I Can Fix The Crimson

So, the retro-wonderland video game Terraria received a massive content update at the end of June. I didn’t get around to checking it out until like last week, but I spent enough time playing it over the weekend to get full-blown Tetris Syndrome over it, with neat rows of terrain blocks artfully arranging themselves behind my eyes.

Sometimes described as being a side-scrolling Minecraft clone, Terraria sometimes feels like a video game designed with someone exactly like me in mind. Dynamic lighting and particle effects aside, it looks a lot like the video games I grew up with. It’s what I consider to be a true sandbox game, which means it’s not just an open world for exploration with limited sign posting and required goals, but it’s meant to be reshaped and built in.

In fact, it’s darn near what I imagined the future of video games would look like, back in the early 90s: looking about the same but shinier and you would be able to do so much more stuff.

A little background: Terraria starts by dropping you into an idyllic pseudo-16 bit paradise, where a cartoony Final Fantasy-ish looking character stands in a forest meadow surrounded by trees and bunnies. It’s less muddy (and far prettier) than the more famous Minecraft, but the basic idea is the same: day is relatively safe, the night is dark and full of terrors. You spend the daylight hours gathering materials and exploring, then dig in for the night with a simple shelter. As you gain more materials and gameplay familiarity (there’s no in-game experience or skill system), your simple shelter might become an elaborate castle, secret underground base, mansion, or town, and your tools for dealing with the horrors of night or the monsters lurking underground become more powerful and sophisticated.

The game does not have a linear progression, but nevertheless, it does progress. The quest for more and better stuff takes you into more dangerous environments with new threats. Random events can make the monsters more numerous and/or more monstrous. Horrible-looking screen-hogging bosses lurk in the background, appearing when the player accidentally disturbs them, deliberately summons them, or in some cases just grows too powerful. Defeating these leviathans results in fundamental shifts in gameplay, by giving you access to new materials and in some cases new areas to explore, but also unleashing more horrors and wonders into the world.

The most recent content updates to Terraria are much less geared towards me in particular as a consumer, as they are largely concerned with extending out the “end game” with more challenging content.

See, the game is “over” in the sense of there being nothing new under the sun when you had beaten the last boss, achieved the best armor, and built a town or mansion big enough to house all the friendly Non-Player Characters. That’s the point where people who play a game to completion tend to feel like there’s nothing more to do, whereas it’s the point where I feel like I’ve collected all the toys and it’s time to start playing for real. The new updates do add more toys, but they’re mostly focused on creating the equivalent of new challenge stages for people who have beaten everything else: new events to live through, new invasions to fight off, new bosses to summon and beat.

I’m not saying that’s not fun, but it’s not what I’m there for.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the times in my life I’ve been most into Terraria have been the times that I have felt the most powerless, the times that I have had the most emotional turmoil. Real life is complicated and messy. Terraria is neat and orderly. While people in real life cling to aphorisms about how the creator of the universe never gives you a challenge that you can’t stand up to, this is literally true about Terraria‘s dynamically generated world: it is a world full of problems, yes, but they’re all problems that are not only ultimately solvable, they are engineered to have solutions that are within your grasp.

Sometimes I see the meme circulating within Gamergate that anybody who takes on “gamers” is a fool because gamers are winners, because they have more experience with persevering over defeat and fighting losing battles than anyone else. There are many things wrong with this mindset, not the least of which is the idea that Gamergate represents the whole set of “gamers” and people who disagree with them (or haven’t heard of them, or don’t care) haven’t shared in those same experiences.

But the idea is also foolish because the challenges that Gamergate is used to overcoming are overwhelmingly stacked in their favor. Even the games that are designed to be devilishly difficult, to appeal to people who want a challenge, are generally designed to be just challenging enough to sink emotional hooks in the player and compel them to keep trying. When a game’s story tells you that you are struggling against impossible odds, that’s the story. The game is there for you to beat it. The obstacles within it are there for you to overcome.

And with very few exceptions in the modern era, death and failure are a temporary state that are effectively retconned away as soon as they happen. Even in games with no finite lives/continues or “permadeath”… you the player can still start your game again, even if your actions resulted in the death of the character you were controlling.

That’s not how it works in real life. Even if Gamergate is not exactly a life-and-death struggle, it is still possible to fail so badly at a thing that it impacts your chance of future success. The saying “You only have one chance to make a first impression” applies here. The gator-based assumption that everything they do—every attempt at something like re-branding themselves—should be and must be judged in a vacuum, it reflects this disconnect.

The faith they have that their time spent gaming will translate to real life has given them the expectation that trying again means their previous failures need not be addressed. It’s a fresh try.

I think older gamers, those of us who played games during the awkward transition between the quarter-eating devil machines of the arcade era and the development of the home market, might have a more realistic perspective. Certainly those of us who played adventure games that could be rendered unpredictably unwinnable by a single wrong move in the opening scenes have a pretty solid understanding that a thing can be so small and so random and yet still screw something big and important up so badly that it can’t be fixed again.

My older brother had a boxed set of The Ultima Trilogy, the original Ultima and its first two sequels. The second game was the one most interesting to us, as we’d already played the NES port of Ultima III and Ultima II, with its greater focus on time-and-interplanetary travel and conceit of exploring the real world was just… well. It was amazing. Or it looked amazing.

