'd basically have to take apart the game and then rebuild it just to have a button that means "Equip gun 3".  (Or, "I want the fucking ax, NOW!")

At the surface level the tinkering is trivial at best, and don't dream of using scripting to fix things for you because they're so afraid of people cheating that they've made it so you can't run fucking scripts related to keystrokes when the game is going on.

And the thing is, it has a good game inside of it.  It's not a thing where I can say, "This is great," because well, let me quote what I said at the top of the post, "Apart from the rampant misogyny and the somewhat less rampant fat shaming it's a pretty good game," so far at least.  Like I said, I haven't finished.

The rampant misogyny is largely in the cut-scenes (mercifully skippable) and you can usually see it coming and thus avoid it, which means that this could be a pretty good game, and I say that as someone who doesn't do much in this genre.  Burying the actual control structure so deep that all you can do is the trivial act of, "I'll change this crappy pseudo-control from being bound to X to be being bound to Y," screws it over.

I'll still play (I'm a story person, I need to know what happens, especially to Kat), but after spending much of the day relearning what little I know of computer programming to try to work around the stupidity of whoever made the fucking port only to find out that it won't work, I'm definitely taking a break.


* You can't really get one, even the cheapest crap throws in additive inverse (change plus to minus or minus to plus) square root, percent, and the three memory buttons.  Add in the digits, decimal point, functions, and equals and you've got 22 keys.  Usually the power button takes slot number 23.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Medicine, and, of course, money. But mostly medicine.

At some point, two weeks ago maybe, I crossed some wires and thought one appointment was at the time of day that actually belonged to another appointment and so missed my appointment.

Then I realized that I wouldn't have enough antidepressants to make it to next appointment.

I think everything was ready in time for me not to miss a day, but (in spite of me specifically asking to be notified) no one told me that.

Cue today, off my antidepressants for a day and a half, being reminded, forcefully, by way of pain that the only medication that works is also the only medication that has ever given me withdrawal symptoms.

I wondered if there was a list somewhere.  There is:
Commonly reported symptoms include flu-like symptoms (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, sweating), sleep disturbances (insomnia, nightmares, constant sleepiness). Sensory and movement disturbances have also been reported, including imbalance, tremors, vertigo, dizziness, and electric-shock-like experiences in the brain, often described by sufferers as "brain zaps". Mood disturbances such as dysphoria, anxiety, or agitation are also reported, as are cognitive disturbances such as confusion and hyperarousal.
In spite of sounding like it might be nice, "hyperarousal" means "fight-or-flight" state of mind.

So, let's see, headaches, sweating, imbalance sometimes, dizziness, vertigo, electric shock like experiences in the brain, mood disturbances, and sleep disturbances.  Surely that's enough to hit bingo.

"Brain zaps".  Never heard that one before.  Good term.  Maybe other medications have given me withdrawal symptoms and they were simply extremely limited in scope because I have a long history with brain zaps.  Then again I think prolonged sleeplessness and dehydration will bring them on in me (no medication discontinuation needed), so maybe not.

But I got my meds today and the withrawal ends really fucking quick.  Not quick enough, but by tomorrow or the day after I'll be back to normal.

Here's the problem: this wasn't a usual perscription, it was a stopgap.  So, apparently, the usual "prior authorization" thingy didn't apply.  Additionally it's the weekend and insurancey people aren't opened (fuckers) so, here's the deal.

This should have cost three dollars.  This did cause one hundred eleven dollars and thirty three cents.  Not making that suspicious-looking figure up: $111.33.  It would have looked even better if they'd discounted it 22 cents for aesthetic purposes.

I'm trying to get thousands of fucking dollars for house and school.  I didn't need to be put another hundred behind.

Especially since that 3 dollars is a flat rate (which is awesome, I say Medicaid for all) so normally I get three and a half times as many pills ($389.65 worth, maybe a penny more) for three dollars.

So this many pills normally costs me 86 cents, instead it cost 113.33 fucking dollars.

Still, tomorrow withdrawal should be over.  Fun.

Oh, really fun fact, that's the generic.  God only fucking knows what the damned brand name version costs.  If you want to know what Mainecare (Maine state Medicade) has done for me, consider that the generic didn't even exist when I started taking this and it is, again, the only medication that has ever worked even a little.  (And it works really well.)

Even something as simple as getting not-off my meds gives me money worries.  (Had to use a credit card that I had recently paid the fuck off and didn't want to get into interest bearing debt on it again until I was far enough out of interest bearing debt to have money to pay for things other than fucking interest.)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Expository conversation from random genetic-bottleneck-based dystopia setting idea

[A conversation at Ana Mardoll's got me thinking about this.]
[Italics person has broken into a secret library and is trying to find out the truth of the society's history.  Non-italics person comes out and starts correcting her, then the scene starts]

Who are you?

I'm the record keeper, the archivist, the librarian.  Take your pick.  Back before history was deemed heretical we were a respectable group who existed to help anyone and everyone learn about the past, do our best to record the present, and work to make sure those in the future would remember.

We didn't used to to be hereditary, we didn't used to be underground--


Well, when I talk about the group I say "we".  I'm the only one left, but I'm part of a group that stretches back to the beginning.  Not that you'd know about that.  I doubt you even know that there was a beginning.

Everything has a beginning.  Besides, there's no way things could have always been as wrong as they are now.

Smart one.  What else do you know?  Do you know why we call everyone who hasn't been outcast Dellidies?

Uh, it's the name of our people.  What else would we call them?

Well, originally, we were called "Aridellidies".  It means "the children of Aridell".  Actually it means "the two sons of Aridell" but the founders liked the way "Aridellidies" sounded, didn't want to have to make up a new suffix meaning "children, in general, of", and figured most people wouldn't care.

Do you know what the Aridell was?

They say it's the source.  The place from which all life sprang.  A sacred place.

It was a ship.

Ship?  Like the ones on the eastern ocean?

No.  A space ship.  And not some puny planet hopper either, interstellar.  It went between stars.

That's impossible.

Don't believe you can fly over the firmament?

Even if things hadn't stagnated, it would be hundreds of years before we could even reach the near moon.  It's impossible to go between stars.  The technology doesn't exist.

Doesn't exist anymore.  Did you ever wonder why none of the animals look like us.

Because we're not animals.

Because we're not from here.  Human beings came from elsewhere.  The Aridell was a twelve person exploration ship.  Something went wrong, and when they tried to send out an SOS--

A what?

Cry for help.  When they tried to send it out they discovered that every CRD--

What's with the three letter crap?

Communications Relay Device.  They let you send signals further than you could on your own.

Like the messenger stations?

But in space and with less mirrors.  And no people.  Entirely automated.

You could never automate something like that.

Why did you come here?  It's a crime to be in this place, it's a crime to even know about this place if you're not part of internal security, and even then they don't know where it is, otherwise they would have destroyed it.  So why risk everything to come here?

I want to know the truth.

Well I grew up here, I've read these books, I've listened to recordings, I've accessed computers, I've watched videos, I've looked at pictures, and I know that truth you're looking for.  I'm guessing you know, at most, what three of the five things I just mentioned are, so --rather than having to learn all that crap yourself-- why not listen to me?

Why should I trust you?

I haven't had anyone to tell the story to since I was five.  Why waste this chance with lies?  Will you listen?


Thanks.  They couldn't communicate with anyone to get help or repairs, they eventually figured out that there had been some kind of war, and the CRDs were probably destroyed as part of that.  The fact that they hadn't been replaced meant that that part of the frontier had probably been abandoned, and --like I said-- it was an exploration ship.  They were way beyond the frontier.

