Friday, September 18, 2020

WoAF - Game Session 11

It was just about dawn when the great battle ended with a massive blast of electro-magnetic energy. Our heroes took account of the damage to the AGV and it was massive.  The EMP took out all of the electronics, as expected, but the AGV has a mechanical override mode that allows them to burn readily available fuel and perform most of its essential functions.  The computers were all down, their circuits fried beyond any hope of repair.  But it moved, though only at 10mph.  On the other hand the turret could be crank turned and the machine gun worked.  It's a rough ride, but moving around in a tank has its advantages, even if it's slow.  They set about making whatever repairs were necessary.  Their android, Lexi, was equally fried beyond all hope of repair.

As he was surveying the damage to the hull Samwise spotted four horsemen on the horizon heading their way.  They were coming from the direction of the town of Page to the North.  Southward the storm could still be seen curling and churning out over the desert, flashing lightning and whipping up dust devils.

The horsemen arrived and announced themselves as the Golden Crusaders of Christ Lion, and they were out to slay the Beast of Shadows.  They carried golden swords and shields with religious insignia.  Sam, Pita, and Linda followed them into the desert to witness the battle, and help if they could.  Down into a dark canyon they rode, and almost immediately the battle was engaged.  The Shadow Beast was difficult to see, and leapt wildly over their heads and between the rocks.  The Golden Crusaders were overpowered by the creature, and were badly mauled before it escaped into the mouth of a cave set in the canyon wall.  One of the Crusaders was mortally stung by the scorpion's tail.  Another mauled from above with massive claws.  Another bitten and mauled.  The last, their leader, evaded being seriously wounded, his skill being that much greater than the others. The horses had all been viciously slain.  The golden swords, extremely heavy as Pita found out, appeared to damage the creature, but Pita and Linda's guns had no effect on it whatsoever.  After the battle, the heroes helped the Crusaders back to the AGV, carrying one on a makeshift litter.

They had a brief talk, and then the leader walked back to Page to fetch a priest from the village to help with his wounded.  The priest was elderly, but robust, and quite blunt about his views, to the point of being rude, but a good healer, and came with more horses. The Crusaders made their way back to Page.  While the heroes of Kitt Peak completed their repairs.  Enough so that the AGV could move.

They drove to Page, found the Church of Christ Latter Day Saints, and met with the Leader of the Crusaders once more.  They did not prevail upon him to provide much insight, though they did find out that the Priesthood were Christian Naturalists, and that there might be gasoline at the old derelict airport on the east side of town.  The Leader offered them horses, of which they apparently had enough to spare, but the heroes declined the offer, preferring the security of their roving fortress instead, cranky and rattling as it was.

Not wishing to waste any time at all, they went to the airport, found a old fuel tank and siphoned what little gas was there at the bottom.  It was a lucky find and enough to get them on their way.  As soon as they got the gasoline they decided to immediately head back down south to the Mech Base, about 80 miles, and salvage whatever components they could from the Mechs.  The trip was long, noisy, dusty, bumpy and hot, but eventually they found themselves at the base.  They dismantled both Mechs and used the components to re-establish their communications.  Linda sent a status report to Federation Command via ULF.  Hopefully they would receive it.

Some in the party wanted to return to Kitt Peak and abandon the mission as without the AGV's full capacity it would be a very hard slog up to Salt Lake.  But the Captain, not deterred, decided to press forward regardless. 

They left off at that point, and we called it a night.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Thoughts on the World of Lies

Some personal reflections on my mood lately, as it relates to the Covid-19 Pandemic, and other matters. This is likely to be a long post, so feel free to ignore it, or pop down to the bottom where I will try to summarize.

On the state of the World

One effect I've noticed of the Pandemic-Shutdown for me is that I have much less that I want to say to people, generally. I think it is the result of finding out that the entire world is actually very frail. And it scares me.  Much more than I expected it to. Growing up, I realized there were existential threats to both the earth as a biosphere and the civilization(s) that inhabit it, but I generally deemed those threats to be rationally improbable. However, I nevertheless felt that any existential threats should be taken with utmost seriousness by our leaders, regardless of the probability, as the consequences of a bad die roll would prove to be ultimately catastrophic.  It is only the sensible thing to do, of course.

