Saturday, August 30, 2014

Planning for failure

[Been reading Kim Possible fan fiction.  Has me thinking about exploding lairs and such.  Entirely original, though.]


"Why are the ventilation ducts big enough to crawl through anyway?" a man in a short suede jacket asked.

"I have pondered that myself," the older man in the lab coat said.  "I believe I know the answer."


"Yes, but I don't think you'll like it," he said while walking over to exposed ductwork.  "Follow me."

When the two arrived, the older man pointed at a symbol on one of the ducts.

For a moment it meant nothing to the man in the suede jacket and then his eyes opened wide in recognition.  He double checked the name of the company and said, "It's one of her friends."

"Indeed.  Regrettably, they're the best."

"So the company that makes our ventilation systems is owned by a personal friend of the person most likely to use said ventilation systems to bypass our security and break into our lairs?"

The other nodded.

"Why don't we just blow the place up ourselves?"

"Would you prefer to go without air conditioning?"

"No."  There was a moment of silence.  "Well, we could--"

"The last time we used anything other than the best was when--"

"Let me guess," the man in the suede jacket said, a palm connecting with his forehead, "it was when the climate control broke down and somehow the fresh desert air being pumped in didn't get any cooler and the aquifer-tapped lair didn't get any less moist.  As I recall it was muggy as hell and north of 120 degrees."

The other man nodded again.

"You're right.  I'd rather blow up the building myself than go through that again."

After a somber pause, he resumed, "It's just that I can't send sentries into the suspiciously person-sized ventilation system because then they wouldn't show up when we need to do a head count to make sure everyone gets out safely when the lair explodes, which it inevitably will."

"You don't like that the lairs have a self destruct."  It wasn't a question, it wasn't even disguised as one.

Nonetheless, the young man in the suede jacket answered. "No, no," he said quickly. "The self destruct has served us well.  I've lost count of the number of times cases against us have had to be thrown out because all of the physical evidence was destroyed by the self destruct."

After a pause he resumed, "I just think we could save a lot of time and money if we just blew the place up ourselves rather than waiting for her to get here and do it for us."

"We hope for success; we plan for failure."

"And you don't see any causal relationship between what we plan for and what we always seem to achieve?"


"Yes, boss?"

"Take a few days off."

"Thanks, boss."


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Missing hat

I got a ride from my mother because I felt liked I'd been imposing on my father the past two days and didn't want to bother him that day.

It turned out that because of the early departure needed to get a ride from my mother I didn't have my full wits about me when I left and forgot three things.  Two I decided to call my father about.  The third was that I forgot to print the ticket.  A quick trip over to the university and its printers would solve that.

You could see that the rubber foot of one of my crutches was damaged, Lonespark had said I'd need to replace it.

Finally it blew out.  I've never mastered walking on one crutch.  Walking on one crutch while holding onto a useless crutch, hard as all hell.

I made it back and got onto the bus, what to do with the crutches was sort of hard to figure out, but the problem would come later.

I realized, via being reminded, that I forgot to take my medication.  I'd need to do that when I got to south station.

Wrangling purse, crutches, backpack, and stuff that wanted to fall out of purse and backpack was difficult.  I forgot my hat.  Thankfully someone let me know.  Hat saved.

I went to McDonnald's in the South Station Bus Terminal.  (Not to be confused with the other end of South Station which is housed in a different building that services the Redline of the T and commuter rails of many sorts.  Plus Amtrak.  That has a McDonnald's too.)

I forgot to say no ice so instead of a large soda I had an incredibly small soda in a large cup that was mostly filled with solid water.  It was enough to take my meds though.

When the time came to go I went through the difficult task of gathering everything, now including a duffle bag that had been under the bus and tried and failed to make use of my remaining good crutch while somehow carrying the broken crutch.

When I got picked up I told of how I had almost lost my hat without ever realizing that I had left my hat three floors up in the rotunda of South Station.

So long hat, may you live well.

The hat, if I remember correctly, cost ten times as much as the amount of money the crying person was short on a bus ticket.  If I had cash I would have paid him, and if he turned out to be a sneaky person conning me or something I wouldn't feel the money was wasted, better that liars get money than innocent people get stranded.

The hat in question.  This hat.

A couple pictures:

At some point I'll have the money for another hat.

Also, the broken part of the crutch has been replaced.  I have two working crutches; I can take on the world.

Friday, August 22, 2014


  1. Unity
  2. The even prime
  3. The only consecutive prime
  4. First perfect square
  5. The first elder twin prime
  6. First squarefree composite
  7. Perfect number in Babylonian numerology
  8. First perfect cube
  9. First non-unity Kaprekar number
  10. Base.
  11. Landed on the moon.
  12. First sublime number.
  13. Months in a lunar year.
  14. Fortnight
  15. Quarter of an hour.
  16. Lowest perfect forth.
  17. "The most random number"
  18. Chapters in Ulysses
  19. The impossible cribbage score
  20. First primitive abundant number
  21. Spots on a standard die
  22. Paths in the tree of life
  23. Read the Illuminatus Trilogy an you'll see where the whole fuss started.
  24. Squares in a tesseract
  25. First aspiring number
  26. Number of cards of a given color in a deck of cards.
  27. Plastic parts in a Rubik's cube
  28. Only natural number with a unique Kayles nim-value.
  29. First number that is a  Pell prime and a Pillai prime
  30. First sphenic number.
  31. Number of triads in the standard twelve tone musical system
  32. First perfect fifth
  33. Bones in typical human spine
  34. The first semiprime Markov number
  35. Youngest age at which one can legally become president of the USA.
  36. Number of Tzadikim Nistarim
  37. First irregular prime
  38. Number of minutes a Stargate can stay open if not fed by an external power source.
  39. First perfect totient semiprime Perrin number
  40. First pentagonal pyramidal semiperfect octagonal Størmer number
  41. First centered-square (natural Einstein Proth) cousin prime
  42. The Answer

Thursday, August 21, 2014

About untreated depression

I had untreated depression for most of my life.  The vast majority in fact.  Memories from before a certain point are hazy so I can't put a definite start date on it.  I do know that the questions about "the last two weeks" as compared to "usual" always threw me because for me depression was the default setting.  There was no other usual.

Though on account of having two types of depression (yes, it comes in flavors) sometimes it was worse.  I had two settings for much of my life: depressed, and bouts of really, really, really fucking depressed.

It took, I'd say, five to ten years to realize I had depression.  It took another three to get anyone to take me seriously enough to get attempts at treatment.  All failed.  I got ping ponged between doctors, put on all manner of medication, and none did shit.

What I was like when depressed is, I think, best described by the time it took me two hours to brush my teeth.  The actual tooth brushing took two minutes.  That's well within the margin of error of the two hour figure.  I just kept on stalling out.  There are too many steps, you see.

First I had to get up, mustering up the will and drive to do that took quite a while.  Then I had to walk to the bathroom.  Once in the bathroom I had to put the toothbrush together.  (Electric toothbrushes commonly have removable ends.  One of the many uses of this is that you can have multiple people use the same expensive part because the part that goes in the mouth is different for everyone.  The down side is that you have to put it together and take it apart every time you use it.)

That took a while.  Not the doing, mind you, the getting the will to do it.

Then I had to open the tooth paste.  Took what felt like forever to start doing that.

Then I had to put toothpaste on the brush.  Guess.  Seriously, if you're not seeing a pattern yet something is wrong.

