Tuesday, December 25, 2018

If you ever wanted to give me a gift

[I can be contacted via email at cpw (at) maine (dot) rr (dot) com.]

First off, I don't actually expect anyone to get me something.  I'm just using the fact that Christmas is a deadline I can't delay to hopefully get this written and out there.

So what is this?  Well, when I'm in a bad place emotionally but not necessarily financially, sometimes people ask if they can do anything to help and, even though finances aren't a top concern at that moment, there's not a lot I can point to other than the donate button.

It's not that I don't need money, I usually do, but I'd like to have other options.

The obvious solution is to have a post of "These are some things you could do to make my life somehow better other than giving me money."

The hard part has always been writing it.  It's not exactly a happy topic to begin with, it feels like I'm saying I should be given things I don't deserve, my brain always freezes up, and so on.

And then there's the fact that a lot of time I don't have the necessary information.  It ends up seeming like I'm saying "I could use one or more new pairs of shoes" (this is true) "I have no idea what my shoe size is" (this is also true.)

I do need things.

My clothing is threadbare at best and full of holes way more than anyone would like.  My backpack is falling apart in at least three different ways (busted zipper that leads to many headaches, holes in spots, and one of the straps is tied together because the plastic thing that's supposed to allow you to adjust said-strap completely died while I was waking somewhere with it on my back), my . . . wheeled luggage thing with the extendable/retractable handle that doesn't appear to have an actual name decided to take a different approach and combined the "gaping holes" with the "zipper problems".  It also dropped a screw from the handle, which is apparently all it takes to make the thing impossible to retract.

When I'm doing badly emotionally, I'm not always as careful as I should be with things.  (I often set things down in less than safe places, for example.)  When I'm doing badly emotionally for more than 22 months straight . . . all of my glass bowls (I think it's all of them) have broken.  I have no glass bowls.

Lists sort of go on.

It would be nice to have a comforter that's actually still recognizable as a comforter.

I cannot begin to describe how good it would be if I could put all of the back ups from past computers in one place that was simultaneously safe and easy to access.

Games are fun.


The obvious place to start is things that are free.

Feedback is a huge one of those.

It's hard to give feeback when I haven't produced anything in what feels like forever, and I haven't produced with any consistency for almost two years, but hard is not impossible.  Especially because something that I could really use right now is reminders of when I used to do things right.  Also reminders that I used to do things right.

So if I ever produced something that you liked, if you could take time to go back to it, reread it, and then make a comment telling me what about it you liked, that would mean so much to me.

I think other free things require more functioning brain to elucidate than I've had for a week or so.

I could use advice on some things, but getting them from brain to page isn't easy right now.

Cameras is a thing.

The cameras I've had in the past had sunset modes that, somewhat surprisingly, were actually really good at capturing Sunsets.  The Canon PowerShot I have now does not have one of those, and I have yet to discover how to take sunset pictures that don't look like crap.

I've always done handheld photography, but the new camera is good enough (and my hand unsteady enough) that it seems like I might want to work on changing that.  I know nothing of tripods.  I'd need something that's light, portable, and quick to set up break down.  Anyone have suggestions?  (Relatedly, anyone have suggestions I could actually afford to pursue?)

There's a lot of computer stuff, but I'm really not braining enough to describe any of it.

In the realm of similar to no cost but not the same, there's a very good chance that people have, but no longer necessarily need or want, things that would be useful to me.

This has actually worked out pretty well a couple of times.  I've said that I could use something someone already had but wasn't using, the person contacted me (cpw [at] maine [dot] rr [dot] com) to get my address, and I got the thing.  Some those things were helpful at the time, some I still use to this day.

I already listed some things in the "I do actually need things" bit.  A backpack, wheeled luggage one might take on the subway with them, a comforter, glass bowls.

I can immediately add large glasses and cups.  (The fewer times I have to refill my water to become and remain hydrated, the more likely hydration is to be achieved and maintained.  The more times, the more likely it is that depression will prevent hydration.)  Ceramic plates have suffered some of the same fate as glass bowls, but I have plates in reserve.

While it's entirely possible that someone reading this might have clothing or shoes that could help me, figuring that out would require me to know my sizes.  So . . . electronics?  That sounds good, right?

When it comes to electronics, especially computer stuff, if you've got something that is merely outdated (as opposed to nommed on by a dragon, dipped in acid, or used a lightning rod) I'd be interested in hearing about it.  Unless its something I specifically spent more money than probably wise on (like my new camera) the outdated thing you have is probably worlds ahead of whatever I have.  (If I even have something in that category.)

Specific things that would be useful right now are robust external storage, a wireless USB mouse, and . . . well, computers themselves.  I'm not expecting anyone to give me a computer.

Outside of electrionics . . .

I like puzzles.  Have I ever mentioned that?  I don't think I've put together a jigsaw puzzle in years.  Also twisty puzzles (Ruibik's cubes and the like.)

Continuing in the vein of "Joy giving things" Legos are something I doubt I'd ever not want.  The more ordinary blocks you have, the more you can do.  For specific lines, I love the colors (and dragons) of Lego Elves.  (Unless there's been some sort of sorting error, every other thing on this wishlist of mine is Lego Elves.)  I love Spaceship! and superheroes and buildings one could theoretically make a town or city out of, and the sculpted pieces (dogs, cats, dinosaurs, bunnies, dolphins, so forth), and . . . I just really like Legos.

Unfortunately, so do most of the people who actually have Legos, so it seems like the chances of people simultaneously having them and not wanting to keep them are probably low.

When it comes to actually buying things . . . that's actually an even more difficult thing for me to write up than the rest of the post.  There are definitely people who need money and stuff more than I do, so it always feels like anyone could find better places to spend their money than on me.

~ ~ ~

The simplest thing on this front is just to link to the Amazon wishlists I have.  They're not necessarily up to date, or sorted, or any such thing, but they at least exist.

(Note that in the top right corner there should be the option to sort a list in a way other than the default.  This could be useful to you.)

This one has all sorts of things all mixed together.   We've got lots of lego sets, books on math, 50 years of Doctor Who art (I love concept art) a lot of games . . .

I should talk about games.  Games are a form of storytelling that can reach me emotionally when other things can't.  They don't always work, but the past 22 months of everything being kind of shit would have been much, much worse if I didn't have games to turn to.

The same also goes for my life as a whole.

I could really use more of that sort of thing in my life right now.

Everything on that wishlist is there for a reason, but some things that stand out in my mind right now are these:

I haven't played Tomb Raider, Shadow Thereof yet in spite of loving the first two.  I have some trepidation about it because, while it was quite good, the second game definitely left me with the impression that that the people in charge either didn't understand (or, perhaps, didn't particularly like) what it is the series gets right.  That said, the second was good in spite of that so hopefully the third will be as well.

Also, hey, it's half off on Steam right now.

Kingdom Hearts III and the Resident Evil 2 remake (underground labs and convoluted conspiracies!) both coming out in January.  Monster Hunter World and Persona 5 are both things that would be nice to have firsthand experience with in order to better connect with some people online.

~ ~ ~

The other list started off as divination, hence the name I gave it, but it ended up more being "Pretty cards and pretty rocks".

It is in general that the answer to the question "Would chris like these polished rocks?" is, "Yes."  Especially if they come in green, purple, orange, or blue.  Though, truly, if I were to list all of the colors I like, I would produce a list of all colors.

"Would chris like these rune stones?" has the same answer for obvious reasons.

At some point I really need to locate good references for runic divination.  A problem with rune stone divination, though, is that as much as I like rocks, traditional runic divination was done with sticks.

On the other hand, I'm not a diviner.  My interest is definitely more along the lines of "utter fascination" than "belief."

Important question:

Is there a term for divination stones with runes on them other than "rune stones"?  Because this is what actual runestones look like.  Note that they're big, heavy, and contain lots of runes that go together to form a coherent inscription.

They're not small things with one rune each.

~ ~ ~

List "more or less the last" is called absurdly expensive Lego sets.  Truth be told, some of them are not actually absurdly expensive (while others definitely are) but instead simply intended for people in significantly better economic places than the one I occupy.

~ ~ ~

Off of wishlists . . . um . . . I could really use a wagon.  Something I could load groceries into and pull behind me on the sidewalk for the walk home.

If my brain were working better I could populate this part better.

Some of the time things I what I want totally doesn't match what's reasonable.  For example, if a rich person were shopping for me I'd ask for one of each of these.  Probably also an Alibre design licence.

There are other things that aren't expensive but even at low prices aren't necessarily worth paying for.

Any of the books I do fic of would be useful in both physical and electronic forms.  (There are some things I want to do that require several physical copies of the same book.)  At the same time, I wouldn't recommend spending even thrift store prices on any books from the big three series (Left Behind, Twilight, Narnia.)  They're more of "If you see it at a yard sale" things.

The exception, I guess, would be reference material.  Not for Left Behind, but
The Official Illustrated Guide for The Twilight Saga and . . . I know that a variety of reference books for Narnia exist, and I'm sure that some of them are quite good, but I don't actually know anything specific about any of them.

