Spiritual Hard Hat

“‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo.’”

“Shut up, John.”

“‘You never know wh-’”

“Goddammit!” I spun to face my friend and slapped the hard hat from his hands. “You think I’m joking? You think this is funny?”

John picked up his hard hat. “I mean, you said this was a spiritual hard hat, Mel, and went on about heeding your every word.” John spun the hat in his hands. “What else am I supposed to think?”

“You’re supposed to take me seriously!” I grabbed the hat out of his hands and stuck it on his head. “This is your first day. I didn’t get you this job so you could get yourself killed.”

“Sure, but this is the part where you tell me to get thirty feet of shoreline or the left-handed screwdriver. There’s always hazing and I’m not falling for it. What kind of desk job requires you to wear a hard hat?”

“This one!” I sighed. “I’m not hazing you, John.”

“Then why is my spiritual hard hat also a physical hard hat that looks like every other hard hat I’ve ever seen?”

“Because it’s been imbued with spiritual protection. Did you not pay attention to the briefing you sat through this morning?”

“Yeah, but the dude was in it, clearly.”

“If you don’t take this seriously, your spirit is going to be crushed.”

“Mel, your attempt at joking is crushing my spirit.”

“Fine.” I gave him a push. “Have it your way. You signed the waivers.”

John took off his hard hat, smirked, and stepped into the office floor. I watched his smirk fade as he noticed every employee was wearing a hard hat. A moment later, he slipped it on and turned back toward me. “Really?”

“Really.” I walked up to him. “I’ll show you your desk.”

Saturday Morning Musing

It took a while, but I think I finally figured out the complex feelings I had about where I grew up when I helped my parents out last month (mentioned in this post). Since I left after my first winter break during college, I haven’t gone back to visit for more than a week or so at a time. I stayed at my college for almost every break after that, working and living in the dorms aside from the few holidays I went back, like Christmas or Thanksgiving. I lived in the dorms and got used to staying quietly by myself when the campus was almost completely deserted aside from the foreign exchange students during the holidays. My little college town became my home, even though I moved at least once a year, from one dorm to another. The campus became the place I belonged and I stopped calling my parents’ house “home.”

I realized during one of my recent meditations that I no longer even think of their house as home. My old neighborhood is no longer my home. It’s the place I grew up and haven’t done more than visit in several years. I don’t really recognize it anymore. I know where it is and I’ll always know how to get there, but it’s just as foreign as the neighborhoods I used to park in when I drove myself to high school. I can navigate through it and I’ve got a basic idea of what it looks like, but I don’t really feel any connection to the place. I’ve still got that for the actual house I grew up in, but it fades a little bit as my parents make changes or slowly replace parts of the house. When I was spending time with my sister, I realized I didn’t know where anything was kept anymore and that I was essentially a stranger in the kitchen where I’d learned to cook.

I’m sure that’s a feeling many adults have to cope with from time to time, and I’m sure there are people who have similar (but different) feelings about visiting their parents because their parents no longer live in the home they grew up in. I even sort of expected it as I grew in college and started to see what it meant to me to have a place I’d chosen to belong. I wasn’t surprised when I finally felt it, just uncertain as to what it meant and why I felt it.

I’ve spent most of my adult life with a lot of difficult emotions tied to the place I grew up. I even spent a lot of time seeing it as the same place with the same people I’d left behind. It was static in my eyes, unchanging and always representing what I’d endured. Since my last non-holiday visit, I’ve been working on letting go of the emotions and memories connected to all those past painful moments, so I can finally start to see my family as they’ve become since then. I think finally seeing the places I grew up, the streets I had walked down and the yards I had cut through, as someplace foreign to me is a sign that I’ve finally started to achieve that. Those places are no longer static, no longer a time capsule to a past I want to leave behind. I feel like I’m seeing them for the first time since I essentially am, now that I’m not seeing them as they were a decade ago.

I still have a long way to go, though. I’ve gotten better about letting my family be whoever they are now, but it can be difficult to avoid the old habits and to not see them as the same people when some of the old problems still crop up. For instance, I didn’t find out my parents had gotten rid of their landline until I called it and was told the number was no longer in service. Panicking, I called every member of my immediate family with a cell phone and no one answered. Eventually, one of my sisters called back and explained what had happened. This was the summer I’d officially moved out for good, so it created feelings of disconnection from my family. It was startling to realize I hadn’t called the landline in months and that we hadn’t even talked in that time. The same sort of thing happened with the trip my parents went this summer, which was the whole reason I was in Chicago to spend time with my sister. I hadn’t gotten the group text or emails they’d sent out to the rest of my siblings about their trip and the need for us to lend a hand with our youngest sister, so I had made plans during most of the time they were gone. It was rather frustrating to learn about it only a couple of weeks before they needed help, and a bit late too since I’d fallen asleep that afternoon and missed the conference call they’d set up the week before.

That being said, I’m the only one who hasn’t lived near or with them for at least part of the year. Two of my siblings permanently live in the same general area and one of my siblings stays with them between employment engagements. The youngest is still in high school. I’ve lived in a different state for several years and only visit on the major holidays for the most part. I’m not much of a phone caller and I’ve always been pretty independent, so we don’t talk. It’s pretty easy for me to miss out on a lot of big news as a result. It can be frustrating at times, but I could also make a point to call my mom or dad once a week and I do not. I’m sure they’d love to hear from me, so it’s not like it’s all their fault or anything. It’s just difficult to remind myself to view my family as they are now rather than as I remember them when we’re having the same problems I remember us having.

The Ellipses

Once upon a midday dreary, while I browsed, bored and bleary,
Over many a wikipedia page of unverified lore–
While I drowsed, my head swinging, suddenly my phone was ringing,
It was my favorite band singing, singing about a red door.
“Someone is calling,” I muttered, “ringing like some common bore–
           Who calls someone anymore?”

Oh, so clearly I remember it was in the grey September;
As the warm summer’s dying ember was smothered in a downpour.
Impatiently I had waited for plans my friends had slated
To meet the woman I dated–though she’d have called it more–
A woman I had met at school who called herself Eleanor–
           A name she uses no more.

The always surprisingly loud sound of thunder from the rain clouds
Stilled me–chilled me with a thought I could not possibly ignore;
“What if she wants to change our plans?” And fumbled ringing phone from hands,
Clumsy like they were paper fans, dropped noisily to the floor—
“I hope my phone is not broken like the last one was before.
           That would really be a chore.”

