Manners: April Fools

HATE this “holiday.”

So let’s define what makes April Fools a thing.  (A) Pranks and (B) LIES.

When people talk to me about it, I tend to say April Fools is the day in which we glorify bullies.  Because let’s be clear here; pranks and lies are a breeding ground for bullies and abusers.  So even if you are just being funny; you are giving permission for that person/those people for whom something like “empathy” is a bad word… well, all you’re doing is telling them this kind of behavior actually is acceptable.

Yes, I am arguing that just like telling rape jokes informs rapists that other people think their actions are (ever) acceptable; your April Fools actions tells bullies & abusers that what they do every day must have some kind social acceptability.

There are exceptions.  Google has generally been good at April Fools; saying they were going to use toilets/sewer systems to get internet to people; scratch & sniff searching; rickrolling youtube viewers; translating animal sounds into human language; the pokemon map challenge (probably my favorite).

Here is what I see the difference being.  Putting out broccoli in a donut box isn’t horrible; but if I’m having a really shitty day and I go into the break room and I have that moment of “oh, wow. Someone did something NICE for us.” and then open it and find broccoli – “UGH.  Damnit, that would have made my day so much nicer.” At the end of the day you didn’t hurt me.  But the person who posts on facebook they are pregnant “april fools” – to every woman struggling with conception – that shit hurt.  To the woman who is suffering in silence (because society says she should “get over it”) from a miscarriage – that shit HURT.  And that isn’t a far step from one prank to the other.  And then putting reese’s pieces into a bowl with skittles and M&M’s might seem funny – until someone with a peanut allergy takes a “safe snack” and ends up in the ER (or worse).

And there are always people who take things too far.  Putting inedibles in food and handing it out randomly (one I’ve seen is replacing gum with play doh – it isn’t poisonous) or disgusting foods (caramel onions anyone?). But how the hell is that actually funny? Ruining clothes or forcing someone to spend hours cleaning up (again – things like “planting grass in someone’s keyboard” or wrapping their entire cubicle in wrapping paper):  How the hell is that funny? How long would it take to clean that shit up?  More than 10 minutes?  That would be a very annoying +10 minutes.

So despite the fact that funny pranks can happen; I hate this holiday.  I hate seeing a day which allows bullies to delight themselves in others’ pain.  I hate seeing parents glorify bullying behaviors for their children so their children repeat this shit every day after.  Because that’s what happens -children see their parents planning/pulling these pranks; and in the worst cases they continue to “one up” themselves until someone gets hurt. Or until they find themselves isolated and don’t understand why.

So before you post a fake pregnancy on Facebook this weekend for your April Fools joke (which btw is EASTER so… maybe just go with that holiday instead anyway?) think about it – could you be posting something that causes emotional pain? Are you sure it won’t?  Could someone think that your prank gives them permission to take the joke “too far” next time? Are you setting the example of empathy you want to see in others or are you delighting in the frustration of others?

Short Story: Dragon Drops

The bookshop was really just one of these hole-in-the-wall places, a door between two bright, shiny businesses.  The window was stacked with books, hiding everything inside. There was a posterboard that read “All Trade Paperbacks, $1” in front of the four towers of crappy paperback books – mostly romance novels from the scrawling letters – which balanced in the window.

The woman who entered this day was not tall, not beautiful, and not dressed up. Wearing jeans and a shirt that read “Talk N Er Dy to me” with the periodic symbols for Nitrogen, Erbium, and Dysprosium for the Nerdy spelling. It was a little loose and around her waist was tied the arms of a hoodie.

Behind the counter the proprietor raised his head without opening his eyes.  His sharp teeth gleamed as he said, “I think you might be lost ma’am.”

“I hope not,” she replied, turning in a slow circle to take in the shelves of precariously stacked shelved.

“Where are you trying to go?”

“Anywhere,” she replied, putting her fingers on the spine of a book with almost reverence.

The shop owner narrowed his eyes and took a long, deep breath.  The pages of the book beneath him stirred in the wind of that air and settled again.  He looked down and tapped on the page with a soft grunt of surprise.

