NERT Herding

Off soon to class #2 of NERT training. San Francisco has Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams, with free 6 week classes where you learn about disaster response & then graduate with, I don’t know, a certificate and a hard hat. Then first responders can call on local teams if they need backup in disaster situations. Though, I think the main idea is to encourage people to be more prepared for earthquakes, fires, whatever, I’m sure local crews are also useful in a pinch!

I appreciate the accessibility of the class locations!

The website has a bunch of the NERT class materials, including PDFs of the class handbook and a disaster preparedness checklist in English, Spanish, and Chinese. I’m thinking of printing some of those checklists, laminating them, and putting them up in my free bookshelf on the sidewalk.

Bad invention: Personalized kleenex!

Lately I keep finding little torn up plastic pouches around the house with Danny’s name on them. They turned out to be some sort of personalized vitamins where each packet says DANNY on it and then a little inspirational saying. The vitamins also, I believe, have an app. I find my partner’s propensity to order weird shit off kickstarter endearing and now it’s like had this unforseen side effect that his domestic litter tattles on him!

Germphobic people! do not read any further! And definitely don’t read that post on my past Bad Invention: The Sockerchief!

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This made me think. I have some lifelong terrible habits and one of them is (from equally terrible allergies) leaving a trail of used kleenexes behind me, like an unsavory rat’s nest, and even worse sometimes it’s because I used a kleenex absent mindedly and put it down on the couch next to me because it still had some life in it (WHAT!!!!?!) and then I use it again in a few minutes OR it gets squashed into the couch cushions or falls to the floor and gets a new life as a dust and lint magnet. Or perhaps worse – it goes into my pockets and then through the washer (I mostly use handkerchiefs nowadays to work around these problems.)

You reap what you sow, and the apple does not fall far from the tree, and karma, etc. so it turns out my son not only also has allergies but also scatters little wads of kleenex around as if it were snowing.

Now we come to our bad invention: Personalized Kleenex! The couch cushion cracks would now reveal LIZ or MILO. How handy for blame, but perhaps also for creative re-use. Inspirational messages (going with the trend on the …. i-vitamins? e-vitamins? could be things like:

Bless the hand that gave the blow.
– John Dryden, The Spanish Friar. Act ii. Sc. 1.

Liberty ’s in every blow!
Let us do or die.

– Robert Burns, Bannockburn.

Blow, bugle, blow! set the wild echoes flying!
And answer, echoes, answer! dying, dying, dying.

– Alfred Tennyson, The Princess.

Sonorous metal blowing martial sounds:
At which the universal host up sent
A shout that tore hell’s concave, and beyond
Frighted the reign of Chaos and old Night.

– Milton, Paradise Lost. Book i. Line 540.

Or better yet – my favorite!!!!

I must have liberty
Withal, as large a charter as the wind,
To blow on whom I please.

– William Shakespeare, As You Like It. ACT II Scene 7.

For use with an app, I think a printed QR code on each kleenex would suffice. Simply remember to photograph each kleenex before or after the blow, and a special uncrumpling algorithm will sort out the code. This could plot the location of your used kleenexes on a map, display them to your friends via a social network; opportunities for buying new boxes of this substance abound – the more you use the more kleen-coins you earn – Machine learning applied based on your past stored e-kleenexr patterns to predict future caches. Personalized, social, E-Kleenexr 2.0 AI as microcurrency – on the blockchain. How can I drive this into the ground any further? WHERE IS MY ONE MILLION DOLLARS?!

Starting to think about WisCon43!

I just booked our tickets to WisCon and am feeling excited about going! I haven’t been since 2014.

Next Monday is the deadline to suggest panel or talk ideas. If you think of a panel you’d like me to be on, feel free to suggest me (or talk with me about it).

It’s going to be fun to get to explore Madison a little bit in my powerchair – I’m hoping it will really free me up to roam around!

Not that it is easy to leave the hotel. It’s weirdly utopian. I’ll see so many people I absolutely adore!!!

