0002 Vasera 21: Calendar

So, it's only been two months this time. I'm improving. Sort of.

The house still hasn't sold; it's now a year on the market, with no movement. I've dropped the price on it enough that I can basically throw the remnants of the mortgage onto my credit cards and max them out to cover the costs, and if things get really ugly I can probably drop it again by borrowing money from my dad and cashing out my 401(k). I'm not in favor of either option, but if I have to do it to make things work, I will. Things are getting a bit desperate around the Lapinian Embassy.

Actually, that's not entirely true. Things here are pretty much exactly where they were six months ago, which is to say that we're good but we're not really moving forward except at a speed I could only describe as "glacial." That is, of course, not counting global warming in the speed estimation. Melting glaciers move quite fast. The housing market, however, is not. And thus we're pretty much exactly where we were before, financially.

Beautiful World continues to thrive at least between my ears. I know what needs to happen in part seven, but I'm trying to find the right frame of reference for the events that actually shows what needs to be shown without giving away too much. That's going to take a bit of creative fiddling, and I think I know what I'm going to do, but I have to find the time to sit down and do it.

Instead of working on that, however, today I finally sat down and developed the Lapinian date converter. It does pretty much what it says on the tin. It's very bare-bones at the moment, at least by my standards, but it will accomplish the following:

  1. Display the current year by default, all 364 or 371 days, with holidays and Gregorian conversions in the panels.
  2. Accept as input any positive or negative integer and show that Lapinian year instead.
  3. Ignore any input other than positive or negative integers and substitute the last-good input value.

I've made a few revisions since the last time I talked about the calendar. Most notably, I've amended the names of the months with the -er- notation. Since the word for "month" in Lapinian is lera, it made sense upon reflection to adjust the names of the months to use the terminology, much as the Romans used "-ember" after the numbers to mark off the months that didn't have better names.

Treva became Jevera, mostly because I dislike that "tr" letter combination; about the only way to pronounce it properly as the alveolar plosive plus the alveolar approximant in a single syllable is to slide a post-alveolar fricative in the middle, meaning the result inevitably sounds more like "tchr" than anything else. If you don't believe me, listen to the variances in the way people say the word "tree." The j is a voiced postalveolar affricate, which if I were to write out phonetically would be dzh, but that doesn't look normal to anyone who isn't a linguistics wonk or else is Hungarian and is used to dzs. Just think of it like either j in "judge" and you'll be fine. Also, I added the -er- construction like I did for all the months.

Pyera became Pyevera instead of Pyerera simply because too many approximants in a row tend over time to get blended into single syllables. Plus, I liked the way it looked better.

Totally aside from everything else, the th in Thilya is meant to be pronounced voicelessly, like "thin". If I want the voiced version as in "that," I'll write it dh. Yes, I am crazy.

Also, since nobody ever jumped and tried to figure what the names of the months meant, I'll go ahead and give away the secret. Each of the months is named for a food that a bunny might find during that month:

  • Yortera: Month of Carrots (Wortel)
  • Zelera: Month of Celery (Zeller)
  • Dalera: Month of Dandelions (Dahloi)
  • Byetera: Month of Beets (Biet)
  • Jevera: Month of Clover (Trefle)
  • Radera: Month of Radishes (Raidis)
  • Vasera: Month of Basil (Vasilico)
  • Pyevera: Month of Peppers (Pieru)
  • Fathera: Month of Grasses (Fath)
  • Ertera: Month of Peas (Aert)
  • Indera: Month of Endive (Indivia)
  • Lakera: Month of Broccoli (Laker)
  • Kolera: Month of Cabbage (Kohl)

Finally, to the people who wished me a happy birthday on Thursday, I'm incredibly appreciative. Thank you for the kind wishes. That said, with the advent of the Lapinian calendar, I've decided that I'm actually going to be
celebrating my birthday on the Lapinian schedule, which means next Kimya—Friday for those of you on the Gregorian—is actually the proper anniversary. I was born on 0031 Vasera 26 PLC (Pre-Lapinian Calendar), and what kind of futurist nerd would I be if I didn't actually
use the calendar I'd developed? =n.n=

Yes, I know the underlying site still uses the Gregorian. That's because I haven't yet coded up a utility to replace "date" at the command line. What I should do is migrate the entire site into a database, with an external engine for rendering any arbitrary text segment with appropriate links. That, however, will take more time.

