Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunday Sermonizing: At the BoT meeting

I still haven't written up anything on the Board of Trustees meeting that students crashed.  So in place of that, and in case I never get to that, have this video from said meeting.  These are the voices of the student body at my university.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Kim Possible Index

For some reason I've been kind of hesitant to make this.  I think it might be because work on Kim Possible is much closer to traditional fan fiction whereas a lot of the stuff I've done before (glaring at you Left Behind) is more along the lines of, "A version that doesn't suck," and thus somewhat distinct from traditional fan fiction, which I've never really thought of myself as doing before.

Regardless, I have two stories with three parts each now, so it's about time for an index:

Being more than a Simulacrum:
Part 1 - "Kim" wakes up in Drakken's infirmary to Shego telling her she's a clone
Part 2 - Shego tells the story of how she became a villain
Part 3 - Place, the newly christened clone, reflects on good, evil, and an outsider's perspective
Part 4 - Place faces her first morning, Shego helps.
Part 5 - Place fails to get information on why she has memories.
Part 6 - Place grows comfortable in her surroundings, and prepares to face the outside world
Part 7 - Place meets with her family and finally gets a name.
Part 8 - Leela Place Possible gets Wade to scan her brain, and meets some of Kim's friends
Part 9 - Wade, Zita, and Felix have more reactions; brainscan done, Place picks her new destination.

Forgotten Seeds:
Awakening - Ten people wake up in a cryo prison on the moon to find that they have been abandoned and 500 years have passed.
Stepping Out - The survivors work to leave failing prison.
Moon Walk - The survivors begin the journey across the lunar surface to the place that transport back to earth might be.
Air and Exposition - The survivors continue their trek, and then discuss the situation on earth.
Downtime and What Came Before - Most of the survivors have time to do whatever, while Kim and Shego work out the details of their return to earth

Bent, not Broken:
Part 1 - A memory of a mission in high school causes Kim to seek out an old friend, but first she needs to actually get there.
Part 2 - Kim relates the mission which changed her from a world renowned heroine to someone on an extremely harsh probation.
Part 3 - Kim relates what the probation was like, and tells the story of how she violated it in the end.  Chi explains why he's not the person to go to for relationship advice.

Here's How It Is:
Breaking up can be easy - It's not always a big deal.
Graduation 1.5 - Between the world being taken over and ditching it like a rat from a sinking ship to go after Kim, in this version Ron actually tries to do what can be done to help those staying on the planet.
Graduation 1.5 Larry Makes Contact - In the above Larry was sent out on a mission but I forgot to put in the result, this is it.

Random thoughts when viewing the show again after touching only fan fiction for a while.

Kim Possible: Episode by Episode - Looking at the series one episode at a time and seeing what there is to talk about.


Most recently updated 10-14-2015

Friday, November 28, 2014

Kim Possible -- Forgotten Seeds, Chapter 3: Moon Walk

[Parts One and Two]

Surge had no idea why some were making such a big deal about a two mile walk. She just wanted to be home and as far as she was concerned she could fly two miles if that was all it took. Even so, she'd studied Socrates in high school. She knew the importance of knowing that you don't know. She knew nothing about moon walks, so if people who knew more than she did were acting like the walk would be a big deal, she'd assume it would be a big deal.

She'd also stay silent about her lack of knowledge. There was no need to broadcast her ignorance.

It was when Blok, the one who had adapted the best to lunar gravity, fell right in front of her almost immediately, that she began to understand how long of a way two miles could be.

* * *

Blok stifled the urge to swear and watched the moon's surface come up and hit him.

He'd taken into account the gravity, he'd adjusted to the need to push off the ground less hard, he'd reconciled the bizarre feeling of needing to fight inertia just as much to move things that now only weighed an eighth as much as he was used to. He simply hadn't been ready for the dust.

Moon dust, he discovered, really was dust. Not sand, certainly not soil, not like anything he'd walked on before. Fine powder created by the pulverizing impacts that had scarred the moons surface.

He couldn't count on it to support the forces he was exerting on it just by walking lightly. It just... slipped out from under him.

* * *

Hawk saw Blok go down and tried to remember his own advice: Don't walk; hop.

He managed to not fall and moved in the direction Kim was leading them.

* * *

Shego smirked as Drakken and Amy joined Blok in the dust. It took a lot of effort, using muscles and training usually reserved for her acrobatic fights, but she managed to stay upright herself. As soon as she was clear of the facility she took a look around.

And promptly gasped.

* * *

Henry was taking in the moonscape with awe. He barely noticed his three fallen comrades, and he certainly didn't notice Shego's gasp.

He'd dreamed of going to the moon. He'd always known it was impossible. Sure, if he worked hard, discovered hidden talents, and got very, very lucky he might have become an astronaut, but he didn't care about space. He was interested in setting foot on an alien planet. He followed the Mars probes with interest; he watched every documentary on the moon missions he could get his hands on. He'd heard of the view, the sense of wonder it caused, he knew the phrase “Magnificient Desolation” he'd looked at more pictures than most people ever would and poured over each as if it were the most important document in the world. It was all nothing compared to seeing it with his own eyes.

* * *

Kim only paid attention to the three who fell enough to make sure that they weren't hurt and that they didn't damage their now-ancient suits. She was sure they'd all fall many times before they reached the base. She barely made note of the fact that someone gasped.

She was mostly trying not to think. She was trying to learn the necessary motions to move efficiently on the moon and then, she hoped, she could repeat them mindlessly, mechanically, until she arrived at the base. She worried that if she thought too much she might stop thinking she could do anything and start being overcome with doubt.

She was only broken out of her own thoughts when Shego said, “Kim,” in a voice that, she thought, was a bit shaky.

“Shego,” Kim said, “We need to conserve our air.”

“Ok, fine,” Shego said, not conserving air. “But, fearless leader, you wanna tell me what's wrong with that picture?”

Kim tried to stop, but just ended up falling forward. When she finally managed to get control of herself again she was covered in regolith and annoyed. She stood up and carefully turned toward Shego.

In addition to Amy, Blok, and Drakken, Henry and Surge now also showed signs of having fallen, though all were back on their feet. Shego was pointing, with her entire arm, to something in the sky.

Kim wasn't sure what could be worth looking at. With no atmosphere there was no weather, there was also no color. The sky was simply black. Lunar day wasn't darker than an earth day, if anything it was brighter, and so any starlight was impossible to discern. Their eyes simply weren't adjusted to pick up light so dim.

The sky should have been completely black, save for the sun, which Shego was not pointing toward.

When Kim did follow Shego's outstretched arm she realized that there was one celestial body in the sky she had completely forgotten to account for: Earth.

“Oh my God,” Kim said when she found her voice.

* * *

Hawk stared at the earth in the black sky. He couldn't make out any recognizable landmass. He wasn't even sure which end was north. But he did know that it was supposed to be a blue and green marble in the sky, not a mostly white one.

“It was not like that when I left it,” he said.

* * *

Henry looked at the object in the sky for a long time. The white from the poles stretched what seemed to be impossibly far. He guessed that only about a third of the earth remained uncovered.

After he heard Hawk speak he said, “It wasn't like that when any of us left it,” without really realizing he was speaking out loud.

As other members of the group turned to him, he added, “I was the last one taken,” in a small voice. Then he asked, “Right?”

No one answered.

* * *

Horatio finally bothered to pay attention to the topic of chatter, which he considered inherently wasteful as they had no idea how long the air in their 500 year old tanks would last and even less of an idea of how long it would take them to traverse the necessary distance given their—in his opinion, pathetic—progress so far, when he realized that it had stopped the eight other survivors from making any progress at all.

He stopped, which involved taking a tumble because he wasn't used to moving on the bare lunar surface any more than the rest of them, looked at the others, listened to their pointless prattle, and said, “Given the extinction of humanity, the current ice age hardly concerns us.” He didn't even take notice as all attention abruptly turned his way. “There's more than enough space for us to live in the equatorial temperate zone.”