The circle of life on the bus

So I was waiting for the 51A bus in the rain in the dark with some other folks and was super happy when the bus pulled up and it was near empty and the driver let down the ramp without any weirdness or fuss. There was another guy in the front of the bus sitting on the other side. The bus driver got out some big old straps. I thanked her and said I would rather not, and didn’t need them. She said she would have to call her supervisor because it was policy that she had to restrain my wheelchair, or I would have to get off the bus. She was nice about it and I just kind of nodded like, OK…. and said I had been riding buses in wheelchairs for many years and go ahead and call.

The guy across started yelling at me during this exchange, from almost the first moment, that I was a bitch, an asshole, a cocksucker, a goddamned bitch and he hopes I die young.

At that point I stared back at him and said it was too late for that since I’m already 50. (OK, well, 49 and a half.) The driver told him to shut up a few times and told him he should not call me out of my name. By that time we had driven off because her supervisor told her to tell me that, should I be injured because of not being restrained on the bus, they could not assume any liability. Thanks. OK. I agree! We drove down Broadway towards downtown.

Then the guy said someone should kill me. Staring right into my eyes he said “I’ll kill you myself you bitch!” Driver finally told him to shut up or she would make him get off but that just made him madder. At some point he started just mouthing or whispering his threats while flipping me off.

I felt very glad I was not strapped to the bus while I was a couple of feet away from this horrible man.

Was I married? He bet I was not. I’m too nasty! Too much of a bitch! He’s been married 4 times! He was in Vietnam! Also, he’ll kill me! I need to die! BITCH!!! You’re a BITCH!

It was amazing how much venom he got into the word “Bitch”!!!!

Let’s take a moment to quote the beautiful words of the immortal JOREEN,

Bitches must form together in a movement to deal with their problems in a political manner. They must organize for their own liberation as all women must organize for theirs. We must be strong, we must be militant, we must be dangerous. We must realize that Bitch is Beautiful and that we have nothing to lose. Nothing whatsoever.

Thank you Joreen!!! You give me strength!

At one point I said, You know what, we all have the right to ride this public bus, me, everyone, and you too even though you’re a sad and crazy old guy yelling at me, you get to ride the bus. That’s it. I was shaking with rage and fear but that’s what I said!

So that went on for a little while and I mostly didn’t say anything more, and I kept my camera on and pointed at him in case things heated up and my other hand on my folded up cane that I was half sitting on, which is quite sharp on the folded ends, carbon fiber edges, and which honestly I was ready to drive into a motherfucker’s throat if he came at me, and then he got off the bus while humbly thanking the bus driver and apologizing to her and everyone else on the bus FOR WHAT A BITCH I WAS SORRY TO EVERYONE EXCEPT HER THAT BITCH and now he was gonna go to Grocery Outlet. Bitch.

Wild!

Then, like, all the women on the bus came up to me and patted me and were sweet and concerned to check in that I was ok and say they were so sorry I had to go through that. And stuff. They were very nice but I was so mad I found it hard to talk any more. I actually thought then, Oh, they were more scared than I was. Until he got off. Huh.

My BART ride and extra bus ride home were peaceful. I then twittered cathartically about my experience all the way home, at some point realizing I should put on headphones and listen to the loudest possible riot grrrl and punk music. Thank you 7 Year Bitch, L7, Tribe 8, Crashprez, The Soviettes, MDC, Black Flag, and J Church. Very healing to the soul.

So, I am still super mad, and I so wished I could yell at that guy (more than the little bit of pissy backtalk that slipped out from me in the moment ) And also I had the thought that actually he did cross a line legally and it was all recorded on the bus camera which is easily obtainable through FOIA request. Like, he did threaten me and stuff but… Actually I just wanted to go home and recognized that my truly obscene amounts of privilege did not need to be whipped out just here. I disagreed with how the bus driver handled it but also figured that she probably saw this guy every day and she had a notion of whether he was really going to be violent or not. And I still had a part of me that didn’t want to agitate to kick an old guy out in the drizzling rain any more than I didn’t want to get off the bus myself and wait another 25 minutes for the next one. Anyway so I did not escalate and didn’t ask the bus driver to kick him off. She really was super calm and chill about the whole thing and I admire de-escalating in general. But, she could have – should have maybe – protected me a little more, I think. I’m going to be thinking about how I could have tried to set a boundary myself with the guy that I would have felt better with than what I went with which was “me shutting up while he yelled insults at me”.

