Really Feeling the Itch

I've been migrating most of the Cumberland library to itch.io, and while the migration isn't yet complete, the most crucial files are mostly in place, so it's a fair time to finally link to the Cumberland Games page.

While I'm making the move because of issues with DriveThru (those who know me personally know my dislike of the site extends back to its founding), I'm also discovering what it's like to be working with a more modern site. Advantages of itch.io include, but aren't limited to:

  • If you're downloading a free title and new to the site, there's no burdensome signing-up-for-an-account process. You just click the download button and go.
  • The site isn't grossly biased against free titles (free titles are kind of my jam).
  • Off-site hyperlinks are allowed within the adcopy, so when (for example) the Risus page mentions the Risus community, it's allowed to link to an appropriate site (forbidden on DriveThru),
  • The mobile site works, completely. It even has paragraph breaks. This should not be exciting in 2020, yet here we are.
  • The site isn't structured around presumptions about tabletop gaming that don't apply to Cumberland (because it's originally a site for indie videogames, it isn't structured around tabletop at all, which turns out to be a huge blessing).
  • They don't take 35%. Yeesh, even the Apple Store only takes thirty, guys, and only fifteen from small developers.
Some things are the same. Search is kind of hit-and-miss, and it's a jungle to browse. There's very little by way of curation, etc. But it's mostly gains, with few and trivial losses.

So, while the circumstances that brought me to itch were unfortunate, the move itself has been exciting. If you're reading this, you've probably already got a copy of Risus or the Big List of RPG Plots, or you're a family member who doesn't know what those things even are, so, just a bit of non-scary news in dark times. Here's hoping you're healthy and well. 'Til next.


Still Super Sick, No 'Rona

Just a note to say that Sandra and I got our covid test results and we are covid-free. I'm still sick as the proverbially sick dog, with a headache that stabs like a thousand rotating swords, but whatever crud it is, it ain't no 'rona.

So there is that. Hope you're staying safe out there.


Shadow River, Just in Case

 So, there's this: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/332451

I'll just quote my own copy because I'm feeling crud-tastic and the headache is blinding:

As I write this, I’m less than a day into some worrying symptoms: a fever, mainly, but also aches and a general feeling of having a crud. Since this is October of 2020, I worry that it might be early symptoms of COVID-19. I hope it isn’t. We had some melted-plastic fumes in the house for a couple of days, and while we managed to isolate the fumes in a single room and flush them out through the windows, I still got more than a snootful, and fumes like that can cause inflammation, and inflammation of that sort might explain these symptoms. But I don’t know. And as I’ve successfully collected nearly the Whole Set of complicating factors for Covid, including high blood pressure and diabetes and a truly horrific form of asthma, I’m worried that I may be in my final days.

But there’s this fantasy city map I’ve been drawing since December of 2015 … A detailed “cartographic portrait” of the city of Shadow River, which appears in my book, Uresia: Grave of Heaven. Every edition of Uresia has a map of Shadow River already, but it’s a simpler map showing only neighborhood boundaries and the major “cart-traffic legal” streets (those which maintain a width of 8 feet or more), and I’ve always wanted a more detailed, buildings-and-trees, footpaths-and-alleyways map, even though I knew such a map would require more hours of work than Uresia itself ever did. And it has.

As of this writing I’ve poured approximately 450 hours into the cartographic portrait, and the actual building-the-map part of building the map is complete: every building, tree, footpath and alleyway is there, along with a roughly equal amount of extramural territory, in comparable detail. It’s pretty damn fine, if I do say so.

But there’s work still, to be done: My goal is to produce a PDF of plates exploring the city in a useful way for printing and gaming-with: grid plates that can be assembled into the entire map, and specially-chosen plates zeroing in on each neighborhood and other useful cuts. I also have multiple poster versions in mind that still require development.

