Blog Archives

The War with Facebook Algorithms

I have been experimenting with what Facebook posts of mine get seen, get likes, get shares, and so on.

Having controls is the tricky part. Did that post get no interactions because no one saw it because it was posted straight from WordPress and Facebook didn’t how it to anyone, or because no one cares about the idea of an independence sub-domain?

But having a range of topics, times, and sources, and comparing Facebook responses to how responses from other potential referrers, I am getting some sense of what does and doesn’t work.

Of course very few of you on Facebook will see this, because it’s posted directly from WordPress, AND I’m not hitting like on it myself…

The Persistent Places in my Dreams

I have, since I was a child, had a few persistent places that show up repeatedly in my dreams.

So, I name them. To give me power over them.

Sadly several are where I have my worst nightmares. The Bad House. The Field of Discarded Things. Sometimes when I realize I am in one of these places in a dream, the name lets me identify it as unreal, and I can wake up. Some I have eliminated entirely, at least I think. I haven’t had a dream on the Storm Road in years.

Others are places where I have dreams that are more disturbing than frightening–rarely pleasant but not true nightmares. The Park Under the Moon. The Walking Garden.

But sometimes, and almost always only just before an alarm wakes me, I get to go to the Springlands.

And that makes the rest of it all worthwhile.

 

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The House the Jedi Bought

Storytime

Years and years ago, when applying for the mortgage on my previous house, the mortgage underwriters just kept not being sure that my 100% freelance income could be considered stable or reliable enough to give me a mortgage based on my previous decade of constantly having money and paying bills. This was exacerbated by the fact we had avoided debt, and thus avoided things like credit card and car payments that boost credit reports.

Our mortgage agent got increasingly frustrated (with the underwriters, not us), and after weeks of this back-and-forth, and asking for more documents, and unexpected delays, she just asked if I could provide ANYTHING else to suggest my freelance rpg career should be considered more than a hobby.

Flippantly, I said the underwriters could do a Google search on my name, with my middle initials included.

The mortgage agent raised an eyebrow, and I told her I was the first hit on Google with my full published name, and the first few results it would link me to official Star Wars products.

She did a search, sent an email to the underwriters, and we got approved within 24 hours.

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Anniversary of Upheaval

Lj and I arrived in the Great Northwest three years ago, today.

We are on our second apartment, our second vehicle, our second AFK, but still the same core jobs and circle of friends, which in many ways are the important bits. I saw core jobs because Lj lost her full-time gig 6 or so months after we moved, and switched to doing RGG bookkeeping and freelance layout full time, and I  have become the project manager at Rite since then. We have had two dear friends move nearby, lost another dear friend, and in many ways I still feel like we are finding our feet.

The only things I miss from our lives in Norman, Oklahoma are a few people, a few restaurants… and certainty.

We knew, in broad terms, what every week, every holiday, and every season would bring. We had strong, long-established social systems that had gone on without major change for decades. Progress was difficult, but so was confusion. Our lives were a known factor, though it was kept at a set level we didn’t seem to be able to rise above.

There are many ways in which we have adjusted. We know more people, have local connections, and get invited to many more things. There are ways in which we haven’t. It turns out 20 years of freelance game writing habits don’t die easily, and I still get grumpy when I can’t take a nap in the middle of a workday at the office. But I AM adjusting.

When we first arrived out here, we also both started getting sick a lot. In 2016 alone I had two trips to the ER and nearly a dozen to urgent care, on top of regular doctor visits. But the last of those was last August, and I haven’t had a major illness since.

This move was a huge step outside of our comfort zone. We sold our house, the majority of our possessions,  and moved away from our most solid core of close family and friends. I’d lived in Norman for 43 or 44 years before I left. That one year exception was 2000-2001, when I was hired by WotC to work on the Star Wars game and that was still what I  was doing when they laid me off 14 months later.

Now I’ve been working for Paizo for 36 months. I began as the developer in charge of the module line, then transitioned over to the Player Companions, and then got to be one of the Design Leads for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game. I have grown quite a bit as a game developer and designer in three years, and these are opportunities I would not have had back in Oklahoma.  We have also made some awesome new friends, strengthened existing friendships, and just barely begun to build some social momentum again.

I mentioned to my wife just yesterday that I haven’t adjusted yet. she snorted and pointed out it’s been three years. She’s right… but so am I. Not quickly do I become comfortable in a new environment.

Despite that, and seeing the financial and psychological havoc it’s played with our long-term plans, I am a bit amazed we took this huge leap. In many ways that’s not our style. But I continue to be convinced that this was a good move for me and my wife.

