Thursday, December 7, 2017

Emergency early finance post OR Oh my fucking God, I need heating oil now!

The good news: I am not, at this present second, out of heating oil.  The bad news: I'm close enough to out of heating oil that I could be by the end of the day and my sister thought I was out yesterday because the gauge is that close to empty.

This is, of course, a horrible time to buy heating oil, but one might recall that for the past several months I've been in an utter panic about one protracted financial disaster that wasn't heating oil related.

In fact, in the document where I keep track of my finances, heating oil has been listed under "Sword of Damocles" for some months now.  Before this particular cycle of financial panic, there had never been a "Sword of Damocles" category.

If I want to fill the tank it'll be around $469.80 depending on the fluctuations between now and when it's filled and also how much (really how little) is left in the tank.  It's a two hundred gallon tank, so if I wanted to get a hundred gallons and hope for the best when it runs low again it'd be half that.  150 gallons is my usual order, which would be three quarters that.

In addition to heating oil, the insurance (which you may recall I lost track of when it was due) has finally come up.  Sort of.  I totally forgot to take into account the fact that when I'm paying something by giving cash to someone else it means that the two of us need to be in the same place at the same time.  As such I kind of need it circa ten days early.  So before the tenth.  So right fucking now.  That's usually $288 but it's lower for some reason, (maybe the property depreciated?) so it's $27[?] with the [?] there because this computer has a habit of crashing when I would really rather it not.

As, for example, right after I finished typing the last sentence.  Because apparently it has a sense of drama.

Oh, and this is also a horrible time to buy a bus ticket, so I could really use $20 to $30 dollars there.  In a real hurry.

So, that's anywhere from around $540 to around $777.  Yay.

I said, I'm pretty sure, that oil and property insurance were the last things before I was officially through the protracted financial catastrophe and out on the other side, but I never really ran the numbers on them, and thus never quite had an adequate sense of continued panic.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Computer Update

When I sent out my computer it was with four concerns two of which definitely required replacement parts (cheap easy to replace ones), one of which probably did, and one of which was entirely unknown.

That was 15 days ago.  They said it would probably take two weeks and, in fairness, it usually does.

Them giving updates leads to some questions (like: how the fuck did it take you three whole days just to get it out of the box it was shipped in?  You people picked the box and packed it yourself; why not do it in such a way you can unpack it without calling in the jaws of life!?) and awareness that the way the log information is odd (when they discover something which causes them to do something, they log doing the thing some fifteen to twenty minutes before logging the discovery that prompted the doing) as well as some frustration.

They knew, abso-fuckingly-lutely sure, that two parts needed to be replaced before they even received the damned thing.  Why, then, wait a week to put in the order for parts?  Better still, why does deciding to get parts which they have on hand stop all work on the machine and knock it back to the wrong end of the queue?

"Good news, we already had the parts that we needed to keep on working and it only took half an hour for them to get from storage to where they can be used to complete your repair.  It's all set up and ready to be fixed now, don't you worry.


"By the way, everyone working on fixing your machine has been indefinitely reassigned and it'll take us two days to find someone new to work on it.  Have fun!"

Since when is the appropriate response to, "We'll have to wait half an hour," "Let's take two days off!"?

In fairness, again, of the 15 days my computer has been gone, they've actually been nominally trying to fix it for . . . almost four hours.  by their own accounting.  I have no proof that they were actually working for all of the time they say they were working, but I'm trusting, so they get the benefit of the doubt.

Also to lend fairness, they did eventually notice a part that they didn't have in stock, and for the past 4 days they've been waiting for it.  That's time when they, at least theoretically, couldn't work on the computer.  There was also the time it took to actually reach the service center.  So of the 15 days my computer has been gone, the service center has only been "working" on it for six days.

That works out to a whole 40 minutes of work put in per day.

Truly I feel that they are working hard to fix my machine.

~ ~ ~

This computer needs to be tethered.  I think that it's lost the ability to interact with the battery, but it could be that the internals are ok and the battery is just so fucking dead that it registers as not even being a battery.  Part of me wants to try replacing the battery even though I don't really have money to spend on such a thing, but:
a) That might not accomplish anything if it really is the computer, not the battery, that's the problem, and:
b) This computer is slow as all fuck.

