Friday, July 21, 2017

Monster-Ecosystem Apocalypse -- Infodump (or: Welcome to the doppel-verse)

Meta Note: I can't remember if it's 16 or 18.  If you're someone who has had trouble because of text size combined with using a device that doesn't make it easy to customize text size, tell me if this size is good.

I didn't expect that what would get me out of my no-writing funk would be a game in a genre I don't even like, but I'm certainly glad I decided to take the risk of buying it because it's given me so many ideas.

The explanation for "Monster-Ecosystem Apocalypse" is that it's not always just zombies or vampires or werewolves (has anyone made a movie of the werewolf apocalypse?) sometimes it's the new mother nature taking over.  Thus earth life as we know it is being supplanted by . . . um, is there a word with a meaning like "kaiju" but without the regional implications and less focused on "Really, really fucking huge"?

And I imagine a metal street light that looks like it's been crossed with a tree (branches and such) as an example of one non-"I kill you" instance of the new mother nature.  Anyway, exposition dump in the form of an induction lecture into the group that fights against the new mother nature:

* * *

Given that the current regime doesn't place education as a high priority, I'm going to assume that you know nothing other than how to understand the language.  This isn't because I think it's true, it's because that way I'll be sure not to leave anything you don't know out.

Try not to fall asleep because some of the points in this little lecture will be important and I'm not planning on announcing them by waking everyone up.

So, you're all here to learn more about doppels, because when I think of monsters that might cause humanity to go extinct, I always thing they should have a cutesy name.  People do that with the strangest of dangerous things which may explain why there's currently a petition to rename really sharp broken glass shards “those sparkly-warkly thingy-wingies.”

Is that true? Probably not, but I wouldn't categorically rule out the possibility.

So we'll start with the basics.

“Doppel” is short for “Doppelganger” which in turn comes for the term “Doppelganer Cell”.

When we first encountered anything Doppel-related they were single celled life forms.  They were also unlike anything we've seen before and based on their make up would appear to have a different origin from all other life on earth.  They don't have DNA, the organelles within the cells are things we've never really figured out, and the cell walls do things that seem downright impossible.

I see a hand, pronouns and your reason for sticking your hand up.

Ne, nir, nem. About being unlike all other life on earth, you don't subscribe to the alien invasion theory, do you?

No, I think that there are much simpler ways to attack a planet than seeding it with a few Doppelganger Cells and waiting for them to kill off all native life.  That said, we truly have no idea whatsoever where they came from.  It's possible that they simply arose naturally.  Life on earth was produced once, there's no reason it couldn't have happened a second time.  Or it could be that life as we know it came about second, but they were dormant until something woke them up.

Certainly there was time for life to evolve before the earth was hit with another planet in the collision that created the moon, and if anything could have survived such an event Doppelganger Cells could.

The idea that they come from space, not as an attack, does have some merit given that they clearly don't have a common origin with other earth life and they're more than capable of riding a meteor down to earth's surface without dying in the process.

While many think they might have been the result of experimentation, perhaps to create a weapon or terraform hostile environments, I find that extremely hard to believe given that no one was prepared for them and they were not initially found near any labs.

What's important is not where they came from, but what happened when they arrived or were awakened.

Now, I was talking about the origin of the name.

The Doppelganger Cells got their name because it was discovered that they could mimic any cell type they came into contact with.  Humankind rejoiced at the discovery of what they thought was the ultimate stem cell, something that could be whatever was needed, not just for people but for anything.  A Doppelganger Cell could take on the form and function of a human nerve cell or a spider's eye cell, or any other cell with ease and speed.

It was believed that they would revolutionize medicine and bring about an end to injury and disease.

It's likely a very good thing such research never made it to human trials.

The scientists working on them found that if they put them in a Petri dish with, say, a heart cell, the Doppelganger Cells might take on the characteristics of a heart cell, or they might take on the characteristics of the plastic making up the Petri dish. They also might do a bit of both.

Thus the realization that they weren't merely able to take on the exterior form and function of other cells, but rather that they could pretty much perfectly duplicate anything that isn't smaller than they are.

To put that into perspective, the finest grain gunpower has a significantly larger particle size than the average Doppelganger Cell.  Think about that for a moment.

We'll come back around to it.

The scientific community has no idea how they're able to copy . . . everything –our lack of knowledge might, possibly, have something to do with doppels running roughshod over the world and destroying most labs in the process; not to mention a significant portion of the scientific community– but the important thing isn't how they can copy things, it's that they can do it. They reproduce by absorption and take on the characteristics of whatever they absorb.

Containment at the first labs to study doppel cells failed well before anyone noticed, entire sections of some labs –the walls, ceilings, floors, equipment– had been converted by the time containment failure was discovered.

Thank whatever gods may be that they weren't in bioweapons labs.

Anyway, that's a pretty good primer on Doppelganger Cells, doppel cells for short. Some call them “D-Cells” but I'm told that that can lead to confusion because it was supposedly the name of a type of battery before the change. I have my doubts.

Calling them “DCs” is out for some sort of intellectual property rights reason, but my rant on how copyright law surviving the collapse of civilization when much better things did not is a different lecture entirely.

Beyond their ability to take on any form or function, you should be aware of one simple fact: the doppel cells have never fundamentally changed.  From when we first encountered them to now, they are either exactly the same or close enough that we can't tell the difference.  They have not evolved in the slightest.

Yes, person with the hand up, pronouns and question.

She, hers, her; the doppels aren't single celled, so how can you say they haven't evolved?

I can say it because it's true.  Your question is a good one, though, and gets at the heart of the matter about what all this means.  The Doppelganger Cells have not appreciably changed since their original discovery.  Each one is a mono-cellular life form capable of mimicking anything it touches to the point of being functionally identical when they wish to be, and that's the same as it ever was.

While doppel cells haven't changed, doppels, without the word “cell” affixed to the back end, have changed drastically.  Originally the cells and the doppels were one in the same, but by the time scientists were panicking about containment loss in testing labs, researchers at the area where doppel cells were first discovered came across the first confirmed multi-cellular doppels in the form of what they first believed to be a new species of earth worm.

It wouldn't be discovered until much later that those worms, like all doppels, were not truly individual life forms but instead colonies of doppel cells.

I see a hand, pronouns and questions.

They, their, them.  All multi-cellular life is made up of a conglomeration of individual living cells; why should it change things to know doppels are made of doppel cells?  We all probably knew that without being told.

That's true, but the distinction is incredibly important.  If I cut off your hand –composed of living cells, as you note– and no charming surgeon shows up to reattach it while sweeping you off your feet, what would happen to the cells in your now-severed hand?

They'd die.

Exactly.

That's what it means to be part of a singe life form.  The individual cells depend on the whole to stay alive and without it they can't survive.  Some things can regenerate a whole new individual from a severed body part, but even the most starfishy starfish of all starfish-kind can't boast that if you removed just one of its cells that cell would be able to survive and thrive on its own.

Dopple cells can.  When they're cut off from their colony, they don't die. They wait around a bit to see if the colony will reestablish contact, and if it doesn't they simply move on and do something else. Some of you have doubtless witnessed when a severed doppel limb appears to dissolve.

Since the cells are no longer part of a colony that needs them in that form, they stop taking that form.  The formless mass of cells collapses and spreads out across the ground like some sort of spilled fluid, and usually becomes indistinguishable from the ground itself.

Even when the colony is destroyed, the vast majority of doppel cells making up that colony survive.

We're getting a bit ahead of things though, and I'm kind of surprised I haven't seen a hand on this particular matter.

I've said that the cells reproduce by absorption.  They come into contact with a material, they absorb it, a process we don't really understand happens, they spit out a new cell created from the absorbed matter and displaying its properties.

This is how they learn to mimic things.

I've also said that they can mimic any material we know of, provided it isn't smaller than they are.

Further, Doppelganger Cells are a material we know of.

So hasn't anyone wondered why doppel cells aren't in a constant war of trying to absorb each other?  The number of cells in a human-sized doppel is 14 digits long, and each of those cells is in contact with other cells. So why isn't there a multi-trillion sided war going on within each doppel of that size in which each cell tries to absorb the ones around it?

I see two hands, nail polish was first up. Pronouns, then questions comments or concerns.

He, his, him. Isn't it as simple as them knowing not to attack each other?

It is that simple, but then the question becomes, “How?” and that's very important. First, though, the person without nail polish.

She, hers, her. I've seen doppels eat other doppels so doesn't that mean doppel cells do feed on each other?

Not quite.  When a doppel feeds on a non-doppel the digestive process involves breaking up the material so that it all can come into contact with, and be absorbed by, doppel cells as quickly as possible.

When a doppel feeds on another doppel the digestive process is significantly different, even though it seems the same from the outside.