In my late teens I noticed that there really seemed to be no orderly approach to such issues, and that the world appeared to be run by corrupt and stupid people (like, for example my dad, who was a very smart man but also a moral-imbecile who wrecked our family by lying incessantly - which as you will see colors my world view considerably).  They appear to only have a planning horizon of at most five years, and even those plans are flawed beyond comprehension.  I was 19 or so. I began to be deeply concerned. 

At a certain point soon thereafter I decided I couldn't support the decision making of our Leaders, and so I hit the road in an effort to avoid culpability for what I looked ahead and saw would be an amazing downward spiral towards cataclysm at the end of a once prosperous, and even virtuous civilization.  I didn't want to participate in the Great Downward Spiral.  So I left.  I traveled around the country for the next decade without money, shoes, or anything to call my own beyond the cloths on my back.  I was one with the Tao.

I often wondered, how is that the world can be run by a cadre of lying-morons? And why do The People allow it? When I saw clips of the movie Idiocracy recently, it rang a solemn bell. Can humanity as a whole really be this stupid? Unfortunately, despite the fact that some people are amazingly smart, it appears that en mass, humanity is alarmingly dumb. It is probably a law of nature. 

And so here we are.  That a single pandemic can cause all world governments (or I should say most of the people currently running them) to devastate their own economies, and thoroughly destroy the lives of the vast majority of their citizens on a single pretext, should be cause for alarm among the smartest and wisest among us. I think we are alarmed. This is probably the most important point in this post, btw.  How can we live with any sense of security when the impossible suddenly becomes a Fact?  If I told you one year ago that the governments of the whole world were going to shut down the entire global economy, casting countless millions into sudden poverty, I'm pretty sure you would have told me that I'm insane, and we would have had a chuckle and left it at that.  And yet... here we are. But what can we do about it?  That's the rub. There seem to be no obvious solutions to this dilemma.  It has effected my mood.  I feel alarmed.

Our Leaders are charging ahead talking about "The Science" while ignoring the science whenever it becomes inconvenient for them, and frothing at the mouth about how The Other Side is "lying through its teeth" and going to destroy the world, and the world is being systematically destroyed in the process. I do not care to watch tens of millions of my fellow citizens cast down into poverty in one fell swoop through no fault of their own. I don't like it. Observing this has effected my mood. I feel upset. 

My own life? Not so destroyed at the moment. I still have my job (though how long remains completely up in the air as the hospital has been financially ravaged thus far). Just the same, I have been scanning the job market since March and frankly, it's very slim pickings out there because most companies are not hiring, but have shed workers along the way, as we all know. Way too much uncertainty, both in regards to the virus, but also in regards to the economic conditions, which are anything but stable. For the meantime, though, life goes on more or less normally. I wear a mask to the super market. I don't go out much at all, but I do visit with my girlfriend who has been a beacon of sanity for me in this crazy time. And I also practice my Wudan Kung Fu, which has a leveling effect as well.  In my free time I hunker down to work on my Elthos RPG Project. So my life has remained reasonably stable, personally. But still, this has not managed to improve my mood very much. I guess seeing so many people suffering around me, I can't help but empathize.  So, yes, I'm in a pretty bad mood, I'd say.  And it feels unusual to me.  Like I've caught some kind of emotional flu.  I'm not happy about it.  I feel like I am on the verge of letting down those who count on me to be reliable, stalwart and determined.  I don't want to let them down.

I wear a mask, btw, despite the fact that I suspect it does very little to protect anyone, which is what Fauci apparently stated in an interview last February. He's the expert so I guess he would know. Except he changed his mind later and now everyone has to wear masks or you're "Killing someone's grandma", or something. I don't know. I get the feeling that Fauci doesn't really know either. Which leads me to believe that no one knows. Or some people are, or have been lying along the way, for various reasons. It has effected my mood, and I feel angry about this.

