Friday, March 31, 2017

chris the cynic's Guide to Game Design -- Controls

On a meta note, it's been a day shy of a day more than nine months since the first draft with the name "chris the cynics Guide to Game Design" is listed, so it's something I've been thinking about for a while, even though this is the first post to make it to public consumption

So: controls.

Key Points

This is the short version.  The "Too long; not going to read" version.

Let players customize the controls as they see fit.  You know neither their bodies nor their minds and that means you cannot possibly make an ideal control scheme that works well for everyone.  You can, and should, try.  This, however, should result in merely the default setting(s).

The players should be able to create custom control schemes as they see fit.

An important and oft overlooked part of this is when the controls for multiple things are coupled together under a single input.  While this happens more often in controller games, given their limited button space, it's actually quite common in general.

You need to be able to let players de-couple things.  What this looks like is when you have a button that does X or Y (generally depending on context) you need to let the end user, should they so desire, have separate buttons for X and Y.

You also need to let the gamer couple things so the separate buttons you have for A and B can be combined into an "A or B" button like you had for X and Y in the previous example.  Yes, this could result in incredibly stupid things.  That's not your problem.

Finally, in addition to allowing players to bind commands to keys/buttons, you should let them bind them to combinations thereof.  (I.e. normally the X key does this, but if I'm holding L1 it does that.)

General Overview

Let the players customize every damned control.

But-- no.  Every.  Single.  Thing.

This is so very basic and yet triple-A publishers still get it wrong to this day.  So here's the deal: you don't know.

I'm not just talking about the basics of you not knowing whether or not your player has two hands with eight fingers and two thumbs between them, as most game designers stupidly assume.  (May Furiosa kick their asses.)  I'm talking about everything.

You don't know how your player's parts, whichever parts they may have, operate.  Assuming your player has exactly the digits you expect, you don't know how big they are, how much space they can cover, what hurts, what's comfortable, what they're used to.

There are good reasons and bad reasons for failure.  Most, though not all, games are built on the assumption that the good reasons should be part of the play experience.  It looks like this: You don't succeed, you restart at the last save/checkpoint/whatever, you try again.

This hinges on the idea that you, the player, are failing for a good reason.  Fun curls up in a ball on the ground and dies of despondency if the player is failing for a bad reason.  Bad reasons include but are by no means limited to:

  • My thumb doesn't bend that way
  • I've been playing games with a different control scheme and I keep on attacking when I'm trying to jump which leaves me plummeting to my death
  • I can't actually mash that key because the relevant digit had a run in with frostbite
  • My hand is small, I can't quite reach that button while holding down this button
  • I keep on thinking this button does X because it makes sense to me even though for some ungodly reason that button does X even though only a sadist would make that button do X
  • The fucking designers made the O button do twelve different things with no common thread between them and whenever I tell my character to hide she instead jumps on the nearest table and dances an Irish jig
And so forth.

All of those are things that could easily be avoided by letting the players customize their control scheme.

With a computer customization has a lot more options because there's an entire keyboard to work with, generally a mouse, and possibly other peripherals.  With a console the standard controllers tend to have about as many buttons as a really cheap four-function calculator, so options are more limited but they're still there.

Coupling and Decoupling

It is common for some actions in games to be context specific.  Hitting the cover button doesn't cause you take cover when there's no cover to take.  You can't throw something if you have nothing to throw.  It is, at best, extremely difficult to do a stealth takedown of an enemy when your character is the only being, friend or foe, within five thousand miles of the action.

Even simple straightforward buttons we take for granted, like "fire", are in fact context based.  If I tell the character to fire when the character has a storm trooper rifle equipped it does not, in fact, cause the character to quick draw their Bryar pistol (technically a Bryar rifle that's been so modified and sized down it's now pistol sized) and fire that.

It makes intuitive sense to group together all of the "use weapon's primary fire" commands into a single "use the primary fire of the weapon you've got equipped right now" command that can then be bound to a single key.  Thus Dark Forces has one primary fire key instead of ten.  (Though whether punching someone counts as "firing" your fist is debatable.)

That's a very simple example of coupling commands into a single button and having context determine what they do.

It's also a thing that makes intuitive sense.

That said, many modern games have found it more useful to separate the Dark Forces "primary fire" command into three or more parts.  Where in Dark Forces melee takes the form of choosing weapon 1 (fists) and then hitting the fire button, in a modern series like the rebooted Tomb Raider or Uncharted there's a dedicated melee key that does that and then returns you to your previous weapon when you stop hitting that key.  Grenades (Dark Forces weapon 4) also tend to be given a dedicated key.

Dark Forces had "Use one of the weapons one through ten, which one determined by context," if it were like the modern examples it would have been decoupled into "Use weapon one", "Use weapon four" and "Use weapon two, three, or five through ten, which one depending on context."

Even something as simple as "use the selected weapon" has proven to be more complicated than people originally thought.  But this is all still pretty simple and easy.

Where this becomes more difficult and complicated is when you've got something like the Uncharted series and you're trying to fit aim, fire (only for guns), throw grenade, punch, counter, jump, drop, hang, roll, take cover, leave cover, switch cover, use, open journal, find ally, equip weapon one, equip weapon two, find vehicle, break neck, pull off cliff, kick off cliff, shake flashlight, and so forth onto a handful of buttons.

Let's talk about cover as it's a decent example.

The way the game works, you can only take cover while standing on the ground.  The way things in general work you can only drop from something when you're on something to drop from.

So it makes pragmatic sense to put these two actions together, which is what the devs do.  A single button controls both and what the button does is determined by context.  It doesn't get messed up because it's impossible to do one whenever it's possible to do the other.

This is a case of coupling controls at its best.  A drop button is completely useless when on the ground, a cover button (in these particular games) is completely useless when not on the ground, put the two together and you've saved button space and reduced the time during which what buttons there are happen to be useless.

The cover control is also coupled with the the switch cover control which, again, works because you can't drop or take cover in situations where you can switch between two areas of cover (since you're on the ground and already in cover.)

It's then coupled with the hang off of something you were standing on top of which intuitively makes sense as a down action being grouped with drop, another down action, but runs into difficulty because there are times when it's possible to either take cover or hang off of what you're standing on and the game isn't psychic enough to know which you want, so mistakes will be made.

Then it's coupled with leave cover, which means that maybe when you were trying to safe-ishly get from one safe area to another while under fire (switch cover) you simply stand up (leave cover) and get killed by machine gun fire.

Then it's coupled with roll, which means that sometimes when you're trying to switch cover, or hang off of something, or stop being glued to the wall but still stay in one place, you dive into a forward roll and end up standing in a place you never meant to be.

So forth.

This isn't an example of coupling at its worst.  Not even close.  If I had to pick the worst I'd probably go for the: "We made a non-lethal stealth action share a control with 'Jump up, lunge forward, murder someone in plain view of everyone in the entire county, and then just stand there while people gawk'" that can be found in certain Assassin's Creed games.

The Uncharted example is coupling at its middle.  Fairly usual, about as inoffensive as these things get, and still laden with problems.  "Leave cover" is the same button as "Stay in cover" (which is what the switch cover control is for) and that's more or less what you can expect from a lot of games.

This is . . . sub-optimal.

Of course, part of the reason for this sub-optimal situation is because we're talking about a console game and a controller doesn't have that many buttons.

Still, depending on one's play style some of the commands coupled into a single button might not be needed, reducing the chance for the game to fuck up, or there may be entire default buttons that never get used onto which some of the commands from an overloaded key can be placed.  Or changing up which controls are coupled with which under single buttons could solve everything.

How to let players customize

In PC games it's common to allow each command-set (control over decoupling and coupling is seldom given to the players) to have two keys bound to it.  This is a good thing as it allows for a player to deal with things like: I can't touch [Key One] while I'm holding [Key Two] but when I don't have to touch both at once those are totally the best keys to bind those command-sets to.

Or it can allow multiple people to use a game with their own preferred control scheme, but in that case only two.

I've already talked about the importance of allowing players to couple and decouple commands, so it should be clear that, while a command set might be default, players who want or need to should be able to customize at the level of individual commands.