Like sands through an hourglass....


0002 Jevera 15: Behind

Three months.

In some ways, I feel as though this entry should start with an apology. I really haven't been as diligent as I would like about posting regularly and keeping people informed of my life and my goings-on. It's not that I don't think my life is interesting, but... well, for the last few months, it's very much felt like large chunks of my life were "on hold," waiting for something to happen.

The house in Pottstown is still mine, legally. I'm still paying USD1600, give or take, every month for the privilege of owning a house in which I don't live. Around the beginning of July, I finally converted the place to a rental property to try to offset the mortgage costs, and almost immediately I had a tenancy offers through a management company. We did some negotiations with the renters' agent, and we had just worked out a deal that hopefully would have proven amenable to all parties when the borough stepped into the mess and announced that I had not secured something called a "Usage and Occupancy Inspection" that would cost thirty-five more dollars and could not be performed for several weeks because of a backlog of requests. At this point, I cannot shake the notion that the borough management, having realized their own coming obsolescence in the wake of the Robot Revolution, is now doing its level best to squeeze every last drop of liquid capital out of the system before their government is eliminated. It really does feel as though they're punishing people who choose to invest there. Maybe they're trying to punish me for leaving.

In any event, the rental of the house—to this tenant group, at least—is now on hold pending the U&O. However, according to my realtor, this may prove to be a blessing in disguise, as someone else has contacted him about whether the property is still vacant who may be interested in buying it. Now, I am no stranger to people wanting to buy the place, but everyone to date that's expressed interest has done so as an investor offering a ridiculously low purchase price, below what I would need to pay off my home loan, and so I said no. This might actually be a real buyer interested in, you know, owning the house. If so, I wish the person or persons in question the best of luck. This isn't any sort of official offer letter. In fact, it's more like the sort of thing a realtor might say to keep a homeseller from becoming discouraged and hiring somebody with a decoherence beam to remove the house from realspace in a fit of pique.

As amusing anecdote related to the above, in looking for the link in Miracle of Science to illustrate the decoherence beam, I picked the page with the initial shot fired out of an archive indexed only by page number on the first click. I do have good reading retention skills, but that's a bit too creepy for me. The first signs of SMRD, perhaps? I can only hope.

City of Heroes is starting to lose a bit of its shine. The introduction of crafting, even the "crafting lite" of the Inventions System has pushed me into a strange headspace. I've become somewhat taken in by the numbers of it all. I'm asking questions like "just how high can I push my base accuracy?" and "just how fast can I get those powers to recharge?" instead of more important ones like "what happened to this person in his past to convince him that beating on cops, even corrupt ones, was a good idea?" or "what does she do when she's taken off the cape at the end of the day?" It's a little distressing, really. I got into the game for the chance to RP, but I'm turning it into a grindhouse simply because looking at ways I can optimize my performance is part of how I play every game. It's one of the reasons Jessie quit playing SSBM with me, and why I spod in RPs. Back when CoX had one optimal configuration, I used it and that was that. Every power pretty much had one ideal setup, and there was no thought to how I was going to build my characters. Now I have all these fiddly choices, and I find myself spending more time worrying about them than I do actually roleplaying in the game.

Is it time to quit? I don't know. With the coming of Issue 10, I have ideas for advancements in my characters' personal lives that tie into how the game world continues to evolve, but the truth is that CoH is by and large like eating McDonald's. It's a steady stream of low-grade acknowledgement for my creative endeavors that fills the same emotional need that the homecooked meal of writing does, nowhere near as good for me but much easier to acquire. I'm glad for the friendships I've made while playing the game, and the chance to namedrop a few fairly relevant writers as the result of my in-game efforts is pretty cool, but I recognize that the time I spend playing it is time I'm not spending on other things that in the long run are far more important.

At the very least, it may be time to cut back. I'm picking up Dark Cloud 2 again, for the first time in years. I've pretty much played the game to exhaustion, and yet like Symphony of the Night, I personally find a lot of replay value in it. I wish more console games used the same design elements. I'd keep going with Disgaea 2, but outside the teensy little snag of not knowing where my copy is, I've also hit the point at which I've played
the main storyline through to nausea, but I have yet to hit the minimum level necessary to take on the Land of Carnage. I suppose I could go through the Dark World levels, but truth be told I don't feel like spending the time it would take to unlock every map and short of doing so I'm going to feel like I'm skipping things, which makes my poor obsessive-compulsive head hurt. In fact, I'm horribly behind on console games in general. I never picked up
Shadow Hearts 3, Silent Hill 4,, or Persona 3. Those are on my list of somedays, but a large part of why I never got them ties back not only into my CoH time—see above—but also my financial situation with the house—see above that.