If I have several tabs open in chrome then the computer turns into a slide projector.  It's really, really frustrating.

I can't do much of anything interesting, which you would think might spur on my lagging creativity, but the tethered thing keeps me basically tied to the chair.  I can go as far as the floor in front of the chair, but unless I'm willing to leave the computer entirely that's the limit.

It's often the case that I'm not willing to leave the computer entirely or I am willing, but the creative thing in question demands I be able to use a computer.  (A lot of my ideas require me to be able to do a quick internet search from time to time, for example.)

As a result I've been literally sedentary.  ("Sedent" means "Sitting".)

I have a better (ish) computer that I can use, but it has its own problems that lead to its own unpredictable no-time-to-save crashes.  At the moment that's a bigger frustration than being tethered and having everything be slow as fuck.

Anyway, my energy drains away as much as my creativity already has and everything seems to just become a mass of hopelessness.

Though, on the bright side, someone used my Amazon wishlist to get me an awesome blue lego dragon, which I have put together.  When the Lego Elves line started releasing dragons I allowed myself the indulgence of getting the orange one, so all I need to do is dig that up and the two can play.

So that's where things stand.

Figured an update was in order.

Signing out.

Monday, November 27, 2017

A new Amazon wishlist

So it is becoming increasingly apparent that at some point in the near future I will require those things that hang under hanging plants to stop the water from drenching whatever the plant is hanging over, on account of the one that I end up facing every day being on the verge of tearing itself apart and spilling planty water everywhere.

These things are apparently known as "Hanging Basket Drip Pan"s.

And I remembered that I had an Amazon wishlist or six.

I'd actually been thinking about making use of this fact to see if anyone felt like getting me books related to surreal numbers.  So I cleaned up some things, ignored the festering mess in others, and made it so that anyone who wants to can get me the hanging basket drip pans I need.

I present a new, simple, wishlist.  On it you will find:

Things to contain plant water, Lego Elves, surreal numbers, Sappho, PS4 games moved from the (now-deleted) list I made when I was on my back --with my broken foot elevated-- and using a controller was the only thing that separated me from death via boredom, one Wii U game and . . . that covers it.

Lots of Lego Elves.  It's said that people should have goals.  I don't know who says it, but I've heard it said that it is said.  I have many, but here's one I don't think I've put on Stealing Commas yet: I want to have so many Legos that I can follow the directions and make massive original creations of the basement filling scale seen in The Lego Movie.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Computer failure

I'm currently backing up primary computer because it has lost the will to wireless.  It assures me that there is nothing wrong with its ability to wireless.  It says the wireless is merely turned off and that explains all problems.  As for why the wireless capability can't turn on and attempting to do it will get a couple seconds of, "I'm totally turning on now," followed by inexplicably turned off again . . . the computer directs me to the internet.  Which it doesn't get.

So wonder and merriment there.  I was going to have to take it in anyway.  Seemingly cosmetic damage to the case has proven to be more insidious by making it so the cord won't stay in unless everything is just so, leading to running out of battery when I thought I was running off of the cord.

It's been running hot, which is never good for a computer.

When they fixed it last time they forgot that the operating system was on a solid state drive.  They forgot that the drive existed entirely, which led to a period when I thought (and they thought) they stole it.  Though they called it disposing of a non-covered part even though the fact that the computer had and OS SSD was in the computer's fucking name that showed up on all documentation and . . .

Might be getting a bit carried away there.  I was actually using this computer at the time.  When I booted it up I found a conversation in which I was talking about how I was taking to the Kingdom Hearts series, which I got into playing because it's really hard to be laying on your back with your thrice broken foot elevated while computer gaming, but that set up is fucking ideal for a console and controller.  Thus, for the first time in my life, I had a console and controller, thus, for the first time in my life, I could play Kingdom Hearts.

There's a reason I haven't used this computer since then.  It's someone else's castoff, it has more or less zero power, and as far as it is concerned it has no battery.  Even the most momentary interruption in the corded power supply and it dies.  Plus, the "zero power" thing means it's slow as fuck.

Anyway, primary computer is not functioning as primary computer.  I'm backing it up.  Then I shall take it away and either:
a) Have it sent away to be maybe-fixed, or
b) Be given the money I paid for it in store credit which, somehow, never seems to be enough to pay for a replacement, and also requires me to buy a new warranty.