But, I might never get to make those. And I don’t want the map to just be lost, never available in high-resolution and vector versions to Uresia fans or fantasy-map enthusiasts just because I up and croaked. So I’ve assembled this Just in Case Version with the best files I can offer right now, and I hope you’ll agree it’s a very nice set. This version includes:

  • The Shadow River chapter from Uresia 2nd Edition: Just in case you’re new to Shadow River, here’s the 16-page chapter from the book, complete with the neighborhood-scale city map and more. Uresia’s kind of odd, but I like that about it.
  • Shadow River Interior Raster - 300dpi jp2k: A toned-and-textured poster map of the city interior (with extramural parts omitted), in 300dpi with max-quality JPEG2000 compression applied.
  • Shadow River Interior Raster - 600dpi HI-C: A toned-and-textured poster map of the city interior again, but this time at 600dpi with Hi-Compression applied.
  • Shadow River Vectors Complete Version A: My favorite screen-browsing version, this is the entire map, in resolution-independent vectors, with lots of color. It’s not very print-friendly but it’s nice.
  • Shadow River Vectors Complete Version B: Similar to the above, but designed for print-friendliness with white rooftops.
  • Shadow-River-Casual-Browse-Version-150dpi: An easy-to-navigate lower-resolution version of the Interior Raster. This is identical to the free version available on my DeviantArt account (where I’m called Temphis, after the Grand Duchy where Shadow River sits on the north coast).
  • Plate Mockup Barrack Gate Area: A 600dpi toned-and-textured mockup of a plate, this one focused on the Barrack Gate area, both extramural and intramural.
  • Plate Mockup West Gate Area: A 600dpi toned-and-textured plate mockup again, this time focused on the West Gate (the gate itself, both intramural and extramural, not the “West Gate” district as a whole).

Furthermore, if everything goes well and I do live to complete the book of plates (and history and commentary), that version will be a free upgrade at no extra charge, when (if) it happens. But if I don’t live to see November, well, this will be my last published item, and I’m proud to present it as it is.

Notes and Data

Within the gameworld, this map is a product of two Dwarvish cartographers, a husband-and-wife team who escaped slavery in Orgalt, and through a series of comic misadventures, became Royal Cartographers to the king of Rinden. It’s worth noting that they have never set foot in Shadow River, but still assured His Majesty a “depiction accurate to within One Long Stride.” Their plan of the city was a product of espionage, derived from dozens of earlier, often stolen, plans of the city’s details.

Maps this detailed are normally state secrets, but through another series of comic misadventures, a book of plates based on the Rinden map became a novelty item on sale in Shadow River itself, and it’s that book that I hope to create in the future, complete with advertisements and other fun stuff, along with additional material describing sundry relevant comic misadventures.

It’s beloved, the favorite map of the city by those who live there, even though finding inaccuracies has become a kind of pastime – or perhaps, because of it.

According to the last ducal census, the resident population of Shadow River is just over 40,000, but the real population (including both resident and non-resident sailors, merchants and other travelers taking temporary lodging) ranges from about 48,000 to more than 53,000 depending on time of year. There are more than 15,000 buildings inside the city walls, more than 10,000 of which are inhabited (containing one or more Dwelling Units) with an average population of 2.95 per Dwelling Unit, 4.72 per inhabited structure, and 5.24 per inhabited structure at the busiest times of year when including estimated additional non-resident population. The city’s rate of abandonment (buildings empty and in declining condition) is approximately 5%. The city covers 236-238 hectares, depending if you include the outer circuit (the city walls) in the coverage total. The map’s depiction of extramural land covers about 235 hectares (not including the open water of Shadow River or the bay).

There are 16 leagues of major streets in the city (cart legal) along with uncountable minor ways (but you’re welcome to try). The total length of the exterior circuit is approximately 6,526 long strides (about 6 kilometers).

The map scale for the cartographic portrait (and the mockup plates) is 1:3168. The full-sized map (including intramurals, extramurals and a white border) is 30 real-world inches per side, and the map represents an area half a league per side. Shadow River as depicted is roughly similar in scale to late-medieval Paris.

And I guess that’s it for now. I hope this finds you well and safe, with gaming to look forward to in the future.

I also hope I live through whatever is ailing me but, if not, at least I’m proud you got to see this map. There are a lot of campaign memories baked in, and a lot of details that await the exploring eye. Take your time, look close, pick a street and walk it in your mind. Toss a pebble into one of the stonegullies and raise a tankard in one of the pubs.

Don’t get the creamed chipped boar at Gristleman’s, though; he overcharges and you can get much better at the breakfast buffet at Voroch Meadhall. Plus Voroch has a nice row of pinball machines.


Poster Post

Tonight I ordered this poster for myself, a clean white-rooftop lineart version of the Shadow River Cartographic Portrait, mainly to celebrate finishing the design. Someone on Twitter asked if I'd make it available for others to get, so there it is, for a little while, on posters and prints and shower curtains and things if you're feeling ... whatever feeling might inspire you to buy a cartographic shower curtain.

