The First Taste of Wisconsin Winter

[Another casual reminder that I write these a week before they go up, since it’s currently summer in Wisconsin again]

It is snowing again today. Over night, the temperatures bottomed out in the high twenties and even hours after dawn, with temerpatures flirting with freezing for hours already, there was still the pale remnants of the morning’s frost on the deep green grass outside my apartment. Flurries of small, damp snowflakes fill the air like mist and dampen the world as the trees drip what remains of the snow that landed on them from their brightly colored leaves. I am bundled up against the wind and chill, my layers quickly dug out of the closet when it became clear that my usual fall garb would be insufficient for the day, and still I briefly consider turning around for a heavier coat. I walk along the sidewalk, tracing the same old path from my front door to my car, but far more attentively than in past months for fear of slipping on the ice that stretches across the sidewalk. Today, I miss the comfort of holding a warm mug in my hand as my new coffee cup prevents any heat from escaping it but I am grateful that my coffee will still be warm throughout my entire drive to work on this blustery, snowy morning.

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The Changing Season Through My Window

After what felt like a lifetime, summer has ended. Fall is here in all its bright, colorful glory. The trees have begun to change from the pale, warm, or emerald greens of summer to the various browns, scarlet reds, muted yellows, and eye-catching oranges of Fall. It is a slow process, where I live, striking seemingly at random rather than in the calm orderly manner the trees displayed when coming to life in the spring. Different trees of the same type begin to change in their own time, content to merely overlap instead of coordinate. Spots of red appear at random and the giant green tree outside my window has four parallel streaks of orange in it, like Fall somehow passed by and rent the summer from its boughs with massive claws. Already the parking lot fills with fallen leaves and the summer heat fades into the haphazard warmth and chill of the changing season. It has been barely four months since the trees finally tore free from winter’s grasp and I find myself wondering if that is part of the reason so many branches stayed bare this year.

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Rewriting History Is More Difficult Than It Seems

One of the choatic elements to come out of a recent D&D session was one of the players gaining the ability to get the answer to a question his character focused on, along with the knowledge required to use it in a way to solve the problem the question related to (essentially knowledge and the wisdom to use it as intended) along with the ability to change one event from the past, specifically by causing that event to not happen. This power was earned fairly early in the evening’s chaos, so while everyone else was laughing and joking about powers gained and reacted to how many times we drew specific cards despite the unlikelyhood that they’d keep showing up after I reshuffled the deck, this player was busy thinking about how to use this specific combination of powers. As much fun as I was having with the chaos happening to the other players, I was more excited to see what this player would come up with since he’s usually the one to push the envelop and come up with things that surprise me.

For instance, the first thing he suggested as a potential use for his reality-altering power was to prevent the death of the god whose name had been granted to the world in honor of her sacrifice. This god, according to the history the players learned, chose to save the mortals around her form a raging elemental titan that would have otherwise destroyed them. The titan wound up destroying her in its rage, but her death spurred all the other gods to action, thereby starting the creation wars between the gods and the elemental titans, the results of which directly lead to the initation of the godswar an unknown (by them) time later, which resulted in much of the damage and scarring the world bears in the present day of the players’ characters. Not to mention, of course, that the elemental titans had been killed but also left in the world for reasons unknown, which was causing real problems for the people in the time of the players’ characters. Preventing the death of that one god could have changed everything!

Except, of course, that it really wouldn’t have. As my players and I discussed, prompted by that idea and a few other ideas floated by the other players in response to that one, wars typically happen as the culmination of many events. Systemic problems frequently can’t be solved by the alteration of a single event, even if you have been given the knowledge you need to understand what event needs to change to prevent the outcome you know. An abusive and dangerous empire isn’t made by a single event. You can’t dethrone a godking by making one of his supposed miracles fail. You can’t stop a war by preventing the death of the first victim in one specific moment. The empire might falter or lose a step, but it’s inertia will carry it to victory eventually and nothing short of another series of events with a similar amount of inertia will properly topple it. A godking with a failed miracle will merely find a scapegoat and then prove their power via a new miracle since anyone willing to believe in a godking will believe that a godking’s enemies were out to make them look foolish in that momemt. If someone chooses not to sacrifice themselves to save others, thereby sparking a war, on one specific day after a long series of watching people they care for be hurt, they’ll probably do it eventually and the only real change will be that more people were lost before the war began.