But the second game, unlike the other two, would only save one character per disk. And it included no mechanic for deleting your character and starting over. I mean, nowadays I know that anyone with a sufficient knowledge of DOS could delete the save file and/or copy the disk used for saving, but these things were not intuitive to us at the age of ~8.

So what happened was my brother started playing a game, and he saved it at a point where he was low on food (running out being a loss condition) and in no position to get any more. And that was it. We could run Ultima II. We could walk around a little bit before starving to death. That was the whole game as we experienced it.

Playing Ultima II in DOS taught me that you can screw a thing up so badly it can’t be fixed and all you can do is wander around watching the inevitable slowly fail, a lesson that Gamergate doesn’t seem to have ever learned.

But Terraria.

Terraria is not a coin-op game ported directly to consoles. It’s not a text adventure. It’s not a game designed for a narrow niche of expert hobbyists who can be expected to do their own file management. It’s a modern game, designed for modern sensibilities, and all the problems it gives you are ultimately solvable. When the orderly world it presents is infected with chaos, you are given the tools to beat back the rising tide. You can fight off the monster hordes. You can purge the world of the eldritch infection that threatens to swallow it whole. You can put the sealed evil back in the can. And while you’re doing this, you can re-arrange the world to your liking.

My current self-directed goal in the game is to rid my generated world of crimson, a body horror-esque element represented by a biome made of bloody tumors. It has a chance of being present in your world at generation, and it spreads… slowly at first, then at the main turning point in the game’s progression, it makes a huge leap across a large swath of the map and then spreads much faster. The spread of the crimson (or the corruption, the cosmic horror equivalent that will be present instead if the crimson isn’t) makes the game much harder, and its progress seems inexorable, especially when you realize that not only can it spread directly but it will pop up in random, out-of-the-way places in response to certain actions.

But the thing is, the world of Terraria is finite, contained within boundaries that a human mind can easily conceive of and explore. Anywhere the crimson can pop up, you can get to. And you have tools to fight it. You can root it out. You can purify it. You can blow it up. You can blast a trench to hell in order to cut off its spread. You can spray a cleansing solution in a circle around you and clear whole screens at a time. You can watch the map of the world as you’ve explored it for places turning red that were previously green or gray. You can hunt it down.

You can fix it.

It’s not easy in the sense of being something you can push a button and fix it. The quickest, surest solutions are probably also the most tedious in practical terms. The in-game reward? Doesn’t actually exist. But it’s a goal, and it can be reached. It’s a problem, and it has a solution.

Last night, in the midst of an emotional conversation with my boyfriend Jack, I explained my current mania for Terraria with five words: “I can fix the crimson.”

Ultimately, of course, success in a video game means as little as failure does. I can wipe the crimson off the face of *this* map, but not only are no lives actually saved or changed or touched in any way by this feat, but it still exists in thousands and thousands of other Terraria maps extant in the world. And as soon as I start another game or take my character to another map, it’ll start up again. I know this.

But while video game problems and their solutions are completely immaterial in the strictest sense of the world, there’s still something compelling about them. In real life, the world around us is unfathomably vast, unknowably opaque, and unspeakably complex. You cannot solve the world. You cannot beat the world.

But just load up a copy of an old Mario game and you can beat eight worlds in a leisurely afternoon.

What’s Up With John Z. Upjohn

So, today and most of late yesterday have been pretty hellacious on a personal level, but one slightly bright spot today: I got a message through to John Z. Upjohn, who may or may not have lost a book deal due to my interview with his publisher yesterday.

Mr. Upjohn was in better spirits than I would have expected, and seemed particularly reluctant to say a bad word about his boss/mentor, despite what some might see as an extreme setback. He seemed particularly flattered that I was interested in his book, and he sent along to me the first few pages for my perusal.

I prefer to leave the reviews to the professionals, so I won’t say much about it. Since it seems unlikely that The Freedom of Liberty will see the light of day anytime soon, he asked me if I would share it, so at least part of it might find an audience.

The Freedom of Liberty (Prologue)


Jon Prescott Johnson shouldered his rifle as he stood up. Kneeling, he peered through the rifle’s scope and surveyed the land all around him, carefully scouting as he reconnoitered.

He had a pair of military grade polyspectrum binocs in on his belt, but he preferred the honesty of the rifle.

While he swept the countryside with body’s eyes, his mind’s eye reflected on how he looked. Tall, six foot four, and built. He was not a vain man, but simple biology dictated that all women liked their men to be built, so built he was. Looking at him, you knew that he lifted. His face was stubbled so you could tell he took care of himself but he wasn’t fussy about it.

He wouldn’t brag about it, but there was definitely something in his face that made ladies swoon. Was it confidence, or was it arrogance? Trick question. It was both. At the same time something in his eyes said, “Gay guys, back off.” just so there wasn’t any confusion.

It was a fair warning, and the only warning they would get.

Jon P. Johnson was not a hateful man. There was no room for hate in heart, not with all the love of freedom crammed in there. But he was a man, all man, and he had the same natural reaction to homosexuals as every other man.