In fact, it ties in general into the sense of being in a holding pattern again. Really, I'm making do in my current living arrangement, with Tanya and Rachel helping cover bills and Jessie keeping me sane, but I really don't feel like I'm making any progress, and it's starting to really bother me. To be sure, I am getting ahead, but it's slow, and that's frustrating. Once the house is gone—or at least rented—that's half or more of the financial bleeding that I can staunch immediately, and that will turn around our entire situation, but until that happens it's just sitting here idling, waiting for the time to come. I'm sick of waiting.

Until that day....

In other news, the game that I had started back in Pottstown and ran for over eighteen months, Kiss of Heaven, finally wound to a close. For those to whom I said nothing about the game, this was no attempt to exclude you, but it started as a tabletop game and evolved into an online game only after half the players and the GM moved to the opposite side of the country. The one-sentence summary of the plot would be, "Can a group of artificially-created animal uplifts who suddenly develop super powers stop a mad scientist from mass genocide and forced evolution of the survivors?" and I totally based it on Nightmare City and Savior Cat. It was meant to be dark furry superhero anime, with a few brief stops
in post-apocalyptic urban survival and military espionage.

On the whole, I think the game went very well. As always, very little of what I actually planned to happen happened, but the main plot points came about in more or less the right order, and by all indication almost everybody enjoyed it. I did play fast and loose with the rules, but that was mostly because I wanted KoH to be a collaborative story effort more than a dice-munching exercise. To that end, I was probably more permissive with a few people than I should've been, not suggestive or permissive enough with others, but I think, at the very least, the story that came out of the whole thing was worthwhile.

As my friend Alexandrei loves to reminisce on The War for Sunset, I think The Kiss of Heaven would make a kick-ass novel if I could be bothered writing it. However, that would also require me to secure a lot of outside permission and to try to recreate a lot of the game sessions that took place not online in logs but in person over Cheetos and Dew, and the occasional cheesesteak. Plus, some of the real magic is in the interaction with others, and that's something that a flat story just can't capture.

The game may well have been an excellent example of "You Had To Be There Theatre."

Still, now that it's done, I find myself awash in a mix of emotions. I spent a lot of effort making sure that the game went well, and by the measures I have available to me it did, but near the end we had some interplayer turbulence that made the game difficult, and as we came up to the finale I honestly started to rush things so I could have it finished. I enjoyed putting it all together, and I'd love to do it again some time, but it was a hell of a lot of work and right now what I want more than anything is the chance to take a break from being behind the GM screen and just relaxing into a game with somebody else at the helm.

I know Mike's got his AD&D game, and Zander is talking about doing a Shadowrun game. Anyone else have anything? I've got some open weekends again.

Destiny is calling you: "Obey me or defy me."


0002 Zelera 11: Review


Six weeks since I've posted anything in my diary. I'd say I'm slipping, but I've actually been updating with other content, for once, which is something I didn't think would be happening again any time soon. So, here's the last-episode recap:

  1. Everything for Anthrocon is prepped. The room is reserved for a week, the plane tickets are for the same time period, and I have ten days of vacation reserved at work. We leave Seattle on the 23rd of Byeta and return on the 2nd of Jeva. For those of you on the Gregorian Calendar, that's July 3 to 10. I've also got a day off of work on either side to make sure I don't immediately compress into a tight ball of shock and misery upon touching ground in Seattle after the closest thing I have to a yearly church retreat.

    It still feels a little weird to say it like that, but cons are really the closest thing I get to being in a large crowd of people and yet still feeling like I'm around people who have a hope in hell of understanding. This isn't to say that they will, but it's a damnsight more likely than taking an average random collection of strangers off the street. Of course, when I say "understand," I mean more in the general sense of "empathize with the nature of my existence,"which is a concept that I don't really think we can easily express in English.