Which brings me to another aspect of this entire episode that has very much effected my mood. They, the proverbial "They", keep lying to us. Over and over again. Lying and lying and lying. And they keep repeating the same lies over and over again as if this will somehow make the lies true. Or they will convince enough people (hint: voters) they are true so that they will forget all the evidence to the contrary they have seen along the way, and "do the right thing". *Ahem*.  

The lies are incessant. They lie about the virus, the politics, the impossible-to-prove motives of people they don't personally know, the shut downs and its effects, the employment rate and its causes and trajectory, the death rates in various states and countries (why did Google Covid-19 Stats gray out China's number counts?), the economy... just lying and lying and lying about pretty much everything. (Has there been anything they haven't lied about?  Curious.) 

And so, there's been a tsunami of lies by weasels pretending that they are "authoritative" and in control of the situation, when really nothing could be further from the truth. Oh yes, they have their reasons, and their reasons are all very important, I'm sure. Maybe they don't want people to panic.  Or maybe they want people to get rid of "The Orange Man", or "The Witch of the West", or whatever.  They all have their very important reasons.  Except they're lying. And in almost every case, they know it, but they do it anyway, because "reasons".  Look, folks, the lies are not justified. They never are.  Lying to the public by public officials should be a criminal offense on the level of Treason, if you ask me.  Can we agree on that?  No?  I didn't expect so. Ok, anyway. I digress.  I will do that often.

Reality keeps proving over and over again that they are lying, and have been lying, the entire time, to everyone, on all sides. They're all doing it. It's incessant. They can't stop. They started a long time ago on this path. It's just that now, its become a Pandemic of Lies. This is not sustainable. 

As for the nature of the lies, I notice that lately they've begun to lie actively quite a bit, but historically it's been mostly lies by omission. I guess in earlier eras they didn't dare lie actively, but now... well, all hell is breaking lose, so I guess they think there is no point in restraining themselves anymore.  And so they have begun simply lying outright.  However, for lies of omission, the trickier modality, this is how it works - they frame a situation in a way that in court you might call "asking a leading question", which designed to draw one toward a preconceived conclusion, without stating them as such. They draw a line pointing in a direction, and they expect your brain to fill in the blanks for them. Because that's just Propaganda 101.  It is much more effective to get people to "think up the answer for themselves", than to simply state it.  Much more effective! And so they do it because it works. On stupid people. Which is good enough for their purposes.  So they do it.  A LOT.  

Anyway, all of this has effected my mood. I never liked being lied to to begin with. But this? During an actual global Pandemic? You have got to be kidding me. But no, there they are, lying up a colossal shit-storm. As usual. In The Great 19 Pandemic nothing has changed except the volume and velocity of lies has increased. We're now in what I think could safely be termed "Super-Lie" mode.  And so the newly phrased adage "Never let a good crisis go to waste" is not going to waste.  And here we are.

All that lying... it's just made me want to shut it all down, turn them all off, and shuck it all down the toilet with a big Flagoosh. I don't believe a goddam word any of them say at this point. If they say "the sun is shining", I'm going to suspect the sun burned out while I wasn't looking somehow and go outside to check. Nope. Still shining. Ok.  But the point is, I do not trust them. Not at all. Not even for the most basic and obvious things.  I suspect I'm not alone in this.

How has this all effected me? Well, my Trust Level was hovering near zero to begin with, and had steadily been decreasing since 1981. Now, though? I think I'm in negative territory. I actively distrust whatever any politician says. Period. Before I used to be like "hmmm... um... well... ok, maybe... I guess...". But now I'm more like "Ok just shut the hell up you lying little turdflinger".  It's not the best attitude in the world to carry around.  But there you have it.  That's where I'm at.