Then I had to actually pick up the toothbrush and brush my teeth.

When that was over I happened to glance at my watch and realized that two hours had passed between when I decided to get up to brush my teeth and the moment I was done.

Again, the actually brushing took two minutes.  (I know because the brush had a built in timer.)  None of the other tasks took longer than you'd expect.  So that's basically two hours spent doing nothing because I lacked the will to do anything and had to build up for every step.

Or there's the fact that I watched The Shawshank Redemption untold times for hours on end because I couldn't muster the will to stand up, cross the room, and change what was in the DVD player.  (I started being depressed before DVDs existed, for what its worth.)  Even getting together enough giving of a damn to pick up the remote and press play so it wouldn't be stuck on the title screen was hard, but it was better than it being stuck on the title screen.  That was way better than in the earlier days when hours might be spent staring at a wall in my room.  (My room has pretty boring walls.)

The point here is that depression isn't just about when you feel incredibly soul crushingly sad for no reason.  It isn't just when you feel like it's everything you can do to keep your head above water while no one gives a shit and you're worthless and so forth.

It isn't just the fact that it can (though will not always) turn you into an asshole who pushes everyone away when what you really need is to let people in.

It isn't just anything, people are too complex for an illness to manifest in just one way and depression is too complex of an illness for that as well.

It can also be apathy, it can be smothering anxiety, it can be a lack of drive, and any number of other things that simply make you stop.  Just stop.  Not "stop and ... " but stop.

It can make it so that the ones who need help most are least able to seek it.

And when there was a break in my not-actually-treating-my-depression "treatment" I simply wasn't able to get back to it.  I drifted.

And then I had no insurance.

And then I had insurance for about six months.

And then I had no insurance.

And then years passed.

And then fortune smiled upon me.  A few nervous breakdowns and a panic attack or two later (depression is comorbid with so much shit) I had a good psychologist who set me up with a good psychiatrist and for quite a while no treatments worked.

So, you know, same old shit.

But finally we found a medication that worked.

Which gave me total insomnia.  The symptoms of sleep deprivation are remarkably similar to depression.  So it was kind of a wash there.

Lots of shit, a concussion, being forced to try out a cheaper medication that didn't work, and so forth later and now I'm on a working antidepressant and the insomnia it causes is dealt with via a prescription sleep aid.

The only medication found that works for me in 15 years of (on and off) looking for one?  It wasn't even put on the market until ten years ago and even then it was explicitly supposed to NOT BE USED unless you'd exhausted all other options.  Do you know what it takes to rule out even one medication?

Most antidepressants work like this:
Doctor: We're going to start you on a low dose so take Xmg a day for a month."
*month passes*
Doctor: Ok, that isn't working, lets up the dosage a bit, lets try Ymg a day.  It'll take a while to build up in your system so we'll check back in a month.
*month passes*
Doctor: It's still not working but we did start you on the lowest dose so take Zmg for the next month.
*month passes, having reached the end of the alphabet the doctor moves on to Cyrillic, when Ya (that's the one that looks like a backward Latin alphabet R, by the way) is reached it's decided to try new things*
Doctor: Sometimes this medication needs a little help from another.  There's been a lot of research into promising synergistic effects.  So let's see if it works along with ξmg of medication ا.  See me in a month

(That's an Alif, by the way, the font is kind of wanting.)


Antidepressants work slowly and sometimes it takes a high dose for it to start working.  The dose of the medication I'm on that does work?  Six times the starting dose.  Assuming that I remember the starting dose correctly, it might actually be twelve times the starting dose.

And all of this skips over an important fact.  The medication?  Expensive as fuck.  If I weren't on my current insurance (which ends at the state line and involved jumping through hoops for ages, hoops that I wasn't able to make myself jump through for the longest time) I'd never be able to afford it.

Which means that until I got said insurance (which is ridiculously good for prescription drugs and crap for many other things) even if I, and my doctor, had known the exact medication and dosage that would treat my depression it would have been impossible to actually get my depression treated.

All these things and more are why I get pissed off at people who act like it's easy to get treatment for depression.  It fucking isn't.

I don't know what's made the latest round of, "Let's blame the person with a mental illness for not getting it treated when it would be hard to treat anyway and the mental illness itself makes it harder to get treatment in the first place," people come out, but it's pissing me off.

If the reason it's come up is Robin Williams then I'm doubly pissed off, if it isn't then I'm merely singularly pissed off.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I haven't forgotten that this place exists. I swear.


I have thoughts for posts on the most recent Godzilla movie (47 years late Godzilla finally makes it to San Francisco), The Croods (it's all fun and games when you're kidnapping people and plotting your mother in law's demise), Spore (this game you made, it doesn't appear to know what sort of game it is), and definitely want to get back to Edith and Ben, Snarky Twilight, .hack and Deus Ex, some Left Behind and Narnia stuff, and of course The Princess Story.

It's just that actually doing it never seems to happen.  Hopefully this will change soon.

Also, good news, they x-rayed my foot from three different angles and concluded that it's no worse than I already knew (it hurts, but is otherwise undamaged, the pain should go away with time.)

Oh, and remember when I needed beta readers in a huge hurry?  Going to need them again more or less nowish, but I have to write (or rather rewrite/expand) the thing before anyone can read it.  It's the same thing, others agreed with the general sentiment that there was too much unexplained.  I have to work out how to do exposition without making it feel like exposition.  I'm thinking cheeseburgers might be the solution.

But I need it in the next few days because computer problems (remember those?) delayed me getting the information and then procrastination (my constant companion) further put off writing more until now when I'm a few days from being out of time.  Which is where things currently stand.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Monthly Donation Reminder

So every month I do a reminder that I have a donation button.  And that's about it.  Boring post.

The ides of August are on the 13th so today would be counted backward from the start of next month, the 18th day before the Kalends of September.  Mind you the Kalends of September was counted as one of those days so by our reckoning it would be the 17th day before.

This is a holdover from when August was a 29 day month.  (Extra days were added after the ides.)

Of course the name wasn't always August.

It was called Sextilis (sixth.)  The Roman year was two months off from ours.  (Hence September, October, November, and December --meaning Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth-- being months nine through twelve of our year.)

Sextilis was renamed August in honor of Augustus.  The was after Octavian was given the name/title Augustus in honor of being the autocrat who could kill you if you didn't honor him.

People often think that August has 31 days because Augustus wanted as many days as he could get in his month.  In fact Sextilis was given thirty one days as part of the Julian calendar reforms before the month was renamed August.  Possibly before the person was renamed Augustus.

Anyway, donation button, it exists.  Top right.  Use it if you want to, don't if you don't.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Why I go greyhound when possible

My insurance doesn't work out of state.  Well, it doesn't work on my medication, I've never tried it on things like doctors visits.  Without insurance my medication is hideously expensive.  (Tried the low cost alternative, didn't work.)  I think it might be more expensive than all of my other living expenses combined.  I could never afford that.

So I don't buy medication out of state.  But if I'm going to be out of state for a while and I forgot my medication...

I needed a round trip.  I naturally went to greyhound, my preferred bus company in the area.  They couldn't help, they could get me back to home, but not back from home.  The bus was full and they admitted that.

So I went Concord.

The way over was ok.  They'd overbooked but were able to commandeer an extra bus and shove everyone in to two buses.  Not a single empty seat and I'm not totally sure that they got everyone but they did get me.  One uncomfortable trip later and I'm walking in the general direction of home.  I stop to have lunch, I should have eaten it faster.