So no help was coming.

Exactly.  The good news is that they made it to Terra Nova.

The earth mother.

If you want to call it that.  It's not what the words mean.

I know that, but she's the earth mother.

I won't disagree.  Anyway, they were able to land without incident before the ship failed, and they found this world a paradise.  Compatible life.  Which they'd kind of expected, actually.  It was what the exploration had been about.  There were thousands upon thousands of colonized planets in the old empire, not one of them had life compatible with humans before terraforming; the possibility that this one would was what led to the Aridell being launched in the first place.

What do you mean, compatible?

Not at all curious what "terraforming" means?

Earth making.  I'm not stupid.

So you keep on proving, but you are ignorant ---no fault of your own--* so I never know what you'll know.  Anyway, let's get rid of more of that ignorance since that's why you came here.  We can eat a lot of the fruit and a lot of the animals, we can breathe the air.  Terra Nova didn't need to be changed, "earth made" if you like, for people to live here.  That's what compatible means in this context.

Better still, there were no predators and none of the local diseases could touch humans because we were different enough to be incompatible with those.

And predators are?

Animals that hunt down, kill, and eat, other animals.

Proactive scavengers.

I've never thought of it that way.  Yes.


With no real dangers, and a safe landing, the crew was safe, unscathed, and could live out their lives as they saw fit.  They just had to decide what they saw fit.  It was as was traditional in those days to have the crew evenly split between men and women.

What about people who were neither?

The founders were many things, and a lot better than the current rulers in a lot of ways, but they were by no means perfect and neither was their culture.  Anyway, even split.

Six women; six men.

Well remembered.  They eventually decided that they'd like to have kids, but they knew that the results could be catastrophic a few generations down the line so they set up a breeding program.  Unlike the current monstrosity participation was volunteer only.

It just so happened that they all volunteered, doubtless helped by the medical technology still available on the ship making having kids a lot easier.

What did they have on the ship?

Well, for one thing, they were able to use various components to create artificial wombs.  No one had to get pregnant, and that makes things a lot less dangerous.  Also, no one had to have sex, which made that a lot less fraught.

You're talking about magic.

No.  Technology the likes of which you or I have never seen.

To avoid genetics becoming unnecessarily linked, every possible pairing was made.

Six per person, thirty six children total.

Good math, but there was a set of twins, so thirty seven.  In the most simplistic theory six kids per person should mean a better than 98% retention of genetic diversity --and, even though they're discrete not continuous, the chromosomes do a pretty good job of following that pattern, binomial and all that-- but that two percent is about, though somewhat less than, a chromosome worth.  Of course chromosomes come in pairs, which changes things a bit.**

Is there a point coming?

With twelve people you'd expect to lose four or five chromosomes in the first generation, ignoring transposons of course, so it's only about a tenth of a person being lost.

Even so, when you've only got 12 people worth of gene pool to go around, losing a tenth of a person is kind of a big deal.  Sure, it's less than a 1% reduction in genetic diversity, but this is before the inbreeding even starts, so you get the idea.

And I'm waiting for you to get on with it.  You've been vaguely hinting that I'll get the answers I came here for if I listen to you drone for long enough.

Everything you want to know; yeah.  First generation, no inbreeding, obviously, second generation could pair off with whomever provided they didn't share a parent.  Breeding program still entirely voluntary as it was intended to be forever.  No one was ever supposed to be coerced into anything.

On with it, you are not getting.

Grammar, you are not doing it right.  Along side the "Let's not inbreed till we absolutely have to, and then only do it as little as possible" part of the plan was a second breeding program to deal with the problems inherent in inbreeding.

The biggest one is that it allows detrimental but non-survival-threatening traits to spread throughout the genepool until the preponderance of them becomes survival-threatening.

So the second program was to try to recognize and weed out those traits in a subgroup.  Since most of the traits in question are recessive it's impossible to be absolutely sure you got rid of them, but you can make semi-decent guesses by looking at the offspring, relatives, relatives of offspring, and so forth . . . under certain conditions, at least.

Thus the general population, whose only rule was as little inbreeding as possible, and the second group to make sure the non-bad genes would survive.

The pure ones.

Yup.  Here's the the thing that should really piss you off: they were never supposed to be set above the rest of us.

What were they supposed to do?

Just make sure the non-crap genes didn't get lost in the shuffle.  Every generation they'd have kids with the rest of us to get those genes back out there so we didn't all end up with autosomal recessive disorders, and with each other to maintain their own population.  Again, all of this was meant to be forever voluntary.

So when they demand conjugal rights to--

They're misusing the word "conjugal", are morally bankrupt, and ought to be shot.

You're violent for a book keeper.

You'd be amazed how much violence there is in books, especially the historical, religious, and historical religious ones.  Also, imagine the possible reasons that I haven't had anyone I could talk to these things about since the age of five.


Anyway, that was the set up: General population is made up of almost everyone, special population that exists to preserve and distribute good genes, which members of the general population were supposed to be inducted into, should they want it, if they demonstrated good genes and an apparent lack of bad ones, And everyone lives under whatever government we all agree to provided that said governance has protections and representation for minorities.

What about protecting majorities?

They started as a democracy, I don't think they thought the majority needed protecting.

So what happened?

At some point the "pure ones" looked on the rest of the people and what they saw there disgusted them.  We do have all sorts of problems that they don't.  The argument had something to do with inbreeding reducing intelligence unless you specifically selected for high intelligence or some such.

Records from that period are kind of hazy.  There had been a lot instability leading up to it, in retrospect it's simple to see that the conditions for a coup were ideal, then the records get hazy for a bit, and then my people rebuilt in secret as the "pure ones" tried to erase everything that didn't agree with their divine genetic right to rule.  By which point, as you might guess, the coup had already finished with success.

And that's your answer.  It started out as nothing more than voluntary gene pool maintenance in an attempt to survive --as a species, in the long term-- with an extremely shallow gene pool.  There was no political element, and the "pure ones" weren't supposed to be treated any differently than anyone else except in how they participated, if they so chose, in the ongoing breeding program.

Eventually they decided that, as the bearers of the theoretically good genes, they ought to be in charge, and they used the genealogical records they seized when they took over as a way to enforce their nice little class system.

Sure.  All my questions answered.

I like your sarcasm.  You'd be a good record keeper, but you're after more than that, aren't you?

I thought you knew everything.

Never said that; I just know more than you.


The records of how previous revolutionaries were crushed are kept over here.  I'd recommend reading them in depth so you don't repeat their mistakes.

[Exit stage somewhere]


* This is said without intended offense.  The record keeper grew up in the only library of accurate information on the planet, and for most of that time had only the records for company.  The record keeper could go out and act like a normal member of the under classes, but since any details about self, home, or history could get one arrested if said to the wrong person, most of the record keeper's life has been spent examining the records.

The record keeper assumes that everyone knows less, and further that revolutionary wouldn't be seeking out the records without ignorance of the truth as a driving force.  If revolutionary were not ignorant, it would mean she already knew what she needed to know, so why she have sought out the library?  So record keeper's reasoning goes.

** It has been so long since I did binomial distribution crap that I initially fucked up the odds on chromosome retention in the first generation.  Basically what you want to do is think in pairs (23 of them.)  Then you apply the odds that both members of the pair will be passed on (1-.5^6) as the probability, 23 as the number of trials, and get an expected value of 22.64051.  Now in practice if the the result is the usual 46 that's going to be either 22 or 23 because you can't have a 0.64051 chromosome passed on.  But we need those odds for when we expand to multiple people.