I’m not so fragile! I’m mnot going to like, be fucked up that some asshole yelled at me! Assholes have been yelling at me on buses since I was 10 years old! They called me a faggot and a bitch and spit in my face and I cherish the memory of some guy who told me on Facebook 35 years later that he cherishes the memory of tiny 11 year old me double flipping off everyone on the bus clutching my bookbag to my chest and screaming shrilly, “FUCK YOUUUUUUUU!!!!!!!” I cherish my fierceness! I am a little badass inside! I don’t like being yelled at! It freaks me the fuck out! I would never tolerate it in my everyday life, not for a moment from anyone at all! Obviously, I’m fucking bothered or I wouldn’t be writing this hours later. But you know what….. WHATEVER. You know what is the best fierceness – it is maintaining your vulnerability. I don’t have to not be bothered, it is right to be upset, inside, it lets me defend my vulnerable self, which I assert to the world.

Anyway, I got off the bus pretty near my house and went across the street to see if this guy who lives on the corner was there because, he got all his stuff stolen again, and I got him some warm things but the shoes the VA gave him were two sizes too small, he took them because, half way on they kept his feet warmer and drier. He has a wheelchair but cannot push himself in it very well as his hands are also messed up but he gets along pretty ok. Whatever I asked him his shoe size the other day and realized it is the same size as my brother in law, and i was at him and my sister’s house all today, so I had these shoes to give him. He was happy about the shoes but he was also drinking and a bit messed up. I realized suddenly that between the bus stop and his niche on the corner I had seen a blanket and some bags and a backpack. Bob do you have your backpack. Was that your backpack over there on the other block? Oh no does it have an american flag on it? I went to see. Yes…. so… I brought him all his stuff. I think it just fell off the back of his chair as he was going along and he was too messed up to notice. No one had even gone through it. He kissed my hand drunkenly and invited me to sit with him. I went home but felt like so much more human because I took all the meanness and transmuted it into kindness and being decent to other people which is literally JUST WHAT HAS TO BE DONE. What is to be done? Do the work in front of you and be decent about it people. Like I said on the twitters Kindness is punk as fuck, and this bitch will bring you a boot party where it’s a present of boots that fit your feet and keep them warm and dry. Motherfucker, you will take these social services and this transformative justice and this example of nontoxic masculinity, OR ELSE. P.S. Fuck you, asshole!

How weird is it that I went from hating on one old guy to helping out another one. It is really true, that helping someone out is something to be grateful for, because they trusted you enough to let you do it.

I’d like to thank this cat, this nice loud riot grrrl music, this feminist manifesto from the year I was born, this soothing mint tea, and this excellent marijuana for the massive improvement of my evening.

Also my nice spouse who spent all weekend and all day since 5am trying to like save Europe from Article 13 and Article 11 and thus save the entire fucking Internet. And then who brought me the soothing mint tea.

The rest of the day was super nice, I spent it working while my sister worked on her stuff, and we showed each other physical therapy exercises and had tacos. When I stopped working I got to show my nephew how to write a little Inform7 and then I left him playing Zork.

Good night all.

The magic spells of engineering

Last night we watched the first two classes of Hal Abelson teaching Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs in 1986 and they were sooooo amazing.

Danny remarked that this is a great example of teaching a beginning lesson in a language with math while most other intro-to-a-language-via-maths fall flat.

All the stuff about magic is just beautiful (and true).

So as opposed to other kinds of engineering, where the constraints on what you can build are the constraints of physical systems, the constraints of physics and noise and approximation, the constraints imposed in building large software systems are the limitations of our own minds.

So in that sense, computer science is like an abstract form of engineering. It’s the kind of engineering where you ignore the constraints that are imposed by reality.

Sweet that you can download text or PDF of the transcript of the lecture.