Also there seems to have been something wrong with foot that more than three solid hours of nothing but walking (with occasional running) made way worse.

I get home, get the medication, and head back but by now the problem with my foot is noticeably slowing me down.

Even though I was exhausted I had to run to have any hope of making the bus.

I reached the point where I was too exhausted to run more than a few steps.  Without the wind on my face from running I was overheating.  I began to start to wonder what the warning signs for heatstroke were.  More ordeal.

I made it in.  The bus hadn't left yet.  Woo!

I wanted to buy a drink but I only had one dollar and the vending machines charged 2 dollars.

A drinking fountain!  I quickly collapsed to my knees and gulped down water.  Drinking fountains are a good size for a person my size to use from their knees.

I think I must have been too dehydrated to sweat or something because soon after sitting in line (which is what I did after spending many minutes drinking) I was drenched where before not so much.

The bus arrived half an hour late.  All that work to get there on time was for nothing.  I could have limped at a reasonable limping speed (my left foot would have preferred that) and made it there.

It started boarding 40 minutes late.

There were about 30ish people in line for it, they were still selling tickets for it.  I was 12th in line.  I should make it on, right?  Wrong, of course.

There were only ten seats.

The bus was almost full.  They knew that there were some 20 people in line who wouldn't make it on the bus, and they were still selling fucking tickets.

An hour later I got on the next bus.

So why do I prefer Greyhound?

First, it's somewhat cheaper.

Second, when a bus is full they STOP SELLING TICKETS.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

This is humanity; this is why we are worth saving

Sometimes it's very easy to become jaded and misanthropic.  My governor is Paul LePage.  One of my Senators is Susan Collins, a member of the, "I used to have a soul," club.  I have friends in Texas.  At least I think I do.  I have trouble keeping track of the wheres that go with the whos.  I have at least one very good friend in Texas and I have strong suspicions that she isn't the only one of my friends who lives there.

The rich get richer, the poor are asymptotically approaching rock bottom, and the middle class is becoming the poor.

Taking a look at the word can be one of the most depressing things to do.

I don't partake in depressing fiction, if I wanted to feel hopelessness, despair, and similar emotions I would watch the news more often.

And yet...

Four days ago at about 8:50 AM in Perth, Australia a man tried to board a subway train and something went wrong.  Somehow he slipped and his leg ended up trapped between the train and the platform.  It could get in, but it couldn't get back out.

That could kill someone.  It didn't.  He's fine.

First made sure that the operator didn't move the fucking train.  If you're taking notes, this is step one.  In theory the operator is provided with a view (the Boston T uses video feeds, but mirrors could work too) so that they'll see if something goes wrong near the door.  Doesn't matter.  Make sure the operator knows not to move the train.  The worst that will happen is you'll annoy the opperator with info ze already knows.  Compared to what might happen if the operator isn't altered ... just make sure the operator is alerted.

Then everyone got off the train.  People weigh stuff, a train loaded with people is harder to move than one that is not.

"But," you say, "I thought we didn't want the train to move."

Oh, we want the train to move, just not in a way that it was ever designed to move.

Once out of the train the people push the train sideways thus expanding the gap between train and platform and allowing the man to be freed.

Random strangers on their morning commute.  Their morning commute that was unexpectedly and, presumably, inconveniently delayed, all teamed up and worked as one to help another random stranger.

Every single one of them is a hero.  And the victim.  He'd probably have done the same thing if he'd been safe and someone else were the victim.

Article and video here.  (Via Fred Clark.)
(I'm not in a position where I can use sound so I have not listened to the video.)

For all of the evil that lies within human nature, and there is a lot, there is also the opposite.  While the details might not match up (Perhaps you don't live in Perth, don't take the subway, or can't physically push) we all have the potential to be one of those commuters.  Someone who pushes (perhaps metaphorically) as hard as you fucking can because, yes, this is probably messing up your schedule and could get you in trouble at work or whatnot, but someone needs help so you're going to do what you can to help.

If we could find a way to activate that aspect of human nature when the danger was less immediate and more complex, I do believe we would make the world become rapidly better.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Mandala (Image Post)

Artist: Me
Medium: Crayon on printed paper

Lonespark, I, and the kids, did a bunch of these.  This is the only one I did.  Of course once a picture is on computer I do all kinds of sill things with it.

First, edge detect.  Shouldn't be too hard because the edges were printed out on the paper so all I had to do was color stuff in.

I actually did it again, but it wasn't worth it.

Then bump mapping using the edge detect because why not:

Then I returned to the original and played with the hue getting this:

And this:

Then I equalized the original because that can do great things at times:

Kind of a letdown really, though not as much as the stuff that I'm leaving out.

Then I went with neon, again: because why not:

Comparing this to the above, or the original, will probably cause you to notice something.  The colors are flipped.  Inverting flips them back:

But also makes everything really light.  Inverting just the hue keeps the feel of the modified image while using a color scheme that approximates the original:

There is, of course, another way.  Multiple other ways in fact.  This one makes it so that everything is from the neon edge detect process.

If one just wanted part of that they could grab the lightness component of the neon:

(I maintain that the really visible lines so clearly following the lines that were printed out is a sign that I can color inside the lines.)

And then substitute it for the lightness component of the original image thus resulting in a composite:

Of course there are other possibilities, like taking the hue from the original and plugging it into that first edge detect:

And thus concludes your image post for today.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A computer and a hot shower

Yesterday two things happened.  The furnace was fixed so I can now get hot water.  I've had a hot shower at my house for the first time in ages.  On the less pleasant side that'll mean a need to come up with $370 (which should be much easier thanks to some donations; thank you donating people) and the need to wash more or less every dish in the house because without hot water I haven't been able to and thus, to have clean dishes, I had to basically search out every clean dish there was and use it.  But on the plus side, there will be clean dishes again.

The second is that, while my furnace was being fixed, my computer was delivered.  This computer that I am writing on right now.  Primary computer is back home and working just fine and that's a damn good thing.

So hopefully posting can get back to normal.  Of course there're dishes to wash, there's school coming up (haven't really worked out how I'll pay for tuition), and an extreme need to step up efforts against the flea infestation.

On that last point this is basically the point I'm at: the fleas are greatly diminished (yay!) but they are by no means gone (boo!) which means that if I don't act while they're deminished to get rid of them I'll be overrun again (shudder-boo.)

But the important thing to focus on is good things.  I have my computer back and I have hot water.


As a side note, when primary computer went away I switched to secondary email.  Yestery I checked primary email for the first time since then 8,774 new messages.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Good news, bad news, and a lot of talk about a hypothetical guitar modification.

Good news:
--Primary computer has been repaired and heading home.
--I made it home alive

Bad news:
--My current internet connection is sporadic at best which is making it more or less impossible to keep up with anything online.
--Even though the flea situation seems to be under control and heading toward completely fixed the cat is still afraid to come inside.
--Worse still, while it's usually fine to have someone stop by to make sure she can get in to eat and make sure the food bowl isn't empty, her fear of the fleas changed this in a way that I didn't expect: Even with someone making regularly checking on her, she hasn't been eating enough because she won't stay in the house long enough to do so. Now that I'm back I can work to address this BUT she's already lost a lot of weight in a short time and that's not good.
--Coming back home means coming back to a place where I have no hot water. And the cold water is fracking cold. No more showers and washing dishes is difficult at best.
--I really miss not-overheating due to the availability of air conditioning.
--All it took was for me to be back home for one day and I ended up missing my medication and my pages. Go me.