He returned to hopping toward the unseen moon base that he hoped would be their salvation.

* * *

Surge was the first to respond. It was a broken voice: a whimper that had wanted to be a shout. “Extinct?”

* * *

Kim didn't fully process what Horatio had said until Surge repeated the main point: extinct. Kim didn't mean to shout. She didn't mean to sound hostile and antagonistic. She didn't even mean to speak. It just came out, “How could you possibly know that?”

Horatio's annoyed response of, “Weren't you the one who said we needed to conserve air?” did nothing to calm her down.

Her response was lost in a chorus of other voices.

* * *

Horatio was getting pissed off. Someone protested, “I was captured after you,” Drakken and Shego were discussing the carrying capacity of Earth in its present state. Amy and Surge were busy convincing each other that an ice age, however severe, couldn't possibly wipe out humanity. The others were a cacophony.

When he couldn't take it any more he shouted, “AIR!”

That silenced the noise for a bit.

“We're using equipment that is five centuries old, we don't even know if it's reading right. We have no idea when it might fail now that it's finally being put to use. None of us are exactly good at moon walking—hell, look at how little progress we've made so far,” he pointed back to the prison which loomed disturbingly close. “Our best hope of survival is to shut up and keep on moving so we get to safety before anything has a chance to go wrong; you lot seem intent on standing still and bickering.”

He made a point of putting more effort into hopping away.

* * *

When Kim spoke it took everything she had to speak in a calm measured tone, but she did manage it. “How can you know the fate of humanity?” she asked.

“I'll tell you when we're somewhere with a better atmosphere,” Horatio said, not pausing in his hopping toward the unseen base.

“Why not tell us now?” Shego asked. The tone of her voice made Kim crack a smile despite herself.

* * *

Horatio sighed. He stopped which once again was inelegant and left him tumbling across the lunar surface. When he was still and standing he carefully pointed himself to the rest of the group and said, “Because I want to live.”

He couldn't see their faces, he wasn't sure what they were thinking, but he had a feeling that that wouldn't satisfy them and he knew he couldn't survive alone. “Until I'm sure it won't get me killed, I'm not giving needless exposition.”

That didn't satisfy the crowd either. Surge asked, “Is the human race really extinct?”

There was fear in her voice. That probably wasn't good. Horatio decided to try to offer some kind of hope. “Well,” he said, “there's us now.”

That failed to accomplish anything. There was more prattle.

Why couldn't they understand? Their suits had never been designed to last this long. For all they knew their air tanks were leaking. Outside of those suits was death incarnate in the form of concentrated nothing. They were standing at the edge of a precipice, a misstep could mean that they'd all die, and they were getting worked up over people who were already dead and long since buried—time and natural processes had seen to that.

Worse than all of that was the fact that he couldn't see where this was headed. He never liked relying on looking ahead, it felt strange and wrong, but at least it was there for him. But right now the situation was all wrong, and the time horizon too far. He had as little of an idea of what was coming as a mundane. It was … disturbing.

Since he was standing still he decided to try again. Still nothing of value. Well, almost nothing.
He interrupted the prattle by saying, “Kim-car inbound in two minutes.”

* * *

Shego was the one who finally put an end to discussion, “Tight-lipped grumpy-pants is right. We need to keep going regardless of what may, or may not, be going on on earth.”

Shego started hopping toward the base, or at least in what she thought was in the right direction. Kim soon followed, and pretty soon they were all going.

* * *

Surge resumed the trek with the rest, but she obviously hadn't been silenced. “You can't just say something like, 'Humanity is gone,' and expect people not to react, you know,” she said to Horatio.
Horatio said nothing but thought that not only could he do it, he did do it. It wasn't his fault the others overreacted to the news.

“Now that we're moving, like you wanted,” Surge continued, “could you at least tell us how you know? Or how you think you--”

Horatio looked ahead again and said, “Kim-car in thirty seconds.”

Before more words were spoken, the car was visible on the horizon and, just as he had predicted, it arrived at their location thirty seconds from when he spoke.

* * *

“It's Jade! She made it,” Kim all but shouted as the small purple coupe landed on the lunar surface beside her. Fine regolith was kicked up by the landing, and the way it failed to form into clouds again hammered home the fact that outside of her ancient space suit was vacuum. Kim had seen the car land too many times to count, on all manner of surface, and it never looked quite like that.

“How is this even possible?” Surge asked.

“Check the name,” Kim told her with a smugness she hadn't felt in quite some time. “Jade, do you hear me?” Kim asked the car.

“... have your frequency now, Kimberly,” the AI's almost-human sounding voice came over Kim's radio. “Where have you been? My internal chronometer--”

“Should say that it's the two thousand five hundred twenty ninth year Anno Domini, or thereabouts,” Horatio cut in, sounding somewhat bored. Kim decided she wasn't even going to try to understand him.

“Did you detect any life—any human life on your way here?” Kim asked.

“Waste of air,” Horatio said.

“I was in Japan,” Jade said. “There was nothing in my immediate vicinity, but I didn't scan beyond that. I came straight to you.”

“You did the right thing,” Kim told Jade. She knew that the AI attempted to learn from mistakes, and she didn't want it learning that unrelated fact finding was more important than coming when called, especially given that the type of call she used was one that she generally reserved for emergencies.

“So, what now?” Shego asked. “Miracle car, or no, we're still on the moon, princess. I don't think that thing can carry all of us.”

“No,” Kim said. “But it can get me to the base faster than walking. You guys keep headed in the right direction.” She looked into the car, used an electronic map on the dash to orient herself, then pointed to show which direction that was. She felt pretty good about the fact that it was almost exactly the direction they had been going. Even without the correction they'd have made it to their destination.
“I'll go see if I can find anything that can be used to carry all of you over,” she said as she got into the car.

“What if you run into trouble,” Drakken asked. “Shouldn't you have some backup?”

Drakken being concerned for her well being was almost too surreal for Kim to take, but she managed to answer levelly, “I'll be fine. Jade is more than a match for anything we might meet.”

“You hope,” Shego said. “Just don't pause to sight-see.”

Kim smiled, closed the door without comment, and the car rose and flew away.

* * *

Surge watched as the seemingly impossible car disappeared over the horizon and a sinking feeling overtook her. “She won't leave us … will she?”

Drakken laughed. It was the first time Surge had heard anyone laugh since she woke up. Then Drakken explained, “There is one thing you can count on, and that is: Kim Possible will always do what's right.”

“Isn't she the one that froze us?” Surge asked, not bothering to hide the bitterness in her voice.

* * *

Horatio didn't even bother to look ahead. “She'll be back,” he said. His concern was no less die than Surge's had been, and he voiced it, after a fashion, “If we conserve our air we might even live to see it.”

Everyone fell mercifully silent as they resumed their trek.

* * *

Surge grew to hate the silence. She was full of questions and getting no answers. With nothing but the sound of other people breathing she was forced to concentrate on hopping toward their destination. All eight of them fell. A lot. Horatio's reminder that the suits they were doing the falling in were five hundred years old did nothing for her peace of mind.

Finally she asked, “If there's no one else left then what's the point?”

Shego said, “The point is to live.” After a pause she added, “Besides, he still hasn't said what he's basing his outlandish claim on. So ignore him.”

Surge couldn't ignore him. For whatever reason, she believed Horatio. “If humanity ends with us, what does it matter if we die here or on earth?”

“It matters to me,” Shego said, “whether I die today or decades from now.”

“I understand,” Surge said, “It's just--”

“There's us now,” Horatio said. “Humanity doesn't have to end.”

“I hope you're not talking about some kind of breeding program,” Shego said angrily.