“Very well ma’am.  It seems you aren’t as lost as I thought.  Are you sure?”

She didn’t reply, she had lifted a book from the shelf and was reading the first page.  The shopkeeper sighed and shook his head a little.  He tapped a bell on the counter and bowed his head against his chest again.

From the back room of the shop a door opened.  Noise made the customer raise her head and she set the book back on the shelf, sidling towards the open doorway.  As she stepped through, there was a jingle of laughter around her and three small baubles dropped into her hand.

Should you ever wish to return, just eat one of these drops,” a voice said.  “Just know, the same door is never available twice.”

She smiled a little and pocketed the baubles and fingered the five dragon drops.

Review: Subnautica

I have been watching this game for 2-3 years.  I watched JackSepticEye and NeebsGaming playing through the beta/early access versions.  I held off buying until it went live (ok, I got it like 2 days early, so technically I was an early access supporter…)

TL;DR: 5/5 review.

This game is NOT 100% perfect.  I had a few glitches, but since January I’ve played through the game 2.33 times. I am going to play through again ’cause I am determined to do a hardmode play through (one death, arg…); and I am not usually the person who does that.  But damnit, I am going to with this game!

So what draws me so strongly to this game? Well, I will be the first person to say I love survival games.  If you look at my steam hours played; Ark, Terraria, Starbound, Subnautica, Banished… survival & resource management. On my wishlist is games like “Surviving Mars”; “Y lands”; “Oxygen Not Included”; and “Eco” (though I’m waiting on that last one with more trepidation than some of the others).  Still, as far as survival goes – Subnautica is one of the better games I’ve played.  Although food and water are sometimes annoying, they rarely so demanding that it dominates game play (Banished is driven by food needs).  Oxygen (you know, ’cause you’re swimming a lot) is more difficult to manage and adds a great element of difficulty in general.

The story is definitely where this game shines.  Like diamonds in the sky shiny.  You spend a few days “surviving” and getting to know your controls and needs.  Then stuff starts to happen.  I’m not sure how the game determines it’s time to trigger specific events, but as they begin to play out the player is drawn to the mystery that is the core of this game.  I can’t talk much about the story because I do not want to give away spoilers.  You should play it if you want to see the story.

Difficulty progression is also something that these developers did an excellent job of.  In the beginning there aren’t a lot of super-dangerous creatures around you.  They are things you can avoid just by paying attention.  And that level stays pretty consistent throughout the game.  Through the entire game dangers can be avoided by just paying attention; listening to the environment and everything dangerous yells it’s location pretty regularly.  There isn’t a traditional weapon; all you have to “kill” things is a knife -and that’s the most lethal item in your arsenal.  So you have to  pay attention to the environment and keep alert for dangers – always.  Even after I had every upgrade available; avoidance was my most effective survival tool.

And none of this is touching on the graphics (which is where 90% of my glitches occurred) or the sounds & music.  Music isn’t constant, it has triggers and there were a few times where the music started and I started squirming in my seat “Oh, I hate when that music starts… but I have to keep going.”  It is one of the few games where I just play the game.  Much of my gaming I also like to watch YouTube or Netflix or something on our Plex (I’m very slowly working my way through Stargate SG-1).  Not with Subnautica.  I need those environmental triggers too much and want to be entirely immersed.

I give this a 5/5 because this is a: unless you refuse to ever play a video game or don’t have a computer – you should play this game; If you can bear survival games – you should play this game; If you like a good story with a mystery that you need to solve – you should play this game; When you need to immerse yourself into a fantasy world – you should play this game.

Seriously, even if survival isn’t your normal genre of gaming.  If you like RPGs or adventure or GTA or shooters.  Play this game; it’s worth it.

Short Story: Wind chimes

Staring out the window was hardly the most productive use of time, but it’s all Cordy wanted to do today.  It was just cloudy enough to be gloomy, with a pallor that it might rain any moment.  It was just cold enough to make a t-shirt too light and a sweater too heavy.  In all, it was the worst sort of day in her opinion.