Now, 22.64051 is for the pairs that get their second member (doesn't matter how we choose first or second) so 22.64051 is the expected number of second members.  All pairs get at least one passed on, so we add 23 to find that we expect each person to pass on 45.64051 chromosomes.  Multiply by 12 people.  Now we have an expectation that 547.68612 are passed on in total out of the 46 * 12 = 552 we started with, which means we're losing 4.31388.

Again, you can't have a partial one (well . . . you can, but this math doesn't account for that) so four or five is what we expect to be lost in generation one.  Obviously it's possible none were lost and it's also possible that significantly more were lost.

All of the above assumes 46 chromosome individuals, which one shouldn't, but it's simplified a lot.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

November financial post

Thank you to donatey type people.

Things still suck, still doomed, but the quantitative value of new doomed is 1/3rd to 1/4th less than old doomed.

Interesting thing: it actually turned out that instead of catching up on old debt the best use was paying the quarterly payment that wasn't due yet (though would have been due in a few days if I hadn't paid it.)  Finances can be strange.

Then the question is, where do things go from here?  We'll definitely make it through November, so that's good.  But the three month overdue stuff is still out there.  Plus the repairs on the washing machine which, if they don't go well could end up costing more than a new washing machine. 

So there was always a big unknown.  New doomed is at least $1,630 because that's what's been hanging over my head for three months, but could be more like ... uh ... $2,400(ish), I guess.


As always there's a donate button in the upper right if you'd like to send something my way.


November was the ninth month of the original Roman Calendar,  Hence the name that means, basically, ninth month.

The switch to 12 months, which wasn't exactly 12 months since a leap month could be declared by the high priest to keep thing on track (didn't work), added two months (January and Februrary)  That's how Ninth Month ended up the eleventh month.

The reform also reduced the number of days from 30 to 29.  Julius Caesar gave it back day number 30 because he thought that a regularly scheduled leap day was better than a leap month as needed given that the second system had utterly failed to work.

And that's the November we know today.  Ides on the 13th.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Rooftop Running Game Ideas

So the munchkin weasel loves what she calls "The Run-Run Game", which happens to be Mirror's Edge.  She, and the elder weasel who is nowhere near as taken with it as she is (haven't heard elder weasel mention it in ages) are both better at understanding game design than the people who made the damned game.

This is not to say that they could make a better game at this point in their development, no chance in Hell, but rather that they know bad game design when they see it, they know (to an extent) good game design when they see it, and they're aware of which you should pursue.

It's been a while since they first met Mirror's Edge, and thus my memories of it are a bit hazy, but I think they were able to recognize, diagnose, and propose workable solutions to all of the major flaws in the game within ten minutes of meeting it (not even playing it, just seeing it played) and I know they did all that, at the very least, by the end of their first encounter.

This post is not about Mirror's Edge.

Neither is this post about the Subway Surfers knock off I've occasionally considered making that would be called, "Rooftop Runners".

At some point I'm going to get around to writing about how the movie Premium Rush proves that there should be a bicycle courier game, but that is likewise neither here nor there.

So, what is this post about?

Mirror's Edge was a game that, when it got things right, was about running over rooftops as a courier.  (Note how the previous sentence ties together elements of all three of the not-about-this things I brought up earlier.)  It was, in that regard, quite awesome.  (Less so when it was about fighting heavily armed private security contractors.)  Why the awesome?  Well, rooftops make a wonderful setting for three dimensional platforming, and there's a reason we see running on them in all sorts of movies*: it's just plain cool.

But, there's also a problem.  Modern city streets tend to be way too wide to actually jump over if you lack superpowers.  One solution: superpowers.

Remember the jump in the Matrix?  One of the things all of our heroes are trained in (which everyone fails the first time) good solution to too-large gaps between rooftops.

Any game with superpowers, be they real world powers or, like in the Matrix, powers in a simulated world that is somehow important, easily solves the problem of gaps in rooftop running.  Mind you if there's not some kind of limitation placed on the power then it also kind of ruins the not-impossible-gaps.

Another route, the one Mirror's Edge took, is to have the cityscape (roofscape?) intentionally altered in order to facilitate movement across too large gaps.  There are a variety of ways one can imagine doing this including building gangway like structures to extend the runnable area over part of the gap, making ziplines, laying long beams across too-large-gaps, and so forth.  (And, honestly, I'm basically just stealing from Mirror's Edge there.)  And this is where we can really get into game ideas because the question becomes: why would you do that?

* * *
Proposal one: For the hell of it.

There's a lot of potential in "underground" cultures even when they happen to be above ground.  Maybe people made the rooftops into their playground just because.

Free running and parkour apparently have different philosophies, and there's no need for the game to adhere to either, but whether you're using movement as fun and self expression, or pushing yourself to find the most efficient way around obstacles for fun, or doing something else that involves fun, rooftop playground setting would be a nice thing.

We can certainly insert a plot here, but a sandbox open word might be just fine.

* * *
Proposal two: Zombies.

Traditional zombies are slow so making a form of transit that involves a lot of running and jumping does, in fact, make a hell of a lot of sense if attacked by them.

Whether traditional or not, zombies are often a ground level threat.  Moving to the rooftops, which you convert to the gardens where you grow your food, is a good idea.  Moving to just one rooftop, however, is not a good idea because given time zombies will climb stairs and kill you.

By barricading the ways up (pretty much just the stairs) and doing it in such a way that an alarm is sounded when the barricade is broken, you make it so you and yours can live pretty much indefinitely** in a zombie infested area.  When the alarm goes off you have plenty of time to evacuate that building, remove things that allow that rooftop to access other rooftops, and be safe.  With no people to attack in the building the zombies may well just leave allowing you to return to the building, recreate the barricades and alarms, and go on as you did before.

If the zombies don't leave on their own you can send in a special team to make the building safe again and return it to your network.

Regardless, provided that the zombies don't attack all the buildings in your network simultaneously, this set up allows you to safely exist in a zombie infested city.  (If you've got a large enough network, the zombies attacking all of the buildings simultaneously might spread them thin enough that by retreating to a chosen few you can still fight them off with minimal losses.)

Also, remember when Whedon endorsed Mitt Romney*** he said that in the resulting zompocalpyse you'd want to be around people who knew parkour.

Dying light is, I'm told, a parkour and zombie game, but even with its recent sale at half price I can't afford it and thus cannot tell you how close or far it is from this idea.

* * *
Proposal 3: Couriers.
There are 1,500 bike messengers on the street in New York City. You can e-mail it, FedEx it, fax it, scan it, but when none of that shit works and this thing has to be at that place by this time, you need us.
- Premium Rush (2012)
The above makes the argument that you don't need an special considerations to need couriers, though they're bike messengers, not runners.

If, for some reason, couriers are forced off street level then you get a game like Mirror's Edge.  Mirror's Edge had too much combat and not enough run.  The developers claim to have learned their lesson, and the sequel prequel reboot, which won't come out until next year (May 26, 2016), will actually, they claim, be doing some of the very things I've suggested original should have done.  That remains to be seen, but this post isn't about Mirror's Edge.

Still, Mirror's Edge gives us a decent look at why their might be rooftop couriers.  It takes place in a surveillance state.  Absolute surveillance.  All electronic things monitored, presumably all physical mail read while "in transit", and no way to get a message to anyone without it being intercepted, decoded, analyzed, and subject to being read by anyone in the upper echelons of the government who simply feels like it is to use illegal courier services.

Since most of the work the police do is on the ground, the rooftops made a logical choice.  Bike messengers would be intercepted.