The ingested doppel cells are not absorbed to be used as raw materials for new doppel cells.  They are instead converted to serve the new colony they find themselves in.

Good question, though.

The answer to the question is obviously that there's a limiting property that keeps doppel cells from absorbing things they aren't meant to absorb, chiefly other doppel cells, but most doppel species aren't particularly interested in wasting energy converting the ground every time they take a step and so they also have the same property on their exterior.

Without boring you on the details, many of which are sketchy anyway, the limiting property essentially says, “Don't absorb this,” or “Don't absorb beyond this point,” in a language doppel cells understand and obey.

That limiting property, some people like to call it LP, is the basis for all of our anti-dopple technology.  We can't kill doppel cells, we can't--

Hand held high and waving like you need to use the bathroom: pronouns and question.

They, them. If what you say were true, why would we even be here?  We're supposed to fight the dopels.  Seems like a lost cause if they can't be killed.

Let me take that interesting and engaging question and break it into several vaguely related points that I can then address individually.

Fight?  Yes.  Kill?  Sort of.  Stop?  No.  Exterminate?  Not a chance in Hell.

What you'll be called on to do if you don't back out, and we'll get to the big reason why you'll want to back out, is to take down doppels, not dopple cells. Your job will be to disrupt and extinguish the colony, but the cells themselves will survive.

They'll eventually form into new doppels, and we'll be no closer to getting rid of the doppels than we were before, but hopefully you'll have put off human extinction by another day.  Do that every day and we never go extinct.

Doppel cells are extremeophiles.  Extreme heat, extreme cold, extreme pressure, extreme acid . . . none of these things will kill them

It is beyond our current ability to eradicate a cell that makes up a life form capable of drinking lava for the Hell of it and then possibly spitting it back out again as a weapon when that very same cell can also survive as close to absolute zero as we can reach, under intense radiation, and in pretty much every other scenario we can think of.

What we do here, and what you will do if you decide to join, is disperse cell colonies.  You fight the doppels, not the cells that make them up.

How you fight the doppels is something that most people don't really realize.  It's not a secret, it's just that almost no one thinks to ask.

Actually, before we get to that, colonies have one or more “nerve centers”.  They're . . . not actually made of nerves.  Most of the time.  Sometimes they are sort of nerve-esque, but not always, and the point is . . . um, let me start over.

While an individual doppel cell can be, for most purposes, anything, that doesn't mean it can store all of the information needed to create and run a colony that looks and acts like a single living creature made of various parts composed of various materials.

We're not entirely sure what causes doppel colonies to become self-aware.  One theory is that it happens when they've simply absorbed too much information for the colony cells to efficiently store without a central database which is dedicated to collecting, storing, and disseminating the information.

Another is that it happens when they absorb a living thing with self-awareness.

Another is that it just happens randomly.

Whatever the case, any doppel you encounter that's walking, flying, swimming, or otherwise moving around under its own power will have some system of cells specifically dedicated to running the colony.  It tells these cells to be feet, what that means, what they should be made of, how to take on that form, and so on.

Cut cells off from the so-called nerve center or centers for long enough, and the now-isolated cells revert to just being cells, not part of a larger structure.  That's when they seem to dissolve.

Nerve centers can be highly sophisticated, but also highly idiosyncratic.  It takes a lot of information to know how to make an entire body, how to run it, what materials the body is made of, what their properties are, and so forth.

On the other hand, knowing all of that doesn't mean that they're particularly smart.  They have the potential to be very smart, but thus far no confirmed doppel has made use of that potential.   Many doppel species didn't last long, instead getting quickly devoured by others.

No confirmed doppels seem to have high level reasoning, and this can be visible in the forms that they take.  I once witnessed a tarantula based doppel adapt after absorbing a tank.  It was within the power of the doppel to duplicate the tank so exactly that even the tank's mechanic would never be able to tell it was a duplicate.

And if some human operator were to get into the doppel-tank, and not be absorbed, they could use it as a tank which would function like a tank.

It didn't do that.

It was fully capable of recreating the tank down to the smallest detail; it had no concept of how a tank operated or why the details mattered.  It saw that the tank “stood” on its treads, so it classified them as feet.  It saw the treads were held in their shape by wheels.  It totally failed to grasp the concept of spinning wheels driving the treads to move the tank.

Instead the result was a giant armored spider doppel that walked around on eight legs each of which was apparently composed of wheels that didn't spin covered in treads that didn't tread.

And I said that I'd get back to the gunpowder.  While in a colony, individual doppel cells have no sense of self-preservation and the nerve centers can grasp concepts like burning, exploding, and “dynamite go boom.”

Individual dopple cells will blow themselves up for the good of the colony.  Which is why you may occasionally find yourselves being shot at.  Mass being pushed down a tube by an explosion is pretty easy to pick up.

Or maybe not.  Most don't have built-in guns.  But it can be picked up, is the point.

Now it's time to get back to the other thing that this was a tangent away from.  The non-secret secret.

The doppels are far less resilient than the cells. While the individual cells may be able to handle magma and not get burned, if the colony –the doppel itself– has been exclusively adapted to cold, attacking with heat can seriously disrupt the colony but only, and this is the key thing, if combined with the limiting property.

The same for attacking with blades.  Bullets are generally not recommended, but we do have our share of gun-like projectile weapons.

However we attack, whatever we attack with, we need the limiting property.  With it we can sever a limb, without it by the time the blade exited the limb the place where the blade entered would already be healed.

For our weapons to do any damage they need to tell the doppel cells “Don't grow here, don't absorb here, don't connect here,” because only then is a wound created.  That's the limiting property and what it does for us.  The problem with it is that the only thing we know of capable of producing it is doppel cells themselves.

Every weapon we use is composed, at least in part, of doppel cells.  We've just set it up so that the user is the weapon's nerve center and it will wait indefinitely for the user when not in use. Here's the big reason to back out I mentioned earlier:

You'll be composed partially of doppel cells too.  It's necessary to keep you alive when you come in contact with doppels.  It's necessary to survive some of the places we'll be sending you –unmodified humans would burst into flames or freeze in an instant and those are the light and fluffy examples– and it's necessary to be able to control your weapons.

In order to be a doppel nerve center, you've got to be part doppel.  Unless you want your equipment to start eating you, you need to be infused with doppel cells.  In order to keep the cells from devouring you from the inside out, you'll need continual injections to maintain the delicate balance of limiting property to doppel cells that keeps you human.

You cannot go AWOL.  It would kill you in a way that I don't even want to think about.  You can retire or transfer or whatever, but you'll need the injections for the rest of your life.  We call them suppressant.  We make you part doppel so you have a chance of surviving, then we spend the rest of your life suppressing that part so you remain human.

I . . . haven't seen any hands in a while.

Yeah, in the back, you know the drill.

She, hers, her.  So far the only example you've given of how the limiting property helps is that it allows limbs to be severed. We're supposed to kill them-- disperse the colonies.  How do we do that?

The limiting property stops the doppels from healing at super speed, though a non-lethal wound created using it will heal if given time.  In fact, most lethal wounds created using it will also heal given time, but scavengers are unlikely to give the fallen doppel that time.

The key is to treat the colony like a creature while it's moving, kill that creature however you can, and then –when it appears to be dead on the ground– remember that it's a living colony, not a dead creature, and rip out the nerve clusters.  Those are what tell the colony to act like a monster, and tell it how, so without them the colony is neutralized until it develops or is given a new never cluster.

However you can” sounds vague.

Many people have found that stabbing and slashing until it stops moving works well.

Given the nature of the doppel cells, and the way nerve clusters sometimes structure themselves around aesthetics over function, it isn't always as simple as “Stab it through the lung” because sometimes the lung is more of an accessory than a vital organ.

That said, they tend to set themselves up, loosely, based on non-doppel earth life, so give the appropriate –limiting factor equipped– weapons, you can often take down a colony in the way you'd take down a similar non-doppel creature.  Just don't be surprised if it takes ten times as long.

The most vital thing isn't how you take a doppel down, it's that you understand that you need to remove any nerve clusters once it is down.  And you need to be aware that the vast majority of that doppel will likely rise up to be a new doppel.  The fight is never-ending.

Also, there are reports on every form of doppel we've encountered thus far.

That's enough for this lecture, but I can assure you I have many more.

Final week of preliminary voting for meaningless awards that I nonetheless really want your vote for

Recap: This is about annual Kim Possible fanfic awards.

This year there are a lot of nominations, to the point that it makes sense to cut them down before holding a final vote.  As such, right now there are polls set up where you can vote for up to five things you think belong in the final five.

Then the finalists will eventually be in a more standard "one person one vote" election where the most votes wins.