The comforting weight of the rifle in his hands was comforting to his hands. It was a custom made version of the latest model the finest weaponsmiths on Ceanndana could turn out: the Garand Turismo Mark III with the double extended clip and a polycarbonite stock with a gunmetal gray finish expertly covered over in stained walnut.

Not satisfied with the machine results, he had insisted on rifling the barrel by hand himself. He’d been shooting since before he could walk. What machine knew more about rifles than he did? His bold and unconventional and boldly unconventional choice had resulted in a weapon that was accurate to a range of approximately seven meters, but he was quite sure that no other weapon was quite as accurate at that range.

He wasn’t so vainglorious as to feel the need to put that hypothesis to the test, though. He believed results should speak for themselves.

The hills of the Ceanndanan countryside rolled out all around him. It was a harsh landscape. Ceanndana was a harsh planet. Humanity’s sons had touched their feet down on its dirt at the tail end of a deceptively mild period in its natural climate variation: the temperatures had been pleasant, precipitation mild but dependably regular, and the hills and plains covered in vegetation that housed a wide variety of animal life.

It had seemed like a paradise, a new Eden filled with inexhaustible resources. So the first colonists had begin clear-cutting forests to build factories, burning out grasslands to most efficiently provide farmlands for the new world. Rivers were dammed for power. Animals were hunted for sport. This new Eden had been provided for their benefit and no tyrannical pencil-pushing bureaucrats were going to stop them from using its bounty to the fullest degree possible.

But it hadn’t lasted. The greatest climate explainers Ceanndana recognized had theorized that the planet had a complex, long-term global season system. The colonists had touched down at the end of global spring. Now the planet was entering had enter moved into global summer. The atmosphere had grown hot and dry and poisonous, the rain sporadic and acidic. The remaining wildlands had turned barren. Once-plentiful animal life was now in short supply. The polar ice was melting. The seas were turning toxic and barren of life.

Maybe the United Nations had known about the cycle and tried to stick the rebellious upstarts with what they believed would be a deathtrap. If so, they would be disappointed. The Ceanndanans persevered and even took pride in their increasingly inhospitable adopted home. Their planet was untamable, just like them. Just as no man could impede the progress of the seasons, so no government could affect the progress of true men, free men.

Ceanndana. Literally: the Boar’s Head. The last bastion of true freedom in the galaxy.

As Jon thought about this, Jon reflected on the motto he followed. Stand tall. Dream big. Know your 20.

Jon stood tall. Six foot four, broadly muscled with a chiseled jaw and a far-off look in his eyes because he dreamed big. He knew his 20. He knew where he stood. This was what it was to be a man. This was what it was to be a Ceanndanan.

The familiar harsh environment today was tinged with unfamliarity. On the horizon there was a tinge of smoke, tinging upwards with a smoky coil. There were no factories out in that direction yet, he knew, and nothing there to burn. It would be worth checking out.

With practiced, easy gait, Jon stalked across the barren wilderness towards the hill from behind which the smoke emanated. Cresting the hill—he always kept the high ground when approaching unknown situations—he saw the wreckage of a small shuttlecraft. It was definitely not local, but he recognized the design. He stood tall, shouldering his rifle.

The United Nations had come to Ceanndana.

Interview With A Pratt

Since John Z. Upjohn put away his reviewer’s hat, many readers have been asking what he’s been up to. It turns out he is hard at work on a new novel, The Freedom of Liberty. I invited him back to the blog to answer a few questions about it, as well as his background and his, ah, unique world view.

The contact information I have for Mr. Upjohn goes through his publisher, Hymenaeus House. Apparently all the email there is read and replied to directly by the editor-in-chief, internet gadfly and firebrand Theophilus Pratt. Mr. Pratt kindly intercepted my request and just as kindly insisted on fielding my questions himself.

We conducted a chat via instant messenger, as he’s had some bad experiences with video interviews. The interview didn’t go quite as I expected, but what does? I’ve decided to post it anyway.

Here is Mr. Pratt, in his own words.

Q: What motivated you to start your own publishing house?

A: It certainly wasn’t because I had a hard time finding people to publish my work! Traditional publishing is so hidebound and moribund, it would be sad if it wasn’t amusing. The dinosaurs who run it are as sluggish, slow-witted dimwits who understand nothing of the internet, 4GW, or cyberspace. They do not understand the ways in which the world around them is changing and so they cannot capitalize on it as I do. I move in every direction, seize every advantage, while they remain mired in a pre-digital reality which long ago faded to fantasy. This is why my hated nemesis John Scalzi is doomed forever to mid-list obscurity. His latest novel’s sales figures are a source of constant disappointment and embarrassment to his corporate masters at Tor and I have the data to prove it.

Q: Interesting. What’s your source for that data, by the way?

A: BookScan.

Q: Despite your frequent claims about Scalzi’s lack of success, several of his projects have recently been optioned for screen adaptations. 

A: Yes. How amusing! It reeks of desperation, doesn’t it? Pathetic. Notice that he only sold ONE pilot for Lock In. Only ONE network is adapting Redshirts.  Instructive, no?

Q: Isn’t that usually how it works?

A: Perhaps if you lack ambition. Where I come from, making one sale is not something an author brags about.

Q: You mentioned 4GW, or “Fourth Generation Warfare”. You talk about this quite a bit on your blog, no matter what the subject is. Can you elaborate a bit for those unfamiliar with the term?