Uh . . . that's probably good enough, right?

I'm posting now.

Come back tomorrow.  I want to end the year on a high note, so I'm going to try very hard to post fiction every day for a week.  Since I'm still in the same creative dry spell I've been in, I'm probably going to acomplish that by looking through old files to find things I've written but never published.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The long overdue second update

[Lot of talk about depression, also possibly unpleasant living situation]

I'm going to break this into sections, for ease of reading.  If anyone cares, they were written in the order of "Living Situation", "Living Situation Part 2", "Money", "Mental Health", "Writing", "Computer"

~ Computer ~

Obviously my computer is pretty critical to Stealing Commas since without a computer I can't post anything here.

Right now my primary computer is borked.  It had various smaller problems, then the hinges broke (it's a laptop) and now it's in two pieces.

It's under warranty, and hinges are easy to replace, so it shouldn't cost anything to fix it.  If it needs to be replaced, though, I'll need to pay for a new warranty for the replacement.  Possibly more, since I don't remember if it was on any kind of sale when I got it.  (The warranty gives the money to buy a new computer of the same price, not the same capabilities.)

Still, as far as I know the only major problem is the hinges, and those are simple enough to fix.  It should be relatively quick and fairly easy to get primary computer fixed.

It's been sitting in my living room for over a month doing nothing.

I want to back it up myself.  That means locating the external hard drive with enough storage space to pull it off.  As tasks go, that's not a difficult one.  The problem is that right now I'm having great difficulty with all tasks, regardless of whether or not they're intrinsically difficult.

That brings us to the next thing:

~ Mental Health ~

I'm not doing well.  I haven't been doing well.  I never fully recovered from breaking my ankle back in mid February of last year.  That's more than a year and nine months now.  Around six months ago or so, things got worse.

My hormones are still out of whack.  There's no evidence that that's what's screwing up my brain in depression-y ways, but we're working on getting them back into whack.  Checked my thyroid.  It's not the problem.  Working with my psychiatrist to adjust medications, but antidepressants tend to be of the form "tweak, wait a month, see results if any, repeat" so it's a very slow process.

Anyway, being in this bad place makes it hard to stay on top of other things.  Notably, Eat-Drink-Sleep is a huge thing that has repercussions in every aspect of life and I've been doing a crap job of keeping on top of it.

Screwing up any one of those can give depression-like symptoms, screwing up all three when you're already suffering from depression is not good.

~ Writing ~

My creativity has abandoned me.  That's incredibly unpleasant.  I cannot describe how much I want to be telling stories, and how much it hurts that I can't.

I'm going to keep trying, of course, and I certainly hope that there will be stuff to share here in the near future.

~ Money ~

Money should be great.  Actually, I need to update the thing in the sidebar.

*does that*

As one can see, while my debt is still as massive as it has ever been, most of it isn't accruing interest.  This is a very good thing and a huge thing, and I'm very grateful for it.

If my camera hadn't passed the point of dead and dived right into the murky depths of "no longer capable of being zombie-level animated" I'd have zero high-interest debt.  (That's camera, plus warranty, plus needing to buy a different type of memory card for the new camera.)

That said, things aren't great.  I have been so absurdly out of it for the past six months, and I wasn't particularly with it for the year and three months before that.

Sometimes the only way out is to spend money on the things I'm not capable of doing myself.  That adds up, though it doesn't add up quite enough to explain why I'm over $900 behind on certain things.  I'm probably going to have to look up what constitutes the remainder of the shortfall.

Anyway, that' the quarterly and . . . thirdly(?) bills hitting at the same time.  I need to scrape up that $900+, and soon, but I have no idea how I'll do that.

I also should put oil in the tank.  $427.35 right now, but the price of oil changes constantly.

So: yay.

~ Living Situation ~

I was planning to write up a post saying that things weren't as bad as they were, then I got news that, while long anticipated, was still very much "Oh God, oh God!  The sky is falling."

You know how every time it's looked like I wouldn't be able to afford to keep my house I said that the only other options would be bad for my mental health?

(The other options being moving in with my dad or my sister.)

My dad is going to be moving in with me.

As I said, this was long anticipated.  My dad was renting the upstairs apartment from his dad.  His dad's attempts to make an updated will didn't go well.  The result was that when my grandfather died his property passed to his girlfriend, which was not a good thing.

Before he died, my grandfather had my dad pay rent way into the future so that, when he was gone, it wouldn't be possible to suddenly evict my father.  That, however, didn't change the fact that my grandfather's girlfriend now owned the building.  She got a reverse mortgage.

The way those typically end in cases like hers (and her inheritors aren't likely to shell out the money needed to make things atypical) is that when the person dies, the house becomes the property of the lender.

Now comes the stupid part: Apparently a house changing hands via reverse mortgage does not result in the new owner becoming landlord to any tenants (in the legal sense of that word).  Some sort of loophole somewhere.  As such, tenants (here: my dad) are not protected by tenants' rights.

As near as we can tell, once all of the paperwork for the transfer of ownership of the property goes through, he can be evicted with zero notice.

At which point he'll move in with me.

On the plus side, he'd be a great resource when it comes to keeping up with the bills.

~ Living Situation, Part 2 ~

This may not be as bad as moving in with him would have been.  There's a difference between me being a guest in his house, and him being a guest in my house.

I have my doubts about it being that much better, but apparently when he was looking after my grandmother (not his mother, my moms) and therefore lived with her, he kept to himself except when necessary for the "looking after" part of the equation.

So maybe he'll just sleep in a room I don't use anyway, we'll occasionally cross paths in the kitchen, and he'll pay for TV to actually be on TV in the living room.

Of course the use of entertainment systems is a problem in itself.

Not the mental health problem that living with my family represents, mind you, that comes from frequent direct interactions especially if they involve a shared living space.  The problem entertainment represents is more of a frustration.

I can't block things out.  Well, I can't _intentionally_ block things out.  There have been times when I was engrossed in reading and the world around me basically ceased to exist (as far as my senses were concerned) for hours.  I cannot summon this power, however, and I don't think I've used it in over a decade.

What normally happens is that my attention fixates on anything around me with a strong preference towards things I don't want to see or hear.  (I have a lot of home improvement projects I want to do, one of them is instituting some form of soundproofing.)  My childhood was full of times when I searched the house for the ever elusive spot where the TV in the living room couldn't be heard.

Attempts to distract myself all fail as the thing my attention is fixating on takes precedence.  It's very annoying.

Monday, October 22, 2018


The good news: I have wireless again.

I've actually had a new wifi router sitting around taking up way too much space (why do they always make boxes so much larger than they need to be?) in my living room for ages.  It came with the new modem that I never installed.

I figured that since they went together I should swap out modem and router both.  This was a mistake.  Don't know why, but the combination that works is "New Router; Old Modem".

The bad news: I am so fucked up right now.

It's difficult to say precisely what's wrong.  Tentative guess is that it's a combination of several things which is why it doesn't feel like any one thing I'm familiar with.

This has been building up for a while, I think.  I don' have a plan beyond the usual.  The usual being "Eat, drink, sleep; in proper quantities."  That might be enough.  If I deal with the problem by sleeping in its general direction, hydrating the ever-loving fuck out of it, and putting in sufficient calories, it might go away.

If it doesn't, then . . . I've got nothing.  Outside help will be necessary.

Either way, the fact that Eat/Drink/Sleep even could be the solution points to a deeper problem: I'm in a place where I'm not staying on top of those three, possibly to the point it's become debilitating.

That's never a good place to be.

The neutral news: Primary computer did not magically repair itself since yesterday.

This was completely expected and is in no way surprising.

For one thing, it's in two pieces connected only by cords that are never supposed to see the light of day.  (Primary computer is a laptop, the monitor has broken off.)

Problems like that produce strange reactions in people.  Even people who should know better.  People take a look at a laptop broken into two pieces and--

Ok.  I just had a minor revelation.  People are applying their considerably broken and unhelpful paradigms for mental illness vs. physical injury to tech support.

If the problem were just that the primary computer broke in two, and I didn't have an active warranty (which I don't want to void), I could fix that no problem.  I've done it before.  (I've also done transplants.)

It's a mechanical problem with a relatively simple solution.  It just looks grotesquely bad.

The problems that I can't fix, the computery problems, generally don't look like much of anything.  If you're not the one using it, a borked computer looks exactly the same as a fully functional one.

And so if I go into the store with a computer that works perfectly well as a computer in every way, but happens to have physical damage, it will instantly be taken seriously as a case that needs actual treatment, while if I go into the store with a computer that utterly fails to function properly as a computer, but doesn't have any outward signs of damage, I'll instead have to sit stand through them, essentially, trying to prove that it isn't really busted.

Visible injury gets taken seriously.  Invisible injury is dismissed as user error unless proven otherwise.
I'd never thought of computers repair in that framework before.  (Or, if I have, I've forgotten.)

The entirely unrelated news: I've voted.  You should too.