Two or Three keys per command-set is good, but there's no reason it can't just be N.  Control scheme profiles should exist so that you can switch from "This works best when I'm helping a seven year old play the game" to "This works best when I'm playing on my own," and even "This works best when my friend [person] is playing the game on my system."

Some game designers, to their credit, are already allowing players to create as many control schemes as they want (with the option for two inputs per command in a given scheme, no less.)

But PC games are hardly the only games.  (Though what I'm about to say can go for PC games too.)

All of that does apply to console games, but console games tend to be played with controllers and controllers have limited buttons.  And this is where the wonderful field of combinatorics comes in.

You see, in the art of keyboard creation there was this incredible invention called a "shift key" that, by reserving one key for altering what the others did, allowed keyboard makers to turn [X] keys into [2*X - 2] keys.  Suddenly the alphabet required a mere 27 keys (26+1) instead of 52 (26*2).

Things get even more interesting when one considers that there can be multiple ways to modify what a button does instead of just one dedicated key.

In fact, people who work with controllers have long had the idea that any combination could potentially be used for a unique command.  A, B, X, and Y (my keybord doesn't have squares and triangles, sorry Playstation) go from being four things to being ten by making each combination of two buttons do a unique thing that happens to be different from what any of the individual buttons do on their own..

It's not like controllers just have four buttons.

Conclusion: there's really not a shortage of buttons on a controller IF a player is willing to use combinations.  Is a player willing to use combinations?  Depends on the player.

Let them bind the controls to whatever buttons they want AND to whatever combination of buttons they want.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Entwining Destiny

[Came to me when I saw a thing with significant fruit that would "forever entwine" the destinies of those who shared a single fruit, presumably with informed consent.  Characters seemed to think of it as a true love thing, but when I heard it that wasn't what came to mind.]

One: I'm as excited about our journey tomorrow as you two are, and I wanted to do something tonight.  You know, since it's a stupid idea that'll probably leave us scattered to the winds.

*Two rolls eyes*

*One pulls out fruit*

Three: Is that . . .

Two: The freaky fruit?

One: Yeah.

Three: How did you get one of the magic fruits?

One: Well . . . it wasn't easy, but I don't like the possibility of us losing each other, so I figured we should have destiny on our side.  I want us to share this.

*One breaks the fruit into three roughly even pieces*

Two: Isn't it supposed to be a true love thing?

One: The legend is that those who share it have their destinies joined, it doesn't actually mention love.  I figure if our destinies are forever entwined, we'll always find each other, no matter what might go wrong, how lost we might get, or how far apart we end up.

Three: You still think the raft will be destroyed and we'll end up adrift.

One: I think the risk is worth it, same as you.

Two: So why the destiny fruit?

One: I couldn't bear the idea that if something did go wrong we'd never see each other again.

*somber silence*

Three: I'll eat.

*Three takes a piece of fruit*

*Two takes a piece of fruit and raises it for a toast*

Two: Friends forever?

*One and Three raise their fruit bits*

One and Three: Friends forever.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

An unwanted trip down memory lane

I wanted to check that I hadn't accidentally borked things in such a way as to have a post not show up in the site's feed over at the Slacktiverse.  I don't use feeds, so this was more involved than one might expect.  Involved, but not difficult.  Also quite quick.  But it dredged up certain other results.  One was So you've just been turned into a zombie apparently because it was originally posted at the Slacktiverse and I noted that in the name.

Another was a post from Slackitvist which was just before the collapse of the Slacktiverse on typepad.

A sort of morbid curiosity had me looking back on it, and then I was caught up, and before long I was just habitually searching for a term in the comments, reading, and repeating, on autopilot.  Repetitive activity without any real thought on what I'm doing, if I should be doing it, or if I'm even capable of stopping is something that goes with my depression, and I tend to get trapped in cycles like that provided the activity is simple enough to do on autopilot.  I used to wear holes straight through otherwise pristine jeans with a finger motion along my inner thigh.

It was less boring to do "Next occurance of search term - Read - Repeat" than wear a hole through the skirt I'm wearing, but it definitely wasn't fun.

So, let's talk about the original Slacktiverse and the memories that got dredged up.

* * *

Fred Clark was a friend of the person who invented the term "Slacktivist" in it's original meaning, a meaning that some people seem to be (unknowingly) reclaiming.  The original definition from the person who coined the term was people derided as slackers because they weren't out doing big news-making things (for example: clogging the national mall with with a well-publicized march) but were in fact activists who got shit done.

Maybe they weren't participating in a national march because they where working at a soup kitchen, planting trees, helping local kids, volunteering at church, and (yes) writing shit on the internet to raise awareness.  Maybe they were just doing one thing.  But they were in fact making a difference in spite of the fact that they were viewed as slackers.

When Fred Clark started blogging he did it under the handle "Slacktivist", which he uses to this day.  Though it didn't start there, Slacktivist was at typepad for ages.  Then Fred got and took an offer to join Patheos a place that is . . . better in theory than in practice.  It was that way even moreso when he joined.

The commentariat was a vibrant community and a lot of people didn't want to lose that even though several prominent members flat out refused to move to patheos.  A compromise was reached.

* * *

The general consensus was that people trusted three commenters to take the reigns of whatever happened, and so Fred gave those three the keys to the site he was leaving at typepad.

Thus the Slacktiverse was born.

Of course, most people followed Fred away, only a handful followed both places, and a lot of those who said they would never go to patheos ended up going.

And there was a question of content.

Now the entire point of the Slackiverse was the conversion in the comments so the content of the main post never really mattered all that much (not to deride main posts, many were quite good) but there was some question of how to run a commenter blog.

So commenters submitted posts, and such.  But there were definite problems behind the scenes.

"Always" is a bit overstating it, but as far as most people were concerned Fred had always stayed out of the comments.  The three moderators of the Slacktiverse were chosen from the commenters.  There was definitely an attempt to make clear when the mod hat was on and when it wasn't, but for some reason it never seemed to work there the way it did in other places.

Fred is male.  The three moderators were all female.  The misogyny came in thick, but was mostly relegated to the spam trap so it was a while before people other than the mods were aware of it.

For some reason where things really came to a head was in the standards the community chose for itself as it was being decided how things would be run in the absence of Fred.  Specifically trigger warnings.

Fred doesn't use them, the Slacktiverse did.

Some triggers are obvious.  Death, torture, rape, self-harm, starvation.  Some triggers are not.  That's the things about triggers.  Consider the obvious ones of torture and rape.  (You have been warned.)  There is a form of torture by rape that uses a Coca Cola bottle.  It's actually a fairly standard practice in certain places.  Why?  It's done in hopes that Coca Cola becomes a trigger.  That way, even after the torture is over, the person will keep on suffering.  ("Coca Cola" is the second most commonly used term, regardless of language, on earth, if you're interested the first is apparently "okay".)

One would probably never think to warn people, "This is going to have coca cola bottles in it, so prepare yourself or avoid it if you need to," but if someone in the community has suffered that, the community would be wise to create such warnings.

Even when people don't use the term "trigger warning" or "content note" this does have a habit of happening.  I knew someone whose aracnaphobia was so severe that pictures of spiders would set him off bad.  So in a forum he frequented, people would, without ever being asked, have notes like "[name] don't click this, spiders".

The Slacktiverse wasn't a place where the "Without being asked" thing was done.  But when people did ask, it was something that would be noted by those who remembered in the future.  Well, the nice ones who remembered.

There was one case where someone who wrote about transumanism tended to go on topics that were triggering for another member and there was a detailed and civil back and forth over exactly what the warning should be.  It was hashed out that it was easiest to just warn for transhumanism in general (even though it wasn't what was triggering) than each and every individual subtopic of transhumanism that was in fact triggering.

When people saw warnings for transhumanism, though, good fucking god.

* * *

So we had the misogyny, including liberal use of the only English profanity I refuse to use, behind the scenes, and out in front we had people looking at every warning and being all, "You warn for X.  That's absurd.  No one could be triggered by X.  This is completely over the top Political Correctness police state shit.  Who is triggered by X?  How?  Why? X, X, X.  Justify your pain to me."