One of the things that stands out to me is that something like Mirror's Edge could have been a direct same-universe sequel to Deus Ex.  Invisible War went alternate universe because it didn't want to have to pick one of Deus Ex's three endings.

In two of those endings all electronic means of communications are monitored by an AI capable of actually sifting an entire world's worth of information.  In one of the endings said-AI openly takes over the world, thus gaining control of all non-electronic legal means of communication at a distance.  If the player wasn't a monster then, since the AI merged with the player to understand what it's like to be an embodied human, the AI is a benevolent dictator meaning that it's probably not going to have illegal couriers shot on sight (they might just be delivering, say, love letters that the lovers in question would rather not have the world overlord reading) but it is going to be concerned about them because they could potentially be delivering plans for revolution.

Rooftop running couriers make loads of sense in that setting especially considering that the previous would-be world conquerors had influenced major cities into creating a setting of walls and checkpoints that would make it very easy to stop ground level couriers.

(One of the first acts of the AI was to order the streets opened, but the gates used to close them in the first place can, presumably, be closed again at a moment's notice.)

* * *
Proposal 4: Rising Sea level.

The ground floor is underwater.  How deep?  Don't know.  Depends on what you're wanting.  To get from building to building you need to do it at an elevated level.

In this setting there would probably be much more extensive connections between buildings.  I've tried to look for a term, but apparently they're just called "elevated pedestrian bridges" which is boring and a lot of syllables.

Anyway, we're again seeing our rooftop runners as somehow at the margins because they're not using the socitally built and approved of means of traversing the place.

* * *
Proposal 5: Graboids.

Ok, this has some severe problems with it because cities are not built on loose soil, maybe it's a small town game but in that case why are there enough buildings close enough together to do rooftop running?

On the other hand, the creatures from Tremors et al. are a really good reason to avoid ground level and stick to the roofs.  So perhaps the hurdles could be overcome.

* * *
Proposal 6: Assholes.

This is, basically, what Tomb Raider (2013) went with.  Why is the island so hard to navigate with the best paths often involving jumps that can get you killed (or at least severely injured) and shoddy constructions that could fall apart at any moment?

Because (most of) the island is controlled by assholes who think if you can't do all of this acrobatic shit you deserve to die and that assumes you're already on their side.

Easy to adapt to larger circumstances: the player finds zirself in a place where the primary pathways are things that involve jumping from rooftop to rooftop because they're in a place that is controlled by assholes who think that anyone who fails to make that almost-too-far-to-jump jump deserves to die and see gravity taking care of it for them as a feature.

They've made enough modification that they can make it around, but not enough that it can be done easily or safely.

* * *
Proposal 7: Ninja

The teenage mutant ninja turtles spend at least as much time on rooftops as they do in the sewers where they live.  Why?  They're fucking ninja, that's why.

Presumably grappling hooks and or mystical magical shit is required.

* * *
Proposal 8: Different transit system.

Modern city streets offer places that are too far to jump because of what we use them for (cars, usually a minimum of two lanes and often with space to park on either side and sidewalks on top of that) somewhere with a completely different primary means of transportation could offer much smaller gaps between buildings allowing for a more claustrophobic setting on the ground and a much easier time jumping from roof to roof.

* * *
Proposal 9: Entirely different architectural system.

You know how merpeople would create cities that took it as given that you could enter a building via the top floor and microgravity people would create cities with no up and down?

There's no reason that our way of creating cities, even if one assumes that distances on the ground between buildings are the same, need be the only one.  There's no reason that there can't be more stuff at higher levels.  Maybe there's floating crap between buildings, maybe buildings get bigger as they go up and the distance between them is necessitated by the need to be able to not hit each other when they sway, maybe ...

* * *
Other stuff.
* * *

* Exhibit A: Fast Five, a live action movie in the action genre that is full of car chases and guns and a heist for good measure.  It stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Vin Diesel, and Paul Walker.  It came out (in theaters) in April 2011.

Exhibit B: Monster High: Boo York, Boo York, a computer animated movie in the "We make fashion-dolls, here's a movie to make little girls want new ones and new fashions for them" genre that is full of difficult emotional decisions, soul searching, and a purple crystal space ship, which will destroy the world if someone doesn't send it the appropriate music to wake the pilot, for good measure.  It stars a principally female cast, notably Missi Hale, Salli Saffioti (in two different major roles), and Laura Bailey.  It came out (on Netflix) in September 2015.

These two examples might not be quite as different as you can get, but they are on the opposite ends of several spectrums.  What do both movies have in common?  Running across rooftops.

** It's estimated that the big buildings in a modern city would take some 500 years to collapse without maintenance.  Obviously that time doesn't account for, you know, setting them on fire, detonating bombs in them, hitting them with large objects, flooding their lower floors, dropping space ships on them, or anything like that.

*** (Transcript is below the video.)

[Whedon in kitchen]

You know, like a lot of liberal Americans, I was excited when Barack Obama took office four years ago. But it's a very different world now, and Mitt Romney is a very different candidate. One with the vision and determination to cut through "business as usual politics" and finally put this country back on the path to the zombie apocalypse.

Romney is ready to make the deep rollbacks --in healthcare, education, social services, reproductive rights-- that will guaranty poverty, unemployment, overpopulation, disease, rioting --all crucial elements in creating a nightmare zombie wasteland. But it's his commitment to ungoverned corporate privilege that will nose-dive this economy into true insolvency and chaos.

The kind of chaos you can't buy back. Money is only so much paper to the undead. The 1% will no longer be the very rich, it'll be the very fast. Anyone can run, fight, make explosives out of household objects or especially do parkour of any kind - you'll want to stick with them ... unless they read Ayn Rand.

Look, I don't pretend to see the future. No one knows for sure if they'll be the super-fast 28 Days Later zombies or the old-school shambling kind. But they're out there, and they need brains.

So, whether you're a small business man just trying to keep his doors open, a single mom so concerned for her son's welfare that she'll run to embrace him when he's clearly infected and going to bite her, or a strung-out ex-military type, who's been out there too long and is taking the kind of damn-fool chances that'll get us all killed, you need to ask yourself, 'Am I ready? Am I ready for the purity and courage of Mitt Romney's apocalyptic vision?'

Mitt's ready. He's not afraid to face a ravening, rasping hoard of sub-humans, because that's how he sees poor people already. Let's all embrace the future, stop pretending we care about each other, and start hoarding canned goods. Because if Mitt takes office, sooner or later, the zombies will come for all of us.

[Image: Zomney
He Needs Brains]

[spoken quickly over image:] Paid for by the Committee to Learn Parkour, Like Really Soon, Like Maybe Take A Class Or Something.

[back to Whedon in kitchen]

Hmmm. Spam has its own key.

Mirror's Edge Index

I've talked about the game a fair amount, time for an index.

  • Mirror's Edge, and my playing of it - A spoiler free post in which I talk about the experience of playing Mirror's Edge and the good and bad points of it.  I should probably make a new post about this because some of the bad things seem a good deal less bad at this point in time.
  • Fractured Mirror: Post Two - More looking at how the plot could diverge, and some of how that could lead to a greater variety of gameplay.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Program Settings (help, please)

So, Halloween was on the weekend,  Not just the weekend but the actual end-end of the week (as opposed to the front end which is also known as the beginning end.)  It is because of this that Friday the 13 is in November.

None of that matters to the point.

There was a sale.  One of the things was, "For less than a dollar you can buy this game that you once saw a bad movie based on."  How bad?  Uwe Boll.  A Uwe Boll sequel.

