Saturday Morning Musing

Growing up, because my parents were a single-income household and they had four children, most of our vacations were trips to campgrounds, the lake houses of my grandparents, or to visit family friends. There were a few exceptions, of course, like my trip to Boston with my mother so I could check out the Mount Washington Observatory because I was a weather nerd as a child and the entire family’s trip to Montana and Washington. I’ve never been to Disneyland and my memories of the Mall of America are vague and distant because I’m pretty sure they happened before I turned six. Probably much earlier.

I’m not complaining. My vacations were just different, not necessarily better or worse. The parts I remember most fondly aren’t even the vacations themselves, but the things around the vacation. Getting excited for the upcoming trip and the books, audio books, and GameBoy games I’d line up for what seemed like car trips that lasted forever. Getting takeout the night before so there were no dishes to do and no mess to clean up. Getting woken up at 4 in the morning by my dad because I was only kid who wouldn’t try to go back to sleep and could be trusted to get myself into the car. When I was younger, getting wrapped up in blankets against the chilly morning air and bundled into the car amongst our bags and coolers so that I got to spend the entire car trip wrapped in a cozy cocoon. The sense of safety and warmth I felt as my dad drove us through the dark early morning hours of the day and I knew that I could sleep safely because he’d never let anything happen to us. The fascination I learned staring at the horizon as the sun rose and at the sky or horizon as the miles passed. The satisfaction and comfort that came from being my dad’s copilot when I was older, the person trusted to stay awake and sit in the front seat because I would talk and could read the map.

Trips are different now. I still love the sun rises, leaving early in the morning, and watching the horizon as the miles roll by, but now I take my trips mostly on my own. I drive to my grandparents’ cottage or to visit friends in different cities. Occasionally, I drive someplace for a camping trip or to visit family. The feeling of wonder and other-worldliness is gone, replaced by a mental checklist of things to bring, where my gas station stops will be, and where my turns are. I think I’m starting to understand how my dad felt when we prepared and went on trips, perhaps minus the sense of responsibility for all the other occupants of my car as there are none.

These days, my vacations tend to focus more on resting and recovering than going somewhere. I don’t really have the money to take short trip to Portland or Seattle. Leaving the country is incredibly complicated and even more expensive, so that’s out as well. I could go camping, sure, but I usually only take vacations when I am in desperate need of relaxation and rest. Then, I generally want to stay around my apartment and save money because going places, doing things, and trying to figure out how to squeeze money out of my budget is exhausting.

That’s what this week’s vacation was. I did a single day trip to visit some college professors and friends, and then stayed at home the rest of the time, doing little things around the house and trying to focus on sleeping well, eating well, and doing some maintenance work on my life. Clutter clearing has been going well and I’ve completely cleaned my room. I also reorganized my bookshelves, so I’ll hopefully be able to handle new books without having to move pretty much every book I own for at least the rest of the calendar year. After that, all bets are off.

We’ll see whether or not it worked as time goes on. Going back to work after a vacation is always difficult and I’m struggling a little harder than usual because my soul yearns to write constantly. I had a taste of the freedom that sort of life could afford me and I’m going to be fighting myself when it comes to going in to work on Monday…


Talking To Myself

Most people
when they chuckle
to talking to themselves
offer the
that they just don’t like
or that they’re
thinking out loud
I do it to
drown out the whispers
in my head
against hope
that if I can
somehow manage
to talk loud enough
I can ignore them
never works
because there is a
slight hint of
that creeps
into my voice
and a
primal sort of
to the muscles of my face
that just SCREAMS
of the whispers
hidden behind the
animated comments
that rambles out
of my mouth
It only seems
to emphasize
outside my head
and the
color within it
I need
to stop living
It’s too quiet here
especially when
the only one
all the noise

Time’s Wasting, Let’s Get Pokemon Going

I have a complicated relationship withe Pokemon Go. If you look back in the recesses of my original posts (I’ll link it here so you don’t have to), you can find me writing about how cool the game was and how excited I was to play it. Since then, my excitement has cooled. Initially it was because it was nearly impossible to find Pokemon in the wild (which was the reason most of my friends stopped playing), but there was no way to directly interact with your friends until they added raid battles. Gyms were a nightmare because connectivity problems kept coming up and it was a pain in the ass to train up a gym so it would be strong enough to survive everyone trying to take it down. Even the eventual fix to gyms, which makes turning them around and maintaining them a lot easier, was less than ideal because it puts a big limit on the number of in-game currency you can get without buying it.