If you'd rather just look at a digital version (this makes the most sense to me), I've also added it to my Scraps Gallery over on DeviantArt. Hit the little download symbols below the image to download the bigger version of the image.

In unrelated news: in my last post I mentioned that we've never seen Orphan Black. Well, now we've polished off two seasons of Orphan Black and started on the third. Wow. And not just for the astonishing performances by the lead, but also for the story density. Major story beats that Joe Random Cable Drama would scrape over half a season, this show chews up and spits out in one or two episodes, and that's pretty refreshing. Good stuff.


TV Time

I haven't posted in a while so I'll ramble about TV.

Sandra and I have been catching up on shows in this strange Golden Age of Television, and a lot of the shows are a couple years old at this point; we will never actually "catch up" in any meaningful sense, but we are finally making a dent in the "things to watch" list. She and I go through long periods of watching almost no TV, and then I guess we sometimes cycle into extended pandemics where we watch more? Some of our recent runs in the Time of Corona:

I Am Not Okay With This: It ends on a huge cliffhanger and it's already been cancelled, so it's kind of cruel to even talk about it, but it was even crueller to cancel it. Great performances by the leads, episodes so short that it's basically the length of a single feature film, a thoroughly authentic Northern Appalachia setting (waves from just up the ridge), and ... yeah. It was brief, it was good, and it's gone now so there we are. The title sums it up.

Iron Fist Season 2: The least-beloved of the Marvel Netflix shows, the Critically-Acknowledged tales of the Immortal Iron Fist, second and final season. We liked it, partly because we got lots of Colleen and Misty, partly because Sacha Dawan is a force of nature, partly because Alice Eve has some cool acting chops, and in huge part because it wasn't so overwhelmed by the Meachums this time around.

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Oh man, that was fun. Everyone in one of my social media feeds were beside themselves with joy over the ending, so Sandra and I slammed all five seasons in a couple of weeks, and Scorpia is too precious for this or any other world. Good times. Hearteyes. Sparkles. And some pretty impressive theme and structure. I love it when kids' shows don't talk down to the audience, and I love it even more when Entrapta shows up.

Veronica Mars, Season 4: A satisfying return to Neptune, and a twisty twisting of entertaining twists. Thumbs up; I love the new characters; I love how many classic characters they shoe-horned in; I love the only-slightly-cheaty mystery plotting, and never make me choose between my love for Veronica and my love for Keith, they live in my heart forever.

HBO's Perry Mason: More of a gift to fans of the earliest Gardner novels (or to newcomers) than fans of other TV incarnations, most especially the towering memory of Monte Markham or that other guy. Friend of mine called it prequel fanfic (with some affection) and he's not wrong, especially about the affection. Best Della ever? Best Della imaginable. And it makes me stoked for She-Hulk on Disney+ because, having never followed Orphan Black, I was not prepared for how amazing Tatiana Maslany is.

HBO's Westworld: We burned through all three seasons (so far) and man that's a rollercoaster, and it's kind of a Whole New Show every season and kind of the same amazing cast so what the heck. Seriously, the quality of the acting duels with the polished trickery of the scripts for star status, and mercifully it's only 1 part Crichton, bulked out with 2 parts Dick and 3 parts Asimov (just 2 parts Asimov until Season 3, when suddenly it's more Hari Seldon than I, Robot). Minor retroactive spoiler warning.

HBO's Watchmen: Another show that is with some fairness called "fanfic" and with profound affection, I'm still not sure if I'm more amazed at how richly amazing and powerful it was or that it kind of basically stuck a landing that should not have been stickable. Both are achievements and that was a great show. I hope they never make another season of it. Powerfully prescient in many ways, and I don't mean the masks.

Lovecraft Country: Another HBO show but this time a current one, and ... such glorious, glistening pulpiness! The glisten is mainly from the gory bits, which are applied judiciously, but the glorious is from everything: the cast, the themes, the OH YOU THOUGHT THAT EPISODE WAS PULPY WAIT 'TIL YOU SEE THIS ONE attitude. Comparing it to Watchmen is inevitable on themes, and Watchmen was more powerful in most ways, sure, but Lovecraft Country achieves some very different kinds of impact while being giddy fun. It's a clever walk on a razorwire, with more astonishing leaps than missteps.

