My walk was the walk of a human child, but my heart was a tree.

"Whenever you see an oak-tree felled, swear now you will plant two."

3/4/15 07:30 pm - RPGs

TW suicide

I posted recently about why I had to give up HabitRPG-- a combination of playing on my anxiety, guilt trips, not being able to think of appropriate rewards, and so on. I said at the time that this is a problem I have with games in general. But Debbie mentioned a computer RPG earlier and it made me think about why Habit is one of the RPGs in particular I have great problems with.

I don't mind AD&D-type things where you're a collaborative part of a team and you can fade into the background as necessary-- it's not much different from roleplay irl. And I don't mind single-player games where they're a large directed puzzle to solve-- it's not far different from a crossword. But competitive roleplaying makes me want to cause my character's suicide early on to save trouble. Even worse are large open-ended games with no particular goal, the sort of thing where you can say, "Oh, lovely! A whole new universe for me to fail in!"

I think if Elite were released today I probably wouldn't enjoy it much.

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2/23/15 03:24 pm - Why I hate Valentine's day

In answer to someone complaining about people complaining about Valentine's ( http://catvalente.livejournal.com/434149.html?page=3 ):

I don't *want* to take happiness away from anyone who's happy on Valentine's day-- why would I want to take happiness away from other people? Good luck to them! But *I* hate Valentine's day because it reminds me of the years and years of Valentine's days filled with loneliness and despair, and if I allow myself to think about it, I'll fall apart. I suppose "triggering" is the word I'm looking for. Maybe one day I'll get over that, and I really don't like being this bitter, but for now I hate Valentine's day because of what it does to me. Every. Single. Year.

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2/5/15 04:26 pm - the sky goddess, all naked

One summer, when I was a small child, I found a book on astronomy. I read it eagerly, and talked about the stars to everyone I met. But it was summer, and so my bedtime was before dusk, and stargazing was impossible.

So my father offered to let me stay up one night to see the stars. He took me to the tall window on the stairs, and drew back the curtain, and I saw the stars scattered across the dark blue of the sky, and the Milky Way shining.

And it was terrifying. It seemed I was looking not just into unimaginable distances, but at something that should not be seen, something almost indecent for human eyes to see-- like seeing the sky goddess all naked for one moment before looking upon her beauty strikes you dead.

I fled, screaming.



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2/5/15 01:14 pm - sense development of "cadre"

After a discussion at the party meeting last night I went and looked up the sense development of the word "cadre".

1. In socialist use it means a person who has learned to take on any work necessary (within a political team), so that the loss of any one member damages the team less.
2. And this comes from an earlier use of the word to mean a whole team of socialists-- a chapter, a cell group.
3. And that comes from an earlier use of the word to mean the structure used to organise an army.
4. And that comes from the French word for a frame.
5. And that comes from the Latin "quadrum", a thing with four sides.

So a square thing has become a well-rounded individual.

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2/4/15 10:31 am - Films

...at least, the ones I can find right now. There are more somewhere. Listing them here in case any local friends want to watch them with us.

  • Amélie (Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain) -- a Parisian manic pixie dream girl goes around trying to right injustice but makes a mess of it; in French, subtitled
  • Alice in Wonderland (the Tim Burton film) -- an attempt at a sequel to the original story; I forget whether it's any good
  • The Lavender Hill Mob -- some respectable bank clerks are running a gold-smuggling operation; Ealing comedy; b&w
  • Woolly and Tig -- a small child is afraid of things, and her cuddly spider explains how to reframe them; a set of five-minute episodes; I love this particularly because reframing is a useful skill in dealing with fear and anxiety for grownups too
  • The Fall -- in a 1920s hospital a grown-up patient tells a four-year-old patient a story, as a ruse to get her to steal sleeping tablets for him; we see the story unfold from her point of view; I love this film
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas -- more Tim Burton
  • The Icicle Thief (Ladri di saponette) -- a TV station shows a depressing film about the Depression; the director is angry that they've cut it for advert breaks; the director and people from the adverts end up in the film, causing weird culture shock; in Italian, subtitled
  • The Dark Crystal -- Jim Henson film which apparently everyone has seen but me
  • Kinsey -- biopic of Alfred Kinsey, who researched sex and sexuality through the novel idea of actually asking people what they got up to
  • Grease -- I doubt I need to tell you more
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2/1/15 10:39 pm - "I would like to be a girl ☐"