Meanwhile, in the night during some dark hour when my knees hurt and I couldn’t sleep I decided to change the scope of my mapping in this transit game, at least at first, and rather than make a perfect walkable (rollable) simulation of the geography of each station (or even this first one) I will abstract it a lot more. It could still be expanded later, but the hugeness of the map started to drag me down and I’d like to get the mechanisms working before that kind of precision. I have often felt that I have to throw out all the code at least 3 times before I know how I want to approach a project and I believe this makes 3. But, that means I’m not sticking it up on github yet until I have a clearer vision and a better prototype.

24th St Mission BART station report

Starting my BART station report series with my home station, 24th St Mission. Sometimes the St is spelled out so it’s 24th Street Mission, and sometimes it’s abbreviated in station signs. You can get some overview of the neighborhood on the Calle 24 Historic District site in English and Spanish. Get ready to ramble! I’m going to just write everything that comes into my mind from my notes, memories, and researches. I hope that you will enjoy reading it and then will see this (or some other train station or place in your city) with a new perspective.

Though I can go the half mile from my house to the station under my own power, this time I got there on the bus, debouching directly in front of a bench where a guy with a 49ers jacket was sitting holding a bug-eyed chihuahua on his lap, passing by him to scoot into Taqueria El Farolito since the line was very short.

El Farolito has a narrow corridor along the kitchen where you order and wait, and small picnic tables along the wall. I can make it in there in my powerchair to order, turn around by the jukebox after I order, and make it back out, but there is nowhere my wheelchair can fit for me to sit and eat inside. No big deal. As is usual in SF taquerias you get a number and lurk around the counter listening for your number. Bonus if you understand numbers in Spanish. I got a carnitas super burrito with everything and a mexican coke to go, which comes with a little bag of chips and some napkins, in a plastic bag with handles. The handles are so useful and important for hanging the bag on the arm of my wheelchair. Mexican coke is nicer and tastier than US coke because it uses cane syrup instead of corn syrup and it comes in a pretty glass bottle.

If you can see over the counter as you wait (I cannot in this particular location) then please admire the efficiency of the burrito-makers and study their workflow. It is instructive to compare the workflow of different taquerias, for stunning speed, La Taqueria; for complexity (sometimes as many as 14 people behind the narrow counter) Pancho Villa. Keep in mind that THESE BURRITOS ARE LOVE. You are going to be nurtured by your delicious and amazing burrito. Appreciate it properly.

At some point over the years I wondered what possible connection there was between burritos and lighthouses (Faro = lighthouse in Spanish and in many romance languages from the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria on the island of Pharos). I think it is from the “home of the Mission burrito” being Febronio Ontiveros‘ El Faro taqueria. So maybe El Farolito is an offshoot of the original El Faro at 20th and Folsom.

As I was waiting two mariachis came in, one with accordion, another with guitar and an amp on a hand truck. They set up and started playing in the back of the tiny narrow restaurant. I got my own salsa in containers and headed out to eat in the BART plaza. I shared one of the square cement bench blocks with a friendly tamale lady and a couple who were discussing their plans for the day in Spanish; staying in my comfy powerchair but using the bench corner for my coke bottle and bag of chips and also putting my feet up on there from time to time. One bench over, I noticed the Raccoon Guy (a white haired and bearded grizzled older man who has hung out in this plaza for years but recently achieved viral fame for bringing a dead raccoon into the nearby McDonald‘s.) From this we can deduce that 24th and Mission is a pretty good raccoon habitat, barring accidents.

orquestra de 24

OK so this plaza, the one on the Northeast corner. I am pretty familiar with it and it is one of my favorite hangouts, sort of refreshing and beautiful to me in a special way. Yes I realize sometimes it smells like pee. Try to bear with me. When it doesn’t smell too much like pee, it’s so nice! Lively, full of action, so much to look at, excellent food for the flaneur’s soul! On weekends there are often loud preachers or a band of old dudes playing mostly Cuban music. If I get there for the music then I hang out for a few songs and put some money in their donation bin. It is a lovely scene on a sunny day with families stopping to watch, people dancing, the tall washingtonia palms far overhead against a blue sky. Even without those very organized musicians, there are frequently other musicians playing in the plaza or coming up from the BART stairwell, and music coming from someone’s portable speaker or cars or the market in the southwest plaza that’s catty-corner across the street. The buses fwoosh and beep, the distinctive train car sound swells up from underground, Norteño or salsa music comes and goes, lots of Spanish and Chinese spoken all around. It is a lively soundscape that I absolutely love.