  2. I got a FurAffinityaccount. I did feel kind of dirty about it at first, but a very large part of that stems from the fact that the typical writer on there is... not that good, comparatively speaking. The furry fandom in general is a much more visual medium than it is a verbal one, with the consequence and subsequent cause that the bar for what is considered good writing is a lot lower than the bar for what is considered good illustration. Thus, more people who write mediocre stories get praised for good work, and the bar falls farther, and so on and so forth. So, I was a little leery of even trying to wade into the pool.

    Of course, the truth is that I'm already in the pool, and up until now I've really just been sort of standing around sulking that nobody was playing with me and bitching about how bad things are. So, this is really my attempt to jump into the deep end and maybe start reversing the previous trend. It may not work, but if it does then things are great, and if it doesn't then I'm really not out anything except a bit of dignity.

  3. Coincidental with the FA account, I've started a new ongoing storytitled, "Beautifuil World". The history for the setting is... complex. When I was driving cross-country from Pennsylvania to Washington, one of the many topics that arose during the trip was a new MUCK to replace or supplant or support Puzzlebox, and the idea upon which I hit was that of a virtual world in which the inhabitants all knew that they were in a virtual world, and could operate as such. Digital sentiences, hackers, and uploaded minds all interacting in a realm limited only by the creativity of the players involved.

    The idea ended up not going anywhere as a MUCK, mostly because I didn't feel like investing the energy to try to create one and code it up and maintain it. However, the idea for the setting remained in my head, lingering around and making faces at the other story settings in which I'd been working. So, with the creation of the new account, I decided to go ahead and indulge the idea and give it a bit of freedom. Since then, I've already written eight-thousand words, which isn't bad at all for me given my usual pace of writing. If I keep this up, I'll have a novel by the end of the summer.

  4. Pathia has moved in with Jessie, Tanya, and I. The apartment's a little cramped, but with some judicious juggling of suitcases and other things, we should be able to wedge everything into the available space. She's already working again, and she seems pleased with that. It's not a brilliant job, but Washington State has some pretty flash labor laws, so she's making decent money.

  5. My job at T-Mobile remains stable, even "good" by some standards. I got a fairly decent raise at my annual review, and tomorrow I'll get a good-sized bonus check that will go a long way towards covering the currently outstanding credit card debt.
  6. The house in Pottstown still hasn't sold, but at least the work is done, and the showings have picked back up. Two last week, and one the week before that actually looked ready to buy until an attack of cold feet occurred. I can't blame them for that; I had a few of those myself when Jessie and I were shopping for a permanent residence.

I think that pretty much covers everything. Anything I've missed, I can add later.

I feel happy.


0001 Kolera 24: Interviews

So, more "memes". That's not really the appropriate designator for the exercise, but it's the one that's stuck, which makes it the appropriate term, after a fashion. That's the problem with being such a proponent of neologisms, really. It's difficult to argue with so-called "incorrect" uses of language, because if they become part of the vernacular, then they weren't wrong, merely avant-garde. This war between the creative and obsessive components of my head makes me dizzy, but not nearly so dizzy as when they work together to make me create entirely new calendars.

... anyway....

If you're interested in follow-up, then leave a comment or send an email using the word "jimpe" correctly in a sentence. No, that's not a typo.

