15 April 2017

totally rad

Welcome welcome welcome! Just time for a quick recap of the [indeterminate temporal interval].

On the health front, I've been idling steadily since the last update. The number of dressings per bandage change is gradually reducing, and some days we can skip messing with them altogether, so progress, uh, progresses! Dad's been on the team DL for the past few months, so I haven't been getting up in the chair - not even using the Hoyer lift; there's still too much risk of unintended physical stress for the padre. (Don't worry, he's been surgified and is doing better!) So, it's been plenty of time spent tapping my rather inexhaustible reserve of stuff to do from bedward stance.

In fact, one of my pie-in-the-sky gaming desires has crept into my almost-daily physical therapy routine! As I have rambled at you previously, I have a wonderful custom-built controller that lets me fumble through games outside of my usual pointy-and-clicky slow-paced strategy ability zone. I'm not all that good with Mr. DualSticks: you certainly won't see me mopping up on Call of Duty multiplayer, as I tend to spend most of my time in such games admiring the floors and ceilings. Let's just say I can't do fast-twitch accuracy, considering I'm basically using my shoulder muscles to move the analog sticks. From the time I received the controller last summer through January, I had almost exclusively played racing games and title after title in the Lego series (no, I'm apparently not an adult). However, on a whim and a reco from Madame​ S-Flo, I gave Fallout 4 a go. Sure, it's yet another possibly-jlunplayable first-person shooter, but it's more of a shallow RPG than a fast-paced twitchy murderfest (fine, it is still a murderfest, but with slightly more story glue!), so there was a chance I could die my way through it, pretending to be a real gamer.

You know what? It really does work for me! First of all, it has an extensive and robust cheat console, so I can toggle on unlimited ammo - quite an important option, given my aforementioned proclivity for preposterous pew-pew precision. (For those of you in the "you cheater, git gud or play something easier" camp, stop trying to tell a quad how to enjoy a single-player game already.) The relevant code grants me invincibility as well, but that's more of a side benefit. However, the most useful, quad-friendly game mechanic is a spiff, not-even-cheating function called VATS. VATS is a targeting system (that's the TS, but I'll let you do as I do and make up silly things for what the acronym actually means) that slows time to a crawl and lets you queue up pre-aimed ahots at visible enemies/mines/other blow-uppable stuff. Basically, rather than having to pull off epic fine-tuned sniper headshots on three bad hombres π/e football fields away, you can hit the VATS button, order shots on dudely body parts until you're satisfied, and then hit the "do it!" button and watch the toootally realistic situation play out from fun cinematic camera angles and such. Of course, that gets a bit tedious after a while, so it's admittedly more fun to barge into an area full of rad-baddies and spray 'n' pray with an explodey machine gun every now and then. Or sneak up on a raider and knock her head off with an electric-stun baseball bat, complete with home-run-cheering-crowd sound effects. Yay, encouraged ultraviolence!

Anyway, beyond providing a much-needed variation in my daily quest for bedtertainment - and an entirely-too-rare feeling of doing something dextrous as well as an able-normie, [ir]regardless[ly] of cheats and VATS abuse - my time as a Fallout boy (ugh, sorry) is serving quite the array of physically-therapeutic benefits. Primarily, it's making me bother to do something with my right arm. As an individual of the sinistral persuasion, I arrange my bed-table goodies for left-handed efficiency, with computer controls and medicine bottles in close reach for my dominant hand. As such, my right arm just sort of exists over on the other side. With dual-stick controller time, though, ole righty has an important job! In FO4, as with most shooty-shooty bang-bangers, the right-side analog is used for looking around and aiming. (There are a few buttons to hit sporadically on that side as well, but those are large whackables; the stick is the fine-motor-skill priority. Thanks to accessibility attachments, I can use sip and puff for "interact" and "shoot" - 90% of arm activity is maneuvering the analog sticks.)

Hoo boy, was it a shot across the starboard bow at first! To start, gaming in bed with the controller is already a decent workout - the two halves lie on my bed table in a way that forces me to tilt the bed up (sorry, blood pressure) and hold my arms up and away from my body a little. Huurrrgh! While my left arm is quite toned for that exact stance, its nearly vestigial right counterpart wanted none of it in the beginning. For the first week or two, all I could manage was a play a minute/rest a minute pattern, and only for about an hour before switching to something less demanding. It was pretty brutal. However, after keeping at it for a little while on a daily basis - aw shucks, you mean I have to stop pretending to be an adult and play games every day for my health? - I was able to play for longer periods with fewer breaks. As an added bonus, all that brachial-orientation exercise led me to spend a little less time admiring the cloud animations and floor textures, hehe.

Fast-forward to now, and I can manage at least four hours a day, five days a week (modulo an hour/day or two depending on scheduling and pesky pain patterns). It's still a heavily-medicated adventure, but not significantly more so than non-gaming days... Sure, it's essentially self-mandated playtime, but compared to the utter lack of PT/OT available here to accomplish more or less the same thing, I think it's worth it. I've regained a fair bit of arm strength that I'd lost over the past few years of nothingness, and it's great stress relief! (Turns out post-apocaBoston is happier than the real world some days...) So let's see, price of (admittedly not-cheap) controller plus price of game, versus 20+ hours/week of PT/OT visits plus counselor appointments over four months and counting - hey, if nothing else, I'm getting mediocre treatment at a pretty epic discount, eh?