Until I have a primary computer, posting will likely be spotty.

~ ~ ~

Normally today would be finances day.  Key points:

  • I will make it through the month
  • It is therefore the case that heating oil and property insurance (each can be expected to be between two and three hundred dollars) are the major financial hits left to cope with.
  • More detail forthcoming when I don't spend all day looking for some kind of computer-type-device that has an associated cord.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The trolley car problem

[Spoken by a professor to a class]

So we'll start out by considering an old standard.

There's a train.  There are people on the train.  Say a hundred, maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less.  Could be a hundred plus the square root of pi, could be ten.  The point is, train: people on it.

This train is about to go over a bridge on one of two tracks.  Track A.  The clouds part or light glints off the water in just the right way or . . . whatever, and you suddenly notice absolute and undeniable proof that Track A is borked.  Really borked.  Inescapably borked.  It is so borking borked that it might as well be Richard Nixon's first Supreme Court nominee of 1987.

If the train goes on Track A there will --not might, will-- be a catastrophic bridge failure killing any people on the train.  And remember there are people on the train.  About a hundred, or maybe it was ten, or eight point five.

Fortunately there's Track B which is supported by an entirely different truss.

And you, as contrived happenstance would have it, are at the ideal position to switch the train to Track B thus saving everyone one the train from completely certain death.

Unfortunately there are people standing on Track B.  The whole reason that the train is taking Track A is because Track B is closed for scheduled maintenance.  The very sort of maintenance that could have prevented this whole mess if it had been done to Track A.

At the moment Track B is fully functional, and structural tests have passed, so it can totally be used to safely transport the train.  However, since everyone knows that the train is taking Track A, the workers have been ignoring the telltale signs (notably sounds and vibrations) of an oncoming train.  The first thing they did when arriving was check that the rail was switched so the train would go on Track A and they did another check when they first noticed the train.

If you switch the track they will not be prepared and some of them will die.  How many?  However many are on the track.  One is good if there's ten people on the train, so by comparison ten is good if there are a hundred, but one works just as well.  Ten is not good if there are eight point five people on the train.  There are most definitely fewer people on Track B than there are on the train.

Notice, please, that all ideas about responsibility and accountability and such are shoved to the side.  The bridge inspector is not in this hypothetical, neither is whoever put you at the right place to switch the track without consultation.  Are you here because of coincidence, providence, because it's your job to decide who lives and who dies in such unlikely scenarios?  Don't know.  Don't care.

The point is that you have a choice to make.  You didn't notice until it was too late to get anyone's attention, and even if you did the workers won't have time to get out of the way and the train definitely won't have time to stop.  Switch the track or don't switch the track.  That is the whole of your universe because other options, numerous though they would intuitively seem to be, do not exist.

The question, therefore, is this:

In the next ten minutes, how many problems can you spot in this bullshit scenario?  How many holes can you poke in the set up?  How many ways can you take down the entire concept of bringing this up in a scathing screed?

Get into small groups, no more than five, talk amoungst yourselves, and see what develops.  Feel free to be creative, some variations on this hypothetical involve shooting people with a train so it's not like liberties haven't been taken before.

This is your very first assignment, welcome to Ethical Philosophy 101, do not confuse it with The Philosophy of Ethics 101 which is down the hall and to the left.  Get to work.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Early Finance Post (Money Begging)

Most of the ticking time bomb stuff has been dealt with.  There's about a hundred (a bit more) left that needs to be in by the end of December.  If you remember how bad things started, it's nothing short of a miracle that that's all that remains.

Other stuff, however, still exists.  And I'm not totally sure why having my "I" key break is messing up my ability to type several non-I letters.

Regardless, I'm thirty dollars short on taxes.  As in: not $29 and not $31 and traditionally we've been rounding taxes to an even dollar amount.  Sometimes in my favor, sometimes not.  In the bank I have . . . actually, let me check.  Well, that failed.  A couple payments don't go through until tomorrow.  I think that what remains should be about 60¢.  (I thought the line for cents was supposed to be vertical.)

The good news is that the bills that have yet to be paid are ones that don't come due until after the twentieth, so I've got a fortnight before things go bad.  I pay the taxes by proxy, and the proxy will be forgiving if the final thirty is late.  I try not to make use of that fact, though.