Random news:

I have a tendency to think up musical instruments. I assume the reason that no one has built them, or that I haven't heard of them if someone has, is that either no one wants them or not enough people want them for them to exist/be common enough for me to hear about.

At the moment I'm thinking about guitars. Guitars for people who lack the capacity to play guitars. Keyed guitars.

Do such things exist? No idea, I'll look into it when I have a better internet connection.

But the reasoning is basically this:

Frets on a guitar are a sacrifice made to deal with the fact that people can't place their fingers perfectly and most people don't really want to try.

Maybe that's going too fast.

Strings vibrate, the vibrating strings transfer vibrations through the bridge to the soundboard, the vibrating soundboard moves a lot more air than the strings could on their own, the moving air comes out of the resonating chamber through the sound hole, and that's what makes a guitar sound the way it does.

Short version: Strings vibrate thus sound.

The note produced depends upon the vibration of the string which in turn depends upon a variety of factors.

Someone looking at a steel string guitar (not to be confused with steel guitar, which is something else entirely) will quickly note that the strings are not all the same size and indeed aren't even all made out of the same materials. That's because the idea is to have the strings be about the same length but tuned to different pitches.

Tension also matters which is why guitars have those fun tuney knob things.

You can't change the composition of the strings while playing and most people don't screw with the tension.

Changes in pitch are done by changing the length of the string. Put your finger down on the fingerboard (also known as the fretboard) and that functions as a new end for the string. Sort of. It would if there were no frets.

On a fretless guitar (they do exist) where your finger pushes the string into the fingerboard functions as one end of the string. The bridge is the other end. The distance between the two is the functional length of the string.

This new length with vibrate differently than the old length (which was from the nut to the bridge) and as a result a different note will sound when the string is struck, picked, strummed, or hammered.

The problem with this set up is that you're probably not going to press the string to the fingerboard in just the right place to produce a note on the chromatic scale.

(The chromatic scale being: A, A sharp/B flat, B, C, C sharp/D flat, D, D sharp/E flat, E, F, F sharp/G flat, G, G sharp/A flat)

Thus frets. Frets are designed so that pressing the string on the fingerboard will result not in an uninterrupted length of string from the bridge to where you're pressing but instead the fret will get in the way creating an uninterrupted length of string from the bridge to the fret (and then a much shorter length from the fret to where you're pressing which doesn't really matter.)

This changes string length from continuous to discrete. Instead of infinite possible lengths each string can only take on a handful. Specifically the number of frets plus one. So, say, 25. 25 possible lengths is much easier to deal with than infinite.

The frets are not placed at random. They're positioned so that the resulting string lengths will be about the notes of the chomatic scale. It's not exact (and there are various methods that have been used to try to make it closer to right, though) but if you depress a string on the fingerboard of a well tuned fretted guitar you can be reasonably sure that the note produced when that string vibrates will be pretty close to one of the notes on the chromatic scale.

There is a trade off. That's why fretless guitars still exist. Some people would prefer to go without the trade off at least some of the time.

A standard fretted guitar cannot play quarter tones. Well, it can but you'd have to tune it specifically for that purpose and all strings so-tuned would be unable to play the normal semi-tones. A fretted guitar cannot make a smooth slide without a special tool intended for the job. Slides are definitely possible, but the frets make it so they're … I guess “bumpy” would be the best word.

The whole point here is that the guitar, like most musical instruments, is entirely about finding a trade off between ease and versatility that is desirable for the player.


That trade off being so visible in the design (don't know for sure but I'm guessing most people think of guitars as having frets) invites one to think of other possible trade offs.

Fingerpicking is awesome, but it requires being able to get your fingers in the right places at the right time to pick the desired string without accidentally sounding or muting another string and it requires either the maintenance of finger nails with which to pick or the use of fingerpicks designed for the job but which may interfere with something else you want to do. (The standard fingerpick holds onto the finger by going around it, which is going to be a problem if you want to use that finger for anything where having a usually-metal band around it would interfere.)

Assuming that someone doesn't have a disability that prevents them from fingerpicking, the standard solution to the difficulty of fingerpicking is practice. That is, after all, how one gets good at any style of using a musical instrument.

A different solution would be a mechanically picked guitar. Instead of relying on fingers to pick some mechanism or other (there are many possibilities) would do the picking and it would be controlled by keys. One could rest the fingers on the keys to keep them in the right place, since the picking is done by the mechanism not the fingers there would never be a worry about picking one string accidentally affecting another string. So forth.

It's not like mechanical picking isn't a thing. The harpsichord is a mechanically picked instrument that's the size of a piano.

I wouldn't imagine anything like piano keys on a keyed guitar, probably something more the size and shape of the keys on an old fashioned round-key typewriter. (Which suggests going for a steampunk aesthetic even though I lean toward a much more all-wood old-fashioned aesthetic when thinking about this.)

Six keys and you've got the picking of individual strings down. You could add six more to silence individual strings. Add what I'm suddenly going to call a space bar to strum all the strings, and a second one to silence them all and you've suddenly transformed the actions of the picking hand into something more like typing than guitar playing. Different skill set, space for different focus.

Nothing terribly complex about any of this (though it would involve some annoyingly small parts) and I assume the reason that it hasn't been done is that no one really wants it.

But that's what I've been thinking about as I sit here without reliable internet.

On the other end of a guitar is, of course, a neck. Where the frets live.

The body of the guitar invites this kind of thinking because of two things:
1 There's a limited number of things you can do there.
2 There's a lot of space to work with.

The neck sort of shuns similar thoughts because of two things:
1 There's a much larger number of things you can do there.
2 There's hardly any space to work with.

To put that into more words, near the bridge all you can do to the strings is sound them or silence them. There are multiple ways you can do that, but this whole thing is about trading versatility for ease of use. Six strings, two functions --> twelve keys assuming we don't double up functions with keys. (Which one totally could.)

I mentioned adding in keys to strum or silence all the strings, so now we're up to 14 keys.

14 keys that can be put basically anywhere. One of the nice things about mechanical linkages is that there's no reason that they have to begin anywhere near where they end. (That's also a nice thing about electronics. When my internet adapter is working there's no need for the computer to be near the modem.)

The body of a guitar has a lot of space so there are a lot of options for where to put those keys.

At the other end things are very different.

At the simplest, with all advanced technique ignored, there are as many things to do to a guitar string on a neck as there are frets. I used the 24 fret guitar as an example before. 24 things you can do to a string times six strings is 144. Gross.

One could go about looking at the neck the same way we looked at the body (KEYS FOR ALL THE THINGS) but that would lead to 144 keys to put on the neck which does not have a lot of real estate.

I'm not saying it couldn't work, it totally could work. And I find myself imagining the keys being like laptop keys and covering the whole neck so you don't even see that it's a stringed instrument and it gives off this whole “Age of Computers” vibe.

So, sure, it totally could be done. There's just not that much point in doing it.

The neck is different from the body. It's completely flipped with the options versus area thing and, more importantly, it serves a completely different purpose. It deserves a different treatment.

Notes usually aren't chosen in random ways. They are connected to one another. Guitar music makes strong use of chords.