If you're from the US, as I am, then you know what it's like to feel completely powerless as everything goes to Hell around you.

One of the dangers of feeling powerless is that you can stop believing in whatever power you do have, however small.  Since you don't believe that power is real, you don't use it, and through that choice you strip yourself of what little was left after outside forces took the rest.

If you can vote, that's a power that hasn't been taken from you yet.  Use it.

You know the reason that certain people are trying so hard to take that right away from so many?  Because it still matters.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Computer Breakdown

For some inexplicable reason my primary computer and wireless router broke down at the exact same time last night.  Other than the timing coinciding, neither breakdown is particularly surprising.

The router is ancient, and the computer was literally falling apart.  The computer is still under warranty so it will get repaired (or replaced) given time.  The router should be simple enough to deal with, though I've never actually set up a router before since this one dates back to when other people lived in my house.

I actually have no idea what this will do to posting here.

It's possible that things will stay the same, it's possible they will get worse, and it's even possible that things will get better.  I don't think the last one is particularly likely, but it is true that primary computer offers more distractions than secondary computer, which leads to the possibility that not having it will result in me writing more.

This post brought to you by secondary computer and Dunkin' Donuts free wifi.

(Statement that primary computer and wireless router broke down at the exact same time was not able to be verified.  Readers are encouraged to decide for themselves whether the breakdowns were actually simultaneous or merely close enough to one another as to be noticed at the same time.)

Friday, October 19, 2018

Wait, are you spies?

[This idea sprang forth because of a single line in an MLP fanfiction called Sharing the Night.  Interestingly, it didn't come up when I first read it, or when I recently reread the line in question.  It came from the line randomly popping into my head weeks later.]
[I have no idea of the setting, or any of the characters names, that will likely lead to some awkward phrasing.]
[[Ok, I'm going with a "Universe 1" "Universe A" naming style.]]

Something suddenly occurred to her, and so she said to her closest underlings, the ones who basically did all of the work of governing for her, "Wait, are you guys . . . spies?"

For a moment all of them stopped.  Even stopped breathing.  In light of that detail, it was probably a very good thing that it only lasted for a moment.

"Um . . ." lead underling said.  The other underlings --first underling, underling primus, and underling secundus-- didn't say anything, but they did, at least, resume breathing.

While the response wasn't what she, the ling who was over, would have hoped for, and indeed was somewhat disturbing given the context, she breathed a sigh of relief.  There were no objections to the semantics of her calling the underlings, four women, "guys", and that was a good thing.  They didn't need a repeat of The Battle of the Oxford Comma.

True, all four of the lings who were closest under her had supported her position in that conflict --if not for outside agitators there wouldn't have been a battle-- but things came dangerously close to violence against people, and (more disturbingly) one of the oldest surviving treatise on punctuation now sported coffee stains that would stay with it for the thousands of years remaining in its useful life.

Marginalia was to be encouraged, provided those providing it literate, legible, and respectful of future generation's need to be able to read the original text; coffee stains were without appreciable value.

And so, they definitely didn't need a repeat of The Battle of the Oxford Comma.

This was to say nothing about the possibility of another Subjunctive Cold War or "Than" Part-of-Speech schism.

Still, the response wasn't an answer.

Thankfully lead underling wasn't trying to avoid giving an answer; evidence of this came in the form of her turning to first underling and asking, "Are we spies?"

First underling naturally had had time to think about this, as all four underlings were asked the question.  Unfortunately, she didn't to have a definitive answer either:

"I'm not sure," she said.  "I've never really thought about it before today.  I can see things pointing each way."

"Well," underling secundus said, "spies are clandestine operatives, so the fact that we're openly questioning whether or not we're spies would seem to disqualify us."

Underling primus countered with, "There's nothing in the definition that says spies can't admit to being spies.  In fact--"

"Openly allowing for the possibility that one might be a spy, while risky, is exactly the sort of thing a spy might do to throw suspicion off themselves," first underling said.

"Exactly," underling primus said with a nod.

"Ok," underling secundus said, "so . . ."

There was silence.

The silence ended with lead underling turning back to she, the ling who was over, and saying, "We'll have to get back to you on that boss."

Then the four of them hurried out of the room.

She, the ling who was over, addressed the empty air:

"I note that none of that quibbling would have been necessary in the least had the answer been a simple: 'No.'"

~ * ⁂ * ~

* *

It's hard to write when you don't have names for characters.

As mentioned, the naming style is "Universe 1" Universe A", everyone gets to be first.  Except for underling secundus, but there's a reason for that.

It has to do with the fact that the Romans were a sailing culture.  When you're talking about things that are moving, the thing that comes second is following.  A following wind is a favorable wind.  (The wind is blowing precisely where you need to go, meaning you get it's full power and are spared the work involved in sailing not-with-the-wind.)

Thus "secundus" also means "favorable" and/or "lucky".

So you get lead, first, primary, and the lucky one.

"Lead" is the informal leader of the group (hierarchically they're all equals), "first" is the first one lead tends to turn to (think "first mate" or "first officer"), primus and secundus I'm not really sure about.  I haven't even come up with names for them, their interpersonal relationships aren't really figured out in detail.

I already used bare "underling" and "overling" in a thing, so I didn't just want to have the one in charge be "overling" in this, thus: "she, the ling who was/is over".

* *

Regarding the thing that inspired this, it was:
“Rainbow Dash must never know that I said this, but doesn’t that make you… spies?”
as half remembered weeks after reading it for the second time.

Regarding the story that that line comes from,  Sharing the Night, I'm not really sure what to say about it.

I absolutely love the narrative voice, and the world-building is pretty cool (the mythology it created is like nothing you'll see elsewhere), and the Librararchy subplot is very fun.

The main story itself, though, is rather lacking.  (In my opinion, of course.)  Some things feel forced, the pacing leaves something to be desired, characters other than the main two seem to be forgotten for lengths of time, and characterization . . . has problems that are kind of complicated.

So parts of me are telling me that I should totally recommend it, and other parts are saying not to.  The result is a muddle.

Read it here, if you want to read it.  Be aware that it's over two hundred thousand words and still in progress.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

What does "known world" really mean?

[This idea came out of conversation with Lonespark.]

Underling: Sire, I have returned from the scholars.

Overling: And . ? .

Underling: They are divided.

*Overling makes sound of frustration*

Overling: Preparations have been made, food has been stockpiled, and the army is ready to march.

Underling: I am aware, sire.

Overling: The entire kingdom waits on them . . . and they're divided.

Underling: They are all in agreement that the prophecy's use of the phrase "known world" means that you will not conquer the entirety of the world, and therefore it would be unwise to--

Overling: Make war on regions unknown to us.  I figured this much out on my own.

Underling: The disagreement arises from an ambiguous dative noun.

Overling: One word?

Underling: The word means to or for yourself, sire.  One camp of scholars believes that the word modifies the conquest.  In that case the noun is simply reiterating your connection to the conquest, and we would actually translate it as a possessive, namely: "your conquest".

Underling: In this interpretation, the noun doesn't change the meaning of the sentence at all, and the known world would be understood to mean the world known by the prophet.  Attempting the conquest of any areas unknown at the time of the prophecy would be folly.

Overling: And the other camp?

Underling: The other camp believes that word modifies the participle we translate as "known".  In that case the sentence in question states that your --understood from context instead of explicitly stated-- conquest will be of the world that is known to you.

Underling: The scholars in this camp caution that this would only encompass the world as you know it now, parts of the world only discovered by us during or, especially, because of the conquest would be counted as part of the unknown world.

Underling: There is consensus that this would be understood in the time and culture of the prophecy, and some work has been done, but not yet achieved as broad support, claiming that the exact word choice makes that explicit anyway.

Overling: So the scholars, after all of their study, have determined that the prophecy either does or does not cover territories we already knew it might or might not cover.

Underling: Yes, sire.

Overling: Do the scholars say anything else?

Underling: They unanimously request increased funding to the university.

Overling: Would increased funding bring them closer to an actual conclusion?

Underling: Some believe that it could be allocated in ways that might possibly result in the resolution of their disagreement over the correct interpretation of the prophecy.

*Overling raises an eyebrow*

Overling: What ways?

Underling: As an example, it was suggested that increased funding could allow them to train additional scholars who could then be tasked, as part of their undergraduate work, with scouring the archives for similar phrasing within contemporaneous writings.  If a definite pattern were to emerge from such work, that would vindicate one interpretation or the other.

Overling: And if such a pattern did not emerge?

Underling: Then, as you might imagine--

Overling: It wouldn't help in the least.

Underling: Yes, sire.


Underling: There was consensus that additional funding to the university would not harm their ability to interpret the prophecy.

Overling: I should hope not, given that they're already incapable of interpreting it.

Underling: Indeed, sire.


Underling: Should I . . .

Overling: Tell the generals that we will be using the "Old World" plan for now, and have them brief the army accordingly.

Underling: Yes, sire.

*Overling starts to turn to go somewhere else*

*Overling changes mind*

Overling: Oh . . .

Underling: Yes, sire?