A: Those who do not understand 4GW will be victims of 4GW, which is I am a master of Fourth Generation Warfare. I refuse to abide by tame conventions such as declarations of war, rules of engagement, or any similar limp-wristed pronouncements of what is and isn’t done. No matter what the topic is, no matter what the battlefield is, I am ready. I’m not concerned with pansy liberal concepts such as “fairness” or “tolerance” or “loyalty”. I cannot be taken by surprise because I am the surprise. When my enemy thinks I am surrounded, it is then that I surround them. When they think me trapped, it is then that I will spring my trap on them. Even when you fight me on your home turf, you will find I have already prepared the field to my own advantage. Considering the years I have spent playing miniature wargames in my basement, is it any wonder that my tactical genius allows me to flourish even when conventional thinking says the odds should be against me?

Q: This calls to mind a memorable interview you did on YouTube where you were observed to flounder and sputter when asked to clarify your views on things like race and sexual consent. You didn’t seem well-prepared, tactically speaking. What happened there?

A: He said he was talking to me because of Gamergate, but he didn’t ask me the questions I wanted him to ask. I wasn’t ready. It wasn’t fair.

Q: This same interviewer had conducted similar interviews with other figures connected with Gamergate. Surely you had to be familiar with his tactics and know that he would delve into any controversies lurking in your background.

A: Of course I’d seen him tear into the tawdry past of the shakedown artists and professional victims who oppose me. That’s why I thought he would be on my team! He blindsided me, otherwise he would never have been able to take me by surprise. It is impossible for anyone to do so otherwise. I cannot be taken by surprise by anyone who comes at me straight-forwardly.

Q: You attribute your particular level of tactical thinking—

A: My tactical genius.

Q: You attribute what you call your tactical genius to your love of wargames. Forgive my ignorance, but how exactly does playing Warhammer make you an expert on 4GW? Don’t the rules only model conventional warfare?

A: That’s your problem exactly. The “rules”. Who wrote those precious rules? Who told you that you have to follow them? The use of Fourth Generation Warfare transcends the tabletop as it transcends all battlefields. 4GW is psychological. It changes from situation to situation. It adapts.

Q: How does it adapt to tabletop gaming?

A: Sometimes it means licking your opponent’s miniatures so he will not want to touch them.

Q: You lick their pieces?

A: If that’s what it takes. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes 4GW victory means holding eye contact uncomfortably long while standing too close and breathing loudly. Propriety is not your concern. Social niceties are not your concern. The enemy’s comfort is not your concern. Your only concern is victory.

Sometimes you have to get your hands dirty. You can break or hide your opponent’s units when he’s out of the room, and then say that you don’t know anything about it when he returns. What can he do, bound by the rules and strictures of polite society? What can he do, bound by the rules of law? He has no evidence, no recourse. His only power is to try to make you feel bad for doing it, but that’s a power he only exercises by your consent.

Q: Isn’t it obvious that you did it, though?

A: It is amusing how often Social Justice Warriors say things are “obvious”. It’s a sign that your logical thinking centers are atrophied. You have no logic to rely on, which is why you say things are “obvious”. If it’s so obvious that I did it, why can no one provide me with any evidence? When I challenge my opponents to provide a step-by-step formal proof that I interfered with their miniatures, invariably they give up. They pack up their things and leave. Cowards!

Q: So your mastery of wargames is that you act like a jerk so no one will actually play you?

A: The syllogism is simple enough that even you should be able to follow it. if you are undefeated, you are a champion. If no one will play with you, you cannot be defeated. This is why I am a champion in any arena that I enter. I have been such a champion all my life.

Q: Returning to the subject of 4GW in real life, you speak often about the use of proxies in fighting.

A: Yes. It is a wise move for a state or individual engaging in 4GW to find local partisans, “useful idiots” you might say, who zealously believe in an ideological cause and put them to use by arming them, stirring them up, keeping them focused on perceived enemies and imagined threats. You make them feel important, you let them believe they are fighting the good fight for a real cause, when all they are really doing is keeping your enemies busy at little or no risk to you. It’s such a basic tactic that I’d be surprised anyone falls for it, if I didn’t know the world is full of credulous gamma boobs just waiting for a real alpha to tell them what to do. You just find any loser with a wounded ego and an imagined grievance and do to them what the rear echelon has done with conventional forces from time immemorial.

Q: This brings me to the topic of your involvement as a bit of a thought leader in the Gamergate movement.  Do you have anything to say about that?

A: Every single member of Gamergate is a hero fighting the good fight for a very real cause. What they do is so important. God speed to them all.

Q: Okay. Moving along. Your blog is noted for its incendiary content, and the comment section in particular is full of what can only be called outright hate speech. 

A: My blog, unlike those run by totalitarian SJWs, is a bastion of free speech. Because I do not moderate comments, I do not endorse them in any way. Free speech means that anyone may say anything they wish on it. It does not mean that I agree, or even the majority of commenters agree. The advantage of truly free speech is that if someone says something that is egregiously wrong, it is swiftly shouted down by cold, reasoned corrections. Nothing that is less than 100% factually correct can stand up for long in such an environment. It is amusing that SJWs, who believe in the fairy tale of evolution by natural selection, cannot grasp the effects of a truly competitive environment.