Horatio stopped. Surge was getting used to Horatio's inability to stop with anything resembling grace, so it didn't surprise her when he ended up tumbling forward. What did surprise her was that he didn't seem to be making any effort to halt the tumbling. When it ended on its own he got up slowly and faced Shego. Surge couldn't see his face and the space suit made it difficult to read body language, but the impression she was getting was utter, horrified, shock. So much so it overcame the inexpressiveness of the space suit.

Hawk asked, “You ok?” but other than that everyone was silent.

Finally Surge asked, “Well what did you mean?” No response. “How are the nine of us supposed to revive humanity?”

When he responded his voice was quiet, “The technology exists to repopulate the species without anyone needing to get pregnant if they don't want to.” He paused a beat. “Without anyone needing to get pregnant at all.” There was a larger pause. “If we ever reached the point where we forced people to,” he sputtered, “to... to … you know, in order to save the species then it would be better if we let humanity die.”

There was another silence.

“The idea that we'd do otherwise is horrific,” Horatio added. Then he resumed his hopping.

* * *

Blok wanted to break the uneasy silence that followed, but he wasn't sure how. Finally he said, “It wouldn't work anyway, nine people isn't enough genetic variation to perpetuate a species.”

“Actually,” Horatio said, for the first time sounding like he was actually interested in talking, “The Laysan duck hit a low point of an effective population of 7 and it was on the way back when I was taken.”

Blok was pleased when this started a conversation about genetics that lacked doom, gloom, and horror.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

No thanksgiving for me this year, but some traditions are important anyway

There was a brief period during which it looked like I might actually have some sort of thanksgiving celebration period with some of my family, but it fell through so things are back to what I said they'd be: I'm not doing anything of value.  I'm all alone.

[Edit] Good that I posted this to go up on a delay because now it looks like food with family is back on. [/edit]

On the up side: furnace working again.  Anyway, back to tradition.

So, just listen to the song and ponder, "How many things in the world are exactly eighteen minutes and twenty seconds long?"

(Content note: "rapers" mentioned)

The weather today:

Returning to tradition, here is the original white-boarded in two parts:

(Content notes: "rapers" mentioned here too, also homophobic language)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Therapist to a reforming super-villain story: beginning

"What with all the eavesdropping I've been doing," he said as she walked out of the patient's room, "I couldn't help but notice that you've crossed a few lines."

She spun, looked at him leaning against the corridor wall next to the door she'd just come through, and asked, "Do you have a problem with standing up straight?"

"I just prefer to lean," he said with a small smile.  "Nice deflection."

"What do you want?"

"Far be it for me to criticize someone for crossing ethical lines..." he started.

"But you're going to."

"Not exactly, I'm just here to point out that you've gotten too close for you to continue to be her therapist."  He waited a beat then added, "No criticism attached to the observation."

"Too close?"

He looked at the floor.  "Look, it's not uncommon for someone to become friendly with a patient; we get to know them better than their closest friends and family," he said.  "As far as I'm concerned, when not dealing with assholes, professional detachment is bullshit." His eyes slowly came up to meet hers, "But you're getting to be more than friends with her, aren't you?"

"What's your point?" she said, failing to keep the defensiveness from her voice.

"What I said it was: you can't be her therapist any more."

"I have to be the one treating her," she said, "the fact that I'm personally handling her case is the only reason they're keeping her in a hospital instead of a prison."

"That's right," he said, as if just remembering. "I forgot that we had a real life action hero working on this floor."

"I'm retired."

"And thank God for that.  We'd all look so much worse in comparison if you were outperforming us while saving the world on the side."

 "Why is it that even when you say something that should be a complement, it still sounds hostile?"

"It's a gift." There was a stale silence.  Finally he conceded, "Prison definitely would be bad for someone in her mental state."

"So you understand."

"You being her therapist isn't a reality, it's a legal fiction designed to keep her out of jail," he said.  "That about cover it?"

"Yes," she said.  "Are we done here?"


She simply glared at him.

"Don't get me wrong, I understand legal fictions," he said.  "I once created a seven generation genealogy of a family that never existed in the first place to get one of my patient's treatment paid for."

She was downright befuddled.  "What?"

"There were HMOs involved."  He shivered. "It was the dark ages."

"Whatever.  If you understand why I need to be her therapist--"

"I understand that you being her therapist is a necessary legal fiction," he said, "but what you have to understand is that legal fictions are just that: fictions.  If you being her therapist is fictitious, then she doesn't have an actual therapist."

"So what do you recommend?"

"Recommend?" he scoffed.  "I think you're screwed.  Before you brought up the point about prison and all that, I figured it would be as simple as finding someone else willing to do psychotherapy for her--which would be hard enough given that she might incinerate someone she doesn't like--but--"

"She's not a danger."

"Whatever," he said.  "Now that you've pointed out that you can't get anyone else on the books as her therapist..."

She waited for him to finish the thought, when he didn't she gave an annoyed "What?"

"I'm just trying to figure out how it would work," he said, closing his eyes.  "You walk up to one of our colleagues, 'Hi, how are you?  Listen, I was just wondering... in addition to your regular workload, would you like to do my job for me with one of my patients?'" he paused. "'Off the books, of course.  No, you wouldn't get paid.  No, you wouldn't get credit.  Yes, you might get arrested because this is so I can fraudulently claim to be doing my job when I'm no longer qualified to do so with respect to this patient.'" He paused again. "'And the people I'm making fraudulent claims to: Feds.'"  He paused a third time. "I'm sure that'll go great for you."

"Thanks for volunteering," she said cheerfully.


"I'll tell her that you'll be taking over as her actual therapist so I can keep on being her let's-pretend-so-you-stay-out-of-jail therapist the next time I see her."

"I didn't--"

"I feel much better knowing someone who hasn't gotten overly close will be helping her."

"I'm not going to--"

"See you around," she said, then left.



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How do I surrender?

My furnace has stopped working again.  I think the problem is electrical.  It's acting like it has no power, absolutely nothing I do has any effect.  It's as useless as punching keys on an unplugged computer.  The only other time it acted this way it was electrical.

I found out something was wrong soon after returning from food shopping.  My mother, font of negativity that she is, was here.  Eventually I gave up on attempted pleasantries and told her I was going to take a shower.  I was, after all, dripping with sweat.

I had wanted to get in the shower immediately upon getting home, but she was there and seemed intent on pulling me into every little thing.  Much yay there.

She left soon after I went into the bathroom.  I never got to take my shower.  The water never warmed up.  I spent hours upon hours trying, with no results whatsoever, to get the furnace working.  When it seemed like it was an electrical thing I tried changing the fuse (my house has only one fuse, everything else is done by a circuit breaker) resetting the circuit breaker both via the main switch and every individual switch, following wires around to see if there was any obvious problem, and so forth.

I also made sure that the water in the furnace was at the optimal level for good measure.  The water wasn't far enough from optimal to actually have had any detrimental effects, but why not?

Nothing worked.

Then I finally called my mother to tell her that the furnace wasn't working, it seems to be an electrical problem, could we maybe call a damn electrician (the last time it was acting like this the furnace guy pointed out that for an electrical problem an electrician would be a better fit than a furnace guy) and such.

The thing that has to be remembered in any interaction between myself and my mother is this: She has little trouble making phone calls; for me making phone calls is usually more of a discomfort than root canal work.  I know.  I've had root canal work done.  Honestly, once the antibiotics kick in root canal problems are basically nothing when compared to most phone calls.  Before the antibiotics kick in, phone calls to strangers, and "furnace guy" and "electrician" definitely fall into the category of strangers, are still worse but at least they don't make you look like you've been punched in the face.

So of course the first thing my mother says is that I should call furnace guy and talk over the question of whether it's best to go with him or an electrician first, because just calling to set up an appointment would bad enough for me, so why not up the torture with the need to prolong the agony into a detailed discussion of the pros and cons of making appliance related decisions with limited information?

Then she suggested calling up my sister, who may or may not know an electrician, because wouldn't it be nice to go with the only thing worse than a stranger?

