atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,
atomic_fungus
atomic_fungus

#322: Loads

Friday was a heavy day for me. I went to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, cleaned out my garage, and came back home with a load of stuff.

With the bit of driving I did in CR, it came to a bit more than 510 miles.

There were a few pieces of furniture left; several boxes of stuff; and the front fascia for my '86 Fiero project car. I ended up leaving some stuff for the building manager--my old chest of drawers, and some other things. The van was packed full as it was; I had wanted to bring two sets of shelves but really only had room for one. I had to abandon my old office chair--the one I got in 1994 as a cast-off from my then-employer--and a couple of videotape racks. Oh well.

I went for lunch at Fiesta Del Sol, the best Mexican restaurant on the face of the planet. They serve this utterly perfect salsa there; I ordered six servings of the salsa to go. Then I got to work on the garage.

The job just didn't seem as big as previous trips to get stuff from the garage. I suppose when you move literal tons of freight every week, it puts into perspective the job of moving a couple dozen items from garage to van. It took me a couple hours to clean out the garage, and then I turned in my key at the manager's office and went home.

I suppose I could wax sentimental about the closing of life's chapters, but I did enough of that while I was there. The important thing is that I no longer have to send $70 to Iowa every month.

* * *

Microsoft is discounting Vista licenses. If you have a copy of Vista, you can buy up to five additional licenses at a lower price. The problem is, the discount ain't all that much, and the operating system still sucks ass.

If all you're going to do on your computer is run Office, then you're golden; but those of us who would like to play games that worked on every previous version of Windows from Win95 onward are utterly screwed.

10% off? It's not going to help, guys. I don't know what others have to say about it, but I'm going to continue to tell people to avoid Vista at all costs until the compatibility issues are resolved.

* * *

Rule #348: Never eat gas station food. (Except hot dogs.)

I left the house at 8 AM for my day trip to CR. I stopped at the gas station for a few things, and decided, hey!--those breakfast sandwiches look good; I'll buy a couple instead of stopping at McDonald's. It saves me a stop and costs less to boot!

Big mistake.

There is no polite or pleasant way for me to describe what happened when I answered the call of nature later in the day. For such things I use a generic term: "gut malf".

For these situations I imagine the old-fashioned Mission Control consoles with the big mechanical pushbuttons that lit up, and I imagine a red one that flashes while a klaxon sounds:

GUT MALF

..."malf", of course, being a NASA/engineer abbreviation of "malfunction".

It's when your gut makes audible loud and ominous gurgling noises, usually reminiscent of some kind of prehistoric beast, and you know that you had better start walking to the bathroom now before the sounds migrate to the left side of your abdomen, where the descending colon is, because once it hits that, you have only seconds--and if you're not already on the pot when that happens, you had better either have a strong sphincter, or another pair of pants to wear.

I was fortunate. The manager was at home and they like me there, so they not only let me use their bathroom but also gave me some Imodium.

As bad as being struck with egregious gut malf when you're 250 miles from home with no real "base of operations" is, it could have been a lot worse. It could have struck while I was still on the road. I could have had to go to the gas station down the street. Or any of a hundred other complications could have occurred.

Anyway, I know it was that evil gas station food. I'm never eating that crap again.

* * *

I chatted for a bit with the manager of the apartment building.

My ex-girlfriend and I shared an apartment there for about a year and a half. See, my ex, she had lived in the apartment over her Dad's house for a number of years, paying little (if anything) for rent or utilities. When her Dad had to be put in a nursing home, her brother and sister gave her an ultimatum: start paying the utilities, or move out.

The house was an old drafty wreck of a place and heating alone was hideously expensive. I offered her my spare bedroom, and all was pretty nice for a while.

Things being what they were, though, it all came crashing down in December of 2003, and I ended up moving back to live with my parents--which, it turns out, was a Very Good Thing since I have been able to be here for my Mom, especially in the wake of my Dad's death in January. (I now ascribe all this to Divine Providence.)

My ex--I refer to her as WWW, the "Wicked Wiccan of the West"--she moved out of the apartment herself not too many months ago. The landlady confided to me that the apartment was "filthy" after WWW moved out.

"Of course, it's all your fault," the landlady told me disgustedly, employing the ironic mode to indicate that she thought WWW was utterly full of beans.

So let me understand this. Rather than clean the place, WWW was content to live--for three years!--in the accumulated filth of my existence? Do I understand this?

When I left the apartment--when my name was struck from the lease--I left a mostly clean apartment behind. The bathtub had some accumulated soap scum, and there was a bit of cat litter left in the kitchen, but the place needed little more than a good dusting and some vacuuming in order to be perfectly acceptable for habitation. It certainly was not "filthy".

WWW fell in with a group of people which she played D&D with, and which formed the basis for her "coven"; and one of them, when she visited, had a body odor which was nauseating even to me. Her pungent body odor was augmented with the menthol from her cigarettes such that it formed a disgusting miasma reeking of sewage and Vick's Salve.

The D&D campaign--oh my God. I scarcely know where to start with that one; it contained all the worst elements of munchkin gaming. Each player had two characters, one of which was the player himself--in WWW's case she was a "twelfth-level wiccan".

...hru?

The spell lists for these characters were basically up to the player, so WWW had a bizarre mix of Arcane and Divine spells in her spellbook.

...twelfth level? Okay, Chuck Norris might be 12th level, if he wasn't made of so much awesome that he transcends the entire concept of experience levels. But a 46-year-old overweight cashier from Iowa with delusions of grandeur is not a 12th level anything. In fact, in game terms, she's a zero-level character. (I make no bones about it: I am too. By definition, almost everyone is.)

And "wiccan"? A 12th-level wiccan? Does that mean that the Pope is a 20th-level Catholic? And the Dalai Lama--would that make him a 20th-level Buddhist? How many levels of "Muslim" did the Ayatollah Khomeini have?

In D&D, the higher your level, generally the more widely-known your exploits are. High-level characters do big things, and big tales get retold, so eventually the word gets out. A 12th-level character has probably done some notable things in his career, else he would not be 12th level.

And spell effects are pretty dramatic. For example, what would you think if someone laid hands on a person and that person was miraculously healed? Well, you'd start by suspecting fakery--faith healing is an old business--but when the claims turned out to be real, what then? If someone in the modern world could verifiably heal wounds with a prayer and a few gesticulations of a holy symbol that would make really serious news. By definition, a "light wound" (in D&D terms--about 1-8 hit points of damage) would be a mortal wound for a zero-level character--and casting "Cure Light Wounds", a first-level healing spell would be the equivalent of heaing someone with a gunshot wound to the chest!
I could give my usual discussion of the theory of hit points here, but I'll summarize. A high-level character might have 100 hit points, but if he sticks a dagger into his own head, he will die. A dagger does 1-4 hit points of damage. Hit points aren't literal capacity for damage but simulate the ability to dodge or "roll with the punches" to minimize the effectiveness of an opponent's attack.


So now WWW is living in a house with several members of her "coven", and I bet the place stinks like a stockyard. In more ways than one.

And now I know that God did me a favor in 2003. Thanks, God.
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