There are way too many chords to possibly do them all, but what I can see is the potential to work out the most common cords a musician is going to be playing and making those available at the push of a button.  Or, to keep terminology consistent, the use of a key.

Things become much easier for people who have difficulty contorting their fingers into the necessary shapes to make the cords.

And at this point I would like to add that all of this talk about a guitar that will presumably never be built isn't just about people too lazy to practice. Actually it's not about them at all. It's about finding something to think about when I'm sitting all alone in a house where most of the things don't work and then taking that something to think about to its clear conclusion given the trajectory it started with.

But that is neither here nor there.

If we imagine a guitar that is easier to play by the use of modifying the means to play it in order to make manual dexterity less of an issue (though it's still an issue because keys have to be hit, it's just often easier to deal with them than with strings) the people who would benefit include more than just be people who lacked the manual dexterity because of a lack of practice. It would also benefit people who lacked it because of age, illness, or injury.

This is, more or less, what I do when cut off from the internet and without human contact.

Think about random stuff.

Talking about people talking about me talking about them

(This was written on August 4th, if it matters. Part of the problem with sporadic internet is that sometimes it takes a while to post things. Go figure.)

I've come up in conversation at Drink the Shaker Kool Aid. Thus far it's been mostly nice things. One person doesn't like me very much, the other four comments are complementary.

Thanks, I appreciate that.

My impression of the community at DSKA is that it's very mixed and my guess is that part of it comes from the varying missions of the site. Consider what it says on the first page linked to on the sidebar and what it says on what is currently the front page of the posts.

Sidebar page:
The fact is, her time needs to be finished. [..]

So I post on tumblr about it, hoping people will take notice and go “well JFC that’s some bullshit.”

That's a serious mission, if I had quoted more you'd see that it's a serious mission based on the claimed observation that Melissa McEwan is abusive. It's some heavy stuff.

If you read why it exists as described on the main page right now, it's:
I mean this site existed first off for me to laugh at her and point out how awful she/her group of acolytes were behaving. Now it exists for that and the community that’s growing around it.

Laughing at someone is a much lighter mission. Don't get me wrong, it can be used with serious stuff, but laughing by its very nature is not serious.

(Now if your aim isn't so much to stop someone as to piss them off, laughter is way better than serious criticism. There's a reason Ovid was exiled for making fun of Augustus while Vergil's Aeneid, which made some scathing critiques of Rome and its Augustus stand in, was state sponsored propaganda.)

Pointing out the awfulness would be the same mission as in the sidebar.

Being there for the community is different from both.

Even if those were the only three things going on --they're not-- they would draw various different types of people. Some would be there for all three, some for just two, some for just one.

Add to that the variation that you get within groups that come to a place for the exact same reasons and you get a pretty varied populous.

I don't have much to say about the community beyond that but, again, thanks for the kind words.


Something over there has me very reflective. That something is the whole transcript thing.

It's kind of a long story, it goes like this:

On Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 (at 9:36 AM) Ana Mardoll mentioned that she intended spend the next month covering various things surrounding the Wendy Davis filibuster that took place the day before, that this would include a transcript, and asked if anyone would be interested.

By July 11th the scope of the transcript project was nailed down. It would cover the citizen testimony of Monday the 24th, the House debate of Tuesday the 25th, and Wendy Davis' filibuster in the State Senate on the same night as the House debate.

Or, to put that in simpler terms, Ana Mardoll started a transcription project and Wendy Davis' filibuster made up slightly less than 20% of what was transcribed.

If Google is right, DSKA started talking about the transcript in the latter half of December. At that time, more than five months after the scope of the project had been nailed down, it was apparently erroneously believed that the filibuster was 100% of the project instead of less than 20%. This gave rise to the completely legitimate criticism that a text of the filibuster was already out there. It's the other eighty-plus percent that's hard to get your hands on.

I sure as hell haven't found the rest elsewhere. Believe me, I've looked. I would have loved to be able to tell Ana, “Hey, there's no need for you to do this project; I found it all written out already. Here you go. Now you can put your energy toward stuff that's more upbeat and fun.”

So I looked. I looked to see if the debate and citizen testimony Ana was transcribing was available. I also asked around. I got no results.

As it turns out, someone at DSKA was thinking along the same lines. Less than a month after the initial erroneous talk about the transcript someone asked, “Doesn't the Ana Mardoll filibuster transcript include the citizen testimony also? Has that been published anywhere?”

I'm resisting the urge to make a, “We're very much alike,” joke because I've got a different point here. That was published, with the response, “I’m not sure and that could actually make it useful,” six and a half months ago.

Two months later, to the day, the DSKA has two posts responding to Ana finishing the project and the posts went back to assuming that the filibuster was the whole thing and thus already available on Amazon and such. Here's one of them:

So Ana Mardoll is done the transcript and intending to put it on Amazon and Barnes and Nobel. I'm pretty sure the actual transcript is on Amazon, so hopefully there is a cease and desist in her future?

God I fucking hope so.

That's not terribly important, I merely include it because with all of the discussion (about 100 posts, 31% of them on DSKA) about the project it's kind of important that the project, you know, ended. It was completed. It is finished.

What's important is yesterday:

The Wendy Davis transcript thing? The non-Ana one is just Wendy's words. The Ana one includes all of the citizen testimony (there was a lot). That's why Ana asked for volunteers and put it up separately. To preserve the citizen testimony and women's stories and whatever.[...]

That makes more sense.[...]

One of the comments was:
“This was mentioned last month, and it does make Ana's project look much more worthwhile.”

But for others at DSKA it was new information.

Comments included, “I had no idea of that -- thanks to whoever shared this,” “That actually makes the whole project make sense,” “That makes sense and yes, good for her for doing it,” “I did not realize that either,” and, “I confess I was not aware [...]”

And the that's what has me introspective.

DSKA has been talking about the transcript project for five and a half months. During those months it was always the case that the transcript project included citizens' testimonies (and the House debate) the posts Ana made about it (about two to every one that DSKA made about it) were full of stuff about citizens testimony because that was a bigger part of the project than the filibuster (with the House debate making up the remaining chunk which was also, if I recall correctly, a bigger part of the project than the filibuster) many of the posts had color coded charts showing where the project stood with respect to completing the transcription of the citizen testimony. It's news to the majority of the commenters who decided to comment that it included citizen testimony.

There's been a lot of discussion by people who didn't have the facts right. By people who didn't know they didn't have the facts.

If I'd known they were unaware of the citizens testimony being included I could have told them. Months ago. I could have told them when they made their first post on the topic, but I wasn't paying attention to them at that point.

Why it has me reflective is because there are doubtless things that I'm the exact same way on.


The one area where I do have direct knowledge is the moderation at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings. Not Shakesville, I have absolutely no idea what goes on there. But at Ana's I am a moderator. I use this power to fix formatting errors and clean up after people who make mistakes when replying.

Both deserve a little explanation, but not too much.

Sometimes when there's a formatting error in a comment you can see exactly what the problem is. Code that isn't disqus compatible was used, someone forgot the slash in </i> so instead of ending italics they made them double open, someone tried to close a <b> tag with an </a> by mistake. Whatever. A disqus moderator can jump in and fix those things.

The second is that disqus doesn't allow for automatically flat comments. It used to, but now they're always nested if people use “reply” instead of posting their contribution as a new comment. Ana makes allowances for small replies (less than a dozen words or so) but for large replies they're supposed to be posted as new comments to keep the commenting mostly flat. This involves occasionally asking someone to repost a reply as a new comment. Once someone did I'd delete the nested reply and also the request for reposting.