I picked it up and in relief fsaw my phone had not come to grief.
“Hello?” I called out, not realizing I had hit ignore.
“Hello? Is someone there?” I said before learning the line dead.
I pulled it away from my head and saw a name I adore.
The person I had hung up on was my girlfriend Eleanor,
           The person I most cared for.

I began to apologize and completely overemphasize
How sorry I was by texting faster than ever before.
My texts continued unbroken as I offered every token
Until the last word I’d spoken hun unanswered: “Eleanor?”
This I repeated after five empty minutes: “Eleanor?”
           One word only and no more.

Through my house I began pacing as fear set my heart to racing,
Soon I heard a buzzing louder than the ringing was before.
“Surely,” I said,”that is her text. She would not leave me so perplexed.”
“Unless,” I thought, “she’s truly vexed and does not set any store
By my attempts to explain my unintentional ‘ignore.’”
           It was Twitter and nothing more.

In a panic, I checked the time since I had committed my crime
And saw twenty minutes passed since I dropped my phone on the floor;
No reply had graced my phone so I let out a wailing groan
“C’mon, sweetie, throw me a bone! Is that too much to ask for?
It was an accident and I sent apologies galore!”
           Silence answered, nothing more.

Then suddenly a change occurred and all my worries felt absurd.
The ellipses appeared! I had not ruined our loving rapport!
“Thank god” I breathed deeply and said as all my texts were marked as “read.”
“I’m glad I have nothing to dread.” I smiled as I waited for
Whatever angry words or gracious answer she held in store.
           Only periods, nothing more.

Much as I wished for a response to reaffirm my nonchalance,
I knew hasty words little use and even less meaning bore.
For we can certainly agree this moment forbade repartee
Or any glib smartassery that would encourage an encore
Of the petrifying silence that ended moments before.
           I’d be patient a while more.

But the ellipses bouncing there, cheerfully mocking my stare
While I waited for a response from my darling Eleanor,
Refused to change to a bubble of text to absolve the trouble
That made me wish to redouble my apologies once more.
I sat silent, watching and drumming my feet upon the floor.
           Only periods, nothing more.

Unsettled, I leapt to my feet and bid a hasty retreat
To the pacing I had taken comfort in minutes before.
“What is taking her so long to say something simple that would allay
The concern I tried to convey when I said that last ‘Eleanor?’
Could she not see the meaning I put in that last ‘Eleanor?’
           Should I say something more?”

The ellipses still beguiling convinced me to resume smiling
While I made my way back and forth across my living room floor.
There was ample time as of yet before I had cause to regret
That I’d accidentally set my finger on my phone’s ‘ignore.’
Surely she would not stay angry with an accidental ‘ignore?’
           Still ellipses, nothing more.

Thus I paced, engaged in guessing, but no single word expressing,
What was preventing her from sending what words she held in store.
This and more I mulled, divining some trace of a silver lining
While I paced through the confining apartment rooms I could explore,
The apartment rooms she had not yet had a chance to explore.
           Still ellipses, nothing more.

Then, I thought, I felt my phone shake and my heart lurched with hopeful ache,
Push by swelling heart I checked the screen and reached for nearest door.
“Damn it all! Why won’t she text me? Why does she refuse to free me
Of this horrible agony? Why won’t you text me, Eleanor?
Was what I did so bad you no longer love me Eleanor?”
           Still ellipses, nothing more.

“Hit send!” I said. “You’ve typed enough! Just hit send even if it’s rough!
Let me know if all’s still well and if you love me Eleanor.
Sooth my growing anxiety before I flee propriety
And give up my sobriety–message me, please, I implore–
Say there’s nothing to worry about–please, darling Eleanor.”
           Still ellipses, nothing more.

“Hit send!” I said. “You’ve typed enough! Just hit send even if it’s rough!
Just send me anything at all, I can’t take it anymore!
Rip out my heart! Toss it away! Tell me I have led you astray!
Just listen to me when I say I am sorry, Eleanor.
Please just hear what I have to say! I’m so sorry, Eleanor!”
           Still ellipses, nothing more.

“Fine! Let this silence mark the end! There’s nothing left for us to mend
When you hold your words hostage, doing the one thing I abhor
To torture me for some small fault. I will not stand for this assault,
Not when torture is your default–Never more darken my door!
Take your silence with when you go and never darken my door!
           Still ellipses, nothing more.

As if some god laughed at my pain, I felt vibration, clear and plain
While I saw the cursed ellipses vanish forevermore.
Disbelieving, I shook my head and pushed away the rising dread
As I, shocked, read and re-read the reply from my Eleanor.
The reply from darling Eleanor said “Kay” and nothing more.
           That one word and nothing more.

I’d Like to Craft a Clever Title, But I Emptied This Mine Years Ago

Like many people in this day and age, I played Minecraft. I got in fairly early, in its second year, and enjoyed it for a long time before the increasing variety of changes took it from a basic building and destruction game to the first of many “block games” that eventually changed to fit the mold of all the games based on it. The path it has taken is a weird one, but I kind of get it from a developer’s perspective. This game spawned a whole style of animation and gameplay and so many people used the low graphic style to create their own games that it wound up becoming the head of a movement it wasn’t a part of. Minecraft was just one more resource collection and building game, though it did eventually become the most popular one.

(Please read the following in your best “crotchety old man who just finished yelling at some kids who kicked their ball into his yard” internal voice.)

Nowadays, the game is full of extra critters, you can get experience points, there’s some kind of story mode that I don’t understand at all and definitely don’t trust, there’s magic and potions and flying now, and the whole point of building giant square buildings out of cobblestone so you’ve had a safe place to hide from the creepers while you waited for the forest fire you accidentally started to finally burn itself out several “chunks” away has been lost! The game doesn’t feel anything like the game I used to love! I used to spend many nights quietly toiling away in my mines so I could build mine cart paths that automatically took me from one mine to another and then to my base with the simple flip of a few switches and now I can’t spend any time in the mines without having to deal with some kind of tall goon that teleports over to me and silently screams as he beats me to death with whatever block he picked up before I made eye contact with him! These are the dying days of building games and I’ll always be angry that we were abandoned by the original creator of the game!

(Thank you for your patience. We now return to being a reasonable adult. Please read the following in whatever internal voice is most natural to you.)