And that wasn't the problem.  The problem was that those people would then go to other places (sometimes first) and rant about the over-coddled special-snowflakes and there'd be an influx of trolls.

Looking back you'd really never tell.  The mods were good at catching the horrible fucking shit and getting rid of it.  You only knew about the times when you happened to load the page after the shit but before the mods axed it.

Of course, there was enough shit that as a regular you'd see it at least some of the time.

Somewhat strangely, the absolute worst came from Slacktivist.  We'd all been one group, many of us were part of both groups, and there'd been no bad blood in becoming two groups, but any mention of the Slacktiverse in the Slacktivist comments caused a massive influx of particularly toxic trolling.

PZ Meyers didn't help either.  (Yes, it was checked, it was really him.)

Anyway, this all put the mod team under a lot of stress, and there were other things too (I was originally going to go into more detail about one I had firsthand knowledge of, but I think I'll leave it confidential) and as a result of the massive load on them combined with human fallibility they didn't handle everything perfectly.

That drove some people away, which sucked.  Mistakes alienating good people always sucks.  But it also had another effect.  Every imperfectly done thing would be harped on elsewhere causing a fresh influx of trolls to the site.

And the imperfectly done things would be used to argue that the mods were horrible people which could then be used to cast things where there was no fault in a negative light, which was all then combined and presented as evidence they were monstrous internet tyrants.

And they were on the hook for things they didn't do.  The "This Week" posts, the one feature that completely survived the various transitions to the modern Slacktiverse have always been reader submissions.  Readers submitted their own trigger warnings/content notes.  And fuck did the mods at the Slacktiverse take a lot of flack for being the kind of oversensitive anti-free speech jackbooted net-thugs who would use certain content notes they never wrote.

Because, "I wrote this and I think you might want to know X is in it when you decide whether or not to read," really implies all of that stuff between "for being" and "who would use".

And there was the infamous post, not by the mods, in which an atheist criticized atheists who want to convert the entire world to their particular views on religion so that no one who disagrees will be left amoung the living.  (But, do note, conversion and natural die-off, not killing.)  Calling it "evil in one of its purest forms" was probably a poor choice of wording, but it was the first post in a conversation and it took all of three posts for someone to offer a loud, resounding "No, you're wrong," counter argument.

That had trolls coming in entirely unrelated to the other trolls in a stream that never, ever, stopped.

* * *

The final tipping point, though, was when someone said, out of the blue, that they didn't want Slacktivist turning into another Slacktiverse during a discussion of French imperialism in Morocco circa World War II in a comment thread to a Slacktivist deconstruction post of Left Behind book 3, Nicolae: The Rise of the Antichrist.

Massive influx of trolling.

Combined with the steady streams from other sources it eventually became too much, changes were needed, and a completely new moderation system was set to be implemented.

It was too late though.  The system never got a chance to really be tried because by now there was too fucking much trolling coming from too many directions and the original home of the Slacktiverse was closed to new comments and converted to an archive.  The moderators went into self-exile so they would neither have to suffer the shit moving forward nor lead the trolls to whatever followed.

In the scramble to set up a new home before the old one was forever closed (so there could be a link) we went with what one person (Ana Mardoll) knew.  Except . . . Ana knew Blogger for main posts and disqus for comments but some people couldn't use disqus and Blogger's built in stuff turned out to be insufficient (I don't get trolled nearly as much so it works for me) so the place was a bad fit.  Thus it became a redirect to the current home.

* * *

And my trip down memory lane really drove home how much people who weren't there fundamentally didn't get what was happening.  They saw two or three people who ranged from good-faith hostile to Trolly McTrollstien.  That was such a small part of it.

I kind of wonder if the effectiveness of the moderators ended up hurting them.  Most of the shitstorm was invisible unless you were engaged enough in a conversation to be refreshing the page frequently to see what new comments had been made in real time.  Otherwise the vast majority of the trolling was gone by the time you were reading.

That meant that the only thing you really saw were the non-trolls.  If the only people the moderators were visibly responding to were those who weren't that bad, it could seem like those were the ones they were coming down, which would mean everything they were saying about the trolling could seem to be directed at relatively innocuous commenters.

And without getting the stress the mods were under, you didn't understand why mistakes were being made, you just knew that mistakes were being made.

The trolls ended up basically invisible, and the only thing outsiders or casual insiders saw were people who weren't doing anything bad enough to be deleted.  And the mistakes that the mods were making as more and more stress was placed on them?  They fell into that category.  All the errors were visible, most of the correct things were not.

So for an outsider it looked like there was relatively little bad happening, no explanation for why the mods were getting more and more hair-trigger, some minor bad things that the mods dealt with, a fair amount of the mods talking about major bad things that didn't seem to have evidence, and some cases where that increasingly fine hair-trigger caused them to censure people who didn't deserve it.

But most of all what stands out is that people flat out didn't get that they were part of a larger group, one whose most active members they disapproved of.  Whenever people had a gripe-fest at Slacktivist it caused massive trolling at Slacktiverse, and instead of recognizing that that was a problem it was just completely ignored.

People were seriously saying things that amounted to, "Do we have to talk about this?  Can't we not?  Well, I don't want to, but here let me lob this troll bait out so they'll get swarmed over there while I stand safely over here and act like there's no such thing as trolls."

* * *

The whole fucking thing sucked.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Things I need, things I want

I need more socks and replacement shoes.  I need oil.  I need food.

These four things represent different ways of going about things.

~ ~ ~

Socks can come from anywhere.  I tend to go to some godless chain store that is destroying all good things in the universe, like say a Walmart, and just buy a package with a lot of cheap socks.  On the other hand, when someone gave me a gift certificate to Sock Dreams it meant that I got some fucking fantastic socks with quality I'd never set out to get myself.

So, yeah, wide range of socks.

Wide range of ways people can help with them.

~ ~ ~

For shoes definitely need them a lot (the sole is coming off of my right shoe in a way that could knock me to the ground in a way I can't really afford) but at the same time, I'd like to get good shoes.  Now the good shoes that I used to have, and really liked, are out of production.  I dug them up (I knew I'd never gotten around to disposing of them) and double checked that.

They haven't been replaced with a new model, they're flat out gone.

I think this is as close as I can come.  Men's because the women's ones are offered in crap colors.  Of course this requires me to learn my shoe size again.  The super old shoe I dug up from the era when I had good shoes is a 10 1/2 wide (also men's), but I honestly have no idea if that was the right size or more like "Close enough".

It's also the sort of thing I'd probably never buy for myself because there are other places where the $99 might reasonably go.  At the moment I'm primarily focusing on paying down high interest debt, for example.

I'll probably end up buying cheap shoes when someone is able to take me to a place that has them.

Of course, money grubbing person that I am, I'll point out that it's possible to get me an LL Bean gift card (apparently it'd get sent straight to my email cpw [at] maine [dot] rr [dot] com.)  It's interesting to me that they say "never expires" like that matters.  This is Maine (they're based in Freeport) and it's illegal to have a gift card expire here.  Unless the company goes bankrupt, the gift card will be good.

~ ~ ~

Oil I've already ordered, I should get a price quote within the next 24 hours.  I expect it to be around $300-ish.  Only way to help me with that is a donation.

~ ~ ~

Food is . . . complicated.  Even as I get more and more able to do things, food preparation is still not on the list.  So I've been ordering things delivered.

That's simple and straight-forward enough, I need money just like with the oil.  (Also expensive as all fuck.)

Where it gets complicated is that I don't know what delivers around her, general internet services to hook you up with delivery places don't know much of anywhere either, and . . . yeah.

Anyone know the delivery scene in the greater Portland area in Maine?

* * *

I want various impossible things, like to be able to go back on my hormones now as opposed to waiting until it's safe (because this demi-depressed state fucking sucks.)