Q: I’m sorry, but you’ve both said that you don’t endorse the comments and that nothing that’s not 100% factually true can survive for long in your comment section.

A: Yes.

Q: It seems like you’re endorsing any position that remains unchallenged as true.

A: I’m not endorsing. I am observing. You do not understand the behavior of free-thinking men in a free environment. It is a simple syllogistic fact that in an environment where anything untrue will be challenged and the truth must be backed by reason and logic that the strongest ideas will rise to the top.

Q: On one recent post, I saw somebody saying that the Holocaust was an example of “blood libel against Germans”. No one was arguing with him.

A: So? I’m not his keeper! Take it up with him if you disagree!

Q: But by the same logic you’ve been spouting, doesn’t that make this declaration true?

A: You said it. I didn’t. I wouldn’t like to be in your shoes when I make a blog post saying that you said it’s factually true that the Holocaust is blood libel against Germans.

Q: I didn’t say it, though. I asked if you believed that only the truth can stand unchallenged in your blog, wouldn’t you have to believe this claim is also true?

A: Well obviously free-thinking men are under no obligation to engage with trolls, nor argue every point that someone spouts off. They don’t have to perform for your entertainment or engage in the kabuki theater of denouncing people just because they said something that’s not politically correct. We care about factual accuracy only, not what SJW dogma says is right or wrong.

Q: And factual accuracy has nothing to say about the question of whether or not the Holocaust happened?

A: Didn’t I just tell you that free-thinking men can’t be made to dance for your amusement?

Q: I’m just trying to work out an apparent inconsistency in what you’ve said about your comment section. 

A: You know, I’ve noticed that as soon as I say something that is even a little bit contradictory, false, or made-up, SJWs seize on it as if I’ve said something wrong. It is instructive as well as amusing.

Q: Okay. Well. Let’s talk about the book.

A: What book?

Q: The one you’re publishing. The Freedom of Liberty. 

A: Yes. I have no doubt it will prove to be an instructive little tome for those who have the eyes to read it.

Q: Tell us about it.

A: Why, what have you heard?

Q: That John Z. Upjohn is writing it for Hymenaeus House.

A: And I bet you’d like to know more.

Q: That’s why I sent the interview request, yes.

A: Very well. It may be instructive for you to note how much forbearance I am showing you. The Freedom of Liberty is book one of a planned trilogy, the Liberty’s Freedom Cycle.

Q: What’s it about?

A: You’d like me to answer that, wouldn’t you?

Q: What?

A: Aha! This is it, isn’t it? The trap? This is the part of the interview where you ask me a bunch of questions designed to lead me into saying something against the gospel of Social Justice that you and your toadying friends can use against me. Well, I’m too smart for that. I’m not going to fall for it. If anything, you’re going to fall for my trap. In fact, you’ve already fallen for it! There is no book called The Freedom of Liberty and no plan to publish it! Ha! What’s your next move, SJW?

Q: …well, since I asked you here to talk about the book, it looks like there’s nothing more to ask you, then. Interview over, I guess?

A: Ha! Another amusing victory for the tactical genius with the +3 SD intellect! Take note, my faceless vile minions: even forewarned about the grueling realities of 4GW, the SJWs are caught utterly unprepared the moment you do something to upset the gameboard.

Q: You really licked my piece, I guess.

A: Damn straight I did.


And that’s the interview. My… thanks… to Mr. Theophilus Pratt, and I suppose my apologies to Mr. Upjohn. I’ll keep trying to get back in touch with him, as I feel like I should be apologizing directly.

STATUS: Tuesday, July 14th

The Daily Report

Thinking about holding onto things past the point of usefulness has got me examining some of my habits and modes of thinking. When I was younger, dealing with school and then jobs I worked because I had to, I acquired the habit of lying in bed as long as possible before getting up and wishing/hoping that when I look at the clock it will be early enough that I can roll over and get back to sleep, or just close my eyes and keep a pleasant fantasy going a little longer.

I believe this kind of escape was essential to my emotional survival in high school, and maybe useful in early adulthood. But now? I don’t have a job I dread. I have a job that means I don’t need to be alone and ensconced in blankets to close my eyes and retreat into a fantasy world. There are of course days when I have a hard time making the transition from asleep to awake for physiological reasons, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

This is a habit that is maladaptive to my current life. It hampers my ability to have a set start time for my work, since waiting for the last possible minute means I’m usually eating breakfast and squaring things away at the official Start of Day. It robs me of the chance to do a little recreational reading or play a quick game at the best part of the day for it.

By the time I had this chain of thoughts this morning, it was already coming up on 10, but it’s something I’m going to keep in mind in the coming days.

The State of the Me

Doing well. Late yesterday I realized that at a certain point in the early spring, when I organized my pill bottles, I had inadvertently put my brain-stimulating ginkgo-ginseng combo pills away in a place where I don’t look for them. This might help explain why I’ve had such a hard time focusing even when my dopamine levels have been pretty decent.

Plans For Today

Yesterday went fairly well with the alternating hours. I’m going to be doing something similar today, but with more writing/fun bits, some of the fruits of which I’m planning on posting here. Explaining more would be giving something away.