But, anyway, I've never been all that taken with Steam but as someone who tends to attract computer problems the way black holes attract anything with mass and has enough scratched CDs and DVDs to open a Frisbee store, it's growing on me.  A lot.  Like some kind of body horror thing that grows on someone.

One of the upsides of digital delivery is no shipping cost.  With Amazon even when I buy a game for 50 cents shipping always seems to make it come out to four dollars.  So a one dollar game happens to be TWICE AS MUCH as I paid for Deus Ex when my original CD got lost, scratched, lost again, scratched some more, and so forth, but after shipping it's 75% less.

And remember, less than a dollar.  Thus BloodRayne, which has taught me that even when you can't make realistic character animation to save your life it is absolutely critical to include boob bounce* and that half-vampires save Louisiana stereotypes in their lingerie.  Expensive looking sexy-type lingerie.

I've played worse.  I think.  I'm  not going to try to bring an example to mind because such things are best left forgotten.


To get BloodRayne to play on Windows 10 I have to open the exe properties and deselect "Disable scaling on high DPI settings".  I have to do this every damned time.  I have no idea how it keeps on getting re-selected.  (I do wonder, a bit, if the game being run through Steam is causing the file to reset.  If that is it, I still have no idea how to stop it.)

Then I have to ... well that's a bit strong.  It is recommended that when I start the program I immediately alt-tab away, open the task manager, find the task under details, go to "set affinity" deselect all CPUs, and then select only "CPU 0".  Once again, every time, though in this case it makes some sense given that I'm altering the task settings, not the file settings.

Is the second part necessary?  No.  Does the second part actually make a difference?  Not sure.  It definitely seems to be a metric fuckton more stable if I do that but the sample size is low, the game is over a decade old, and . . . yeah.

So, here is where I could use help:

Is there a way to make it so I don't have to do it every time? (That is scaling stays enabled on the file, the affinity is automatically set to "CPU 0" and CPU 0 only when the thing starts running.)

Why do I ask these things?  Curiosity mostly.  I'll be done with the game before I get an answer, if I get one, and possibly even before this post goes live.


Random note (which will lead to a tangent that doubles the length of the post): BloodRayne is, from the small amount I've played so far, (fairly standard) evidence for why having female protagonists isn't nearly enough of a benchmark on its own.

The term used to be "Third Person Temptress", no idea if it still is.  Whether or not the term has changed, it was used describe a phenomenon and the results thereof that led to female protagonists being more common in games in third person.  Specifically, the female protagonist who is only female so she can be eye candy for the assumed straight-male player.

I think we can see that there has been improvement on this front by looking at things like the rebooted Tomb Raider franchise.  Is it still a problem there?  There are still vestiges of it (e.g. I'm pretty sure they had her wearing that particular shirt because it opens the possibility of looking down her shirt) but they seem to at odds with the overall production (sticking to the same example, the camera angles didn't seem to try to use said possibility and had a general lack of bullshittery about them.)

Then again, the Tomb Raider reboot was kind of working at cross purposes with itself in general.

A great example of that is that early on there's extremely creepy stuff that, based on the way it was, for lack of better terms, "shot" and "directed" comes off as extremely creepy in a very sexually creepy way.  Especially if you, like me, don't understand Russian.  If you look at the script that was written (by a different person in a different department than the people who made it into a semi-playable semi-cutscene), that sexual element isn't there.

Extremely creepy guy who has captured Lara and others is basically saying that that Lara reminds him of his sister which you might think is an advantage for Lara until it comes out that extremely creepy guy hated his sister.

So on the one hand you've got a writer coming up with a way to be creepy without being sexually creepy in the lead up to Lara's first time killing someone (extremely creepy guy whose interest in Lara leads him to be the one hunting her down after she escapes) and on the other hand you have the people who choose body language, camera angle, lighting and every fucking thing else going for sexual-creepy.

Cross purposes.

I think we see a lot of that in the game.  As another example, I could never tell whether the gory violence was attempting to make violence seem ugly and, even when necessary, horrible, or if it was just reveling in the gore for gore's own sake.


* There came a point in gaming when accurately simulating the physics of breasts wasn't a matter of puerile endeavor but instead a matter of realistically showing breast-having people.  As with most things involving biology, especially things that don't involve a skeleton (exo- or endo-), it's not the simplest thing to get right.

This doesn't matter in current discussion because at the time of BloodRayne that point hadn't been reached (not even fucking close) and the female characters would have seemed more realistic if their breasts were completely immune to all forces and simply rigid protrusions from the thorax.

My glasses are held together via the twisty ties from bread bags (image post)

Ok, so you know those things that twist around the open end of a bread bag to keep it closed?  Don't throw those out.  Don't ever throw those out.  They're massively useful.

So, it's like this:

I haven't had my eyes checked in, probably, seven years or more.  There's a slim chance that I got them checked four years ago but it's really slim and lacking memories or evidence to the contrary I'm going with, "I haven't had my eyes checked since before I lost my insurance the first time."  Thus seven years or more.  I think.  Possibly significantly more since we actually thought I lost my insurance before I actually lost my insurance and the fact that I was still being paid for as part of the insurance was because the Byzantine nature of insurance company renewal policies (it does happen and indeed did happen after I lost it for real.)

The Affordable Care Act got me insurance back for less than a year and maybe I had my eyes checked then, but I honestly don't remember, so, like I said, presumably seven years or more.  Quite possibly more like a decade.

With me so far?  Does this mean that I'm wearing glasses that are seven years to a decade-ish out of date?  No.

I lost my most recent glasses.  Best guess is that there was an accident involving a not-really-solid shelf and a toilet.  (There's a reason I set my glasses on the windowsill now when I take them off to take a shower in that place; there is no counter in the bathroom.)

These are my second most recent glasses from fucked if I know when.  This brings us to thing two never to throw out: out of date glasses.  When I occasionally misplace these and am in too much of a hurry to find them I can quickly grab third-most-recent glasses.  Like I said, don't throw out old glasses.  If all else fails maybe when apocalypse comes you can use them for beam scattering on your laser weapon which will decrease the punch packed but increase the area.  Don't believe me?  (Why would you not believe me?  It's self evident.)  Get a laser pointer and prescription eyeglasses, shine one through the other, note that the dot has increased to a blob.

So: old glasses.

The thing about glasses is that that they have to put up with the strains of life.  They'd not as bad off as shoes, but wherever you go and whatever you do they go with you and if you haven't invested in a hard and generally bulky glasses case (which in spite of their bulk tend to be easily fucked at the hinge) there's a good chance that in the course of human events they will be bent  You'll have to bend them back (unless you have a professional to do that for you.)  Accidental bend, corrective bend, slow bend over time, corrective bend, bend, bend back, and so forth.

This can lead to problems.  And I'm not just talking about the fact that the slow bend over time can lead to them falling off of your face onto the ground where the hazards are multiplied severely.

Glasses are held together by screws, screws do not like bends.  Screws, especially machine screws, want things to be straight because they're designed to go into a straight hole and have the threading alone prevent things from falling apart.

Now, take stress over however long it's been and things start going wrong.  The first time a screw comes lose you can tighten it.  Screwdrivers are nice but in a pinch a fingernail can work provided it can fit into the right place.  Pinky finger recommended for tight spaces.

As time goes on though, and things continue to warp and bend, and you never get around to making adjustments and alignments with needle nose pliers (which, honestly, who ever heard of such a thing.  Alignments use bog standard hammers, for adjustments you pull out the sledge; but in glasses everything is in miniature; they are strange beasts) eventually the screws don't catch anymore.

Left screw failed at the Great Northeastern War.  It took a while to find someone with a screwdriver small enough, just for me to try, and repeatedly fail, to get the screw to work.  So I raided the bread supply.