Because Minecraft was a big part of my life for so many years, to the point where I have music I can’t listen to without being transported back to Minecraft worlds that no longer exist, there’s a part of me that feels like the paragraph above. At the same time, I appreciate where Minecraft has gone since then and I think it is doing a great job of serving its target audience. I might not be its target audience anymore, but that’s alright. My youngest sister loves the game and the adaptation its gone through to fit on mobile touchscreen platforms has really opened it up to many people who never would have otherwise played it. It went from being a game enjoyed mostly by hardcore gamers who enjoyed it’s retro feel to being played and enjoyed by millions of different people from all walks of life. I love it when games find a way to bring themselves into popular culture in a big way and I’m glad Minecraft found a way to survive the burnout of its creator. Not a lot of games are that lucky.

The game doesn’t really appeal to me beyond its basic roots. I played through the advent of random villages, temples, and ocelots, but I it became more and more important to maintaining my own projects to have a variety of resources and connections to the local area. I needed to be able to defend myself against enemies that would become more numerous and dangerous the longer I stayed in the area. If I found a village, I needed to defend it constantly from zombie invasion or expand it to the point where it could defend itself. If I wanted to travel the world to take advantage of the resources available in the various biomes, I needed horses which were also only available in certain areas. I had to have farms and herds of animals to provide food for myself, armor if I wanted to survive the constant need to leave my well-defended areas, and ready access to lava if I ever actually wanted to dispose of stuff permanently. It got complicated and they even took away my ability to rapidly clear the land through forest fires by limiting how far fires could spread. As they added more new elements and story to the game, my interest waned and other games took up the time Minecraft once did.

The game I loved is still in there and I keep the game updated in case I ever want to play it again, but I’ve got other things to spend my time on now. I miss the days of simple mining before I couldn’t spend more than an afternoon mining without running into some kind of ridiculous giant cavern filled with long falls, monster spawns, and resources that are more trouble than they’re worth. I’m sure the story modes are fun and there’s still a lot of joy to be had exploring the worlds that spawn whenever you start a new game, but I just don’t have the desire to catch up on a few years of updates so I can figure out how to trim out everything I don’t want and just focus on the basic resource collection and building elements. Maybe there’s a stripped-down game mode or someone has the install files for a previous version of the game I can use, but I haven’t found anything in my google searches. I’m alright with that, though. I’d probably only play for a few evenings or afternoons and then stop again. Nostalgia only gets you so far and I don’t really play many open-ended games without my friends any more. I get too bored and I’m pretty sure I’d wind up setting Minecraft aside to play Destiny 2 with my friends. I just don’t really have the desire to spend five hours building a castle no one is going to see.

I know servers are easier than ever to set up, but I don’t think I could convince my friends to start playing it again. There’s only so much time in a day and, even if we all had two hours a day just for Minecraft, I’m pretty sure my friends would rather use it for something else. It’s difficult to go back to old games these days, when there’s always something new and exciting just around the corner.


“Beyond The Western Deep” Is a Fantastic Webcomic

The day I requested books to review on twitter, a good friend of mine recommended I check out the webcomic “Beyond the Western Deep.”  I was immediately curious because she’s the person who got me into a few of my favorite TV shows and has never recommended something I didn’t immediately go on to enjoy. I’d seen “Beyond the Western Deep” shared on twitter before and even checked out the website a few times, but I had never actually started reading it because I was at work or using cellular data at the time. I, of course, promptly forgot about it after leaving the page because electronic media doesn’t stick in my head, a failing that has resulted in several lost webcomics and at least two-dozen e-books I’ve never gotten around to reading because I get them through online sales and decide to download them when I’ve got a chance to read them. This time was different, though. I immediately went to the first comic, page one of the prologue, and was immediately caught up in the narrative unfolding before me.

The story resolves around a few races of anthropomorphized animals who all live on or near a single continent. Some of them live peacefully together, while most tend toward either indifference or hostility. Their civilizations are all unique and, as most civilizations are, heavily influenced by their geography. The way each culture manages to stay distinct yet show the uneasy connection with the other cultures is incredibly and some of the most intelligent costume/outfit design I’ve ever seen in a comic. Even more incredibly, the males and females of each race don’t necessarily fall into the typical cartoonish trope of the women being willowy and the men being upside-down wedges. The only real differences between characters of the same race are the sort you would expect to see between two different people. They have just as much variation in form as you tend to seen in real-world Humans.

The prologue is all context, placing the story in the setting the creators developed over what seems like many years of work, judging by the blog posts attached to each update. The reader is given a glimpse of the people and the world the story takes place in as a narrator provides foreshadowing and background information. The stage is set, the instigator is shown, and all the while your eyes are being fed some of the most gorgeous art I’ve seen in a webcomic. I’ll admit that some of my preference for this art might be influenced for my deep and abiding love of Brian Jacques’ Redwall series since this art is exactly how I always imagined the books as I read them, but I think anyone would have to agree that it is gorgeous artwork by anyone’s standard. The level of detail is staggering, the colors are vibrant, and each character or object is alive. The action scenes in the first chapter practically leap off the page and I found myself racing through them, trying to keep up with the story as it flowed from one panel to another and from one page to another.

Currently, the comic is in its third Chapter and the plot has had its first major twist. I won’t spoil it here (I INSIST you go read it yourself and let me know what you think of it because I’m dying to talk to someone about it), but I’ll say I was pleasantly surprised. I had to completely abandon my thoughts on the plot-arc of the comic and am now left with so many delightful unanswered questions that I can’t even begin to guess what’s really going to happen. The best part is that my initial thoughts on the arc are still valid, they’re only complicated by what I’ve seen as the story unfolds so I feel like I’ve got one corner of the puzzle figured out instead of feeling like I accidentally made part of the a different puzzle. The amount of plotting and writing work that went into crafting what they’ve published so far is inspiring and worth the wait for each new page. I am doing my best to patiently wait for each page to come out, but I’m not doing a very good job. I keep checking the website to see if a new page magically appeared. That being said, the time between chapters means the creators have a very reliable update schedule and can take the time they need to create the wonderfully written, beautifully drawn masterpiece of each page.

If that isn’t enough to convince you to go read it immediately, then you should also know that the characters are incredible as well. Even the background characters who are there and then gone feel like complete parts of the story rather than someone to take up space or assist the protagonists in moving the story along. The protagonists, though, are something else. They each have their own motivations that are made clear not through exposition or long-winded dialogue pages, but through memories and short moments that show us why they are the way they are in the story. The creators give you plenty of reasons to care about pretty much every character and even the villains have their sympathetic moments. They do an excellent job of showing that no one is the villain of their own tale and even let you wonder if the villains are really as bad as they’re made out to be.