Links to all of the polls can be found here.  If you're wondering what all of the not-my-stuff stuff is, I rounded up every work or author that has been nominated, which covers all but three categories, in this thread.  The "Find"/"Search this Page" function is your friend.

Here are direct links (not accidental "Do you really want to leave Deviant Art?" links) to the polls in which my work or myself is a nominee.  Please vote for my work/me if you deem it/me worthy.

2) Best Original Character: Leela Place Possible - Being More Than a Simulacrum
3) Best Minor Character: Joss Possible - Being more than a Simulacrum
6) Best Alternate Universe: Life After
14) Best Action/Adventure: Being More than A Simulacrum
18) Best Unlikely/Unique Story: Life After
19) Best Novel-Sized Story: Being More Than Simulacrum
25) Best Reviewer: I strongly recommend GerbilHunter and HopefulHuskey, they're far from the only good ones, but they're the only ones that make me want to go out of my way to recommend them.
27) Kimmunity Achievement Award: chris the cynic
28) Best Story Overall: Forgotten Seeds by chris the cynic
29) Best Writer: chris the cynic

If best series were also being winnowed I'd have a recommendation for that too.  Those three are the only ones I feel strongly enough about to be promoting someone else.

To avoid a wall of blue I decided not to link to the stories above, but here are the ones in contention:
* * *
I only thought to do this post, in spite of actually intending to do a one week notice post, because it was pointed out by the person in charge that there's one week left and thus the polls linked to above "will close on July 27th at midnight."  (I'm not entirely sure which time zone.)

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Monthly Financial Update

Ok, so, things are bad.

Explanation of how they got that way in the next section, if you want numbers skip to the section after, if you want just numbers skip to the last section.

* * *

I think it's like this, six months ago I was planning on trying to turn things around in a number of ways and some of that involved buying stuff for home improvement, food storage, and other things.

Five months ago, before any of the stuff had even arrived (I ordered online), I broke my ankle in three places while taking the first real steps toward cleaning up the house as part of the whole "turn things around" initiative.

As in, after much thought over the optimal order to do things in, I figured out that "move these flattened cardboard boxes downstairs for storage" was the best thing to start with, and it was while doing that that I fell down the stairs and great injury and agony ensued.  While other people might fall halfway down the stairs, I went all the way from the landing (flat area at the top of the stairs, ground floor level) right down to the basement stairs.

So that fucked up all plans, including the ones involved in paying for the stuff I'd bought for the "turn things around" initiative.  Interest deferred for six months and all that.

From there, for three months or so, I languished and everything was terrible and I couldn't do much of anything but lay on the floor with my ankle elevated and play video games on a console.  (First time in my life owning a console, by the way.)

I . . . kind of got financially reckless in the name of preserving my sanity (by buying things with which to preserve my sanity.)  There might have also been some purchases related to being able to survive physically, I don't really remember though.  Again, interest deferred for six months.

And there are the usual non-monthlies, and also when my computer was replaced (it's been repaired at least once since then, but this is definitely the replacement) the warranty didn't give me enough money to buy the replacement (the perils of buying something on sale when the warranty is for purchase price) so I had to pay the difference, and I had to pay to back it up, and I had to pay for an external hard drive on which to put the back up, and I think there was other stuff too.  That also had deferred interest, but for way longer than six months.  It, however, happens to run out exactly when all the other stuff is.


* * *


Right now I'm agonizing over whether or not to buy new glasses because I really want to but if I do I'll fall short on the regular monthly expenses that I'm supposed to be able to cover, God damn it.

I don't even know what fucking happened there.  The SSA cutting me back to a level I can't live on only accounts for the non-monthly expenses being nice little disasters.

Speaking of, $288 is over due for one of those.

Put together that past due thing, the regular expenses I can't afford, and the stuff that I need to pay off by the end of the month to avoid retroactive interest, and it comes out to $663.55 I need this month.

Next month taxes are due and I really fucking need to pay them on time this time.  Taxes in themselves are less than $20 shy of the entire total I just listed for this month.  Put everything together and it's $986.30

The month after things go down to $465.97, and then everything goes to shit, but not quite as badly as I expected because for some reason I got months swapped when making my chart of all this and thought taxes were due then.

Anyway, that's six month stuff, computer stuff, and . . . I thought there was something else.  Probably my putting taxes in the wrong month or something.  Comes out to $1815.54

And then, just when all of the deferred time bomb shit winds down, that's when taxes and insurance are due in the same month: $954.23.

It's all Hell and I don't see any viable way through.


* * *

Just numbers.

Need but do not have:
This month -  $663.55
August         -  $986.30
September  -  $465.97
October       - $1815.54
November   - $954.23

Total: $4,885.59

Conclusion: I'm completely and utterly fucked.

Do recall that you can donate to me via Paypal, upper right hand corner.  Unless you have a Paypal account and are using money from that account (i.e. not a credit card), in that case it's actually a lot better for me if you log into Paypal then use the "Send Money" feature with my email address: cpw [at] maine [dot] rr [dot] com (that way Paypal gives me the full amount.)

Friday, July 14, 2017

I'm alive

Not much to report beyond the fact that I am, indeed, alive.

I kind of wanted some sort of lighter post before the monthly finance post tomorrow, but that was not to be.  That's going to have a fair amount on why I'm too god damned stressed out to function properly.

If it weren't for money, everything would be wonderful, ankle's mostly mended, new shoes are still being broken in but I think I've made the necessary adjustments to get them to fit my non-shoe-shaped feet without giving me blisters or rubbing anything raw.  A lot more support than the old ones, not falling apart, no holes through the soles, some of the support is ankle support, so on, so forth.

I've got the materials to fabricate a fair amount of the stuff I've wanted to make.  I've got the time to write.

I'm just so money-stressed I can barely function enough to do much of anything.

So, like I said, the lighter post didn't happen, but I am alive and most things aren't horrible.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

I'm sorry.

I've been distracted and stressed the fuck out and tired and just . . . out of it.  I don't even know when the last time was I actually wrote something.  I mean, easy to check when I moved something over here, but that doesn't tell the real story.  What I posted yesterday was actually written a month ago.

I'm not making content.  Whatever brought you here, I'm not providing it.

Sometimes I just want to give up on everything.

I'm likely going to go a bit dark at least through the coming weekend, and even after the reason for that passes I have no idea when, if ever, I'll be content-making again.

I'm sorry.

I want to share stories that are fun, or funny, or heartwarming, or scathing critiques of the meeting of bad writing and bad theology, or nice, or good, or . . . existing.

I want to write things you'll want to read.  And I'm not.  And I'm sorry.

Part of me wants to turn this post on its ear and beg for money again, and I'm sorry about that too.

Lately I've had more posts about not having money than I have about anything I actually fucking want to have posts about.  And I know that most everyone here is broke too.  And I feel like a sleazy asshole.  Yet I do it anyway.

I'm sorry about that too.

I'm sorry about everything.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A bow that will not easily miss

This will only make sense if you read Ana Mardoll's Rabadash's Ride and realize that I'll be reworking that into one of the varied stories bashed into The Horse and His Boy but rewritten so that it doesn't use the canon characters.  Thus I have a pre-Jadis human queen of Narnia in the role filled by Susan in that version.  Thus I made up the name Ravenwit.

-

The following winter Queen Ravenwit met with Father Christmas, to give up the bow she'd used since her teenage years.

"Are you sure?" he asked her.

"Whenever I try to use it, in spite of all the positive memories it was a part of, I just think about the day when--"

"I understand," he said, and took the offered bow.

"Thank you for not making me explain," Raven said.

"To have been with you so long, in such magical places," Father Christmas said, as he examined the bow, "it has picked up much from your skill. It will not easily miss."

"And so should be given to one who can be trusted to use it responsibly and is in dire need that is too immediate to allow for proper training," she said. "I trust you will make sure it eventually finds its way into hands into such a person."

"I will, my queen," he said, then bowed, boarded his sleigh, and rode off.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

I want to be able to recommend Starlight Vega, but . . .

So a while ago I was really, really in the mood to play a game with a lesbian protagonist and apparently:
Badass [space marine]/[normal marine]/[secret agent]/[person in over their head but rising to the challenge]/[whatever] shoots/slices/whatever's monsters/bad-guys [while still making time to go out with her girlfriend]/[so she can go home to her girlfriend]/[alongside her girlfriend]/[to save her girlfriend]/[while her girlfriend talks her through things from mission control].
is something no one's ever tried because . . . bwha?

I note that by a cunning use of "/" I have suggested, not including the "[whatever]"s, 80 basic formulas which could each be used to make hundreds of distinct mainstream games that go out on precisely zero limbs.