Overling: Increase funding to the university by ten percent, with the provision that it must start training scholars able to make actual decisions.

Underling: Sire, they had all reached conclusions that they were sure enough of to passionately defend.  There were simply--

Overling: Two such conclusions.


Overling: The provision remains.

Underling: Yes, sire.

Overling: That will be all.

Underling: Yes, sire.

*underling leaves*

*Overling goes to the somewhere else mentioned earlier*

* * *

The original idea was basically one line of dialogue, something like:
Some of the scholars interpret the prophecy as saying you'll conquer the world as known today, some interpret it as the world known to the scholar, and all of them say you should increase funding to the university.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Take A Look Around My World -- Prologue (Equestria Girls and Friendship is Magic)

[Meta crap: I've been sort of emotionally zombified for ages.  One of the results being an inability to write.  There was a fanfiction contest and I decided to try to write a piece for it in hopes that the deadline would provide the motivation I couldn't produce myself.  It somewhat worked.  I didn't produce a story, but I did write something.  This prologue being the only part that's fit for public consumption.]
[Originally posted at Fimfiction.]

Sometimes things went sideways.  Sometimes, through no fault of your own, you were forced to defend your honor or your image and say, in a way that didn't sound particularly insecure, they you were not uptight about romance, didn't freak out, and most certainly were not at risk of ruining your upcoming vacation by descending into an episode catastrophizing self-recrimination.

All of which was why Sunset said, “I'll have you know I'm totally laid back and face all relationship matters with cool aplomb,” to five of her friends and one of her girlfriends while they all waited on the arrival of Applejack and Vinyl Scratch at their usual cafe.

“If memory serves, love,” Octavia said, “our relationship began with you--”

“Oooh, me!” Pinkie Pie said while waving her arm around like a first grader.  “I've heard this story; please let me answer.”

Octavia shrugged and gestured for Pinkie to go on.

“Sunset said, 'You don't understand, it's still my fault,'” Pinkie said, quickly accelerating to a frantic pace, “'I manipulate people; it's what I do.  I survived for years a child with no family, friends, home, history, money, or knowledge of this world based solely on my manipulation skills!'”

Several of the others, most notably Rarity and Fluttershy, gave sympathetic looks to Sunset.  Sunset became inordinately interested in removing non-existent dirt from under her fingernails.

Pinkie turned away in apparent shame and slowed down, “'My ability to make people do whatever I wanted.'”

Octavia raised an eyebrow.

Pinkie turned back and spoke with renewed determination:

“'I got so good at it that now I do it without even trying --without even noticing what's happening.'”

Pinkie took a breath then launched into another accelerating part, which was accompanied by body language of utter desperation:

“'When I realized that I loved Vinyl I told myself I could keep it under control, but I couldn't, and I seduced her.  It doesn't matter that she's the one who kissed me because it's all my fault and I am so sorry and I'm begging you not to hold it against her because I love both of you so much and--'”

Pinkie Pie stopped suddenly, returned to the posture she had had before the topic came up, and calmly said, “And that's when Octavia cut Sunset off with, 'Both of us‽'” at a normal pace.

Sunset looked up from her nails.

“I don't care how many times you heard the story,” she said, “no one ever has ever told it in that much detail.”

“Yes,” Octavia said.  “However did you know?”

“Just a hunch.”

“Pinkie Pie's dubious claims of hunches aside,” Sunset said to Octavia, “if the only evidence you can give is from the very beginning of our relationship--”

“Oh, I can give a great deal of examples beyond that one,” Octavia said, “however, that particular instance is very close to my heart as it was the foundation upon which my romance with you was built.”

“And you never let me live it down,” Sunset grumbled.  “It was completely reasonable for me to 'freak out' considering the fact that I had every reason to believe I'd just destroyed the lives of the two people I love most in any world.”

“Speaking of worlds,” Twilight said, “I'm so jealous of you all; you're spending all of your break in an alien world. I wish I were going with you.”  A moment later Twilight's eyes went wide and she said, “Well, not with you with you, it'd be incredibly awkward if I tagged along with the three of you on your date-vacation and I'm pretty sure the result would be that none of us would enjoy it in the least and--”

“Twilight,” Sunset said, “deep breaths.”

Twilight looked at the table and said, “Sorry.”

“Wanting to clarify an ambiguous statement is nothing to be ashamed of, Twilight,” Octavia said.

“Right,” Sunset said to Twilight, “what you were trying to do was fine and needs no apology; it's just that you don't need to do it, since we understood what you actually meant.”

“Ok,” Twilight said, but she was still clearly embarrassed.

“I'll ask mirror-side Twilight if she can take some time at some point to give you your own tour of Equestria,” Sunset said. Twilight's face lit up.

“Whoa,” Rainbow Dash said. “I don't think that Twilight squared should be inflicted on any universe.”

“Adding one Twilight to a world with another would be Twilight times two, not Twilight squared,” Twilight said.

“Yeah,” Pinkie Pie said, speaking in a bizarrely sagely manner, “to get Twilight squared you'd need Twilight cross Twilight not Twilight plus Twilight.”

“I don't even want to think about whatever sick horse-human hybrid you get when you cross the Twilights.”

Sunset rolled her eyes at Rainbow Dash then offered some clarification on one point: “The ponies of Equestria are no more horses --the kind you're familiar with, at any rate-- than the humans of this world are baboons.”

“Horse-baboon hybrids are coming for us all!” Pinkie Pie screamed and then proceeded to run around while flailing her arms.  Somehow this was significantly less disconcerting than when she'd tried her hand at sagedom moments earlier.

“In fact,” Sunset said, “the ponies of Equestria are actually a good deal less similar to the horses of this world than you all are to baboons.”

“Sub-horse-baboon hybrids are coming for us all!”

Vinyl walked into the cafe as Octavia asked, “What did I ever do to deserve this?”

Vinyl signed an answer to the question as she took the seat next to Sunset.

“That was unnecessarily lewd,” Octavia said, “besides, you were the one who wanted to do that with Sunset.  I, on the other hand, was merely open to the possibility that I might eventually come to love her if I gave it a chance.”

Sunset ignored that discussion and said, “All of this," she gestured to Pinkie, arms still flailing, "is pointless.”

Before anyone could agree with her seemingly reasonably statement, she elaborated:

“What you get when you cross Twilight with Twilight is not some horse-baboon hybrid.”  She paused a beat.  “It's the magnitude of this Twilight, times the magnitude of mirror-side Twilight, times...”

At the same time Sunset said, “...the cosine of the angle between them,” Twilight said, “...the cosine of the angle between us.”  Then the two high-fived each other.

Octavia looked at Vinyl and, in completely serious tones, asked, “What ever made us think it that dating a mathematician was an idea with merit?”

Vinyl smiled and signed back.

“Well of course I liked her work on the existence of fractal-like patterns in the fifth Brandenburg concerto,” Octavia said, “but she only did that once.  She happens to be a mathematician, and virulently so, every single day.”

“I love you too,” Sunset said without a hint of sarcasm and with a smile so persistent that it almost made it impossible for her to actually get the words out.

Vinyl signed a question that was more or less equivalent to, “What about me?”

“Of course I love you,” Sunset said while ruffling Vinyl's hair.

For a moment there was silence.

“Though, I am wondering why you're so verbose today,” Sunset said to Vinyl.

“I hadn't noticed,” Twilight said to Vinyl, “but Sunset's right.  For all of your fluency in both signing and written English, this has to be the most I've seen you use any language in one sitting when you weren't forced to do so by outside circumstances, such as school requirements or contract negotiations.”

Vinyl thought the matter over for a moment, then shrugged.

“There's the Vinyl we know and love,” Pinkie Pie said.

“Some more than others,” Rainbow said looking first at Sunset, then Octavia.

“Regardless,” Sunset said, “now that Vinyl's here . . .”

“We would be ready to commence our trip,” Octavia said, “except that we are short one member of our send off.”

“Which I still say is completely unnecessary,” Sunset said.

“Silly Sunset,” Pinkie said, “of course we all wanted to be there when you left.”

“It's tradition,” Rarity said.

“Though . . .” Fluttershy said, “tradition usually dictates it take place somewhere like an airport or train station.”

Silence, punctuated by the sounds of milkshakes being slurped, reigned for a time after that.  It ended when Rainbow's phone made a sound, she checked it, and she announced:

“Applejack says she's sorry she's late, and she'll meet us at the portal.”

“She isn't late,” Sunset said.  The others were simply early.

“I think she means that she would be late by time she arrived, dear,” Rarity said.

Applejack was already there when the others reached the statue.  With all of them present, three people leaving and six people staying meant eighteen hugs were exchanged.  Once that was finished, it was time for people other than Sunset to have last-minute jitters.

“I know we've talked about this, love” Octavia said, “but one last time: you're sure it's safe?”

Vinyl, standing behind Octavia, showcased an impressive range of emotions and sentiments in a span of moments.  These included, by were in no way limited to sympathy, “Cheer her up”, and an “I know you can do it” kind of confidence.  Also a bit of "This again?" which was offset by everything else.  There was a reason Vinyl seldom used signs or words: she rarely needed to.