I honestly cannot recommend this webcomic strongly enough. There’s a couple hundred or so pages out already, so that’ll make for a good read one afternoon or evening, and they haven’t missed a Saturday update that I’ve seen, so I’d safely bet that they’ll keep going until the whole story gets told or society collapses. If you read the comic and want to support it, I suggest checking out their Kickstarter! They’re funding a reprint of their first book and it even includes a new, limited edition cover! That’s what I signed up for because I am an absolute sucker for limited edition covers on things. I’d say it’s definitely worth it, though. It never hurts to make sure creators know how excited you are for their creations!

“Beyond The Western Deep” is a fantastic webcomic and you should be reading it if you aren’t already! If you enjoyed Redwall, you should be reading this! If you enjoy any kind of good things, you should be reading this! Check it out!

Coldheart and Iron: Part 30


When I left the Wayfinder office, Natalie stayed behind to continue pulling records. Camille would only be a few minutes behind me, though I knew she would be running off in a different direction. While I ran down the road, I thanked the star I was born under, every god I’d ever learned about, and a few gods I made up on the spot. When Natalie had begun pulling records, we discovered more Wayfinders than I thought had opted to retire in the Chicago Enclave. A few hundred had, in fact, and a little under half of them seemed to be involved in the government or military in one way or another.

Almost two hundred of them would already be on alert and either leading units against the monsters or moving out to delay them. If Gerry had built his entire sallying force out of Wayfinders, then we’d have at least two additional hours to prepare before the monsters showed up. Maybe more, if they were still as good as they were when they retired. Either way, there were at least as many more Wayfinders who had retired completely, content to live out their days on their earnings and pensions. Some of them would have likely retired due to injury, but Natalie’s records indicated we should get at least one hundred healthy, if rusty, Wayfinders to help us out if we went and asked all of them.

As I ran down the streets, dodging soldiers bustling to their positions and all the residents poking their heads out to see what was going on, I glanced down at the top of the paper I was holding, checking the address against the streets I was passing. I’d looked at a map before leaving, but I didn’t remember exactly how far it was before I needed to turn. Thankfully, Natalie had thought of everything and her instructions would lead me from one house to another. It blew my mind, sometimes, to be reminded how quickly she could write and how thorough she always was.

Another mile of running passed quickly and I arrived at the first house. A confused woman with only one eye opened the door half a minute after I pounded on it. “What the hell is going on?”

“Sorry. Is this Gianna Fields? Retired Wayfinder?” I gave her my best smile while trying to regain control of my breath.

“Yeah. What’s going on?” Her eye went from my face to the paper I held to the sky outside. “Sirens? Are we under attack?”

“We will be, soon. Someone placed a radio on the wall and we expect to be attacked by the monsters living off to the north. Are you willing to fight? We’ve got plenty of guns and the Wayfinders are placing a bounty-”

“Yeah. Where’s muster?”

“It’s in one of the communal buildings near the center of the Enclave. I just moved into the Enclave today, so I’ve got no idea what the address is. Look for the other Wayfinders.” I took a step backward but paused, watching her before I ran off to the next address.

“Got it. See you there, Captain.” The woman saluted and disappeared back into her home. As I jogged off toward the next address, I tried to remember if I’d ever worked with her before. I couldn’t think of any other reason she would have known my rank but, after five more houses, I still couldn’t place her. Nor could I place any of the other people I talked to who seemed to all know my name and rank.

The next hour passed in a blur as I ran from house to house, trying to recruit as many ex-Wayfinders as I could. Surprisingly, every single one of them who was fit to shoot a gun immediately agreed to help and it wasn’t until I asked Natalie how everyone knew me during my last stop at the Wayfinder office, that it all became clear why they were so eager to help and why they all seemed to know me by sight.

“You started the Wayfinders, moron. Of course everyone knows who you are.” Natalie shook her head as she continued to write out my next sheet of instructions. “You’re a living legend to anyone who wants to live outside an Enclave and your pictures are in half the promotional materials we put out.”

“Wait, we have promotional materials?” I sat upright and then clutched my side as my abdominal muscles spasmed. “When did that happen?”

“A few years ago. Where did you think we got the recruits from?”

“I always thought everyone just wanted to be a Wayfinder. Like cowboys when we were growing up. It was just something you wanted to be, not something someone proposed as a legitimate occupation.” I took slow breaths and resisted the urge to guzzle the water bottle Natalie had tossed me when I collapse in the chair. “I just thought we were famous. You know, as a whole.”

“Sure, but we wouldn’t have as many recruits as we needed if we just waited for people to want to join us on their own. Plus, we probably wouldn’t be getting the right recruits.” Natalie set down her pencil and started scanning the sheet.

I took a small sip of water and hauled myself to my feet. “Huh. I never would have guessed. You put them out, then?”

“Yes. You left me in charge of logistics and having enough people to do our jobs falls under that, so I had something made up more than a decade ago and I bring it up to date whenever we stop in an Enclave.” Natalie held out piece of paper, smiling slightly. “Worked like a charm. Now get running. Camille has done almost half again as many trips as you.”

“That’s not a fair comparison.” I took the paper and one last deep breath before I started around her desk toward the door. “She’s unstoppable. I’ve known her for almost thirty years and I’ve never seen her tired. I’m just some poor Human. How can I expect to keep up with Wonder Woman there?”

“Quit griping and get moving.” Natalie smiled and swatted me on the butt as I turned to go. I smiled to myself and waved over my shoulder as I lumbered out the door and up the street. Half an hour later, I collapsed into a chair inside the commune and started yanking my snowsuit off so I could change into dry clothes. While I gasped for breath and kicked off my boots, I watched Lucas direct traffic through the building.

Wayfinders came in the front door, signed in, picked up their preferred weapon, told Lucas about their particular skills, and then was given a Wayfinder unit number and sent to the Enclave defense council with a message to say they were either to be assigned as a unit or sent out of the city to pick off monsters as they got closer. As either a solo Wayfinder or as a team of just Wayfinders, they’d be able to do stuff Enclave defenders wouldn’t risk.

