Shad's Writings


A few years ago, while on an ayahuascan trip of moderate proportion, I spent hours performing a circular motion with my right arm. While doing that motion I was also circling my right thumb across its four sibling fingers.

Like a meditating monk massaging beads, I was performing this simple motion in honor to my mind and the way of the universe. Fundamental, interwoven concepts were playing on loud speakers in my substance-edited state of mind.

Routine and spontaneity.​
The constant and the impermanent.​
Larger scale and smaller scale.​
The earthbound and transcendent.​
Reality and illusion.​
The possible and the impossible.​
Imprisonment and freedom.​
The serious and the playful.​
Self and other.​

There was this extraordinary sensation of being perfectly free to step out of any cycle and into another, be that the routine of a lifestyle or the larger- and smaller circles drawn in the air by my arm and fingers. It was freedom without fear or denial of the imprisonment that comes from manifesting one destiny over the potentiality of an infinite array of other potential destinies.

Perhaps one of the healthiest signs of a good psychonautic experience is the deep realization that you don't need to go on another trip like it again. The thing with making a trip to the "spirit world", as it were, is that what you bring back with you from that symbolic realm only matters if it can be used in the material world. After all, any given answer can be measured in two currencies: Truth value and application value.

So what did I bring back?

Among other things, a healthy reminder that I can't expect to always be transcendent (nor expect others to become such). Examples would be things like personal identity and group identity. We obsess over these, much to our deeply held blessings and curses. So in response we may want to be always detached and "transcendent" from these flawed concepts. But the answer is not to be one or the other. The answer is to breathe in and breathe out. Take in your personal identity, let it go, take it in again, let it go, take it in, let it go and so on. You are simultaneously EVERYTHING you define yourself by and you are NONE of that at all. Because you are...a series of cycles within cycles.

For the act of levitation to hold meaning, you must hold some memory of what it's like to stand on the ground with your own two feet.
According to myself: No. :monster:

By and large I'm also not too big on calling myself a "<something>-ist" of any sort because I've found it too impractical to announce one's identity in that fashion. I will always be second-guessing my definition of what it is to be a something-ist (and wondering if I'm "living up" to it) and then having to navigate through the myriad of ways in which others may interpret what it means to be a something-ist.

Big surprise I have a very strained relationship with politics :wacky:
Do you prefer being a god or do you prefer being human?

I have a soft spot for overpowered, functionally immortal, godly or god-like characters in fiction. In particular if they remain (mostly) unharmed or unaffected by the events of the plot. There are no stakes for them other than their fleeting attachments to whatever humans cross their paths now and then. Even when they interact with the plot and affect the course of things and matters, they are still as observers leaning back and "enjoying the show", attached yet distant like some bodhisattva or even a full-fledged samyaksambuddha.

Ideally they still know the art of humility but with the occasional sprinkle of audacity when speaking to humans about the tragic comedy of their lives. Indeed, the best gods are those who have been human and still retain memories of that life close to heart, letting it inform and enrich their social life.

The ultimate power fantasy, in more brief terms. Some would call this boring, some would deem it relaxing. Perhaps one's response to this type of character is, at least in part, a reflection of one's worldview.

Perhaps due to my comparatively weak constitution, every day is spent wishing I had stronger nerves, a stronger mind, no way to fall and all ways to ascend. Fiction thus spent on relatable characters who suffer greatly often becomes a test of stamina moreso than a detached tribute to the trials of life. It hurts and it hurts too much. So I pause the show/movie/game, then spend a few minutes listening to high-beat music, imagining either myself or the character(s) as god(s) who surpass all their suffering and instantly unlock the mental- and practical solutions to all of life's problems. Because that's how badly my body and mind wish to escape from the torture chamber of even fictional earthly drama. Where is my most beloved mistress, Lady Escapism von Power Fantasy?

Truly it is no surprise then that I have such a love affair with hacking games and using Cheat Engine. Often I find more enjoyment in breaking the rules of the game with the use of cheats than I do with sharpening my skills by repeated, arduous play. While not always the case, I am quite familiar with the insufficient emotional reward of mastery compared to the suffering it took to get there. Enter cheat codes and the nigh limitless exploration it provides. Now THAT is where we find the counter to the nihilistic-esque worldview describe previously with the reward-suffering ratio: The joy of exploration.

True, turning on invincibility may remove all challenge. Hacking yourself to max items makes a joke of what otherwise would be hours of labor. But the challenge becomes of different, more "passive" kind instead. With invincibility turned on, you are free to explore the enemy's AI no matter how many times they attack you. You can test to see if the game accepts in-game currency (money) values above 32767, 65535, 2147483647 or some other amount, thus testing theoretical AND practical boundaries.

You can test the limits of the game itself, rather than the game testing YOUR limits. The joy is profound and the threat of boredom is low or insignificant.

So that's a simplified, one-sided description of my love affair with the power/god fantasy and game hacking. I am fortunately not so maladjusted that I can never enjoy a good challenge or a terribly dark, depressing work of fiction deprived of empowering escapism. Art should be able to inspire all sorts of emotions, even those of panic-spiced despair reminiscent of your hand on a hot stove. I can also never escape how the concept of earthbound humanity and godhood complement each other. After all, like I said before, the best gods are those who know what it's like to be human.
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Encounter today with two beggars of the more "chatty" type. Been roughly five years since the last time this happened. That time I got scammed and I've regretted it ever since. Even so, today's encounter dragged on because I wanted to give these people a chance to either prove their story or tell a better lie.

After getting off the bus at the train station I was almost instantly approached by this middle-aged man who asked me if I speak English. I confirmed my relative fluency. Cue a story about him being broke and trying to get money (physical money specifically) for a ticket back home.
"Almost the same song and dance from five years ago", I thought to myself.

The biggest crack in his story was that he had apparently travelled here from southern Sweden either by bus or by train (a ticket was mentioned but the exact means of travel was not specified). This means that he should have had either a phone or a travel card. I asked him to present either. He would not and he didn't even make up an excuse like having been robbed or some such. His English is too good to make it seem like he is misunderstanding me at any point.

The train- and bus stations do not accept physical currency. For a ticket you need to have a phone or a travel card. Travel cards can be handed out for free, you just need to charge them up digitally with money. Yet this man is conspicuously trying to worm around the issue of getting a travel card, which he 100% would need if his story was true. Me handing out physical money would be pointless without a means to convert it to currency on a travel card.

After ten minutes or so a second guy shows up, asking for money on both their behalfs. He looks to be between 25-30 years old and he tries to vouch for the middle-aged guy I'd been talking to thus far. The new guy shows me a "contract" to try and prove his own legitimacy. What he shows me is a Danish employment contract...that has nothing filled in. No signatures, no job descriptions, nothing.

I know without a doubt now that both these people are lying. The one thing I do trust is that they are people who have been failed by society in one way or another. These guys are desperate to the point of believing that only lies will help them.

One last time I present my demand: Show me either of their phones or their travel cards and I will *consider* helping them. They refused, trying once again to worm away from the issue. Of course I only repeated the demand at this point out of courtesy and because the stress of the situation was partially overriding my logic circuits. Even though I knew they were lying, a big part of me felt sorry for them. I wanted them to make me believe that it was worthwhile to help them out. They did not. I started turning away and the younger guy shouted "Food! For food!". If they had begun with that story instead of a convoluted one I might have actually given them money.

Walking away was an emotional toll because of how my empathy wanted to hold on to them, but I managed. Got some curse words thrown at me. Fewer such words than I expected though.

While I was shaken by the social anxiety of the experience, I did pride myself in feeling stronger than I would have on most days. Shame soon came though as I noticed an abhorrent instinctive reaction as a result of the experience: I felt fear when seeing men of middle-eastern features. Typically I don't like to mention what a beggar looks like because I don't want to prompt racist comments from anyone in the room who feel no compassion for the poor beggars. Here it only becomes important to demonstrate how quickly the social anxiety made me interpret people of a certain appearance, similar appearance to the beggars who had just spent 12-15 minutes lying straight to my face, as a threat. My instincts turned overtly racist, even if only for a few minutes.