Facing north from this plaza, you’ll see a mural on the wall of El Farolito. This is by Michael V. Rios and shows a geometric cityscape, and some determined, rather grim people shouldering train rails with a shining metal BART train riding on top. It has a nice socialist realist feel to it, as it honors the workers who built and maintain the city’s infrastructure. The gleaming futuristic train is carried on the backs of the people! Maybe the people who built it or the people who paid for it with their taxes!

Facing west, past the stairwell, there is a giant mural on the side of the Silverstone cafe in addition to the super funky and cool coffee and tea sign of Silverstone. Sorry I don’t know much about the mural and forgot to take pictures but it says something like “SOCKS” on it. More later if I go investigate, or find info about this mural online. The Silverstone Cafe itself is quite nice, and has wifi and – I didn’t know till this week’s exploration – A pretty nice patio in back! And good, low priced, (large) pastries and breakfast and sandwich type of food. The interior is beautiful with a giant wooden… bar back or mantelpiece sort of thing. Because of the TV I didn’t try to work from this cafe, though I might in future. (Instead I ended up a few blocks down 24th, at Haus, which also has a lovely patio and an accessible bathroom.) If you go that direction you could also stop by Precita Eyes and learn more about the neighborhood’s murals.

I didn’t hang out today at the southwest plaza but can say it has a pleasant street market with booth selling jewelry, souvenirs, shopping bags, belts, phone cases and chargers, headphones, shirts (often ones embroidered huipil style) and ponchos (wool). There are also sometimes flower sellers and a booth for vitamin type of things, phone plan sales. Sometimes events in the far corner under the Coffee & Mission mural like, breakdancers or rappers. This mural is on Osage St. and is by Mark Bode, Mel Waters, Dino, Nite Owl, Dagon, and Free. You may notice Mel Waters‘ distinctive style in like, a zillion other murals all over the Misson and the rest of the Bay Area. There is a big metal ventilation tower here that, in Ingress and Pokémon, is a portal named Lipstick Tube after the shape of the tower. The way the plaza is shaped in the back by the stairwell entrance makes a pretty good stage for any sort of street events. There is also a dark green kiosk-style public bathroom in this plaza. I have never used it, opting to buy a coffee or something instead to use a bathroom!

Did you ever notice the “two totemic posts” of this plaza? I hadn’t. Hang onto your hats as I want to paste in a hefty quote from the designers.

The two totemic posts in the foreground were placed to formalize a stage area already used as such by the community. Otherwise, most vertical elements were removed to open up the plaza.

The plaza was originally designed along with the underground station in 1970. The basic configuration is an open plaza paved in a concentric brick pattern that radiates out from a large circular opening in the center. The opening comprises the main station entrance, containing a stair and escalator column with recessed semicircular planters on either side.

The circular opening offered the design team a powerful theme. The circle form not only ties together design elements throughout the plaza but attempt to also communicate universal notions. The circle is an ancient form used by many civilizations. It was universal and almost always represented the sun and thence fecundity, society and important values.

Eliminating the security fencing revealed the existing great circle—being able to enter and emerge from such a shape is an unusual experience even in a famous city. The cylindrical tower (necessary to protect the existing spiral stair) acts as a beacon for the station and recalls an ancient Maya astronomical observatory. It has a south-facing skylight through which the sun illuminates colored portholes. Emerging from the circle passengers will catch a glimpse of colored sunlight—but the light will not again appear in the same spot for an entire year. Of identical shape to the tower are shiny bollards (necessary to prevent vehicle intrusion from the alley) that are positioned in various angles to reflect sunlight at different strengths when seen from a distance. Throughout the plaza can be found variations on the theme of circles, light and totems.