By the time I’d cooled down, changed into dry clothes, and rehydrated myself, Camille had turned up with a group of the best marksmen she could muster. All of them retired or still-working Wayfinders, of course. I watched them all sign in and pick up through the rifles Lucas and Tiffany had set aside. Camille gathered them up once they’d all picked a gun and all the ammunition they could carry and, without more than a nod to myself and Lucas, lead her sharpshooters away.

“Bit chilling, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah. Like death just passed through.”

“On that note, I’m off.” Lucas grabbed a gun, slung it over his shoulder, and gestured to all of the Wayfinders we’d brought into the Enclave.

“Wait, what? Who’s going to run the command center?” I hauled myself to my feet and forced myself not to flinch when my muscles spasmed and twitched.

“We don’t need it, Marshall. Everyone has their orders, they all know to follow their training, and no amount of communication from us is going to help them. I suggest grabbing a gun for yourself and Natalie, find a spot for the two of you to hole up that’s outside the city, and make sure you’ve got enough food in your pack for a week.”

“Right.” I slumped back into my chair and suddenly the pain in my muscles didn’t feel as bad as it had before I remembered the city was probably going to fall between the monsters and the bandits. “Did y-”

“Your bags are packed. I’ve got ‘em right here.” Lucas gestured at the other side of one of the kitchen islands. “Rendezvous is the Nomad’s old home. Be there ten days after the fighting is over.”

I nodded and did my best to smile as all of my Wayfinders left until only Lucas and I remained. I watched him head toward the door and paused, one hand on the knob. “I really wanted to retire here, Marshall. I’m sorry there isn’t more we can do.”

“I know, Luke. I know. I’ll see you there. Ten days or less.” After a moment more of hesitation, Lucas stepped through the door and closed it behind him. I stared at where he was for a moment before hauling myself to my feet to see if my snowsuit had dried out yet. While I poked around for damp spots, I muttered to myself. “Stupid defeatist attitude. It’s not over until it’s over. He better come back alive or else I’m going to find his corpse and use him as a scarecrow.”


I spun around, only barely staying on my feet as my socks slick on the cheap linoleum. “Tiffany? What’re you doing here?”

“I live here, duh.” Tiffany placed both her wrists on her hips and shook her head at me. “I swear, it’s like you forget I’m alive sometimes.”

“No, I just assumed Lucas would have taken you with him.”

“Yeah, if I could hold a gun. Still working on that, since I lost my dominant hand, so I’m going to go with you and Natalie. Act as your spotter.”

“Oh, that’s good thinking.”

“Now c’mon, bossman. We’ve got monsters to shoot and a city to save.” Tiffany smiled and kicked my boots across the room to me. I smiled and started tugging on my snowsuit. While I slipped on and laced-up my boots, Tiffany grabbed three packs from behind the island, and started grabbing rifles. Five minutes later, as I modified the forward grip on one of the semi-automatic rifles and showed Tiffany how to hold it with what remained of her left arm, Natalie walked through the door.

“Everyone’s already gone?”

“Yeah. Lieutenant Lucas left about ten minutes ago with the last of the Wayfinders unless there are a few who haven’t shown up yet. We’re heading out in a couple minutes to find someplace to snipe monsters.” Tiffany smiled as she deftly slung the gun over her shoulder and hooked her pack with her left arm.

“She’s terrifyingly good with that arm already.” I looked over at Natalie who eyed our packs with some apprehension. “She’s been practicing with every spare moment, it seems. It’s almost like she was born one-handed now.”

“Why do you have our bags packed?” Natalie stepped in and hefted her bag. “And why does it feel like there’s enough in here for several days away from the Enclave.”

“We’re picking a sniper position outside of the Enclave in case it falls to the monsters or the Bandits.” I looked over at Natalie and caught the grim look in her eye. “I don’t think it will come to that given how prepared the Chicago Enclave is, but it never hurts to be ready. Would we really be Wayfinders if we didn’t plan for this?”

“I suppose not.” Natalie sighed and slipped on her pack. “I suppose you’ve got a place in mind, Marshall?”

Before I could even open my mouth to speak, Tiffany stepped forward. “I picked out a place while Lucas was coordinating. If we leave out the Northern gate and head west, there’s a taller building still standing that we can climb up. If we seal stairwells in the building, we could even fortify the position long enough for us to escape to one of the shorter neighbors in the event that they target us.”

Natalie smiled as Tiffany pulled a map out of her pocket and pointed out our route. “Lead on, Tiffany.”

A little under an hour later, we lay at the edge of a blown-out room on the seventeenth floor of an old office building and surveyed the monster army approaching the Enclave. The group the Enclave defense council had sent out to delay them had done a good job, taking out most of the stragglers and causing the main body of them to bundle up tightly. If we’d had explosives of any kind, we could have taken out most of them right then, but no one had access to the bunkers anymore and using anything with that large of a heat signature would have attracted the attention of every monster in the Midwest. So we boxed them up and waited for them to get in range of the machine guns mounted on the Enclave walls.

Our part would be to start taking out any monsters that tried to break out of their tight formation and swing around to flank the machine guns. The other Wayfinder groups would be doing the same thing, mostly, but also be applying pressure to the rear, taking out any stragglers who fell behind or tried to go further back before swinging wide to flank. The monsters’ tactics were good, but rather static. Any force that survived an encounter with them had a much better chance of surviving a second one.

After Natalie and I placed our rifles, set up our scopes, and had Tiffany start calling out targets, I settled into a groove. The monsters didn’t really care if you shot at them since it was difficult to land a killshot and they’d always ignore snipers in favor of machine guns since they had an easier time finding the giant heat wells machine guns created. Since most snipers posed little threat to a monster, they generally ignored them until the end of the battle.

Wayfinder snipers, though, were different. One of the tests you had to pass in order to become a Wayfinder is to label each and every vital area on a monster from a mile away, no matter which direction they were facing. Most Enclaves trained their people on where the vital areas were, but they didn’t have as exhaustive a test as the Wayfinders did. Most Enclaves also didn’t require you to perform the test using a live monster that you then had to kill in order to join. Wayfinders did. So when Natalie and I started firing, we were dropping one with each shot.

I always felt a little uncomfortable when I looked at the monsters. People had originally called them robots because they used swarm processing and had electrical parts like a lot of the robots Humanity had been producing, but the idea of robots as something humanoid was too strong and people rejected it in favor of ‘monster’ since they were anything but humanoid.