My current apartment not having close proximity to anything (there’s one stop within half a mile’s walking and everything else requires crossing the highway) and I don’t earn much money with the gym access I’ve got, so I’m constantly running out of items. I don’t really have the space in my weekly schedule to spend three hours to drive somewhere with a bunch of stops, walk around for an hour, drive home, and then have to charge my phone. There are so many things I’d rather be doing with that time than spending it trying to maintain the high level of participation the game requires when you don’t have easy access to the in-game resources.

Playing it now doesn’t take much time. I hit the local pokestop on my way to work or I hit the one at work while I’m getting lunch. I can sometimes get a gym each day (for my fifty coin daily maximum) if I spend fifteen minutes after work stopping at one of the ones near my workplace. I open the app a couple of times a day and whenever I take walks, spending the mental energy on Pokemon Go when I would otherwise be letting my mind idly wander. It doesn’t cost me any time aside from gyms, but it does cost me energy. There’s a certain amount of mental effort that goes into remember to do my daily tasks, remember which Pokemon I don’t need for evolving something (to avoid wasting my precious Pokeballs), and planning out the extra commute time I’d need to stop for a gym or pokestop.

For almost two years, I’ve unfailingly spent that energy every day. Even during the last few months when I’ve exhausted myself to the point of pretty much crashing as soon as I’m done with my responsibilities each day, I still spend energy on Pokemon Go. Now, as I’m taking a look at my life and trying to decide what is really worth energy as I try to find a healthier balance, I’m really questioning if it is worth it. And Pokemon Go isn’t the only thing on the chopping block. One of my favorite no-energy time-wasters is Imgur and that generally doesn’t do anything for me but help time pass quickly. There are games I play online with my friends that I don’t really enjoy but I play anyway because I’ve got people to play alongside. My life is full of things like this, things I once enjoyed but only continue to do because of habits and because they help me pass through the hours of my worst days.

The thing is, I have a lot of other stuff to help me do that. Ever since I ran out of that stuff in college and had to deal with a horrible night where I had nothing to do but think and stare out the window, I’ve made sure that I’ve got at least forty hours of mindless entertainment. I’ve got whole TV shows I bought on DVD that I’ve only watched long enough to know I’d enjoy. I’ve got a pile of emergency books and every Pokemon game ever created (I enjoy the “standard” version Pokemon games way more than the mobile game). Yet I still play Pokemon Go every day. I still have half a dozen boring games installed on my computer. I still have all the social media and time-wasting apps on my phone so I can disappear from the world for hours at a time.

As I spring-clean my life, I think it’s time I got rid of that stuff. I took this week off of work, and even off of blog writing (this was written ahead of time), so I could rest and try to see my life through clear eyes. Part of that is going to be ridding myself of all the things I’ve collected to insulate myself from having to pay attention to my life when my life wasn’t something I wanted to pay attention to. Things are better now, even if I still struggle, and I don’t want to feel like I’m wasting my time anymore. I don’t know if I’ll uninstall Pokemon Go because my girlfriend still plays it frequently and it is good to have things you can do together, but I think I’m going to take it off my home screen.

My Second Favorite Cop Show

While my friend and I were watching Pysch a couple of weeks ago, we got to talking about our mutual love for comedy, cop shows, and comedic cop shows. While we both obviously rated Psych as our favorite, we were both surprised to learn that our second favorite cop show was Castle. Me, because I want to be Richard Castle (a rich, eccentric millionaire writer with a nice apartment and the fortitude to not only write books but help the police solve crimes every week while pretending he’s doing research) and him because he’s like a broke, slightly funnier, and much less involved in crime solving version of Richard Castle. The distinction is probably the smallest one I’ll ever make, but we argued about it for half an hour, so it is clearly important to both of us.

It was interesting to see that we were basically in agreement on pretty much every point of the show. The only difference was our experiences with it. He watched it as it came out on TV and I purchased the DVDs. I’ve also made it further into the series he has, but that’s mostly because I had the DVDs and could watch on demand. Both of us eventually stopped before the end because the series started falling into that hole that long-running shows sometimes fall into, where more and more incredible things have to happen in order to keep the show new and relevant. He has no plans to continue watching it but I own the DVDs for every season and plan to get around to it at some point. We both enjoyed the earlier seasons more, when it was mostly protagonists flirting, hints at larger plot arcs, and the standard human stuff that goes on in everyday life.