That's not a lot of moderating work, but just being a moderator means that I get emails that are sent to the moderators as a whole and I can see the moderating that's done.

Some of the emails to all moderators boil down to, “Heads up, we'll probably have a spike in traffic and thus possibly trolling because we just got mentioned [somewhere].”

As one might expect, some (but by no means all) of those emails are ones where the [somewhere] is DSKA. And yes, being mentioned at DSKA does lead to a noticeable spike in trolls at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.

Of course mentioning DSKA at Shakesville and Ana Mardoll's Ramblings caused things to happen at DSKA. I can't see behind the scenes there but I know that there was this exchange:

Kiss me you big strong MAN. That's what you are right? A MAN.

omg what even is this?

(There are like a million of these in the Asks rn. Did Reddit or something find this?!)

I'm guessing having to sift through “like a million” of those to find actual content is not what the DSKA admin wanted.

That there would be spamming of the site with “asks” implying the admin is male wasn't really something you could predict since there are so many ways a surge in negative activity could have manifested. That there would be a surge in negative activity was completely predictable.

Tell people, “There's this site that's causing me trouble,” and some of them will take it upon themselves to cause trouble for the site.

And that's where things stand. Mentioning Ana Mardoll at DSKA causes trolling at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings. Mentioning DSKA at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings causes trolling (or at least spamming) at DSKA. This may not be what the site owners intend, but it is the way things are working.

Given the amount of traffic I get (basically nil and most of that from spambots) I doubt I have a non-negligible effect upon anyone's traffic. Trolls or otherwise. (I do promise to try to get back to the stuff I normally do for my very small but very much appreciated readership.)

And this leads to a question of what the difference is. For me, the difference seems pretty clear.

Unless something unexpected happens, this is going to be my last post about DSKA. That's no big deal because of the minimal traffic to this site.

Ana Mardoll's Ramblings has no intention to have more posts about DSKA. I can't say that there won't ever be another post because I'm not in control of Ramblings, but I can say that there are zero plans to do more posting about DSKA.

After a long period of not talking about them a post was made addressing what was going on. Then, in response to the admin saying Ana hadn't contacted zir directly, a post was made directed at the admin. And that's the end of it.

If DSKA has to deal with being spammed with comments saying, “You're totally a man, aren't you?” again it's not going to be because Ana Mardoll's Ramblings pointed in that direction. (At least that's the plan.)

Unless something unexpected happens DSKA will not stop having posts about Ana Mardoll's Ramblings. Unless something unexpected happens DSKA will not stop posting almost exclusively about Shakesville and Ramblings. Continued posting about Shakesville and Ramblings is the plan at DSKA.

The spikes in trolls that accompany each mention there will go on. This says nothing about the intent of the admin or the community. With the exception of people using the exact same third party account on both sites (which does happen) to have any hope of finding out whether the trolls are regular commenters or lurkers at DSKA one would need to be an admin at both sites and start comparing IP addresses. That's not going to happen any time soon.

All that we really can say is that the trolls are reading DSKA. And we can only say that because mentions at DSKA are followed by trolls at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings in noticeably greater numbers than usual.

If every post at DSKA that mentioned Ramblings were about some big thing Ana did that hurt people and there were no other way to bring that to anyone’s attention (there are other ways) then maybe it would be worth the associated troll surge. I don't think it would be, but arguments could be made.

That's not what is happening. DSKA is what brought us, “Since Liz isn’t giving me a whole lot to work with this week I thought I’d have a peeksy over at Ana’s place,” because apparently when the person who you want people to stop listening to stops talking, the appropriate response is to find someone else to call obnoxious. (The “obnoxious” bit is the second paragraph; I only quoted the start of the first sentence.)

That's not exactly big, earth-shattering, I-don't-want-you-to-be-trolled-but-it's-totally-worth-it-so-I-can-say-this news.

The DSKA admin apparently (I'm assuming the admin was honest here) wasn't planning on talking about Ana and wouldn't have under normal conditions but Melissa had been quiet that week. It's not, “Sorry about the trolls but I think it's really important that this be said.”

It's completely ignoring the (again assuming honesty) unintended, but predictable, consequences so that the admin can have a public laugh.

That's where I see the difference. Mention at Ramblings got DSKA spammed. We keep mentions of DSKA at Ramblings to a minimum. Mention at DSKA gets Ramblings trolled. DSKA keeps on talking about Ramblings all the time.

There has been talk at DSKA about shifting gears. The admin has said multiple times that DSKA is being continued more for the community than anything having to do with Shakesville (and by extension Ramblings since Ana is only on the radar there because she's a mod and contributor to Shakesville.)

There have been comments about starting to address the social justice issues that they feel Shakesville addresses badly rather than simply responding to the goings on at Shakesville (and by extension Ramblings.)

I say this with complete sincerity: I would like nothing more for DSKA. I'm no fan of the name, but that's really a minor issue all things considered. One thing the internet is not lacking is feminist spaces. Or social justice spaces.

In the “Stop Listening to Melissa McEwan” post at the top of the sidebar it says, “I believe in the better things she tries to write about. Honestly, I really do,” and given that the admin has now repeatedly said that ze doesn't care about Melissa McEwan anymore I think it would be great if the admin shifted to addressing those “better things”.

The DSKA admin described the current situation as DSKA as having a symbiotic relationship with Shakesville in that less content at Shakesville means less content at DSKA. I don't really agree about it being symbiosis, and given that the admin will look elsewhere for content (as above with going to Ramblings) I don't think it's as simple as Shakesville having less content means DSKA automatically has less content, but there is an undeniable connection.

What I want is for that connection to be severed. Yes, shutting down DSKA would be one way for that to happen, but another would be for it to turn the changed motivation (more concerned with the community than Melissa) to a changed focus (more concerned with generating good content than saying other people's content is bad.)

There have been requests over there for suggestions of feminist or social justice sites that are more fitting with what the commenters want. There have been people suggesting that they themselves start addressing those topics.

I'd love for that to happen.

Selfishly I'd love it because it would mean that the troll spikes associated with the site would stop. I don't pretend to understand the mindset behind them and the strange mix of unnecessary effort and laziness they embody. “I'll totally put a lot of effort into trolling that site, but only if another site I read reminds me they exist, otherwise I can't be bothered,” just doesn't track for me. But even though I don't understand the mindset, I know that the effects are real.

When DSKA talks about Ramblings, trolls beyond the ordinary internet background radiation of trolling come out, when it doesn't they don't. So if it stops that solves one of the troll problems we have.

If there were a magic way to keep everything that starts on DSKA on DSKA and not have it bleed off into trolling then I wouldn't care whether DSKA were talking about Ramblings or not. Ana and the Ramblites are fully capable of not reading DSKA, it's just that mentions there lead to actions in places that can't be ignored. (Like Ramblings itself.)

Since that magic way doesn't exist, I want DSKA to stop pointing to Ramblings. I don't think they will, but I want it.

I would love for it to happen because DSKA started being the site that Shakesville and Ramblings aren't for the commenters.

By all means, show us the fuck up by being a social justice site that is six thousand times better than Ramblings and show the thriving community that your different moderation creates.