STATUS: Monday, July 13th

The Daily Report

While I like to think of myself as a natural problem-solver, I’m coming to realize that one of the tools I rely on a bit too much is the work-around. When something breaks down or a plan doesn’t work out, my instinct is to salvage it before getting a replacement or coming up with something else. On a small scale and in the short term, this is probably a useful skill to have. My problem is that I wind up leaning on it, making do with things that are just getting worse and worse.

Case in point: my old computer. It had great specs for a non-gaming computer at the time I got it, but I was fighting its quirks from day one, and it was downhill from there. Yet as long as it “worked”—for a certain value of work—I stubbornly insisted on fighting it. How much creative energy did I burn out in frustration waiting for programs to load or dealing with its crashes? How much work did I lose, either literally and directly or indirectly through time spent troubleshooting and energy spent worrying?

I didn’t realize how bad it was until it died and I replaced it… but even then I didn’t realize quite how bad it had gotten. In the last several months in particular, I’d started putting off so much necessary stuff, basically pared my work day down to just the writing… which works fine when I’m on a creative tear, but just makes thing worse when I’m not. I need the other stuff as a palate cleanser, a way of shifting gears and not actively thinking about writing when it’s not going great.

Plus, you know, it’s necessary. The last part of the Volume I Omnibus has been sitting there forever, going nowhere. Stuff like that.

I wound up finding myself a bit lost last week, as I hadn’t realized how much stuff was piled up and had a bit of decision paralysis when it came to prioritizing it. This week, I’m starting out with two decisions.

One: first thing I do every day (after this status post) is e-book compilation/formatting. That was so great a way to transition my brain into work mode, right up until the only computer I could do it on decided that Office programs were an inefficient use of its aging RAM.

Two: number one priority this week, unshakable and unbreakable, is that I resume posting Tales of MU. New chapter goes up Friday. Period.

The State of the Me

Doing okay. Weekend was busy, sleep has been a little uneven.

Plans For Today

Since I got overwhelmed last week, I’m breaking today up into manageable one-hour chunks: one hour office stuff, one hour fun stuff like writing, one hour cleaning up my living and working space, repeat. If it works well, I’m going to incorporate the idea of Monday as a maintenance day into my routine, where I can clear up accumulated clutter and disorder or pick up tasks that I have fallen behind on.


STATUS: Wednesday, July 8th

The Daily Report

Well! It’s day one of working with the new computer. I left it working overnight so it would download my cloud folders. When I woke up this morning and came into the office, I thought it must have lost power or went to sleep, it was so quiet… but nope. It was actually still chugging along on my Dropbox, just chugging very quietly.

It’s a little surreal switching to a new computer in the age of the cloud. When I got my new laptop back around Christmas I got a little taste of it, but there was enough new to me about Windows 8 that it all seemed new. With this one, so much of my stuff carries over seamlessly that the stuff that I have to do by hand weirds me out a little.

I’m still using the same keyboard I was using before, which definitely lessens the feeling that I’m breaking a new thing in.

The State of the Me

Jack has a clogged sinus, and I woke up today feeling a little unusually sniffly. It might be nothing, just my summer allergies, but I’ll be keeping an eye on it.

Plans For Today

I had some very specific plans Monday, and then Tuesday, but yesterday was such an up-and-down day that there’s basically nothing left in my head after the relief. I guess I’ll try throwing myself into some random writing throughout the morning and early afternoon. In the afternoon, I’ll be catching up on some business emails. In late afternoon, I’m going to be getting myself back up to speed on Tales of MU.


Computer Woes — Update

So, after writing about how I was going to make due with my slow backup computer that was just as old as the main computer, I had it hang up on me completely twice and slow to an unworkable crawl more times than that throughout the morning and early afternoon. On top of that, it wouldn’t stay connected to the internet. I still kept trying to power through it, making the most of it, but I was near tears when Jack reminded me that he keeps a household emergency fund, and that me not having a working desktop computer is an emergency, as it essentially puts me out of work.

So we headed out for what I expected to be a short shopping trip. It’s been a while since I’ve been desktop shopping (did I mention that both my computers were from 2009?), so I grossly overestimated how much stock the stores would actually carry. Our Target essentially has gotten rid of their computer section. Best Buy had a decent selection of desktop computers, but they were split about evenly between way less than I needed and way more than I needed, with one computer that was tantalizingly almost in our price range and way beyond the specs I was looking for.

We ended up going on to H.H. Gregg, where the staff was very helpful, very knowledgeable, and very apologetic about the fact that their desktop section had been almost entirely replaced with more expensive all-in-one computers. Seriously, one of the best customer service experiences I’ve had in any kind of store, and almost unheard of in an electronics store.

We tried Office Max, where the staff was apathetic and seemed disdainful of assisting anyone who wasn’t a cis guy. I located a model on the floor that both fell within my technical needs and my price range, but it was almost impossible to flag down a staffer to retrieve it from the stockroom, as Office Max doesn’t have anything but the display models on the shelves. It’s not that there weren’t plenty of staff. It’s that they had no interest in seeing us. To no one’s surprise, the lone female staffer we spotted was the first one who actually recognized our existence, but the male associate she paged for us didn’t seem to think we were worth his time. When he came back from the staff room and reported that there was only one left and he couldn’t sell it because it was damaged… well, I’m not sure I believe that. The impression that he didn’t want to sell me a computer was that strong.