I counteracted my instincts to an extent and forced my legs to walk straight when they were about to veer away from (seemingly) middle-eastern people. I reminded myself that I do not agree with racist sentiments and that I do, in fact, feel compassion for the people who are judged so unfairly. The system is bad at picking up people in need, some groups moreso than others. That people of darker shades tend to draw the shorter straw tells a lot about the system and tells nothing at all about any inherent meaning of skin color.

Some things I believe in is the common humanity in us all and the value of introspection and humility. If these values and traits are dialed down, that's how you get racist rhetoric, nationalistic nonsense and a growing hatred. Met enough people and overheard enough conversations to know that if they had the same experience that I had today, they would use it as an excuse to look down upon who moved in to Sweden from Africa or the Middle East. Fuck that nonsense. Be wise enough to admit that all of us have instincts of tribalism and a tendency to generalize what constitutes "a threat", but that we are all fundamentally the same tribe on this planet (and perhaps, in the future, the larger cosmos).

I googled now how I might help the homeless in my city...and the initiatives are disappointingly few. Only a Christian group in my city advertise food kitchens, language lessons and general advice sessions to the homeless and poor. Language lessons is more of a general thing in the city but it's not part of any larger, unified attempt to help the beggars and the homeless. Damn it.


Harbinger O Great Justice
Operating in good faith & being thorough also helps, because it means that you're occupying more of their time, and making it clear that if they want help, that poorly thought out deception isn't a path to success. As much as things like that might seem fruitless, they're actually not – although they are frustrating. It's also important to remember that your initial instincts to avoid conflict by pattern recognition aren't inherently racist, but identifying that the resulting behaviour from following that is racist is a good way to help calm your mind about those things and not maintain that behaviour while also not judging yourself too harshly.

Overall, anything that can help promote better integration like language lessons and advice can occasionally be really helpful. A lot of people in vulnerable positions are dealing with a combination of embarrassment and desperation, which is why they use dishonest ways of getting money out of pity, but then rely on that and fall into grifting. Even while those sorts of outreaches might not be the most effective, they're likely going to help make a difference in this sort of thing – specifically because if they're well understood, those lessons will continue to spread from within that community, and that is what starts to enable integration to become successful, because that dissolves the barriers between in-group and out-group.

The basic premise of my Ghaleem Chronicles universe is that humanity has been raised by patrons known as the Living Gods: The Dragons, the Golems and the Leviathans. They first met humans 7000 years prior to the main story. At this point humans were still hunter-gatherers, just on the cusp of developing more advanced agriculture. This greatly affected humanity's worldviews as the Titans encouraged humanity in their advancement towards agriculture, more advanced technology, and eventually the change from smaller independent tribes into larger nations.

One challenge with this premise is that it's hard to intuitively decide how value systems have been shaped by this relationship between humanity and the Living Gods. The Titans are intelligent but they are removed from humanity in that they can't procreate, they have no genders to speak of and they survive without eating. Because of this I find it hard to see how the Titans would react to human flaws in these departments. How do they react to things like gender inequality, sexual abuse, thievery, capital punishment etc? The Titans do view humans as their children and they have an innate desire to see humans happy, but even as blind judges the Titans would not know any better than humans what is the true path to individual- and societal happiness. Is the answer so simple that it's pure randomness what systems of civilization that they will encourage, discourage or stay neutral on? I am still undecided on whether the Living Gods ever agreed on a set of universal commandments, spread across all nations, or if the uniqueness of each Titan reflects the values a given nation settles upon.

All I know are TWO common edicts that all human-loving gods spread:
1) Create that which has never existed before​
2) Discover that which was never known​

The Living Gods existed on the planet of Ghaleem for a billion years before the race of humanity showed up. Despite having slept in rock and water for much of this time, the Living Gods are, by mechanisms uncertain even to themselves, aware of how long they have existed. They know that a billion years ago the world was barren of life but that eventually life sprung up on its own. They know the basic fact of how much the world has changed across millions of years.

Yet for all the diversity they observed in their waking years, it was with the arrival of humanity that awe came to the Titans and the latent intellect of Dragons, Golems and Leviathans alike awoke. The fire-breathing Dragons marveled at seeing another creature, the humans, be a master of fire. The Golems felt a deep connection as humans started growing fields of food from the earth itself. The Leviathans saw a fellow stargazer as humans used the stars to navigate their way across long waters.

Humanity continued to inspire with their spoken language, their paintings, their monuments, their song and the never-ending flow of inventiveness. Humanity could not only mimic what the Living Gods had already been doing but they could create things that had never been seen by the Titans even after millions of years. Ergo the two edicts focused on creation and learning. Titans learned to mimic the speech of humans and thus too became creatures of words and names.

The hunter-gatherer tribes faced terrifying changes as the new awakening of the Living Gods reshaped or outright destroyed the old worldviews of these humans. With the Titans as partial witnesses of an aeon, and as beings of great knowledge, humans suddenly learned roughly how old the world was, how long life had existed and roughly how long humans had existed. The worshippers of animals, spirits and invented ethereal gods of nature now moved their worship to the Titans. It became this odd mix of religious reverence and the secular fragrance of the cold hard facts that Titans could report on.

The Living Gods felt a deep desire to nurture humanity. The flaw here is that none of the Titans knew from personal experience what parenthood was like. They had seen plenty of parenting in the animal kingdom but they understood little. The consequences of this ignorance were catastrophic, particularly in the first millennia of this new Titan-human paradigm.

Titans chose certain tribes and singular humans as their favorites. Thus the Living Gods would go so far as waging war on behalf of their favorite humans. Uncounted tribes were lost and Titans slew one another in retaliation. Centuries of petty wars and proto-genocide occurred before the Titans adopted reason and decided that they must not interfere in matters of human war, lest they assure the mutual destruction of Titan and human alike.

In the beginning the Titans were at the beck and call of most humans in their tribe of choice. The Titans handed out bad advice left and right in human matters beyond their own understanding, yet out of reverence the humans followed the advice. Oppressive systems were unwittingly enforced and attempts to help serve justice only led to more suffering.

Whenever a tribe was close to starvation the Titans would catch food with ease on the behalf of humans. Some tribes became complacent and lazy, in direct proportion to how overly caring- and providing their patron was. It is said that even a few species went extinct for the Titans slew them all in favor of feeding their humans in the short-term.

Thus it became that the Living Gods began to limit their interference in human affairs but never giving up their role as protectors and nurturers. Some would establish rules like the Three Sacred Days throughout the year, where a Titan would let the chieftain or monarch pass on a wish from their people and then have that wish granted if the tribe agreed on acts of kindness and peace. Wars and generational feuds ended peacefully in exchange for wisdom and resources granted by the Titans.

The first millennium was a disaster in many ways but lessons were learned and the end of this era hinted at what would eventually become a golden age of growth for humanity under the aid of their patrons.

The Leviathans were the Titans most gifted in spirit magic and they had the gift of being able to venture between the physical and the ethereal realms. The consequence of this was that, from the beginning, they could confirm with the humans that the only afterlife in existence was the Great Torrent of Spirits: A terrifying ethereal river that dissolved all spirits that entered it. Every creature was doomed with two deaths: Their physical death and the quick descent and disintegration of their soul. There was no bliss to be found and the humans lamented this revelation.

It may have been that the lack of a Promised Land was the reason that some tribes disowned the Titans and decided to live on their own, cultivating their own minority religions and narratives of the world. These tribes gained the unfitting name of "The Godless Ones", for they did in fact have their own gods just not the ones that could be seen with their own eyes in sky, land and sea.

A taboo story, hidden deep within the archives of secret societies of necromancers, is in regards to how the Living Gods tried to amend the lack of a blissful afterlife.

First they tried to venture into the unforgiving spirit realm and reshape it. In a billion years of existence they had never pondered to try this. But now through humanity their latent intellect and creativity had awoken...and they had children to fight for. Sadly, the attempt to keep spirits preserved and to create a kingdom of the afterlife failed spectacularly. Most Titans who partook in this experiment perished in body and spirit.

Failing with this more grand scheme, Golems and Leviathans resorted to seeing if they could extend human lifetimes and reanimate the dead. Was it possible to grab a spirit back from the Great Torrent and infuse it back into a body? The Golems possessed the magic to mold organic matter and the Leviathans could, at great risk, catch a spirit from the Great Torrent and move it back into the physical realm. Combining their magic was the hope they had to resurrect their most beloved adopted human children.