When I was at school, the county would often send psychologists to ask me things. Once, when I was about thirteen, I had to fill in a sort of questionnaire. It had statements with tickyboxes, like

I would like to be an astronaut ☐
I would like to be stronger ☐

The paper said at the top that it was the version of the test for boys, and the last question of all said:

I would like to be a girl ☐

And I had a panicky moment considering that if I told the truth there it would involve a lot more psychologists and probably further humiliation in front of my classmates, so with some level of guilt for lying I left the box unticked.

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2/1/15 12:44 pm - Twitter picture transcription

People often post images of text on Twitter, either to get around the 140-character limit or because they're posting a screenshot from another site. This is a problem for people who use screen readers and people who have images turned off.

I propose to create a web service which will allow people to associate images with URLs of pic.twitter.com/XYZ with transcriptions. For example, you could associate http://pic.twitter.com/2EaLCXaszP with the text "The Bishop of Dibley".

This would then be available on the Twitter site via a Javascript snippet in the browser.

Byte-for-byte identical images would automatically share a transcription, detected by digest. There could be a tineye-style similarity test, but that would make a simple idea much more complicated.

Users would log in with their Twitter account details, via OAuth. All their transcriptions would have their account name attached.

The biggest problem is of people maliciously adding incorrect transcriptions. I invite suggestions.

What do you think?

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1/28/15 10:22 pm - "Seven things about me"

[TW: injury, etc]

The "seven things most people don't know about me" meme. All these are about my childhood, because I think people probably know enough about what I've done as an adult.

1) As a toddler, I almost fell off the side of a container ship in dry dock. I was climbing the steps up to the ship, with my father holding my hand, and I managed to slip. Apparently I swung out over the abyss, with my father clinging desperately to my hand, and he remembers how his palms began to sweat with fear and he thought he'd lose me. I have no conscious memory of this, but it may explain my terror of heights.

2) Years later, my dad was in hospital, and someone bought me a newspaper-making kit to keep me occupied. There were various pieces of paper to cut out with headlines and so on. They gave you a few mastheads saying things like "The Chronicle" and "The Daily News", but I decided to call my paper The Thurman Times, and it lasted for about ten years in one form or another as a family magazine.

3) At the age of about six I made up a game where our house was a town and all the rooms were streets. This involved naming every room with a street name. For some strange reason everyone still remembers all these room names, especially my own room which is universally known as Moon Drive.

4) I also used to have the habit, which lasted well into my teens of drawing a stylised steamboat in the top right corner of my work. (I think the boat motif came from reading Swallows and Amazons, though of course those were sailboats.) The reference to Jacob's symbol in BCL is partly based on this. Also, those who have the second edition of Not Ordinarily Borrowable (with the dragon on the cover) may notice the same steamboat logo at the top left of the cover.

5) Various things were a terror to me at one time or another. In particular, when I was ten and my grandmother died she left us a framed print of a famous painting, and my parents hung it on the landing outside my room. I was already afraid of the dark, and the painting was a new terror: I would run as fast as I could into my room so I wouldn't see it, and shut my eyes when I opened the door. The worst of it was that I wasn't allowed to sleep with the light on, but there was a light at the other end of the landing, so to avoid the darkness I had to sleep with my door as wide open as possible, and lying there in bed I could see the painting's eyes through the crack between the door and the frame. Horrifying.