The closest we have is the first game, and first game only, of the Tomb Raider reboot.  It's ambiguous, but it's so very close to being definite.  Too close, apparently, for the publishers, since they made a tie-in comic with the explicit purpose of sinking that ship and then are emphatic in their lack of acknowledging Lara's love interest in the sequel.  As in, the one and only mention is along the lines of
"What about Sam?"
"We're not going there!"
And so, being in this mood to play a game but finding little, I looked at stuff not in my genres.  I looked for anything.  Which pointed me to visual novels, and thus I encountered Starlight Vega.

If you have Steam, it's at 40% off because of the Fourth of July Sale.  And like I said, I want to recommend it.  It has great art, there are parts that are cute, heartwarming, so forth, it's emphatically not just having f/f relations just to show boobs, nor is it something that throws in just a token female romance option, while there are things that are superficially similar the story is different from pretty much anything else I've seen, and . . . I want to be able to recommend it:

BUT

A list won't do, let's take things in order.

The names that matter are all music based, but I don't think there's anything to read into that, I only mention because I'm about to introduce Aria and Melody.

At the start of the game you, Aria, show up at your dead grandfather's house and move in with your mom, while your best friend Melody helps with the moving and spends the night.

Apparently you're a skittish while Melody is into ghosts and the occult and magic and so forth but so far has yet to encounter any such things so she's been limited to mundane books on the matter and fiction.

We first see the lack of editing in how the story starts or doesn't start, depending on your choices.

You hear a feminine laugh three times which wouldn't be a problem with only women in the house except for the fact that it's definitely not coming from either Melody or your mom.

You decide once is imagination, twice is paranoia, three times is enemy action.  And jump into--wait, where the hell did that giant tome Melody is hugging in her sleep come from?

So the two of you investigate and there's a stone on a podium in a room that wasn't there before.  Don't touch the stone and the story ends, the mysterious stuff disappears, Melody is mind whammied into not remembering any of it, done.

Which seems ok if that's all you've done but playing the game more will reveal:
  • The only one with cause to laugh wasn't female and certainly wasn't sultry.
  • The sultry female was emphatically not laughing.
  • The one who has power to do stuff would prefer that you don't touch the stone while Melody does keep the book so this really should have no fucking chance of short circuiting the story
  • No part of this makes sense in context.
Do touch the stone and you get to meet Lyria.  She's been smacked by retrograde amnesia that, honestly, probably does does make sense in context.  In all likelihood the bad guy used some magic or other to suppress her pertinent memories, but it's never really explained.

This will set up the two primary paths.

Melody is your best friend who is secretly in love with you, romance option 1.
Lyria is a --

* * *

Ok, back to the lack of editing.  Lyria says that only ignorant humans refer to her home planet of Vega as "The Demon Realm".  You'll eventually meet the "Queen of the Demon Realm" who is neither human nor ignorant.  And as the story progresses it'll be "demon this" and "demon that" we'll find out that the inhabitants of Vega self identify as demon because by the time the writer got to that point in the story the fact that they're not demons, just demonized, had apparently been tossed out entirely and the writer couldn't be bothered to go back and make the early parts fit.

So when you meet her Lyria is not a demon, just an alien with horns and a tail who's species was mislabeled as demons in order to stir up hate against them and eventually drive them from earth and cut off communications between the two planets.

By the end she's a demon.  Demon, demon, demon.

* * *

Melody is your best friend who is secretly in love with you.  Romance option 1.
Lyria is a demon you freed from a 50 year imprisonment in a stone, but in so doing magically bonded to you.  Romance option 2.

Each of them will instantly be mistrustful and painfully jealous of the other.

The most benign manifestation is that Melody would be interested in studying a magical tome regardless, but she'll push herself to the point that she's not doing the much in the way of sleeping or eating in hopes of finding a way to break the magical bond and thus eliminating any reason for Lyria to be near you.

Melody is too shy to tell you that she's in love with you.  Lyria is making it impossible to miss that she's romantically attracted.  Melody wears modest clothes.  Lyria does not.

You have your options.  How do you decide?

Well, kindness coins.

As in, you can pursue Melody, spending time with her over Lyria when given the chance, and end up irrevocably with Lyria just on the strength of not being an asshole.  (Melody, to her credit, will take it well.)  Insert enough kindness coins, sexual relationship pops out.

This is all manner of fucked up, but still, such is life: fiction falls back on the old established ways no matter how toxic and unrealistic they may be.  Especially in relationship sims.

There's also the idea that poly relationships can't exist, that love means being horrifically jealous of anyone the object of your affection spends time with, the idea that one could possibly like two people simultaneously provokes a response of "Wow! What a sl-" and . . . wait, let's stick with that last one.

You can only even say you like two people if you've unlocked the "Harem route" which is a joke ending that pushes harder on the no-poly front before ending on a triumphant: "If there are ever more than two people in a relationship, it's because there's a competition going on to see who will finally win and advance to the 'two person relationship' stage while leaving the others behind."

* * *

And . . . fucking editing.

So many examples, but here's one:

The story attempts a "not what it looks like" and you hear these lines:
unknown: "...Do what you came here for..."
Lyria: "...What do you expect? We're never..."
unknown: "...Then you'd rather..."
Lyria: "Hmph! I couldn't care less about her... she doesn't..."
unknown: "We have to do it now!"
Lyria: "The humans... I don't care about them anymore. Aria..."
unknown: "Just glamour her into submission."
Later on, if you pick the right path, you'll get to hear the whole conversation, and it very definitely is the exact same conversation, except somehow you've slid into a parallel universe where almost none of what you heard was said at all, nor was anything close to it.

Instead of filling in the blanks to place the nine fragments you heard into their real context, it throws out everything but the last line and so you're left with no fucking clue what to do with the rest of it.

Well, that's not quite right.  The second and third lines are indecipherable.  There's just not enough there.  The rest can be worked with.  And you can figure out enough to learn that not only do the words themselves not appear in what's supposed to be the full conversation, neither do any of the concepts they're referring to.

The first line, for example, "Do what you came here for . . ." is pretty easy to work out.

Mind you it brings us to another moment of "Couldn't you fucking edit this?"

Anyway, at this point in the game Lyria's memory has been returning but she has yet to remember how she got to earth.  Her sister has contacted her via an intermediary and told her a story.  The story is wrong, but Lyria believes it.

Trouble is, even though there was only ever one story from one source with one version, the game never decided what the fuck that story was.  Maybe it would have been better if sixty different people had contacted her and each told her their own personal theory because then it would explain how what Lyria was told ended up being so all over the place and inconsistent.

Anyway, in certain scenes it is indicated or stated outright that Lyria was told she came to earth on a mission to get the magical tome and a human to read/translate/transliterate it.  (Magical beings can't read it, nor can they touch it without harm.)

In other scenes she was told nothing of the sort, and the game seems to prefer those other versions, but that's pretty much the only thing that that the first line could be referring to.

Nothing even remotely related to that comes up in the full conversation.

Ditto for the other stuff you can work out.

Honestly, they'd have been better off if they'd dropped the whole "not what it looks like" "here have context" and had the two things be completely unrelated.  Instead they kept the last overheard line and what happened after so that there could be no doubt that these two bits of text are meant to refer to the same exact conversation.


* * *

Scherza, Lyria's sister, was a stretch goal for the project that funded the whole thing and it . . . well it's probably not a coincidence that it's the thing that finally manages to collapse the flaming wreckage making up what would usually be world-building into complete incomprehensibility.

And yet . . . I want to be able to recommend this game.

I think it gave me an even bigger dose of "What the fuck?" when I looked into the code and saw:
(Paraphrasing) We need an if-statement here, because otherwise --more often than not-- this won't make sense more often

Which was completely true.  The trouble was that that comment had not been acted upon in any way, not only was there no if-statement, what followed was not revised in such a way it would make sense.  The result was that for that part of the script if it made sense it was more a result of you having randomly selected the only path (which was also the most unlikely path) than any kind of craft on the part of the game designers.

Usually, though, things didn't make sense regardless of what led up to them because everything was at odds with everything else.

And yet, I want to be able to recommend this game.

It has so much potential, but it's all fucked over.

But the modders can fix it, right?

Well, no.  There's no mod community or mod support, the engine packages all assets into a single file meaning the simplest way to fix things would involve replacing that file which would have you distributing everything that makes the game the game, which is indistinguishable from piracy.

There are more complex solutions imaginable, and alluring considering that the engine is actually very straightforward and fixing fucking everything would be a breeze.

A breeze that required some artistic licence, though.

It's easy enough to tweak here and there to remove or work around problematic elements when the underlying structure is there, and there there's definitely enough there to see the structure that should exist most of the time, but Scherza's route is truly mangled.

It's broken into 15 sections, two are missing entirely, and in the rest there are several references to content that was either cut out or never written in the first place.