While trying to resurrect a fallen chieftain, the end result was instead that the chieftain and thousands of bodies from beneath the earth were raised as the raging undead. The Titans stomped out this threat of the living dead before this accidental army could destroy any neighboring tribes, but the Titans who partook in this experiment felt the deepest shame and regret. They had not only failed to bring a blissful afterlife to their children but they had also defiled their bodies. The knowledge of necromancy was passed between Titans but only a handful ever shared the story with humans.

A small set of humans were capable of elemental- and restorative magic, and the Titans helped unlock this potential, but they never shared the mechanics of necromancy. Instead necromancy became a taboo that only few humans ever spoke of and even fewer ever tried to reverse-engineer.


I am still undecided on how the cultures of Ghaleem treat their dead and what they may consider to be "appropriate" treatment. Is cremation the more preferred method of burial, perhaps out of a passed down fear that one day an army of the dead could otherwise rise again? Will cultures mummify bodies, revering the preservation of the physical form for lack of a spiritual afterlife? Will Titans encourage that humans dissect dead bodies for the sake of learning and discovery? Or will the main edicts of learning and creation be denied in favor of preventing that humans one day recreate the undead?

Too many hard questions but I want to at least think these matters over. The world of Ghaleem is primarily a medieval fantasy world but I want the world building to be solid enough that the Titan-human relationship has clearly shaped the world in its own unique ways.
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For a period of 4500 years human civilization grew and flourished. The Titans grew wiser, understanding ever deeper the human heart, and so the positive feedback loop between Titan and human continued. Three nations were founded that in some shape or form would survive even beyond this period of growth: Kovoia of the Dragon patron Prometheus, Melgaard of the Golem patron Cronus and Azurion of the Leviathan patron Typherius.

A period of exploration ensued and humanity mapped the world. Whenever new cultures met for the first time, Titans could use their magic of thought transfer to act as translators and help prevent conflicts that may otherwise arise from ignorance and misunderstanding. It was a golden age of exploration, creativity and science. To the humans it was now a distant memory that Titans ever slew one another when fighting over human tribes or that the Titans had ever been a hopelessly clueless group of advisors and helpers.

The first shock foretelling of a calamity was when the first Titan died in their sleep. This was unprecedented. Titans could be slain by other Titans and they could sleep for any length of time. But to die in their sleep, as though they had died of old age like a human?

It was Tiamat, the greatest of the Leviathans, who first pieced together why their sibling had self-died. As Titans grew closer to humanity, the Living Gods both diminished in size and became mortal. After having lived as immortals for geological time spans, the Titans now lived on human timescales and were afflicted accordingly with the destiny of "too old to live".

Tiamat feared for their own life and that of their siblings. Tiamat spread this knowledge and quickly gained allies, for many of the Titans feared their own death. Many also feared the prospect of losing the chance to meet the entities that had supposedly created them a billion years ago: The entities colloquially known as "The Forgotten Gods" for not even the Titans could remember anything about these progenitors. The trauma of abandonment had never left the hearts of the Titans and now the Titans were at risk of all dying out within a matter of millennia, destroying any reasonable hope of being around for a return of the Forgotten Gods.

The greatest calamity in the history of humanity began. The death-fearing Titans killed their own adopted children, destroying their own hearts in the hope of securing immortality. Not all Titans sided with Tiamat however, for they believed that the feeling of purpose by serving and nurturing humanity was greater in value than an immortal life of waiting for ancient creators that may never return.

Humans could do little more than watch and flee as Titan clashed against Titan, destroying cities and reshaping Ghaleem to the point that the world atlases were no longer accurate. The planet became a living nightmare as the War of the Titans lasted for a grueling ten years. Nearing the war's end the instigator Tiamat fell under the claws, fists and jaws of three other Titans: The Dragon Hyperion, the Golem Marduk and the Leviathan Tiber. All four Titans perished into the sea in their final battle.

In the end the pro-humanity Titans won but at a great loss of both Titan- and human lives. Only a dozen Titans were still alive at the end and much of humanity's civilization had been reduced to ash. Even though the defenders of humanity emerged victorious, the calamity was enough that many people renounced the Living Gods and demanded that they never see the terrifying visages of the Titans ever again.

The Titans respected the wishes of their once faithful children and made sure that both old- and new "Godless" tribes could live in peace. A complicated forced migration occurred as the faithful were all moved to live on one continent. Passage to the other continents, now known as "The Godless Lands", was sealed off with the magic and might of the Titans. Leviathans created never-ending storms of water, wind and lightning out in the surrounding seas. Golems opened chasms in the earth too great for any human to cross. Dragons destroyed the mountains and glaciers in the north that had once linked to distant lands, leaving behind sharp cliffs and deceitful waters too dangerous for any human vessel to cross.

The forced migration marked the beginning of a new calendar, starting with Year 0 ATC (After Titan Clash). More cultures and nations were crammed into a smaller space than ever before and it became a near impossible challenge for the Titans to keep the humans from killing each other in mutual frustration and hatred. A deep sadness grew in the heart of the remaining Titans for so much had been lost and they could not guarantee a prosperous humanity.

Tiamat's predictions came true and one by one the remaining Titans died in what the humans would call "natural deaths". The last written report of a sighted Leviathan, believed to have been Typherius, came from a sailor's written account in the year 1117 ATC. The last Golem, Cronus, petrified into lifeless stone in the year 1315 ATC. The age of the Living Gods then ultimately ended with the death of the Dragon Prometheus in the year 1466 ATC.

Times were dark and uncertain. Human cruelty that would have been stifled in the golden age two millennia ago went unchallenged and nations that had once been compassionate and peace-loving now became nationalistic and warmongering.

In this mess of a continent a very special girl is born. A girl from whose back springs the wings of a dragon. Her name is Eftichia and she is the very embodiment of the first edict of the Titans, for nothing like her has ever existed in the history of the world. In the year 1502 Eftichia makes her debut on the battlefield as the Dragon Warrior of Kovoia. Initially a devout patriot of her country, seeds of doubt soon begin to grow in her mind; a doubt that will shape the fate of the entire continent.
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This all sounds very cool. I am presuming that Eftichia is a girl with a mission and that something about her mission - either its goal, or its direction - is rooted in this complex history.
I can't thank @Cat on Mars enough for completing the design of Eftichia the Dragon Warrior. Cat was able to take my lengthy (albeit not minutely detailed) directions and combine them with her own ideas to create an excellent piece that channels just the right energies.

I am also thankful to Cat for the patience she had when I wrote- and posted shorter chapters from Eftichia's life in-between our back-and-forth on the character/armor/weapon design. My writing is clumsy because I don't read- and write a lot of fiction. The world of Ghaleem is still underdeveloped, lacking maps, borders, names, histories and so on. There's also the matter that I haven't settled on how the stories should ultimately be told: Eftichia-only POV, multiple POVs, omniscient-observer perspective, chronological telling or time-jumps?

But the simple act of talking about this imaginary world means a lot. I tend to fall into Ghaleem whenever I'm in deep stress. Maybe it's the catharsis of processing an imaginary nightmare scape when I can't find such catharsis from the stresses of real life.

Consider all the above caveats (and the fact that some character lore details are still in flux) when reading these shorter chapters that I wrote while Cat was completing the design. This is mostly just me "talking about Eftichia's life" rather than showing of a supposed definitive literary style of the Ghaleem Chronicles.

^Potential depiction of a pre-teen Eftichia with the error that the eyes should be green. Picture taken from artbreeder.

Even as a child in a Kovoian orphanage Eftichia was remarkably strong and light on her feet. She had twice the strength of boys her age and quickly learned that if she showed her full strength she frightened more than she impressed. The compromise she made was to never show her full strength but still not (intentionally) allow any boy to best her in competition, consequences be damned. Indeed, the thirst for competition and play made her often run away to play with the boys when she was supposed to tend the gardens, do embroidery or other such tasks the girls usually did.