Also the oil is burning.  I've got about a quarter of a tank.  No idea when I'll have to buy more heat.

I'll have a fuller accounting on the regular day, but the taxes are due the day after that and between now and the 15th I'll be in a position to possibly go see a movie with Lonespark.  If, you know, money exists.  Which it doesn't.

So, basically, I'm just typing here so I can beg you for money to pay for movie tickets, maybe get the last thirty of taxes, and then I'll be back again to beg some more with more specific numbers in a week and a day.

Because that's the sort of person I am.

Or something like that.

-

The "H" key has been gone for so long that apparently I've forgotten how long it takes to adapt to the lack of a key.  Fucking "I" key falling off.

And I know the keyboard isn't trying to say hello to me in its own fucked up way, because you can't say, "Hi, Chris," without and "H" and an "I".

Friday, November 3, 2017

Stumbling Toward Redemption -- Chapter 1 (Equestria Girls)

[Originally posted at Fimfiction.]
[Picks up right after the climax of Equestria Girls, but you should be able to jump in with no prior knowledge.]

Quite a bit had been written about the Elements of Harmony, and the fact that most of what there was to read had been in the restricted sections of the library hadn't prevented Sunset Shimmer from reading everything she could.  By the time she finished theoretical works on what would happen in situations ranging from esoteric to exceedingly unlikely –like, say, if one were bring an Element of Harmony into an alternate world-- Sunset thought she'd known all there was to know.

Only now did she realize that there was one thing that had been very seriously lacking.

With Discord in stone and Luna banished to the moon there had never been a firsthand account of what it was like to be the target of the Elements.  Likewise there had been a distinct lack of speculation from third parties on what it would be like to to be caught up in a Harmony powered rainbow vortex with enough force to leave a giant crater in the ground.

Certainly nothing on what it was like to go from a demon to a powerless human as the magic of friendship tore through your body and turned it into something else.  Then again, the speculation on what would happen if one used an Element outside of its natural plane of existence hadn't been as accurate as she would have liked either.

She never planned on turning into a cackling monster who wouldn't hesitate to kill Twilight Sparkle, in spite of how infuriating the girl had become.

Regardless, it would have been nice if someone had bothered to even try to figure out what happened to the victims of the Elements' magic.  Maybe then she wouldn't have been quite so unprepared for what happened.

She hadn't just been turned back into a human.  She hadn't just been left steaming (or was it smoking?) in a giant crater.  No, those were the small changes.  The Elements had stripped her – left her bare, like an exposed nerve.  All of her illusions and rationalizations had been torn away and she was helpless under the crushing weight of everything she'd ever done.

She remembered every person, human or pony, she'd hurt and every time she'd hurt them.  She remembered every bit of perverse joy she'd taken in the suffering of others.  It had made her cry out about how sorry she was for everything.

At that point she was willing to do anything to change her life because it hurt.  Who she was hurt.  What she'd done hurt.  The kind of person she'd become hurt.  Everything she'd done since getting into this world and quite a few things from before then.  All of it hurt.

Of course, before Sunset could make it from Twilight to the girls who were supposed to teach her about friendship, Vice Principal Luna took Sunset away.  No one even noticed, their attention focused on the talking dog.

It had been surprising that Luna hadn't taken her to be punished right away.  Instead she brought Sunset to the school nurse, who had been one of the staff members supervising the dance.  Luna left to deal with Snips and Snails.  The nurse took Sunset to get her wounds disinfected.

She hadn't even known she had wounds, other things hurt too much for her to notice some scrapes.  Though when she looked in the mirror she was disturbed at how close the scrape running from her left forehead to the right side of her nose had come to touching her eye.

When that was over Luna kept Sunset, Snips, and Snails away from the other students in a sort of anti-dance detention.

And that was when it really started to sink in for Sunset exactly what it was like being redeemed by an Element of Harmony.

The moment had passed, sappy speeches about friendship were over, and now she had nothing.  All of her plans were for nothing and, beyond that, she was disgusted with herself for having made them in the first place.