Make Ramblings and Shakesville look like drek by being a shining example of how much better a site can be and have the only connection be that people who aren't safe at Shakesville and Ramblings go to DSKA.

I don't think this is a zero sum game, you see. I think that DSKA becoming a better site wouldn't lead to Ramblings (or Shakesville) declining. Something better just means something better, and that's more good things.

Also, I've seen the names of some old friends over there. I want the hangouts of my old friends to be as good as possible regardless.

Then there's the matter of where people can fit in.

As noted, there have been multiple posts over there about where to find better spaces on the internet than Shakesville that cover the same topics and even a few suggesting that DSKA become one of those better spaces on the internet that covers the same topics.

DSKA becoming a better space that covers the same topics, instead of a space that points to Shakesville and Ramblings and says they're doing it wrong, would give those people the space they want, maybe even need.

The fact is that we can't serve everyone. We fucking can't. We cannot and will never be a safe space for everyone.

The same measures that make some people safe make others unsafe.

I don't like that, but it happens to be true.

Today I read about an episode at Slacktivist that I'd missed. A while back a troll intentionally triggered someone and did so effectively enough to send that person to the hospital. The troll seems to have been banned soon after. But Fred never said he banned the person.

Never acknowledging the banning made some people feel really fucking unsafe.

But at the same time there are other people who feel unsafe when bannings are announced. It puts them constantly on edge and has them feeling like they're walking on eggshells every second. And that's the mild version. If you've been in certain types of abusive environments announced punishments, of which banning is one, can set off your personal triggers.

No good person wants to trigger anyone, certainly not an abuse victim.

One choice: to announce bans or not, and you're already making some people unsafe as the cost of making other people safe. The mild cases are just “less comfortable” and “more comfortable” but the cases that matter most are “really fucking unsafe” vs. “wouldn't be safe otherwise.”

So my point here is that you can't be safe for all. Even if we do Ramblings perfectly, and we won't because we're fallible, some people are not going to be safe there. I want those people to have a place to be safe. I want that place to be as good as it possibly can be.

I want these things because making a place that isn't safe for them was never part of the plan, it was never desirable, it was a consequence of the fact that there is no universal solution. Or us fucking up. Or both.

And I don't want people to be robbed of a good place to be as a result of universal truth (nowhere is safe for everyone) or us fucking up.

So, since DSKA already has a lot of people who were dissatisfied with Shakeville and Ramblings, it would be great in my eyes if it became that space.


And this entire thing about the shifting of gears and the hypothetical future DSKA that stands on its own instead of being tethered in a “symbiotic” relationship to another site is basically brought on by a single comment that I couldn't find when I had an internet connection (right now I don't, I'll focus on getting it back when I'm done writing) in spite of the fact that I was using google to fact check my memory of what had been said so much it thought I was a bot.

I'm pretty sure that someone (I think the DSKA admin) said that the only outcome people on the Shaker/Ramblite side of this would be satisfied with is the shutting down of DSKA. That's not true for me.

Like I said, if there were a way to make what happened there stay there then I wouldn't care about it at all. There isn't. Intentional or not, pointing at Ramblings over there does cause trolls to come to Ramblings. So I want them to stop pointing.

That doesn't mean I want them off the internet. I'd love it if DSKA stopped talking about what was being said on Ramblings and started talking about things the community thought were important in general.

“Let’s be clear here. THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS WRONG WITH TWILIGHT, don’t go looking for more,” says a post addressed at Ana from the admin of DSKA. So many things that are so wrong that the clarification needs to be in ALL CAPS. Perhaps that could be talked about; it doesn't require even mentioning Ana.

The people want a site that talks about [social justice issue] but is better for them than Shakesville? I don't see why they couldn't talk about [social justice issue] there without even mentioning Shakesville.

Do I think that's likely? No. Not really. Even if what the admin cares about now is primarily the community and not the sites being pointed at, I don't think DSKA is going to change from a place that points to Shakesville and Shakesville mods into a place that does social justice commentary itself.

Would be nice though.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

I saw Maleficent for my birthday (spoilers of course)

My birthday is today but the celebration was yesterday and as a part of it I saw Maleficent.

It was a good movie insofar as it went but it left A LOT of unanswered questions some of which rose to the level of plot holes.

First, the plot:


Two countries border each other and don't get along.  The happy communist fairies live in one.  A presumably feudal human kingdom is the other.  The human kingdom is full of greed, poverty, and injustice.

The two have come to war in the past, and as a result Maleficent is an orphan.  Even so, things are generally good and stuff.

Maleficent is the only fairy of her kind remaining, a human sized one with bird-like wings (except for spikes at the wrist) and horns.  Her kind of fairy happens to be the most powerful in the fairy country.  So when things come up, like say a human thief encroaching on their territory, she gets involved even as a child.

She has the human thief, a boy named Stefan who is about her age, return what he took and then returns him to the human kingdom.  They learn that they're both orphans, when his iron ring burns her (iron is fairy kryptonite) he throws it away, and the two end up being friends.

On her 16th birthday his gift to her is "true love's kiss" except not.  He leaves her for his ambition to live in the castle.

He ends up working in the king's chamber.  She ends up defending the entire fairy country.  Turns out that when the king rose to power he promised to deliver the fairy lands to his people.  He attempts to do this with an army and fails badly.  Maleficent opposes him, even entering into open combat with him.  The humans are driven back.

The ailing king declares that whoever kills Maleficent will be his successor.  Stefan hears this, returns to Maleficent, tells her all this claiming to be warning her, regains her trust, drugs her, and then can't bring himself to kill her.  He isn't that evil yet.  He will be --oh, he will be-- but not yet.  He uses iron to cut off her wings, brings them as "proof" that he killed Maleficent, and gets named successor and marries the princess, Leila.

Maleficent wakes up, finds herself de-winged, comes across a raven about to be beaten to death, and saves it by turning him human.  His name is Diaval.  While disgusted by the sudden lack of his wings, he pledges himself to serve Maleficent in thanks for saving his life.  He becomes her spy.  Flying where she cannot.  (He doesn't stay human all the time.)

When she learns (via Diaval) that Stefan cut off her wings to become king, Maleficent becomes queen of the fairies.  She just walks in and takes over.  (Remember what I said about her being the most powerful?  She totally is.)  She is perpetually unhappy and spreads the misery around her kingdom.

Now we're set up for the story of sleeping beauty to start, so think about the above.  Make sure it makes sense to you.  Got it?  Good.

Stephan and Leila have a daughter, nobles and monarchs from all over show up as do three fairies.  Just as the fairies are bestowing blessings on the daughter, Aurora, Maleficent shows up.

The curse is a mixture of personal details and randomness.  The spinning wheel thing is just because she happened to see one.  She makes Stefan beg to make it so the curse wont leave Aurora eternally asleep, and what it ends up being is that by sunset on her sixteenth birthday she'll prick her finger on a spinning wheel which will drop her into deathlike sleep that can only be broken by true love's kiss.

True love's kiss and 16th birthday are obviously a reference to what Stefan did on Maleficent's 16th birthday.  The deathlike sleep is probably a reference to him drugging her.

Stefan orders all spinning wheels in the kingdom to be destroyed and entrusts the safety of his daughter to the three fairies.  She is not to return until the day after her 16th birthday.  He also makes more or less constant war on the fairy lands.  This fails to accomplish anything as Maleficent creates an impenetrable wall of giant thorn-bushes around it.