But on the possible side of things, I mostly want interactive fiction.  I want to go to other worlds and do other things and make noticeable progress toward clear goals.  I want a vacation from the real because it's kind of sucking.  Hell, it sucked before I broke my ankle.

I want Kingdom Hearts with the two items on the PS4 wishlist representing nine-ish games of content between them (only six playable) and the three on the list for the 3DS (which I theoretically will have) representing the playable versions of the two unplayable games, and one that had different gameplay mechanics after the system switch.  (Thing nine is an original, as in never a game, cinematic thing delivered in the same way as the two non-playable games.)

I want Breath of the Wild, and to a lesser extent Dishonored 2 which is on the same list and apparently on sale.

I want to be able to immerse myself in other places, other times, other worlds, other people, other everything, because I'm stuck one room most of the time with little that I can do.

I do have non-interactive fiction potential getaways too.  There's a reason that Deep Red is the top movie on this list that I'd forgotten existed until Ana asked me if I could put useful stuff on a wishlist.  That reason is that it's been far too long, I barely remember the movie, and I decided to try to sort the damned list.  Is the list sorted?  Only the stuff that comes above the puzzles.

Get beyond that and there's a lot of "Whut?" and fair amount of, "Ok, I'll grant that this seemed like a good idea at the time, but HOW did it seem like a good idea at the time?"  And also no hierarchy whatsoever.

Thursday, March 23, 2017


I've been out of state.

That might not seems like the best thing to do, but it meant spending time living with other people.  (Broken ankle is much easier to manage when someone can carry stuff from one room to another and actually make food.)  It was also part of a plan (or was it a plot?) to inject something up into this broken ankle time.

See, there was a concert.

Apparently once something has happened all record of it ceases to exist, so I can't link to anything, but it was Dar Williams at the Cabot Theater in Beverley, Mass.

That was one day after I made the journey from home to Massachusetts, and five days after the concert, which was yesterday, it was time to come home.

This is, as you might imagine, a bit of a process.

~ ~ ~

I didn't have to worry about losing my hat on the way home as I'd lost it on the way over.  There was the obligatory forgetting of important things (the two external hard drives on which my computer had been backed up) and all of the usual stuff.

But the thing is . . . I'm fatter and weaker than I used to be, somehow my backpack seemed to weigh as much as a twelve year old, and the T is . . . the T.

Thus I started off absurdly early in hopes of maybe catching my bus.

~ ~ ~

Oak Grove does at least have elevators.  The elevator doors have a habit of only opening half way when they're supposed to open, and getting open the rest of the way sometime in the following week.  This is fucked up, and while it doesn't inconvenience me I have seen it, and could have figured out without the seeing of it, be really fucking unhelpful to a person in a wheelchair.

Also, I spent a good deal of time wishing for a wheelchair.

Anyway, I crutched from drop off to elevator, then from elevator to bench.  Then I rested.  If I were walking this would be absurd.

After a while I made my way to the place where you pay, I'd actually acted like an intelligent person and taken the Charlie Card (an RFID card that you put money on electronically so that you can use the Boston T by holding said card up to a reader which is a lot faster than other means of payment) out before getting off the bench.

Another elevator, much exertion to get to the damned train.  Normally I go to the far end, because that's where my exit is.  I barely made it to the near end in time to catch what was, I think, the second train to leave since I was dropped off.

Also, it was fucking cold, and something about the combination of crutches and my backpack kept making my shirt ride up.

I usually describe the behavior of the Orange Line as it goes outbound.  Inbound is . . . well, stuff.

At Oak Grove, which is the end of the line, it's a ground train.  Next stop is Malden Center.  For that it's a full blown L (elevated) train.  Then it goes back to the ground, crosses the water, comes into the place with the giant Lego Giraffe (actually Duplo, but Duplo is a Lego brand), and really starts to flirt with the idea of being an L again, but comes back down to earth for the stops themselves.

A while later it's underground and we have achieved subway.

Downtown Crossing is my stop.  Downtown Crossing has no elevators.  Downtown Crossing has a sign saying that elevators will be installed.  I was told that they said it would take seven months.  This was said a year ago.

But before we even get to the lack of elevators, remember that I'm on the wrong end of the train.

I think I have to stop and rest two times just to walk from one end of the platform to the other.

When I get to the stairs down to the Red Line I take a third rest.  I am, by now, drenched in sweat.

For most of the way there's a sturdy railing, this is good because going down stairs on crutches sucks.  I'm very slow and get in various peoples ways.

At the end of the stairs, though, something changes.  For the last few steps.  Just three or four of them between a landing and platform level, the railing ceases to be a good railing because it's no longer bolted to the fucking wall.

Thus I have to sit on my ass and slowly butt slide down the final stairs.  There's no one there right then, so I have a sort of mini-break.

It's not enough.  I don't even make it down the hall, drop to my knees at a hall intersection, the intersection makes it wider, so I hope that I won't be too much in the way.

Multiple trains let off people going between the Red Line and Orange Line.  Several of the people wonder if I need help, if I'm dying, if they should call emergency services on my behalf, and so forth.

I eventually reach the Red Line just as a train leaves.

I don't remember if I got there in one trip or not.  It seems unlikely, but I don't remember stopping.

Anyway, I got to the good place to get on the train.

I was only on for one stop, but damn was it nice to be able to sit.  (I'd also been not-up while waiting for the train to come.)

~ ~ ~

Once I got off at South Station I walked to the wall opposite the tracks and collapsed.

I didn't quite stay there until the next train came, but it was close.

I remembered that south station did have elevators and actually used it to get to T-Loby level.

The elevator to ground level, however, is out of service.  Ish.

Now I was drenched in sweat before I even got on the train that brought me here, so as one might imagine I'm not exactly trying to add heat to myself.  My coat is sort of tied around my waist (the sleeves aren't quite long enough to make a decent knot) and definitely not keeping me warm.

Thus we come to the "ish".

I was fully willing to take the escalator.  The up escalator was shut down.  Not just shut down.  The only reason I remembered that South Station has elevators in the first place is because the up escalator from the platform was also shut down.  This one, however, is shut down and blocked off as if it is the scene of a nuclear waste spill.

So, the "ish".  There is an elevator to ground level.  It just isn't inside the station.  It lets you out outside of the building, and then you have to go through the death-cold to get back inside South Station.

Finding the elevator required enough energy that I had to drop to the ground and rest before using it.

Getting from the elevator back into the building required another period of rest.

It's a bit hazy until I sat at one of the tables and took off my bag for rest where I was sitting on an actual chair.

There were clocks.  I had time.  Seriously.  There was over an hour until my bus left.

And I was really fucking thirsty, and (having recovered from the outside's death cold) back to overheating.

When I was sufficiently rested I went over to the place next to the pink berry and got a strawberry banana smoothy, put as much weight on the counter as I could to take it off of my right leg which was, remember, doing all of the work.  Work that's more than normal. even before you take the fact that one leg is doing all of it into account, because you don't walk with crutches, you vault.

Smoothy comes and we have the difficult and strange hopping of someone who's only using one crutch, well using both crutches as if they're a single crutch, because they need a hand free to carry a smoothy.

I'm kind of surprised I actually made it back to the table and chair place.

Some brain freeze troubles, but otherwise the smoothy was very good and something that I needed.

The moment I decide to get up and go to the bus terminal, boarding is announced on track one.

South Station is in three sections.  Below ground, and at the front, is the T.  Red Line and Silver Line.  Above ground, and in the front to front-middle, is the waiting area of the long distance trains.  This is full of food places and . . . um, stuff.

Occupying the entire rest of the middle (which is definitely the biggest section) is an outdoor area where the long distance trains board.

At the back is the second building that makes up South Station: the bus terminal.

So to get from where I was to where I was going I had to go outside, for a fair distance, and here's the annoying part: there is no dedicated way to get from front South Station to back South Station.  Instead you walk down the boarding platform for track one.

If timing is right, that's not too much of a problem, but if you happen to have the misfortune of moving from one end to the other when track one is boarding . . . it's a hassle even when you can walk.

So I waited longer than planned, and even so I got in people's way because I was slow, and I had to take breaks (did I mention that the temperature was death-cold?), and more people enquired as to my well being or lack thereof.