I got a stay of execution when, after a nice long excruciating talk (it's not just strangers and worse who are bad for me over the phone, I can count on one hand the people it isn't painful to have phone calls with and still have enough fingers left to play guitar*) she decided that she would call my sister.  I'm waiting to hear back now.

Which brings me to the topic of this post.  How the fuck do I surrender?  What do I have to do to say, "Ok, life, you win.  I lose.  Now can you stop kicking me while I'm down and enjoy your victory in a way that doesn't hurt me?"


* It's just the talent and the skill that's lacking in the guitar playing department, there would definitely be enough fingers.  Modified styles, of course, but people with injuries and the like have successfully found ways to play guitar with less than a full complement of fingers before so the groundwork has already been done.

I'm staying home today

Normally I'd have two classes today, but I only have one, and I fully intended to go to it, but I seem to be having a bit of a breakdown so I'm not going to school.  Since I started attending University, which was about ten years ago due to my roundabout path toward my degrees, I've only missed six days.

One because it was probably my only opportunity to meet someone in the real world and it was physically impossible to get from the city of the meeting to the city of my school in the time between the meeting and school.

One because I accidentally turned my heating system into a sprinkler system and had to clean up.

Four, at least I assume it was four, because I missed a week due to a nervous breakdown.  See here and here.*

This makes seven.

It's not as bad as the breakdown linked to above, but it's a lost worse than normal.  Metaphors of mental states are always a bit strained, but when I found myself cursing the heavens above (well, more the universe in general in all directions) because I forgot to put something in the dryer I came to realize that there was a lot more going on than whether or not clothes would be dry in time and that I was, in fact, at the edge of a cliff and my footing wasn't good.  I was at the edge of total collapse into a chasm off ... bad ... mental ... stuff.

I told you metaphors are strained in this particular arena.

I actually won't be staying home today as I need to get food.  Food, you must realize, is a vitally important resource.  Check out this link from the archives.  Pretty sure I'm starving myself at the moment, but I do definitely need to get more food if I want to keep on not starving myself because I am completely fucking out.  So I will be going out of the house today, just not to school.

Also, I finally got my family to reveal plans for Thanksgiving.  Short version: none of them involve me.  Yay.

On the one hand, Thanksgiving always ends badly in my family, so there may be slim cause for that not to be a flat sarcastic, "Yay,"* on the other hand it tends to begin and middle pretty well, plus being alone is seldom helpful.

So, yeah.

Anyway, I have to go food shopping now (I otherwise would have done it on the way home from school) so I'll just close by giving a list of possible implications for the blog:

  1. The lack of stimulation coupled with free time this week will jump-start writing from me as my brain screams out, "I AM SO FUCKING BOARD!"  Stealing Commas will actually benefit.
  2. I'll unremarkably recover and end up more or less where I was before.  Nothing will noticeably change.
  3. I'll go into a downward spiral and produce no new writing whatsoever.
So, in short: more or less anything could happen.


* It seems so odd these days to think that there was a time when getting a ride to school was a regular thing.  And yet, at the time it wasn't uncommon.  If I had morning classes I could get a ride in, if classes for a given day ended at just the right time I could get a ride home.

It wasn't uncommon back then for me to get a ride one way more often than not.  Sometimes I'd even get rides both ways.  I was also faster then.  Travel time on foot took an hour to an hour and a half one way rather than the hour and a half to two hours (usually tending toward two hours, sometimes going over) that it does now.

** When I rule the world, one of the many things I will micromanage will be keyboard design.  Actually I won't micromanage it, I'll simply manage it.  I'll tell people, "This is what I want done," and have them work out the best way to do it (while other people double check that their methodology is good.)  But, anyway, we're going to have some additional punctuation marks on the keyboard.  One will be the snark mark.

Yes, the snark mark is an open source punctuation mark that anyone can use already since it was designed to be able to use with a standard keyboard, but ".~" doesn't feel right.  Now "" is something I think we can all get behind.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The urge to give up

So remember the problem with medication?  Well I kept on thinking I'd gotten better and then realizing that I'd instead gotten to the point where I was functional in certain settings but not, critically, in the one that often matters most: on my own left to my own devices.

That's when work gets done, after all.  Schoolwork especially, but other things as well.  That's when stories get written.  Notice how stories have been lacking of late?  I count three fragments in the last month.

I should have seen this coming, logically.  Even though getting off my medication has almost immediate down sides, getting back on it tends to take about a month to work out.  So I should be at 100% in early December.  If I'd stopped to look at things reasonably I'd have realized this and not had a sequence of getting false hope in a setting that was able to stabilize me getting the hope crushed when I was on my own again, and then repeating several times.

It took me way too long to realize what was going on.

But the title is about giving up, because that's been a strong feeling.  The urge to just quit at life.  I need to pause here just because the words can be taken the wrong way.  Wanting to quit at life is impossible.  As much as I might sometimes want to just give up on everything, you can't really do that.  Life is not a job you can decide not to show up at.  It's not a program you can drop out of.  As much as you might want to give up on everything and let all responsibilities drop, you just can't.

Suicide is something else entirely.  It's an action, not a withdrawal.  It's also something that I have never seriously considered and very much doubt I ever will.

So it's important to distinguish between those two things.

Wanting to quit at life is not the same as ideation of self harm.  Far from it.  It's a desire for inaction.

And it comes up a lot.  I'm walking to school and I wonder what the point is, wouldn't it be easier if I just stopped moving and curled up in a ball on the ground?  Fortunately that's impractical.  One needs heat and shelter for ball curling to work well.

For the first time ever I'm giving up on a class after the standard tryout period.  I can't get my money back, I committed to it, but I can get a medical withdrawal.  And I'm going to.  The teacher actually suggested it, but I wasn't on board with it until I woke up one morning and couldn't force myself to get out of bed.  I was fully awake, but the whole moving and getting up and getting ready shit wasn't happening.  What was the point?  I'd fallen far enough behind when I was off my medication and in the aftermath that I probably couldn't pull through, why go if I can't pass?

I actually know why.  I usually don't have it in me to quit.  But right now quitting is so fucking tempting on everything.

And that's a problem.  Bills need to be paid.  Appointments need to be kept track of.  I have a cavity.  That was supposed to be fixed this morning.  I haven't been able to muster the energy to check messages on the answering machine so I missed the reminder call.  When they called up this morning because I was late and they were wondering where I was there was no way I could make it.

I already didn't know how I'd pay to have the tooth drilled.  Now I'm going to have a missed appointment fee.

At least two bills got passed due while I was not having the energy/motivation to read my mail.  Oh, joy.

You can't quit life, but when you stop participating it starts throwing penalties your way.

I don't know what the late fees will be yet.  I don't know what the missed appointment fee is.  I don't think I ever mentioned, but needing to pay for things like furnace repair and other such shit (which, reliable heat is awesome, and I can now wash dishes once I muster the necessary motivation, so there are up sides) has left me $600 behind on something else because ... either the god of money hates me or I'm utterly incompetent.

Which brings us back to the urge to quit, and the impossibility of doing so.  You can't just say, "Fuck it, I'm out," and give up.  You still need things like hydration and nutrients, you still need to pay bills if you want things like water, heat, and a place to stay.  Life doesn't let you take a break, there are no vacations, there is no time off, it just keeps on coming at you no matter what.

But that doesn't change the urge to stay in bed all week, to just not show up to school, to not read the mail or check the messages, to not get off the couch, to close my eyes and hope the world disappears.

So that's where I'm at at the moment.


I still have ideas, of course.  But nothing ever comes of them.  I have an idea for a story but when I try to write it all falls apart.  I have an idea for a project and quickly realize that if I can't muster the money to get even, not ahead, just even, with my finances then I can't come up with whatever capital, however small, might be needed for the project.  Or maybe the project doesn't need money at the start, but I'm not exactly going to learn to create 3-d character models at this point in this state either (the abstractish geometric modeling used to make puzzles doesn't really apply to making something that looks like a person), or I know I'll never get around to getting the materials, or I know I'm not in the right frame of mind to learn new programming, much less understand what's described in this article and adapt it to my own nefarious purposes, or I'd like to do X but that would mean effort I have no chance of wrangling.