The characters are great and Nathan Fillion is excellent in this show. I’ll admit that I’m a little biased because I’m a bit of a fan of his, but I think his style of acting fits the series very well, able to go from light-hearted comedic relief to intensely serious as the situation calls, all before wrapping it up with a touching little moment at the end with Castle’s mother, daughter, or his current love interest. In a single episode. The writing of the individual episodes manages it well, too. Despite the wide variety of emotions at play in a lot of the episodes, there is never a moment were it feels rushed or unduly chaotic. As I said, the writing runs into problems as the show goes on, but they do remarkably well for something that obviously hadn’t planned on running for as long as it did.

The extended cast is a lot of fun. Richard Castle’s mother and daughter provide excellent contrasts, allowing him to be the more serious one at times with his mother and the more playful one with his daughter. The three of them do an excellent job playing off of each other as they interchangeably help each other, give each other advice, and rein each other in. The other characters, mostly people from the police side of the show, help keep the show balanced by providing the main drama for each episode without completely losing touch with the more emotional side of the show.

The other protagonist, Detective Beckett, does an amazing job of calling Castle on his bullshit, keeping the police focused on their jobs rather than on Castle’s antics, and upstaging Castle almost every time he thinks he’s come out ahead. Unlike a lot of cop shows where the outsider protagonist constantly almost shames the police, Beckett proves herself easily Castle’s equal and much more likely his superior when it comes to investigation. There are a lot of times where he mostly just follows her around to flirt, make jokes, and accidentally stumble into a tense situation (or firefight) that she rescues him from. It is a refreshing change of pace when the damsel in distress is the male protagonist. He rescues her a couple of times, but it is mostly him tagging along and leaning on her. Beckett provides most of the plot arcs for the show and Castle’s are often just an accessory to hers. I enjoy the dynamic a little more than Psych’s where Shawn is constantly stealing the spotlight and setting up the story arcs. It feels a lot more realistic in Castle.

Eventually, though, the show loses the thread of its earlier seasons and starts trying to top itself, despite the fact that they more or less resolve the long-running character arcs and stories by season 5. They could have wrapped everything up neatly at that point, but they kept it going and things started to get a little messy. The plots started to get kind of convoluted, the season arcs felt like they were made simply to keep the show going, and the characters started throwing controversy into their personal lives just to give themselves plots for the season.

I feel like I encounter that a lot in TV shows these days. If a show does well for a few seasons, the network decides to milk it for all its worth. Scrubs Season 8 would have been great if they had just basically started the show over, letting all the old characters go except for a few who wanted to stick around and making it the start of something new instead of an attempt to continue something that almost everyone had left. The worst offender in my book is How I Met Your Mother. They had a nice, tight little plot that they wound up extending when they were given more seasons. That was fine, but continuing to extend it forever got very frustrating, since they wound up dancing around potentially ending the show at the end of the current season for a couple (or more) years.

Ultimately, if you’re looking for a fun cop show that’s good for a watch, check out Castle. You’ll enjoy it, have a good time, and chances are good that you’ll like it well enough to watch all of it. I’m just really bad at finishing things if I wind up stopping them. I suggest taking your time and trying to be consistent rather than binging it like I did.

Coldheart and Iron: Part 10


In the morning, I told everyone as we that we would need to push hard for the next two days in order to make it to our shelter in time to prepare it for the blizzard. There were a few grumbles, but just people venting spleen about an unpleasant task. After I reminded them that they would also be required to help prepare the shelter once we got there, a couple of the nomads and most of the laborers started shouting. One of the nomads tried argue that they should not be expected to keep up and thus should be exempt from a day’s work because they had children to look after. I cut the argument off before they could start gaining steam, letting them know only people who helped with the shelter got to use it, and nomads who had children quickly shushed the two loudmouths without children.

However, the laborers seemed to unite behind the idea of taking their time and refused to let go. As we prepared to set out, since I made it clear the supplies were leaving with the Wayfinders, regardless of what the laborers chose to do, they huddled together and then sent Trevor to talk to me again. I ignored him as best as I could, letting him know I was busy helping the nomads with their children and taking my turn pulling the supply sled, but he finally cornered me when we broke for a quick lunch.