Once I got inside the bus terminal the first thing I did was take another break.  The windows have sills that are perfect for sitting on.

The elevator here did work, so that's what I did once I could.

That only gets you one floor, though, and you need to to go two.

Nice stone bench for a break in between the two elevators.

Up the next one, still haven't missed my bus, go to where the buses are, have a sort of mini standing-break at the entrance, and then get to where my bus is in, I think, one push.  And promptly collapse because that's overdoing it.  I was in fact trying to begin the process of getting to the ground to sit.  But no one who saw could have mistaken what happened for intentional.

It was, however, a clean landing on hands and knees.

I should probably mention something about my right hand at this point though.  Before the concert I slipped on black ice (it hurts pedestrians too) in a Subway (sandwich place) parking lot.  Landed on my hands.  The thumb section of my right palm didn't like this, but it wasn't a big deal.

All of this crutching around, though, put a a lot of pressure on my hands, including the thumb section of my right palm.

It was a very unhappy hand, is the point.

~ ~ ~

The bus ride home was largely uneventful, though Amazon did want me to know that I was running out of time to pre-order Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX (top of the wishlist) which . . . why would you remind someone of something like that?  Oh my god, come the 28th you'll be able to order-order it instead of pre-order it.  Woe is everyone if that should come to pass, buy now so you won't have to order-order!

And this is a source of minor annoyance because I thought that it came out February 28th when I put it on the wishlist.  Though, I would have put it there anyway.  I've always wanted to play Kingdom Hearts and that represents the the first six games worth of content.

I feel like there might have been other things of note on the bus, but none come to mind.

~ ~ ~

I was picked up by my dad.  From him I learned that there may be an animal in the house (beyond mice and such) that wasn't invited (but it could just as plausibly have been his eyes playing tricks on him) and that I had no oil.

As it would turn out, I did have oil.  But the house had been without heat for days.  It was cold.

When I made it down stairs (not an easy task) I discovered that the water was too low for the furnace to run, and the oil gauge was on empty.  I put in enough water, toggled the power on and off, and the thing started running.  The gauge has always been an approximation.

Of course at this point the house was really cold, I had no idea how much oil there was (no idea if it could heat the house or would burn through in a minute or two),  and . . . stuff.  I brought up an electric blanket and a blanket so heavy I haven't needed it since I've been forced by ankle to sleep up stairs, reheated my numb feet with a heating pad while the two blankets worked together to create a warm cocoon.

~ ~ ~

And that was my homecoming.

I think.

Other Stories, a Harry Potter Snippet

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]

[...] on the Harry Potter thing, if these things are being left to one group, it kind of implies that there are other things being done by other groups because it doesn't make sense for one grade to have all of the, "I must break the rules to do good things," people.

Something like:

* * *

Senior Ravenclaw: We're being watched.
Senior Slytherin: What? Wher-- Oh.
Senior Hufflepuff: We know you're there first years.
Senior Ravenclaw: It's really going to be easier if you just show yourselves.

*Harry, Ron and Hermoine come out from under the invisiblity cloak*

Senior Gryffindor: Please tell me the three of you aren't doing something stupid again.
Senior Slytherin: [to senior Gryff] That's no way to say, "Hello." [to heroes] What are you three doing out here?

Hermoine: We're going to the forbidden hallway to stop the Philosopher's Stone from being stolen. We think the thief might be trying to revive the dark lord.

Senior Ravenclaw: That's nice.
Senior Hufflepuff: Good luck with that.
Senior Slytherin: We're going to the secondary storage area to stop a love potion production operation.
Senior Ravenclaw: The tangled and twisted magic around the school makes it ideal for hiding illicit operations.
Senior Slytherin: If we weren't busy, we'd help you out with your dark lord problem.

Ron: (outraged) You think love potions are more important than-!-

Senior Ravenclaw: Even if the dark lord is resurrected it'll take time to rebuild his power base and become a threat.
Senior Hufflepuff: Time during which opposition to him can be built back up.
Senior Ravenclaw: The love potions are a problem right now.
Senior Slytherin: They ship at daybreak, every day, so if we waited another night after learning where they were operating we'd be insuring there are more victims.
Senior Gryffindor: That's not an option.

Harry: But we're talking about--
Hermoine: Actually, I'm with them on this. Love potions are evil.

*two groups start to go separate ways*

Senior Slytherin: Good luck, see you all at the final feast.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


I can move water from the bedroom to the kitchen and back because of conveniently placed counters, chairs, tables, and other such things.  Set it down.  Crutch to midpoint.  Pick it up, move it in front of me, set it down, we're back at the beginning.

I can't move a cup of water from the kitchen to the living room unless I'm willing to forget about standing and crutches, and drop to my knees or crawl.

I can't cook.  I can't clean.  I can't ... I can't ... I can't.

I fucking can't.

I can't wash my clothes.  I can shower, but only just.

I had to have a child carry my laptop into this room because I can't.

I've been feeling so god damned useless and helpless, but it's necessary to heal and all that.

And I was at least succeeding in taking care of my injury.


I don't remember what I was getting up to do.  The pain erased any sense of that.  Maybe I didn't even know at the time.  It could have been an impulsive thing.

I got up and took two steps.  One step is fine.  Step, put weight on something else, step, and so forth is how one moves in this condition.

Two steps is very, very bad.

If I'm wearing the air cast, I can put less than half my weight on my left foot.

A second step means I put all of my fucking weight on my left foot. (I wasn't wearing the air cast.)

It's been over half an hour.  Pain still lingers.

I only had one thing to do.  Just take care of the injury.

I just fucked that up.

And it hurts.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Ash: Questions

This is basically the climax of the story, don't read if you don't want it spoiled.
[Totally not a final version, will probably be completely reworked.]
[Context: First installment of Ash is here.  There was a school dance where the theme was a masquerade, some of the students getting into it enough that their identities were well and truly concealed.  At her sister's prompting, Ash, a closeted trans girl, went as a girl and not the boy she presents as.  Ash ended up losing her good luck charm (her deceased mother's MP3 player) and this scene is after Ash has convinced Zee, the girl she was dancing with, that it really is her MP3 player.]

- - -

"The dance was . . . magical; it was like a fantasy," Ash said. "But that's over, everything has collapsed back into reality.  Your mystery girl was just a dream; I'm all that's left.  Sorry.  I know it sucks.

"Now can I please have my mother's MP3 player back."

"I have questions," Zee said.

"You're going to hold the MP3 player hostage--" Ash didn't get a chance to finish.

"No!" Zee said as she shoved the MP3 player into Ash's hand.  "Of course not.  Take it."

Ash brought the MP3 player to her chest and said said, "mom" so softly she wasn't sure it was out loud.  The one connection to the only parent that might have loved her was back.  It was with her again.

Ash's attention returned to Zee and found her in the middle of a sentence.  ". . . still have questions but I'd never force you to do anything.  I'd like to think you know me better than that."

"Lot of stress," Ash mumbled.  "Ask and get it over with."

"At the dance, were you trying to trick--"

"You asked me to dance."

"I felt like I knew you," Zee said.

"You did."

"Apparently not as well as I thought."

"That's nice."

"Do you like me?"

"Thought that was what friendship was about."

"Don't make me go contrastive focus reduplication on you."

"We covered this already," Ash said, anger flaring for no comprehensible reason.  "Yes, I do, and for a while I got to pretend there was a chance of something coming from it.  But pretend time ended, so what does it matter?"

"It matters," Zee said as inched closer.  "Next question, are you a boy or a girl?"


"So we've ruled out non-binary options," Zee said.  Ash was mildly surprised she knew such things existed, and barely noticed that Zee inched forward again.  "Are you a girl?"

Zee had most definitely invaded Ash's personal space.  They were so close now, and she was looking right in Ash's eyes.

Ash knew the smart thing would be to lie.  Instead she admitted, "Yes," in a way that sounded as defeated as she felt.  Her only friend would reject her now.  Things could get bad going forward.