So there you go. That would be the long version of what I've been to instead of meeting my self-imposed, fantastically arbitrary March post deadline. Oops! If you're paralyzed, have a gaming setup you can operate, and have somehow made it all the way through this ramblefest (or you just skipped down here for a tl;dr), I highly recommend giving Fallout 4 a shot. There are several Fallout-specific mechanics that are extremely handy for those without the best motor skills, and its a fun adventure to dive into for, um, possibly an embarrassing amount of time. If you're wary of the "not as good as previous Fallouts" reviews on Steam and the like, or your computer/console isn't up to the task of running this fairly new game, or you'd rather play in some other post-nuclear location, it looks like Fallout: New Vegas is a winner with most of the same mechanics. I'll probably play that one next, if I ever run out of side missions and am actually forced to finish 4...

17 December 2016

celebratory hmph

Ahoy, mateys! Let's embark upon yet another fairly vacuous update voyage.

Medically, things are looking great! After, ugh, five whole years of this surgically-induced bedtime, my wounds are about 95% healed. I've been able to get up in the chair on weekends (thanks for the inspiration, mr. controller), and I'm pondering the risk/reward balance of doing so more than just once or twice a week. It's a bit of an adjustment - I've become rather complacent in tolerating the bummer that is 24-hour bed rest, which means "normal" getting-upness at least feels like a lot more tedious work. But oh, what a dream an actual shower would be... Anyway, I look forward to the readjusting party, because chair time is freedom!

Also, could it be: did I really make it through all of 2016 without a single trip to the hospital???

Elsewhere? Yeah, about the rest of life. This year sucks, and I've done essentially nothing with my time. But hey, enough optimism... I got a new computer! On top of that, I used it as an excuse to get a new TV, tee hee hee. My new laptop-in-name-only is proof that if you spend enough dough, you can get a feature that should be an option on all lapsters. That's right: I have a matte screen again! You may recall that I made a big deal about having my first glossy display way back when, trying feebly to cast it in a positive light (zut alors, I used to write so much better.) Since the days of that dinosaur, I've been through another machine that had an even more egregious offender of a pixel placard. There was no pretense of "antiglare" on that one - with a dark desktop background, I could read the tag on the curtains behind me. Ick. Now, well, I suppose I'm oblivious to my horrible posture, but at least movies and games don't have a haunting aura of my ugly mug lurking in the background (rather, foreground, honestly) of every dark scene.

Oh, right, it has processy bits too, but that's not as amusing!

Hmmm... What else? I know - I'm desperately in need of a new music adventure. I can only buy so many albums from my (fortunately prolific) go-to favorites before I reach the saturation point, at which I realize that I already own all of the good ones. So if you've got something/someone to push on me - the weirder the better - now's your chance to take over my speakers. Pretty please, indulge me. I might even offer my own recommendation oddities in return.

Okay, let's call time and hand in. Happy end-of-this-miserable-stupid-year, pals.

23 October 2016


joyeux anniversaire

(hers, not mine)

30 July 2016

pushing the right button

Well hello there! Sit down and hold on to something solid - I've actually sort of done something. [Post-edit: also steel yourself for some Jenga-level sentence constructions.]

Secured? Okay. I've been getting up in the chair some. It hasn't been very much, just for a few hours at a time on Saturdays and/or Sundays. But it's a start! Just the first day that I got up was more time spent donating to chairity than I'd accumulated over the past 9/2 years. Of course, it's generally too cold in the rest of the house, and my power chair battery doesn't hold enough charge for me to go anywhere, so all I really do is sit around in my room instead of lying around in my room... Wheee!

Well, that's a bit of a lie. Using the "carrot" motivational approach, I did lure myself out of bed. I've been known to take occasional pleasure in diversions of the interactive digital variety, but as I've boo-hooed before, I'm mostly stuck playing meticulous talky-talk RPGs or myriad variations of glorified Risk or chess (sorry, Civ and XCOM, I'm throwing you under the bus again.) Not anymore! Thanks to the lovely folks at Broadened Horizons, I have traded most of my net worth and an undisclosed portion of my soul for a game controller I can sort of operate. That, mes amis, is a good reason to get up.

Uploads are misbehaving, so here's a picture of one of their controllers that's pretty similar to mine. It's a so-so apropos BroHo photo.

At first glance, it looks like the controls ripped out of an (admittedly complicated) arcade cabinet; a "fight stick" with enough buttons and sticks to completely replicate the inputs of an Xbox/PlayStation controller. (They're isomorphic!) It's split into halves, which lets me play some simpler casual games while in bed (one half on each side of the laptop monstrosity), but anything more complicated than run-and-jump needs to be played seated upright for maximum whackability. That's partially why I got it, after all!