Throughout there's a mechanic that keeps a tally so if, at the end, the tally is under or equal to a certain number you get one ending and if it is over you get another.  Trouble is, the stripped/[never inserted in the first place] content was where the deciding additions to the tally would be.  It's impossible to go over.

There was very clearly a last minute change from making a degree of sense to making no sense at all, but the the indication of the original sense making is the internal code equivalent of a dead link.

So on, so forth.

So choices would have to be made beyond just easy ones like, "Do I want to be virulently anti-poly or not?" but it's totally salvageable if you just rewrite a bunch of it, notably the shit parts.

And yet . . .

Friday, June 30, 2017

A completely different reason for me to beg for money, in which I emotionally manipulate you using children.

So you all know that I'd like to be able to afford new glasses, and you all know that I'm past due on the insurance for my home but not in a "Bad things will happen because corporations hate getting paid late" kind of way and instead in a "Every day that passes without me paying I feel more like a horrible person because I owe the money to an actual person, who paid the insurance company for me" kind of way.

But here's something you didn't know, because I haven't told you.

Anachronism is a thing that can be done creatively and there is a society dedicated to that.  This "SCA" hosts an event that causes many of the people I know in Massachusetts to come to Maine, and for the past few years people have been paying my way to attend (even though last year they were at war with my homeland.)

This event, a War that is Greatly Northeastern, will begin in about a week.  Well, exactly a well give or take some number of hours.

Now, I promised to emotionally manipulate you using children.

There are many and wonderful things to buy at the war, set up in the Row of Merchants, and some of them are even within our usual price range.

It has in the past been the case that I was not utterly broke and completely maxed out on my credit and so a simple arrangement could be made.  I could pay for things that the weasels wanted, and then be paid back by one or more of their ancestors at a later date.

If I had money, say in my Paypal account (donate button in the upper right hand corner if you don't have paypal or are using credit, using the 'send money" feature of your own account and my email address {cpw [at] maine [dot] rr [dot] com} is better if you've got an account and are using money in your paypal or bank account) then that could be done again this year.

If I don't have money (I don't) or credit (pretty much nil) then I can't do that and children will be very disappointed and feel sad because their biological precursors will not have money until the 15th which, given our lack of time machine, means that there won't be money for them to spend when the money could actually spent on really cool stuff.

While this could be taken to mean "Give me money or children will cry" and that is a possibility, it's more likely that they'll just be very disappointed and unhappy when they think of goods that cost money, and I'll try very hard to distract them with-- Squirrel!

But, anyway, that's my go at manipulating you using children and the heartstrings they tug on.

It's also me pointing out that if you're going to be at the Great Northeastern War, there may be some possibility we could meet.  That said I'm not sure it's wise to assume anyone who reads this, other than the person I'm going with, is both in the area and SCA affiliated.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Hey, the time has (sort of) come for me to beg you to vote for me on those awards I begged you to nominate me for.

This year there were a lot of nominations.  On the one had, this is a good thing because it means that the KP community isn't dead some fifteen years after it first aired (and ten years after the show ended the final final time.)  On the other hand, it means that the field needs to be winnowed.

The goal is five nominees per category, and the process is simpler.  Since the first round nominees are known it is possible to set up online polls, which is what's been done.  Links to all of the polls can be found here.  This is emphatically not the final voting, and you can vote for up to five nominees per category: the five you think should be in the final consideration.

I rounded up every work or author that has been nominated, which covers all but three categories, in this thread.  Mind you that's not sorted the best for this kind of thing since it aims to make things easier to read by putting each work in only one place and then just listing what it's nominated for after it, rather than following categories.  Still, that's what the search function is for.  Search for the name of a work or author, you'll find a link to it or them.

Since the aim is to cut things down to a given number, some things aren't up for a vote right now.

Here are the things that specifically have to do with me or I'm promoting because I really, really think it deserves to get to the finals.  I'll even link directly to the polls to make things easier.

2) Best Original Character: Leela Place Possible - Being More Than a Simulacrum
3) Best Minor Character: Joss Possible - Being more than a Simulacrum
6) Best Alternate Universe: Life After
14) Best Action/Adventure: Being More than A Simulacrum
18) Best Unlikely/Unique Story: Life After
19) Best Novel-Sized Story: Being More Than Simulacrum
25) Best Reviewer: I strongly recommend GerbilHunter and HopefulHuskey, they're far from the only good ones, but they're the only ones that make me want to go out of my way to recommend them.
27) Kimmunity Achievement Award: chris the cynic
28) Best Story Overall: Forgotten Seeds by chris the cynic
29) Best Writer: chris the cynic

If best series were also being winnowed I'd have a recommendation for that too.  Those three are the only ones I feel strongly enough about to be promoting someone else.

To avoid a wall of blue I decided not to link to the stories above, but here are the ones in contention:

Sunday, June 25, 2017

I'm not doing well

When I got home I didn't eat for two days (not calendar days, more sundown to sundown, two days worth of food no matter how you look at it.)  The sole exception being one bag of microwave popcorn.

That was nine days ago, I'm eating now.

I haven't been doing the whole "go to bed" process well which usually means missing out on a couple hours a night but one time had me going to bed early the next morning.

I'm not accomplishing anything.  Even simple things like "Eat fruit because it will go bad."

I just . . . sit with my computer on my lap and do things that I don't even enjoy that much because it's better that staring off into space doing nothing.


I am, simply, overwhelmed.

Usually when people see my house they see a mess, while I'm fine with it.  Not so right now.

The time I spent unable to walk led to some very serious fucking up of everything.  Oh, and when I broke my ankle in three places it was because things had gotten out of hand and I was trying to tidy up a bit.  Right during step one I fell all the way down the basement stairs.

On getting back from the hospital I had to make my house crutch accessible which involved, basically, anti-clearning.  Clutter that could easily be picked up and put where it went had to be shoved aside into daunting piles of "I have no idea where to even fucking start" and things got worse from there.  As I got better at accommodating the injury I had to access less and less of the house as everything became centralized.  Plus I couldn't clean but the cat was still more than content to knock over ALL THE THINGS.

And then there's money.

Insurance I already owe.  The good news is that my mother/landlord doesn't charge late fees and interest.  I still have to pay it, though, and it's higher than expected $288.

Deferred payments start coming due in August, which is also when the quarterly property tax is due (that, at least, hasn't changed: $657.72) and come October a very long differal (18 months?  Two years?) ends and of course it had to be for a nice high amount high interest thing.  It's what I had to pay to fill the gap between what my warranty paid and what it actually cost to replace broken computer with this one AND get a new external hard drive (a kind of big one) to transfer backed up data and maybe some other stuff.  I have been making payments, but they're never enough. At least it's less than a thousand now.

Then in November there's something I haven't talked about, but I care deeply about.  My grandparents farm is being sold.  The hope is that my sister will be able to finagle things so that she keeps enough property to live on and a conservation group buys the rest so it will not be completely demolished to make space for another ugly housing development, which is what traditionally happens to farms and what my Aunt, half owner, wants to do because that's where the money is.

I don't have faith.

I also don't have a hundreds of thousands of dollars.  That's the problem with farm land around here.  That's why farms are seldom replaced with new farms.  Farms are worth shit.  The land they sit on is worth fucktons.  When I was little my mom used to point to housing developments and say, "When I was little that was all farm land."  I think I was in high school when I started being able to point to housing developments and say, "When I was little, that was all farmland."  It's gotten worse since then.

So I keep on thinking of that, coming to the conclusion that there's no fucking way I could ever hope to raise the necessary money, and having my brain shut down.  Even though there's plenty of other stuff I really fucking need to do that can't be done with a shut down brain.  Like, you know, everything.

I think there was other stuff I was going to say.


I very much wish there were some sort of special account/business/whatever where the money could only be used to pay for buying the farm.  Something where I, my sister, and whoever else could raise specifically farm money that was legally cut off from the money we have to live on.  You know, go out, write/do/whatever farm stuff, and not have that cause me to lose my SSI and my insurance.

It would be dishonest to say, "We're trying to save this farm in Cape Elizabeth" and then use raised money to pay expenses on my house in South Portland, but the SSA doesn't see honesty as an important concept.  Unless I'm legally prevented from using the money dishonestly, they have determined that I can use it to pay the expenses SSI is supposed to cover, and they cut SSI, and that's why for more than two years I've been in a state of nigh constant financial collapse when I should be skimming along just fine.

I still need to get around to sending them financial documents (in hopes it will fix some of that), it's as easy as a trip across the street on a day other than Sunday, but see the body of this post for why that hasn't happened.

I did have the documents all gathered and ready to send, but that was in my maroon notebook.  All of my notebooks are important, but the maroon notebook was really, really, really fucking important.  Of course it was the one that I lost.