They moved around using what can only be described as large limbs, sort of quickly twitching their way forward in a way that bent the mind into strange shapes. Their entire body could flow into one of these limbs so that it resembled a large greenish log than it’s normal tendril, and it would still manage to undulate forward like some kind of nightmare worm. Once they attacked, they pistoned all of their limbs into the ground and fired bullets made of the same greenish metal making up their bodies out of tubes that appeared once they were stabilized. If they wanted to trace you, they’d fire smaller pellets that hit with the same force as a bullet, but their rounder shape meant they generally didn’t punch through and the fact that they were hollow meant they’d disintegrate on impact, enter into the bloodstream, and begin to replicated until one or more of the monsters showed up to kill whoever had been hit.

The closet thing they resembled was a cross between an alligator and an octopus. They had the same sort of heavy bodies and lurching strength as an alligator, but they had the limbs and body fluidity of an octopus. Their shape was closer to the later, but they could be any part of the octopus they wanted to be, and any percentage of it.

As of yet, no one had figured out their tech or the metal alloy they were made of. Attempts to study them had been stopped because even a dead monster was still detectable by it’s fellows and whole labs had been destroyed before we figured that bit out. They had circuitry like you’d imagine robots would, but it contained some kind of liquid electricity we’d taken to calling plasma. They apparently created their own since you could drain one of them of all their plasma without destroying it. It would then it would then proceed to kill you, disappear somewhere to refill it’s plasma circuits, and then return to kill your friends.

The only way to kill them was to hit them in a vital spot that acted a lot like a fault like in a rock. If you could hit it at the right moment, the whole thing would essentially shatter. Whatever parts of it had been pulled in or stretched out would crack, all of its plasma would leak out, and it would collapse. There were other ways to kill them, hitting them with a blunt instrument at one of those points or by cutting open their circuitry until you got to the whirling ball of solid plasma at their center that was basically their heart, but sniping was the most effective because they couldn’t fix a shattered monster. If you cut them open but didn’t destroy the heart or only knocked a limb off, they’d just put the damaged monster right back together again as soon as they’d run you off.

Their smooth movement and ungainly bodies seemed like they should always be at odds with each other, but they never stumbled or tripped on their own. You basically had to take off a limb supporting it to cause it to fall and even then it didn’t fall far before on of the other limbs came in to catch it. It was always satisfying to hit one in a vital spot and watch it crumble to the ground, but there were so many today that I just skipped from shooting one to finding another to shoot.

Between Natalie and I, we took out over one hundred of the monsters, leaving a trail of shattered metal and leaking blue plasma from the nearest building by the wall to the main body of monsters which, despite a steady stream of bullets, seemed to be making headway against the wall. In fact, as I turned my attention back to looking for stragglers, I heard a low rumble followed by Tiffany cursing.

“Shit! One of them blew itself up against the wall. I didn’t know they could do that. Did you?” Tiffany looked between Natalie and I as we shook our heads. Tiffany pressure her scope back to her eye and peered down at the way. “There’s a hole. They’re inside three hours before our worst case scenario projection and there are still thousands of them trickling in. What do we do?”

I looked down my scope at the hold in the wall and watching a slow stream of monsters step through it. “Keep picking them off from out here and hope they’re able to contain the breech. If not, then the city is lost.” Natalie nodded and we both got back to work, trying to shoot faster than we had been before.

After a few more shots, Tiffany tapped us both on the shoulder. We looked up and she held her left arm to her lips. After adjusting her position so she was laying down next to us, she spoke so quietly I could barely hear her over the distant gunfire. “We’ve got bandits creeping toward our spot from the north. Keep firing for now, I’m going to set up some traps quick.”

After Natalie and I nodded, Tiffany silently crawled backwards until she was lost in the shadows of the blown-out room we picked as our sniper nest and slunk off into the building proper. I tried to focus on killing Monsters, but it was starting to feel like a waste of time. Unless a miracle occurred, the Enclave was lost. We had Bandits trying to ambush us while we sniped and the same was probably happening to Wayfinder nests all over the area. If we weren’t careful, we might wind up dead, and we were almost certainly homeless once again. As I swapped magazines on my rifle, I clenched my jaw and focused on killing one monster at a time, hoping that we’d eventually save everyone if we just kept firing.


Tabletop Highlight: What to Do With New Players

You’ve been running your campaign for a while and your collection of players has dwindled from the desired six to a barely tenable three. You’ve made a few semi-permanent NPCs to help lighten the load on your remaining players and you’ve changed all the encounters so that your primarily martial characters can still fight on an even playing field. Still, you and your players feel the lack of other voices around the table, other solutions to the problems you face that could be offered by one or more other players. Maybe you have some interested people who’d be willing to play the kind of game you’re running, but how do you know if they’ll fit into the group dynamic? How do you know if they’ll really enjoy the story you’re all telling when they’re not as invested as your current players. Assuming you get past the first two, how do you work them into the campaign without it feeling like you’ve put everything on pause so a new character can show up in order to bail out the party?

Adding new players into an existing campaign is always a risky proposition. There is no telling what a new face will do to the group’s chemistry or how the leadership or problem-solving dynamics will shift as you add new personalities. A lot of the potential problems can be avoided if you bring in a prospective new player on a temporary basis, for some kind of special event cooked up for the sole purpose of vetting new players. Keep in mind, no matter how well you know the prospective player, it is really important to give the other players a chance to try them out first before you bring them in officially. There is always the chance that a quirk of someone’s personality will be incredibly frustrating to someone else, even if they usually get along or you don’t see it. Since your existing players have been with you all this time, they should ultimately have a say in new players as well and group chemistry is just as important to them as it is to you, even if it is ultimately your job alone to monitor and/or police it.

While you may want to bring in a new player right away, to help the players out of a problem they’re approaching, it is usually best to save inserting the new player until there’s room in the story for it. Thankfully, stories are quire versatile and the reasons behind why a stranger might join up with the existing characters are manifold. Maybe the new character is a prisoner or a turncoat. Maybe they have goals similar to those of the party and found their way to the same place. Maybe the new character has some important information the party needs so they seem them out in town. Maybe the person giving the party their job wants to send someone they trust along to report back and ensure their goods are properly retrieve or delivered. There are a thousand ways to add someone to the game, but it’s just as important to know that every moment isn’t the right time. If you characters have been chasing a bad guy for months, one who has wronged them and only them, it would not make sense for a stranger to show up at the bad guy’s base with the thought of helping to take down someone who hasn’t done anything to them. Similarly, if your players are carrying out a top-secret mission, it is unlikely that they will willingly share information with a new person unless they explicitly know they can trust this stranger.