Harley Quinn: The trailers made me think it would suck. Like, SUCK. Terrible, irritating trailers mainly collecting every irritating piece of the first episode or so into one concentrated barrage of annoying. But ... the show is fantastic. Like, really. I'm so glad we're getting a third season and I'm so, deeply, sincerely grateful for the two we have already. Fingers crossed for a spinoff starring Jim Gordon's triangular chest hair; I know it's got something to say.

Star Trek - Lower Decks: Another current show. The trailers made me think it would also suck, but not as much as those for Quinn; I just found the animation style kind of on-the-nose contemporary in that slightly lazy, calculated hey-look-we're-down-with-the-young-people-according-to-our-marketing-algorithms way? As I write this, it's had (by my count) 7 fairly excellent episodes and 1 slight clunker, but that's an enviable scorecard for a Star Trek series.

I think that's all for the pandemic shows we've watched together, so far.* Sandra watches a lot of other shows while she works; I'm not able to (my brain won't let me process dialogue while I'm writing, and when I'm mapping I binge on news clips which is as unhealthy as it sounds). Next up is one of the two-hundred or so other shows we've been meaning to get to, or get back to (we're way behind on Agents of SHIELD but we'll get back someday ...) As the Pandemic (especially the U.S. epidemic wing of the pandemic) rages on, I hope I'll have a followup post someday and not be dead of coronavirus, but time will tell. So far we're safe, and I hope you are too.

In other news I finished that Shadow River map at long last, so that's cool. I mean, I've finished the actual mapping part of the mapping, in the crude garish colors designed for Photoshop separations rather than actual viewing (see image; embiggen for detail). Now it's time to texture it and tint it and carve it into plates and make another version that's a poster and then probably say Merry Christmas to Sandra because it's still only a back-burner project. For more RPG reading, I recommend this very kind article from Pete Schweighofer, because he says nice things about Slimes in Blossom Grove.

I'll try to post more.


* D'oh, nope. I forgot we watched Runaways Season 3.


Object of the Game

This one's a bit basic, but if we're going to get where we're headed with the Lexicon, we'll need it. I'll keep it quickish.

Every game has an object, or objective. If you're playing Chess, the object of the game is to put the opponent's king in checkmate. If you're playing Scrabble, the object of the game is to have the most points at the end. If you're playing Tic-Tac-toe, the object is to get three of your symbol (X or O) in a row, and so on.

The object of Chess, Scrabble, and Tic-Tac-Toe is the same, every time you play. That's a foundational or fixed object. In The Beginning, it was a given that a game's object was fixed, coded right into the game as a whole.

Then along came variants. Two Chess players could agree to play a Chess variant in which the object is to capture both of the opponent's Knights, for example, or variants where the object changes every 12th turn, or uncountable others. They're still playing Chess, but it's a different sort of Chess, which acknowledges the core version as the core version while exploring deviation from it (and some variants don't change the objective, but objectives are what we're here for today).

Tabletop wargames explored a variant on the variant: the scenario. Games with scenarios don't necessarily have a default, fixed object. Instead, the scenario frequently defines the object for each instance of the game. In a very important sense, each scenario in a game of Squad Leader (for instance) is a different game using the same core of rules, but with its own object, its own set of game-pieces (the units allotted each side) and its own game board (Squad Leader comes with several modular boards, miniatures games can be played on hand-crafted terrain and so on). So, instead of a foundational objective, we have one or more scenario objectives.

Variants and scenarios are in many ways a spectrum of the same thing. The most important difference is the concept of a default game (including one or more foundational objectives): if you play Chess without selecting a variant, you can still play Chess. But you can't play most wargames without first selecting, creating, or generating a scenario. In Squad Leader, the part that stays the same across scenarios is the system of rules and procedures. The combination of scenario system makes for a game you can play.

The traditional RPG sprouted from wargaming roots, so it's scenario-based, too, with a system of rules, mechanics and procedures which don't become a playable game until the Game Master selects, creates, or generates a scenario with one or more scenario objectives (sometimes with a lot of input from the Players), and until each Player selects, creates, or generates characters (sometimes with a lot of input from the GM or other Players).

But, RPGs bring a new set of wrinkles to the Object of the Game, since Player Characters can pursue their own objectives both individually and as a group, and both within the scope of a scenario and over the course of many. Importantly, these character objectives, group objectives, and campaign objectives can be entirely divorced from (or even contradict) the scenario objectives provided by an adventure, or the foundational objectives baked into the system (if any). They can also change and evolve from the inside, interacting, combining, growing and dying in unexpected ways, because of the central importance of characters.