The things she'd devoted her entire life to were . . . not things she wanted.  She hated herself for wanting them because every horrible thing she'd done had been done in pursuit of those things. She was Sunset Shimmer, the unicorn who didn't deserve to be an alicorn but demanded it nonetheless, the girl who didn't deserve power and couldn't be trusted with it anyway, the one who spent her life tearing others down because the only thing she wanted was to be on top.  And now she was where she belonged: at the bottom.

All that was left was pain.  The guilt over everything she'd done.  Hating herself for having done it.  In despair because she knew with all her heart and soul that she would never, ever make up for what she'd done.

* * *

When Luna returned she announced that the dance was over and the students had dispersed.  She looked over Sunset, Snips, and Snails and decided to split them up again.  She sent Sunset to wait at the school's entrance and took Snips and Snails with her.

Not all of the students had dispersed.  Five of them, five very specific ones, were saying goodbye to the resident alicorn princess.

Twilight looked right at Sunset, then asked the five, “You'll look out for her won't you?”

Naive.

Also it made the hurt even deeper.  Sunset knew she didn't deserve it.  The person she'd tried to kill, even if she hadn't quite been herself at the the time, wanted to help her when she'd done nothing in her life that was worthy of that kind of help.

Sunset half hid herself behind part of the wall that was still standing, as if that would somehow make everything less bad.

Rarity said, “Of course we will,” then turned away somewhat, crossed her arms, and added, “although I do expect some sort of apology for last spring's debacle.”

Sunset hid even more of herself behind the wall.  She didn't even know why she bothered.  Rarity met her gaze with a glare just the same.  Sunset dropped her her head and wished she could just make herself stop feeling.

Sunset heard footsteps behind her, and turned as Twilight said, “I have a feeling she'll be handing out a lot of apologies.”

Luna was smiling, until she saw that Sunset was looking at her.  The smile quickly turned to a frown.  She handed Sunset a trowel.  Snips and Snails arrived with a wheelbarrow full of bricks and a bucket of mortar.

They were red bricks even though the wall had been more of a pink that looked almost purple in the moonlight.

Who even built a wall like this?  It was four bricks thick, which was a pretty standard thickness, but you didn't actually make the wall entirely out of bricks.  You made a wall out of cinder-blocks and then put one layer of bricks on either side, which, because cinder-blocks were designed to be brick compatible, meant a thickness equivalent to four bricks.

No one in their right mind would build the wall to a modern building by making it four literal bricks thick, yet here it was.

And when in Tartarus had Sunset learned so much about human masonry?

She sighed.  She'd been here so long.  Impossible to say exactly when she picked up that tidbit, but it didn't matter.  She wasn't an Equestrian anymore.  Somewhere along the way she'd become human, and somehow that included random information about building construction.

She could drop the trowel and make a break for the portal, which would be extremely ill advised since Twilight Sparkle had made it clear she was supposed to stay here, but if she got there she'd never fit in.  In a way she'd been lucky that she came to this world as a child.  She was more adaptable then.  By pony standards she was an adult now.  She probably couldn't completely shift gears and assimilate into a different culture again.

She had no home now, and somehow this revelation was tied to bricks and cinder blocks.

She'd already stared on her task.  Get some mortar, plop it down, smooth it out, drop a brick, smaller amount of mortar beside the brick, place the next brick, repeat until you ran out of horizontal mortar from the original plop.  Repeat.

It was simple.  Straightforward.  She was able to do it without thinking.  She embraced that.  She didn't like her thoughts.  She concentrated on the thoughtless process of laying the bricks.  She tried to will the entire rest of the world –two worlds really– into non-existence.  There was no pain in the motion of laying bricks.  No guilt.  No shame.  Nothing but the same thing, over and over again.

Sunset barely noticed when the portal closed, stripping the five of their pony parts and dumping Rainbow Dash on her butt.  She did take a bit more note when Pinkie Pie charged the portal and bounced off.

All that did was make her wonder if whoever brought the portal statue here was also responsible for the strange cinder-block-less wall.

Then she was back to focusing her entire being on the mindless repetition of laying bricks.  Plop, smooth, place.  Plop, smooth, place.

* * *

“Go home.”

Sunset heard the words, but she didn't really process them.  She plopped a mortar on the top row of bricks, smoothed it out, and laid a new brick down.

“I said: go home.”