The other physical trait that set Eftichia apart were the bumps running from her shoulder blades down to her lower back. The girls never stopped teasing her for this even though the bumps were barely pronounced when Eftichia wore the same flowy dresses that the other girls wore. This only added motivation to play with the boys instead. The boys would tease, yes, but when she joined them in their war games she found plenty of respect and friendship to compensate. A boy named Albert became her closest friend and she fantasized that one day she'd marry Albert.

Fourth quarter of year 1495 ATC

A few months before Eftichia's approximate thirteenth birthday she fell under a heavy fever. All the matrons agreed that the girl would be dead within the week, they had never seen a child with such a high fever. Melancholy and resignation soon turned to fear when Eftichia started sweating profusely, the sweat seemingly melting the fabrics of her bed and the stench of her sweat being more than most of the children or even the matrons could bear.

In the middle of the night, under extreme pain that would call her into- and out of consciousness, tiny dragon wings violently erupted from the bumps on Eftichia's back. Even without all the screams, even without all of the blood that corroded everything it touched, this scene would have been the worst living nightmare that any of the matrons had ever witnessed. Kovoia was founded on the worship of dragons but nothing in their history included humans with dragon wings. It had been almost thirty years since the last dragon died. How could any remnant of the dragons be reborn in this girl?

Some of the matrons wanted to kill the girl, insisting that something this wicked couldn't possibly be related to dragons and that this was all just a bad omen. Others wanted to seek guidance from the scholar priests who had once acted as intermediaries between dragons and humans.

Not long after, an emissary of the newly crowned King of Kovoia came to the orphanage. The matrons said and did nothing as poor Eftichia, silent as a mute and with eyes staring far off into nothingness, was taken to see King Solvieg.

Mention of sexual abuse and characterization of its consequences that may be falling into harmful tropes.
^Potential depiction of King Solvieg. Picture taken from artbreeder.

King Solvieg had ascended to the throne under difficult circumstances. For five years he had been kept hostage in the neighboring nation of Melgaard so to prevent his father, King Solios, from launching a war of conquest on the continent. The deal had been that the teenage prince would be treated like a member of Melgaard royalty...and that had surely been their intent. But the prince was undeniably pretty and the Melgaardian priests broke the rules of the hostage deal. The rape was fresh in Solvieg's memory as he ascended the throne of his homeland and pretended for the time being that he was fully supporting a truce between Kovoia and Melgaard.

His mind possessed with thoughts of divine retribution, and his father's mad monologues about Kovoia's sovereignty seeming not so mad anymore, Eftichia's arrival erased any doubts that had still been lingering in the back of young Solvieg's mind. The Dragons were dead. The Golems petrified into lifeless stone. The Leviathans long gone. Out of the three Titans it was the Dragons that had been granted second life through this girl...and she was escorted straight to Kovoia's royal halls like it was destiny.

On the surface Solvieg treated Eftichia like an equal. There was actually a part of Solvieg that genuinely felt compassion for the poor girl who had been thrust into a body- and into a castle that she never asked for. But at every turn Solvieg's main thought process was how Eftichia could be used as a tool.

He briefly entertained the possibility that his royal blood could mix with this dragon girl to spawn an entirely new line of divine rulers: Kings and Queens with the *actual* power of dragons. However, Solvieg found that he couldn't bring himself to seduce the girl into bed as the mere thought triggered flashbacks to the sexual abuse- and manipulation he had suffered not long ago. When it was discovered that Eftichia did not shed moon blood it only confirmed in Solvieg's mind that he made the right choice not to seduce Eftichia, seeing as she probably could not bear children anyway.

Eftichia's use became obvious soon enough as she displayed not only her strength and agility but also her interest in war games, tactics and competition. Scholars, knights and alchemists were appointed to not only give her the best possible war education, but also to embed Kovoian propaganda in her mind, train her physically and test out the full range- and limits of her abilities.

First quarter of year 1496 ATC

The first few months in the castle were a period of apprehensiveness and trepidation but also a period of slow healing as Eftichia spoke more and grew accustomed to her bodily changes.
She learned the drawbacks of her cumbersome, as-of-yet useless dragon wings. She realized that her senses and reflexes had been enhanced, that her blood was corrosive to everything but herself and that her wounds healed in a matter of minutes. Any scar tissue would quickly shed like snake skin, leaving nothing to prove that a wound had ever even existed.
Mental wounds refused to catch up with the healing traits of her skin. Eftichia lamented that she could no longer play with the boys. How could anyone want to play with somebody so unnatural? How could Albert ever...... It was too painful to think about. Yet thought, and felt, she did. Thus she cried, letting the tears fall and dry on her own hands for fear that the tears too would corrode everything. The harsh words of the orphanage matriarch echoed in her mind. "You ruin everything around you."
Yes. It only made sense to stay in the castle. Preferably not leave her room if she could help it. Lock her up and let her melt the key with her own blood. No, that's silly. She could just melt the door if she became desperate enough.

King Solvieg became the light that saved Eftichia from the darkness.
"We're going outside." Solvieg said to Eftichia, who was staring with melancholy through her bedroom window.
"I don't want to go outside." the girl said without turning to look at the king.
In any other room in the kingdom it would have been suicide, social if not literal, to deny a king this way. But Solvieg had promised that Eftichia was within her power to say no.
"The carnival is starting today. Any moment now the dancing and singing will begin." Solvieg said with an encouraging tone.
"If I go out there their singing will turn to screaming."
Then Eftichia heard that Solvieg was rustling with weird noises of wood and leather. She turned her head in confusion towards the king. Eftichia's short life had already been filled with surprises but this one took the concept of surprise to a new level. The king was wearing wooden pretend-wings, strapped onto his upper body with leather belts, and in his grip was a smaller version of the same contraption: One that would fit Eftichia and sneakily conceal her real wings inside the wooden ones.
"Then let's go out there both of us and scare them real good, shall we?" the king said with a wide smile. "After all, it's not every day the king roams the marketplace like common folk."

That day when thirteen-year-old Eftichia left the castle grounds and enjoyed the festivities of the carnival was one of the most magical days of her life. People dressed in shapes and colors she had never imagined any person would wear. Nobility and common folk mixed as if nothing set them apart. Bread and sweets exploded her enhanced taste buds. For the first time King Solvieg got to hear Eftichia laugh...and how heartily she could laugh! Starry-eyed Eftichia stayed close to Solvieg and for the first time it felt like she had an older brother looking out for her.

Not until many years later would this day be looked back upon with narrowed eyes. How much of it had been a sincere act of kindness from Solvieg and how much of it had just been a part of his scheme?

Fourth quarter of year 1496 ATC

Sneaking around inside- and outside the castle, in-between all those lectures and testing of her abilities had become a favourite pastime of Eftichia's. She reasoned that even though she was approaching her fourteenth birthday (and Solvieg had let her pick a date that from now on would be her official birthday) she could allow herself some childish pleasures before becoming a true adult. Besides, it was a waste not to use her enhanced senses for some good old stealth.

Overhearing the gossip of the castle staff, the dry political whispers of the royal court and the hand-kissing of the visiting nobility, Eftichia learned how complicated the situation was in not just the castle but in Kovoia as a whole.

Brigands plagued the borders between Kovoia and Melgaard in the south. The iron mines in the east had not yet been re-conquered, counter to the promises made by Solvieg when he ascended the throne. The bones of the last Dragon, Prometheus, were still missing and people lamented that Hyperion's Chapel wasn't complete without the remains of their last Living God.

The undercurrent was clear even though nobody was a fool enough to say it directly: The new King of Kovoia was supremely beautiful but he seemed equally toothless.

On the late eve before the day of the winter solstice, Eftichia overheard a puzzling conversation. It was one of the king's advisors, Erik of Targesh, speaking with a dark-haired mystic. The unknown person resembled Eftichia's alchemy teacher, Aram, and only furthered her image of the western lands as a place of mystics.
"Are you sure?" Erik said to the mysterious figure.
"Yes. It will remain on the top."

Something about this odd conversation and their hushed tone made Eftichia deeply unsettled. It held the stench of a sinister plot. In the early morning of the next day, Eftichia was quick to awaken King Solvieg and inform him that something was off with Erik's behaviour. Solvieg's expression turned serious and he thanked Eftichia for keeping her eyes and ears out.
"Have you reconsidered about today?" Solvieg asked Eftichia, changing the subject. It took her a moment to realize what he meant.
"...I'd honestly feel better watching from afar. I know it's a holy day but if I participate I can't watch over you. My instincts tell me something will happen."
Solvieg smiled and firmly held his hand on Eftichia's shoulder.
"Then I couldn't feel more secure. Just let me know when you are ready for everybody to see who you really are."
Once again Eftichia felt that she was not looking at a King. She was looking at the brother she never knew she wanted.