And so forth.

I feel utterly useless at this point.  I can't actually succeed in doing anything.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

When all you've got is nothing, there's a lot to go around.

On November 19th, 1915 IWW song writer Joe Hill was executed for a murder he didn't commit.  This is a triple injustice because:
1 An innocent person was executed.
2 The actual murderers (for there were two) went unpunished.
3 The reason he was killed wasn't because of he evidence against him (in fact the police had to pressure a witness from saying that Hill definitely wasn't the murderer to saying that he was) but because he was a union figure.

Various people (the President of the United States, Hellen Keller, and, I think, the Swedish ambassador to the US being the most prominent) called bullshit and tried to get clemency.

Other than being a Wobbly (IWW member) and testimony that the police pressured witnesses into giving, the only evidence was that he was one of four people in the area treated for a bullet wound.  Mind you the nature of the wound showed that he had his hands up at the time, which is a difficult position to murder someone from.

Hill wouldn't say how he got it beyond it being a disagreement about a woman.  It's a good thing I looked this up because I thought the disagreement was that he was having sex with someone's wife and that person took exception.  In fact the woman in question came forward and said that the shooter was her former fiancee.

Hill had no motive and, as noted, the witness said he didn't do it until there was pressure to change that statement.

Hill's last contributions to the world were a letter to an IWW leader:
"Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don't waste any time in mourning. Organize... Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don't want to be found dead in Utah."
and his last will and testament:
My will is easy to decide,
For there is nothing to divide.
My kin don't need to fuss and moan,
"Moss does not cling to a rolling stone." 
My body? Oh, if I could choose
I would to ashes it reduce,
And let the merry breezes blow,
My dust to where some flowers grow. 
Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again.
This is my Last and final Will.
Good Luck to All of you,
Joe Hill
He was, in fact, found dead in Utah, just not for long.  After his execution by firing squad came his first funeral which was in Salt Lake City.  People were there all day.  By the time the funeral actually started there were several thousand people stuck outside because there was no more room inside.

As soon as the funeral was over he was loaded into a hearse and driven to the railway.  This was accompanied by a procession of over 200 people singing songs Joe Hill had written.

He was loaded onto a train and sent to Chicago.  Chicago had been his original destination.  Utah was only supposed to be a stopover, but he ended up staying for, I believe, two years.

None of this is to say that things were not without problems.  Hill was framed in that the police intimidated witnesses into changing their testimony.  But it probably wan't some anti-union conspiracy as it was made out to be.  The big business people didn't get involved until after the conviction, at which point they strongly pressured that it be upheld, the punishment not commuted or pardoned, and the various people asking for a delay so that the matter could be investigated further be ignored.  They wanted him dead for sure, but there's no evidence to suggest they were responsible for the framing.

A lot of the rhetoric around what happened to Joe Hill is staggeringly anti-Mormon.  That's not good and can't be condoned.

Joe Hill seems to have died for four reasons:
1 He didn't want to name names when it came to the person who shot him and the woman the person shot him about.
2 He was an easy target.  He wasn't just from outside of Utah, he was Swedish.  (Born Joel Emmanuel Hägglund in Gävle; he latter changed his name to Joseph Hillström before settling on Joe Hill.)  He was a union activist in a place where they were pretty well despised.  If you're looking for a scapegoat you can probably convict without fallout, he's perfect.  The people who actually had motives were all locals, some of them in good standing.  There likely would have been backlash had they been charged.
3 AFTER he was sentenced to death business owners started applying pressure to make sure the sentence was carried out.
4 Hill didn't want and refused to work toward a pardon or commutation.  He wanted a new trial.  If he had worked for his sentence to be commuted or to get a pardon it might, and I stress might, have worked.


Ever wonder where the phrase "Pie in the Sky" comes from?  Joe Hill made it up for a song called "The Preacher and the Slave" which is also known as "Long haired preachers".

This is the best version I can currently find online but I could do without the commentary between the first and second verses.  I could especially do without the joke against baptists.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Quick response to the BoT meeting yesterday

At some point I want to do a proper write up, but until then here's what I posted on Facebook last night.

So, after the BoT got up and ran away (for a five minute adjournment that lasted way longer than five minutes) and we took their chairs (because ... I don't know, someone near me suggested it), we had some very good calm, reasonable discussion about the problems we see in their decision making process.

For once the person quoting the Letter from Birmingham Jail wasn't me. Always a good place to go when people feel that a direct action campaign is untimely, disruptive, and/or rude.

After a while of discussion regarding accounting, the importance of higher education, the future of the university, the value of fact based decision making processes, and so forth we yielded the floor to the BOT who listened to a presentation on accounting and then asked questions that demonstrated that they don't know what accounting is. (Flanagan was the most embarrassing.)

When the meeting was over (technically adjorned to executive session at another location), one of the trustees came up to me and said that it's good that students are showing up because now there are differing ideas on the board instead of thoughtless unanimity. He expressed hope that with more work things can turn out well. Which is more hope than I usually get from a member of the BoT.

Also, they always have Coca-Cola (classic and diet) and the best food on campus. This time they had some really nice ham sandwiches. I recommend that everyone show up at BoT meetings and get fed.

Monday, November 17, 2014

NRA: Chloe got her licks in

[Originally posted at Slacktivist.]
[The canonical conversation goes thus:
(Chloe:) “Then I got my licks in, telling her all about how you and I met, where you were when the Rapture happened, and how you and I and Daddy became believers.”
(Buck:) “Verna must have thought we were all from another planet.”
One could read getting her licks in as accidental honesty at how aggressive and unpleasant RTC witnessing is.  Or, one could read it like this:]


"Then I got my licks in," Chloe said.
"That's good," Buck said.
"Yeah," Chloe said with her voice becoming distant and a faraway look in her eyes. "She's tasty."
"I mean, I told her all about how you and I met, where you were when the Rapture happened, and how you and I and Daddy became believers.”
“Verna must have thought we were all from another planet.”
"It felt like we were floating," Chloe said, the distance returning.
"What was that?"
"Um... it felt like we were fighting. She's so hostile and combative and stuff."
"Ok, ok."


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Monthly Donation Reminder

The idea behind these, you'll recall, is that maybe by pointing my donate button monthly I'll build up a reserve and thus I won't have huge disasters where I have to pray that one or more readers suddenly has more money than they know what to do with lest I lose everything.

That has utterly failed to work out.  On the upside is the fact that so far donations have managed to pull me back from the brink when there are huge disasters.  (Thank you, all.)

The stuff ahead of me in line made it so furnace guy didn't make it here yesterday.  He did make it today.  The house is still in the process of heating up, and thus I'm still cold, but the furnace is working now so warmth should be coming any moment now.

Of course that's another $473.95 I need to somehow come up with.

Anyway, I usually talk about months in these posts.

In the beginning November was the 9th month of a ten month year.  Hence the name.  (Novem = nine.)  January and February were added (to the beginning of the year) at the same time month lengths were reassigned with a preference for odd numbers.  November was reduced to 29 days and was now the 11th month of the year.

In 46 BC the Julian Calendar was put forward by Julius Caesar.  This restored November to 30 days.

Because the difference between the Julian Calendar and the Gregorian Calendar is three leap days every 400 years, most people still think in terms of the Julian Calendar even if they don't know that's what they're doing.

November is a short month (29 days pre-Julian) and so the ides fall on the 13th.  Days after the ides are counted backward starting with the first day (the kalends) of the next month, thus today is XVII Kal. Dec.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Skewed Slightly to the Left: Homecoming

[Originally posted at Slacktivist]
[I thought World War III in canon Left Behind was over, but apparently Jenkins can't be bothered to give it a definitive ending so, executive decision, I'm going with my original impression which is that it ended before Cameron went to retrieve Tsion and that is how Skewed Slightly to the Left shall be forever more.  (Unless I change my mind.)]