Being me, I also worry about it a lot. 🙂

Huge thanks to everyone who has pitched in, invited us over, helped out, and just shared a smile now and then to the transplants from OK.

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Dystopian Factions: The Prags

These aren’t “for” anything yet, though I might incorporate them into some kind of Starfinder product at some point.

Prags

The Prags, or Pragmatics, believe that whatever produces the best end result, as defined by the self, is morally good. They consider ethics, philosophy, and religion to be flawed, though not useless, methods to measure how a given action will be viewed by individuals other than the self, which can be useful when determining if an otherwise-useful act carries too great a risk of backlash by those it does not benefit, reducing its value to the self.

Prags often support public governments and policies that support the poor and disabled, on the theory that it is impossible to know if the self will suffer some loss, and creating a safety net gives the Prags the opportunities to take greater risks to improve their own situation, knowing that failure will be mitigates by social programs. They rarely support anything designed only to benefit a specific ethnic group or class, because that either doesn’t apply to them if they are not part of the group, or it risks resentment to the entire class if the Prags are part of the group.

In personal interactions Prags strive to develop loyal friends and trustworthy reputations, as these things have proven long-term benefits. However Prags also openly admit they have an eye out for the U-B, or Ultimate Benefit, a thing that grants the self such an advantage that betrayal of ally and reputation is an acceptable cost to pay for it.

While it is clear that Prag belief in the potential of a U-B makes their allies slightly nervous, Prags see this as a benefit as well. An ally you are entirely loyal to is of more value if that ally is also aware that if the alliance proves to have much less value than expected, it may be suddenly and mercilessly jettisoned. This encourages allies to also keep a watchful eye on how much they consider a Prag’s benefits and needs. Many Prags also claim the the U-B is a theoretical construct — since it is impossible to know the total benefit gained by a complete betrayal until the betrayal is irreversible, some Prags claim no U-B could ever be so obviously worthwhile as to justify such a betrayal as pragmatic.

Such Prags often then wink.

Prags near the end of their lifespan, or stricken with an incurable disease, often arrange for a single final enjoyable event, which culminates in their suicide, to ensure their quality of life does not decline any further.

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A Fat Man’s Fashion Concerns

There’s no moral or point to this post, just my thoughts and experiences on what it’s like to worry about clothes as a fat man. It’s not really career, gaming, or geek-related, so feel free to skip it.

In many ways, I think it would make sense for me to ignore fashion entirely. I’m a 430 lb. man, plus or minus 2-3% of that depending on when you catch me. I am regularly mocked, and rarely even assaulted, based entirely on my obese appearance. Wearing a custom fit 3-piece suit doesn’t change that (I happen to know), and thus there’s a part of me that would like to paraphrase She-Hulk’s line “I’m six foot seven and bright green! People are gonna stare no matter how I dress!”

Sadly, I lack that level of self-confidence.

So, I strive for a level of comfortable casual 99.5% of the time, and dress up (as uncomfortable physically, psychologically, and sartorially as that always is) as needed for funerals, weddings, formal parties (which I mostly just avoid), and job interviews. Over the years that comfortable casual has evolved into jeans/khakis/dockers, an undershirt and a Henley (though with the occasional polo) and sneakers. Colors stick to a pretty narrow palate of grays, browns, blacks, darker blues, purples, reds, and greens, and rarely white.

I own a few things that fall outside of this. A mustard yellow Henley, for example. (The colors for fat men’s clothes are often described in food terms – I have much more mustard, chocolate, eggplant, and mint clothing than I do yellow, brown, purple, or green.) But that’s fraught with peril. I once wore the mustard Henley with khaki pants, and up[on entering a room literally silenced ongoing conversation as everyone stared at me in shocked silence at so much tan-to-yellow in one place. I counted to five before anyone managed to speak or look away.

I neither desire, nor manage, such attention well.

I like white, but it attracts too much attention. A white shirt on me can look like a spotlight trying to flag down passing planes. I do own some white undershirts, but they attract stains… and while dressing well doesn’t cut down on abuse, a fat man with a food stain does invite it.

I keep a Tide stick in my desk at work, so that a careless bite of lunch doesn’t send me into such a panic I have to flee home fighting tears.

Darker shirts are much more forgiving of a drop of food, and less likely to have an old stain I don’t notice become obvious in juuuust the right light. Light gray is about as bold as I get for outer shirts at this point.