"Last question," Zee said, "will you go out with me?"

The "What?" was produced without any real thought on Ash's part.

"You know, a date.  We go somewhere together and do something and if we're lucky there might be kissing involved."

"But you're . . ."

"And you're a girl," Zee said.  "We covered that."

Ash's first thought was shot down and became flaming wreckage in her mind.  Zee wouldn't try to trick her.  But it was still impossible to believe.  "You're serious?"

"Of course I am," Zee said.  "Just come as the real you, no pretending to be a boy."

"Pretending to be a boy is safe."

"Then we can be careful," Zee said.  "Go out of the way to avoid people we know, stick to less well lit places, stuff like that.

"What kinds of movies do you like?" Zee asked.

"Fun, explosions, hope," Ash said.

Zee seemed to think that over for a bit and then said, "There's nothing good in theaters right now, but I've got Fury Road on disk and a big screen TV."

"LED or LCD?"


"And you wonder why everyone thinks of you as some rich kid."

"I don't wonder about it," Zee said, "I just wish they didn't think it was my defining quality"

The conversation lagged.

"You know, you haven't actually answered me yet." Zee said.

Ash closed the small distance between them, hugged Zee, and said, "Yes.  So very much yes."

- - -

Or something like that, not satisfied with it.

Imported Comment: Weapon Durrability mechanics, and inability to pick up weaponizable things, in Zombie games

[Originally posted as a comment at Ana Mardolls.]

Random pet peeve:

It makes a certain amount of sense that fighting zombies with a stick would eventually break the stick. The number of hits you get out of a cast iron pipe, on the other hand, is positively absurd. Unless the zombies are made of stronger stuff and you're hitting with more force than a human being can muster.

The absurdity is raised to ludicrousness when a metal ax breaks in like five hits. We're talking about something that is designed to be smashed into solid wood enough times to cut down many trees, often for years on end, before a wood handle would break, and this one has a stronger handle than that. Yet five hits to something significantly softer than wood and it's kaput.

[Added] I meant to mention the machette too. I stab people with it, meaning it's under minimal stress as it's encountering only soft tissue that it easily moves through. Four stabs and it breaks for no apparent reason. [/added]

I understand that weapon degradation is gameplay mechanic, just like slapping an alcohol disinfected bandage wouldn't really cure you from being repeatedly shot, but the thing is that instant-absurd-heal medkits are there to make the game possible. Otherwise you'd be dead before you reached the plot. We let it fly because they help us, as players, actually play the game.

The sturdy looking ax that's apparently made out of aluminum foil is not a necessary break from realism. The game would be just as possible if the only weapons that broke are ones that realistically would, and, in fact, we know that the game takes place in a world where weapons can be more durable than reality given the magical jam-proof guns that would, realistically, break down way faster than a cast iron pipe.

But I haven't even reached the height of pet-peeve yet. If I'm playing a game where I have to replace my melee weapons every two seconds because they're composed of paper mache, don't fucking send me to a place with pool cues that I can't pick up. Those things aren't very durable at all*, but they'd do better work than my cast iron pipe that was somehow imported from a Wile E Coyote cartoon where it had been manufactured by Acme and even if they didn't, they'd at least be multiple "breathe on it and it disintegrates" weapons that I could use on the clickers.

And this isn't even getting into the fact that while I can throw bottles and bricks, two things whose shape demonstrates they were never intended to be thrown, but I can't pick up the pool balls which are shaped exactly how we design things that are meant to be thrown.

First zombie game I make, the main character's primary ranged weapon is going to be a sling that's sized for pool balls.

When the conquistadors came the natives had them matched in firepower partially because the guns at the time sucked, but equally because their sling stones (actually made of clay) were manufactured to all be the same weight and shape allowing for much more control than using found objects. That's why the deciding factor was swords. (Wooden swords with obsidian blades are absolutely devastating to a person they're used on, but they can't survive a hit from a metal sword.)

Long range, the character will have to use a gun, but mid range the pool ball sling should be highly effective, no have a limited ammo problem because of ball retrieval, and have refills to replace lost balls pretty much anywhere in America that someone didn't have the same idea.

But this is beside the point, which is this:

If I'm fighting with found sticks, don't show me piles of found sticks that I can't pick up for fighting purposes.



* The typical pool cue is made of hardrock maple.  Way stronger than the sticks the game does let you fight with, but not nearly so strong as a cast iron pipe.

Communal cues are usually one piece affairs making them slightly longer than a Japanese  jō, I'm told the Chinese weapon that's mostly equivalent is called a bang, but I can only find one source so I'm not entirely convinced.  I have difficulty believing that there isn't a western weapon made out of about that length of wood, but I can't find one.

Two part cues would be even more durable.  Simply put, the longer something is, the easier it is to break.  Separating the cue would also lend itself to an interesting fighting style.  The butt end of a cue would essentially become a club, while the striking end would be able to be used as a lighter faster weapon.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Time for another update

As of yesterday I have a foot again.  I've got an air-cast, but I can take my foot out of it, have a look, verify that it exists, and even take a shower.  In theory on that last point.  I'll need to look around for a good waterproof thing to rest a knee on while in the shower.  What I did yesterday wasn't really a shower, but it did make me the cleanest I've been in ages.  (I fail sponge bathing forever.  Apparently that's not uncommon.)

Here's the bad news: It's going to be at least four weeks before I can return to my hormones.  That's also when they said I'd be able to walk again if things went well.  I suspect the two are related.

So that will leave me in this pseudo-depressed state for a while yet to come.

Other good news, the bills I was stressed about: not going to be a problem.  In fact I should be able to make significant progress on paying down my debt and cover those bills.

I lost another hat,  not sure if it was on the bus or the T.  I left one of my shoes in a different state (not lost, there was just complexity and confusion).  I had been hoping to wear it rather than the air cast when lightness was more beneficial than rigidity.

Sticking with shoes, I'm going to need new ones.  A couple of times on the journey my right sole tried to tear itself off of my shoe.


My foot still needs elevation, but I'll be returning to the fictional worlds of a more upright nature as well.  It's why I removed Dishonored II from the PS4 list and stuck the PC version on a new list that also has Breath of the Wild* because being able to be upright means both using PC games and that my Wii-U is no longer a non-entity.  Right now my only game for the Wii-U it is Splatoon.


I don 't know what to say if someone wants to help.  Donations will always help until I'm totally out of debt, but right now I'm not in immediate need.

The really nice thing about the wishlists, and before that when I got a gift certificate for socks, is that it's about luxuries I'd never get myself.  If one looks at, which the gift certificate was for, those are better socks than I'd ever buy myself with my money.  I've wanted playstation only games since before anyone was even thinking about the eventual possibility of a PS4, but I'd never have bought myself a playstation console, and the games themselves are more expensive than I'd allow myself to pay even though I really do want to play Kingdom Hearts, for example.

That's the fun thing, about non-monetary gifts I guess.  If you give me money then I'll spend it on something I can justify to myself a reasonable expenditure.  If you get me something then it might be better than I'd ever get myself.  Thus the possibility of Breath of the Wild, or Kingdom Hearts, or a 3DS.


I do kind of wish I had some good way to have help buying shoes.  Ideally I tend to want durrable things that are somewhere between hiking shoes and hiking boots.  They're good shoes for all occasions.  How someone could help on that count I know not.


* A couple of people on the greater Slacktiverse have played Breath of the Wild and It sounds like the kind of game I've long wanted and would love.  Also I think there's some rule about needing to play Zelda at some point in your life, and I never have (stuck a couple other Zelda things on the new list.)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What am I? [summary of past events, then bare bones dialog only exchange] (Zombie Apocalypse)

Notes and context up front:

So I have this forming idea for a complex zombie apocalypse setting with many protagonists whose paths cross at various times and places and . . . stuff.  This is a world that isn't the same as my pre-existing zombie fics, it probably will include someone on crutches as one of the protagonists.

As I mentioned at one point elsewhere, I totally get the desire to have a cute redhead with freckles in her early teens in your zombie apocalypse fiction, and the older character here, currently just called "Older", is my shot at that.