Sunset looked at the source of the voice.  Vice Principal Luna.  She didn't respond.  She didn't care.  It was more peaceful doing this.  Things were easier if she didn't have to think or feel anything.

“Snips and Snails already ran away,” Luna said.  “I'm somewhat surprised you didn't leave with them.”

One of the things Sunset hadn't been able to tune out while bricklaying was the part where Snips and Snails made very clear that their relationship with her was over.

She hadn't felt anything at all.  Compared to how everything else felt, well, that was basically good, right?

Besides, what else would she have felt?  There was no surprise there.  They worked for her because she had power, without the power she had nothing to offer and they had no reason to associate with her.

It wasn't like they'd been friends or anything.

The more important issue had nothing to do with Snips and Snails.  It had to do with the fact that Luna was there and probably expected a response.

“I'm somewhat surprised you had bricks and mortar just lying around,” Sunset said.

“There was going to be a student project to rebuild one of the out buildings,” Luna said.  “It fell through.  The supplies have been wasting space for ages.  Go home, Sunset, you've done enough for now.”

Sunset had never heard of the project, the 'ages' during which the supplies had been wasting space must have lasted years.

Sunset looked at the pitiful progress she'd made and the giant hole in the wall.

“Wall's not even close to done,” She said. said.

“Of course it isn't,” Luna said.  “We'll talk more about that on Monday, but for now it's time for you to go home.”

Sunset sighed.  “Whatever you say.”  Sunset set down her trowel and walked away from the school.

She didn't make it very far.

* * *

“I don't want a ride home, Rainbow Dash,” Sunset said.  Again.  This was getting tiresome.

“Walking isn't safe!”

“Right,” Sunset said.  “I'm sure I'll run into a manticore and die.”

“Look, the Vice Principal obviously thought that keeping you under supervision until most students went home would protect you, but I've seen kids lurking around waiting for you to be alone.”

She so very much did not care.  The only thing she cared about right now was how aggravating it was to have Rainbow Dash going on about things she didn't care about.

“You've seen them lurking?” Sunset asked.  “Where are they now?”

“Just because the ones I spotted seem to have gone doesn't mean that they really have gone or that there aren't groups I didn't spot.  You're not safe.”

“I.  Don't.  Care.”

“How can you say that?”

“Look,” Sunset said, trying to see a way out of this, “if I'm so unsafe then being with me means you're not safe, so you should just go and leave me alone.

“It's just this once,” Rainbow  said.  “By Monday people will probably have calmed down.”

“Sure they will,” Sunset said, no attempt to hide how little she believed that.

“I'm not saying things will be good on Monday, but I don't think we'll have to worry about serious injury or death.”

“Because people are totally going to try to kill me tonight,” Sunset said.  God, this was annoying.

“They don't have to be trying to do something for them to actually do it,” Rainbow said.  “Most people don't realize how fragile bodies can be.”

“They can also be more resilient than people expect,” Sunset countered, but there was no force behind it.

“It works both ways, sure,” Rainbow conceded, “but– no.  That's not the point.  The point is that tonight I'm driving you home.”

“What if I run away?” Sunset asked.

“I'll catch you, and you know it.”

“So when you said you'd look out for me, you meant you'd run me down and tackle me in the street.”

“Maybe I'm concerned over nothing, maybe everyone really has gone home, but I'm not taking that chance,” Rainbow said.  “So tonight I'm willing to take extreme measures.”

“What if I refuse to tell you my address, or make you drive around in circles until you're out of gas?”

“What if I call in a favor and point out that you owe me for how you split up Applejack and I?”

“If you'd been better friends then it would have taken more than one–” it just slipped out on force of habit alone.  “Sorry!”

“You're forgiven if you agree to let me give you a ride.”

It was a better deal than she deserved, but there were still problems with it.  As she tried to figure out how to deal with them her stomach growled and she realized just how hungry she was.  That could possibly have the solution.

“I'll agree if you buy me something to eat,” Sunset said.  “I never had dinner.”

“You didn't eat!?”

Was that seriously all it took to shock Rainbow Dash?

“I was busy.  I had world domination to plan, I had to figure out how to plausibly break a magic portal without using magic, I had underlings to boss around, my schedule was full.”

“How would a sledgehammer have broken the portal anyway?  Wouldn't it just go right through?”