In fact, that might have been one of the other things I intended to say.  There are various writing projects where I'll think, "Wait, I already did this work," spend ages looking for where I did it (I have writing and notes in a lot of places) and finally realize with a fresh dose of frustration and sadness that it was in the maroon notebook, which I think I lost in someone's house in Massachusetts, that I'll almost certainly never see again.


Anyway those are the thoughts I am having.

I know I shouldn't think so much about the farm.  It's beyond my reach.  It's a problem I can't solve.  But I can't not think about it, and when I do it just shuts everything down.

If anyone wants to help contribute solving the problems that can be solved:

I can be given money in single payments via Paypal either using my email (cpw [at] maine [dot] rr [dot] com) in the "send money" feature of your account (which is better if you're paying me via your balance or bank account, the same if it's via credit card) or via the donate button on the top right of this page.

Automatic Paypal payments do not work.
 It's been going on for ages and I have yet to determine the problem.  They just don't work.

So, if you want to set up a recurring payment, please use my Patreon account.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

We're Leaving -- Matter of Aravis

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings, but it would have gone with this post if not for the fact comments are long since closed.]

Shasta stroked the donkey as the Horse insisted that he, a creature that had just dismissed human legs as silly things, would somehow make "a fine rider" out of Shasta, someone who rode primarily by making use of his silly human legs.

Then the Horse got to saying useful things, "We mustn't start until those two in the hut are asleep. In the meantime we can make our plans. My Tarkaan was riding north on a secret mission."

For a moment Shasta's heart leapt at the idea of secrets in the north. Then practical thoughts put an end to that, "So we should probably go south."

"I think not," the Horse said, "see he thinks I'm dumb and witless like his other horses. Now if I really were, the moment I got loose I'd go back home to my stable or paddock: back to his palace which is two days journey south. That's where he'll look for me. He'd never dream of me going north on my own."

"But you won't be on your own," Shasta said. "I'll be with you and Arsheesh knows that I've always wondered about what lay to the north."

"Of course you have," the Horse said. "That's because of the blood that's in you. I'm sure you're of true northern stock."

Shasta averted his gaze in hopes the Horse wouldn't see him rolling his eyes.

"When we both go missing," Shasta said, "and Arsheesh tells the Tarkaan that I've always wondered about the north, the Tarkaan will think I took you north."

"No," the Horse said. "He'll think you tried to take me north, someone who has only ever ridden a donkey," the contempt returned, Shasta pet the donkey, "could never control a horse such as myself. We'll leave a trail leading south, there's a stream not too far from here where we can turn around without leaving a trail."

Shasta had an idea that he thought was better.

"Or," Shasta said, "you could go south on your own, I could ride north on the donkey, and since war horses are so much more expensive than human slaves--"

Shasta's idea was detailed and he was a bit of proud of himself for coming up with it all at once. He'd make it look like the horse escaped through his own incompetence. Considering how often he really was incompetent Arsheesh would have no trouble believing that. Then his theft of the donkey would look like him trying to escape punishment.

Arsheesh would never be able to catch up to the donkey on foot, and the Tarkaan would be pointed south while struggling to find a way to catch up with a runaway horse that wasn't weighed down by a rider.

Shasta never got to say any of that, because the Horse cut him off:

"The donkey is a dumb and witless beast, why would bother doing anything with it?"

"We are taking the donkey," Shasta said.

"It will only slow us down," the Horse said. "Leave it here."

"I'm taking the donkey," Shasta said. "If you don't like it you can go your own way and explain to everyone you meet why you're a horse with no human."

The horse made a sound of frustration for which there are no letters, then said, "Check to see that they're asleep."

Shasta crept back to the home he'd be leaving. There was no light. No signs of anyone awake. He heard the familiar snores of Arsheesh. He didn't hear anything else, and he didn't want to risk going inside, the door and the floor and the . . . everything, weren't exactly silent.

He had to just believe that the Tarkaan was asleep based on the utter lack of evidence he was awake.

Shasta returned to the Horse and the donkey and said, "They're asleep. Tell me what you need, and hope we can get it quietly."

The donkey had a bridle, but its back was always bare. It had never had a saddle or bags. Shasta didn't know anything about them or how to put them on. While the Horse tried to be helpful, the process of getting it ready was long and difficult. Also, it refused to answer Shasta's questions about why it should want a saddle or the contents of its saddle bags.

It did, at least, make some conversation beyond, "Looser," "Tighter," "Higher," and "Lower," when Shasta asked it how it had come to be in Calormen.

"Kidnapped," the Horse said. For a moment it seemed like it was going to leave it at a single word, but then it added, "Or stolen, or captured -- whichever you like to call it. I was only a foal at the time. My mother warned me not to range to the southern slopes, into Archenland and beyond, but I wouldn't heed her. She also talked about Aslan as though he were a real flesh and blood lion, as if she'd seen him in her lifetime. Gods obviously aren't like that, so I thought she was just a foolish old Mare.

"I should have known that her practical advice would be more grounded in reality than her theology, but I thought if she were wrong about one thing she might as well be wrong about all things. By the Lion's Mane I have paid for that folly."

Of course, Shasta had no idea who Aslan was, but he had other questions.

"Why didn't you tell someone you weren't like other horses?" Shasta asked. "Cry out, 'I'm a Narnian Talking Horse and shouldn't be treated like this!'"

"That's worked so well for the talking human slaves of Calormen," the Horse said bitterly. "The true reason, though, is that I'm not so foolish as to think that might have helped. The ones who captured me knew I could talk; I did cry out when I was first captured. But in Calormen, a talking animal would, at best, be a curiosity shown at fairs, guarded so well I could never hope to escape.

"That would be the best I could hope for. More likely the Calmorene who heard me speak would react with superstition over greed and destroy me out of fear I was a demon. Many in this land know that Talking Animals exist, but they can't seem to accept that we could be people rather than devils."

"But surely someone--"

"It feels like you're finished," the Horse said. "It's time for us to go."

* * *

It wasn't long before Shasta and the donkey had reached the top of the hill that marked the northern edge of the world Shasta had known. There was no great secret, just grassy plains that seemed to go on forever.

"I say!" is how the Horse announced its presence, causing Shasta to flinch. "What a place for a gallop."

"I have no idea what that is," Shasta said.

"Horses have different gaits," the Horse said. "Just like humans run differently than they walk. A gallop is our fastest gait; a donkey's too, I believe. It's not just for when we're in a hurry, it's also for throwing away all cares and just moving."

"Won't that wear you out?" Shasta asked.

"If I did it all the time," the Horse said, "yes."

"Well . . ." Shasta realized that their introduction had lacked something very important. "What do I call you?"

"My name is Bree-hinny-brinny-hoohy-hah," the Horse said, though one must understand that human alphabets don't properly capture the sounds a Horse is like to make when speaking its name.

"I don't think I can say that," Shasta said.

"I believe, when I was a foal, it was said that humans would have an easier time calling me, 'Bree'," the Horse said.

"That I can say," Shasta said.

"And what shall I call you?" Bree asked.

"I'm called Shasta."

"That I can say," Bree said. "Now, as to what a gallop is, let me show you."

Bree took off across the grassy plains.

Shasta leaned forward on the donkey, right hand gently touching its neck, and said, "Just go."

The donkey thought for a moment, like any other donkey it didn't understand human words per se, but it had spent a lifetime with Shasta, it understood "go" it understood tone of voice, and it understood the feel of Shasta's body. It also understood that the Horse that had been beside them a moment ago was speeding away.

Ordinarily it wouldn't have gone faster than a trot without some kind of great incentive or threat, but everything in how Shasta felt where and when the two touched this night gave off a strong sense of importance. There was no apparent threat or reward, but Shasta resonated with importance and, whatever that meant, it was probably worth keeping the strange Horse in sight for.

Shasta galloped for the first time.

-

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Monday, June 19, 2017

I feel as though someone made my pupils huge, held my eyes open, and shined light in them well passed the point of crying -OR- It didn't take two months

So when the came in this morning it turned out there was an open slot today at two thirty, which is somewhat different than the previous estimate of "maybe August" for when I could have an exam.

So now I've had my eyes checked which hopefully is covered by insurance but I remember them being wrong about that once before way back when I was still covered by my mother's insurance.  Good news: I don't have (a specific type of) cancer or diabetes.

Diabetes runs in both sides of my family, so I knew that was a risk, I didn't even remember the fact that there's apparently a mole in the back of my right eye that needs to be watched for fear it'll do the whole "I'm going to grow out of control now" that changes a growth from "mole" to "cancer.  It hasn't grown in the six years since my last eye exam, I think I'm good.