The large, whack-friendly layout alone lets me fumble through some games, but there's more to it than that. On the back panel of one of the halves, there are quite a few ports to connect various external triggers, including some standard 3.5mm (headphone-style) switch jacks, a couple of connections for extra analog joysticks, and a little nozzle to connect tubing for sip/puff functions.

Quick note: If you're not familiar, sip/puff switches are a pretty standard accessibility control method. It's just some tubing connected to some sort of pressure-sensitive activator. You use the tubing like a straw to change the air pressure and trigger the activator - inhale (sip) or exhale (puff). I had one of these to call the nurse and operate the ECU while I was in inpatient rehab post-injury at the RISL. It's a closed system, so you don't have to keep inhaling/exhaling to keep it activated; if you want, you can trigger it and then just put your tongue on the end to maintain the reduced/increased air pressure. Don't worry, you weren't sharing the mouthpiece... I hope...

I use the controller mostly as-is, only adding one orally-activated control. At first I tried using a simple bite switch - chomp to activate - for whatever a game's most pressing (ha) function may be: think "jump" for a platformer, "shoot" for a, uh, shooter, or "gas pedal" for a racing game. That worked great for a solid, oh, three weeks or so before I started feeling that slight tingling sensation of electricity on my tongue (come on, you've all licked a 9-volt before), and I realized that I had turned the bite switch into a nonfunctional electronic snack. Oops! So I replaced that with a sip/puff apparatus, which has the added bonus of granting me two mouth-operated functions (inhale and exhale) instead of one. It's not quite perfect - I can't seem to sip and puff simultaneously, for some strange reason - but it means I can play a surprisingly large number of games with just the left stick and sip/puff.

On top of that, all of the buttons can be reassigned on the fly without external software, and with the necessary cables, adapters, and other requisite gizmos, it'll work with PC, PS2/3/4, and Xbox 360/One (plus a few others, but those are the highlights). It's occasionally a little fiddly to get it to work on PC; not all games recognize it as a controller. However, you can map keyboard and mouse functions to the controller with Joy2Key or Xpadder and trick games that way if necessary. That's how I fumble through Payday 2 - with the dual sip/puff actions, I can even fix those stupid drills. Seriously, millions of dollars of heistybucks, but we can only afford equipment with a 100% failure rate?

So there you go. I'm sooo productive. But hey, it gets me up in the chair.

Is it worth it? I can work it. (push the prog button, flip keys and reverse sticks)

08 May 2016


Well. It's Mother's Day today. Does it mean anything anymore? Just another opportunity to rip open the wound?

The worst part of all this - well, obviously not quite the worst - is that it's essentially routine now. Would there be a funeral? We'll just do like we did with Tim. Let's have a party - that went well the last time. Ugh.

26 March 2016

the dearthsleys

Ahoy! Just here for a quick check-in. Health-wise, there's not a lot new; my surgery wounds are (slowly) cleaning up quite well, and nothing has gone horribly wrong since the last hospital stay. Hooray? I started up with a new PCA a few weeks ago, and the extra set of arms will, ahem, come in handy in the near future - the main thing keeping me out of my chair at the moment is the risk of tearing fragile skin areas open again, but with two muscular volk available, I can transfer bed <-> chair without dragging out the Hoyer lift. It doesn't mean shower time yet, unfortunately, but it's a start! After all, I have 4+ years of accumulated stray junk just begging to be knocked over.

Elsewhere, does anyone have any good bizarro music recommendations to offer? I've been in a rut of near-silence since I got back from the hospital in December, but major slacking has been going on in the tunes department for longer than that - I can't even remember when I last acquired a CD. If I tried to redo/update my musical experiment from March 2009 (zut alors, seven years ago!), it would be depressingly boring, monotonous, and most of all, empty. I guess my main bands are getting older and not releasing much, but I've been too lazy/uninspired to latch onto anyone new. I have at least been cranking through some audiobooks while (not) falling asleep - that's what happens when your sleep meds are changed after a decade of efficacy - but it's no replacement for a few rock solid albums.

Hmmm... Yes, must check for any new releases. Step zero: transcend inherent laziness. That's the trick to just about everything though, non? Paz afuera, home fries.

31 December 2015

4D tracking

Ahoy! Just dropping in post-hospital to tick a couple of marks I missed on the December calendar. Don't worry, I'm too drained to produce another reader-repelling abstract algebra thesis.

The 18th marked four whole years of bed time. Ugh. If I had known at the start that I'd be out of commission this long, I would have gone after a degree or two. Or finished my CCNA cert. Or done anything at all, really. On the bright side, this month's round of surgeries have been the most effective/promising so far, so maybe there won't be another year. Hippity hoppity hope hope hope!

Next up, the 24th rounded out chapter eleven in The Big Book of Years Post-Injury. I have neither the energy nor the time (nor the desire, honestly) to recount the last 365 with any sense of sufficiency, so let's just say it was about as good as the quality of this numerically-appropriate video:

This year won't be missed on my end, but time moves with the majestic rhythm of the spheres. Bring it on, 2016!