I also prefer dark undershirts, because I can’t afford to replace my shirts often. At my size even t-shirts are often quite expensive, and sales are less common and more likely to only include things like bright orange camo patterns with a big red bear on the back… which I simply cannot wear. Cheap stores don’t go to my size. So I tend to wear my shirts until they are worn threadbare, and don’t have the luxury of giving them up with they develop tiny wholes. But a black undershirt generally conceals a tiny hole in a navy blue Henley. A white undershirt highlights such imperfections, limiting them to be matched with as-yet pristine shirts or my few light gray choices.

Owen3

Wearing a shirt with obvious flaws and holes is at least as embarrassing as wearing one with a food stain. I tend to check them every day, so see if this is when I need to retire one, and spend a few hours online trying to buy a replacement I can afford. Stores are a disaster for me, and I have almost entirely given up on them.

I have noticed that no one seems to care about the color of my socks. Even the most offensive of fat-shamer doesn’t care if my socks are white, black, purple, or have little brown bears all over them.

Often my geek choices are limited. There are t-shirts I would wear… that don’t come in my size. This is also often true of company shirts, vest, and jackets, though a work-around can generally be found.

At conventions and other geek-heavy events, I suffer a lot less harassment at the event itself… and a lot more just outside its borders. So that’s a wash.

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Gotta Catch this *One*

Lj and I ran errands today, and ended with lunch at Godfather’s Pizza in Federal Way. They are apparently a major Weekend Birthday Party stop, and it was fun to see so many very different families having fun together.

About halfway through our meal a new family came in with birthday decorations including a very large Pikachu balloon. Just as they came in, the string on that one balloon broke, and it escaped upwards to an elevated corner of the ceiling.

A few minutes later, the mom borrowed a broom and was trying to bat the balloon down to get it within reach. After she had tried for a bit, i could see she simply lacked the height and arm length to pull it off.

I went over and asked if she would like help from someone taller. I have been told I can be imposing, so I stayed out of her personal space and kept my arms to my sides as I asked. She enthusiastically agreed she’d love help, and passed me the broom.

I almost got the balloon twice, but couldn’t quite keep the balance long enough. I asked the very helpful Godfathers employee who was assisting if they happened to have a *second* broom. Lj asked if I planed to use them like forceps, and I confirmed that was the case. We got a second broom, I managed to use the two as enormous tongs, and recovered the balloon into the mother’s hands. She thanked us profusely.

This is a VERY different kind of work that I have been doing lately, and it felt really good to help out with a random child’s birthday decorations.

Also, I caught a pikachu.

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My One Gygax Story

My one and only Gygax story.

Naming the Planets of TRAPPIST-1

Obviously when naming TRAPPIST-1a through TRAPPIST-1g, there will be a strong temptation to use the names of some famous set of seven things. Noting that the most-likely of these to have life are TRAPPIST-1d through TRAPPIST-1f, here are some suggested naming schemes with notes on the potential pros and cons. I’ve bolded the ones I assume have life (and cultures and all sorts of stuff there’s absolutely no real evidence for) to keep in mind which of these 7 names I think are the most crucial in each set.

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, >Wednesday Thursday, Friday<, Saturday
Has the advantage of being able to do travel posters saying “Thank God, It’s Friday!”

Avarice, Envy, Gluttony, >Lust, Pride, Sloth<, Wrath
Gives built-in cultural suggestions. “We’ve sexy, we know it, and we’re not doing anything about it.”

Aventine, Caelian, >Capitoline, Esquiline, Palatine<, Quirinal, Viminal
One of my only two actual serious suggestion. I really like the sound of these, and it makes me thing of a vast interplanetary empire controlling multiple worlds on one system.

Ji Kang, Liu Ling, Ruan Ji, >Ruan Xian, Xiang Xiu, Wang Rong<, Shan Tao
My second serious suggestion. I like it a lot, though obviously it would encourage renaming the star from TRAPPIST-1 to Bamboo Grove, which might not be fair to Trappist.

Kambei Shimada, Gorōbei Katayama, Shichirōji, >Kyūzō, Heihachi Hayashida, Katsushirō Okamoto<, Kikuchiyo
You could fudge the order to be alphabetical, or course. The main shame here for this order si I think Kambei Shimada and Kikuchiyo would be the most interesting planets to live on.

Goat, Lion, Peacock, >Pig, Snail, Snake<, Toad
All I have is a marketing campaign “At least you don’t live on a toad!”

Doc, Dopey, Bashful, >Grumpy, Sleepy, Sneezy<, Happy
So first, if we are doing this, I want to force Disney to pay for probes to go there, so at least we get some benefit from the corporate advertising.
Second… I don’t want to live on any of those. I’d be okay living on Happy, but who the hell wants to be a native Grump?

Maedhros, Maglor, Celegorm, >Curufin, Caranthir, Amrod<, Amras
Not a serious suggestion, but I wouldn’t mind. But if this happens, we’d better get GOOD fantasy movies out of it.