Those and other things are why I had my pupils dilated, my retina photographed and looked at, and so much light shined into my eyes that I couldn't really tell dark from light but I could sure as fuck see every god damned blood vessel in my retina in crystal clarity.  I'm honestly not sure exactly how that works, but something about shining a bright light in your eye allows you to see the inside of your eye.

While not having cancer and not having diabetes and not having [random other thing that sounds like badly written technobabble to me] are all good things, I didn't actually go there for any of that crap.

My eyes are actually continuing to improve, if you ignore the scratches and scuffs and such, the problem lenses in my glasses is that they're too strong.  And back when I got then-new glasses six years ago, that was also (albeit at a lower level) the problem with these glasses.  If I keep this up then after I die of old age (optimism here), get buried, and rise from the dead as part of the zombie apocalypse, my unaided vision might be normal or better.

Now wearing glasses that are too strong isn't a good thing, but in this case it isn't a horrible thing either.  The scratches that mar the surfaces of the lenses are a much bigger pain.  Still, even without scratches I'd be better off with the right prescription.

Fun fact: while my insurance covers getting my eyes checked out (though I have worries that it might not cover the detailed retina thing which would be bad) it doesn't help at all when it comes to frames or lenses.

If I want good glasses I need both.  These frames are beat to Hell.  (They've been crushed at least once.)

Now I have no idea how the fuck one reasons "We should allow people to get their eyes checked to see if they need glasses and then not let them get the glasses they find out they need," but such is life.  It also doesn't cover non-emergency dental even though it's much cheaper to not wait for an emergency and so not have one.  (Amoung my hopes and dreams is getting my teeth checked and cleaned by a professional.)  So I'm used to things not making sense.

The lenses cost 99 dollars, for an additional 89 they can be made non-glare, which I give no shits about, that has the side effect of making both sides of the lenses scratch resistant, which I give acres of fertilizer about.  (Standard lenses are only scratch resistant on the outward facing side based upon the theory that glasses will, once donned, create an eternal airtight bond with your face thus preventing any possible abrasions while wearing and preventing them from ever being not-worn.)

The frames . . . here's the thing, I know exactly what I like in glasses.  It's consistent and simple.  It and popularity don't exactly go hand in hand.

In fact, I couldn't find anything.  The actual glasses guy (entirely different than the eye doctor since glasses and eyes have very little in common and it would be silly to expect someone to specialize in both fields) had to search through his entire inventory, including the stuff that doesn't get anything like it displayed because, seriously, what are the odds?

Out of everything he has access to, he found one frame that matches what I wear.  Two if you count: I don't even look like myself because frame free glasses have achieved invisibility, and anyway, it's more expensive.

One style, two colors, such wonderful selection.  But actually, it worked out.  The style is perfect, and either of the colors would have been fine, but there's one I like more so that works out to a simple decision when it comes to aesthetics.

$219

But wait, I could take my prescription to a different place and they'd . . . nope.  The internet informs me that not only will I not be finding a cheaper option, but that glasses manufacturers in general, and frame creators in particular, have no idea what the fuck the word "oval" means.

I does not fucking mean "Rectangle with the corners slightly rounded."  No, no, fuck you, no.

Now I get that for some ungodly reason ovals are not popular, in point of fact the actual oval lens and frame glasses the guy did find appear to be trying to evoke a "retro stylings from the the 1900s" feel, but that does not change the fact that a rectangle with the points removed does not an oval make.

Oval is a loosely defined term and can cover everything from an egg shape (from which the word derives) to an ellipse (which is what I go for in my glasses), but it doesn't cover "clearly four sided figure, but shaved some around the corners and/or edges".  In the field of athletics it can also mean a figure with two (really fucking straight) sides which are connected by two semi-circles, but even that really-stretching-it meaning doesn't cover the bullshit frame makers are trying to pass off as ovals.

Words mean things, people.  For fuck's sake.

* * *

So, in conclusion, $99 for lenses, which becomes $188 if I want them to resist abrasion.  And if I want them to be things I don't hate, the frames make it add up to $407.  Presumably there's some kind of tax, but I'm not even sure what category a medical device falls under.

And I'm already in deep debt, and I owe the insurance, which --if it hasn't changed-- is $267.50 according to a Google search of what I've said before, and quarterly property tax ($657.72) comes due in August, which I obviously haven't saved up for.

So, yeah.  I've got a new prescription, there's a decent chance I'm not going to be getting new glasses because: holy fuck; the price.

Friday, June 16, 2017

My cat is safe

So, good news.  The creepy neighbor who --she herself claims-- looks through my windows (with her camera) every night because she's terrified of the raccoons, which defy the laws of physics and biology, she sees there, did not in fact abduct my cat.

My cat is here, she is fine, she hasn't been abducted by a creepy neighbor who thinks that she can do a better job of taking care of her.

So now we just have to figure out what's up with the "raccoons" that leave no physical evidence but apparently provide justification for peeping through my windows and snapping pictures.  Every god damned night if creepy neighbor's self reporting is to be believed.

The Horse can talk -- The Matter of Aravis

[This was supposed to go up yesterday, fucking auto-posting-schedule-thing failed me]
[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings, but it would have gone with this post if not for the fact comments are long since closed.]
[You know the content notes for these by now, slavery, child abuse, lack of self worth, stuff like that.]

The donkey was laying down, as it always did when a horse was in the stable.  The donkey knew that it meant Shasta would be sleeping with it, and so it made it easy on Shasta, whom the donkey knew could not sleep standing up.

That was where Shasta found the donkey when he ran into the stable.

Shasta moved to the ground near the donkey in something that was part lunge and part collapse and threw his arms around the donkey's neck.  For a time Shasta just hugged the donkey and cried.

When he finally could manage it he said, "Father is-- I mean Arsheesh, apparently he isn't my father, is . . . he's selling me.  Right now.  He's selling me to the one who owns the horse.  The man, Arsheesh calls him Tarkaan, said when he came that he only needed to stay the night so in the morning I'll be taken away from you.

"I don't want to lose you," Shasta said, he kissed the coarse fur on the donkey's neck, then cried even more.

"If I'm lucky this Tarkaan will be good, I'll have a better life, and . . ." Shasta buried his face his the fur of the donkey's neck.  It was a while before he spoke again: "Just, just hope that I'm happy when you think of me and--"

"You won't be."

Shasta's entire body jolted.

"Who said that?" he asked releasing the donkey and trying to sound brave.

"I did."

Whoever it was was right behind him.  He stood slowly and turned around. "There's an armed man in the house and--" having turned completely around Shasta saw no one. "Where are you!?"

"I'm right here."

The horse's mouth had moved.  The sound had come from the direction of the horse.  There was no space for anyone to be hiding behind the horse saying those words.  No sense was made.

"What are you?" Shasta asked, trying at once to hide his fear and to avoid offending this creature.

"I'm a Horse, obviously," the Horse said.

"Horses don't talk," Shasta said uneasily.  Then he felt comfort, the donkey had stood up too and gently rubbed against his left side.

"The unthinking animals you're used to here don't talk," the Horse said, "but where I come from nearly all the animals talk."

Without even thinking Shasta had rested his left elbow on the donkey and was stroking it with his left hand.

"Where do you come from?"

"Narnia," the horse said.  "The happy land of Narnia—Narnia of the heathery mountains and the thymy downs, Narnia of the many rivers, the plashing glens, the mossy caverns and the deep forests ringing with the hammers of the Dwarfs.  Oh the sweet air of Narnia!  An hour’s life there is better than a thousand years in Calormen."

Then it made a whinny that sounded a lot like a sigh.

Shasta's first thought was to ask where Narnia was, but then he remembered the first thing the horse had said to him.

"What did you mean: I won't be?"

"You won't be happy," the Horse said. "My master is bad.  Not too bad to me, for a war horse costs too much--"

"You're a war horse?" Shasta asked with a kind of awe.  There really were wars?  There were enough people in the world to have wars?  There were special horses for wars?

"Yes, and we mustn't waste time with idle questions," the Horse answered.  "Human slaves are not expensive, and so it would be better for you to die tonight than to be a human slave in his house tomorrow."

Shasta didn't respond.

"Things will get much worse for you if he becomes your master."

"Things things really can be worse?" Shasta asked.  It felt like all his strength had left him and he'd collapse right there."

"Yes," the Horse said, "they can."

"I-- I have to go," Shasta said, "I have to leave."

"Yes, you had better do that," the Horse said, "but why not leave with me?"

"You're going to run away?"

"All of these years I have been a slave to foreign humans, pretending to be dumb and witless like their horses," the Horse said.  "I've been waiting for a chance to escape and this is the best chance for both of us.