“You want to know, you provide food.”

“Twenty bucks, no more.”

“Is that before or after taxes?”

* * *

“Imagine that the portal didn't have a solid border around it,” Sunset said.

“Why?” Rainbow asked.

Sunset sighed.  It was that or groaning.  “Unless you want me to walk you through basic magic theory all the way up to inter-dimensional portals, which would be like teaching someone who didn't know math everything through calculus over complex numbers and differential equations in six dimensions, just imagine the portal didn't have a solid border.”

“Ok.”

“Now that you've got that, you imagine someone walking in the general direction of the portal.  If they hit the portal, they go to Equestria with no more resistance than going through empty air.  If thy miss the portal, they stay in this world and are actually going through empty air.  Same resistance,” Sunset said.  Maybe if she kept on explaining obvious things she'd fall asleep.  That might be a nice change of pace.  “So, pop quiz, what happens if part of someone hits the portal and part doesn't?”

“Instant amputation?” Rainbow asked.

“Top of the class,” Sunset said.  “And that wouldn't just apply to people but to space-time itself, probability clouds, magnetic fields, atomic nuclei, and so forth.  All sorts of weird things would happen if such a thing existed.  As it turns out, nature really doesn't like that sort of frictionless cleft in reality and attendant impossibilities.  It doesn't allow such clefts to exist.”

“And we're going to get to the point . ? .”

“Open air portals naturally form borders of their own, often invisible, that prevent things from crossing directly at the portal edge.  That's good for them, but when dealing with a stationary portal attached to a solid object it's inefficient, somewhat annoying, and a total waste of energy.”

For the first time since getting in the car, Sunset actually noticed where they were.  That was followed by figuring out what they were near and interrupting her explanation to say, “Turn left here.”

Rainbow did and waited for Sunset to continue.

“It's much easier, in terms of necessary energy, to have a physical border around such a portal to stop things from crossing the edge.  That's almost certainly why the surface with the portal was recessed into the statue pedestal.”  Sunset closed her eyes.  Maybe it was because she hadn't eaten, maybe it was the time of day, maybe it was because she'd been hit with powerful magic or because she'd been laying bricks, but she was getting tired in a hurry.

She might not need boring stuff to put her to sleep.  Would it be rude if she just passed out?

The decision to stay awake was accompanied by an involuntary jolt.  Her eyes had opened on their own too.  Where was she?  Right:

“The downside is that since the border is a simple physical thing it can be broken in a way that a naturally occurring portal border cannot.  Sledgehammer to the edge of the pedestal and I break off enough marble to expose the edge of the portal to air rather than solid.  Nature abhors a frictionless cleft in reality, and thus the portal instantly collapses.”

“That's it?” Rainbow asked.

Sunset shrugged.  “Sledgehammers aren't complicated.”

* * *

They got caught at a red light on a stretch of road that felt like the middle of nowhere.  It wasn't in reality, just a trick of topography combined with a slightly underdeveloped part of town.  Still, it felt like they were alone in the world.  No other cars were on the road as far as the eye could see, empty lots and woods surrounded them.

Actually, if it were possible to make a right turn at the intersection, if there were a road through the small wooded area, they'd be moments away from a place that Sunset often ate.  Not the one she was directing Rainbow to, but a perfectly fine place to make her stomach stop grumbling at her.

Rainbow could outrun her, but if she had a head start and she were going through trees where Rainbow's straightaway speed never came into play . . .

Sunset quietly unbuckled her seat belt.  Rainbow didn't notice.  Sunset carefully took it off.  Rainbow was still obvious.

In a burst of action and motion Sunset got out of the car and ran for the woods.

* * *

By the time Rainbow was out of the car she couldn't even see Sunset.  Rainbow swore.  She'd be able to catch up to Sunset eventually, but it would mean leaving her car in the middle of the road.

And that was when the light turned green.

Rainbow looked in all three directions, saw no signs of anything at all, and concluded that if she left the car in the road someone would immediately pull up behind it and be a jerk about it.

She got back into the car and tried to think of where Sunset might be going.  In spite of present appearance, this wasn't the boondocks and those woods would have to be very small and surrounded on all sides by roads and businesses.