Only a handful of people knew about Eftichia's real wings. A few dozen had seen her in the castle while she was wearing her fake wooden ones. The explanation that had been given about Eftichia, whenever anybody had dared to ask, was that she was a distant relative of the King and that her parents had died in a plague. But Eftichia knew this couldn't go on forever. Her wings were growing larger and it was obvious that soon it wouldn't be practical enough to wear the fake toy wings on top.

The great feast in honour of the winter solstice began. The castle’s biggest dining hall was filled with people including Solvieg, his relatives, the advisors (Erik among them), the guards and other staff. Eftichia had a bird’s-eye view of the hall, clinging to a pillar and looking down on all the guests. She was wearing her wooden wings and struggled not to make any rattling noise with this contraption on. Thanks to her strength, agility and all the practice she’d had at being stealthy, nobody spotted her.
While carefully observing the crowd, she kept repeating in her mind the strange words that Erik and the mystic had shared. "It will remain on the top". What in all of Ghaleem could it mean?

People dined and drank cheerfully. For a moment Eftichia felt crazy for postponing this delicious meal on account of her own paranoia and childish spying around the castle. Her eyes focusing again on Erik of Targesh, she regained her resolve. Erik's hands were subtly shaking. He was nervous.

It came time for the maidens to serve the wine. Each maiden held a huge wine container and they poured its contents into the cups of all the dining men and women. The wind from the fast-moving maidens carried over all the way to the pillar from where Eftichia was watching. That's when she caught it. A familiar scent. But where did she recognize it from?
The King was just about to raise his goblet for a toast when Eftichia remembered!
She jumped down from the pillar, making a loud but controlled landing.
The eyes of every dumbfounded person in the dining hall on her, Eftichia wasted no time walking up to the king and whispering in his ear what had just happened. Solvieg's face turned grim. All who saw this expression were overcome with fear. The king then spoke in the most commanding tone he had ever mustered.
"Erik of Targesh. Rise." Erik did as he was told.
"Stand with me." Solvieg commanded and Erik did again as he was told. The two men were now standing close to one another. Solvieg pushed his kingly goblet towards Erik.
Erik’s shaking was now so visible that even a half-blind person would have seen it. A few moments passed without Erik doing anything. Solvieg spoke again.
"Do not worry. It has remained on the top."
The eyes of the Targeshian widened and Erik's fear paralysis was broken by a series of insults that now left his mouth.
Solvieg took it upon himself to shove the poisoned drink down the throat of the revealed traitor.
"Spitting that much venom has made you parched. You must quench your thirst."
Solvieg didn't let go of his grip on the traitor until he was sure that Erik of Targesh had died from drinking the poison. It only took a few minutes before the poison took full effect and Erik had died.
The dining hall was frozen in shock. Eftichia was no different and she felt a whirlwind of emotions. She had now seen death for the first time...but at least Solvieg was still alive.
The king spoke again, this time in proclamation for everybody in the hall to listen and take to heart.
"I am my father’s son. I am King Sol…and even though the Living Gods are now dead…", the king glanced briefly over at Eftichia, "...they have decided that my rule is just."

Eftichia would later explain to Solvieg in more detail what had happened. Erik had employed a poison that Eftichia was familiar with from her lectures together with alchemist Aram. According to the history books dragons were insusceptible to poison and indeed this turned out to be true for Eftichia, who under careful testing proved to be immune to every poison that Aram could get his hands on.
All written word about the poison described it as odorless and transparent. But to the keen senses of the young dragon girl, the substance was very much not odorless. Another trait of the poison was that it didn't mix well with other fluids. Hence why when the substance was poured into the wine container, later carried by the maiden, the poison remained on the top layer. With the King being first served, only his drink would be poisoned.

Solvieg's rule changed dramatically after this event. He acted quickly to defend his honour and dispose of any who showed the slightest hint of treachery and disrespect. The king travelled more frequently and for longer periods of time, personally seeing over issues at the southern- and eastern borders. The beautiful king now gained a reputation for having sharp teeth.

With the king away, Eftichia felt abandoned. Yet she understood that a king needed to defend his honour or else he was no king at all. This strengthened Eftichia's sense of purpose. She wanted to be out there, defending the king's honour. Perhaps that could beckon the return of more peaceful days.

I've reached the point where I can't write Eftichia's story any further without drawing the world map, pinpointing key historical scenes, defining the general values held by each nation etc. I have at least the basics pinned down in that this is a warrior's tale, with whatever appropriate themes of my choosing sprinkled in. I will let "Like Stories of Old" speak on my behalf as to what one can expect from Eftichia's story.

I need to face my programming fears. Nothing new under the sun but I will take the time to write this regardless. Because this has to do more with my challenges in the realms of creativity and learning, I make this blog post here rather than in my DCFFVII Research Thread.

The Dream
Make a version of my custom Dirge of Cerberus save editor, McDirge, that is not only user friendly for people on PC but that can also be imported together with McBoot (PS2 homebrew) so that anyone with McBoot on their PS2 memory card may also access McDirge on their console and edit the save file.

The utility of this for Dirge players would be the fun of basically having a cheat device for your save file and to have data visualized (like your stage scores) that is usually hidden from the player. The ability to change your final equipment at will would also make speedrunning the Extra Missions far more convenient. In short, the game itself doesn't give you a quick way to change your starting equipment before a mission. McDirge would provide this and thus make speedrunning (both in preparation and execution) more comfortable.

The Scope
Big McLarge McDirge Huge. I need to learn a thousand things before I can make it happen and spend a lot of time coding. I already have the documentation solved on the game's end (file addresses and the encryption/decryption algorithm) and I have built a very basic albeit not-user-friendly version of McDirge, so all that remains is to git gud at programming. My language of choice remains C++, the only programming language I have any real amount of experience with, and I have no intention of changing to anything else in the near future. Based on this hacker blog I seem to be in luck with my choice of language:
Guilherme Lampert said:
The main PS2 program can be written in C or C++, thanks to the GCC compiler (version 3 of circa 2002) provided by the PS2DEV SDK.
Before finding a way to port McDirge to the PlayStation 2, I need to build a good-enough version for use on PC.

Current state of things: McDirge v0.4, console/command-line edition
For every tiny feature added, especially if it's meant to be understood by a user, your program is destined to balloon in size. The only solution to deal with the exponential increase in lines of code is to learn how to compartmentalize your program.

Up until and through McDirge v0.3 I did like a n00b and just had a long-ass list of functions in global space and then I crammed the entire text-and-selection tree inside int main. Getting a clear overview of my own code, much less adding to it with new features, was nigh impossible. That's when I understood what the point had been all along with structs/classes: They act like folders/containers for different parts of your code, making it easier to find your way whenever you are revisiting or rewriting code.

In summary, my code for McDirge v0.4 (unpublished) can now be abstracted to something like this:

Global Space
- Keys for the decoding/encoding process​
- Global variables for filehandling​
Local Space(s)
struct bytearraymanipulation
Functions for moving bytes around, so far only so that four separate bytes can be smashed together into one single 4-byte integer.​
struct filehandling
Functions to open save files, decode them, make changes and encode the result. The decoding function generates a new file for global access anywhere in the code. The decoded file is then deleted after an edit has been encoded and written over the original save file.​
struct stockphrases
Containing stock phrases for the program, for example the string "Invalid input. Please try again." so that if I want to rewrite the phrase I can do it in one place rather than in every dozen spot where it can appear.​
struct selectiontrees
The different selections the user can make in the program and where it takes them. This also includes most of the text that is shown to the user, minus the stock phrases (above) and the initial greeting (below).​
int main
Initial greetings to the user ,"WELCOME TO McDIRGE: VERSION 0.4, COMMAND LINE EDITION (WIP)", followed by a call to the initial "selection tree" function in the struct above.​

All of the above exist in the main.cpp file, seeing as I do not yet use custom headers to compartmentalize the code.