On the other hand, it was exactly the kind of weather which was most useful to her particular brand of magic.  In those moments before the rain broke, the equilibrium of the world hung in balance and if she could time everything right, Cordy could change the world.

Most witches had to use potions or long complicated spells.  Cordy had spent years struggling with why sometimes her spells were powerful and sometimes they didn’t work at all.  It had been something of an accident when she figured out she was linked to the weather.

She had been sitting in her living room with a scrying bowl, trying to seek her next car.  It wasn’t as simple as going to the local dealership; a witch needed a car that wouldn’t dull her magical senses and wouldn’t fight her every time she did something a little funny to the universe.  There was a running joke that cars were harder to find than cats among witches.

Cordy had just entered her trance when thunder boomed.  It rattled the windows on her apartment and made the wind chimes she’d hung on the porch screech in a jangle of metal.  But the power which flower through her was intense; and she instantly saw her car.  It wasn’t anything special, just a blue Toyota; but it would be the car that wouldn’t get upset about magic and wouldn’t crap out on her.

It took some experiments to figure out that it was change that empowered Cordy; weather or construction had both proven useful. Recent road work near her house had been like there was a river of power flowing past her daily.  She’d never heard of a witch empowered by change.  Just think what she could do during times of civil unrest? Civil war would give her the kind of power people only attributed to Rasputin or Charlegmagne or Ceaser.

 


I know this isn’t a story with a plot; but it’s been rattling in my mind that IF there were urban witches, why aren’t they powerful? Why aren’t they turning people into frogs and whatnot?  Well, what if they used their power wrong.  So this isn’t as much a “short story” as a bit of exploration in a character/idea/magic concept.   It’s also a “I swore I’d get something blogged this week” post….

 

Manners: Fault Vs. Resposibility

This first came up in an article I read about Millennials having to take on responsibilities for things like global warming – and it’s not our fault.  The economy being in turmoil – and it’s not our fault.

But if the last Millennials were born ~1997, they are now 21 years old.  They are voting, and drinking – a majority (the 1981-1992 set) can rent cars. They can run for every office in the land (ok, so only like 2-3 years worth could run for President this year, but we have another 2 years and then…. well someone born in 1985 would be eligible for President, that is well within the range of Millennial age). We are now a generation of adults.

We are responsible.

We might not have caused the collapse of infrastructure. We may not have de-funded our education system.  We didn’t cause the crash of the housing market in 2007/2008…. but we are going to have to be responsible for cleaning it up.

Ok, so all that’s big level stuff – but this fault vs. responsibility has kept cropping up in all kinds of ways.  My husband and I were talking about chores around the house: pumping water off the pool cover; trimming the hedges; changing the filters in the A/C units; throwing away the junk mail… neither of us are at fault for these things – but we are responsible.

Every parent I know is going to be blinking and saying “duh” at this one – but those dirty clothes piled up in your toddler’s room.  Definitely, their fault; but you are the adult and responsible for them having something clean to wear tomorrow.  Same with running out of milk or the last cookie or the toys being broken… parents are responsible and they are definitely not the one doing all these things!

At work I am running a project with a team of about 6 people. I ran into an issue earlier this week where I wasn’t at fault, but if this thing didn’t get done the whole project would be massively delayed. And at the end of the day; when my senior leadership listens to clients either praise or criticize the results of this project…. I am responsible.  So I spent my evening at home sitting at my dining room table cleaning up someone else’s mess.

It has really helped me stay away from feeling like a victim. Yes, I was pissed that I had to spend my “free time” dealing with someone else’s mess; but, I also knew that in six months when my senior leaders hear from clients who are in love with this – they are going to give me the credit. I am responsible; and that means I have the power to change things.

Politicis: Gun Control

I wrote this in Oct 2015 – and it is still true today. I don’t like turning on the news to hear about ANOTHER shooting. I am tired of hearing the GOP wringing their “thoughts and prayers” BS line like a lady’s handkerchief. And I am tried of being told there is “nothing” we could/should do. Pick one of more of these options. Pick another option. But doing NOTHING…. that isn’t working. I would rather we do something WRONG than nothing at all. ’cause nothing ain’t working.