6) When I was five I went out into the garden to help build a path. All my life I've preferred to be barefoot,My mother held my hand and and I was that day as well. But it's never wise to carry housebricks about when you're barefoot, especially if you're five and might drop them on your toe. I did. Even worse than the pain was the horrendous hour at the doctor's where they cut open my toe under local anaesthetic in order to "get the poison out", as they told me. The anaesthetic presumably didn't work too well, because I could feel it, and my God it hurt. I squeezed my mother's hand as tightly as I could and tried not to cry out.

7) For about a month, when I was seven-ish, I had three pet balloons. I'd brought them home from a party or something, and I drew faces on them and gave them names. And I went everywhere with them, and I used to read them bedtime stories. I remember my parents were slightly concerned.

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1/16/15 09:44 am - rm -rf /

I said elsewhere that "rm -rf /" is special-cased to fail under Linux, and some people asked me about it. FTR here's my answer:

I'd thought rm was a bash builtin, but it isn't. The rm in GNU coreutils, however, does check for the root directory as of 2003-11-09 (by inode number, not by name); the warning message is "it is dangerous to operate recursively on /". You can override this using "--no-preserve-root", though I don't know why you'd want to.

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1/6/15 01:24 am - Gentle Readers: happy new year

Gentle Readers
a newsletter made for sharing
volume 3, number 1
5th January 2015: happy new year
What I’ve been up to

Working on getting better. They've put me on a new medication, lamotrigine, and they're ramping me up slowly at 25mg a fortnight. It's not at the full dose yet, but I think it's helping already.

The other day I went to visit some friends, and they had a harp! So of course I asked to play it. Even though I'd never played before, after about two hours it was sounding rather tuneful. I think I'll save up for one and learn to play it properly.
https://gentlereaders.uk/pics/harp
Photo thanks to Kit.

A poem of mine

Here's a poem about ringing in the new year. It's the earliest sonnet of mine I think is any good: I wrote it when I was about 18.

SONG OF NEW YEAR'S EVE (T3)

Look to your Lord who gives you life.
This year must end as all the years.
You live here in the vale of tears.
This year brought toil, the next year strife.
For too, too soon we break our stay.
The end of things may be a birth.
The clouds will fade and take the earth.
Make fast your joy on New Year's Day.
When dies a friend we weep and mourn.
When babes are born we drink with cheer.
But no man mourns when dies the year.
When dies the age, may you be born.
Your death, your birth, are close at hand.
In him we trust. In him we stand.

A picture



https://gentlereaders.uk/pics/wise-cow

Caption: two wise men and a cow visit Mary.
First wise man: I bring gold!
Second wise man: I bring frankincense!
Cow: MYRRRH


Something wonderful

A group called Africa2Moon announced today that it's organising an Africa-wide effort to go to the moon. Many people have objected that Africa has many problems which need work and money, and that a moon shot will only distract from more urgent priorities. The organisation's answer was rather interesting: in a way, the moon landing itself is a sort of McGuffin. The real story is about getting there: as a side effect of training up the scientists and the engineers, and building the systems needed, it should reduce the brain drain to the west, and improve life across the continent as a side-effect-- not unlike the effects of the US space programme a generation earlier.

And this set me thinking about parallels: we all live in communities that need investments of time and effort and money, from food banks to counsellors. When and how is it possible to create something within these communities, something that everyone can collaborate on and be inspired by?

Something from someone else

THE CLOTHS OF HEAVEN
by W B Yeats

Had I the heaven's embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light;
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Colophon

Gentle Readers is published on Mondays and Thursdays, and I want you to share it. The archives are at https://gentlereaders.uk, and so is a form to get on the mailing list. If you have anything to say or reply, or you want to be added or removed from the mailing list, I’m at thomas@thurman.org.uk and I’d love to hear from you. The newsletter is reader-supported; please pledge something if you can afford to, and please don't if you can't. ISSN 2057-052X. Love and peace to you all.
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