“In all of recorded history,” Sunset said as Vinyl patted Octavia's shoulder reassuringly, “it's only ever acted up once, and that was for reasons that most definitely don't apply right now.”

“Oooh,” Pinkie said, “what were the reasons?”

"The magic journals providing the link between worlds, which allowed the portal to open outside of its ordinary schedule, had reached the end of their useful lives," Sunset rattled off, seemingly slightly bored.  She returned her attention to Octavia and said, now with conviction, “It's using a new pair now--”

“I'm keeping the one on this side safe!” Rainbow Dash said.

“--which are most definitely in their prime,” Sunset finished.  “Unless you do something silly like charge through the portal in a sprint--”

There was a cough which sounded mysteriously like "Twilight".  When Sunset looked, none of the girls took credit for it.

“--everything will be completely fine,” Sunset finished.  Sunset made eye contact with Vinyl, Vinyl nodded, and they hugged Octavia simultaneously: Sunset from the front, Vinyl from the back.

There was a group “Aww...”, though Sunset thought that it didn't sound like it came from the full group of six.

When Sunset separated from Octavia and tried to determine which of the girls were responsible, they all had their innocent faces on.  Again.  Well, all but one.

Twilight was looking positively perplexed.

After thinking a moment, Sunset said, “Mirror-side Twilight, before the Battle of the Bands.”

Twilight responded with an, “Oh.”  There was a bit of sheepishness there, probably because in retrospect Twilight realized that, given she'd never charged at the portal, they had to be talking about the other Twilight.

“Though," Rainbow Dash added, "Pinkie Pie tried to do the same thing on the night of the Fall Formal.”

Sunset cringed at the memory of Pinkie bouncing off of the statue base after the portal closed.

“Yeah,” Sunset said, “that looked like it hurt.”

“She did run face first into a wall of marble,” Rarity said.

“I was fine!” Pinkie Pie shouted with positive glee.

“So,” Octavia said, “I just have to walk through and everything will be all right.”

It was pretty clear that she was trying to convince herself instead of asking a question, but Sunset still answered:

“Yup, that's all there is to it.”  About a second and a half later she said, “Well, that's all there is to going through the portal, but you're going to want to remember to drop to all fours once you get to the other side.”

Vinyl raised her eyebrows signaling a question, then, her arms still around Octavia, mimed walking on all fours into a vertical surface: her right hand doing the walking while her left hand was the surface.

“You can if you want,” Sunset said, “but I think Octavia would find that rather undignified.”  The last two words were, of course, in an imitation of Octavia's voice.

Given the position of Vinyl's hands relative to Octavia's line of sight, Octavia had no idea what Sunset was talking about.

“What would I find undignified?” she asked.

Somewhat surprisingly, Fluttershy beat Sunset to the answer:

“Um . . . walking through the portal already on your hands and feet.”

Octavia nodded. “Yes.  I would.”

“So,” Sunset said, “are you ready?”

Octavia nodded again. “I believe that I am.”

Vinyl finally broke off the hug and kissed Octavia on the back of the head.

Sunset kissed Octavia on the cheek. She was about to turn away when Vinyl gave her a flat look.

“Well get your face over here, then,” Sunset said.

It would have been easy for Vinyl to go around Octavia, but instead she offered up her cheek over Octavia's shoulder.

Sunset gave Vinyl's cheek a peck and then turned to the portal.

“Well this seems unfair,” Octavia said in playful petulance. “When am I permitted to kiss someone?”

Sunset hesitated a moment, then half turned back and said, “As tempting as that is, why don't I head through first --make sure there are no surprises on the other end-- while you kiss Vinyl?”

Octavia and Vinyl both looked pleased with that suggestion.

“I'll see you on the other side,” Sunset said.  She ignored the numerous eye-rolls and stepped up to the portal.

The last thing she heard before the world was replaced with swirling rainbows was Applejack saying, “Ya'all have fun now.”

* *
* * *
* *

As noted, this came about because of a contest.  The contest was themed "Journeys" and required that Sunset Shimmer already be in a romantic relationship when the story started.

Sunset Shimmer is a magical unicorn living as a human in a non-magical human world, I'm most definitely not the only one to think that a trip to Sunset's home world made sense as the journey.

Vinyl Scratch (stage name DJ-Pon3) never speaks in canon.  Because of this, in fandom she's sometimes portrayed as physically unable to speak.  I've pretty much internalized that interpretation.

Of course, she never signs, writes, or types in canon either.  Instead all of her canonical communication is non-linguistic in nature.  Going with that, for this story I chose to have her prefer not to use language at all.

That then (somehow) evolved into Vinyl's mind-space being a combination of imagery and Peter and the Wolf style orchestration (in the draft versions of future chapters.)

Octavia Melody is a cellist who is often paired with Vinyl in fandom.  As of season five of Friendship is Magic, the pony versions canonically share a house.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Yes, money would help.

I was asked multiple times if money, for a moving van for example, would help with the shit I'm currently deal with.

Yes.  Yes it would.  Preferably a week and a half ago (when I was asked here) but now works too.  Here's the donate link.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

I propose a new genre of ultra-violent books, movies, video games, comic books, and so forth. (From Twitter)

[Originally posted on twitter.  Ish.  The introduction is new and everything will have, at least, an editing pass.]

So, before I get to what this is, I wanted to note where it comes from.  Feel free to skip this introduction, main text after the break.

At some point, I was looking at something (been a while, don't remember) and every time I loaded the page to check for new stuff it landed on one of two tweets about the synopsis of a completely real upcoming book.  I say that because, based on the synopsis, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was instead a fake thing that existed only as a farcical over the top parody.

The synopsis makes it difficult to tell if the book will be something too painful to read, or something that one could have fun tearing apart.

Whatever the case, it's a power/vengeance fantasy in which the perpetually offended hegemons who cast themselves as the persecuted victims of the unwashed masses can live out their fantasy of seeing their supposed oppressors laid low and forced to come to them for protection (recognizing their superiority, of course) OR DIE!

When you're not actually oppressed but your identity is built around believing you're oppressed, you end up looking for signs of your oppression in strange places.  Thus the book, which is called Trigger Warning, is lashing out at the injustice of . . . even at a remove, I can't take this concept seriously.

It's the kind of book where the synopsis puts the terms "triggered", "microaggressions", "male privilege" "cisgendered bathrooms" and "safe space" in scare quotes.

The synopsis went thus:

Former Army Ranger Jake Rivers is not your typical Kelton College student. He is not spoiled, coddled, or ultra-lib like his classmates who sneer at the “soldier boy.”

Rivers is not “triggered” by “microaggressions.” He is not outraged by “male privilege” and “cisgender bathrooms.” He does not need a “safe space.” Or coloring books. Jake needs an education. And when terror strikes, the school needs Jake . . .

Without warning, the sounds of gunfire plunge the campus into a battle zone. A violent gang of marauders invade the main hall, taking students as hostages for big ransom money. As a veteran and patriot, Jake won’t give in to their demands. But to fight back, he needs to enlist his fellow classmates to school these special snowflakes in the not-so-liberal art of war. This time, the aggression isn’t “micro.” It’s life or death. And only the strong survive . . .
Before I get to my original response, I want to call out a few things in that cutesy synopsis.

As the only person like him in, apparently, the whole fucking school (the school needs him specifically, not the 1% of the student population like him) Jake Rivers is very clearly the specialist special snowflake of them all.  I would also argue that, since he doesn't have to deal with anyone like him, he's pretty damned spoiled and coddled as well.

The "ultra-lib" classmates he has, remember, have to face something he doesn't: Jake Rivers.  A lot of people would love to attend a school where they would never face a Jake Rivers.  His classmates don't get that.  Jake does.

The scare quotes paragraph pretty clearly demonstrates that while Jake Rivers doesn't need coloring books, he seems to want his own twisted version of a safe space.  (Twisted but traditional: the comfortable are comforted at the cost of afflicting the afflicted.)  Also that he is one of the sneerers.

Basically, Jake here is almost everything he detests.  The only broad strokes thing he's not is liberal.  Sure, the specific details might differ, but Jake is exactly what he thinks other people are.  He might not need a safe space or even understand what one is, but it seems like he wants a space in which he personally is safe from everything that might possibly offend his delicate sensibilities.

Also, grammar fail:
[...] he needs to enlist his fellow classmates to school these special snowflakes in the not-so-liberal art of war.
After Jake gets himself an education, perhaps he can teach the author about semi-colons, because that is what they're made for.  Put a semicolon after classmates, and it's fine.

As it is, however, it says that Jake needs to enlist his classmates in order to school some other group of special snowflakes (the the violent gang of marauders, perhaps) in the not-so-liberal art of war.

The use of the phrase "the art of war" makes me imagine that this schooling is taking place under the auspices of Kelton's prestigious Chinese Military Literature program.

(Stuff from Twitter, edited and possibly refined, follows.)