Cup, Diadem, Diary, >Locket, Potter, Ring<, Snake
Okay, I’m only in favor of this if the inhabitants of Planet Potter turn out to be wizards.

Father, Mother, Maiden, >Crone, Warrior, Smith<, Stranger
Don’t recognize this set?
SHAME! (bell rings)

Lunia, Mercuria, Venya, >Solania, Mertion, Jovar<, Chronias
My biggest issue here is no one gets to live on SEVENTH heaven.

F, C, G, >D, A, E<, B
This has my vote for the Worst Idea On This List. First, naming planets for the seven natural pitches that form the C-major scale is weird. Second, renaming TRAPPIST-1a to just “F” screams confusion.

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Flumph Noir

Aberrant Report

It was a humid night, as Mhuoomphies forced air out his cloaca to hover pensively by the office window. It was the kind of night where a tentacle might be slick with something other than condensation.

His office was cluttered with images, each a fuzzy impression of a scene, projected from crystals floating apparently at random about the room. He reached out with a 7-tentacle, the scarred one, and spun one of the crystals. The out-fo-focus image spun with it, the psychic impression of a witness, able to be seen from any angle.

The witnesses all thought they knew what they had seen, but both the out-of-focus perfect psionic impressions and long experience told Mhuoomphies otherwise. Creatures thought their memories were perfect images, ingrained forever like stone carvings. But the mind of a sentient didn’t work that way. Emotions, distractions, preconceived notions, and bigotry flavored every thing every thinking creature remembered. In the flumph’s experience, many evils could be traced to different memories of the same events.

But there were hints of the truth in the memory-crystal’s images as well. Certainly SOMETHING had happened. The image of the adolescent iron-eater, rolled on her back, antennae straight in fear and shock, were similar in most of the images. Some showed her as larger or more aggressive, but metal-users usually despised and misunderstood iron-eaters. And even those who remembered the even as the adolescent’s fault remembered the position of her body, on it’s back, wing-tail raised in defense. They might think they remembered her being the attacker, but they were fooling themselves.

The true attacker was shown in fewer memories, and the image was much more indistinct. A red cloak was featured in more than half, but Mhuoomphies was suspicious of that. There had been a great deal of blood. Sentients often added red to a scene where blood has splashed like cheap ale.

The creature had been tall… maybe. Hunched… maybe. Neither detail was shown in monroe than a quarter of the memory images. And one, just one, showed an arm made of a swarm of roaches jutting out from a crimson robe, rather than a cloak.

That memory was alone in that detail, but it was otherwise so crisp. And it made Mhouoomphies port outages nozzle whistle a low, sad sound. He has never hoped so strongly for a witness to be unreliable.

Because the young iron-eater had been killed, and he hoped it was a simple hate crime, or a political gambit to convince the iron-eaters to continue to mine for a smaller share of the ferrous metals they unearthed. Those were terrible reasons to kill, but there weren’t any good reasons. The young iron-eater was dead, and the clumpy couldn’t change that. If the reason for her death was simple, he could gain justice quickly. He would have no living help.

When an aberrant race died, none of the breathing Lamplighters took it seriously. Aboleth crime lords and cloaked gangs had eroded any goodwill bipedal vertebrates felt for all his kind. And even those who wanted to care had too many other crimes on their plate. Only Mhuoomphies had the time, and only he was trusted by anyone in the Aberrant communities.

And with iron-eaters on strike, and the dark naga pressing for full voting rights, this needed to get handled fast. Even the Metalhearts might decide…

The flumph’s office door burst opened, the brief scream of its metal lock bending and shattering the only warning before it gave way. A lurking metallic humanoid stood in the doorway, a bullseye lantern in its chest leaking light through the cracks, despite being shuttered.

“You are the Aberrant Lamplighter, Muffles?”

Two of the flumph’s starboard vents honked quietly in annoyance. He pursed his feedhole, and forced air through it to emulate the annoying, imperfect language of the bipeds. He also pooled caustics into his adamantine-tipped primespike, in case the creature was hostile, rather than just dangerously bumbling.

“Mhuoomphies. ArchLantern, Mhuoomphies.”

The metallic creature nodded once.

“I am Malakrut. I am a fresh forged Spark. The LawKeepers have assigned me to assist and monitor your efforts to enforce the laws of DarkStar Station, in the matter of a slain iron-eater in the abnormals district.”

Mhuoomphies felt himself relax, and sucked his caustics back into their reservoir. Of course he would be saddled with a rookie to report his every misstep.

It was Inevitable.

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