Which brings us to twisty ties.

If you don't know what they are --um, seriously?  I said they're the things on bread bags that twist, since we've ruled out the things that don't twist that seems pretty specific-- here's a public domain picture:
The blue one is a single tie, twisted.  The yellow is three ties flat.  The red is two ties flat.

How do I know the number of the unseparated ones?  Note those ridges?  There's one in the center of every twisty tie.  It is the heart and soul of the tie.  Also the spine.  It cannot be said to be the only important thing because the paper or plastic (usually plastic in my experience, I think) provides for ease of use and prevents rust.  Also, it probably reduces poking, but poking has never been a problem for me.

What these innocuous seeming things are, then, is a piece of metal pliable enough to twist into whatever shape you want and strong enough to not break under the strain of repeated twisting.

This is a very useful thing, though, generally, it's not something you plan to use so much as something you want to have on hand in case anything goes wrong.

Paperclips can serve a similar function with more strength (they'll hold a shape if need be) at the cost of more bulk and more difficulty in twisting (paperclips can be especially difficult to wrap, for example, if you don't have the best grip on them.)

So, here are my glasses in all their present glory:

And on the subject of new new new computer, that second picture is fucking awesome full size but there's no way in Hell I'm putting a 3819 x 2436 picture up here.  Not everyone reading has the best bandwidth and even they did, you can't see the full picture at full resolution ... ever.  Um, that's not the point.  You can't see the whole of the glasses at full resolution without a 4k monitor which most people don't have.   (Also, Blogger wouldn't let me do full resolution.  It wouldn't even allow me to come close.)  But the 4x monitor I now have was definitely worth it (even though getting it at a price my warranty could afford means having no on-board disk drive) as I am reminded every time I see something like that picture.  It's not the glasses in the picture that make it worth it though, it's the wood grain and cracked paint.

The first picture was taken inside and demonstrated beyond all doubt that even the light of a sun facing window is no substitute for just taking a damned picture outside.  At 4k you just notice the blur of needing a longer exposure to get adequate light (greatly intensified by the fact that I have no tripod so my unsteady hands, even at their most steady, will screw up any shot unless the exposure is so short that my hands don't have time to really move the camera.)

Back to The Great Northeastern War:

The screws are tiny, which makes the torque of any twist or bend comparatively huge, and as you can see, the screw never stood a chance:

At this point it has given up entirely and I forgot it was even in there.

The gap where you can see the screw isn't supposed to exist.  The two pieces are supposed to sit flush.  The trouble is that of all the corrections you can make to glasses, that is by far the hardest one to deal with.  Basically what you need is to pop out the lens, hold onto the frame as close to where the screw goes as possible, do it with something that has a really good grip but is small enough to not get in the way of part two, and then grab onto that little screw spot (hard) and twist.  (Two pair of needle nose pliers would do it.)

If you can't do that, or merely don't do that, the the screw isn't just trying to hold the frame tightly enough to stop the lens from popping out, it's also trying to hold a piece of metal in a place that is no longer its rest-state and constantly fighting against the metal's desire to twist into a different position.

(Yes, I am personifying, or at least assigning motivation to, the screw and the glasses' frame.)

So at The Great Northeastern War the screw decided it couldn't do that anymore.

After a quest to find someone with a screwdriver was successful, I tried to convince it to do it, but it kept on saying, "No."  This was bad as it meant the lens wouldn't stay in unless a solution was found.

I raided the bread.

Thus twisty tie.  You just strip off the protective coating --which is why a) it doesn't look horrifically stupid, and b) it has oxidized-- and then wrap.  Tightly.

Here are some pictures from other angles (the reason some aren't that close up is that the pictures I took inside weren't sharp enough for it to be worth it {all that's lost in scaling is blurring around the edges, not detail}; also one of the exterior ones had the wrong focus but I liked it) click for full size:

Ok, so that was done four months ago, hence the oxidation, and it only accounts for one twisty tie.  I said "twisty ties" plural.

Three days ago, possibly at around this time of day, the other side failed.

Wait, actually, important thing.  Well, "important" is an overstatement.  Notice that round thing that's just sort of sticking out there between the not-working frame-screw and the working hinge-screw?  Want to know what it is?

Well, as it turns out, corrective eyeglasses and sunglasses have a somewhat oppositional relationship to one another and as a result there are all sorts of "sunglasses for corrective eyeglasses" specialty-shit things but the kind of glasses I prefer (small lens close to the eye rather than larger lens at a greater distance) makes it so the specialty shit that works best at maintaining uniform polarization across both eyes doesn't fit on me because my forehead happens to be where it expects empty space to be.

Alternate things, or at least the ones that can fit on my glasses without making my glasses not fit on my face, tend to be bendy.  This is ... sub-optimal.  Polarized lenses filter out specific light and which light they filter out depends on the angle at which you're holding them.  (So if you watch a 3d movie and the 3d technology they use makes use of polarized glasses, don't tilt your head too much.)  Bendy things, by being bendy, do not hold the two lenses at fixed rotation relative to themselves.  This means that they filter out different light.  This in turn means that something as simple as looking at a blue sky can result in your eyes getting into an argument over what color it is.

For some reason, I don't really know what, my eyes don't like that particular kind of argument.  This is somewhat odd, to me at least, because my eyes have never agreed on what color things are.  They've had my whole life to come to a detente and, honestly, if I'm not outside (full sunlight) in a colorful place repeatedly closing one eye and then the other, I have trouble remembering what the difference is or which one goes which way.

I think that there's a yellow tint in one, and in one the colors are brighter and more vibrant.  The yellow tint is not a cataract, not even a nascent one (thank all gods of vision), but I don't remember what eye-care professional said it was.  Meaning that it's probably mundane.  Probably something like, "Some lenses are just tinted a bit."  Best guess would be that colors are more vibrant in the non-yellow-tinted eye, but it's fucking cold here, and I'm staying inside where the light is dimmer so eye testing will not occur at this juncture.

Anyway, my eyes don't like inconsistent polarization, in spite of being perfectly fine with having different color information coming from each to the point that I don't even notice it unless I'm outside on a bright day and closing eyes one at a time for some reason (trying to determine dominant eye is always a good reason.  Also, the nearsightedness in my right eye can make foliage look impressionistic given the right conditions.)

So, what does one do?  Well, back when I was still a person who got my eyes tested and bought glasses, one solution was to get glasses with sunglasses made for them.

What's the round thing?  A magnet.  There's another one on the other side.  Together they make it very easy to put on or take off the accompanying sunglasses at a moment's notice since the sunglasses are just polarized lenses, their frames, and the matching magnets that attach them to the glasses.

Of course, since these glasses are ancient I have long since lost the sunglasses that go with them.

* * *

Now then, three days ago was Monday, and I was in three states on Monday.  Though New Hampshire hardly counts since the bus went along the coast and thus was hardly in it (though it did stop in Portsmouth so it counted to the people who got on or off there.)

It might have been at this time of day, as I said.  That means that it was in the first state of Monday which was not this state which means that I was not home.

So there I was, in someone else's home, when the other screw failed.  What to do?

Well I didn't initially know it had actually failed forever so first there was a lot of trying to get the screw to work again.  Then there was a look for anything that might help.  Then there was a question of whether or not it's moral to take the twisty tie off of someone else's bread thus reducing protection and increasing the possibility of mold, and finally there was finding one that was not in use and thus avoiding moral conundrums all together.