Nifty! (What spiral stair?! Is that what the Lipstick Tube is?! I assumed it was for ventilation!)

Back to our BART station. I did not get even halfway through the burrito. I can live off a burrito for like, three meals at LEAST. While I was sitting there a mad-eyed disheveled dude asked me and everyone nearby for change. He eventually settled down elsewhere in the plaza. Being accosted for money is likely but just take it in stride. If you like to help people you might keep some dollar bills in a pocket ready to dole out (that’s what I do) and know how to set limits on the interaction, and how to say no. It may make you uncomfortable though especially at night. Personally I feel perfectly comfortable here day and night as it is very public and well lit with tons of people around. Anyway, I sat through many buses pulling up, people walking by, tamale lady calling out her wares (tamales de pollo, de carne!) and selling some from her ice chest on wheels. She’s super nice, I see her there a lot.

I waited for the elevator with a sweet family who had been shopping (grandma, mom, and teenage daughter with her backpack worn frontways across her stomach). Three dudes were just nearby playing very loud Cuban music (excellent taste) and cat calling us (Ay mamacita!!! que estás bonitaaaaaaaa!!!!) But not like hostile cat calling, basically a . . . non-hostile routine social interaction. I looked over at them and nodded, breaking all the rules of such things, being a sucker for good music and since their piropos weren’t gross or anything. But me and the older women also side-eyed each other in mixed annoyance and amusement and then when we got in the elevator kind of burst out laughing.

The elevator had the horrible smell of pee and industrial cleaning fluid. I always kind of long to tackle the gross walls of this elevator where someone tried to write, or paint, and then it was ineptly and incompletely sprayed with cleaner, so there are horrible drips going down the wall and it looks filthier than if they had just left the graffiti alone. There are also times when there’s… food smeared on the wall? I dunno! The thing with the smell is, the pee must run down through the mechanism of the door to the elevator well below, and just fester there for years. There need to be more bathrooms, open all hours, though, I think the Pit Stop bathrooms do help and in recent years the stench has been ameliorated to some extent.

The elevator from the northeast plaza lets you out in a sketchy feeling nook in the north corner of the concourse. The stairwell there (and, same on the other side) has 2 stairways and an escalator, with abstract concrete bas reliefs by the English sculptor William George Mitchell. If you get up close to the walls you can feel the rough (even sharp) corrugations which are the background to the broad smooth planes of the cement geometric shapes. I wonder if they give the Mission stairwells some of their nice acoustic properties. There are often musicians in them, and while I explored on this day there was an excellent guitarist, Ángel Rodriguez from Banda Sin Nombre, in one stairwell and then later in the day, a saxophonist in the other.

The concourse has a beautiful arched design that makes me think of 70s futuristic things, or maybe particular airports, with the concrete arches overhead soaring like an airplane hangar, and more interesting corrugation in between creating a fairly beautiful line. If you don’t look up, or look at the shape of the buttresses of the arches, you are missing out. The lighting is also really not bad for an underground area. If you do have a look at the ceilings you may also notice a lot of anti-pigeon spikes. (Ow!) Speaking of ow, as a small accessibility note I would say there is an archway pillar between the north stairwell and the entry ticket points where, the slope of it as you might be coming out of the ticket area is such that for a blind cane user, it would be easy to run your head right into the underhang of the arch. Same goes for the pillar by the southwest stairwell as you come out of the ticket area there and turn right – headbonking opportunity. That could be prevented by a small guard rail in both areas.

There’s a ticket entrance by the elevator and the northeast stairwell, and another on the south side of the station, by the agent booth. This south entrance is where the wheelchair and stroller accessible entry and exit point is. In some other stations, the elevator to the platform is outside the pay entry cage so you have to specially remember to reach over the barrier to tag yourself out (even though you’re already out!) Once you’re in the paid area, there are 3 stairwells from south to north; the first is an escalator coming up from the platform, and some bike racks. At the far north end of the paid area you’ll find the elevator to the platform (call button on the left). Like most elevators in the system this one has buttons marked C for Concourse and P for platform.