The younger character, currently just called "Younger", I don't have demographics worked out for at all.  She's a trans girl.  When she was orphaned in the earlier days of the zombie apocalypse she realized that no one was there to force her to pretend to be a boy.  She met her first companion at a pharmacy where the pharmacist was doing the difficult task of staying open until there were no drugs left to give out to those that needed them.

The pharmacist, not an actual doctor, worked out her treatment plan.

The companion met was an college age cis male who showed up to get as many depression meds as possible so that the inevitable return to deep depression could be put off.

Younger was on hormones by the time companion switch happened.  What happened is that Younger and original companion could see that bad people were flanking Older, and would kill her, but only Younger could make the climb necessary to reach Older first and warn her.  Original companion was able to lead some of the bad people away allowing Younger and Older to escape together, but as they fled in a different direction from original companion, they never met back up with original companion.

At this time Younger passed as cis, and never mentioned being trans.  Older knew that younger needs to loot pharmacies to keep medicate, and knew that whatever younger gets there isn't something most looters take, but was unaware that Younger was trans until traumatic event that comes right before the exchange below.

I haven't figured out what it is, though.  I definitely don't want it to be a rape attempt, but whatever it is leaves younger exposed at least from the waist down.  Actually, thinking about it, maybe the people who captured Younger just routinely confiscate prisoners clothes as part of prisoner processing, the better to make sure that there are no hidden weapons or tools.

Anyway, Older comes to the rescue, and the two together fight off the people responsible for traumatic event, Younger gets re-clothed, and the two leave.  Older is left concerned, and the conversation starts when Older is absolutely sure they're in a safe place.

* * *

Older: "Are you alright?"

Younger: "I'm not injured."

Older: "That's not what I meant."

Younger: "Oh."

Older: "You didn't defend yourself at all, you only started fighting when I was in danger."

Younger: "Uh huh."

Older: "What's wrong?"

Younger: "I just--" *turns away*  "It's . . ." *leans on wall* "They're right." *slides down wall*

Older: "About what?  They tried to kill us."

*Younger hugs knees into chest*

Younger: "I'm a freak."

*Older crouches down to look Younger in the eyes*

Older: "You're not a freak."

Younger: "Then what am I!?"

Older: "You're my sister."

*Younger awkwardly lunges forward and hugs Older*

Monthly Finance Post

Apparently I haven't done one of these since November.  Not exactly the best at keeping things monthly.

That said, I've been airing my problems in other places so I'm sure you've all had your fill, more than your fill really, of my financial problems regardless.

In general I'm still getting less than I need each month to the point that I can't build up savings to pay for the non-monthly expenses, and even when donations would allow me to start building I'm trying to pay down my debt which is the only smart thing to do long term but makes it so that short and mid term still have the same problem of not being able to pay for non-monthly expenses.

Basically I'm operating as if I'm going to make it through the current tough times, without actually having a clear way to do it.  If I'm still here in a month, six months, a year, so forth, then I'll be glad I've been paying down the debt.  I'm not entirely sure how I'll manage to still be here.

That's generally.

Specifically I've needed to do something I'd never normally do: subsist on a lot of delivery.  That shit's expensive.  No real choice though.  I needed food where the preparation was entirely done for me.

So it should come as no surprise that I'm unprepared to pay the insurance on the house which is due on the 20th.

It gets worse when I add in that last month I wasn't exactly on top of things (something about breaking my fucking ankle in three places midway through the month) and I have to pay for the fallout from that this month.

In another post I worked out that these things together should be $474.58 or thereabouts.  Now I actually do have the money to pay for a solid one half of that (from patreon), but I can't get to it right now (it's a security thing) and I'm not completely sure that I will be able to before I need to pay the money.


So, here are numbers:

This month I need: $474.58

The single debt that it would be best to pay off in terms of getting rid of high interest: $1,359.47

The single debt that it would be easiest to pay off to get rid of a monthly payment: $473.64

Number of things that will eventually come around to bite me because they have defered interest that will be retroactively applied if not paid off in full in time: 3


There's also the question of what I'm doing while I wait to heal.  At the moment I'm still in a state of "must elevate ankle" but I'm hoping that will end (though I don't even get to try to walk for another four weeks regardless).  I meet with the surgeon for the follow up tomorrow.  I'm also hopeful that I can get back on my hormones because my moods fucked all to hell.

It's sort of like . . . depression lite.

Why am I talking about this in a finance post?  I'm really, really, really not in a position to buy any new games.  So if someone wanted to do something nice that involved money, but wasn't a direct donation, the option of buying me a game exists.  Hence the wishlists (linked to below.)

Right now I'm spending a lot of time on the floor with my foot on a chair playing games.  I'm currently playing through the Uncharted series (thank you Firedrake) and playing Dragon Quest Builders (thank you Ana.)

I would very much like to be able to add Kingdom Hearts to that list (the two things on the wishlist have 9ish games between them, ish because only six are playable with three being movie-type-things.)

Also, once I'm able to be upright for extended periods (sitting counts) I can use the only console I ever owned before this ordeal, which I often forget about because I've got all of one game for it (though I do highly recommend Splatoon), my Wii-U.

After reading genesistrine write about playing Breath of the Wild I really want to play that, it sounds like it was made to appeal to me, so I made a new wishlist and slapped it on that.  The idea for the new wishlist is things I can do once I'm no longer in "elevate to the exclusion of all else" territory.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Health Regeneration

[This comes from the idea of making in-universe sense of things in video games, think of it like Tutorial but on a different topic.  Also in a different setting.]

You're not human, that's what's going to get you through this, assuming you actually do survive.  Wounds that would take a human being months or years to recover from are things you can heal your way out of in under a minute.

All you need to do is get your body into a state of rest, that includes no longer being shot, stabbed, punched, burned, fried, functioning as an electrical resistor, crushed, impaled--

Just what the fuck do you think is going to happen to me?

You want to do great justice or some other naive bullshit like that, I expect you to be subjected to everything short of a meat grinder.

Somehow I doubt I'll be run through a meat grinder.

I said everything short of that.  Anyway, get your body in a state of rest and count to thirty at a pace somewhere between languorous and ordinary.  That should get you back to normal.  But have like a backpack of extra clothes or something because they won't magically heal.

Thank you fashion consulting.  I'm not planning on being shot stabbed and sliced so very much that the bullet holes, punctures, and incisions in my clothing make me indecent.

You're so damned naive.

So I just wait a bit?  I'm supposed to trust my survival to my ability to be a stopwatch.

One of the few areas where you're in luck.  You're not human but you are human enough that your eyes aren't like mine.

And this helps how?

The closer you come to death, the more the spirit world will become visible to you.  When you're at death's door it'll be so overpowering you'll see only it.  As you heal it will recede and you'll see the mundane world unhindered again.

I repeat: and this helps how?  I thought the spirit world had the same architecture.  Unless there's a convenient ghost right in front of me--

Only your rods are capable of perceiving the spirit world, half-breed.  For some reason they have an easier time with it and your eyes are too human for your cones to see the spirit world.

So the spirit world is black and white, like I'd see in low light.

No, it's full of vibrant colors some of which you're incapable of even imagining.  You can only see it in black and white.  Just remember that when the colors fade you're not well, when they go away you're near death, and when they're back to normal you're fully healed.

What if I get shot in my eyes?

Wear goggles or something if you're so concerned.

What are the limits on this healing?  If I lose an arm--

Then pick it up, wait for a calm moment, and sew it back on.

If I get shot in the head?

Try not to.

But if I do?

If you do, and you remain conscious long enough to escape and heal, then you're in luck.  Your soul is tied to your body much more tightly than a human's.  It'll be able to tell your brain how to heal properly.  A human with brain damage usually doesn't get access to how they were before until after they're dead and their brain no longer mediates between their soul and their consciousness.

Hellfire and Angelfire?

Pack a medkit.  If you patch yourself up, the healing will take over as if the wounds were mundane.  If you don't patch the holes, you risk bleeding out the same as a human with an ordinary wound.