Initially, I planned to let him just run his mouth. Once he’d run out of steam a bit, I let him know the scouts would be arriving there tomorrow morning, as we were starting our day’s hike, and would have the building selected by the time our group got there in the evening. He backed off then, stewing on what I said, and I had most of the afternoon to focus on my tasks. Any time not spent reviewing supply forms or correcting our course was spent taking a turn helping the nomads by carrying one of the two children that wasn’t strong enough to keep up the pace but was too big to constantly carry. Thankfully, being carried helped the two kids keep up the pace by given them a chance to rest, though they were starting to show their complete exhaustion as sunset approached. The laborers were having no trouble keeping up the pace, though they always seemed to be elsewhere when I wanted to enlist one of them to help with something.

About fifteen more minutes of hiking from the campsite the forward scouts had picked for us, Trevor came up to me again. I was at the head of the group, setting the pace and keeping on eye out to make sure no one fell behind. When I looked back, about to let everyone know we would to our campsite with plenty of time to set up before dark, I found Trevor hustling up to me. I turned back to face the front and ignored him until he fell in beside me and nodded.


I nodded back, wary and wishing he could have waited just a little longer, when I’d be too busy setting up camp to talk.

“I want to know why we must be rushed. Won’t two and a half days be plenty of time to prepare?”

I sighed and shook my head. “Possibly. Given the nature of our preparations and the inability to be completely accurate about blizzard predictions, it is best to get as much time as possible.”

“Is the four hours of daylight we’ll gain by pushing hard really help us that much?”

“Yes.” I nodded and resumed my silent march.

After a moment of silence, Trevor turned towards me a little bit and spread his hands. “Please, captain. I’m trying to understand. Could you explain why it matters so much?”

I considered ignoring him, but decided against it. If I could get him to quit arguing, maybe he’d get the rest of the laborers to fall in line. That’d make my life much easier. “Alright, but once we hit our campsite I’ll need to focus on making camp.”

I waited for Trevor to nod and then launched into the basics. “Given that we haven’t taken this route in years and this is the first time we’re stopping at this particular town, I would have preferred to have four days or even five. Given that we lost two days to dealing with bandits, we have no time to spare.”

Trevor blew out a deep breath and snorted. “I find it hard to believe that simply setting up a more stable camp would take three days.”

I shot a glare at him and he held his hands up placatingly. “I know you’ve spent most of your time in enclaves, so I would not be surprised to learn that this is the first blizzard you’ve experienced outside the safety of civilization. Correct?” He nodded slightly and I continued. “Now, I’m sure I don’t need to explain why we need shelter during the blizzards. Anyone old enough to understand the stories knows. However, things work a little differently outside of the enclaves.”

I pulled open one of the large velcro pockets on the front of my thermal jacket and handed a few pieces of laminated paper to him. “Here. This is the list of things we need to survive for an entire blizzard, per person and assuming that the blizzard lasts for ten days. Give it a read.”

As his eyes darted down the page, I continued to talk. “Outside of an enclave, an errant heat signature could give us away. That’s why we have such strict rules about were fires can be located, what you can wear, and why you need to stay in your tents at night. In an enclave, the heat is so oddly shaped and in large enough quantities that it confuses the sensors. They’re safe simply because they’re so big and so warm.

“We are not. Especially during blizzards when the ambient temperature drops to its lowest and any amount of extra heat is going to shine like a beacon.” Trevor looked up at me, his face blank. I smiled at him. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be hunted down and killed. So we hole up, hide our heat signatures, and do what we can to pass time until it is safe for us to go outside again.”

Trevor hadn’t even cycled through the papers, but he handed them back to me. “That sounds like a lot of hassle. If we can predict the day the blizzards will strike an area, why don’t people just make sure to be in an enclave when they pass over? Why risk being outside?”

I shrugged. “People aren’t exactly known for making the most sensible choices all the time. Plus, if we restricted all travel that would encounter a blizzard, we’d be doing at most a third of what we do now. They’re fairly frequent, when you consider how long it takes, on average, to go from one enclave to another.” I stuck the papers back into my pocket and sealed it up. “Like I said, I don’t want to be hunted down and killed, nor do I want anyone in our group to be hunted down and killed, so I’m going to push us as hard as I can today and then do the same tomorrow so we can arrive at the shelter my people have picked out before sundown.