From Torque:
What do you consider to be the "best time" of your life so far?
I can't answer this in a single "here is your answer, so I'm going to cheat and provide you with several spans of time out of which I would select certain facets that should be combined in the manner of all proper giant robots into one death-machine of happiness:
  • My two years at UTAustin were an emotionally formative period, during which I was first really starting to understand that the world was a lot bigger than I thought it was, and that the worlds inside me were a lot bigger than the worlds outside. This is the time period during which I really learned to ask questions, instead of already having answers, and I miss that state of naked seeking.
  • My ten-month period in Australia, for all that being with one specific individual was abhorrent, was a strangely beautiful thing. It was very much like being in Sweden. Everything there was just slightly off, and that state of things not quite meshing left me pleasantly disoriented during my entire stay. Adding to that is the fact that, for once in my life, I wasn't the one working. I had the days to myself to spend as I wished, and I feel like I got a lot of good creative work done during this period.
  • Jessie's and my trip to Thailand by way of England was a journey of self-creation and discovery. I got to spend time with someone who was at the time my mistress, in a headspace that I rarely get to explore. I touch on parts of it, but I never quite get into the full experience. We both got to experience that cultural discontinuity together, which made every day a new development, and through it all was the underlying process of rebuilding my body, something that I wish I could experience in even greater degree now.
  • Finally, the first month of unemployment after HMS was a bizarrely idyllic period. I had Jessie, I had no daily obligation to leave home, I actually had more money than usual thanks to my severance pay and my unemployment checks, and I had every reason to believe that a new job would be right around the corner. It felt like what I imagine retirement must be like.
If you could change one facet of your personality, what would it be?
There exists an unpleasant gap in my head between that which I morally, logically, and ethically believe is what I should be doing; and what I end up doing anyway. I know that the source of my eating problems lies in the fact that it's somewhere between a compulsion and a comfort activity, and yet I continue to indulge it even when doing so makes me feel sick. I know that I have the ability to lose weight; I dropped 110 pounds without stressing myself just by taking the right diet pills and getting the occasional walk, and yet now all my struggles seem to get me nowhere because I sabotage my own best efforts. I have so many stories I could be writing, and yet I spend most of my free time playing City of Heroes. If I could change any one thing, it would be to close the gap between should and shall.
Would you feel comfortable with me being a global dictator?
I'm generally uncomfortable with anyone playing the part of global dictator, but I'll say that I'm far less uncomfortable with the idea of you in the role than I would be with many others in the same position. I could only hope that your reign would end up looking more like the Dave Conspiracy than the Steak Conspiracy.
Would you swap lives with any of your characters willingly?
That's actually a more difficult question to answer than I would care to admit, considering that some of my characters are defined as "me, given some twist of the universe that lets me look like that. If we include the caveat that we're not talking about the realm of eponymous or pseudoeponymous characters, then I can't at this point think of any character whose life I would rather lead than my own. However, I will add that I have a setting in mind involving digital uploads and all-digital sex scenes that might induce me to change my mind.
Would you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?
"I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion." —Henry David Thoreau
From Jessie:
Pick the political figure you most wish would spontaneously combust.
Leo Strauss.
Celebrity Deathmatch... James LaBrie of Dream Theater vs. Paul McDermott of Doug Anthony All Stars. Who leaves the cage alive?
Oh, don't make me choose between my babies, you heartless bitch! James castigates Paul for falling and prepares to unleash the full fury of the Host upon him, when Paul suddenly erupes in golden light and convinces James that he's returned to his former glory. James lets down his guard and prepares to launch into the Ultimate Duet, and that's when Paul devours his soul. Their powers thusly fused, Paul then reveals his true form, spreads his wings, opens one of his six mouths, and sings the song that ends the universe.
What do you miss most about Pennsylvania?
The social interaction. As little as we got in Pottstown, we get less in Seattle. Monday Night Dinner might have evolved from a fun evening into an obligation as the attendance shifted away from the crowd with which I was comfortable, but it was still a reason to get out of the house and go somewhere. Then there were the tabletop sessions, the occasional trips to Boston or for the Posts to come down. Seattle doesn't really have the same style of local get-together scene, or if it does I haven't really noticed. Shaterri's been instrumental in organizing the gatherings I've seen, and I've been glad to participate, but I'd love to get something regular happening, even if it's just hooking up once a week to go out to eat with folks.
You've had jobs end due to misunderstandings, politics, and all sorts of reasons. Which one do you most wish you could have kept going at, and why?
ISI. I was on medical leave during a re-org, during which the rest of my team got migrated into Development, which is where I wanted to be in the first place. If I'd been there, I'd have made the same transition and I likely would still be there now. They were big believers in fifty-year careers and long-term vision, and I respected that a lot. Of all the companies for which I've worked, that one felt the most like a cruel twist of fate and the least like a clash of values that made the job unpleasant. I'm willing to bet that, had the timing of the Thailand trip been different, I'd have never had the run-ins with senior management that made my staying there untenable.
You've roleplayed with lots of people. Have you ever wanted to take somebody's character away from them, slap them on the hand, say "you're doing it wrong," and bring the character into your own head so you could do justice to the concept?
  • Gerald from ASB
  • Chinook from the Shalek games
  • Marrita

It's also happened on other occasions, but never quite so strongly as with those.


0001 Lakera 22: Flushed

The universe giveth with the right hand and taketh away with the left.

Last week was Athamara, the details of are not yet written, but suffice to say that this is the big Lapinian end-of-year holiday celebrating love, friendship, and togetherness. Gift exchange, group gatherings, cuddle piles, lots of expressions of happiness that other people remain as part of our social circles. At least, that's how it's supposed to happen. With nobody having been told about it, it ended up just being a week off of work for me, a nine-day weekend that I really needed.