"How went the treason?" Chloe asked.  She was waiting on the tarmac, balanced on her crutches with ease in what looked to Cameron like an extremely precarious position.

"The treason went," Cameron said.  This was Chicago.  There was no need to hide anything here.  Let people know that you were a wanted fugitive with a price on your head and a shoot on sight order against you and they'd probably buy you drinks.

The war might be over, Nicolae might have won, but there wasn't a GC loyal soul to be found in the city.  In the ongoing rescue and recovery operations GC forces, the defeated militia, and the underground networks worked together openly, not as a result of Nicolae's reconciliation policy, but because the bomb had incinerated their differences.

They'd all lost someone, and they all knew who was to blame.  Chicago would never be loyal to Nicolae's Global Community.

Cameron looked around and said, "It's nice to be back in the smoldering remains of home."

"The test results hold up: no radiation," Chloe said.

"Still not sure if we have God or the Devil to thank for that little miracle?" Cameron asked.

"We probably never will be."

"And how are you holding up?"

"I'm great.  Once you get the hang of these things," she lifted her crutches a bit, "you're faster than someone with a sprained ankle has any right to be."

Cameron shot her a look.

"I'm serious.  The hard part is moving slowly."

Tsion and Jane had finished talking, and came to join Chloe and Cameron's conversation.

"Do you have a place to stay, rabbi?" Chloe asked.

"I do.  This young woman is remarkable."

Jane blushed.

"She is," Cameron and Chloe said at the same time.

"Well, thanks, but this remarkable young woman has to leave now to try to help Loretta work out the best way to hold a funeral for an entire city," Jane said.

She returned to her car, while Chloe lead Cameron and Tsion to her own.

"I don't envy her," Chloe said.

"How many faiths is Loretta working with?" Cameron asked.

"I don't know how many sub-sects, but I know that there are at least twelve major sects meeting now along with representatives from atheist and agnostic groups."

"Even when everyone acts in good faith, planning interfaith services can be extremely difficult," Tsion said.  "I just hope that they can work things out so that your city can begin to heal soon."


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Status Report

So I meant to make a post talking about the resolution of the medication situation.  I was expecting to do it quite quickly.  Then I mentioned elsewhere when I was doing my regular self promotion for the week that the post saying I was off my meds was out of date.  Then I forgot that I have never gotten around to saying it here.

The medication situation is thus:

There is a drug that's extremely similar to the one that works that already had a generic version.  It doesn't work.  I got so used to it being the nearest generic equivalent that I just called it the generic version and thought of it as such.  This led to me confusing some people (notably Lonespark, sorry) when an actual generic for the medication that works came out.

Which is what happened.  With the actual generic coming out my insurance insisted that I switch to that but, due to some arcane rule of paperwork, the fact that the prescription was written before said actual generic existed meant that everything needed to be reauthorized and ... fuck.

In spite of what some people say, generics don't always work as well as the name brand.  That said, they usually do, so hopefully the generic that I'm now on will work.  And I am on the generic now.

The heating situation is thus:

On Friday furnace guy will come to fix my furnace.  This is good.  He will be paid (by someone I will then be in debt to.)  This is also good in the short term "I need heat" sense.  It's not as good in the mid-term "I have no fucking clue how I'm going to pay for furnace repair," sense because it only delays needing to pay rather than provides an answer of how to pay.

The cat situation is thus:

She has food.  You didn't know that she ran out because I didn't tell you, but the important part is that she has food now.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Today has not been a particularly good day for me

I get money to buy food tomorrow.  Which naturally means that today is the day when my food money is furthest in the past.  For whatever reason I've been experiencing shortfalls lately.  I don't think I've significantly changed my buying or eating styles, but I keep on ending up whit more month than I have food.

That didn't used to be the case.

To make matters worse I can't fall back on my preferred fallback (soup) because of furnace problems.  Not that I flooded it and thus turned the entire heating system into an unintentional sprinkler system.  No, this was going wrong before, but I misdiagnosed what was going wrong.

I thought that it was getting out of whack and needing to be reset after being turned off.  (In warm months I only need to turn it on to do the dishes or take a shower.)  Thus I thought that once I reached the point where it was on constantly that problem would go away.  In fact it was getting out of whack whether on or off, if given a little bit of time.

Which means that the furnace can't stay on.  Which means that it can't heat the house.  Which means it's fucking cold (though still well above dangerous levels of cold.)  It is being arranged to have someone look at it soon.  (How the fuck I'll pay for that I don't know.  I swear every time I think financial problems are behind me something else goes wrong.)

But back to food.  It's not staying on long enough to do the dishes.  (Which makes me wonder if this has been going on longer than I realized because I had noticed a decline in dishwasher effectiveness some months ago.)  So no soup.

Additionally I haven't been sleeping all that well.  Never a good thing.

I've been having trouble forcing myself to stay hydrated.

I'm just in a bad place overall.

I've spent most of today doing nothing much and being generally agitated for no apparent reason.

I can't really make myself think.  That's never fun.

I have no conclusion to this post.

Monday, November 10, 2014

From the archives: Why .hack//Sign matters.

[Originally posted August 10th, 2013.]
[There are seven comments on the original which you may, or may not, want to read.]
[Packbat gets credit for bringing this post back to the front of my mind]


I guess it's worth talking about why I like .hack//Sign.  I started going through it, and Deus Ex, because I like these things immensely.  When I was down, when I was in a hole, they reached me.  They made me feel, they made me care.

I knew I needed more of that in my life, but I also knew that just telling myself, "Do things you like," was doomed to fail.  One of the problems of depression is that often the knowledge something will, or may, make you feel better is completely disconnected from the feeling.  You might know that, for however brief a time, X will lift you up but that doesn't help because you can't feel it.  When you can't feel it it's almost impossible to summon the emotional effort, the motivation, and the energy to actually do a thing.

And so, even when it doesn't stop you from being able to enjoy things, and a lot of the time it does, it stops you from doing the handful of things you still are capable of enjoying.

I thought running a deconstructionish thing would make me spend more time with these things that I cared about.  Obviously that didn't work.  I haven't had a Deus Ex or a .hack post up since I took over the Deconstruction Round Up at the Slacktiverse.

But that's why I started talking about it here.  It doesn't explain why I tracked down fandubs before the DVDs were released.  It doesn't explain why I watched episodes over and over again. It doesn't explain why I got the special limited edition of each volume right when it came out even though my response to basically everything else is to wait until the price goes down or just hope to record it off TV.

It doesn't explain why, for a time in my life, this was all that I had.

My mother couldn't understand my interest in the series.  I tried to explain, it's been so long I've forgotten the words but it was something like, "You know when he's on the ground and so depressed he can't move except the occasional finger?  I get that."  She didn't get that.  As far as I know she still has no understanding of my connection to the series.

You know that time when all happiness and joy was crushed, hope was but a faded memory, energy and effort were impossible to summon, motivation or even simple caring were listed firmly in the "Things it is impossible to do," column and all was clearly lost forever?  Been there, done that.

If I can get back to writing my posts we'll get there eventually.  But even so far one thing should be clear: this is a show about depression. Depression, isolation, loneliness, the way we push others away when we need them most and the way people who think they're helping make things worse, it's about anxiety and fear, it's about all the sads.  It's about my life.  And for some of my readers perhaps your life.

And it's about coming out on the other side.  It's about getting by with a little help from your friends.

I can't do that.  My depression definitely has a large chemical component, take me off the medication that works and even the most supportive, helpful, non-fuckupful people can only give me moments.  Fleeting moments of up, or emotion, or whatever, before I crash back down to normal.