I stripped the plastic, and got to repairs (click for bigger pictures)

And some more angles:

I took pictures in three places, the black background was a chair that really, truly, I'm not making this up, ought to be getting direct light from the window.  The second was on an air conditioner slightly closer to the window that I need to find a place to store for winter such that moving it to said place will not mess up my back (only one picture taken there was worth showing), and finally on my porch.

The move from the black chair to the white air conditioner produced this lovely shot:

There's a reason I generally don't use manual settings.  the two things are a few feet away from each other, they're being lit by the same source, and . . . yeah.  I get that a white background means more light but . . . a manual photographer I am not.

And, in closing, I was taking pictures in various places.  I have a cat.  This happened:

That's not my best anyway since the wrist strap, which I hardly ever use, is in the shot.  But that's not the point.  The point is more that when I finally thought I'd gotten free of the cat I took this shot and didn't notice until I was looking at pictures on the computer that she managed to sneak a paw in:

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The state of my credit, the rest of the month, the still uncertain future

Table of contents:
* * *

So, as I think I covered, I need like three thousand dollars.  "Like", there, is not used as a flavoring particle in spite of the vast majority of its possible usages being such.  ("Like" is to flavoring particles as "fuck" is to almost all other parts of speech.  Compare to "Lord" in certain Christian denominations.)  Instead it's being used in the dictionary-approved meaning of "similar to".

It could be replaced by "around-about" which is not to be confused with "roundabout" which refers to traffic patterns and rides at fairs, both in "Chiefly British" ways.

Technically I need [rather less] + [unknown quantity for washing machine repairs] + [oil when it runs out if I haven't built up savings by then], so more like $2,200 + ??? + ???.  I think.  I'd need to double check some things and I have some promotional no interest shit that expires at the end of the year giving me two months to pay it off.  So, yay on that.

I really need to get on the washing machine repairs thing but it's just so much easier to spiral into self doubt and hopelessness because the thing is, it won't take too many attempts at repairs before it turns out that I would have been better off to simply buy a new fucking washing machine.

So, what does this have to do with credit?  Well I was looking at my credit which, as you might imagine, is kind of shit.  Things that can't be deferred by leaning on leeway given by family members or accepting late fees because the fees add up to less than the interest on my other debt, end up being paid by credit.

My credit is somewhat ... complex.  Parts of it are stretched to the breaking point, but other parts are actually really good.  Trouble is, the good bits tend to be the smaller bits because the reason they got that way was allocating scarce resources to paying off what could be paid off because getting one less payment a month actually makes a huge difference in keeping afloat.  (I'm in a state where monthly payments matter more than interest rates because interest rates imply you have a middle to long term future.)

My credit score, however, is not complex.  It sucks.

In fact the free (as in actually free, not the front company for Equifax thing that says it's free because false advertising is ok if you add an asterisk) place I go to to check on my credit score has finally thrown up its hands and given up on me.

Normally it has recommendations for what you can do (consolidate your debt on this card for lower interest rate, get this card and make balance transfers to it, get this and you'll end up with rewards which will still leave you in a shitty state but it will be a shitty state with rewards) and as near as I can tell those recommendations are a big part of how it makes its money.

Sort of like how before Amazon.com dumped me I could make an affiliate link, and if you clicked the link and made a purchase I'd get a cut of the purchase price, I think that if you sign up for something from a link originating at their website they get a pay out for getting you to sign up.

So they want to recommend things to me.  Ideally they'd like to recommend things to me that involve me getting a new credit card because when they recommend, "Consolidate your debt under this thing you already have," that doesn't earn them shit.

But it's reached the point where things are such shit that they've given up.  Don't get me wrong, they're still trying to get money off me by showing offers that they don't actually recommend but would, presumably, make money off of if I took them, along with what they think are my odds of getting approved, but the general take away is that their response to, "How could I improve things?" is, "You're fucked."

So that's always fun.

They did, however, note that if I were to pay off $2,805 of my debt that would probably improve things.

If I had that much money, $2,200ish would go to debt that's not on my credit report.  My late tuition payment and what I owe on the house to the home owner who, being a relative, has yet to kick me out for being so far behind (but she is under increasing stress and it may well come to kicking me out, upside on that is that if she does kick me out I very much doubt she'd also hold the past due debt against me.)

Of the $605 that remained ... I actually had to stop, look things over, and reevaluate.

Here's the problem with washing machine repair.  For one thing I need it.  I need to be able to wash clothes.  How I've been getting by is not sustainable.  This most recent time I think it might have broken down and one thing might have developed mold.  Additional observation is needed to determine if that really happened.  Preferably undertaken at a distance in a place removed from the rest of my clothes, my house, and my life.

For the second thing, it has no clear end.

If I go maximum salvage minimum replacement. . . we'll I've already done that, it didn't work.  Next step up is something I haven't really considered before but while writing this post I decided to do a very extreme reworking of assumptions and try to figure out the minimum replacement that could conceivably make a difference and thus came to like 30 dollars, so I'm doing that today.

If that doesn't work then it's probably because I salvaged too much and replaced not enough.  Now I'm more like 300, if that doesn't work then it means I was focusing on the wrong area and the fix is actually pretty simple.  It just costs 450.

I could get a newer, better, working, warranty-having washing machine for that much ($780, recall.)  But by the time I knew that I'd already have spent $330 and wouldn't be able to magically get it back.  It's been very easy to go into doubt spirals over that especially because I've been treating $330 as the first step.

So, basically, I got a message regarding my credit score saying, "You're fucked to the point we can't even find something to recommend that might help you, but if you had nearly three thousand dollars to pay down debt..." and then responded with, "If I had three thousand dollars that money would already be spoken for."

That's the state of my credit.

* * *

November is National Novel Writing Month, which is called NaNoWriMo which is a name I can't take seriously.  Then again, I say "blog" now even though if one wants to knock two letters off of one of the ends of "weblog" in any decent world any non-assholic person would come up with "webl" (pronounced "weble") so maybe someday my standards will sink to the point that writing NaNoWriMo will not, in fact, make me feel like I'm contributing to the downfall of western civilization or, at least, won't make me care that I'm contributing to said downfall.

Will I be writing a novel this November?  Uh ... have you been reading hypothetical question maker in my head?

Of course I won't.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Also, November is already one third over.

But as I think about the possibility of imminent collapse of everything and the possibly of Stealing Commas dying, I don't want it to end with an extremely rushed incomplete fic written for a contest I was mostly without a computer for and sick for much of the rest.

November is a Friday the 13th month this year.

I'm thinking that maybe I will stick with Life After, for a bit.  I want to revise what there is without the rush and since it's a story with a beginning middle and end all planned out, and was indeed planned to be written in one month, maybe in this time of hopelessness it would be a good thing to work on and finish.

I can write it up to be what it was supposed to be.  Something without the rush, something with pseudo-witty back and forth, forces of death and decay but also rebirth and regrowth, mucking with timelines, and the drive toward hope while the world is ending.


It's an aspiration at least.

So we'll see what happens in the remaining two thirds of November, but I might be sticking with Life After after all.  Not in the single-minded way I was when I was trying to get it done by the end of October, though.  Just more than I normally would focus on a single story.

For example, I was reminded recently of how I wanted to do a series of three posts on how I would do the original trilogy of Star Wars, but only ever did the post covering the first movie.

Part of that was that I think The Empire Strikes Back is the best of the movies so I'm not altogether eager to watch it with an eye towards, "This was fucked up and stilly/stupid, let's change it" part of that was that Star Wars* was a simple story simply told and Empire is a good deal more complex and thus needs even more in the way of consideration and changes.  Also, some of those changes I'm not even sure how best to do**.  And the biggest part of it is that I put it off for a while and then forgot about it.