Today, after plowing through my backlog of email, I discovered the following unfortunate things:

  • I apparently didn't turn on my out-of-office reminder before leaving work Kimya week. No big deal, in and of itself, except that...
  • Two days ago, my realtor sent an email telling me that the oil tank at the house had run out! No problem yet but something to address pretty damn fast.

Putting these together, of course, meant that sometime between then and today, we had pipes freeze and burst. The oil delivery truck showed up at the house and immediately called to say that water was running down from the second story through the living room and into the basement. They very helpfully shut off the water main to keep the damage from getting any worse, but I have no way to survey the damage that's already been done.

Now, way back when, I had oil set up on an automatic delivery to prevent this very sort of situation. I just got a bill in my mailbox on a regular basis, and I paid it, and I never worried about getting low because they just knew when to fill the tank, and all was golden. So, when I moved, I assumed the same thing would continue, and that the bills would just show up in my new mailbox since I had mail forwarding.

Some time back in November, I discovered much to my shock that they weren't actually mailing me bills; they were stuffing them in my mailbox. A good chunk of time went missing between the arrival of one bill and the next, and in that window the oil company I had contracted to do automated delivery actually flagged my account as delinquent and disabled the routine shipments. Now, I can't really fault them for this; I'd have done the same if enough time had passed, especially if the house seemed empty and the only contact number I had was disconnected. So, I can't really blame them for this.

I can, however, get right pissed at them for not turning automated delivery back on after I called them in a state of great contrition and paid the delinquent bill in full. I even explained at the time that I had moved and that I wasn't going to be there to check on things. Now, it's entirely possible that they asked me if I wanted to go back to automated delivery and that I said no. I won't deny that that could very well have happened. At this point, I honestly don't remember. If I did, then mea maxima culpa.

Either way, I still have frozen pipes in my house.

I have no way to check the extent of the damage; I'm not there, and I can't really get there in any sort of a reasonable time frame. I just spent a week's vacation and can't really afford to take any more time to go back and look at the house. Even if I could... it wouldn't do me any good. I would just lose more sleep over things. I suppose in that sense, ignorance is bliss. The more facts I have, the more likely I am to chew the walls endlessly, working myself up into a fine froth over something I can't fix.

I've already called the insurance company to file a claim. Having had this scenario already happen three years ago, I have no idea if they'll honor it or not. At best, they say "this is what your policy is for" and it's all good less any deductible. At worst, they say nothing is covered and then I call the mortgage company and tell them they've got a lemon on their hands and I need to talk with their collections department, 'cause if insurance won't cover it, I can't afford to fix it myself and I won't be able to sell it for anything close to what I owe on it.

It would be very nice if the Luck Plane could please stop bouncing me so close to the bowl. Thank you.

Three steps forward, two steps back.


0001 Lakera 11: Requiescat

Resquiescat In Pacem: Molly Ivins, 1944-2007

In her final column, Molly Ivins said, "we are the people who run this country," and she's right. We are a government of the people, by the people, for the people. It is in our power to decide how this country will be run, and by whom. The politicians may be the ones who make the laws, but we make the politicians. It does not matter how many lobbyists spend their time greasing pockets and palms. It does not matter how much money they spend. What matters is for whom we vote, and why.

They know this. It is we, as a people, who have forgotten.

Right now, we have so many problems facing us as a society that I literally do not know where to begin. Utterly removed from any policy decision, the very process by which people take and keep office, and the abilities that people have once there, are so removed from the sane and rational that we cannot trust our current elected government to ever fix the problems. This is not a complaint about the direction we are headed, though I do have plenty of vitriol to spill on that front. No, this is anger directed at the very process by which we decide who gets to have a say in picking a new direction.

The Supreme Court decision in Buckley v. Valeo has ruled that political contributions equal free speech, meaning that more money equals more speech. This precedent is thirty years old and has almost no chance of revisitation and repudiation given our current political climate. Research abounds to suggest that the amount of money available to a candidate has a direct influence on the likelihood of a candidate getting elected above and beyond any message the candidate carries during the campaign. Until you have billions to spend, your voice will not be heard.