This has had an impact on many of my relationships, as you might guess. Many people who I used to feel I could tolerate as they regurgitated other people's lies, and kind of debate with them about it and, you know, get along with folks... well, I find I can no longer tolerate them very easily at all. I just want to walk away, and leave them to stew in their own crazed juices. I've had quite enough. I'm no longer interested in discussing it. They want to believe the turdflingers and go on lunatic rants over something they know extremely little about? Ok. Be my guest. Just don't expect me to be a Believer with you. I am not. I do not believe Fauci. I do not believe Trump. I do not believe Pelosi, or Schumer, or McConnell or the Governors that did the Great Global Shutdown. I do not believe the "Reporters" on CNN, or ABC, or NPR, or FOX. They're all lying all the time. 24/7/365. It just comes down to a question of "Do you want lies from the Left? Or lies from the Right?" I don't want any lies, thank you. I'm opting out. Thanks.

So I've pretty much stopped talking with most of my old buddies. I see them, as we attend certain social events together, but I find I have nothing to say. They go on and on, joking around as ever, railing about their current political hate-addiction, spewing out all the lies they have received from their favorite "news" sources as if they're absolutely 100% sure it's all so very true, and screeching about how "the other side are lying their asses off!!"... sigh ... not my cup of tea.  Seriously. I'm godawful tired of it.

And I find myself completely disinterested. It's become ... intolerable to me. So I just walk away without saying anything to any of them. No, "Hey gotta go", no "sorry" or "see ya later". Just walking away. Period. And it's bad. It's not the way to be a social person. I've gotten a bad reputation among my old buddies. I'm not interested in explaining it to them. They are wound up tight in the The Great Web of Lies... and I just can't save them from that. I'm not Bilbo. They won't listen to me. And I'm too tired, honestly, to get into a shouting match about whose lies are bigger or worse or more destructive than theirs. I just don't have the strength for it. I'm out. It's sad. They're not bad people. They just believe lies that I simply can't bring myself to believe. And they can't stop spewing them out at each other. Yep. I'm out. I suppose that makes me a bad person. Probably does.  But I'm just not Bilbo. I can't rescue them. I can't even imagine how to try to rescue them.  I got no Sting. And they don't want to be rescued either.  They're Believers, after all.  And they want to do the rescuing, because they Believe.

Which leads me to another self-realization. Bear with me if you will. I'm not a very convincing person.  I don't do things in a way that leads to success, even though I would argue that most of my view points are perfectly correct, and that over the years I've been unusually insightful about how this stupid world works.  But I can't convince anyone of anything.  I'm like Cassandra over here, and have been since the 1980's.  I try, but no one listens.  But why?  It's not fate.  I've not been cursed by the Gods, I don't think.  It's just ... I have no confidence in the future at all. I have not had confidence in the future since 1981. I have felt all along that it is all coming to ruin.  Because, specifically, the people in charge are making the catastrophe happen.  And so this lack of faith in the future of this Civilization has made me entirely unsuited to take action that would have any long term effectiveness.  I have planned, like our best leaders it seems, only as far ahead as a few years, and only as an expedient while I wait for the world to burn itself down.  And for this reason, I have no worldly success.  I expect the world to be destroyed by the people in charge, and I see no way to prevent it.  I feel I'm insightful for recognizing this and not wasting my time or investing my emotions in building important things that would be doomed to be destroyed by Them later on.  In fact, i never built anything that went anywhere.  No book was published.  No artwork put in a gallery.  No wife, no kids, no home.  Nothing built for the long term.  Except for Elthos.  It is the only thing I built in my life, and I built it to last for a long long time... though frankly, I have no confidence in that either.  And so, even if my thoughts about the world are perfectly correct, I do not present them in any way that will lead to the successful propagation of those ideas.  I just don't.  I post them to Blogger instead. Where they will naturally languish with about 50 views, and zero comments.  Because that's how I'm presenting things.  Because I don't see the point in putting in greater effort.  Because I'm convinced that the world is on the verge of collapse, and ... I just don't see the point of trying very hard to do anything other than focus on my more immediate interests.  Will I publish a book explaining how the world has gone wrong and what we could do about it?  Nope.  I won't.  Because I feel, I guess, that hopeless about the future of this world.