“I would appreciate it if you’d stop questioning me while we’re walking and focus on getting your people in line so I can do my job.” I turned my face to Trevor again and let all of my frustration from the day show on my face. “If you or your companions get in the way of me keeping everyone safe, I will leave you behind. Got it?”

Trevor’s steps faltered for a moment, but he nodded. “Alright, alright. I got it.” He nervously rubbed his gloves together and chuckled. “Now that I know what’s going on, I’ll focus on making sure my people keep up the pace and are ready to work. I don’t think any of us wants to get killed, either.”

I let some of the heat fade from my face and shook my head. “If I have to explain every decision I make, we’re going to wind up dead. Do I what I say when I say it and, if we have some down time and you want to know why, I’ll explain it to you.”

“Sure thing.” Trevor smiled and stuck out his hand. I stared at it and then at his face for a moment before taking it and applying slightly more pressure than was strictly necessary. It was an awkward walking handshake, but Trevor seemed to appreciate it.

“Great. Now go get your people ready and convince them that, if we all just pull together on this, we can have time to rest and relax soon. The better they work together, the sooner it’ll be.”

“Right away, Captain.” Trevor nodded and fell back to the rest of the laborers. I watch him talk to them for a moment before focusing my mind back on the task of arriving at our camp and getting every settled for the night. Once all tasks were finished for the night and both groups had settled in for the night, I took half an hour from my guard shift to go through the supply tent and update the logs.

It was always an ordeal, preparing for the blizzard. We had to collect wood for fires to keep us warm since our little kerosene camp stoves would use up what fuel we had with us in a couple of days if we relied solely on them. Even though a few groups of Wayfinders did nothing but travel Wayfinder routes and replenish the hidden stockpiles we used to make sure guiding groups had enough necessities, we couldn’t take enough to keep us warm that long without leaving nothing for any groups that came after us. Food was a lot easier, though. The constant cold helped preserve most of the stockpiles governments had put together as the collapse was happening thanks to some people who believed the early warning signs. Most canned goods lasted well beyond their shelf dates, as long as they stayed dry.

The only other thing we needed, which was the hardest thing to find, was the right building. Most buildings were properly insulated before the collapse and our thermal hand scanner would find any leaks that had developed since then as soon as we put a heat source inside the building. Thankfully, the standards had been raised right before the collapse and any newer building was almost as dead as the snow around it on the thermal reader, even after we started heating it to look for leaks. There were almost always repairs that needed doing, but insulation and nails or glue never went bad and no Wayfinder was certified without the skills to heat seal a building.

Thankfully, we were good on almost everything but kerosene. The nomads had brought plenty of food, but drained our fuel resources much more quickly than we anticipated. I’d have to send some Wayfinders through the town to look for more fuel, if there was any left. If not, I’d have to send a couple of scouts away from our route to hit a cache somewhere. Natalie had the maps and she would know where to find anything around this town. Hopefully we wouldn’t need to start restricting fuel rations before then.

Once I was finished, I settled in for my guard duty. Hidden beneath the fresh powder that was constantly falling from the sky, I kept an eye on the camp and wished that radios were still usable. Natalie and Lucas had been gone since the morning and the quiet anxiety I always felt when my friends didn’t return to the tent at night clawed at my stomach. Lucas was the best we had at solo survival and Natalie was the head of our resource collection, so I knew they’d be fine between the two of them, not to mention the four other Wayfinders and two trainees with them. Natalie and her trainee would be in charge of finding our shelter and combing the ruined town for food to help us survive the five to ten days we would be stuck in our shelter.

Once my shift was over, and I’d gotten as much sleep as I could before I had to start getting the camp moving again, I steeled myself for another morning of arguments and a certain degree of enthusiasm I didn’t actually feel. As I let my mind work through my morning mantra, I cleaned up from breakfast, packed up my bags, and started taking down the tent. Once I was outside and finishing up the packing, I encouraged the camp to continue doing the same. Camille had gotten up before me and started the Wayfinders on their preparations, so all I had to do was get the laborers and the nomads moving.