- ~ ∗ ~ -         - ~ ⁂ ~ -         - ~ ∗ ~ -

Ok, so whenever a certain page reloaded it came to one of two tweets about this garbage [link to synopsis], I have thoughts.

No.  I have THOUGHTS.

I shall now make these thoughts known to the world.

- ~ ∗ ~ -

For all the talk about Hollywood liberals, and mainstream liberals, and this liberals, and that liberals,  and those feminists, and these aggrieved masses of entitled . . . whatever, I've never really bought it.

Consider:  We've had Red Dawn twice.

Everything from Home Alone to [[every Steven Seagal movie in the history of actors named Steven and surnames that are almost, but not quite, "Seagull"]] is picking up on the right-wing fantasy of "They violated my home so Imma kill and/or torture EVERYONE!"

One goes to Home Alone for the torture and not-quite-Seagull for the killin'.  (If you're going to watch one of the gull movies, I recommend Under Siege, though be warned that never will a movie make you more in favor of a major American city being nuked than when Steven is trying to stop it.)

Now one could reasonably come to the conclusion that, maybe, we should have less of this.  Perhaps having this one story told in infinite variations is causing us to miss out on other stories and having an effect upon our ways of thinking, and our culture, and . . . stuff.

Or, one could completely ignore the reasonable and think the way that I think.

- ~ ∗ ~ -

All of this has been a roundabout way to say, I propose a new genre of ultra violent books, movies, video games, comic books, and so forth.  Well, I'm sure that the genre already exists, so I'm more proposing that it become mainstream and be brought to mediums in which it has not yet found traction.

Rather than describe the genre, I'm going to give a specific example and let you extrapolate the genre from there.

Instead of former army ranger Jake Rivers saving the Keyton students from a random violent gang of marauders in a battle where only the strong will survive, we'll have this:

Riley "I got disowned and don't have a last name, but no worries; I'm in a better place now" will join forces with others.

Ne will do this not as a leader shaping lesser classmates into what nir ideology requires but instead as an equal partner in a communal cooperative of, "We're getting through this together, and we'll do whatever we can to make sure everyone survives regardless of whether they're strong."

Riley is no more or less special than any of the other snowflakes and doesn't think the fact ne is a genderfluid + genderqueer [∗] ace person of color from a minority religion entitles nir to special rights.  Just equal rights.

(Riley is not a latte fan, but nothing against those who are.)

[∗] Riley's gender shifts between multiple non-binary genders.

- ~ ∗ ~ -

It's no easy task securing safety for everyone when the fascists in your government have decided to make an example of your university (and also use it as a feasibility trial for cracking down on everything not cis-straight-male-rightwing-christian-'Merica-fuck-yeah)

The fact that "We're saving everyone.  Yes, even those assholes" means needing to manage an asshole population doesn't help.  In the lawlessness of the law trying to kill you, bigotry is hard to contain, safe spaces hard to come by, and micro aggressions deplete san points.

Even so, the entire point of the action genre (whatever the medium happens to be) is to let characters solve problems by punching them in the face.  (Something that doesn't work in the real world, but is a wonderful escapist fantasy of simplicity) and so Riley and co dig in.

- ~ ∗ ~ -

If it's a video game instead of a book then there will be a crafting system and bonus points to those who realize that "marble + shoelace" = sling.  Especially since David versus Goliath is the symbolism you like the government has decided to end you.

The government decided to end them in the name of traditional values, keeping daughters safe, making sure America remains a Christian nation, *something*something* states rights, defending white heritage, and so forth, of course.

Said-government also makes a point of mocking trigger warnings, misgendering people, and such.

I'm leaning toward video game here because you can have stealth, shooter, parkour, settlement management, social, and so much more.

You can have the character need to take time in the safe room to recover from the bullshit ne needs to face elsewhere (implement a crayon+mandala system if you like.)  Basically: the importance of self-care implemented as a game mechanic.

You know the fantasy that if society collapsed and [fantasizer] rebuilt it everything would be better?  Indulge in it.  In addition to things listed above and more (how did I leave out tower defense?) you get to shape the society of the resistance to make bigotry not fucking cool.

Instead of being wiped out, as is realistic, the university becomes the center of a new multicultural egalitarian society in which people, while still people, have at least taken steps to make sure they don't fuck up in the exact same way they have been for 700 years.

DLC includes:
  • Daring raids on medical facilities, and factories, and such to make sure no one is forced to go off their meds
  • Treaty building with with other marginalized or outright targeted groups.
  • Setting up a school system that's neuro-divergent friendly.
  • Blowing shit up in epic ways.
There's a rhetoric skill you can invest in if you want to convince the non-evil portions of the army and police to come over to your side.

There's a side mission where you have to deal with not-Jake-Rivers and his social-Darwinist macho murder cult.

But mostly there's blowing off steam in a way that doesn't hurt anyone but feels good, especially when you've been forced to listen to bigots and other assholes rant about how certain people, possibly including you, don't count as people (or that some people's lives don't matter.)

And there's queer, non-white, non-Christian representation.

And safe spaces are respectfully shown.  And trigger warnings are shown as things that improve people's quality of life. And it's possible to actually put an end to microaggressions.  (Remember: the action genre is a fantasy in which the problems faced are actually able to be solved, often in simple, sometimes explosive, straightforward ways.)

And for once it's the people who are actually treating the lives of others as disposable in the face of their ideology in real life who are shown disposing of others in the name of their ideology in fiction.  And non-kyriarchal utopia is shown as a thing worth aspiring to instead of a joke.

- ~ ∗ ~ -

And I forgot to mention, traditionally action protagonist = [really qualified + special], so Riley is the best in the chess club, founded the top Splatoon team on campus, is active in the community (was in the movement that stopped Women's Studies from being cut), and a is glass blower by trade.

- ~ ∗ ~ -         - ~ ⁂ ~ -         - ~ ∗ ~ -

That basically covers it.  I could have named the post "I begin a bunch of paragraphs with the word 'And'."  Cutting and pasting the line in question was close to accurate (though it's not as descriptive as it could be.)

Thought I'd try to get something out there, this was already mostly written.  It still has taken me positively ages, but today is a day of rest.  (My sister is checking out the property she hopes to move into today.  On other days I'll be helping her race to move out of what we're losing, as I have been for a while.)

Friday, July 13, 2018

Gondor calls for aid (i.e. if you're in or about the greater Portland area, Maine Portland, I could use help)

I know that in the past people have said, "I'm not that far away, is there anything I could do to help by showing up in person."  Well, not that.  People have never, to my knowledge, said precisely that.  People have said stuff to that effect, more or less.

Or maybe, "I have friends in your area and they might be . . ."

What I don't know is who those people were or how they came to internet-know me.

Maybe they read this, maybe they were at Ana's, maybe they were somewhere else entirely.

Regardless, for once showing up in person could be helpful.  Short version: Stuff needs to be moved.  Both on the small scale where a person can move it and on a large scale where a vehicle is needed.

If you're up for it, contact me (cpw [at] maine [dot] rr [dot] com) and we'll see if you can help.  (I naturally assume no one is interested.)

Long version:

This is hard to write about because I just want to vent about how terrible everything feels and how shitty certain people were to my family, but that's not what this post is about.

This is what it's about: we're losing the whole farm.  My mom was put on the spot and had to decide between between accept the unexpectedly backstabbing altered arrangement, where we didn't get to keep anything at all, or go to the next offer, which would have seen the whole thing bulldozed.  At least by still selling to the backstabbers it'll become a pseudo-park instead of being condos.

That news is what caused my May breakdown, in which I cried for days and was emotionally fucked for even longer.  Then time passed and I had my June breakdown.  Then time passed.  (Actually, if you look at the space between them, I'm due for a July breakdown right about now.)

Property changes hands three days after my birthday, so by August 6th anything we want to keep needs to be evacuated to some other location.

We didn't know that anything would need to be moved until May, I wasn't the only one having problems, it's now mid July.

On my own, the most I can do is help my sister in her efforts.  I can't drive, (don't have a car anyway), I'm just one person, so on, so forth.  The thing is, what she wants isn't how I'd prefer to do things.

Helping her is a good thing, and if you'd prefer her orders to my own ideas then that's definitely a thing that can be done, but I'm going to talk about what I'd prefer for the rest of the post.

There's some path clearing to be done because the farm is one spring + summer-so-far overgrown, so there is a degree to it would be useful if someone wanted to venture forth with weed whacker in hand to do battle with grass and shrub so that others might reach the out buildings.

Mostly, however, what I need help with is moving stuff, both on site and between the farm and my house.
Other than the "my house" bit (she's loading up an on-site storage container), that's essentially the same thing my sister needs help with.  The differences are a) the categories of some of the things to be moved, and b) the methodology employed in deciding which potential things should be moved.
So: moving stuff.

Stuff falls into three categories: inanimate stuff one can carry and put in an SUV/pickup/van/thing, big inanimate stuff, and plants.