Which brings us to the lexical point. Tactical Infinity is key to the whole shebang around here, and objectives are the standards against which tactics are measured. Without objectives, Tactical Infinity would cease to be tactical. It would just be plain old Infinity, the kind the universe leaves laying around. The kind they have in waiting rooms at the DMV.

Every game has at least one Object. RPGs tend to have several, in shifting and evolving number and arranged in shifting and evolving priority weight, where the objectives and priority weight vary from object to object and from character to character, all within the same game. That's magic, of a kind, and it'll be awfully important, as we continue with the Lexicon.


Slimes in Blossom Grove: A Free Fantasy Adventure

Oh, I know it's been too long, and this will be too short, but at least I bring good news, however small. There is a new, free fantasy adventure out for Risus and Uresia, called Slimes in Blossom Grove, and it's about a village called Blossom Grove and there are Slimes in it.

It's an unusual work in a couple of ways, including how rapidly it was assembled, specifically to put out something cheerful, quickly, in a dark time. Enough said about that.

But I hope it finds you well, and safe, and maybe in the mood to read.

You can snag the new adventure over at DriveThruRPG. I hope you like it. More bloggery soonish.

If you look close you can almost see the secret file peeking out.
It'll be familiar to blog-readers already, but this is its debut at DTRPG.


Baked Tofu

Sandra and I incorporate tofu into our diet pretty regularly. We're not vegan or vegetarian or anything like that, but as people who need to watch the stats of what we eat, we really like tofu's stats, and as people who like yummy things, we sometimes find tofu super-yummy.

But we do prefer it firm, and maybe a bit crispy. When it's nice and solid, tofu is something we dig and genuinely crave. When it's soft and smooshy, it's something we eat with vegetables and go "Yum, these are delicious veggies. And also there is tofu."

When we lived in Colorado we had steady access to an excellent convenience product: the tofu "cutlet" by House Foods. This is a fried block of tofu, just under 7 ounces, and it's what tofu is like once you cook much of the excess water out, so it's already yummy and gets even yummier when you slice it thick and cook it even more, grilled or pan-fried or what-have-you.

And this was the best thing that happened to our tofu consumption. We were already fine with consuming the stuff regularly, but this tipped the scale from "tofu we're okay with" to "tofu we look forward to," which is a big deal when you're trying to stick to any kind of regimen. We started doing tofu dishes twice as often if not more.

We also found other brands (and House Foods makes other styles) of fully-cooked tofu, but every one of them was flavored in some way: garlic or teriyaki or ginger or whatnot, and all of those had extra salt and other additions, and we do stretches of trying to be extra-careful with sodium. We're bad at that, but that's not tofu's fault, Mainly it's the fault of salt being delicious, and included in everything.

So the other styles of cooked tofu were not ideal, but that was okay. We had the House Foods cutlet, with no added salt. It wasn't even a specialty-market item; we could get it at our neighborhood grocery stores (King Soopers, a ridiculously-named local part of the Kroger chain).

Every time I cooked with the cutlets, I thought to myself "I bet I could just bake some regular tofu and get a result much like this." The House Foods cutlet is fried, but it doesn't taste fried and it's lean and non-oily, so I assumed I could get there with baking.

But I never bothered because it was easy to buy the cutlets and they weren't too expensive.

And then we moved to Pennsylvania, which has been good, but ... our regular supermarkets don't have the House Foods cutlet. There's probably somewhere in the valley we can find them, but if they're not in our regular markets, they won't be part of our regular fare. Our regular market (a Wegman's, which is a very groovy store) does have the salty flavored kind, for about $4 per 7-ounce chunk, and we've had those and enjoyed them ... but we tend to use two chunks per meal and we'd still rather flavor them as we choose, and $8 for a single meal's protein should be a nice frickin' piece of steak, frankly. Like I said: we're not vegetarians, so we can't be had over that particular barrel.

And I always meant to try baking the tofu myself.

And I always wondered: how much weight would the tofu lose to that kind of hyper-firm cooking? Tofu, as you already know if you cook with it, starts out as a sponge full of water, even the Extra Firm stuff is just a slightly less floofy sponge.*

So the answer is half. A 14-ounce chunk of tofu, baked down into the nice firm stuff we love, becomes a 7-ounce chunk (more like 7.2, but near enough).