You notice I keep phrasing this as "this world"?  The reason is because I believe there will be a great cataclysm that will destroy "this world"... and after that will be "the next world".  One that will give humanity a chance to start over.  And having learned all of terrible lessons about why allowing stupid evil people to run amok is a very bad idea, humanity will advance.  There will be a better world after this one.  That is something I do Believe.

On the other hand there are a few people who I feel I can converse with. But it's really very few. They are the people, like me, who look around and have realized that we really have scarcely any idea of what is really going on. We look, we hear, but no truth comes. And we know it. So with this people I can have a conversation at least. I don't feel like I want to put a 30" steel wall between me and them to shut out the lying. But, at the same time, our conversations usually end with a "and so we kind of have no idea what to do because we really can't get a bead on what's really happening, or more importantly, why... oh well." We have a little laugh about it, and then we've run out of things to talk about. After that, it gets a bit awkward. But ok.  I at least have a few people I know who I can relate to.  That's good.  I'm really glad about that.  

But the upshot is I don't feel like talking with most of my buddies.  I just can't find anything to say.  Sorry.  Can't take it.  I just leave without a word.  I don't hate them, and if they talk to me I'm cordial.  But I just don't feel like I want to converse with most of them at all.  Not even to say "See ya later".  It's sad.  Really, I see this as a personal problem. I'm not handling the crisis well if that's my reaction.  I can blame this and that about everything that's going on... but really, I don't have any excuse.  I'm just letting myself deteriorate and become morose about how things are going.  I could, instead, maintain a positive attitude and laugh all of the shit off myself. I'm seriously thinking about that.  Wukong laughed all of the Evils into oblivion. I need to learn how to do that, too.  I think so.  My old buddies aren't bad people.  They're caught up in The Web of Lies.  I shouldn't treat them as if they're bad people.  I just don't know what to say.  I'm going to work on it, though. Somehow.

On The Elthos Project

As for my Elthos RPG Mythos Machine project. I mentioned this once or twice along the way, but one of its original goals was to give me something to occupy my mind on while the world falls apart. Yep. True. I have been working on this since 1994, and that was one of the original goals. True.

I had a premonition about the world falling apart since 1981. It's taken longer than I expected, and may never happen, actually, but the slow perpetual grind downward appears to have been steady, with a brief and illusionary blip upward in the 1990s. Really it's all been a downward spiral since 1913, I think. Anyway, so here we are. Did we get Arthur C. Clark's future? Nope. Not at all. We got this mess. Roddenberry at least foresaw that it would take one more Great Global War before humanity could mature and reach for the stars. Well, we ain't there, yet. Getting closer by the minute, it looks like, but not yet. Wait for it.

Anyway, about Elthos-as-distraction. The plan.  With the flaw.  The problem with the plan is that all along I had slowly accumulated an expectation, however distant, of financial success with the thing. I imagined that there actually would be a market for just such a piece of RPG World Builder Software, and I felt early on that I could not only build it, but bring it to market and make it into a financial success.  

Somehow I lost sight of Lao Tzu. I forgot from my days on the road to let go of the fruits of my labor, and just let it be whatever it is, and not try to hard to make something last in this world. I erroneously began to accept the idea that success should be measured in dollar signs. 

By this standard the Elthos Project has a success rate of, well, near zero. Its generated roughly $78 in total since 1994. I've probably put in, if you count the time I've put into it as paid at my normal yearly rate of pay, and in particular the Mythos Machine programming, roughly $840,000. So, by the measure of dollars, it's been a roaring and unmitigated disaster. Total Fail.

I should have, and may still, had the presence of mind to let go of that Dollar-Success criteria. But it's been a slow growing expectation like a weed. Damnit. But the truth is, I am constitutionally unwilling to do those things that are required in this civilization to make the thing a financial success. 