Usually, to get around those difficult moments and to help both get the character involve and make sure they’re a good fit with the group, find a little side adventure you can use that will involve the new player. You can watch the group chemistry to make sure everyone gets along and help the characters build a rapport so that your existing players will readily welcome the inclusion of any new players. If you’ve got the time, it never hurts to vet a bunch of players ahead of time, to see how they perform, in case you ever need to add some more people. I like to invite people I know to small parts of campaigns I run so I can get an idea of how they play and who they play well with so I can make sure to invite the right people to the right Dungeons and Dragons groups when I’m looking to start a new campaign. This means I usually have a good idea of who will fit well in a group if they initially declined or weren’t available and I wind up needing more players.

From there, if I realize I’m running short on players and will probably start wanting new ones soon, I go through my mental list of players and invite potential new players to join the campaign for a short little story, usually something heavily related to the main plot of the game with an individual twist focused around the player’s character. If they enjoy the piece of the story they got to experience, then it’s usually a safe bet that they will enjoy playing in the campaign as a whole. It isn’t a sure-fire method, of course. There are no sure-fire ways to predict the future or make certain that everyone will get along in the future, but it makes it a lot easier to confidently suggest people to your existing players and, if there are no red flags, then most game masters can handle it from there since any issues will fall within the normal range of personality conflicts most GMs handle on a monthly basis.

As always, you should consider things thoroughly before acting. There’s no rush to add players, so take the time to make sure you’re adding people who are going to have fun and actually contribute to a positive play environment. It might take a lot of work sometimes, but it’s always worth it.

Testing, Testing

Testing, testing. One, two…

“Alice, can we-”

“Sorry, Kurt, I’ve gotta run to class.”

“It’ll only take a minute.”

“I’m already late.” Alice smiled and held her hand up to mimic a phone. “I’ll call you after.”

Kurt watched her go, vague unease still clinging to his gut as his girlfriend hurried across campus toward the arts building. He breathed deeply and, once she was out of sight, walked away.

Testing, testing. One, two, three, four… Hello?

“Heya, Kurt! Just the man I was looking for!”

“Hey, Steve. I was hoping we could-”

“I need someone to cover my shift this afternoon. I’ve got a woman to see about a class she’s skipping.” Jim winked and clapped Kurt on the shoulders. “Affection delivered. Request status?”

“Denied. I’ve got someplace I’ve gotta be.” Kurt shrugged Jim’s hands off and walked away. A few minutes later, he slumped against a wall. He breathed deeply to banish the icy dread in his stomach and, after watching a few cars pass on the road in front of him, walked toward his dorm.

Testing, testing. One, two, three, four. Hello? Can anyone hear me? Anyone?

Stewart and Nathan were out when he got home and Drew didn’t look up from the game he was playing. Kurt went into his room, sat down at his desk, and tried to lose himself in his work. Thirty minutes later, his work sat abandoned on his desk as he flipped through his phone, sending messages and texts to his local friends. Half an hour after that, when Alice was supposed to have been out of class for twenty minutes, Kurt set his phone on his desk and climbed into bed. For a minute, the screen displayed his last text before it went dark.

Hello? I just wanted to talk.


Saturday Morning Musing

When this post goes us, I’ll be busy attending to my soul and mental well-being by going on a hike with a small selection of my favorite people. After several weeks of being too tired to do much and a constant lack of days we can all gather, those of us who are available tomorrow are just going to do something regardless of the fact that half our group is missing. It isn’t ideal, I’d rather spend the day with all of them, but I need to get active and to spend time with people who help me forget myself for a while. With all the stress and anxiety that have been building the past three months, I need to ignore my desire to stay home alone to work on processing review suggestions and actually go do something I know I’ll love.

I’ve always enjoyed walking. I like losing myself in my gait as I wander from place to place, maybe listening to music or just taking in the sounds of wherever I’m at. Hiking is a sort of extension of that, because it takes me out of areas that always grate on me, cities with the constant hum of cars and neighborhoods with the quiet noises of people going about their daily lives. If you pick the right hiking location, you can go the entire hike without encountering anyone. You can embrace the quiet of nature and the irritating hum of modern life that most people only notice when it’s gone disappears completely. You can lose yourself in trees and the quiet emerald peace of a nature at its strongest. If you’ve picked a place with some nice elevation changes, there are a ton of great places to stop and admire the world around you. I’ve always enjoyed looking at the horizon and having an unobstructed view of the sky and there’s just something wonderful about getting both of those things as a result of being on top of something that rises above the area around me. Only in hiking trips can I get all of that at once.

Even though I’m going with my friends, I’ll be able to enjoy that. These are all people who know me well enough that there are no awkward silences to fill. I don’t need to worry about how to maintain a conversation or how to segue from one thought to another because they all just get how my mind works enough to not always need an explanation. I can just be myself around them and their presence doesn’t intrude on my sense of peace and quiet. For the past several years, we’ve always done at least a couple of hiking trips every month, though we’ve been doing fewer of those lately because of how busy everyone has been. They’ve been some of my fondest memories and include some of my favorite pictures. All of the background pictures you’ll ever see on my blog are pictures I’ve taken while hiking. If I could, I’d do all my thinking and writing in a spot that overlooks the surrounding area and has an unobstructed view of the entire sky. My dream house idea focuses mostly around a taller tower with what is essentially a glass dome on the top so I can sit up there and read or write as close to the sky as I can get. Heck, the whole thing might just be a tower of some kind. But it would have to be on the side of a mountain or on the top of a tall hill somewhere. That would be amazing.

After hiking, I’m planning to do the Pokemon Go Community day since I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about the game now that I don’t have my ex to give me a reason to keep playing it. I don’t really feel like it “our thing” anymore, thankfully, but I still wonder if I’m just wasting my time on something that isn’t really adding anything to my life since I have a tendency to play the game alone and let it distract me from the main purpose of my frequent walks. It’s so easy to bring alone and leave running in my pocket, but I’m not good at ignoring it when it’s in there and will start to feel anxious if I don’t check it for a while. It works the same way as notifications on my phone do. If I know they’re there, it will always cause me more stress to just ignore them than to skim through them and either open them or dismiss them. In order to save myself from needless stress, I’ve started disabling certain notifications on my phone and setting up hour-long notification silences so I won’t notice when they show up until the hour is over. I’ve also removed most time-waster games from my phone for the same reason. I also repeatedly install and uninstall Imgur as I cycle between just needing something to kill some time and realizing that I’ll just sit on the couch and browse through Imgur for an hour instead of going to bed or starting my writing. Which is why I’m still on the fence about Pokemon Go. I definitely benefit from still having Sudoku on my phone because it often works as a way of doing some mental stretching when I’ll feeling particularly tired or fogged up from how focused I’ve been on my work.