Platform 1 has the northbound trains, Platform 2 has the southbound. If you traverse the length of the platform you will see the 3 stairwells; the furthest one from the elevator is the escalator going up. In between the escalator and the middle stairwell are some big block style cement benches, and between the second stairwell and the 3rd, there’s a big map and schedule. The median walls (on the stairwells) are tiled with brown, orange, gold, yellow tiles with an occasional black one, which I think of as a kind of nice Painted Desert effect or like the backgrounds for Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. There are mysterious little rooms in these areas too with numbered doors (as there also are on the concourse). I expect these will factor into my BART text adventure game in some way. On the walls to either side of the platform tunnel you can see the same buttress looking cement things as you see above in the concourse. Between those, there’s plain beige tiles and a space for ads.

So, I’m going to return to my game-writing now! This isn’t an exhaustive Guide To Things To Do near 24th and Mission station, though, I do recommend you get a great burrito and admire the murals while you’re here. There is also excellent grocery shopping at many small latin american stores, a middle eastern grocery around 26th, bookstores nearby down 24th and on Valencia and 20th, and several import stores with a standard selection of things like cheap suitcases, backpacks, socks, SF souvenirs, jeans, trinkets, and I don’t know what all else as it’s been a while since I was able to fit through their aisles!

By the way…. tomorrow is the 18th Annual No-Pants Bart Ride Day! Are leggings cheating? I get cold!

Progress on BART interactive fiction

I threw out the first prototype trying to write a train simulation from scratch and started over using Emily Short’s Inform7 extension Transit System. Now, I have two working train lines, the Red Line going from Daly City to Richmond, and the Yellow Line going from Daly City to Antioch. I could not quite figure out how to make the trains go north and then turn around and come south again and still be able to tell the direction of the travel from the platform. I’m leaning towards having separate north and south lines for each train, arriving at their correct platforms within the station.

Then, because I went all through the 24th St Mission station (the agent kindly let me in free to take notes!) I thought more about the level of detail for the game. I could stick with a very simple model or could make it very walkable in a way that means by playing the game you’d learn the geography. Leaning towards starting simple but having a placeholder for each station, then expanding the station descriptions and maps gradually as I go.

I also implemented (early this morning!) player choice for mobility and sightedness. I may write something for cane use but I sort of don’t want to write service dog, maybe because I know almost nothing about them but also because I am not super fond of dogs. It could be an expansion later. But, I’m figuring out how to make the choices impact each room, thing, and the player experience. I may write a “tap” command that would work like an extra sense in the Touchy Feely sensory extension. I could replace “look” with “tap” for example but I’m leaning towards, “look” will say something either practical or snarky (randomly). The practical would encourage the blind or low vision character to listen, tap (with cane), feel, smell. I have to figure out what “examine” would be understood as (feel for objects, tap for a room, maybe, and “listen attentively” if it’s an NPC). I ended up last night late reading blind wheelchair user forums for thoughts on handling blind/low vision plus manual or powerchair use together in descriptions of rooms or actions.

Coming this weekend an initial github repo with (playable) early versions of the game for testing. There will not be much game there yet but the mechanisms will work and you can board trains and walk (or roll) around.

Notes on 24th street station, I spent my lunch hour there yesterday taking notes and drawing maps. I sat one bench over from the Raccoon McDonalds guy while I ate my burrito and scribbled in my notebook in the Northeast plaza. A lady was selling tamales there – we smiled at each other a lot as i ate my delicious burrito – I saw someone with a chihuahua in a sweater, Lots of music in the background including, in El Farolito, some mariachi guys who wandered in with guitars, accordion, and a big speaker on a hand truck, the murals, rather a lot of pigeons, the tall washingtonia palms, the chinese donut place, silver stone coffee tea cafe, the Southwest corner plaza and its lively market scene, construction going on in the concourse level, saxophone player in the stairwell, the lovely arched ceilings that make me think of how some airport architecture is, like a hangar or wings, the abstract concrete bas reliefs in both majestic stairwells and the strange ridging of the walls (for decoration? for acoustics?) Anti pigeon nails everywhere in high up places. Of course the elevators…. And the platform with its brown and orange tile, its mysterious locked rooms, its beige “contact agent” phones which I longed to pick up but did not quite dare.