A moment later she had her answer.  Sunset was hungry, there was a pizza place right in that direction.  Rainbow would have to go the long way, but she'd be doing it in a car rather than on foot.

* * *

Maybe she'd been wrong.  The place was closed and Sunset wasn't in sight.  Still, Rainbow got out of her car and prepared to take a look around.

It turned out that she didn't even need her eyes.  She heard a voice coming from behind the building.  As she approached words became clear”

“Pepperoni.”  Long pause. “Pepperoni”  Slightly shorter pause.  “Meat lovers,” said with utter disgust.  At the end of this pause, “Pepperoni.”

Just as Rainbow rounded the back corner of the building Sunset announced, “Finally!  Cheese.”

It took Rainbow a bit to really process the fact that she was watching Sunset Shimmer dig through a dumpster.

Sunset hadn't noticed Rainbow yet.  With a bit of struggle she got herself sitting on the dumpster and opened a pizza box.

“Running off like that was not cool,” Rainbow said.

Sunset gave a start, but then calmed down when she actually looked at Rainbow.  She shrugged and ate a slice of pizza.

“You're really eating that?” Rainbow asked.

They say there are no stupid questions.  That simply isn't true.  Rainbow knew it was a stupid question.  It was an extremely stupid question given that Rainbow could see Sunset was eating it.  Rainbow had asked anyway.

“I thought you'd be happy,” Sunset said.  “If there really are any dangerous lurking students, they certainly didn't follow me after I got in your car, so any obligation to keep me safe has stopped.” Sunset paused for a moment. “And I just saved you twenty dollars.”

“Did you really think it would make me happy to have you jump out of the car and run away?” Rainbow asked while doing her best to convey how little she believed the answer could possibly be yes.

“Of course not, I just . . .” Sunset's head bobbed for a moment and her upper body followed.  She said, “Whoa,” as she resumed sitting straight.

“I totally underestimated how much the run took out of me,” Sunset said.  Something wasn't right about her voice.  “Not just the run of course,” she said, speeding up and slurring a bit, “The run, the magic, the crown tossing, all of it.  It just . . . it . . .” her head bobbed again, “it adds up is what I'm saying and what I'm saying is that it adds up.”

“Sunset,” Rainbow said, “you're scaring me.”

“Oh don't worry, I'm not about to turn into a demon,” Sunset said.

“That's not what's scaring me.”

Sunset didn't seem to notice Rainbow had said anything, “This isn't turning into a demon, no, not at all.  It's just that using that level of magic, using it . . . using that level of magic without an external power source, like say when the Element of Magic stops working for you but you don't give up, using that level of . . . of stuff.  It does things.  It . . . it burns calories faster than any non-magical activity possibly could, given the laws of physics –hey, we should market magic as a weight loss solution– and that in turn leaves you with fa– fati– fati– tiredness that wouldn't normally be–”

Rainbow cursed herself for how long it took her to react.  She should have steadied Sunset the moment she seemed to lose balance.  She should have done something when Sunset collapsed onto the dumpster.  She should have pushed Sunset back on to the dumpster when Sunset started to roll off, she should have caught Sunset when Sunset practically fell into her arms.

She shouldn't have stood unmoving through all of that and had to practically fall over herself to catch and slow Sunset before she hit the ground.

But that's what she did.  She didn't, entirely stop the fall.  She just slowed it down enough to prevent damage.  That and she kept Sunset's head from hitting pavement.

A moment later she tried to shake Sunset awake, but the other girl was in what seemed to be a very deep sleep.

Rainbow said, “Well, shit,” to the empty night.

*
* *
* * *
* *
*

The plan is to keep to the continuity of the Equestria Girls movies.  With seven seasons, a film of its own, and more to come, keeping up with all the details of Friendship is Magic as well would be more than I want to cope with.  Thankfully Friendship is Magic is safely sequestered on the other side of the magic portal.

For those who don't feel like watching the movies, good news: You don't have to.

Everything you need to know will be covered in story.  You've already got the main points above.  Sunset wasn't a very nice person.  She was zapped with rainbow magic.  She no longer wants to be the person she was.

Later chapters will go into more detail, where necessary, about the ways in which she wasn't a nice person, but we've pretty much got everything we need to go forward.
I said somewhere that I had something like half a dozen Sunset Shimmer stories in my head.  This makes two.