So maybe I'll do the installments for Empire and Jedi in November.

Returning to decons when I don't know if the ... webl has a future is probably not the most sound idea, but it's not lost on me that I left off the Kim Possible one halfway through an episode, so I might as well get the second half of that episode done.  Also, restarting that, or either of the others, could be a way of embracing hope.  These are things that will take years, so working on them is a way of saying, somehow I'll make it through and there will be years more of Stealing Commas to come.

* * *

There's a fair amount of future of Stealing Commas discussion in the previous section because it's talking about the rest of the month which is, in fact, in the future.  But for a more general future thing, I present this section.

It's hard to explain the stress I'm under now.  When my boiler broke, which I've apparently finally gotten into the habit of calling a boiler instead of a furnace, I was despondent.  (Exhibit A, Exhibit B.  For reference, the end of that despondency.)  I am not despondent now.

It's instead a lower level constant stress.  So many times I've thought something catastrophic would end the blog.  [skip trip down memory lane] Then, suddenly, my miracles, you the readers, came through.  There's recently been the whole thing with my primary computer, you know how I got that?

The old old primary computer wasn't under any kind of warranty and was held together by work I did on it with a drill press, 4-40 machine screws, matching nuts, and a hacksaw.  (The screws are never just the right length, so you need to cut them off to limit, though never prevent for that is impossible, getting caught on shit.)

With no money for computer I was kind of doomed, then I got enough to not just buy a new computer but to buy the computer I wanted.  Old computer.  When that broke warranty got me new computer, when that broke warranty got me new new computer, when that didn't work as advertised I got new new new computer that I'm using right now.

So Stealing Commas was saved by a donation to get a new computer.  Then (or maybe before, me getting things in order isn't always the best) there was heating.  Thought it was all over.  Got money for oil.  Things like that happened.  When the boiler broke I was flat out convinced that there was no hope, $6,000 was so far beyond any of my problems previously and I needed it pretty much immediately because it was the dead of winter and without heat I'd have to abandon the house fast.  The very next day the problem was solved.  In fact, I had to turn down money because three people offered me the $6,000 dollars I needed.  Three.  Ok, one was more like five point something thousand dollars, but you get the idea.

All of those things were "Oh my fucking god, the sky is falling right fucking now," and that offers a level of stress I am not under at the moment.

This is different.

With the exception of less than two days between when asshole behind the desk at tech support said that my warranty wouldn't help and so I'd be without a primary computer for the foreseeable future and when non-asshole on the phone told the truth there's been no high stress "The world is collapsing around me," despondency or anything like that.

Instead, well ... On my birthday, August third, my back was fucked over and I had to spend a lot of time horizontal in the following month or so as a result.  By the time that was over I was behind on a quarterly payment on the house (they run about $650) a dentist bill (I'd have to look it up; I'm not going to) and tuition (about $1,080 when you account for the very important health fee.)

The dentist bill is the only one of those that I've paid in full.  Tuition hasn't been paid at all.  Next quarterly house payment is coming up sometime in the next two days (I'll need to check exact date.)

August, September, October, and now the first third of November have been spent with me stressed, and it might be worse than that.  I can't remember my mental state in July and I'm not going to try to look it up.

Which is to say, again, this is different.  Lower stress level, but long fucking term.  It's definitely taking a toll on my ability to write, but it's also really grinding down hope.  And that's why the future is still uncertain.

If I couldn't get together the money to pay off the house expense last quarter, and indeed still owe a fair bit of it, what the fuck is the chance I can do it this quarter?  Especially when I'm starting off by being behind.  What becomes of all this when I run out of oil?  (Good news is that the current furnace seems to be less oil gobbling than the old one, that or the gauge on the tank is broken.)

Of course part of this is of my own doing.  A big part of this.

A post in late July mentioned that a big part of the reason I was so low on both actual money and credit was that I'd bought shit in hopes of being able to sell shit and hadn't had a chance to do the selling.  Now here we are three and two thirds months later and I still haven't; not because of time but because first I was screwed over by back problems and since then I've been under stress which I don't operate well under.

I need to do stuff.  I need to create jigs (not dances; devices for holding something in place in the right way for tools to do their things in the correct way), I need to list things online (remember how fast The Princess Who Saved Herself almost-sold-out, that worked out nicely once I'd set up a listing), I generally need to do work.

All of which means that the things that will help me pay down my debt, get back my credit, and have some cash on hand will take some fucking time.  It's not an immediate solution to the problem of ~$2,200 for house and school.

And that hopelessness makes me think, if I couldn't raise the money to do the last shit (I got some, but simple math says $1,550 was not gotten) given the last three months to try to do it in, what are the odds I'll do that plus the $650 (hence $2,200) this go round?

Of course it's not quite that bad because some money that was raised ended up going to other things.  The tuition may leave me under constant stress, but it gets one late fee and doesn't accrue interest.  I could have paid off the full quarterly expense on the house last quarter and didn't because some of the credit card debt was more scary to me at the time (if I run out of credit then I'll be truly screwed, be I housed or homeless.)  But even though I know that, right or wrong, I did decide to allocate money to other things and so it's not like money towards paying off the house and paying for the dentist is everything, I still feel the stress.

And that's where things stand.

My landlord is my mom.  She's retired and doesn't have enough money to keep on letting me be delinquent on the house's expenses and she does have a boyfriend who keeps on encouraging her to just sell the damn thing (right out from under me.)  As recently as yesterday I was making triage decisions on what to pay that today are making me worry about soon being kicked out of my house.

They made sense at the time and, if things were the same, I'd probably do them again.  Things aren't the same.  (As is obvious because I made those payments.)  House bills are up front now.  Any money goes toward making sure I still have a place to live.  My paltry income goes largely toward utilities and minimum payments on debts, so month to month expenses are not what bother me right now.  I need to make the quarterly payment (and the rest of last quarter's) and I don't think I can.

If I'm right about that then there's a good chance I do end up losing my house.  My mother knows that my sister and my father would both take me in, so she knows that if she finally declares that she can't afford to keep paying the expenses I'm supposed to be paying (I'm actually supposed to be giving her money in addition to expenses in a cost-plus kind of way; that's not happening) it won't be the same as ejecting me into the cold.

What she doesn't seem to know is how toxic living with either of those two would be for me.

And so that looms.  That's my future.  That's the future of Stealing Commas.

With all of this shit, my brain is not free.  If things go badly I'll be even worse off.  Do I think it will all come down in mid-November if I can't get up to date on the house expenses?  No.  But if I can't get this under control by the end of November, I think that means my future in my house may well be doomed in the longer term future.

That's what hangs over me.  Hardly the sword of Damocles, but enough to leave me in a constant state of, "This could all be coming to an end."

And that state makes it hard to write, makes it hard to think, makes it hard to accomplish.

Which is why the future is uncertain.


[added:] completely forgot, Stealing Commas theme song:



* The name "A New Hope" was added for the VHS release.  Do I still sometimes use VHS?  Yup.  (I've got a reel-to-reel player downstairs; old stuff can be cool.) Do I revere VHS enough to consider the name edited into the VHS release more important than what appeared on fucking theater screens before I was even born and set off a cultural phenomenon that has yet to end?  No way.  First movie was called "Star Wars".  So it was, so it will ever be.  Han shot first, Amen.

** E.g. it needs to be established that Leia likes to flirt the way she and Han interact because without that being established almost every interaction between the two is creepy and wrong, but with it being established (and it's totally legitimate for people to like to flirt that way) most of their interactions can be kept entirely the same and have them be just fine.