But that's not what matters because Tsukasa's depression is not my depression and he was never a viewer insert character for me.  He was a fellow traveler. Someone whose problems were a lot, but not exactly, like my own.  Someone I wanted to gather up in my arms, hug, and assure it would be ok (while I prayed it wouldn't turn out I was lying.)

And someone with whom I realized that might be the wrong course of action for because, especially near the beginning (he's skittish and probably doesn't want to be touched.)  But if I were somehow there I'd work with that and do whatever I could do to help even though it wouldn't be my dream scenario.

I cared about Tsukasa and the others.  Hopefully because I'm a decent human being and decent human beings care combined with the fact that really good fiction makes the characters come alive for you so you end up caring about them the way you care about real people.  But possibly because Tsukasa was someone like me on screen.  There was a time when he couldn't summon the energy to move.  He was able to move a hand enough to grope around until he found a teddy bear.  That was it.

Then he flicked, with one finger, one of its eyes.  Single finger movement, beyond breathing--which I don't actually know if he did (remember the setting)--that was all he had in him so that was all he put out. Flick.  Again and again and again and again...  The same action over and over again.  Taking refuge in repetitive action.  I know that.  Rock back and forth.  Click a pen.  Rub some part of yourself.  (Please keep minds out of the gutter.)  Drag your finger back and forth across something.  (Took me way too long to realize that I was doing this with my left index finger on my inner thigh and that was why all my jeans were failing in the same strange place.)

Eventually the eye breaks off of the teddy bear.  So he switches to the other. Flick. Over and over, and over again.

Then that one breaks off.  And he goes to the finger dragging.  Like my jeans the teddy bear can't take it indefinitely, breaks open, and the motion starts pulling out the stuffing.


If you don't get this then understand something: You're lucky.  Very lucky.

May your luck hold and may you never understand what it is to be unable to move because you can't care enough to do it.

No doubt there are many people who have never experienced depression who beat me in the "Life sucks" Olympics.  Almost all forms of bigotry leave me untouched.  I may always be on the edge of being homeless and broke, but until that day comes (and I swear it looks more likely all the time) my life style actually is pretty much middle class, give or take.  Oppressive poverty is unknown to me and that's one area where I definitely hope my luck holds.  But even if you're objectively seventy thousand times worse off than me, if you've never known depression, if you don't understand what I'm talking about, that's one area where you're lucky. It may not seem like much from your angle, but from this angle it seems like everything.

So there was someone like me on screen.  I never saw people like me.

Depression tends to isolate people.

Looking at the world through shit colored glasses can make you an asshole.  The worst part of being an asshole: you're an asshole.  Beyond the obviously moral problems with that state of affairs it tends to keep people away.  Another depressed person isn't likely to brave that shit to meet you so the two of you can learn how alike you are.

Depression also tends to prevent you from reaching out. Two depressed people who share all the same interests and are in all the same places might never introduce themselves.  Probably won't even.  So even if I was surrounded by people like me I never knew they were people like me and thus never saw them as people like me.

It's for reasons like this that depressed people stories tend to involve something extraordinary drawing others in. The person is naturally isolated.  Maybe it's a van spinning across the ice rink of a parking lot at absurd speeds through a sea of faces while Edward Cullen is standing four cars down and ... why the fuck wasn't school cancelled?  Or maybe it's someone being unable to log out of a video game when that should be impossible and raises serious questions about the health of their body back in the real world.  Whatever it is something forces someone to push through the wall around the depressed person that depression has built up.  That's the fantasy.

So I'd never really seen people like me.  And then insomnia, the neighbor's loud air conditioner (or maybe something else, long boring story) booting me out of my room, and Cartoon Network introduced me to Tsukasa.  Someone like me.  Someone who wanted to be left alone in spite of being unhappy in loneliness and missing the company of the very people he drove away. Someone who shared my problems, someone who had times when he couldn't even move.  Someone with my disease.

This was a time when I watched The Shawshank Redemption untold and untellable amounts of times because I lacked the energy to get up, cross the room, and put another DVD in the player so I just kept using the remote control to restart it every time the movie ended.  Couldn't move myself, could move a finger.  Just like Tsukasa.

This was a time when I'd sit and stare off into space because I allowed a moment of freedom to enter my life and without being forced to do something I would do nothing.  Forever.  Except for small repetitive motions.  Those I would do. Just like Tsukasa.

And that's why the show matters so much to me.  It's not a show about me.  My depression is different. It's a show about someone like me.  It's a show about someone like me where hope triumphs even though it seems impossible.  Where the light at the end of the tunnel isn't a train (or a white phosphorus fire, or a death ray, or a spotlight the bandits are using so they can shoot you before you even see them, or a...)  Where hope is a good thing and no good thing ever dies.  (I told you I watched The Shawshank Redemption a lot.)

It was a show about someone like me who could make friends instead of alienate them (more the friends' doing than his own) where in spite of feeling worthless he could be cared about.  It was a show about someone like me where it was possible for that someone to fall in love, (and that love to survive a massive curve ball.)  It was a show where someone like me could have a happy ending even though that seemed impossible for someone like me.

It wasn't, and I want to stress this so much, a show with a viewer insert character.  Tsukasa was himself, not an identity I could slip into to vicariously experience the fictional story.  It wasn't a show about me, or one I could pretend was about me, it was about someone LIKE me.

That's why it mattered to me.  That's why it matters in general.

And that is also why it's important to have characters, not as tokens or stereotypes, exist that reflect the vast diversity of humanity.  Having a show about someone like you can make a huge difference in your life.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Observations on checkpoint-only single saving

Video games tend to have a pretty short shelf life (compared to other non-perishables).  Something may be one of the best games of all time, but wait a few years and, though it is still rated as one of the best games of all time, you can buy it for less than the price of maybe-spoiled food.

One of the things that this means is that if you're looking for low cost entertainment, old games can be a pretty good buy.  System requirements that were once top of the line are dwarfed by the capabilities of the cheapest computers today, the games themselves cost so little that you find yourself not looking for where the game is selling for the lowest price but instead what place has the lowest priced shipping (because that'll be three to seven times the cost of the game itself, and it'll still total less than five dollars.)

So I recently bought some games.  They're built in a console oriented way, so much so that the manual to one assumes you're going to buy an X-box controller for your computer. (When PC games are ported to consoles no one assumes that people will buy a keyboard for their console.  Conclusion: console gamers are less dedicated to gaming.)

As the title suggests, they're also checkpoint saving based games with only a single save game.  (You can replay chapters if you want (which will lose all your progress), but to continue your game there's only one save point, though you can restart an episode.)

This has led me to some observations on the difference between controlled saving and checkpoint only saving.  I'll be calling it "checkpoint saving" for brevity, but understand that these observations do not apply to a mixed system where checkpoint saving and manual saving coexists.  (Which, for what it's worth, is totally a thing.)

Mostly, I've noticed things that are ... less than good about it.


Checkpoint saving encourages you to give up.

As someone who is used to saving whenever I feel like it, I'm also someone who tends to fight things out in the game until the bitter end.  Those two things don't have to go together, but they complement each other.

You can keep on trying even though you're low on resources because you know two things:
1 You won't be penalized for trying.  If all else fails you can go back to a save at a place and time that you yourself chose before you got into this bind.
2 Your ability to save means that you can potentially try something a few times without losing a bunch of progress.  (You just need to have a way to save beforehand, whether that is saving often or being aware of when you might be over your head doesn't really matter.)

Checkpoint saving flips this around.  If you make it to the next checkpoint low on health and ammo you can't go back to when things were good.  Your save from the checkpoint before things went south is overwritten.  You struggled through, and you're punished for it.

This is especially bad if you were caught up in the game, didn't notice quite how bad things had gotten, and hit a checkpoint without enough resources to make it through the next part.  You can either replay again and again hopes that if you replay a thousand times at some point random chance will cause things to permute in exactly the right way to struggle through (while dying the other 999 times), or you can give up and restart the episode.