~ * Stuff one can carry and put in a vehicle to move * ~

If anyone actually does help me, I'm pretty sure it will be limited to this category.  It's really simple, or would be if I had a car, could drive, and were more people:
Pick stuff up, put in vehicle, drive to my house, unload stuff.  Repeat.
Which stuff?
All the stuff.

The thing is, I really do feel like there's not a lot of time.

It'll be a week before I can work at the farm again.  At that point there are three weeks left.  Decent odds that I'll be in the area for at most two of those weeks.  It's the hot season and if I work more than a couple days in a row the exertion combined with the heat will make me sick.
From my perspective there's only a handful of days and they're running out.

So I don't want to sort through everything to save only what I actually wish to keep.  I am very deeply concerned that if I try to do that I'll spend so much time sorting that I'll run out of time before all of the save-worthy stuff gets moved (or indeed located).
I want to go quick and dirty:
 • Grab everything.  Stick what fits in a vehicle.  Drive it to my house.  Remove.  Repeat.

I can sort things after the sixth provided that I actually have the things, which will only be true if they're moved off the farm before the sixth.  Sorting takes time.  Especially when things may be disassembled.  With disassembled things it's like needing to put together a puzzle in order to make each decision.

Even if we do have that time, and I have doubts, I'm stressed the Hell out by taking that time to sort instead of just getting stuff to safety as quickly as possible and deciding what's worth keeping later.

~ * big inanimate objects * ~

The degree to which I think no one can help with this is high, but I'll put it in.
There are some big honking things on the farm, and I don't just mean cars.  Though on the subject of cars . . .

My grandfather talked about us building a car together for much of my life.  I'd say I wanted a rusted wreck from the woods, he'd say that we'd build a car together, but not that one.  Then he'd bring me to the chassis of a model A Ford (I didn't know that was what it was at the time) and say we'd build that.  It was four wheels, a flat (empty) frame, and a steering wheel; I was totally unimpressed.
The chassis has a tree growing through it now, but what I didn't know when I was younger is that, in one of the out buildings, he had all the parts to build a complete Model A.  Now a headlight or such I can probably move by my lonesome.  The body, though?  Not a chance in Hell.  (And I don't actually know if the engine is assembled or in more mobile pieces.  There never seems to be time to just look at things.)

If given the ability to move heavy things, there are other things I'd want to move too, but getting that thing --actually getting it-- it would . . .
It's indescribable.  It would overshadow anything else I can think of save the tractors (which my sister is theoretically looking into options for.)  I would be grateful forever.

And I'd learn how to build a car.  And I'd say sappy things to my grandfather at the cemetery (movies have taught me that this is required), and then I don't know what I'd do.  Maybe find someone who would appreciate it.  Maybe actually get my licence.  (Though that likely involves a lot of therapy, since I have a phobia level fear of driving.  My reaction time isn't that bad, but I'm completely terrified that I'll kill someone.)

~ * plants * ~

Who wants to transplant rhubarb?   Who wants to transplant an entire blueberry patch at the worst possible stage of the blueberry life-cycle without any earth moving equipment save shovels?


Digging is hard work that takes a lot of time, dirt is heavy, this is a really bad idea.  Horrendously stupid.  I'm going to need help to pull it off.

There are other plants too, I suppose.  They're not incredibly difficult problems though.

For example, there's no possible way to move the willow or butternut (and nowhere to move them too) but given the lack of mowing all spring there are doubtless small children of each that could be transplanted with relative ease.  Likewise there are probably some flowers in various places probably.

Nothing else on the level of work or stupidity require to move a blueberry patch in July.

And that pretty much covers it.

That's what I could use help with.

 ● Moving stuff that can be held.
 ● Moving stuff that's car like in scope.
 ● Transplanting plants.

If you think you could show up and help with any of that, contact me (cpw [at] maine [dot] rr [dot] com) and we'll see if our schedules can be made to align.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Need help: accurate and reasonably precise measurements of Duplo bricks

~ Background ~

So, for some ungodly reason, I decided to get the 30 day Alibre Design free trial.

This was, for the record, a horrible idea.  Right now depression is bad, I'm having trouble with the vitally important eat/drink/sleep trifecta, and since I'm not about to buy a $1,000 or $2,000 licence (depending on the version) I've basically saddled myself with sense of "If I don't do ¡Everything! in 30 29 days I'm an failure!"

(Yes, I did make an effort to indicate that "everything" is getting double exclamation.)

I . . . may not be the best at making decisions that are conducive to a non-catastrophic state of mind.

But it's just . . . I like Alibre.  With some exceptions here or there it's exactly how I would design a 3d modeling.  It's like a perfect fit.

And I've been having design ideas that I'd like to do more than just write about, since that comes with the constant caveat: "Of course this serves no practical purpose now, but if I ever get into 3d modeling again, maybe I could do something with this."

~ The issue at hand ~

  Short version:
It's a lot harder to get the specifications of Duplo bricks than it is for Lego bricks.  The dimensions that aren't easily derived are the studs on top (height and outer diameter) and the tubes on bottom (inner diameter, outer diameter), and the size of the splines that make the wall actually wide enough to hold the studs.  (Most of the wall is Lego-wall thickness to allow for compatibility with Lego studs)

Obviously knowing a radius is as good as knowing a diameter, and also some things can be derived if others are known.  Knowing stud outer diameter will allow one to calculate the spline size, or vice versa.  Stud outer diameter should allow calculations tube outer diameter (in theory, at least.)
  Long version:

The basic Lego and Duplo patents expired ages ago.  It's why Lego keeps on making new specialty bricks (it creates new, non expired, patents) and why Lego is so into stuff that's under copyright* (Superheroes, Disney princesses, a thousand original Lego IPs) these days.

Thus a thousand companies build Lego and Duplo compatible system bricks and don't even need to file off the serial numbers.

However, Duplo bricks don't get the same attention to detail outside of of the clone manufacturing centers.

Lego specifications can be found all over the internet.

Duplo not so much.

Now, Some dimensions of Dplo bricks can be worked out pretty easily by comparison to Legos.  The standard Duplo bricks are twice as high, wide, and long as Lego bricks, for example.  The short ones are the same width and height as the standard ones, but only as high as a single standard Lego brick.

Other things are harder.

The studs (round things on top, hollow cylinders in this case) are not simple multiples of Lego stud sizes.  Their height, inner diameter, outer diameter, and wall thickness are all unclear.  However the tubes under a regular Lego (which have known sizes) fit inside the the studs so we can thus work out inner diameter.  The wall thickness can be found from subtraction once one has the outer diameter.

Thus for the studs, the missing dimensions are height and outer diameter.

The tubes underneath have similar stuff going on, albeit with less to reduce things.

The height is a simple calculation in theory.  It's a Lego stud height less than all the way to the bottom.  The inner and outer diameter not so much.

If we assume similar construction practices to Lego bricks than the inner diameter will be equal to the stud outer diameter and the outer diameter can likewise be calculated once the stud outer diameter is know.

It is not clear that those are good assumptions.

So, for the tubes on the bottom, the missing dimensions are inner diameter and outer diameter.

~ conclusion ~

If anyone has superior google-fu, prior knowledge, or Duplo bricks + really good calipers:

I would be really appreciative if you could tell me these dimensions (plus any others you feel like sharing) of Duplo bricks:

The outer diameter of the studs on top.  The height of the  studs on top.  The outer diameter of the tubes on the bottom.  The inner diameter of the tubes on the bottom.  Anything else that you think one needs to know to create Duplo compatible objects.  (Primarily bricks.)

~ Footnote ~
~ (on copyright law vs patent law) ~

* Copyright law is fundamentally flawed and this is, in large part, due to corporations wanting to have stuff in perpetuity while simultaneously saying, "Fuck You!" to the people who actually made the fucking stuff in the first place as well as the entire extended family and circle of friends + acquaintances of those people.

Short version:
Patent law is designed to balance the importance of creators getting what they're due with the competing interests of the common good of society in general and the people within society in particular.

Copyright law is designed to make Disney (and others of their ilk) richer than God.  I know that, as a classicist, I'm supposed to say, "Rich as Croesus" but the truth is that Croesus couldn't even imagine this kind of wealth.
~ Giraffe ~

When we asked for the location of the AMC at Assembly Row (which was a field of dirt before they put in the Orange Line stop, but a mass transit stop is like really good irrigation and fertilization: It makes commerce grow with a vengeance) we were told, "Around the corner right by the giant Lego giraffe," or something to that effect.

All this time later I still snap photos when possible.  (It's been in multiple open threads at Ana Mardoll's because of that.)

Why is it here?  It's made out of Duplo bricks.  (Which makes sense, it would take eight times as many Lego bricks to do the exact same thing.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Nevy Longbottom (Trans inclusive Harry Potter AU)

It's established in Harry Potter that the chosen one is in fact chosen by Lord Voldemort himself.  (Chrome knows how to correctly spell "Voldemort" but still regards "tuatara" as too new on the scene to deserve spellcheck recognition.)