Thankfully, the nomads were up and moving already. The laborers took a little work to get going, but they didn’t argue and Trevor took it upon himself to make sure they all got ready quickly. We got underway a full fifteen minutes before I had expected and were on our way with minimal disruption. Trevor had the laborers take turns helping with the nomad children and he even took a turn pulling a supply sled, though none of the other laborers offered.

By the time we arrived at the town and had been brought to the building the scouts had selected, it was just before sunset. Room assignments were given, unused rooms were boarded up, and everyone settled in for their first night in a proper shelter in what felt like over a month. Even the barn hadn’t felt as cozy as the solid building around us. As I fell asleep, I banished all of my usual worries from my mind and reveled in the comfort of good shelter and sleeping beside Natalie once again.

Tabletop Highlight: Weapons of Legacy

I love world creation. I like making up complex worlds with a lot going on and creating a sense of history for the world. I want to make it feel like it stretches beyond the story being told now and, if things go well, that it will continue one for ages to come. That can always be a tricky prospect in any story-telling format, but it can be especially tricky in D&D because no one cares about the past unless you find ways to tie what is going on now to the past. The same can be said of books, but generally the characters in a book are more easily maneuvered into seeing the importance of the past than people playing characters in a D&D campaign.

While there are an endless number of details you can use to draw attention to your campaign’s history and what went on before the characters showed up, not every player is going to be willing to let their attention be drawn. Even then, a lot of the historic information feels like it has been created just to add motivation or information to a present situation, so the depth is lost. My favorite way to add some depth beyond constant references to things that happened long ago and ancient ruins that weigh down their halls with history is a mechanic that D&D 3.5 called Weapons of Legacy. It even has its own book by the same name.

The idea is that certain weapons (or armor, shields, or general items) had so much magic and power invested in them by someone that they started taking on a life of their own. They became these immensely powerful things that show up throughout history, in the hands of different owners who just add to the thing’s legacy. There are a whole bunch of pre-made items in the book and each one has stories about how the legacy item came to bear its current legacy, what has been done with it since then, and where it might be waiting for a new bearer. It even has rules for making custom weapons of legacy, either for enterprising DMs who want to add depth to their world or for players who want to create their own legacies as their characters grow in power.

I enjoy creating legacies as characters grow because it can be really fun for their legacy item to suddenly manifest powers when they’re in a tight corner. It adds a lot of flavor to the characters as they grow and can help them find direction for their growth when players are otherwise struggling to figure out what is next for their character beyond the continued adventure. I prefer to make them myself, perhaps a little tailored to fit my players, so they’re forced to do some research and learn about the past. I like to tie them to plots going on so players become invested in resolving the plots and ensuring that everything eventually gets resolved rather than forgotten about.

The part I enjoy the least is the number of feats and penalties involved in a weapon of legacy. Sure, they’re often WAY more powerful than any other single item in 3.5, but I feel like the penalties take away from the fun and power the players are supposed to feel as a result of the legacy. I don’t mind if my players wind up a little over-powered because it makes them feel like they’re powerful enough to change history. That is, of course, until I throw a dragon turtle at them that nearly takes out the entire party and would have if the entire party besides the Bard weren’t strikers who can deal high damage to single targets. True story.

Honestly, the flavor parts of the legacy items are my favorite parts. I like coming up with the origins and history of the item, in addition to what the Weapons of Legacy book calls the “omen,” or the thing that hints that this isn’t just an ordinary weapon. Combining that with the Individual Magic Effects from the Goblins webcomic makes for some REALLY fun effects when a character picks up and uses a legacy item. They’re all-around fun for me to make and add to my campaign, my players love the power and history they add, and cool stuff (like a dagger made from the largest piece of a shattered Reaper’s scythe) is cool.

Broken Down

He roamed through the empty halls of his house, wondering when it all fell apart. There was little for him to do at this point, other than wait for it all to end. His life had ended when he’d come face to face with the truth. It took all he had to not dwell on it, revisiting his actions and decisions endlessly, wondering if he could have changed things if he had paid more attention.

He drifted down the stairs and looked at the ruins of his one immaculate yard. There were weeds there now, and a slowly rusting car that seemed to belong here more than he did.

He thought about ending it, but he didn’t know how. There was no reason to struggle, anymore. No reason to try. There was nothing left for him and, eventually, there would be nothing left of him. He was doomed to just slowly fade away until nothing was left of who he once was.