A patchwork of ballot access laws across the country make minor parties an afterthought to our political spectrum. The laws that govern who can get on the ballot in one state may be so different from the laws in the next that it is, I think, not unfair or misleading to characterize the process of registering as a national third-party candidate as "nigh impossible". It has been done, and it can be done, but the opportunity cost of doing so is egregious bordering on absurd.

To add insult to injury, the plurality voting system in place in most of this country's elections means that any third-party candidate that actually gets to on a sufficient number of ballots as to be treated with any modicum of seriousness becomes a threat. These people are not hailed as masters of navigating a rotten system. They are not praised for their dilligence and hard work. They are not recognized as serious contenders for the title of whatever office they seek. No, they are repudiated as spoilers to the party they most closely resemble. A serious Green candidate will become the biggest enemy of the Democrats, a Libertarian the victim of the Republicans, simply out of fear that any attempt at genuine candidacy will steal votes away from the "real" candidate.

What does all of this mean? It means that despite falling interest in the two major parties and rising dissatisfaction with the electoral process in this country, a wealthy elite representing a narrow band of political thought continue to dominate the electoral process. It means that unless you have a seven-figure salary or a major-party endorsement, your election campaign will be at best a fluke and at worst a joke. It means that if you have a viewpoint that deviates too far from the prescribed range of orthodoxy, you have virtually no chance of being elected.

I have not forgotten Bernie Sanders, but I think he's a one-off success story, not a trend.

I don't know where to start fixing things. I don't know if things can be fixed. I have ideas, but they seem huge and I feel very small in comparison. Looking at the laundry list of things that need correction, I still can't shake the sense that the easiest solution is to leave and let somebody else sort out the mess, but here, in no particular order, are my current ideas:

Do vote
This one seems obvious, but I still know people who say that their votes don't count. I can't argue my way out of that, because it's true that any given individual's vote doesn't make a direct difference on the outcome, but the aggregate effect of people not voting is a disaster.
Don't vote for any candidate that rejects public funding
This one may be a dying form of protest, but it's the only form of protest that really comes to mind for this point. The law will not save us here; the only thing we can do is save ourselves. I am prepared to limit my vote choices to those candidates who abide by public campaign limits. Hillary's not getting my vote even if she does win the nomination. I'll write-in if I'm forced into it, but I won't support any candidate that doesn't try to bring some sanity back to campaign financing.
Do look into third-party alternatives
Right now, at this precise moment in time, I care less whether you subscribe to the Libertarian, Green, Reform, Socialist, Workers', Communist, Constitution, or Independent Party. I care that we have a huge range of values and viewpoints that aren't being heard because the financial oligarchy that has been established finds it in its own best interest to keep those choices from being heard. I'll still dun you if you say something stupid, but I'd rather you say it and be heard than say it and be silenced.
Don't give them money
Yes, I am crazy. The last thing we want to do is shoot ourselves in the foot by transfering our political spending from two candidates to three or four. Give of your time, give of your support, but don't give of your pocketbook. If you believe in it, volunteer to help.
Do support organizations working for campaign reform
Here's a quick, but by no means exhaustive, list of groups trying to make the process of picking a winner more fair:
Don't partake of the election hysteria
Right now, just about every campaign that can go negative will do so. We as an electorate need to show that we're not going to buy into it. If a candidate goes negative, take your vote elsewhere and don't be afraid to contact the election office and tell them that their decision to run a negative campaign has cost them a vote.
Do talk to others
This is not a one-person effort. It can't be. It's not a work of dozens or hundreds or even thousands. This won't work if it's not some significant percentage of people who all recognize that this is something that needs to be done, and then actually does it. If you agree, then find someone and tell them. If you don't agree, tell me why. Explain to me what I've overlooked that makes these a bad plan.
Don't give up.
This probably isn't going to make a hill of beans in 2008. It might not even help us by 2010. However, if we don't start taking steps now, we'll never get where we want to go, and maybe if we start working now, by 2012 or 2014 we might start seeing some results.

The longest journey starts with a single step.


0001 Indera 09

L.C. 0001 Indera 09

By most modern reckoning, this is the "new year". We've passed some arbitrary marker that divides one period of solar revolution from another, and we've tied festivals and celebrations to mark the transition. Ritual is important. It helps us create and preserve meaning. It helps us forge and maintain social connections. It gives us a sense of community and belonging. The rituals that we share help reinforce our feelings of being part of a group, and those emotional ties are what make us a family, a community, a society, and not just a collection of individuals.