I tried to provide as many examples as I could of how our world’s history could change with one or two events being shifted. It can be difficult, though, because there’s no way of really knowing how things would play out with a minor tweak. People are fond of saying that Hitler getting into art school would have prevented the rise of nazism and the second world war, but I think it would have just looked different. I mean, the US is a pretty good example, what with Trump and US facism. All the elements were already there, the situation was right for the rise of authoritarianism and reactionary politics and the fascism that seems to always show up after those do. The orange menace just gave it a kickstart and launched it into the open. It might have taken more time to get where we are today without the travesty that was the 45th presidency, but we probably would have. The shithead turtle leading the conversatives in the senate was already using the playbook, so it was just a matter of time. The rise and fall of movements, power, and societies aren’t quick or easy things, nor do they reduce down to single tipping points as often as we’d like them to, so changing one single event in a massive chain like that wouldn’t have a huge, drastic effect on the world.

What the player wound up doing was changing events so that his character was in a position to start a chain of events that would change the world. In ways that are both significant and that, from the perspective of the other players, won’t have any visible change until they start digging into things. It is entirely posssible, given what the player and I have discussed, that I’ll be able to pull a “the world was always this way.” I think I can even incorporate it into the side-campaign that gave the player the knowledge necessary to attempt something like this, though even that might have been a retroactive thing he only realized once he’d used his single answer to gain a bunch of information that wound up being connected.

It’s a little difficult to parse from where I am, if I’m being honest, since it has been so many years since I made this world and started the first campaign in it. I’m not sure I’ve kept all of the details separate, but I’m sure I’ll figure that out as I go along. After all, no one but the player and I know what his character did. No one but I knows what the future originally held that will now no longer come to pass. The campaign might be radically different, and the future might change again because of what the player might still do, but I’ll figure all that out as we get to it. That’s most of the fun, anyway, having to scramble to make everything fit as my friends and I roll dice while joking about how everyone got a card from the Deck of Many Things that granted them one or more levels except one player who drew a card that gave him a servant who was given card draws that then put him at a higher power level than the player character he was supposed to be serving. Good times.

Reflections On My Birthday

Today is my birthday (the day of writing this, not the day of posting it) and, after waiting my entire life for this moment, it finally arrived. My Golden Birthday (or Champaign Birthday or Lucky Birthday, depending on where you’re from). I turned thirty-one on the thirty-first of August. I was always very excited as a child about the idea of a Golden Birthday and always a little sad that it would take me so long to experience mine. As I got older, I comforted myself by saying at least I’d be able to have a real party. In the last decade, though, I’ve stopped caring. I don’t really like to make a big fuss about myself. I like it when other people fuss over me, of course. Who doesn’t love attention from the people you care about? But I also don’t like people making a fuss over me when I’m in a bad mood and, as I mentioned in the post that actually went up on the 31st, I’m usually not in a good mood during the month of August. This year has been no exception and, in fact, might be one of the worst in the last decade thanks to everything else I’ve got going on.

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Wisconsin’s Woes and Weather

For the second summer in a row, the weather where I live has been fairly dry and relatively mild. Eighties during the day, sixties overnight, and mostly small strips of storms and rain that rush past, or clouds that seem to split around us before reforming once they’re past so they can drop their moisture elsewhere. Mild, compared to the heavier storms, flooding, and record-adjacent seasons of the first six summers I spent in the area. I mean, my first summer was marked by a massive storm system that dropped a few tornados southwest of Madison that, among other things, tore up a bunch of trees and some of the buildings of my then employer (my memory of the storm was being the only one in my apartment that woke from the tornado sirens at one or two in the morning to take shelter in the basement).