He moved to the kitchen and watched a mouse scuttle across the dirty floor, and could not bring himself to care. He watched it stop for a moment to rub its face with its paws and look about before it disappeared into the wall near his cabinets. Somewhere, a bird cawed. It sounded heavy and dark, like his mood.

He looked outside at the forest beyond his yard and remembered the power he had felt as he walked through that door the first time. And the fear he had felt as he walked through it the last time. His life had been over at that point, he just hadn’t known it yet. The bombshell had already been dropped and it had been seconds from going off.

Dying had been easy. Being a ghost, however, was not.

Saturday Morning Musing

It is always good to believe in yourself. When it comes down to it, nothing but believing in yourself is going to keep you working on something difficult when you continuously encounter setbacks and challenges that make you wonder if you should just give up. No amount of other people believing in you is going to be able to answer the question of “should I keep doing this.”

It does make it a lot easier, though. If someone else believes in you, it makes it a lot easier to believe in yourself. I used to sort of believe in myself. I would always say I did and I possessed enough blind determination to just keep working regardless of whether or not I believed in myself, but it took an endorsement from one of my favorite teachers in college to actually do it.

I wrote in high school because I wanted to escape. I kept writing because other people enjoyed my escapes as much as I did and because some part of me recognized that writing gave me the ability to work through some of the problems I had faced without having to confront them directly. Looking back, it is painfully clear how much each story I worked on was some part of my attempting to reconcile how the world was with how I had been taught (and how I believed) it should be. How my life was versus how I thought it should be.

In college, as I focused on learning about writing and stories and literature, I started to grasp more consciously what I had subconsciously known and my writing improved. I could now do on purpose what I’d only been doing by accident before. I improved my technical writing skills and kept improving my storytelling skills. I read a bunch of experimented with formats and styles. I grew a lot, but I still didn’t believe in myself.

At the end of my junior year of college, I was awarded a scholarship for excellence in writing. The award was validating, of course. It felt great to see that my professors believed in me and that my work at building a community amongst the other writing students was being recognized. Still, what meant more to me was the speech my creative writing professor gave as she introduced the award and hinted at who had won it.

Hearing what she said, the way she said, and how excited she was to see where I might one day wind up was huge. Everything she said then and the things she said afterwards gave me the confidence I needed to really commit to believing in myself. What had once been a sort of general belief that I’d be able to land on my feet (or get back on them) no matter what happened focused into a sincere belief that I’d be able to achieve my writing goals of helping people with my stories.

It changed the course of my next few years and enabled me to keep writing despite how hard my life eventually became. Eventually, though, even that wore down. A single endorsement, even if I still have the speech my professor wrote, will eventually crumble due to the passage of time and all that I had left was my belief in myself. That helped for a while, but it eventually was riddled with doubt.

Eventually, though, that ended. It was a small thing, at least it probably seems like that to a lot of people, but it was huge to me. A birthday card from a friend. A simple message of a few sentences full of heartfelt words and the same strength of belief that my professor had years before. It helped me answer the doubts I felt and gave me the boost I needed to push from doubts to writing again. My belief came back, strong as ever, and I started working on writing projects I hadn’t touched in months and eventually decided updating my blog every day was a good idea.

When I get exhausted or start to wonder if updating this thing every day for a year is actually worth it, I just look at that card again and am reminded that I’m not doing this for views or for fame or for anything external reason. I’m doing this for me. I’m proving a point to myself that I can do this and that nothing is ever going to stop me from being a writer but my own decisions to give up.

I’m about a third of the way through my thirteen month challenge and I’m getting to the point where I can make room to work on non-blog stuff. At this point, nothing can stop me. I’ve felt burned out for three years now, thanks to the job that brought me to my current city, but I don’t need to feel a certain way to write. If I ever recover fully, from the mental and emotional exhaustion that job inflicted on me, I’ll be more productive than I ever imagined I could be. Right now, I’m constantly exhausted, battling depression, and struggling to make it through each week without letting my mental illnesses swamp me, and I’m more productive than I’ve ever been.

I knocked on wood as soon as I finished writing that paragraph because I’m not so naive as to believe things can’t get worse, but I still don’t think they will. There will be bad days and there will be bad weeks, but I think I’ve got it in me to make sure I’m still having good months.