"You see, if I run away without a rider any human who sees me will say, 'Stray Horse,' and be after me as quick as he can.  With a human I've got a chance to get through.  That's where you can help me.  On the other hand you can't get very far on those two silly legs of yours --what absurd legs humans have-- without being overtaken.  But on me you can outdistance any other horse in this country.  That's where I can help you.  By the way, I suppose you know how to ride?"

"Oh yes, of course," said Shasta.  "I've ridden the donkey many--"

"Ridden the wha-ha-ha-ha!?" the Horse said with such contempt he was unable to finish the final word.

Shasta looked at the donkey and said, "Don't listen to him."

"It can't understand me," the Horse said.

"You've ridden the donkey," the Horse said, again speaking with contempt.  "In other words: you can't ride.  That's a drawback.  I'll have to teach you as we go along.  If you can't ride, can you fall?"

Shasta was confused by the question, "Anyone can fall."

"I mean can you fall, get up again without crying, mount again, and fall again, all without being afraid of falling."

"I-- I'll try," Shasta said.

"Poor little beast," the Horse said in a gentler tone, "I forgot you're only a foal."

---

While I reserve the title "Bree the Liar" for a horse that will be like the Bree described in gehayi's wonderful rendition, Bree here is lying his ass off. He's not a war horse, he's not the fastest horse in Calormen, and the Tarkaan isn't notably horrible. He's not a saint either --he lives in a slave holding culture and isn't exactly hosting abolitionist strategy meetings-- but Shasta's life would have been much improved had the sale gone through.

(And I also take issue with Bree's claim that nearly all the animals in Narnia talk.  Maybe it's just me, but I really don't see that working for an ecosystem.)

Bree happens to be a slave who is completely willing to lie if it'll help him escape.  Which, I think, is a completely reasonable position to take.  Mind you this Bree is still an asshole, but that's complete separate from lying to Shasta as part of his escape attempt here.

I'm finally going to get new glasses . . . in two months or so

The title of this post was originally going to be "FUCK!" or maybe "Fuck."  The point is that capitalization and punctuation are unclear, but the letters were never in doubt.

I just got off the phone with the office of the eye doctor I was, years ago, used to.  And then, as I was hanging up the phone, I found my right lens.

Now for two hours (probably a bit less, but I don't have exact times) before this I scoured the house and even followed the path I took walking the munchkin weasel to school, and the slightly different path I took back, looking for the damned lens.  No luck.

Now, just to recap, when I first needed glasses I only needed them for my right eye, which caused everyone I talked to about them to suggest I should have gotten a monacle.  My left eye is no longer a paragon of perfection, but it's still way better, and that will matter, but first:

For a very long time I had no insurance and just kept wearing the glasses I had instead of getting new ones even though my eyes are not ones to stay the same and so my prescription likely would have changed had I ever gotten one.

So I was already wearing outdated glasses at the start of the epic eye adventure.  Then they fell down a toilet.  I think they stayed in there for a year or more (two?  I never was good at keeping track of time.)  Thus I switched to emergency backup glasses which were a prescription out of date when the toilet glasses were up to date.  Then the screws gave out (one at a time) and they started being held together by the twisty ties from bread bags.

I'd actually just recently re-wrapped the left side and should have done the same to the right but never got around to it.  (I have now.)

I was doing something that made my glasses fog and risked sweat dropping on them so I took them off.  A while later I put them on.  Things were very not right, if anything I was seeing worse.  Often means that the lenses need cleaning, and it was when I went to do that that I realized the right lens was gone.

The left lens might not have been a problem.  My left eye is still pretty good.  The right lens was catastrophic.  Want to induce a headache in a hurry?  Make one eye see for crap while the other sees at or near 20-20.  With the exception of people with special training or innate talent, having your eyes not agree causes dissonance in the whole visual cortex brain-thing and the result is unpleasantness.

I was better off without my glasses, with my only limited salvation being that by the end to the day today I'll be in a position to pick up my emergency back up emergency back up glasses (never throw shit out, it can be very useful to have glasses that are three prescriptions old.)

And that was enough to get me to finally start the ball of eye exam and new glasses appointment rolling.

Immediately after which, I found the missing lens.  I re-wrapped the right side so I should be good for a while, but they don't think they have anything until August (or later) and I'm betting that:
a) it won't be in time for my birthday on the 3rd.
b) no one will be willing to pay for any expenses not covered by MaineCare (the good frames have a habit of being ones insurance disapproves of) as a birthday present.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Monthly Financial Update

Ok, so, beyond the neighbor who has been taking pictures through my windows, beyond my missing cat, and beyond a possible family of possible raccoons possibly collapsing my porch ceiling (and I use the word "ceiling" loosely here), everything hurts and nothing is beautiful.

It doesn't, mostly, have to do with money, but that's a still a big factor because it always is.  Insurance had to be paid this month which, because of the kind of landlord my mother is, means that it was paid (yay!) but I still have to pay her because it's not a gift, more of a reprieve.

That's $250-something.  (Very specific, I know, but the cat and neighbor and possible raccoons took up most of the conversations.)  Do I have that?  No.

In fact I just had to take back money that had been intended to be a gift to someone but ended up as more of an extremely short term loan just to get the monthlies done.  And one of them I did late which, when the late fee is combined with interest, means my balance went up instead of down.

Not counting things with deferred interest that will come back to bite me starting in July and bringing about the apocalypse by October, my worst interest debt (worst first) is:

$357.00 on a card that was supposed to be paid off, but I needed it.
$1,521.76 on a card I had hoped to pay off a while back but obviously didn't.
$534.29 on a card I had hopes of paying off at about the same time.

I said I'd have reason to conclude that investing in stuff was stupid, that's part of the reason.  I could have paid down some of that.

Of course if I had, I'd still need to come up with the 250-something for the insurance, and taxes will come due eventually.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

I am not, on the whole, doing well.

Yesterday and the day before I was tired all the time and ended up losing consciousness rather unexpectedly while I was in the lump of inactivity being tired leads to.  Yesterday that wasn't a problem, the day before it meant I slept through when school got out and thus didn't pick up a kid it was, basically, my one and only job to pick up.

There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth.  But I've probably done useful things elsewhere, you think.  Nope.  Not even close.  I've washed maybe three to five dishes and two sheet pans and other than that . . . I got nothing.  For almost a week.

And just to make sure we're covering all the bases, my failure includes two states.  I fucked up notifying the right people of the right things and my cat apparently got locked outside for days.  A nosy neighbor who has apparently, without my knowledge or consent, been doing up close photography of the view through my windows (nothing creepy about that) announced (to someone else) that she didn't like how I was taking care of my cat, and my cat has not been seen since.

Also, she claims that there's a family of raccoons in my attic.  Whether or not I have an attic depends very much on what you mean by the term.  If you think of an attic as a place where things can be stored or anything even remotely like that, then I very much do not have one.  If you're more of a strict definition person then yeah, there is empty space between my slanted roof and my flat ceilings.  I have not, in fact, filled that space with some form of solid matter.  So, by definition, there is an attic.

What there is not, is a floor.  Now the rooms of the house all have ceilings, so there's something there that will hold up a lighter animal even if a human foot would punch straight through, but there's a thing about the windows the neighbor would have to look through to see anything up there.

They're basically a facade to make my slant roof give the impression of a non-existent second floor (or at least the kind of attic in which [plot relevant thing] containing cardboard boxes can actually be stored) so that my house, which faces an entire street of two story homes and (on the same side of the street) is next two a three story apartment building, doesn't come off as pitifully small.  They weren't placed with any kind of care because they're nothing but decoration.  We've already established no floor anywhere up there, but for where the windows are there's no ceiling.  They're over the open air porch which isn't a room, wasn't built like one, and does not have a ceiling so much as a centimeter or so thick loose conglomeration of boards that are intended to serve more as part of the roof ventilation system than any kind of load bearing structure.

You can literally stand on my porch, outside of the house, look up, and see out of those windows through what passes for a ceiling to the porch.

There's basically nothing there (there's not supposed to be much of anything there), which is fine if you're a squirrel or small bird, but the weight of a raccoon could conceivably bring the whole thing down which would be bad.  It is, quite literally, the single hardest part of my house to make repairs to.  That's why I've never got around to fixing the whole "You can see through the house from here" thing.  That's basically a cosmetic problem (remember, it's not supposed to be airtight) repairs would need to be done from the inside, and the inside is where there's zero support.  (The underside at least allows the possibility of a ladder.)

Then again I'm not sure how much I have to worry about the claims of someone who admits to peeping through my windows and taking pictures and may have stolen my cat.

But, back to matters of the self, as opposed to one adult and three baby raccoons that may or may not exist.

I haven't just been tired and generally lacking in any kind of usefulness.

I've been feeling hopeless, and helpless, and worthless.

Though, I do have a small backlog of fiction fragments so I should be able to put some more content on here regardless of whether or not I start feeling better.