However, let us remember that these rituals are themselves arbitrary. The events that spawned any given ritual are not to be trivialized, but of the uncountable events that have occurred since history began, to choose some subset of them and mark them for rememberance above all others is to grant them a meaning and significance that far outstrips their actual import. Worse, to assume that they are somehow universal, even for their widespread adoption, is to display an arrogance that stresses one's own role in the universe as being far beyond its due.

This is not to say that ritual should be trivialized; see my initial points above. However, the rituals and celebrations that we accept should be personal rituals. They should be things which are important to us, and to our friends and family. We should be growing our celebrations and our traditions ourselves. Accept the rituals that your parents gave to you, but understand their sources and decide for yourselves if the reasons you celebrate are your reasons or theirs. There is no reason why your religious holiday should be mine, my celebration of independence should be yours. Our holidays may overlap, and we may mistake commonality of time for commonality of meaning, but even two people who celebrate the same festival may not celebrate for the same reasons.

Did you have a happy Yalda? Or perhaps you celebrate Brumalia in your house instead.

With that in mind, I hope that for everyone who celebrated over the turning of the Gregorian calendar, you had a good time and that you got out of the events more than you put into them. The mark of any successful ritual, in my opinion, is that you come away from it feeling as though the prepration and anticipation felt beforehand were more than worthwhile in the end. If they weren't... perhaps you should consider the reasons and find some new holidays.

I suppose in many ways this post is an ACK. The last few months have been somewhat crazy for me, mostly for reasons that have little to do with anything I've openly discussed here. The short form is that our finances since moving to Seattle have been in what I can only describe as Slow Leak Syndrome. Because the house has not sold yet, I spend a little more on fixed expenses every month than I earn, which means every month I'm sitting on a little more credit card debt than I did the month prior. While I realize that this situation is hardly unfamiliar to the average American household, who at last measure was spending USD100.60 for every USD100.00 earned, this is an awkward and uncomfortable situation for me, since the last time I was in this kind of predicament, I was unemployed and trying to scrape by on the collective rents of my roommates and a paper route that ultimately destroyed my seventh or eighth car. The MPS, if anyone else is keeping score.

Those were not happy times. Living in their shadow again, even for theoretically positive reasons like "I have too much real estate", puts me just a little bit on edge. I'm not in any real danger; I have plenty of cushion on which to fall if I need it, and if push comes to shove I can call my folks and they've already said they'll be more than willing to help out. It's just that every little expense adds up, and instead of eating into the monthly savings, it's adding to the monthly debts.

In fact, the reason why the Ranch hasn't been updated in two months at this point is honestly because I've been having a hard time justifying the kinds of expenditures that would serve as the incentives behind the project, and in the absense of the positive feedback those incentives would provide, I've been letting the whole thing languish. That's not to say that I haven't been at least trying to stick to my goals, but the formula of rewards for good behavior has been hard to execute when the rewards aren't in the budget.

On the whole, I think we've adjusted to living on the Left Coast pretty well. Jessie's in the middle of some new projects. I've been playing a lot of City of Heroes, but at the same time I've been developing what I'd like to consider a fairly rich narrative for the characters involved. Admittedly, it feels a little like downgrading to paint-by-numbers after the freehand of building my own setting and running it every other week, but that game finally took off again after a three-month hiatus for general insanity, and with any luck, tomorrow night will also be as much a success as last week. I've had a number of other projects that I've at least nominally started to keep my creativity flowing, I added a whole page to my novel in the last month, and in general I think the new living arrangements have been conducive to better mindset.

At the very least, I know they've helped Jessie, and that makes my mood much better.

One thing I have finished, or at leastcompleted-to-the-point-of-utility is the Lapinian calendar. The funny date above links to its description. The days of the week and the months of the year were taken from legal words in living languages. As an exercise, why not try to determine the pattern and identify the meanings of the words? These may or may not form the basis later of a Lapinian language, but if they do, then I think these will be a good start.

Right now I'm not sure in what direction Lapinia is growing. It's less than a micronation, more than a fad. It's a culture, a state of mind, a worldview, and an association of people who share it. It's a faction, if anything: a culture and history and symbology all encapsulated in a label. What it becomes is as much a factor of who I become as anything else. Right now, it's an ideal to which I'd like to hold myself, and I think it's an ideal worth sharing with others.

Come sail away with me.

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