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Progress Takes Effort, Which Kinda Sucks

The longer that 2022 goes on, the more I see how my mood on any given day is effected by more factors than I could ever account for. I’ve been working to get into better habits this year and while I’ve made some progress, I don’t feel like my average mood has gotten any better. I feel more productive for sure, but I also feel more tired. No matter what I do, I seem to always wind up trading one thing for something else and making almost no net change to how I’m feeling. For instance, I recently changed my wake-up playlist to music that engenders positive feelings in me, but now I’m having a more difficult time feeling awake and alert because the old songs did an incredibly job of rousing me as the playlist played through. I’m getting out of bed later than usual, but I do feel a bit better in the mornings.

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The Slow, Onerous Grind of Change

(Another brief reminder that I write these a week ahead of time and while I hope nothing drastic has happened since I wrote this, it might not be an immediate reflection of the day it gets posted).

The past few days have been exhausting. Reeling from all of the expected but still devasting decisions by those sitting atop the judicial branch of the US government, I still had to go grocery shopping, clean my apartment, make myself meals, do laundry, and navigating a draining social situation that was one of my biggest anxieties which I’d been coping with by telling myself it would never happen. Because it’s not like my life grinds to a halt the instant something terrible happens in the world. I still need to pay bills, feed myself, maintain some kind of social connections, and take care of myself even when I’m trying to figure out how I can respond to the horrible things happening in the world around me.

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Slow Progress And Daily Walks

Every day that I go into the office, I go on a walk. Rain, sun, snow, sleet, whatever. I take my daily walk unless it has a significant chance of being incredibly detrimental to my physical well-being. Even during the peak of tree pollen season, I take my daily walk through my workplace’s parking lots, down the road, through a park that borders my workplace’s property, along a path, and then back up the street to my workplace again. Nothing can stop me except lightning or rain that is heavy enough that I’ll be soaked no matter what I do (I gotta stay at the office after the walk still, so being soaked isn’t really a choice I’d enjoy). I follow the exact same route, pass all the same places, see all the same sights. It is the rock around which the rest of my day is built.

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Dungeons & Dragons Campaigns Can Last For Years Longer Than You Think They Would

As much as I love my big, ambitious Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, I have so many fun ideas that I want to try out that I’m confident I’ll never do them all. Even with a campaign for every day of the week, I’d probably die before I ran out of ideas. It can be a little frustrating to know I’ll never get to even a quarter of them, because so many of them just seem so interesting and fun to explore. As someone who has been running a weekly game at the same time for the better part of a decade (at least over five years, maybe six? Or seven? It is about six and a half years if I’m doing my math right), I can tell you that even a weekly game can take a long time to play out since very few weekly Tabletop Roleplaying Game campaign actually happen every week.

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Successful Shifts in Sleep Schedules

After months of dread and an incredible amount of anxiety based on that dread, I’ve finally made an important change to my sleeping habits and pre-sleep rituals. Previously, I would do about thirty to sixty minutes of calming activities, take my nightly meds, wait fifteen minutes, take my melatonin, and then play my sleepy-time game (currently Animal Crossing) until I felt sufficiently tired. Then I’d go take care of various brushing, cleaning, and pre-bed sanitation tasks, put in my retainer, and then go to bed. It worked about ninety percent of the time, and usually the times it didn’t work involved me getting lots of sleep multiple nights in a row, days of inactivity, or a disruption to the time I usually spend calming down and being inactive before bed. Now, I still do the inactivity time, but I’ve shifted things so that I am taking my melatonin before doing all the “nightly cleanup and preparing myself for bed” stuff so that I hit the pillow about twenty to thirty minutes after taking it.

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