Turns out that the three fairies are basically incompetent when it comes to raising a human child and as a result Maleficent and Diaval have to do the work because otherwise she'd never survive to her 16th birthday.

Almost, but not quite, 16 years later Maleficent allows Aurora to enter her domain.  Aurora declares Maleficent her fairy-godmother, and Maleficent finds that even she can't lift the curse she placed upon the girl.  (She tries while Aurora is sleeping, so Aurora doesn't know about it.)

The fairy domain knows fun and joy and happiness for the first time since Maleficent took over.

Stefan is convinced that the curse will be averted and when it is Maleficent will come for him.  He becomes more and more obsessed with that, and doesn't even come to see the queen as she is dying because he's too preoccupied talking to Maleficent's wings.

Aurora bumps into Philip.  Diaval thinks that Philip might be the solution because there's an obvious attraction between Philip and Aurora.  Maleficent thinks that there's no such thing as a "true love's kiss." Aurora tells her "aunts" (the three fairies) that she's leaving (she plans to move in with Maleficent) and it comes out that her whole life is a lie, she's cursed, and she's the princess.  She confronts Maleficent and then runs off to the castle.

Aurora gains admittance, Stefan recognizes her, complains that she came back a day early, and has her locked in her room.  Maleficent collects Philip (uses magic to render him unconscious and has his horse follow her) and rides Diaval-transformed-into-a-horse toward the castle.  Aurora is drawn to a hidden servants' door, and through various passages to the room where the charred remains of the kingdom's spinning wheels are kept.  One magically reassembles itself and she pricks her finger on the spindle.

Everyone reacts.  Maleficent continues on toward the castle.  The three fairies try to figure out how to get a true love's kiss.  Stefan says there's no such thing and prepares for Maleficent.

Maleficent drops Philip outside Aurora's bedroom door. He is rightfully hesitant to kiss someone who can't consent even though three fairies are yelling at him to kiss her, and even when he gives in he isn't able to wake Aurora.  The fairies throw him out and exit themselves.

Maleficent and Diaval are left in the room with Aurora.  Maleficent is convinced the curse will last forever because there isn't such a thing as a true love's kiss but promises to watch over the sleeping Aurora and keep her safe none the less.  She kisses her on the forehead and begins to walk away from Aurora, which is just about when Aurora wakes up.

Sorta-Parental love for the win.

Aurora has forgiven Maleficent and wants to go to live with her in the fairy realm.

Aurora, Maleficent, and Diaval flee the castle, cue giant fight scene, Diaval is turned into a dragon.  Stefan's fairy-killing plans would have actually worked (lots of iron) except for the fact that Aurora set free Maleficent's wings which flew back to her and reattached themselves.

Maleficent tried to let Stefan live, but he tried to kill them both and ended up only half succeeding.

Maleficent stepped down as queen of fairyland.  Aurora became ruler of both lands.  The end.


Ok, so, various points.

It's nice to see Disney doing more things where true love isn't only between romantic partners and another thing where there's a point made about not diving into relationships (Phillip is quick to point out that, chemistry or not, he only briefly met Aurora.)

The fairy country was beautiful.

I want to fly.


Stefan is a problem.  It's not what we see so much as what we don't see.  How the hell did this jerk hang onto power?  Also his decent into obsessed evil is kind of ... well, poorly told.

His steps toward evil are thus:
  1. I care more about ambition than I do about personal relationships
  2. ???
  3. I'm willing to betray my oldest friend, but I can't bring myself to kill her so I'll just dismember her and claim to have killed her.
  4. ???
  5. We are to war with fairies.
  6. ???
  7. I don't care that the task is impossible, get it done!
  8. ???
  9. My obsession is so great that I'll leave my wife to die alone so I can talk to the chopped off limbs of my nemesis.
  10. I'd rather we both die than let you live.
Some of those question marks could do with some filling.

Beyond the fact that it seems like he was singularly obsessed with Maleficent his entire kingship post-Aurora-curse there's the question of legitimacy.

He was named successor because he supposedly killed Maleficent.  Maleficent showed up very much alive at the very public christening of his daughter.  Every other person who sought the throne would have been there to see that his claim was illegitimate.  He wasn't of royal blood, other than having killed Maleficent, which he didn't do, his only tenuous claim to power was that he was the father of the Queen's daughter who NO ONE CAN EVER SEE but she's totes alive and totes legitimate and totes reason to keep listening to this jerk.

The only thing he's ever shown doing competently is planning the killing of Maleficent (he would have gotten away with it if not for that meddling Aurora) there's really nothing suggesting he runs the kingdom well.  So why do people listen to him?

Does he have some of Nicolae Carpathia's incredibly competent invisible staff?

There is a 16 year time-skip for him.  We see Aurora growing up and Maleficent growing closer to her (and realizing that, "I hate you so I curse your child," is a very bad idea) but the only thing we get of him is when he's telling the army that he doesn't care that the task he's set them to is impossible, he wants them to do it.

Which means that we're not getting a lot of sense of how he changes.

It also means that he's making unreasonable demands of the army.  That's not a good way to keep your hold on power.


I'm almost entirely certain Queen Leila exists, but I'm not sure that the movie supports that.  She's there for Aurora's christening and then... um, we get mention that she's near death at some point during the final run up to Aurora's 16th birthday.


Why were the three fairies there?  Were they asylum seekers?

Why were they trusted with Aurora?  Did Stefan assume that they'd hire a nanny or was he just an incredibly bad judge of who could be trusted with a human baby?

They had to be incompetent because the story, in a nutshell, was that Maleficent came to love Aurora as a result of being forced to take care of her because otherwise Aurora wouldn't survive for long enough to have the curse kick in.  Did they have to be annoying too?


The previous war between humans and fairies was something that the fairies were afraid might repeat itself.  Given the lack of illness, injury, and crime in the fairy domain it's the only logical thing that could have killed Maleficent's parents.  How the hell did the humans pull that off?

The humans of the movie's present are hopelessly outmatched when it comes to fighting the fairy domain.  Stefan can lay a trap for the strongest of them with years to prepare and while fighting on his own turf, but no one ever makes any headway at all in invading.

How were the humans of the movie's past able to make war well enough to make the fairies fear a second one.  Not be annoyed or angry at the possibility of a second one.  Fear it.


Can we for a moment return to the fact that Stefan wasn't deposed?

Was he doing things off screen really well?  Did he have intermediaries who were doing things very well?  Was there any particular reason that a kingdom whose army was in a war without end against thorn bushes (and losing it) wasn't invaded by another kingdom whose military wasn't similarly tied down?


I can think of several good reasons why Stefan didn't have spies keeping an eye on Aurora.  The movie attests to none of them.

Nor does it support the bad reasons I can think of


A random almost 16 year old shows up claiming to be the princess and they grant her a personal audience with the king.  Really?

Do they also hang a sign that says, "Assassins welcome, no weapons checks"?  Maybe they do.

They assumed she was a peasant when she was dressed like that?
  1. If they assumed that, why let her see the king?
  2. Is Stefan's grip on power achieved by giving the peasants clothes they should never be able to afford?

Awesome raven:
*Maleficent saves Diaval by turning him into a human*
Diaval: What have you done to my beautiful self?
Maleficent:  Would you rather I let them beat you to death?
*Diaval looks at his lack of wings*
Diaval:  I’m not certain.

There would be more awesome raven but I can't find the quotes on the internets.