Staples also seems to have replaced all their in-store computer stock with all-in-ones and tablets. At this point, I was feeling pretty dispirited. It seemed obvious we weren’t going to be able to solve my computer problem today. I figured I’d come home, find something online—all these stores surely had more models available online than they carried in store—and then just focus on writing on my laptop while I waited for it to arrive.

But the pickings online weren’t that great. Everything in my price range was coming up as refurbished, which I did not want to roll the dice with again, or had a “decent RAM, decent processor, decent hard drive: pick two” thing going on. When I finally found one that hit all three categories and wasn’t just like new but was new-new, it was at the very top of the price range… and when I told Jack, he said, “If it’s that close, do you want me to just take more money out and we’ll go back to Best Buy?”

So we did.

Jack had to take a call when we got there, so I headed straight back to the computer section. There had been so many reversals of fortune and disappointments in the past two days, I was still braced for disaster and disappointment. And when I checked the shelves, it looked like my luck was holding bad: all the boxes were for the next model down, which was only $50 cheaper but half the hard drive and less RAM.

So I got an employee (much easier than at Office Max) and asked for help in computers. When he asked what I needed help with, I showed him the model I was looking at. His first response was a cheery and enthusiastic, “Oh, you know what you want! Great!” and his second response when he looked at the specs and price was, “Wow, that is a great deal!” Then he started checking the boxes, and I explained that I’d looked and they were all the other model. He of course double-checked them all anyway, as I would have expected, but he didn’t invalidate what I was saying, which was great.

He ended up having to go check on the computer to make sure it was in stock, then came back to tell him that there was definitely one, it was definitely in the building, he just had to find it. He was very apologetic about the wait, but it was way less time than we spent cooling our heels in Office Max and what’s more, I don’t actually care how long it takes someone to do something for me if it’s getting done. The way we were treated at Office Max gave me no confidence that the guy I dealt with was actually doing anything for me when he was out of our sight. On the other hand, Best Buy’s Ruben made sure that we knew he was taking care of us at every step of the way.

There were some tense moments along the way, like when we couldn’t find the model on the shelf, and when it rang up at its normal price rather than the reduced price listed on the sticker. It turned out that the promotion had actually been meant to end yesterday (4th of July sale, I guess?), but nobody had reset the shelf and so we got it for the sticker price.

So, today was not the awesome work day that I envisioned or hoped for, but it had a happy ending. I now have a computer I don’t have to fight with at all… which honestly, even when my main computer wasn’t rejecting its RAM, it was a lot flakier than I like to acknowledge.

I’m writing this on my brand new desktop, so I can testify that it’s working fine. It’s not quite work ready yet. I’m going to be installing my programs on it and then syncing my cloud folders and stuff this evening so that tomorrow morning I can get up, hop on, and get to work exactly like I wanted to today.

STATUS: Tuesday, July 7th

The Daily Report

I have been having a hard time finding my footing lately, after spending the first half of June sick and the second half swamped with outside obligations that would have been less of a big deal if I’d had any momentum going, creative or professional or whatever.

I had this big plan coming out of WisCon that I was going to start keeping to “office hours” much more rigorously, work to a schedule as much as the muse allows. The whole being on my back for more than a week kind of took the wind out of those sails pretty quickly. We’ll see how it goes this week.

The State of the Me

I have a headache today. I did not sleep well all last week, and I feel like I am paying for that now. Separately from the physical stuff, I am going through some personal turmoil. I am resolved that it is best both personally and professionally to proceed as normal during my work day, to get in a solid block of time when my mind is occupied by Other Things.

Plans For Today

Today, I have been and will continue to be spending an unknown amount of time installing and updating software on this computer, and otherwise getting it in working order. I will definitely be writing this afternoon, though I can’t say how inspired it will be after all this technical drudgery.

Computer Woes

This week, I am back from a busy week and nigh unto miraculous week of family-ing in Nebraska. Yesterday I’d intended to throw myself back into it, but my main work computer died on me. It froze up completely while I was downstairs getting lunch, and would not finish booting after that. It gets as far as the “Starting Windows” screen, but the Windows symbol never starts to form. Startup Repair hangs as soon as the “loading files” bar is full. Safe Mode will show the list of system files being loaded and then freeze.

It did this shortly before my trip. I was able to determine that it wasn’t detecting one of the RAM cards, and re-seating all of them apparently fixed it. This time, no dice.

I still somewhat suspect the memory to be the problem… like one or more of the cards has gone a little off without failing completely, and so the whole thing breaks as soon as the computer needs to do anything terribly involved. The computer and its components are more than five years old. It doesn’t feel like it’s nearly that old because most of its lifetime was during the time I was bouncing between states half the year.

Progressive RAM failure isn’t the only possibility, but it seems the most likely one given that reshuffling the cards did briefly extend the computer’s usefulness. I suppose trying to boot up another operating system might help confirm if it’s a hardware issue or a Windows issue, but I have limited resources for dealing with this kind of problem at the moment.

I do have a backup computer, which is what I’m using now. It is another 5+ year old desktop unit, one that’s quite a bit less powerful but which has been used less often and has been far less finicky, hardware-wise. My currently-dead computer was a refurb model and it’s always been a bit strange about its RAM.