It’s a really nebulous balance and I’m probably going to be working on it my whole life. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to just figure out how much work to do and how much relaxation to put in and when it’s already to simply escape instead of doing something genuinely relaxing. Even though I love writing and reading, they’re still work. Even though I’m super excited to start reading all of the amazing books people have written and mentioned to me on Twitter, there’s still a lot of work to do just to find all the links, titles, and authors. I want to just wake up in the morning and dig right in to my to-do list, but I need to take time to relax and hike and let my to-do list remain undone. I’m still doing at least four hours of writing or book recommendation collation a day, so it’s not like I’m slacking off, I just always feel like it’s hard to justify taking the time to wander through the woods or spend a few hours walking around the city with some friends while we catch Pokemon. I’ve only got so much time, after all. I want to get the most I can out of it and it’s, no matter how long I live, I don’t think it’ll ever be clear how to do that.


How to Cope with Exhaustion

Feeling like you’ve scraped the bottom of the energy barrel to the point where the barrel no longer has a bottom? So tired you just kinda want to cry and find somewhere dark to curl up in the fetal position so you can finally let your exhaustion overwhelm you? Feeling like you’re stretched beyond the point of recovery and to the point where all of the stress has invaded your dreams so now you have to deal with it while your awake and asleep? While none of these things is a good position to be in, we often find ourselves in them when the shit hits the fan and we focus ourselves on simply doing everything one step at a time until we’re finished. Or until we collapse from exhaustion. I’ve done both, and neither one works out well in the end because we’re ultimately taxing our mind and body to the point of damage.

There are ways to help prevent some of the damage, or to mitigate the negative aspects of trying to buckle down and work through long days, busy weekends, or months of ceaseless stress. None of them are guaranteed to work and they’ll all need to be tweaked to fit your specific needs, but the core concepts should definitely work for you. I’ve had a lot of experience dealing with various forms of exhaustion thanks to insomnia in high school, business and insomnia in college, and stress and business after college, so I feel like I’m pretty qualified when it comes to figuring out how to cope with mild to extreme exhaustion until you’re capable of resting.

The first thing I’m going to say, despite it making me feel like a total hypocrite, is that these sorts of situations are best avoided. Even short periods of exhaustion or sleep deprivation can interfere with your short-term memory, inhibit the formation of long-term memory, wreak havoc on your immune system and muscles, and will for-sure exacerbate any health issues you have, be they physical or mental. It is good to know your limits and to be able to push past them when you need to, but there’s a pretty big difference between “I need to just push through this” and “I think pushing through this is going to yield the best results I’m going to ignore options that would leave me feeling more rested.” I guarantee that you will always have better results if you can rest first. You can’t always rest, but you should when you can. If you rest up or take good care of yourself, you will see your best results in the long-run.

If resting up isn’t an option, you should really figure out which type of energy you’re going to be running short on. If you’re physically active during this period of low sleep or high stress, you will be short on physical energy. If you’re stretching your skills and abilities in new ways or being forced into new situations without much time to prepare, you’ll run out of mental energy. If you have to take care of people or deal with people who don’t want to be dealt with, you’ll rapidly run out of emotional energy. If you’re doing something that involves all three, then I feel so sorry for you and I wish you the best because most of my strategies for coping with a low energy of one or two types requires relying on the other(s) to help carry the weight or be turned into the type that’s running out.

If you need more mental or emotional energy, some quiet meditation or music is usually very helpful. Something that will help you feel a certain way or that will help you process the feeling you’re dealing with at that moment. Maybe you need something to make you feel powerful or something to help slow you down to alleviate some of the mental strain you’re experiencing. If it’s physical energy, I suggest taking it easy by sleeping, playing games with friends, or watching something while you let your body rest. Even a couple hours of any of these activities, while you continue to work on other things, can help get you back to a point where you can make it through the day. I’d recommend against anything that might be destructive, like excessive eating, alcohol, or drugs. I haven’t got much experience with the later, but I’ve seen enough people make that mistake to have learned the lesson.

Additionally, a change in your diet can help keep you going. Avoid too much sugar since that is going to just set you up for a terrible crash later, unless you’re eating natural sugars from stuff like fruit or vegetables. I recommend eating plenty of both to keep you going since it helps to have something to do with your mouth while you’re trying to focus. At the same time, having an idea of what kinds of foods provide the most energy for you will help a lot. I know my body processes protein very efficiently, so I can delay encroaching exhaustion by eating a lean, protein-rich diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit. It’s not really going to make you feel energized, but it’ll keep you fueled and prevent your body from taking too much energy away for digestion. Throughout it all, avoid sugary sources of caffeine. Stick to things like coffee or tea and don’t add too much sugar to them or else you will get an immediate boost followed by a crash when the caffeine kicks in so you’ll feel exhausted and be unable to rest it off. Also, drink more water than usual. A good goal for water consumption is to drink half your weight in ounces of water. If you want something a little easier, I suggest going for at least three quarts or liters. It’ll help keep your mind clear and hydration is key at all times.

The last thing, and the most effective, is getting organized and writing things down somewhere. The exact methods for doing so depend a lot more on how you think and how you tend to organize information, but it’ll help if you do it, regardless of how you do it. For instance, the only reason I’m still sane and productive these days is because I’ve taken to writing to-do lists and journaling things as the day goes on. Not only is it helping my emotional energy, but it’s take a constant source of mental energy drain (trying to remember everything) and offloading the work onto a notebook. I can write down not just how I’m feeling, but also what my thoughts were on whatever meeting I just had, save ideas for later, and get a little mental clarity when I set everything else aside for five minutes so I can write things out. For people who don’t have issues with remembering things that only exist electronically, there are a ton of applications and programs out there, most of which you can get on your phone. Heck, even Google Now does a lot of that stuff.

Like I said earlier, it is best to avoid pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion, but hopefully these tips will make it easier to cope when you don’t really have any other choice. Good luck!