The game will have magic, and time travel, by the way! Working title, “Transitory”.

Well that escalated quickly

Going home tonight down Guerrero from the NERT training, I paused on the sidewalk as a couple of cars were coming out of the driveway by Mitchell’s Ice Cream. One pulled out onto Guerrero and the other started to inch out. I was waiting for them both to leave before crossing the driveway in the dark. The second car’s driver noticed me and motioned for me to cross in front of him. But, he was pulled up so far that to get by I would have had to go on the uncomfortably angled part of the driveway as it went down into the street.

So I waved him on, smiling and nodding as if to say thanks for the thought but no… and waited. There was no traffic at all at 9:30pm. So he could just go and be done with it.

He shook his head and started to back up his car a little bit, maybe a foot or so, but it still wasn’t really enough and I decided what I usually do, which is: do I want to wait 10 seconds for this car to move along, or do I want to put myself in front of a 2 ton death machine in the dark when someone could come along and rear end it, etc? I mean, why bother? Am I in a hurry? No and I’m even comfortably sitting down in my nice powerchair.

So I shook my head and waved at the guy again and said “It’s ok I’ll just go after you” and he shook HIS head and started to roll down the window and told me to go on and I said “No I really don’t have any interest in being in front of your vehicle I’ll just go after you go.” He looked angry and started to roll forward while still telling me I should go! As he pulled out into the street he yelled “BITCH!”

Yeah that guy’s heart was definitely in the right place! He was so kind! So charitable! So thoughtful! Too bad his head was up his own ass!

Random encounter – Yeats and the City

Today’s random encounter. I was in a work meeting and noticed a man with a clipboard examining my house and the neighbors’. Figuring this was about our neighbors whose fence was falling over last week because their goats (!) were climbing up it, after the meeting I popped out to ask if he needed anything. The goat fence is now repaired but with a forbidding row of nails facing outward which turns out to be against city codes because if firefighters need to climb the fence it’s dangerous for them, not to mention if there were an earthquake and the fence fell over someone on the sidewalk could be impaled by a row of giant nails. We gossiped a bit about everyone’s fences and I got out my laptop for him to figure out the addresses for the neighbors (whose official addresses are on the street behind). In the process we figured out that his name is O’Brien, my partners’ name is O’Brien, and the neighbor immediately to the east is also an O’Brien.

He said there was a joke there to which I replied (I believe correctly) that we were all descended from kings. Underneath his clipboard drawing of the houses and streets we then had a spontaneously drawn map of Ireland showing County Clare, the river Shannon, O’Brien castle where he used to play as a child and nearby Thomond, and so on. Built in the 16th century (I cannot figure out now which castle this would be – O’Brien Tower was 1835), some discussion of history, were they all involved in the Troubles, the continuing Troubles touched on lightly…. Proud rebels… Then I mentioned that I had been to Sligo in the 80s and he said he had plans to go there to see some Yeats things and about his grave. Oh to be sure! I have been there!

FINALLY my useless knowledge became useful in life as I was able to quote, “Under bare Ben Bulben’s head / In Drumcliffe churchyard Yeats is laid” and could not remember the middle but as I floundered, my new City Inspector friend/relative by marriage finished it off with “Cast a cold eye / on life, on death / Horseman, pass by!

Really…. I just love people!

I need this new project like I need another blog entry

That is not at all, and VERY MUCH THANKS!!!!!11!!

New project idea, combine BART riding project with my Inform7 obsession and make a ridiculous BART simulator text adventure. I have got a single train line working by lifting it from the examples in documentation. It’s so satisfying!

Not sure how accurate I’m going to get though I could imagine putting a whole day’s schedule into this. The Red Line comes first since I tend to be aiming for it to visit my sister. I’m so amused — already you can get into the Richmond northbound train, then wait, then it pulls out of the 24th St. Mission station. Wait or look again and it pulls into Civic Center! Bwahahahaha! I’m dying here.

I’m going to make each station and make the player play a wheelchair user and ride in the elevators full of pee, because I’m evil.