Dream by Day

I am pretty far left on most social issues. This is the one exception. I’m not far to the right, but I am definitely more-right than many of my friends (and family).  And everyone I talk to about this will hear me remind them that I think cars are a more dangerous problem which I want addressed first.

My Facebook has been full of posts the past several days. About half of them are “TAKE AWAY THE GUNS!” and half of them are “STOP TRYING TO TAKE MY GUN.”

It is tragic when someone is killed. There is no remedy for that pain. And yes, guns are terrible weapons which can kill many people very quickly, multiplying that pain.

I also know that my friends who own guns are very responsible. They can drone on and on with each other about various lock-box options, why they like the ones they…

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Review: A Wrinkle In Time (movie) Spoiler Free

I have cried during more movies in the past 12 months than I think I have the rest of my life.  A Wrinkle In Time did it to me again.

loved this movie for so many reasons.  I loved Meg and Charles Wallace.  I thought both of them were so well crafted, you didn’t need to read the books to understand them (I think, of course it’s impossible for me to be sure).  I thought the Mrs.’s were superb and even though it’s not exactly how I pictured them, it’s exactly how I could have pictured them.

Madeline L’Engle is one of my all-time favorite authors; like so many others I grew up on this book and loved it.  When I felt like an outcast, I looked around for my Charles Wallaces & Calvins in my life.  When I looked for them, I often found them waiting for me with open arms; and this movie captured that love and acceptance and patience… perfectly.

The graphics in this movie were fantastic.  They really thought through the descriptions of what L’Engle wrote and what they wanted it to look like.  There were a bunch of times it bordered on cartoony, but not in the worst of ways – I accept it’s a kid’s movie and they don’t need to be realistic the way I would demand of something like Ready Player One (not the VR world, but their real world) or Avatar (*cough* failed *cough* oh sorry, I have been sick ya know…)

I didn’t like that they left out one of my favorite characters.  I don’t remember him/her/it perfectly but that obscurity of gender is why that is one of my favorite characters in the book.  That and he/she/it was one of the most accepting, gracious, and loving characters – which they tried to absorb somewhat into the Mrs’s but…. well it just isn’t the same.  I understand why they did it (trying to make a movie for kids under 10 you don’t want to introduce a new, weird character 3/4s of the way through….) but I was looking forward to seeing the interpretation of him/her/it on screen and I won’t lie… if I have to critique this is probably it.

I also was very disappointed they cut the twins.  There was an important element in the two boys being “adjusted” to their father’s disappearance while Meg & Charles Wallace sort of aren’t.  Or at least, they both feel excluded from that adjustment which adds an important juxtaposition to Meg’s continued rage & lashing out. It also means they won’t be able to make any of the sequels – the twins rise in their prominence in later books. Despite cutting the twins, I did love the messages of an inter-racial couple adopting kids.  The message that you can choose to love as well as “fall” in love.

I cried. I sniffled and snuffled and tears rolled helpless down my cheeks through so much of this movie.  Just like Blank Panther & Wonder Woman.  I am jealous of kids today who are getting to see movies with heroes & heroines that look like them. Hell, I would have just taken a heroine (and did – her name was Sailor Moon and she was still constantly having to be “rescued” by a damn man).

I want to live in the world where we aren’t color-blind, but we are color-kind. We don’t “ignore” color or race or heritage; but we treat those differences with curiosity and kindness.  Movies like this – big budget which celebrate (or at least don’t denigrate) minorities might just help us move towards that world.  Media – books, movie, music, art – can help people open their minds and their hearts. No longer are we limited to James Bond & Superman; now we can explore the plethora of possibilities…. and I am so excited I could – and did – cry.

We have a long way to go.  There are a lot of lessons on manners when you encounter someone “breaking taboo” we need to construct and accept across our culture(s) – but these movies; these glorious beautiful movies…. I can’t wait for more like them.