Still, this is not a long-term solution… this thing is so slow even just switching tabs in a browser. It is not very good at running the programs I need for things like editing and laying out books. Even just typing this blog post, I have to keep stopping to let the screen catch up with my text.

I’m not sure what I’ll do long-term. I’ve been mulling getting new RAM for my dead box, which would be a cheap fix if the problem is what I think it is, but kind of a waste if it’s not. The other alternative is to get a new desktop, which would be a bigger expense that I can’t really afford right now. Either way, I’ll probably be limping along as is for at least a week or two.

John Green reminds me of my Uncle Mortimer – FIGHT ME

Let’s do a little thought experiment. For the purposes of this experiment, we will assume two things are true: that I have an Uncle Mortimer, and that I have an opinion about YA author and vlogging personality John Green.

Neither of those things are true, but we will stipulate them for the sake of argument.

Now imagine that I got on Twitter and said, “You know who John Green reminds me of? My Uncle Mortimer.”

Question: Am I wrong? Or to put another way: can I even be wrong? I mean, can I be proven wrong?

No. This is a qualitative impression that I am reporting, not a quantitative fact I am asserting. I mean, I could be lying, I suppose, for whatever reason. I could also be in some strange way mistaken, like actually thinking of my Uncle Vladimir but confusing him with Uncle Mortimer.

What I cannot be is wrong in the factual sense because I am not speaking to facts but—again—reporting an impression. John Green reminds me of my uncle. So what?

People who are familiar with both individuals might quibble with me, but no one can actually refute the assertion that he reminds me of my Uncle Mortimer. At best they can debate the resemblance, but even if you could disprove a resemblance somehow (how, though?) it would not necessarily change my impression. If somebody could sway me, it would require an appeal every bit as subjective as the initial impression.

I’m probably laying more groundwork than I need to here, though. Nothing in the idea that saying “_____ reminds me of _____” is making a subjective valuation is actually that complicated or controversial.

Now imagine I went on to say, “John Green reminds me of my Uncle Mortimer, who always tries way too hard to impress ‘the youth’ and obviously wants to be seen as one of the kids while also being looked up to by them as an authority. There’s something downright creepy about the way Uncle Mort insinuates himself into certain situations, and John Green sometimes gives me the same vibe when he’s interacting with his teenage fan base.”

So… in this hypothetical situation, am I wrong?

Nota bene: I am not asking if what I am saying is fair, or justified, or proven, or provable, but merely if what I am saying is factually wrong.

In fact, it’s the same question I asked before: if I say John Green reminds me of my Uncle Mortimer, can anyone tell me, “No he doesn’t!”

The answer remains no.

And now the backstory:

Recently, a young woman on the internet said that YA author and vlogger John Green creeps her out. She said that John Green reminded her of the one creepy dad in a friend group who watches a little too closely, a comparison that is sadly quite relatable for a lot of teenage girls. I’ll link to Camryn Garrett’s commentary on the subject, as it is the best article I’ve seen on the subject, as well as one of the most relevant (being written by a teenage girl as well).

John Green’s response to this post was to deny that he sexually abuses children and rant about how the language of social justice is being misused. A lot of people have already pointed out that he jumped to sexual abuse when that wasn’t even mentioned. I would also point out that the crack about “the language of social justice” is equally out of left field, part of a dangerous trend where people are internalizing and repeating reactionary memes used to dismiss criticism.

A number of news outlets picked this up in the most irresponsible fashion imaginable, using headlines and ledes like “John Green responds to child sexual abuse allegations” (there would have to have been such allegations in the first place) and conflating the original poster’s words and actions with those of later commentators who tagged Green in on the post and dared him to defend himself.

Even the more mild write-ups describe the initial post as a series of allegations, and… no. Just no. So many of the people who have attacked the girl have done the same, and also… no. Just no. I’m sure they’d say they’re defending John Green, but against what? She found him creepy. Other people find him charming or funny or approachable or warm or awkward or infuriating or frightening or ridiculous. None of these things are allegations. She described how he comes off to her. That’s all. She’s not wrong.

Other people have pointed out the danger of taking a girl who’s talking about adult behaviors she finds creepy and saying, “No, you’re wrong. You don’t know what you’re talking about. This is slander.”, about the danger of that, about how it comes from and contributes to rape culture. And other people—including people who should know better—have jumped at the mention of rape culture and acted like its mention means that yes, John Green is being accused, specifically of rape, and therefore a spirited and vigorous defense is in order.

But, sheesh. Finding someone creepy is not an allegation and is not—or should not be—actionable as slander. Imagine if it was. Imagine if you, or your children, could not say, “This is making me uncomfortable.” about any person or situation if you couldn’t prove just cause. Imagine if you couldn’t withdraw from a room or a situation that no longer feels safe without providing evidence.

And the thing is, I think that for all the hurt bluster of his post, John Green understands that his young critic is not wrong, because he talks about how he’s going to be using Tumblr differently, taking more of a hands-off approach, engaging less and simply speaking his piece into the ether more.

In other words, he’s decided to step back a bit. That’s a perfectly reasonable response when a young woman says one is standing too close.