My odds of success?

It would take a miracle, and half breeds like you aren't in the good graces of any of the powers capable of granting one of those.

So why the advice?

Some people, ones with incredible willpower and the stupidity to put themselves in situations where there's no hope of winning can make their own luck and change the odds.

You don't think highly enough of me for that to be a factor in your thinking.

There is a chance, however slim, that you will survive.  That chance wouldn't exist if I didn't give you a basic primer on your biology.  So, when you end up dead having failed to accomplish anything, I can keep my conscience clear by reminding myself that I gave you that chance.

If, on the other hand, I didn't give you that chance, then I would always have a nagging doubt that maybe you would have survived if I'd given you the chance to do so.

That does sound more like you.


And that shifted characterization between beginning and end.  When I first had this thought it started with "You're not human, that's what's going to get you through this" and the faith of that (you will get through this) was a key part, as was a genuine desire on bold's part to help Italic survive.

Took a sharp turn at "My odds of success?"  Not sure why it did.

And I could just cut that section off and have it be an in-universe explanation for the health regeneration that signifies damage by desaturating the world and healing by letting the colors return.

Not sure which version of the characters I like more, Bold with faith that given the right information Italic can survive, or Bold pretty much sure that Italic is going to die, and only doing it so Bold can have a clear conscience when Italic is inevitably a corpse.

The original idea probably ends right before "Hellfire and Angelfire?" but I was thinking of a semi-divine explanation for why Italic isn't human and thus can regenerate health so the question did flow from the premise in my head.

Apparently my name is famous in court rooms

[This was written on the night of the 13th but I decided to schedule it for the morning of the 14th.]
[If you care about such concerns, you're welcome.  If you don't, ignore this.]

My sister called me up to tell me about another day in court.  She usually doesn't.

The reason she called me up after this particular day in court was that she was asked, "Do you have a brother?"

Apparently she was nice about it.  She says she said, "No.  I used to, but I have a sister now."

My existence confirmed she was asked if I had a blog.  If the blog was Stealing Commas.  So far she knows the answers.

And then the point was reached.  Did she know that there was a poem about the incident?

Nope.  She didn't.

Somebody did.

Looking back at the poem, I got a lot of details wrong.  Since going public in any kind of detail wasn't going to happen any time soon back then, there wasn't a lot of clarification going on and I misunderstood some things.  But the thing about the poem is that it wasn't supposed to be a point-by-point accurate-to-the-molecule retelling of what happened when I wasn't there.

It was instead a telling of my experience when I was there of trying to understand what my sister's family was going through, thinking I did, and finally realizing that I didn't.

It would be dishonest to go back and change the details I got wrong, because the poem is talking about what I believed, mistakes and all, at the time.  To change it to match things I've learned since then would be dishonest.  I misunderstood some things the first time I heard them.  That's the honest truth.

~ ~ ~

It is believed by individuals in some quarters that the Moons are reading Stealing Commas.  I'm not sure how to feel about that, if it is indeed correct.  On the one hand, I love readers.  On the other . . . it's the Moons.

Ten years ago I'd be happy to have them.  Stealing Commas didn't exist ten years ago, though.  A lot has happened since then, and when it comes to what the Moons have done, much of the stuff that has happened has been bad.

~ ~ ~

Anyway, my poetry has been cited in a court case, I guess that means I hit the big time or some such.

Monday, March 13, 2017

General Update

Primary computer is home again, I'm writing on it now, but since I'm still supposed to be keeping my left foot above my heart I'm mostly sticking to the gaming console because it's downright hard to use a laptop while supine and with primary computer there's also the fact that it's heavy.  If it slipped and fell on my head it would hurt.

I'll get a better idea of what the future looks like on the coming Thursday.  I won't be able to walk, but if I'm lucky they'll tell me I can stop worrying so much about foot elevation and if I'm very lucky they'll let me back on my hormones so my brain won't be fucky on account of being off of them.

Would be nice to have a clear head, a lack of tired, and an ability to contact my muse.  I could write stuff.  That would be good.

I'm still subsisting on delivery food because . . . you try cooking with your foot above your heart.  Unless you're a figure skater, then you probably do have that kind of flexibility and control.  Delivery food is still expensive.


Property insurance is due on the 20th.  *pause while I look around* I seem to misplaced the thing that says how much it is.  Usually around $250 I think.  Or $270?  *does a search* It was $272 once.  That's probably a good bet.

I've kind of been focused on other things.  Sometimes to the point of using money on them that would normally go to bills.  Hell, I think I had to pay more than half that to get primary computer backed up which they didn't fucking do properly, but I'll get back to that.

I haven't been the most on top of things so there have been late fees and a few utility bills that didn't get paid last month and so rolled over into this month.  It works out to $202.58 more than I have.  Sort of.  Maybe.

I've got more than $200 (but definitely not $474.58) from two months of patreon but I haven't been the most on top of things, like I said, and I don't know if I'll be able to get the money to me in a form I can use to pay bills before the bills are due since I basically started the process of getting the money . . . two minutes ago, and the first thing it does when you screw with those settings is put a hold on withdrawals as a security precaution.  The hold isn't excessively long, but neither is the amount of time I have before bills are due.

I think that's all of the money stuff, so we can go back to other stuff.


My sister's life is an unending catastrophe these days and given that my parents aren't exactly sympathetic (they excuse their actions based on the stress they've been put under without ever seeming to realize that my sister is under way more stress than they are since she's the one being fucked over) I get hit by the exhaust more than somewhat when our worlds intersect.  She can't keep it all bottled up, I get that, and so I understand that she has to vent, but it isn't pleasant.

Nor is the fact that my parents vent at me about her.


I've played Gravity Rush and The Last of Us (including the Left Behind DLC) all the way through, and I'll have stuff to say about that, mostly The Last of Us, as soon as I'm not so fucking tried and mood-screwed.  Which, unfortunately, might mean, "At some point when I've returned to my hormones and they've had time to build up to appropriate levels in my body," whenever the fuck that might be.

With Gravity Rush having been played I think the only thing left on my "I've wanted to play this for years, but haven't been able to because I've never had a console" list is the Kingdom Hearts series, which I've been interested in for so God damned long I don't even remember what kicked off the interest.  I just remember it kept coming up, and I kept thinking I'd like to play it, and I kept finding out, "Nope, not on PC."

Unfortunately, the console that I have it on won't have the early games until March 28th, I honestly thought when I added that to the wishlist that it said Februrary 28th.

Regardless, significant progress on the "Actually play the games I've pined for" front.


Regarding this computer, the fucked up story of it's repair is something I'm going to have to spend a whole post on, but the salient point for now is that the drive that the computer is actually supposed to run off of was completely ignored.  So it's working, but it's not working the way it's supposed to be working, and that'll really show up once I actually have more than an email client and internet browser installed on here.

Unfortunately this can't be fixed remotely.  I have to bring it back to the store which is ordinarily no problem but I'm not walking with a broken ankle so I have to get into the logistical nightmare that is my family.

The short version of what happened is that they pretended the fast drive didn't exist and so put the stuff that needs to go fast on the slow drive.


I haven't made ficition in I don't even know how long, and that seriously makes me want to cry.  Well, it makes some part of me want to cry because I can feel my body being all "I should cry now" but the truth is that it seldom succeeds when it attempts that and I doubt it will this time.


I think my stitches itch but I don't know for sure because I've had two glimpses of my foot (other than the toes, which stick out) in the past three and a half weeks.  I can't even confirm for sure where the stitches are.


I feel like existing is exhausting and I should just lay down and let darkness take me.


Thursday isn't just when I'll meet with the foot surgeon and get orders going forward which will let me know if I'm still a dual citizen of foot elevation land and no hormone land.

It's also when a brief but important period will start during which I'll have someone, with working feet, helping me do the whole "eat, drink, stay alive" thing.  That'll, hopefully, be a welcome change.


I feel like I don't matter anymore.  I'm a storyteller, if I've lost the ability to tell stories (and I have, hopefully only temporarily) what's left?


I'm sure I'm forgetting stuff.