The main difference between structs and classes is that the former has all variables and functions "public", meaning access isn't restricted from the position of other structs/classes by default. I have found no reason to restrict access (indeed, I struggle more with functions and variables not having ENOUGH default access to each other) so that's why I keep using structs.

Where do I go from here
So now that I can easily find my way in the code, what could possibly be making me stumped and overwhelmed? Well... EVERYTHING. There are too many options and too many challenges.

But if I had to nail down one top de-motivator it would have to be the part where I make the program user-friendly, even when doing so would be beneficial to myself. No matter what choice I make here it will require a huge amount of patience and being okay with the idea that a lot of the code I write during this learning process will have to be rewritten and/or thrown away.

The way the program works now is it uses an unedited version of the command line. For every selection you make, new rows of text are printed and the program continues scrolling downwards until you decide to exit.

Example where I select the Configuration file and make a basic change to the controller vibration setting:


This is ugly on the eyes but manageable in the case of the Configuration file because the settings are easy. Vibration is either On or Off and the program tells you what values to enter.

But what about when the program is expanded to let you edit Vincent's inventory and equipment? The final game grants you roughly 100 equippable items and if we count all the unused equipables and the online mode equipment the total goes up to 250. When quest items, recovery items, used and unused, enter the fray the total reaches 474!

This is a nightmare. I either need to have a ReadMe notepad on the side, packaged with the program, that shows what values or strings the user might enter to add a given item or I have the program itself print this long look-up table of values/strings. I refuse to code for either of these scenarios. I know I can do it but it's just too much work for something so ugly. Plus giving the user the option to type in an infinite number of erroneous inputs at any point just doesn't feel right.

What I need is to pimp up my CLI (Command Line Interface). Ideally, I'd start with reshaping the Configuration settings interface so that you toggled Vibration On/Off by pressing Left/Right on your keyboard. Either the same line would switch between reading On or Off, or both options would be visible and brackets would indicate which one is selected.
[On] Off

*user presses right*

On [Off]
A spectrum setting like Gamma Adjustment might have a slider to accompany it, like it has in-game, but you would have your cursor on the number select to change it either by holding a direction or by typing in numbers.

All of this is entirely different cursor behavior from what the CLI usually has. But given that skilled people are able to make GAMES inside the command prompt it should not be beyond reasonable for me to change how the CLI prints options, how the cursor acts and how the user changes the save file data.

While it is my goal to eventually get OpenGL up and running for C++ GUI projects (something that C++ creator Bjarne Stroustrup himself has admitted is notoriously difficult) my guts tell me that I will always be returning to shell prompts. If I can demystify the command line, while still learning a lot of miscellaneous coding along the way, I have a feeling it will pay off in the long run.

The most promising example I've found is this Console UI project. I've downloaded the code but I'm really scared to study it and to try and implement it into my own program. It may be too limited, it may be too difficult to understand, I'm going to get frustrated and lose momentum and then keep postponing my dream of proper versions of McDirge...

But at least now I have made a definitive decision. My next step is to transform the CLI in order to turn the user experience into something pleasant and reasonable. Nothing is stopping me from studying miscellaneous C++ stuff, but clear goals are always important.
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Opportunities are all around, disguised in veils of friction
Let the truths compound, grant us transcendent vision
Wisdom beyond earthbound, bless us with true conviction

Through sublime poetry of motion
Wield the fires of creation

Builders, solidify geometric dimension
Weavers, conduct intricate decoration
Singers, yield glorious vibration
Dancers, seduce the air with exalting animation
Thinkers, master the mazes of rumination

Work WITH the resistance, like the water wheel's peace of attrition
You shall go the distance, knowledge is now your nutrition
Observe the algorithms of existence, strategy is how you learn the diction
By the miracle of persistence, dreams shall leave the realm of fiction

Even the heaviest rock will leave their station
You are the alchemist of creation
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I was once told by an acquaintance "If you can learn to program in C++, then you'll definitely be able to learn any other programming language". The implication being that C++ is notoriously hard to learn and understand. Sometimes this statement propels me forward, other times it feels like a reminder of my hubris.

The thing about languages like C and C++, from what I can gather, is that they are geared more towards computer scientists. You are rewarded for knowing how computers work, knowing the different allocation and processing routines, and what the programming does behind the scenes. You'll generally only get closer to the machine by coding in assembly, at which point you are granted FULL CONTROL of how information is moved around but it also takes way longer to write your code because of all the micro-managing that needs doing.

Considering that my goal is always reverse-engineering, and wanting to build programs with the reverse-engineered mechanics in mind, it is in this sense appropriate that I chose C++ and that I, indeed, learned how to read assembly code. Because I have to always strive towards the "hobbyist computer scientist" field, everything I learn about information technology on the low levels ARE important. C++ may, from a certain point of view, actually be too difficult for me and my average IQ, but it remains an appropriate language on many levels.

Beyond its inherent complexity, part of the issue is that there is no single go-to "always good enough" tutorial for C++. Yes, this website is a good way to get started but the tutorial eventually fails where basically every C++ tutorial fails sooner or later: It starts using keywords and terminology without explaining it in earlier chapters. Sometimes the keyword necessary to understand the examples will be explained in later chapters, sometimes it will not be, sometimes the explanation is lackluster.

So you're left navigating the web for alternate tutorials. The "professional" references are rubbish for beginners and intermediates because the terminology is so technical that you'll only understand them if you already know all the other concepts of the language. So you look up YouTube videos, which faces the same challenge that each tutorial makes different assumptions as to what features of the language you already know. The frustration piles on and you're hoping that by reading- and watching half a dozen sources that you only partially understand that somehow you'll be able to patch-work together a proper understanding of the language.

To an extent, I've come to realize that part of the lack of hand-holding when it comes to programming tutorials in general is that you are *supposed* to play around with code yourself and discover the intricacies of the language that way. Like a painter only every truly understanding art by learning to experiment with different brushes and canvases, or a cook learning to not always follow recipe instructions like gospel. The aspect of programming which is ART is, presumably, why some tutorials seem to suck on purpose. Or maybe I'm giving the tutorials too much credit. It at least sets a reasonable expactation for the life as a programmer: Much of the time you won't know what the eff is going on because the language is just too big for you to always know everything unless you already have a dozen years of experience.

In other words: I'm angry. I spend so many days learning and re-learning the basics, only to discover that I am weeks or possibly even months away from truly understanding the code that I want to study (which in this case is the Console UI Project code). I'm furious that the learning process is so convoluted and fragmented, forcing you to pick up the pieces and combine everything in the vain hope of achieving true comprehension.

Me getting furious only further postpones the days of victory. If I was an emotionless learning machine, with the stupidity to not realize how stupid I am, I would be moving along a lot quicker. Alas, I am who I am which means that learning is an inherently emotional experience. Learning is not just facts, it's also the process of trying not to freeze to death due to the cold, unforgiving universe. It's why encouragement and proper framing of the learning process is so important.

Grant me the power to not be so gosh darn angry and sad. Imbue me with the patience that comes from indifference regarding passage of time and the amount of work that needs doing.

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I am standing on the shoreline. There is an island on the horizon. The tools I need are on that island. There are no boats, no rafts and I can build neither. No choice but to swim. The water is cold though. I wouldn't drown but it'd be a most painful journey.

Enjoying the benefits of good rest, good food and decent habits on my current island. A decent "habitat" one might say. The fog is cleared so I can no longer blame my problems on the fog. All that stands between me and that other island is a long stretch of cold water and the will to cross it.

Turning my back on the shore, I pick up a stick and draw lines in the sand. It feels good to draw simple squares and circles. Before I know it I've more or less written a book in the sand, made up of basic geometric shapes. The market demand is pretty low but I'm in the mood to write a sequel in the sand.

All this tracing turns my thoughts back to school. Poor teachers who worked so hard trying to help me with the curriculum...and with my tears of frustration. Usually what helped was just me finding the patience to bury my head in the book, carefully tracing each word and concept until the full picture manifested. It was always so time consuming and I inevitably got behind but it's not like I had much else of a choice. Tutoring didn't help, visuals barely helped, analogies barely helped. The only thing that helped was finding the patience that I didn't have.