That's if you make it to the next checkpoint, but you don't know when that's going to be.  Which is the checkpoint saving equivalent of point 2 above.  You can't save if it looks like you might get in over your head.  You can't regularly save to make sure you don't lose all your progress.  You have no idea when the next save might be coming.

You might play through and die just short of the next checkpoint.  The only way you can really be sure that won't happen is if you give up and reload to the checkpoint every time things start to get even a little bumpy.


Checkpoint saving encourages save scumming

Basically the above again, but from a different angle.

You can't choose to save when things are going well, so the only way to have a save that's worth anything (as opposed to a save where you're in a crappy state and have little chance of winning) is if you make sure that when you hit the next checkpoint you're high on resources, whatever the resources may be.  The only way to do that is to reload from the previous checkpoint every time things start to go in a direction that looks risky.

You can't struggle through and hope you improve your situation along the way because then, if you don't improve things, you could hit a checkpoint in a state that's too bad to actually win.

That's especially true because there tend to be checkpoints right before things that the developers think are most likely to kill you.  (Which aren't always the things that are really most likely to kill you.)

The only way to make sure that an ill timed checkpoint doesn't screw you over is to make sure that you're in good shape when you get there, and the only way to do that is to save scum.  To be sure, more skilled players would have to do it less, but if you want to be sure you won't screw yourself over via save game you're going to have to reload every time you think you could have done better until you get your desired outcome.


If you're not willing to give up easily or save scum, checkpoint savings can make a good game significantly less fun.  Because, quite simply, you will screw yourself over eventually.

The more skill you have the less often you'll screw yourself over, but (probability being what it is) you will definitely screw yourself over given enough time.


Checkpoint saving discourages sharing or re-enjoying good moments.

So I came to a point where I looked up and, lo, did majestic and terrible creatures fill the sky as they echoed an aged cathedral carrying in it's visage echoes of times gone by.  And it was awesome, and I thought that maybe I'd want to come back to it, or show it to other people.

In order to come back to it, whether for myself or to show someone else, I'd have to replay the chapter, thus losing all of my progress, possibly (depending on the details of the progress losing save system) play through multiple levels just to access that level again, and definitely play at least some of the game to get there.

Even Mirror's Edge isn't quite that bad, but it's a disturbingly common system.

To show it to someone else without going through all the crap above I'd have to stop playing the game right there.  Then, when I saw the person I wanted to show it to, I'd just have to play from the most recent checkpoint up to that point.

In games with manual saving I'd just save the game right there, and whenever I wanted to for whatever reason I could come back to it in as short a time as it takes to load the game and load a save.  Want to show it to someone else and it's as simple as booting up, selecting the save, and turning my laptop to face the person.


It does free up thinking about whether or not to save.  It also prevents forgetting to save from making you lose too much progress.


There is nothing that will make you hate an innocuous phrase more than having an NPC say it right after a checkpoint and thus being forced to listen to it repeatedly.


Mixing checkpoint only saves with unskippable cutscenes is a crime against humanity.


If one has to avoid manual saving for some reason (gun to your head, innocent people held hostage, whatever) there are two things you should do:
1 Find a way to escape your current situation (because there's a gun to your head, innocent people being held hostage, or whatever)
2 Make it so more than one (preferably all) checkpoints the player has passed are accessible without penalty.




Checkpoint saving is really good as a component of the save system, it is woefully inadequate as the whole of a save system.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Left Behind: Who's writing this, anyway?

[Originally posted at Slacktivist.  In response to the idea that the continuity is dependent on who is telling the story though it sort of got sidetracked from that and never really got into in any depth.  The plan was for an artistic piece where the style and such completely shifted based on the character telling it, the result was this.]

Rayford: And then the dashing pilot, who was sexy and manly and looked up to by all, swooped in and saved the day.
Ken: You do realize you're not the one flying this time?
Rayford: Right, forget all that stuff. The pilot was just background.
Ken: I heard that.
Rayford: Buck, you're up.
Buck: We lit the barrel of gas and then I preformed a tricky maneuver that involved spinning the bus one hundred and eighty degrees and bringing it to a complete stop, at the same time, which caused the barrel to fly out of the back, hit the bad guys, and EXPLODE!
Chloe: Um, science.
Buck: Is not in effect because of my powers of manly awesome.
Tsion: (To Chloe) Do you have to deal with this all the time?
Chloe: Pretty much.
Tsion: (To God) What have I done to anger you so, and how might I atone for it and get out of this mess?
Tsion: (To Narrative) I got into the plane without incident.
Buck: And we flew to America.
Ken: The range on a Learjet doesn't actually--
Ken: Fine, to America.
Buck: I walk into the cockpit, which I can do because I'm cool and connected and--
Ken: Chartering my plane.
Buck: and say, "Cap--"
Ken: What the hell?  Am I Steve Rodgers now?
Buck: I can say "Cap," because I'm friends with everyone and thus don't need to remember their names from one page to the next. I can just make up nicknames on the spot. I say, "How are you doing, Cap?"
Ken: Well I'm apparently in a Budweiser commercial, hence the "How ya doin'?" and my main foil is a badly done knock off of the Old Spice man in that like the Old Spice man he thinks continuity is for other people--I'm on a horse--and yet has none of the charm of the Old Spice man.
Chloe: Oh, he's way worse than that.
Buck: "How you doing, Cap?"
Ken: "Much better now that we're in American airspace," which doesn't exist anymore and is too far from our destination for us to reach, "because before..." what's the silliest thing I could say?
Chloe: "Purple elephants are flying"?
Ken: That might be too silly. (To Buck) Let me start over. “A lot better, now that we’re over American air space. I had no idea what you guys got yourselves into,” because, seriously, who expects someone to be on the run from nonexistent governments as a result of the crime of converting to Christianity without a licence? “and who knew what kind of fighter pilots might have been on my tail.”
Chloe: You do realize that--
Ken: All fighters are now part of the Global Community Air Force, which has standardized its forces such that there's only one kind of fighter left in existence? Yup. Also, my jet could never outrun them.
Chloe: Playing for absurdity points?
Ken: Something like that.
Tsion: I commend you for being able to keep your wits about you in this situation, I swear this is Vogon Poetry.
Tsion: Is he serious?
Chloe: Unfortunately.
Tsion: What kind of book have I gotten myself into?
Nicolae: An endangered species? BOOM! A historic site? BOOM! A major metropolitan area? BOOM BOOM!
Buck: You know, that reminds me, World War III is still going on.
Chloe: I thought we dropped that arc.
Buck: This is totally World War III.
Chloe: Even though it isn't a world war and ... why do I even bother?
Buck: I say to Cap--
Ken: My name is KEN.
Buck: I say to Cap, “I don’t think we were worth all that, with World War III going on.”
Chloe: I hack into a secret military death-sat using the skills I picked up in my time at university doing things I've never been at liberty to explain. I target a certain Learjet that's recently entered former-American airspace. I look for the heat signature that's in the cockpit but not flying the plane. I kill that person without harming the others.
God: Divine Right Veto. He's one of the main characters.
Chloe: Would you stay out of this?
God: No.
Chloe: Well then could you be useful?
God: No.
Chloe: I convert the entire congregation of New Hope to Christian socialism and mobilize them to do good works in the world. Also, I get myself a Coke. *pause* (Eyeing God) That ok with you?
God: No one ever notices them anyway, so sure.
Hattie: I have wanton sex and enjoy every minute of it.
Nicolae: BOOM!
Hattie: Just, you know, not with him.
Chloe: Good call.
Rayford: When do I get to fly my fully loaded--
Hattie and Chloe: Extremely phallic.
Rayford: --giant plane. I've let you guys have your fun but it's time for everything to center around me again. This book is about me, me, me.
Chloe: I cannot believe that I share half of my genetics with you. I begin to look into the possibility that I'm some sort of science experiment and thus don't have a shred of genetics in common with either of my so called parents.