If Voldy had instead tried and failed to kill option two (there were only two options), Neville Longbottom would have had a scar in the shape of a tsan (ϟ) on his head.  This interests me because Neville is very much not Harry and thus as story about him probably wouldn't be:
Rich jock breaks rules, commits "unforgivable" acts that are supposed to land him in prison for the rest of his life, does not in fact get a life sentence (or any sentence), learns he enjoys torturing people, is repeatedly lauded as a hero (eventually in a way that sticks), and finally goes on to live a happy life.
I don't pretend to know precisely what it would be, but we can at least know what it wouldn't.

And so this happened.  Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings [Links: comment not on this topic (which contained initial footnote), main comment, the thing I forgot to put into the main comment.]

The footnote that started it:
* I suddenly wonder about the alt universe where Neville was the Boy Who Lived but just as quickly my interest wanes when I realize how what happened to his parents would almost certainly change.

Harry and Neville were both profoundly shaped by the fates of their parents.

If, somehow, Neville were being protected by Lily and James and they died for him instead of Harry, then the broad strokes would remain the same and the characters, while obviously different, could be largely intact.

[Splitting off into its own post.]

Ok, so, Harry Potter AU (in which the main character is trans because I just bumped into the heart's desire mirror, which I'd totally forgotten about, and "I saw a girl that looked so much like me" is way too tempting.)

First book:           Neville Longbottom and the . . .
Second book:     Neville Nevy Longbottom and the . . .
Rest of series:                    Nevy Longbottom and the . . .

Dumbledore guessed that Snape had heard part of the prophecy and warned four members of The Order of the Phoenix that their two babies could be in unspeakable danger.  In order to to avoid losing all four members, it was decided that two (Lily and James Potter) would look after both babies, protected by the most powerful form of magical hiding possible, while the other two (Frank and Alice Longbottom) continue to fight the war.

When the rat betrays (Seriously?  The one who could turn into a rat was a betrayer.  What the actual fuck?  Rats are awesome animals with an undeservedly bad rep) Lily and James manage to hide Harry and are about to hide Neville when in walks Voldemort (who had always assumed it was Harry and wasn't even looking for Neville) Voldemort assumes Harry is the baby, scene plays out as in canon.

Neville is the boy who lived.  Harry is the boy who happened to be hidden in a crawlspace at the time.

Since this is when Snape turns on Voldy, they quickly learn that Voldy and co are after Harry.  Thus Asshole Dumbledore still sticks Harry with evil-family.  Neville goes to grandmother.

When the Voldamovement collapses, it's revealed that it was baby Neville who broke Voldemort.

Harry is still rich with a massive extended "family you choose" waiting to meet him and support him.  Harry is still ideally suited to be a "What the fuck is up with this game?" star.

Neville gets the fame and associated revenge plots.

Neville's fame means that the canon protagonists know about Neville's parents from the start.  Harry shows Neville the Mirror of Erised before even trying with Ron (and doesn't try with Ron because, while Neville can see his own parents, with an awareness of him they don't show in real life, he can't see Harry's.)

Neville sees girl-Neville with parents.  Hasn't admitted wanting that to self.  Still uses male pronouns.  Doesn't mention the "girl" bit to Harry.

Neville and Harry continue to go see mirror.  Neville's attitude on rule breaking lessens as a result because breaking the rules lets him see his lucid parents.

When Dumbledore reveals the nature of the mirror, Neville has hard questions to ask about his[?] identity. Does not ask them of Dumbledore.

Goes to McGonagall.  Hugely good idea because it turns out that Minerva McGonagall was born Mars McGonagall and knows exactly what Neville is going through.

After talking to Neville, Minerva is reasonably confident that Neville is a trans girl, but she privately educates Neville in other options and also decides that its past time she implemented some gender education.  She doesn't have the power to do it school-wide, but she can for her house.

(She makes sure Neville is ok with this, since there's potential for mortifying embarrassment, or worse, given that Neville is the reason she made the decision.  The winning argument is: "There are probably other kids just like you, and I want to help them too.")

Book involves Neville both coming to terms with being trans* and coming to terms with breaking the rules sometimes being the right thing.  Also defeating Voldemort the body sharer.

Slythrin doesn't lose the house cup, it's a tie.  And it isn't a "I surprise you at the last minute; fuck you, 1/4 of my school" tie.  Students are confused about why it's a tie, and they don't get an answer until the assembly, but it's not a "Let you think you won to set up for the emotional gut punch" thing.

Yeah, last minute heroics above and beyond the call of student-hood duty deserve credit, but the bait and switch of the real books is BS.

- - -

Book ends with Minerva (she uses the more personal name when being an advocate for trans* students, btw) talking with Neville's grandmother and Neville stopping being Neville.  Very end is deciding on a new name and finally starting to publicly use correct pronouns.  Newly renamed Nevy will still get internal pronouns wrong sometimes, because it's not like flipping a switch (at least it wasn't for me) but the book ends with transition.

- - -

Side plot to first book:

Members of other houses start coming to attend Minerva's regular "learn about gender" sessions.  Originally they were in Gryffindor common room, which meant that as soon as others started coming the password would need to be changed after each one.

Eventually moved to a more neutral (and larger) venue.

Sessions are mandatory for Gryffindor, optional for all other students (and teachers, and anyone else who happens to be in or near the building.)

Snape isn't openly opposed; Flitwick thinks it's a great idea and started to do a similar thing (at a different time, you can attend both) for people who want a more academic approach (Minerva has an informal approach, initially surprising anyone who has her as a teacher, and with enough emotion in it that you really, viscerally, understand why she's Gryffindor); Sprout is disappointed that this stuff doesn't go without saying but, since it apparently doesn't, she's all for letting any Hufflepuff who wants to attend do so.

While Snape maintains sneering ambivalence, Flitwick has started working closely with Minerva to make sure that what he's presenting is up to date and not, you know, an unfortunate result of transphobia in the places he does his research.

Sprout originally had no involvement on the subject, but the good that Minerva's sessions have done for Hufflepuff students made her realize that "You can be anything you want to be" isn't as good of an approach as she thought because students may not know what they want to be, may not know they're allowed to want it, and/or may not know that it's actually a thing one can be.

Sprout's time with Minerva dealing with the subject has a very specific, narrow, and important focus: She only wants to know what stops students from being themselves and how to create an environment where they are no longer impeded.  She gives no shits about learning more about gender, all of her gender-related shits are reserved for making sure that her students are best able to pursue the gender things about which they give shits.

- - -

Gender acceptance at Hogwarts in the first Nevy book:

From the start Sprout's Hufflepuff would accept any trans* student, but the student would need to have first figured everything out (including self-acceptance and the bravery to come out) themselves.  Eventually Sprout starts efforts to reduce the self-directed self-study workload this put on students because "being yourself" shouldn't be a massive undertaking you do without any guidance.

McGonagall's Gryffindor was originally . . . theoretically neutral but when oppression is systemic being neutral is impossible, instead attempts at neutrality end up supports of hostility.

Neville (not Nevy yet) coming to her was the final impetus she needed to actually do something.

The gender stuff isn't part of the curriculum, and part of being "Minerva" when addressing it is to shed some of the stigma associated with being "the strict teacher" since this is an area where she feels students are better served by seeing her in a very different way.

As such, she is dragging the house to the front of the acceptance pack.

Flitwick's Ravenclaw was originally theoretically neutral but see the previous on why that's not neutral in practice.  For McGonagall that theoretical neutrality was a calculated stance.  For Flitwick it was because he'd never even thought about it.

Now that he has thought about it, Flitwick wants to be a good ally, is agitating for adding a gender and sexuality class to the required curriculum, and is doing everything he can to move Ravenclaw to the front of the acceptance pack alongside Minerva's Gryffindor.

Snape's Slytherin is . . . passionately ambivalent.

Snape himself isn't going to waste effort going against the other three house heads on this when he really, truly, does not care in the least.

Even without caring his first impulse was and is to look down on all of the trans* kids, but one of his favorite students, a soon-to-graduate previously-presumed-girl (who reminds him so much of himself), has been attending Minerva's gender sessions religiously, is way happier since starting to do so, and is showing signs of being maybe a trans boy and definitely being a trans* something.  It's not enough to make Snape an ally, but it is enough to make him ignore that first impulse more often than not.

Slytherin in general is so much more about tradition than it is about any of its stated values, so of course there's massive bigotry.  On the other hand, a couple of the more powerful and socially connected bullies turned out to be pro trans*-rights and are using their influence to push in the opposite direction (while others trying to use the high levels of ambient bigotry to undermine the pro-trans* students' power bases.)

So, basically, the hate and acrimony is going both ways.

§ ⁂ §

Annnd I totally forgot a really important part.

Since Hermoine learns about Nevy's parents much earlier, she's still in a muggle mindset when she does. She's thinking trauma and therapy and maybe medication.

Nevy (at the time still identifying as Neville) becomes incredibly interested in muggle science and medicine as a result, and the respect for muggles that comes out of it has the effect of making Nevy and co. much more likely to call wizards on their shit regarding muggle treatment.

And interested in changing the culture.