This is too depressing...yet relevant. Some would recommend a coach to help me across to the island. Sure, if a coach was able to motivate me to face my fears then that'd be nice, but regardless I'm still the one who has to do the swimming. The mantra of the firing shot also remains the same with or without a coach, in true Shia LaBeouf fashion "JUST DO IT".

But the water is cold. Enough to make me rage and cry when I dip my foot into it. The spell of comfort, even though I'm simultaneously nagged by the dream of progressing to the island, is too intoxicating.

Looks like my Sand Epic is becoming a trilogy.
Your writing is so eloquent, and the degree of focus and attention to detail you bring to your video game deep dives is so intense, I find it hard to believe that you struggled at school - but I do believe you, because I know how honest you are. All I can say is, you may be a late bloomer, but you are blooming tremendously. Here you are writing in your second language with more fluency - and poetry - than most people whose first language it is can achieve. To me you seem like a remarkable person, Shademp. Who knows, maybe those early struggles in patience and discipline helped mold you?
Thank you for always being so supportive, Licorice. *hugs*

I'm a slow learner who reacts to failure with intense emotion. My issue is that I am the same that I always was: A person with lots of theoretical potential but with the impatience and emotional limiters to never allow that potential to fully manifest. In that sense I am like much of humanity. :monster:

When the Internet came about many people dreamt that this would lead to a golden age of enlightenment, with our civilization as a whole transcending into more or less a higher consciousness. This is not *exactly* what happened. The premise of this utopian dream was that everybody can utilize the vast amounts of knowledge out there that the Internet provides and use it to build up themselves and others. No doubt, a good portion of people use the Internet to learn crafts and skills they'd otherwise not have learned. But the speed at which the Internet provides knowledge is orders of magnitude greater than the bottleneck that is our human limitations: The speed at which we learn, and our emotional motivation to learn, are still massive limiters. The human sphere of resources has had a gargantuan inflation of ROM (representing here the sheer amount of knowledge) but very limited increase in processing speed and RAM.

So if my personal limitations has shaped anything it's my worldview that a lot of shortcomings in our civilization stem more from our brains' limited clock speed and our tendency to overheat. If these limiters were not present I believe that, by and large, a better world would come about. With increased processing speed the human heart will be able to shine stronger and I do so stress that the human heart should not be forgotten in this aim towards bettering the mind.

But here we stand without the technological implants to ascend human consciousness, so we just have to work with what we have. :mon:
Shademp's "meditative walk" adventures of the day

There is a district of the city that is known for its abundance of crime, shootings and murders. Were you to ask somebody to describe the district based on its reputation, they would quote Obi-Wan Kenobi's description of Mos Eisley.

"You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious."​

Its true identity is of course as a monument to the tragedy of segregation, the city essentially moving anyone "unwanted" or "alien" into the same spot without providing the environment and resources to properly integrate its people into larger society. The misery feeds onto itself, leading to things such as the district's school for students age 12-15 being shut down almost two years ago, because it was incapable of generating enough students with passing grades. It's hard to imagine that 30-50 years ago the district was considered a bright place to be and people were happy to live there.

*cue FFVII theme "Oppressed People"*

Though I have to say that the buildings from that "golden era" are overly depressive: Tall, grey and boring. From the first time I laid eyes on those buildings I thought of the district as "bleak" so I guess those buildings were in a sense prophetic of what was to come.

What wonderful contrast then that, as I was walking the outer edges of this veritable Mos Eisley, I came across a monument to wholesomeness. It was a public garden with a few oak trees, all wearing billboards proclaiming the age of said trees. The oldest oak tree was 300 years old and it was majestic. The bark was unusually contorted and fractured even considering its age but this actually added to its beauty. The weirdly shaped bark gave the oak tree personality and one section of the tree even looked like a contorted face if you were imaginative enough.

Indeed, I was struck by an unusual bolt of intense imagination when staring at this proudly old tree. The tree seemed to grow in majesty in front of me and its contorted face turned real. Tree eyes looked into mine, piercing my soul with the knowledge of centuries past. I was now as Link meeting the Great Deku Tree or one of the humble humans in my Ghaleem Chronicles meeting with one of the Titans. It occurred to me how much the Weirwood trees of A Song of Ice and Fire make sense as a fantasy creation. It is common after all to see faces in trees.

Placed with regular distance from each other were creatively designed information boards. They told of the district's long history, the lifespan of oak trees and the history of allemansrätten. Apparently it is said that oak trees grow for 300 years, live for 300 years more and then finally die for 300 years. The oldest oak tree in Sweden is roughly 1000 years old and exists in a region way further south. There was a timeline of major events in the history of Sweden to show the things that this millennium tree had lived through.

The city has a number of "oak gardens", many of which I now realize I've never visited, and by the looks of it this one I visited isn't as visually stunning as the others. The fact that this garden exists at all though, with all the work spent on the lovely information boards and the marked out trees, makes me happy. Adjacent to what many would consider the city's darkest district, somebody still decided on the initiative to create this wholesome, educational spot. May its light continue to shine.

Armed with the positive feelings from this oak garden I continued on my walk with the intent of reaching the forest. It was windy and I longed for the forest's protection from this loud element. This early in the almost-spring, nature is not yet blossoming into shades of intense green. It is instead layered in tones of beige, brown and some muted green.

One might typically associate the beauty of nature to when it is at its most blossoming. Yet as I entered the forest and stood under its branches, surrounded by what would traditionally be dull tones of color, I found myself laugh-inducingly happy. Finally getting respite from the wind, relishing in the silence, was definitely part of my euphoria but there was more to it. In this patch the road was unusually straight, allowing you to stare far into the forest depth. For a moment I could, in my mind's eye, see the forest for the trees and its fullness humbled me. Each side of the road was like an inviting arm and so the forest welcomed me into its realm. The sun was there with me too, thanking this trinity for existing: The sun, the forest...and me to experience it. To feel so blessed and in awe of nature is truly a wonderful thing.

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To visit a graveyard is to see stories unfold. I have roamed the central graveyard of the town and seen the remnants of tales from the early 1800s up until now.

You see those who died together and those who died far apart. Those who left this world soon as they entered, those who became forever young and those who knew old age for a very long time. You see lonely graves with only one name and no relatives and no partner in sight. Then you see the large family graves and how some have left space for future names to be added onto the massive stones, as they await the still living to one day join and have their name carved onto stone.

More is revealed as you see the great diversity of gravestones. You see which graves have been well-kept and which ones have deteriorated beyond readability. You get an inkling of which families were rich and which ones were less so. Religious quotes reveal those defined by their faith.

You see which people defined themselves by their profession, to the point that their job title is written BEFORE their actual name. What a contrast with modern day life where it's relatively rare for people to stick to one job and profession throughout their whole life. I can't imagine anyone alive today would have the title "Train Conductor" carved onto their gravestone, especially not above their actual name. Yes, those particular gravestones truly are relics of the past.

To walk a graveyard is to be humble in thought and in footing. I too shall die and perhaps have my remains buried in the ground. Same as I move my feet with care, so to not disturb the memory of the dead, I hope that no feet will bang disrespectfully on the earthen door of my resting place. I may not be a religious person and I'm perfectly aware that I will not be around to have opinions about my grave once I'm dead. But humans are creatures of past, present and future all at once. History and memory matters to us. Thusly, I will treat the dead same as I will want the living to treat me. Golden rule in life and in death.

The many designs of gravestones, and graveyards in general, are an inspiring sight. We are not bound to just the simple stone and simple names. Some like their grave guarded by gates. One grave had an inviting, adjacent seat made of stone. Some graves have statues and others do yet more unique designs still. Some graves are reached via paths of grass, others by paths of stone.

One design I encountered today that was entirely new to me is to have a small tree with resting grave stones surrounding it. I assume this to be a modern type of family grave. Thematically it's perfect to have a tree right on top of the dead members of a family tree.

It makes me ponder and consider how my fictional characters would like to be buried and what that might say about them.

But the thought that crossed me most of all during my first visit to these graveyards is that I wouldn't feel comfortable with taking up a lot of space. I *might* desire a spot in a graveyard but just as in daily life I do not wish to take up large amounts of space.