I recently read Ryan Holiday's Trust me, I'm lying about the modern advertising industry, and came to the conclusion that, yep, I'm not suited to make anything financially successful in this world. Nope. Not my MO. I strongly suspect I may have come here from another time long long ago where people by and large were honest, and valued truth, decency and integrity, and wherein the Ryan Holidays of this world would find themselves ostracized, lonely and poor.  I come from a world where villainy and deceit are not the norm, but are instead shunned by the civilized folk.  In fact, it is what we mean by "Civilized".  But that world is long gone. No one here remembers it, and only a tiny few believe that such a world is even possible.  Pretty sure.  But I do.  And that's one of my problems.  That's what I'm a Believer of.  And yes, frankly, it is a problem.  Because of all the things that I might have built, Elthos was the one thing I chose.  And thus far making it into a financial success has completely eluded me.  It is, after all, a Total Fail at this point.  Financially speaking.  And for good reason. I just can't get myself behind the sneaky lying underhanded marketing tactics of the Ryan Holidays. And so, I can't get the "Reach" needed to get Elthos off the launch pad. She's got what it takes, but ain't got no fuel. But enough of that.  I've written enough about that in a previous post. The upshot is, to make Elthos successful financially requires a set of skills and resources that I do not possess. 

On the other hand, Elthos RPG Mythos Machine as a pure work of Art. A masterpiece, actually.  And on that basis, it's been a monumental success for me. It is a software tool that allows GMs to create their own worlds, and populate them with whatever they want, and players can log in and create characters in those worlds and as they play they can record their adventures for all time. GMs can even sell their Worlds to one another on the system. It is a first of it's kind work. I wrote the specs and registered them in the US Copyright Office in 1994. So yes, it's a first of its kind. And yeah, I'm proud of that. 

But still, others, far more nimble in the ways of the world than I, have of course shot out into the actual market with their own implementations of the concept and done amazing things, and produced some great and well known successes. But I still maintain that in fact, Elthos is still the best of them all. It's code base has the greatest diversity of features, and the earlier version even includes a fantastic built in VTT where the GMs could paint their own maps, and the mapping system handles movement and combat according to the Elthos RPG tactical rules. All without the GM needing to create any macros, or anything like that.  It is, actually, a fantastic feat of software development... the most unknown amazing RPG software no one has ever heard of in the history of the world. I stand by that statement.

Anyway, I don't think I can carry Elthos into the market.  At least not on my own. I'm still going to try, but I realize, there's a lot about business that I either don't understand or don't want to understand (the seedy under belly of it all does not appeal to me). I would need the help of some very clever and resourceful people to take this to market in a way that will be successful. It's not just an RPG rules system... it's a full blown web application constructed as a SaaS, and with an internal marketplace for World Publishers. Not quite perfected, but damn close. At any rate, I'd most certainly need help. I have a handful of leads, and there's still some promise there, but I think my role needs to remain that of Visionary Artiste.  So I'll be reaching out to a few people soon to see if I can drum up support on the marketing and business fronts. We'll see. And even if that falls through, Elthos as an Art form will live on, and it will always be it's own amazing thing ... even if no one happens to notice it. 

Not everyone sees the most amazing sunrises in the world. Most people, actually, miss them. And yet, there they were... and I was one of those people who saw it. Except in this case I was the person who brought it to fruition. I think I can be happy with that.  I just need to remember Lao Tzu.  

Sorry for this great long ramble. I tend to ramble. But then, I didn't write it so much to communicate this to you, but to help me to think through these things and organize my thoughts. I often find writing thing down as if I'm explaining something to someone else helps me to clarify what I'm feeling. So if no one else, this helped me. Sorry about this, but I am going to post it anyway. There's a few thoughts amid the rambles that others might be able to relate to, and perhaps benefit by, so here you go.


I've fallen into a bad mood lately because there's too much lying going on out there and I'm sick of it. I have been treating my buddies pretty poorly, though it's not my intention, I just find I have nothing to say when they are reguritating the panarama of lies.  But I need to work on that.  I feel bad about it.

I'm going to focus on Elthos as a work of art, but I think that I'm just not suited to carry the thing to financial success, at least on my own. I'd need help with that part, and will be seeking it as I go forward.  

I want to remember always, though, the words of Lao Tzu.  
“The supreme good is like water, which nourishes all things without trying to. It is content with the low places that people disdain. Thus it is like the Tao. In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present. When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching