HFY

So, I wanted to start podcasting again.

But my encounters with bedbugs completely stopped the group from meeting, which stopped the recordings from happening, which obviously stops a podcast.

I was also, obviously, dealing with bedbugs at the time, which cuts into your time pretty severely. As in – totally. There are a few sessions that I still haven’t edited, and at this point I don’t really intend to.

So I wanted to start podcasting and I didn’t have any material to do it with. Then I came across a small community that I knew about before, but had not taken very seriously.

Reddit.com/r/HFY will now be my source.

If you are unfamiliar with reddit, you should know that it actually has an influence that is at least on par with, if not significantly greater than, other platforms – like facebook or twitter. Hell, it was (is?) one of the main targets of the russian troll-factories that are so infamous now for screwing with the 2016 (and following?) elections.

It is a link-aggregate site that has a huge number of sub-communities (called subreddits) that are largely independent, though posts on any given subreddit may get enough notoriety that people browsing r/all (the catch-all, everything has a rank here) or even r/popular (a curated list of the largest and ‘best’ subreddits) have a chance to see it (badly-acting subreddits might also get shut down by the site admins).

r/HFY is a very particular and niche subreddit. It allows no posting of outside links – text posts only. The letters “HFY” stand for “Humanity, FUCK YEAH!”, and this is a reference to the type of SF story that focuses the spotlight on humans and shows off the things that make us awesome. Sometimes it’s our humanity itself – things like mercy and love and honor. Sometimes it’s the simple attitude of “No, I will not give up this fight, even if it kills me.” Sometimes it’s just the fact that omnivorous persistence hunters are crazy scary.

So, not only does the subreddit specifically care about that type of story, it also encourages new stories. There is a huge list of authors that write short stories for the sub – and only for the sub. Enough authors that they could make a smaller, even more niche community out of only the authors.

And what I think is the greatest strength of this subreddit: Almost every single author is an amateur. There are a few accomplished authors there, but honestly – some of the most successful authors on the sub have some other day job. There’s like 3 guys that make their living by writing, and mostly it’s writing for the sub. One guy has an entire saga (The “J-verse”) that is rumored to be greater than 2 million words total. He has a patreon that supports him entirely. From what I understand, he started on r/HFY.

So yeah, as long as I keep getting permission from authors, I’m going to narrate as much of r/HFY as I can. For some less interesting details, keep reading.

I plan on including other narrators quite early. After all, I’m really more interested in the production of the podcast than I am the recording, the narrating, or the voice-acting. In fact, my plan is that episode 7 will be the first non-me narration, and it looks like I’ll have enough other people volunteering that I can share the load 50/50.

At first, I would like to do only one-shot stories – those stories that do not require other reading to understand and are not a prerequisite themselves. I would like to do the more popular (finished) series later, maybe starting around episode 15-20, but I still need to hammer out some of the details that are involved in that. Eventually, I also want to do a full cast story – but that is crazy difficult, and for now just a pipe dream.

I am going to include women, minorities, and non-americans as well. I’m a white dude from midwest USA. Compared to everyone else, I’ve got it made. I’m like, in the stronger 50% of the wealthiest 1% of the world. There’s no reason not to try to help develop the podcasting, voice-acting, and writing world in to something that isn’t nearly so “me-centric.” I’d like it to be generally non-centric.

If you want to be included in this podcast – as a voice-actor, as a narrator, as an author, or some other way, then please email me: seth.kleinpaste@gmail.com. Put “HFY” somewhere in the subject line.

Hags are the Masters of Madness – Idea Pile #1

This is the first in a new series of text posts. For now, I’m calling it the “idea pile”.

The controlling method to getting it here is:

I have an Idea->the idea is notable for some reason->I write out and edit->I post it here with appropriate tags

This particular idea came from while I was browsing reddit and came across this post by u/jpan616, Link to original post, and I just couldn’t stop writing about it. I even got reddit gold for it, so I guess it’s notable.

If you don’t want to get sucked in to reddit (and I don’t blame you for that), then here is the setup: The DM had set up a situation where the PCs needed help from a Hag (Hags are humanoid in shape but usually larger, with mysterious magical powers and a penchant for being awful, nasty, baby-eating monsters. Think Disney witches with warts and everything), who demanded in exchange that they truthfully tell her their greatest fears. Most of the PCs said things like “Spiders,” or “The dark.” But one clever player thought

“of course the DM is asking us to load his gun. I should declare something that he can’t actually use against me.”

And this player declared that his greatest fear was “Madness.” Which is honestly a legit fear that I can see people having. But it is really hard to actually use against a character. A clever bit of metagaming on the part of the player.

The time came for the Hag to request something of the PCs, and it was abhorrent to them. They refused, and they left. So the DM started to use the fears that they declared. The PC who had declared “madness” started to brag about how clever he was.

Here’s the thing. You want to avoid pissing off the DM. You can kill his monsters and the DM will be delighted. You can derail a plot, but a good DM will just use what you gave him to make the story deeper. You can have a total change of character, and the DM will just live with it. You can decide to take over the thieves guild instead of exterminating them. That is all 100% ok and if it pisses off the DM, then you have a sub-par DM.

In this case, the DM had set up a great way for the characters to flesh themselves out in a very real way, and this character basically slimed his way past the set-up, and then bragged about it. This is how you piss off a DM. It ruins a great mechanic, it makes the game world a little more card-board-cutout-ish, , on top of rewarding the player for doing all this. Above all, it challenges the DM. Gauntlet thrown.

The DM accepted the challenge and is ready to mess him up. The DM wanted to show how wrong he was. But he needed some help from the community to get good ideas and polish things up. Here is my response, edited for clarity, focus, formatting, and language.

If you really want to mess with him and the madness thing, and are willing to take an entire session basically focused on him, then get the rest of the group on board with a plan – talk to them outside of the session first, without notifying your victim.

Start by describing things to the group as really weird stuff. Nothing that will force a roll of anything. The rest of the party is just sort of going along with it, but it is absolutely out of character for either you as a DM or his companions. Start small. Tell him, like u/dramlingthedwarf mentioned elsewhere that “this looks suspicious” and “You are surprised that this long-time friend would talk this way” even though there are no weird things about what he’s saying. Half of his perception checks give him wrong (and weird) information.

It’s really important that the other PCs are going along with this.

Eventually: ramp it up (The other PCs will realize in-game what’s happening and start ignoring his “new quirks” – the players should have some whispered convos at the table, but never with your victim). The point of this stage is to make him a little confused and generally to feel uneasy.

  • Mention that the water from that spring turns red and blood-like when he puts it in a vessel – and the other PCs just acknowledge what he’s saying and continue like it’s no big deal.
  • There is a swarm of demon rats (or whatever) that stops doing their rat-thing to just stare at him, and rushes away into other parts of the dungeon whenever he tries to fight/interact with them.
  • other things that you can think of – learn about the Mournland from Eberron for ideas.
  • Have him WASTE RESOURCES – time, potions, money, charges, spells, equipment, whatever – during this phase.

Then, make it REALLY weird (The other PCs during this phase are sort of pitying him, and trying to direct him to a temple, but he CANNOT know this – the player and the character alike have to think they still adventuring like normal). The point of this stage is to make him extremely uneasy and think that there is something big going on that he is not a part of.

Author’s note: normally I hate taking away the agency of a player, but this is temporary and he can still choose to act, so it gets a pass from me as long as the DM is considerate of this and keeps it controlled.

  • Have a defeated foe get up, take off his armor, and go shake his hand – while bleeding from the death-blows – and wander off naked in to the wilderness – Without saying anything to your victim – totally mute. The other players obviously notice, but don’t think it’s strange. (they see him still lying there, dead)
  • Have the rats rush away to another part of the same room, still staring – and then they are also in a corner in the next room. and the next. and the next. (the other PCs don’t see anything.)
  • The other Players should start passing notes. Make them gibberish and include “hag” and “madness” as the only actual words, just in case your victim intercepts one.
  • The players should whisper to each other at the table and then write things on the battle mat – once again gibberish that seems like real notes about the game but just do. not. make. any. sense. – whenever read by your poor tormented PC.
  • He shouldn’t be able to get anything productive done except by accident.

Finally, make everything turn in to the Hag. (The PCs should be quite urgent and impatient with his character during this one). The point of this phase is to get him to fight the other PCs.

Author’s note – Normally I would do everything that I can to prevent PC vs. PC fights. But the whole point of this fight is to make him unsure of himself and to get him healed.

  • When he shakes hands with anyone, describe the hand he holds to not match what he sees – describe the hand of a hag when he finally succeeds on the perception check (make it so he will fail a few first).
  • Eventually every single NPC keeps dropping the phrase “Hags are masters of madness” into every. single. convo. that he is a part of (or hears), and always out of context. i.e.:

victim: “Hey smith do you have XYZ type of magical sword?” smith: “well, hags are the masters of madness, but of course I have that sword!”)

  • Get the other PCs to start doing it as well, and treating it like a joke – even better if your vicitm thinks it’s some kind of inside joke that he doesn’t quite get and starts doing it, too. (“Come on, [victim], the hags are masters of madness and we have to keep moving. Right now.”)
  • The other PCs don’t explain themselves, and the NPCs look at him like he’s crazy (because he IS, capitol-C, C-C-Crazy) when he asks about it.
  • Eventually you call for a perception check from him and the healer (or whomever) in the group looks like the Hag with the PCs equipment hanging off of him as if they are ill-fitted to the form of the Hag.
  • If the previous point doesn’t get him to start fighting, then let him notice an invisible foe (a hallucination) right next to the healer, and have him make a perception check each round – success means that the ‘invisible foe’ is revealed for one turn as the Hag and she is standing over the Hag-looking PC menacingly and doing some spell on them. To your crazy victim, it is a real Hag to all investigation that keeps going invisible, and only responds to any speech from the victim by repeating “hags are the masters of madness”, and cackling- giving him a smack in the torso (roll an attack with +20 to hit) that knocks him prone.
  • Once he actually starts fighting, keep having the Hag go invisible, walk over to the other PCs, “finish the spell” and turn that PC hag-like as well. The idea is to get him to commit to a fight.

Once he starts physically fighting the otherwise non-violent NPCs or the PCs, have the hag-looking PCs actually fight (under control of the proper player) him until he’s unconscious. Outside of his madness, this is the players disabling him so that he can go get his brain checked out by a priest at the local temple.

After getting healed, (make this both available and cheap) he knows that he is crazy. Every major part of the session you make a ‘sanity’ roll for him and that determines whether his perception rolls will work properly – on a failed sanity roll his perception checks give him no useful information when he fails, and wrong information when he succeeds. He never gets a proper rest because of his nightmares – exhaustion rules apply. Continually failed checks makes the wrong perceptions deeper and more disturbing, but he is only ever one success away from proper perception, and it starts at low-level crazy at that point.

To emphasize how much he was wrong with the “well at least the hag doesn’t have anything on me!” bullshit, He keeps this sanity handicap until the issue with the Hag is resolved.

The New Nerd Fort

Ok, I’ve got a new idea.

Since the horror of the bedbugs is over and my new house is actually being properly put together, I can think about how the Nerd Fort can be done in a better way than before. And I realized something that we are, in fact, missing.

The basic idea is that I am doing the podcast so that other people will be 1) entertained by it, and 2) learn something from it (also I want experience, and I want to play, etc, etc.).

The first point is a little bit automatic – if you’ve downloaded it, then you probably know what you’re getting in to and will probably enjoy it. The second point is what I’m focusing on here. I think that is the primary way that give something of value to my listeners.

The controlling idea behind my podcast is that if you listen to the Nerd Fort podcast, you will be able to learn something that will help enlighten your game, or at least give you a perspective on things that you didn’t have before.

To that end, I want to change how we do our episodes: I want each episode to be played at a new character level. i.e.: Episode 1 will be with fresh new characters, right out of the tavern. As the episode comes to an end, we have some sort of cliffhanger that sets up the next episode. At the beginning of the next episode, we are starting at level 2. This series is limited to 21-23 episodes  – one for each level, one to account for the ‘episode zero’ and maybe some epic play or other considerations.

This will make it very fast-paced – which tends to make for more exciting play. Both listeners and players will have a greater sense of accomplishment and ‘doing something’ very easily. We will be able to display how the game acts differently at different levels. There are more advantages that I am having trouble articulating.

It is possible that Sterbz will want to have a cohesive adventure for this, and possibly just make a bunch of random or interesting encounters that don’t actually fit together whatsoever. It’s really up to him. Much more work = much better storyline, but that is a lot of work for a campaign designed to only last about 5-6 months.

It may have some negative consequences.

  • Maybe the listeners enjoy having us taking 3-4 episodes to level up.
  • There is the adventure writing aspect that may be frustrating – it’s hard to plan for exactly when the characters will be in the right place for a level up.
  • We often play for about 4 hours at a time. After trimming down some of the boring non-gaming stuff, personal life, and other not-for-the-podcast stuff, I usually get about 2 or 3 episodes out of a single session, so we will have to have our characters leveled up and ready to go long before we even start recording – more load on the players and GM alike.
  • Most adventures expect you to take multiple sessions at around the same level throughout the entire module – this means that published adventures are going to need to have some heavy modification, and homebrew ones will be even harder to write than before.

Almost Over.

This will be a short post. We have left the bedbugs far behind.

After retreating from our apartment and moving in with my very generous In-Laws we had a couple scares, but they always turned out to be a similar-looking insect, or a bite that looked similar to the bite of a bedbug.

After about a month, we are reasonably confident that we never took a single bedbug to my in-laws. So if we didn’t get rid of them all by leaving, then they only exist now in the storage unit- which also has the best poison against bedbugs that a consumer can buy, in concentrations much higher than necessary.

SO, aside from a few minor considerations, the bedbugs are behind us.

During the first month that we were at my in-laws, my first tech assignment ended. I’m working through a recruiter, so when an assignment ended, he finds me new work. 2 weeks later I am working for the government – specifically at a military base/supply depot doing an upgrade for 100% of their Windows 7 machines to Windows 10.

That assignment lasts 2 months. It didn’t pay particularly well, but it pays better (and is better for me) than maybe-sometimes standing on asphalt.

During these 2 months we are looking for a place to move. and near the end of these 2 months we find a place that has these qualities:

  1. Safe. Mainly the neighborhood, but also the structure.
  2. No recent history of any major bug problems.
  3. Decent landlord – we kept finding these really skeezy companies that were just way to sketchy for us to be comfortable.
  4. Fits our budget. Which is about $850/month on the upper end

In the late winter/early spring it is practically impossible to satisfy all of these requirements. We ended up learning that friends of ours were moving out – we’ve known them for a long time. The vouched for all of these, and is wasn’t great for all of these, but it did minimally satisfy all of them. Only it’s not actually available until July 1st.

The next major thing that happened was that my assignment ended. And then I had a month off of work. HOLY CRAP: A month out of work was not what we needed right now, especially since we had just signed a new lease. The 1st week off was applying for every. single. job. that existed with any sort of “easy apply” on a variety of websites (like linkedin and it’s cousins). The 2nd week was being contacted by a handful of I.T. recruiters for skype interviews and a few in-person initial interviews. The third week was a few more interviews with recruiters*. Week 4 was FINALLY, some real interviews. Uhh… 4 interviews in 2 days, specifically. I do not suggest that many stressful meetings in so few days.

It was a stressful Wednesday and Thursday, but at the end of the week, I had a job at the Abercrombie & Fitch home office doing some stuff in their I.T. department. About which I will make a new post later.

SO, as of writing this post I have been at A&F almost 3 weeks, and I’m collecting my first paycheck on Friday. The Saturday immediately after, I am moving in to a new house.

For the next month I am going to be slowly making sure that 100% of the books I have in storage are bedbug – free, and turning our new house in to a place that we want to live and thrive.

*These interviews were not for jobs, but rather they were for me to prove that the recruiting agency wanted me.

Defeat at the hands of insect-shaped vampires.

So, my last post was basically just an accounting of my time from the discovery of a bedbug infestation and when I decided that I still needed to act like I have a website, whether or not the bedbugs wanted me to have a life. The previous post was about 2 months ago. So, time for an update, I guess.

We have still not managed to wrest our household from the clutches of these ancient nocturnal vampires. Every time that we would get a spray done, we would make sure to emphasize to the exterminator where we think they are coming from and our willingness to do whatever we can to just kill the little fuckers. Torching the building is something I would love to do if they let us (they don’t).

And every time we got another spray done, it would be about 2 weeks before we found more ‘live activity.’ And we would get another spray done. And another. And another. We did this for MONTHS. The techs told us that we were likely looking at a nest that was either in the sub-floor under our master bedroom, or in the wall that we shared with our closest neighbor (and yes – they also found bedbugs, pretty much the first time that it occurred to them to look). This means that no amount of spraying is ever going to directly contact the ones that have recently fed. And just in case you didn’t know, if a recently-fed bedbug just decides not to move for a while, it can survive twelve months without feeding again. To be even more horrific, if there is a bedbug larva that hatches at the very end of that time period, it can feed on the almost-dead adult, and survive for another six months.

That’s eighteen months of bedbugs just chilling in the walls, refusing to come out, safe from the poison, and in a place that would be very hard to heat-treat properly.

The last time that we had the exterminator come out to spray, they coated our master bedroom in poison so thoroughly that we didn’t feel safe sleeping the room – just walking through the room kicked up enough poison powder that I could taste it. So Amanda and I slept on an air mattress. For a week.

After a week reality came and smacked me upside the head. I was sitting down and thinking that I didn’t want to inflate the bed again, and realized that we wouldn’t go in our master bedroom at all, except to grab clothes. And Lily’s room was basically just clothes storage and a sleeping bunk – we didn’t want her playing with any of the toys up there, because even a little bit of poison on something that she might decide to swallow is a bad thing.

So we decided that we needed to leave. The bedbugs had won. We would sound a full retreat and do whatever we could to simply get out of this stupid situation. Luckily, we had two huge things in our favor:

#1: A support network. I have 2 brothers, both married, that live in town. some 90% of Amanda’s extended family lives within 1 county of Columbus. We are in a church where people really care about one another and are willing to sacrifice. We also have other friends that either put up with us or that we’ve done big favors for in the past.

#2: Our landlord decided to raise rent. Normally that’s an illegal thing if we aren’t signing a new lease, BUT there’s a strange line in our lease that allows our rental company to raise rent in the middle, as long as they give us notice and give us the opportunity to leave before it takes effect. So basically we can break our lease with no real consequences or black mark on our rental history.

So now I am living with my wonderful in-laws. They are empty-nesters and have 2 rooms that they keep basically as guest bedrooms. Lily is now in one, and Amanda and I are in the other. They don’t have a lot of extra space beyond that, so a bunch of the stuff we know we can treat is in a storage unit near our apartment. Just yesterday we had a “moving” day where a few friends came over and we threw a bunch of shit on the curb.

The bedbugs won. We are left as not-quite-homeless, dependent upon the good will of our family and friends. We are left with quite a lot of possessions, even though we can’t reasonably access them in a timely manner. We are left with a very small amount of furniture – we only saved a baker’s rack, a weird half-shelf thing that fits our TV perfectly, one small shelf that was constructed by Amanda’s late grandfather, and a very nice coffee table, which was left to Amanda when her grandmother died. We are saving our entire book collection – we will be aggressively sterilizing it all with pesticides and maybe heat (again). We are saving a buttload of clothes – but probably donating a bunch of that, too.

What the bedbugs take from us? They got 6 months of our peace of mind. They managed to enforce a very strange social isolation upon us. They killed our mattress/box spring, Lily’s crib, and all 3 couches. They killed every dresser we own. They killed 5 full-size shelving units, ranging in quality from “wal-mart special” to “wait did someone hand-make this?”  They have forced me to work at maintaining proper bedbug containment protocol more than I work at my job. They killed my nerd fort. They have almost 100% removed any activity that isn’t strictly survival for the last 6 months. They took my health: even if the poison was aimed at the bedbugs – I’ve still been sick more in the last 6 months than I had been in the 2 years previous to that.

Yesterday when I was looking at the pile of (now) trash in front of my house, I began mentally adding up what it would be like to re-purchase all that furniture. Just what I was looking at was easily $3,000. I began to add up the rest of the furniture and time spent and the heat treatment and poison and everything else that these horrid little beasties took. At around $10,000 I stopped counting because I was already despairing.

My Recent Hiatus

The last post I published was just after thanksgiving. That’s almost a 2 months ago, and it didn’t include anything that had to do with my podcast(s). I have a few episodes that are in the state of ‘almost done,’ but I’ve decided to keep my hiatus going until some things have been finished.

First off, to set the stage: I had been thinking for a while that I wanted to start an I.T. career. After a dozen disjointed jobs that I never really cared about, I figured I would start studying for the Comptia A+ certification. So I got a few books from the library and started working my way through them.

If you don’t want to read 100%, there’s a TL;DR at the bottom.

BEGIN WEEK #1:

Shortly after I decide to get A+ certified, starting about 3-ish weeks before Thanksgiving, my wife found a small colony of bedbugs on our bed’s box spring. It was a very small colony, with only 3 or 4 live adults and a small amount of eggs. But if you’ve ever had bedbugs before, or even known someone who has had them, you know that this is one of the more stressful things that can happen to you, outside of a major life event or major surgery (NO REALLY, HERE’S A LINK).

We discovered them on Thursday November 3, about 11:30 pm. We didn’t get to sleep until about 3 am. In that time we stripped our bed and all our clothes and started ‘heat-treating’ them. Which in this case is code for “stick ’em in the dryer for the longest, hottest setting.” We also inspected the crib and mattress that our toddler sleeps on. We slept on the couches that night. I awoke early that morning for work, and Amanda had to call off work because taking a toddler to daycare from a bedbug infested home with other children is considered impolite.

Friday after I was home from work, we decided to temporarily move in to my in-law’s house. I thought we might spend a week there. I was wrong about the time frame, but I cannot thank them enough for their support.

BEGIN WEEK #2:

This week was interesting and horrible. I was still working, only now I was 20 more minutes from my office, so I had to wake up even earlier. Every day after work I would head to the apartment and bag up clothes, make terrible jokes while I baked my novels on a low setting (Heh. “cooking my books” – get it?), and generally set everything in any room in one weird tower of crap in the middle of that room. We came up with a system to ensure that we wouldn’t bring bugs from our apartment to anywhere else – it had to do with a package of clothes in the entryway to the in-law’s house, carrying a spray bottle of isopropyl alcohol wherever we go, and generally being paranoid.

This is the first full week that we are at the in-laws, and I don’t have access to my normal computer, normal video games, or generally speaking, my normal life. I decide that I am going to take whatever toddler-free time that I have and read this A+ book. So I am usually the last person awake, reading alone at the dining room table, with the dogs and the fireplace for company. It’s pretty nice, and a perfect study atmosphere for me.

Amanda and I love to host for our friends, so we have a lot of furniture. Getting every single piece of furniture 2+ feet way from the apartment’s walls was impossible, but we came close, without even destroying anything. Before we didn’t want to be in our apartment because we didn’t want to be around the bugs. Now we didn’t want to because it was totally uninhabitable. No seating, all the food moved or thrown away, the bedding all piled up, and so forth. Even my books were in a jenga tower of boxes.

BEGIN WEEK #3

We left the goddamned country.

No – really, we had a cruise scheduled for the last full week before thanksgiving. My dad paid for it as a 5th anniversary gift. My brother and his wife also came. The week previous was hell because we were trying to get our home ready for the bedbug treatment before we left. So we got it all done, and we headed to my dad’s place in Pennsylvania before heading to Baltimore to catch the ship.

(By the way, I recommend going on a cruise. They are cheaper than you might think, and are a really good way of going somewhere new without needing to think about things like making food for yourself or deciding what to do during the day.)

On the cruise we went to Port Canaveral (including NASA), and then Nassau and Freeport – both of which are in The Bahamas.

It was weird, going on a trip like this when my home was being held hostage by a parasite. It was also weird being away from my daughter for so long (we had already arranged to have the in-laws watching her). It was weird knowing that the landlord had arranged to have the exterminators there when we were going to be 1100 miles south. It was weird going to a country that was recovering from a hurricane that hit them so hard that they still weren’t done cleaning up after a month. It was weird that I was worried about insects when some of these people were worried about what to eat tomorrow.

My brain was in a weird place. In my free time (which was like 90% of your time on a cruise) I read up on A+ stuff.

BEGIN WEEK #4:

We got back to Columbus.

My job was cutting hours, since no one wants to work outside in freezing temperatures (I am a traffic control flagger for road construction sites). I had a lot of free time and the only things to do was slowly unpack our house from the middle of every room, and wait for the exterminator to do the final spray. Oh, and read A+ stuff.

I worked when I could, but otherwise, I was not in my own home, and couldn’t do my normal things. I played with the toddler, and read A+ stuff. I finished my first read-through of the book on Friday.

Oh yeah. Thanksgiving also happened in there somewhere.

BEGIN WEEK #5:

We move back home.

We are still trying to get the house put back together. It’s going slowly. Nerd Fort #1 had been mostly dismantled, since it is a blanket fort, and bed bugs like cloth. We keep being paranoid about the chances that the treatments missed a bug or two. It’s stressful – like moving, only with horrible little blood goblins that are rumored to have the ability to just not die.

BEGIN WEEK #6:

It is now the first full week of December. We start finishing up the details of our Christmas trip to South Dakota, because it doesn’t matter how broke or parasite-stricken you are – when it’s time for someone’s 60th wedding anniversary, you are going to it.

We are continuing to get our house back in order, and we start getting bills that we were expecting – urgent care visit for me when a stomach virus made me not eat for three days, emergency room visit for Amanda when belly pain woke her up from a dead sleep, the first notice of how much the bedbug treatment will cost, etc.

Otherwise, I worked when I could, took care of the toddler when I couldn’t, and studied A+ stuff in between.

BEGIN WEEK #7:

I actually work this week. Like real, actual hours. at least 3 days. Get more bills. Get paranoid some more. Try to figure out what to get people for Christmas on a budget (hint – a lot of it was knitting).

We have our first Christmas get-together as my father comes in to town on Saturday the 17th. The kids (Lily and the 2 children of my older brother) get most of the presents, which is the way it should be.

We finish the plans for flying out to South Dakota, and start getting packed up.

 

BEGIN WEEK #8:

On Sunday, Amanda’s phone deletes most of her pictures and videos, including some videos of Lily that were never sent to anyone else. The next day we get the best phone for under $100 that we can find. We can barely afford this, but I have worked recently.

On Tuesday, we fly out to South Dakota. Did you know that if your child is under 2 years old, you can register them as “babe in arms,” and they fly for free? I do now, but here’s the kicker – the child has to share your seat. We decided that flying was better than driving because a long flight out with a toddler is a WAY shorter stress-period than a 24-driving-hours car trip.

Pro-tip #1: bring something that can play their favorite movie, but only break out the movie when they can’t keep themselves still any longer. Pro-tip #2: have a brother that wants to bring their vehicle, so you can just give them the luggage that you would otherwise check with the airline. Pro-tip #3: don’t get a stomach bug while on the airplane, especially with a toddler.

We get out to South Dakota and it’s pretty cool. We have wonderful bacon from a small-town-butcher with eggs and toast Every. Single. Morning. It was great. We also learn that my brother and I (and our families) are the surprise for the anniversary party. So we spend time driving around the Black Hills seeing really cool things. Went to Wind Cave. Nifty stuff. Somehow we didn’t go see Mount Rushmore.

My maternal grandparent’s wedding shared it’s decorations with their church’s Christmas service in 1956. The anniversary party 60 years later did the same thing, at the same church. That was pretty cool. When my grandfather came in and realized who he was looking at, I was worried that he was going to have a heart attack right there at the church. He hasn’t seen us since my younger brother’s wedding, and they had no idea we were coming. They very much appreciated our presence.

BEGIN WEEK #9:

Christmas Sunday! Wake up and do presents and stuff, which makes this Christmas Celebration #2. Start to hear about a blizzard coming. Go to my Mom’s church around noonish for their Christmas service. It was cheesy and Christmas-y, just like they always are, no matter what church you go to.

Blizzard happens, 2-3 feet of snow with 6 foot drifts. The entire town was cleaned up before dawn the very next day, because people from South Dakota don’t screw around with winters that last for maybe half the year. The next day we go to the spot where my Stepdad proposed to my mom  – Bridal Veil Falls.

Fly back to Columbus on Tuesday. Realize on the way back that I didn’t study A+ at all when I was in South Dakota.

Tuesday night, as we are getting ready for bed – find a bedbug. OGODDAMITTSONOFABITCH.

Call the landlord again. Call the exterminators again. Check every inch of the bed. Break out the DE (diatemaceous earth) in full force, dusting the entire bedroom.

Start a study group for like-minded A+ people. Sundays and Wednesdays. No one shows, but I keep going and maintain my study time.

BEGIN WEEK #10

New Years Day! Time to fight some bedbugs. We are sleeping on an air mattress in our living room, because the bugs seem to be centralized in our bedroom. I put a ring of DE around the air mattress at night. Lily loves helping deflate the air mattress in the morning. Capture a bedbug in the bedroom so we can show it to the exterminator.

Exterminator comes out, and says “yeah. That’s live activity,” when looking at our bug-in-a-ziploc. This apparently means something special and he basically tells us to get out because he’s going to “make it pretty toxic in here.” (don’t worry, the poison is harmless to humans after it dries – just have to keep the toddler from eating it too much).

We start sleeping in the bedroom again after the spray.

Work when I can. Study when I can’t.

BEGIN WEEK #11

Find another 2 bedbugs, capture them. Pay a few bills. Start to realize exactly how crazy we are going because of these little blood-sucking shits. Work 3 days this week (yay money) immediately pay some bills.

This time we take what we’ve learned and use alcohol to kill anything alive that we didn’t catch and can’t see (like eggs and stuff), DE to kill anything that might crawl up on the bed, and duct tape to patch up the holes that are in the bedbug-proof mattress cover.

Another spray: the exterminator looks at the 2 bugs and says “yeah that one is probably 7 weeks old, and that one is probably 3 weeks. I’m going to straight up soak your apartment in poison. Also, all the crazy things you are doing are very good. Keep it up.”

Also keep up the study group. No one comes. I still study.

BEGIN WEEK #12

This is the week that I am posting this.

Holy crap it’s been nearly 3 months. We are a little crazy, which I think Lily is picking up on – she is acting out more. We have a bit of money because Ohio weather has an on-again-off-again relationship with winter, so I work more (today is 60 degrees!). The in-laws keep doing their incredibly supportive thing.

I have a day off that Amanda is working and Lily spends with the great-grandparents. So I sit down and write this. I’m going to pay more bills and do more paperwork and get caught up on dishes.

END OF THE STORY.

TL;DR?
-Bedbugs are a horrific blight on the health and sanity of the world.
-We are fighting them while traveling, while trying to maintain a clean and financially-sound household, while trying to work, and while raising a toddler.
-We are slowly winning the bedbug battle, but it is not yet won.
-I have decided that getting my A+ certification is more important than keeping up with the podcast, but some podcast stuff will be ready the moment I feel I am qualified for the A+.

CONCLUSION: I am still on hiatus, but I am getting closer to being done with that.

I’m really bad at avoiding being cynical.

And that really sucks.

The following is a comment from a reddit thread. I suggest reading the thread until you get to this one, but this one is the most important thing I’ve read recently.

Fuck, I have been battling bedbugs for three weeks, and I was ready to crucify the people in the original picture just like everyone else. But once I got to the end of that comment:

“…Everyone is doing their best. If they are doing a bad job it’s because they don’t know how to do it better. Whether it’s knowledge, depression, mental illness, shitty upbringing. It’s their best, as terrible as it may be.”

It makes me remember the fact that I graduated from college right when people with my degree had been flooding back in to my industry after they took a break during the financial crisis. I have since abandoned any hope of getting back to any kind of social service/mental health unless I become independently wealthy. Since then I’ve been jumping from one job to another, just to keep my household afloat – and even that is once again coming under fire. If you look at my resume` without really asking “why in the world has this guy been in traffic control and in a preschool?” then many people would assume that I just can’t hold a proper job long-term. The truth is that I have had to face really hard facts at really inconvenient moments in my life.

My point is: I’m doing my best, but I often get nervous that people don’t always see that – I get nervous they will see me as lazy. Or as ‘not motivated’. Or as ‘entitled’. Or even as ‘just another loser’. But goddamit, I’m doing my best. I need to be making more money, but man there are some really important things that I’ve had to sacrifice. Sometimes the thing I have to give up is financial security. It’s a lot better to give that up and rest easy than to know that you weren’t there when someone depended on you. For me, that trade has leveled a hefty bill in my direction, but I think it’s been worth it.

Bedbugs

They are a thing. A thing in my house.

Not very many- in fact so far it’s one of the smallest colonies I’ve ever even heard about- but no matter how many you see, you drop 100% of other things and take care of them right the hell now. 

So, this website is on a 100% hiatus until a) the inspectors come and inform us that we have done everything properly, and can relax while they heat treat the domicile or b) we do everything we can and told we need to get out of the way while the pros do their thing.

Option ‘a’ means I will have an episode out Friday the 11th. Option ‘b’ may limit my access to a computer of the right caliber, and you might not see an episode until the 25th or later.

A few notes if you find yourself with bedbugs: 

-Tell your landlord asap. They are required to do something about it by law, and most want to be known as ‘the landlord who takes this seriously’.

-DO NOT spray with rubbing alcohol immediately. This may send the survivors in to the walls, making them harder to detect and exterminate. But keep rubbing alcohol around, especially for your ‘leaving the house’ routine. Listen to  your exterminator and landlord for immediate instructions.

-One of the primary health effects of these nasty little parasites is the lack of sleep due to anxiety. See if a family member or friend will take you in for at least a few days while you get your house sorted.

-Be considerate to people you interact with: if you are staying somewhere else or even visiting a friend, decontaminate yourself. Wear clothing that has been heat-treated (dryer in highest heat, longest time is usually ok), use alcohol on your shoes when you leave the house, DO NOT give them a gift from your house.

-Be prepared to sacrifice all your free time and some money to get rid of them. Your local health department might be able to assist with finances.

-Get ready, right now, to fight, really hard and do everything you need to do to get rid of these little bastards. It’s going to suck. You will cry. But you will kill the fuckers and you will eventually recover from them. But it will be worse if you don’t have a thirst for their death.

Podcast Day 2016 episode 4

FINAL EDIT: I am admitting defeat. I keep trying to work on this instead of doing other things, which makes me not want to do other things, which starts up the Spiral of Defeat and Failure and Other Bullshit™. I will keep around those episodes that I have already created, but I’m not going to finish. Maybe I’ll do a new year’s thing. I probably should have planned way far in advance, anyways. Current plan is to get out an episode of Nerd Fort #1 ASAP, which I think will be on Friday.

This was supposed to be where I would have the next episode, but I don’t yet.

This will be rectified soon.

Edit from my phone: the fan on my power supply in my computer has died, so I don’t want to use computer for anything to serious, like editing audio. It may be a few days before this gets figured out. Hopefully i can just clean it out really well.

Edit again: holy crap. While fixing my computer my household came down with the plague. I’m already very lucky that I’ve been able to work like this, and i haven’t been able to record or edit anything for quite a while

I plan to release the remaining podcast-focused episodes all on Friday. Certainly everything that I can get done by then.

But of course I know how plans go.

Hopefully the final edit: Plans did not go well. I got some serious food poisoning and I didn’t even know what day it was for a little while there. Planning on recording the next time I have time away from both job and toddler at the same moment. Might be tonight, 10/20/2016. I’m going to post the audio from it ASAP after I record.

Podcast Day 2016, Episode 3

Ok, here is episode 3, all about the hardware needs that you will have. (links to products here give me a kickback, btw)

1. Space.

Literally. You need space to do this. It needs to be quiet, it needs to be free of pets and children. It should not have bare walls.

2. A computer.

I assume that most people have one that will suffice for recording and editing – if you’re not sure, trying playing a modern video game on it. Can it handle it at default levels? awesome. it works.

3. Actual podcaster-specific stuff: a microphone.

The one that you will use comes in 2 major types: Dynamic and Condenser. Here is a Wikipedia page about it.

If you are going to be in a group setting and you don’t want another mic for each person, go with condenser, as it will pick up all the audio in the room. I use a Blue Snowball for recording my D&D sessions.

If you are going to be by yourself, or you can afford one for each person, then use a dynamic mic, as it tends to not pick up audio that is far away from it, and it has a more impressive range that it can pick up. When I am recording by myself, I use the ubiquitous ATR-2100.

Other things, in no particular order:

If you don’t want to build a blanket for around your computer every time that you record, get some acoustic panels.

If you don’t want to find the very limits of your listener’s patience, get a pop filter. There’s also another style.

If you’ve got money to burn and hate taking time to put your microphone away, then get the thing I incorrectly called a boom. It’s actually a scissor arm stand. A boom is the long pole that sticks out the back of a ‘normal’ mic stand.

If you want to be able to do anything on your desk without pausing your recording, then a shock mount is for you.

If you want to hear what you sound like to your audience while you are editing, then some decent headphones are in order.

International Podcast Day 2016, Episode 2

There are some things that are very important to podcasting that can’t be bought or acquired in how we normally think of it, but are still pretty important.

1. A support network

Most people have some kind of support network, but many people rarely think about it. Taking some time to figure out who in your life is going to help you with your podcast – often in ways that you might not expect – is very valuable. To learn who would be in your podcast support network, the best advice is to talk about it and see what people have to say.

2. Time

Many people feel like they don’t have enough time, which is a problem for podcasters because it is a hobby that does take a significant amount of time. Making a decision to carve time out of your other activities is usually what it’s going to take to be able to have time to podcast. Definitely don’t sacrifice time with your family, or time at your job. Maybe consider sacrificing time asleep or time doing other games and hobbies.

3. Attitude

I still don’t really have this one well defined, even for myself, but I know it’s important. Staying motivated and disciplined is important. Also important is sticking to your decision to do it. When I’ve got a bad attitude, I can’t make good episodes. When I have a good attitude, I am capable of making the best episodes.

4. Passion

Everyone is passionate about something. Some people have a humanitarian cause – like raising money for researching a disease, or raising political awareness about an important issue. Other people have a personal passion – perhaps the music industry, movies, woodcarving, or sun tanning. Perhaps your passion is simply having fun with your friends or enjoying board games.

The great thing about podcasting is that you don’t need to be passionate about podcasting. But you do need to be passionate about something. When you get in front of a microphone with a passion about anything, youve got a good start to be able to podcast well.

5. Technical understanding

A lot less important than you might think, it is nonetheless important to have a basic understanding of the tools that you are using to podcast. You don’t need to have college-level knowledge about the broadcast industry, or how microphones work, or anything like that. But you do need to know how all of your stuff fits together, and how to make it work.

There are some people that are capable of tearing apart and rebuilding a car’s engine. Then there are people who are afraid to open the hood of their car at all. But both of these people can drive their car down the road. They both know the gas, the brake, how to unlock the doors, and how to roll the windows up. Very similarly, most podcasters won’t be able to safely take a soldering iron to the inside of a microphone, but practically anyone can hook up a microphone to the computer and make a recording.

International Podcast Day 2016 – Episode 1 of 7

So, today is International Podcast Day 2016, and I am doing a kinda off-the-cuff mini series about podcasting. This episode is how I started a podcast and a really rough bare minimum that you would need to get started. Since this podcast is 75% about my story, I won’t include that in the show notes, but I can give you the links for the podcasts that I mentioned, and the very basic things you need for a podcast.

Welcome to Night Vale is at http://www.welcometonightvale.com/listen

The 3.5 private sanctuary has changed since i first started listening to it, and can be found under a new name at  http://knowdirectionpodcast.com/

The Audacity to Podcast can be found here: https://theaudacitytopodcast.com/

The four basic things that I mentioned that you need for a podcast:

Thing 1: a recording device. To start, I suggest a USB mic attached to a computer. You can use things like your phone but I don’t suggest it. You can also go crazy and start with sound boards and professional-level microphones at first but if you don’t already have experience with them, then it’s a really bad idea.

Thing 2: Somewhere online to put the audio where your potential audience can find it. YouTube is the bare minimum for this, and is also a really bad idea. Don’t podcast on YouTube unless you are doing a video podcast, and don’t do a video podcast unless you really know how to edit video. I personally suggest Libsyn as a media host, but that’s just me.

Thing 3: a space to record. If you think you have a great place, then record total silence in that space for 2 minutes, and then listen to it. Now go back and turn off all the stuff that was making noise (AC, furnace, the dog, street, etc.) and then talk a little bit. just say your name and where you are from – and listen to that. You’ll notice little echoes and stuff. You want soft surfaces and zero machinery.

Thing 4: Something to say. This is probably the most important part. If you don’t have anything to say, then no one will listen to you. You need to be knowledgeable and passionate about your subject matter. You have no idea how many podcasts there are about knitting. Seriously. there are enough of them that some people have compiled a ‘top 5’ list of knitting podcasts. You know that there is someone that wants to hear what you have to say – and a podcast is a great way to reach them.

This Friday, International Podcast Day.

I don’t know what makes this Friday the international podcast day, but for some reason it is. To start off, you should go catch up on your favorite podcast. After that, find a new, interesting podcast and get caught up on that. With the remaining 3 minutes in your day, you should read this and get prepared to listen to my podcast every day next week.

For some reason I care about Podcast Day. I don’t usually care about national/international anything day. I don’t care about pancake day, or beer day, free slushies at 7/11 day, or even D&D day. But I care about Podcast Day. The funny thing about that is: I’m not entirely sure why I care about it. I just do.

One way or the other, I am going to write a podcast episode the moment that I am done with this post, and I am going to publish the episode in my normal feed (SORRY, all you D&D listeners. If you have subscribed for only D&D content, I will make sure that I will include a disclaimer at the very beginning about how you aren’t hearing anything D&D). And then I’m going to write and record a bunch more so that you’ve got the whole story of how I got where I am and how you can start a podcast as well – or at least appreciate the people who do podcasts that aren’t backed up by big media outlets or other sources of cash and labor.

The first episode (this Friday) is going to be about making podcasts, and it is going to start off a mini-series about how I have made mine, and how you can make yours. They will be a half hour or less and be accompanied by half-way decent show notes.

See you then, I hope.

Nerd Fort #1, Episode 11 – for real this time.

MY GOODNESS

I really need to get my shit together. I didn’t even check the website to make sure that the last episode published.

The remainder after this episode is all a bunch of non-D&D stuff, so I decided to scrap it as an episode.

The next episode is either going to be session 4, or a break while I publish some other stuff. Specifically a game day in which I had several people over to my house, and some of them played in the nerd fort. We’ll see.

When my work actually hits 40 hours in a week, it’s a pretty intense 40 hours. I rarely have time to actually do very much after I recover from the day – you know, beyond the daily necessities of hugging the toddler, consuming sustenance, kissing the wife, fixing the car – that sort of stuff. So I’ve been struggling to actually edit and have things ready very far in advance. I plan to rectify this. So that I have less breaks in regular content.

IN THE MEANTIME here is the actual episode 11.

So I Actually Have A Podcast

So, I find myself at the end of a week, when I would normally be finishing editing an episode and releasing it. I would normally be hoping that the few people who I know listen to it (Hi, Ellie and Claire!) will get something entertaining and interesting out of it.

Turns out, that I only have about 15 minutes of session 2 remaining – I did not plan this well. The final few minutes are kinda important but not exactly the sort of thing that stands on their own. I will probably have a weird half-episode next time I get a day off to edit stuff, and release it along with the first episode of Session 3. But for now, no episode for the moment.

Speaking of Session 3, I am sure that anyone who has listened to sessions 1 and 2 have noticed that all the episodes in Session 2 are significantly shorter than those in Session 1. I am specifically planning on making one big change like that each session, and Session 3 will have a change as well – D&D stories.

So, I know that everyone has that one amazing story that they always tell their friends. That one character whom you managed to be build just right and still maintain that one thing that makes them special. That one session that had people literally falling out of their chairs in shock. That one prop that got the players so invested in their character that the campaign lasted for 3 years. That one adventure that gave you nightmares for a week. That story – the one you cannot stand not telling to any RPG nerd that wanders by.

I want to take some of these stories, and include them in my podcast. I will start with the stories from myself and the guys in the group so far. Hopefully, I will be able to solicit stories from others soon, as well. In the episode, the stories will be after the main content, and hopefully around 5-10 minutes long.

If you are reading this and would like to submit your story, then write it up and email me (seth.kleinpaste@stumblestoryinn.com) with the subject line “Nerd Fort Story.” It would be nice to get people in to Nerd Fort #1 to record it yourself, but if time or geography doesn’t allow it, then I will voice it, possibly with the amazing voice talents of the Nerd Fort Guys, and maybe all our friends.

So that’s that. I still plan on getting more text posts about stuff out on a regular basis, but that will probably be when my work calms down a little in winter. Otherwise, I’m going to just be chugging along with the podcast.