The massive graves that I encountered, including one mausoleum, are a wonder to look at but oh how far removed they are from what I personally would be comfortable with.

"My peace I give to thee"


I dared not to try and open the door. I felt that doing so would be even more disrespectful than taking these photographs.
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Shademp, reading your writing is pure pleasure. Somehow, even when I'm feeling quite glum, your writing uplifts me. I love what you've written here about graveyards. I also love visiting graveyards and cemeteries - the older, the better - and I have the same kinds of thoughts. Being in a graveyard helps me feel more at peace with my own mortality.
In 1996 or so, a boy in Sweden was watching the television. Like so many times before, he found himself drifting outside of the moment, observing the fact that he was observing. Reality becoming simultaneously distant and palpable, so far and yet so close, as he pondered how utterly bizarre it was that he existed in this unique moment and unique place.

Each infinitesimal location and moment is technically unique, to be sure. When you move in body and in thought the center of the universe changes with it. But the boy was more concerned with the technological miracle of the television and the acute awareness that only two generations ago a device like this would not have existed in the family home. The boy's father did not grow up with a television and that's just one example of electrical equipment that wasn't present in Swedish everyday life one generation prior. Cassette players, CDs, gaming consoles, the home computer... So many of the defining trinkets in the home seemed to scream at the boy what a unique time and place he occupied.

Little boy Demps felt sorry for his parents and their parents for not growing up with these toys and tools. How difficult it must have been to escape the harshness of reality and how much greater the traumas they had must have been. Did it really make the parents strong to have grown up in the "bleak, barbaric past" or were they merely scarred children acting as adults? Yet the boy also envied the older generations for their position: They could sit tall on their high horses and proclaim how spoiled today's kids are, implicity saying that it'd be better if the new childhoods were the same as those of the past generations. If only little boy Demps had grown up in the past, he wouldn't have to feel bad about living a spoiled life.

Then his thoughts turned to the future and all the uniqueness and spoils of present day seemed to turn to dust in his hands. If the year 1996 was a unique, advanced point in time compared to the previous generations, then that meant surely the future would bring even greater wonders and developments. Was boy Demps really a spoiled kid living in the best of times or was he an unfortunate child living in a bleak, barbaric time without realizing it? The television that had up until now captivated him instead became something ugly and outdated. For sure, the boy HAD to think that way or else he wouldn't look "cool" to the kids of 2096 who surely would not like how primitive his family's living room TV was.

The boy lamented thus how limited the technology of present time must be compared to what will be achieved in future eras both close and far away from now. Primitive or not, the initial feeling that started this series of thoughts held strong in the boy's mind: The tens of thousands of generations of hunter-gatherers in humanity's distant past had never been in his own leisurely position nor could they have conceived of such an invention as the television. The boy still felt oddly placed in a bizarrely unique time, almost to the point that it felt like the universe should forbid it.

Is this really...allowed? Are points in time and space really allowed to be so special and diverse from everything that had come before? Are any extra-terrestrials out there in the universe watching television or are the humans of Earth the only ones? Is the universe destined to allow more and more unique developments as time goes on?

How odd it is to know that you are stuck between the past and the future even though you can't see or feel the future. You KNOW that this point in time is going to be re-contextualized and you KNOW you can't be sure of the future....yet you will still try to see it, just to get a possible glimpse of in what way you are so uniquely stuck in this odd moment between what was and what will be.

Was boy Demps correct in his general assessment of what 1996 would feel like compared to, say, 2021? Roughly speaking, yes. But adult Demps in 2021 finds himself stuck in the moment same as he was in 1996, or same as he would have felt had he existed back in 1971 or 1946 or whatever year. The substrate of time remains the same while the matter that lives on it takes on ever new shapes, finding new ways to dance.

20 years ago I read Jack London's "The Call of the Wild" and there is one passage from Chapter 7 of the book that still echo in my mind.

There is a patience of the wild—dogged, tireless, persistent as life itself—that holds motionless for endless hours the spider in its web, the snake in its coils, the panther in its ambuscade; this patience belongs peculiarly to life when it hunts its living food; and it belonged to Buck as he clung to the flank of the herd
It is that brief mention of a spider's patience, highlighting this ability to near mythological fascination, that clung to me like an immortal web. Comparing the patience of a spider to a human is probably not fair. What does a spider know of being distracted and feeling the onset of jittery madness as they become unable to maintain a gaze, a pose, a state of mind for more than a few seconds? A spider does not suffer gravity as terribly as a human nor do they suffer that everlasting question of "are we entertained/stimulated enough?"

Yet that is still the comparison my mind makes and I see it as a goal to become like the motionless spider, albeit in human motion. The art of performing a task for hours on end and to never be interrupted by impatience or emotion. I would not use the word "discipline" to describe this perseverance, for the word discipline carries with it for me the connotation of a painful grind that is always fiercely fighting against its own halt. The popular modern word would be "flow", where there is no inner conflict and nothing overcome, just "the act".

True enough, plenty work comrades have looked at me like I'm a supernatural entity when they see how long I can work on monotonous tasks. They can't relate to the ability to sort files for weeks and months, to copy-paste and control arrays of data for hours without feeling the fidgety anxiousness of potent boredom.

But achieving the ultimate spider form is pretty much always beyond me: The ability to perform challenging tasks for hours, without the onset of impatience or self-loathing. That is indeed why I'm writing this blog post right now. My frustration at my own frustration for not being the motionless spider in its web, knowing well enough what I need to do and that the key to my evolution is the acquisition of skill and knowledge, not just mindless repetition.

Web of neurons be my friend, not my enemy.
I just did one of the craziest things that I've ever done: I gave myself a haircut. Shaved off most of the hair on top of my head.

Went to the store today and bought a properly sized hair trimmer. Only had a shaver and a small hair trimmer for facial hair before. Decided how to roughly go about this thing and proceeded to remove the veritable winter coat that was my old length of hair. Never before have I attempted to give myself a haircut.

Initial result was an abomination because I did the brunt work without a mirror. After some more fine shaving in front of the mirror (thank goodness for the extra mirrors to make me see my backside) I made myself look presentable enough. Does it look good? No. Is it good enough that I can go outside and most people will not react? Yes. Might attempt some adjustments later.

One of my strongest memories from childhood is seeing my sister cut her own hair. I think she must have been three-and-a-half years old, making me just above five-and-a-half years old. The context may have been that both me and my sister were angry that our parents said we couldn't cut our own hair but only my sister was rebellious enough to follow through by applying scissors to her own bangs. In hindsight I think she cut a laughably small amount but the fact that she had broken the rule (actually two rules since she wasn't supposed to use scissors at all) was a HUUUUUUGE deal that would be spoken of for many, many years to come.

The event cemented in my brain that I must never, ever attempt to cut my own hair. If I do, mom will get mad. :wacky:

Inspired by the people who cut/shaved their own hair during the pandemic, the notion eventually gained enough traction in my mind that I could allow myself to do it. I did tell my mother beforehand though. :lol: Thankfully she didn't object apart from pointing out with a skeptical tone "that sounds incredibly difficult".

When I did the first shaving strokes I felt a rush of freedom. The rush of independence and self-reliance. I thought about countless humans in the distant past who have had to cut their own hair with whatever tools were available. Like a person roleplaying as an ancient human, I felt a connection to humanity of old.

The wake-up call was of course to live with the consequences of the final shaving job not being great. That dampened the joy somewhat. A childhood voice also told me that mom would be disappointed. But the self-liberation of the act is enough to overcome the negative spirits.

Buying a proper hair trimmer feels like the most sober investment I have made in a long, long time. Having such a useful tool in my home creates a sense of comfort. I may one day ask my best friend Dipsiel if he'd like to shave my hair with it or if he'd like to shave mine. We could both save some money that way. The idea had never crossed my mind before very recently.

Going outside of your comfort zone rarely means an all-positive experience. Enjoy what you can and live with the consequences. I dare say the consequences for this venture are acceptable and I enjoy the fact that I followed through.
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Marty McFlyin’
@Shademp I tried to cut my own hair once. It did NOT go well. Had a salon fix it a couple days after. :monster: Actually, I did it more than once. When I was 18 I went through an identity crisis and shaved it all off. It didn’t look great, but now I know that I can’t pull off a shaved head.
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