Write Anything *In Progress*

They told me I could write anything
And foolishly I believed them.
They ooh’d and aah’d at every word

Does “them” have any non-awful rhymes?

In the years since my accolades
I’ve learned a difficult lesson

Teachers say to write what you know
But I know about as much as Jon Snow
And though I’d hate to let these lines go
They don’t fit into this poem, so…


Writing about only hetero white dudes
Gets super friggin’ boring
If I did only that
All my readers would be snoring

(Turn the above ideas
Into something that fits
The poetic form
Of the previous bits)


Witty lines to point out my growth
That reference a fresh meme


I’ve learned I can’t write everything
So I wrote this poem instead.


Talking to Strangers on the Internet

When I was growing up and first got to use the internet, one of the biggest rules I was given was that I could not talk to strangers on the internet. Around that time, tales of child abductions, predators, and catfishing had started to gain prominence, so my parents’ concern makes sense. It made sense back then, too, because I wasn’t supposed to talk to real-life strangers, so why should I be able to talk to internet strangers?

The funny thing is, now there are entire platforms for talking to strangers. Randomly-paired video and/or text chat, Twitter, Imgur, Reddit, Facebook… Pretty much everywhere you can go to on the internet, it will have an endless stream of strangers you can talk to. Sometimes, you even wind up making friends. One of my closest friends in my freshman year of college was someone who was a friend of a friend of a friend, that I’d maybe seen in person once. In the entire time we talked and were close friends, we met in person once, when I was back from college for winter break and we wanted to be able to stop making jokes about either one of us being a fat old man in a fake mustache.

Hell, even most video games pair you with strangers these days and all the team-based ones require some degree of communication, even if you only ever use emotes/macros to ask for healing or to show off your character’s mighty muscles. Up until a couple of weeks ago, when I started getting more involved on Twitter, most of my interaction with strangers came from playing Overwatch. I’d queue up for a match by myself or with a friend and we’d get stuck on a team with random strangers. For the most part, communication with them stay in the realm of healing requests and indications that we need to group up.

Sometimes, though, people start using text chat. Sometimes, people even use the team-wide voice chat. While myself and the friend I usually queue up with don’t generally join the team voice chat unless the team asks us to, there have been a few times when we have and it went well. One time, we did so well with two other groups of two that we all teamed up to make a group of six and went on to win another four matches. Another time, one guy spent the whole match whining into the team chat about how no one was playing well or helping him and it created such a thoroughly toxic atmosphere that no one would work together.

Most of the time, it’s just normal chatter. People talk about what they’re going to do, call out enemy positions and maneuvers, we coordinate our movements, and trying to work together for a common goal before moving on and never talking to each other again. I’ve had mostly neutral experiences with team voice chat, but the negative ones stand out so much that I generally try to avoid it if I can.

Text chat has been the opposite. There have been a few negative experiences, including one lately that made the match so negative that people on my team started throwing the match, resulting in an embarrassing overtime loss to a team we should have beaten easily. For the most part, though, people are friendly and at least neutral if not positive. If you play as a part of a group, there’s a high chance of playing with other groups and sticking with them for a while, across several matches. As that happens, people start friendly conversations, congratulate each other on good places, and all report/shout-down the one asshole trying to ruin everyone’s good time. Then you inevitably wind up fighting against a long-time ally and tears are shed on both sides as you ruthlessly exploit your experiences with each other to try to beat each other.

Good times.

I always kind of marvel at the casual nature of human connection via video games. You can meet someone new, bond over your shared enjoyment of a game, and then part ways without ever expecting to meet or talk again. If you do, that’s great! If not, then you’ve lost nothing. Or have you? It is so easy to connect over the internet, but we’re still so guarded with most of our personal information. Games all use usernames, most social media allows the restriction of personal information so only friends can see it, and most people who know anything about internet/identity safety recommend keeping most personal information completely private.

This attitude (which is still entirely sensible because the people who want to exploit personal information are ruthless and entirely too common) keeps us from connecting with friendly strangers. We don’t even share our names. We keep ourselves hidden behind the masks of our characters and our usernames. We connect with people, make friends, and them go our separate ways. It always makes me kind of sad when it happens, even if I’m not really willing to be the one to try to break the pattern. For the most part, anyway. I use my real name here, and on my Twitter. Those aren’t terribly brave, though, since most people also do that.