And it's as easy as I supposed. I feel silly for not doing it sooner, but such is the sexy lure of convenience tofu. The "recipe," such as it is:

S. John's Super Groovy Baked Tofu

Prep Time:
 5 minutes if you're moving in cartoonish slow-motion to amuse a toddler. Otherwise, less.

Cooking Time: 2 hours

Ingredients: Two 14-ounce packages of fresh Extra Firm tofu.

Equipment: Knife, nonstick cookie sheet or pizza pan, tongs.

Preheat oven to 325°F (163°C). Press the excess fluid from the tofu (on a stack of clean cloth towels or paper towels; don't be shy about gently squeezing the fluid out). Carve each of the chunks into four thick rectangular slabs. Arrange on the nonstick baking sheet. Bake for two hours, turning the chunks over with the tongs twice during the course of baking.

The finished chunks should be dry-looking and gently golden. If they're pale or a bit damp-looking, turn them again and give them another 30 minutes. This happens when the initial squeeze of excess fluid wasn't quite squeezy enough, but it's an easy fix.

Yield: around 14.4 ounces of baked, super-firm, extra-good tofu which you can later pan-fry or do other delicious things to.

(Version 1.1, Revised 10-7-2020)

There are, of course, a lot of baked tofu recipes on the Web, and I read a ton of them before this undertaking, but most of them were fixated on making the tofu crispy out of the oven, and so usually involve shorter baking times at higher temperatures. My goal with this is something I can bake in advance and then fridge for pan-frying at some later time, so I opted for lower, slower baking for a nice even, gentle browned thing. They do still come out crispy-ish, but ... they won't stay that way once you fridge them.

More important, they have exactly the density and texture I was hoping they'd have. And a finished serving (our version of a serving) costs $1.79 instead of $4, plus whatever it takes the run the gas oven for two hours but don't trouble me with details.

My next quest will be finding out what alternative I can achieve in the microwave, because right now, baking something for two hours is no big deal. There's snow on the ground outside and the heat feels good. But come summertime I might really not want to have the oven on. If I have any luck with nuking or slow-cookering or anything else, I'll let you know. And now, here's a photo, because I don't like doing a blog-post without a photo. Even if it's a photo of brown chunks in a brown bowl.

Hope this finds you well. My inbox, as always, is open.

You've heard of food porn? This tofu hasn't.
*  The idea that the fresh stuff can (for example) substitute for chicken breast only makes sense if your idea of the density of "chicken" comes from Marshmallow Peeps.


Writing Light

I’m writing this post on my phone.

As I mentioned last entry, we moved to Pennsylvania recently, which means a lot of changes, large and small, including in the way I structure my work time.

Back in our Denver days (2007-2015), and before that in Austin (1998-2007), I was a wandering writer: I’d take my spiral notebooks and/or laptop out into the wilds of town and, by bus and shoe-leather, I’d write everywhere.

In Fort Collins that wasn’t really possible; we were stuck out in the ‘burbs with nothing but manicured hellscapes within walking distance: not a single café, diner, bar or fast-food joint within an easy hike of home. On the other hand, Sandra was working from her home office by then, so we started going out together by car, which means I started getting heavier laptops (in Denver, I’d been leaning toward the smallest, lightest devices I could find for maximum walkabout portability, because “portability” means something very different on foot than it means when you can chuck a laptop bag in the back seat of a vehicle).

That horrific suburban isolation is nearly half the reason we had to leave Fort Collins, and here in PA, I’m happy to say I’m back in town: I’m within 5-20 minutes' walk of pizzerias, bars, other pizzerias, a seafood market, some places that sell hoagies and also pizza, some restaurants, a bowling alley with pretty good pizza, and a couple of libraries. I cannot promise in good faith that the libraries don’t also have pizza.

Dangers to my cholesterol aside, it’s excellent to once again live near human life (suburbia, emphatically, does not qualify).

But that means my 950-ton laptop bag is suddenly a problem, and removing the 945-ton laptop is not the answer (it’s totally portable … if you’re traveling by car).

In our last years in Denver, little keyboards suitable for my phone were popping up on store shelves for pretty low prices, and I was tempted, but I had a netbook that fit in my camera bag (I did the Cumberland edition of Uresia: Grave of Heaven almost entirely on a tiny eeePC), so it wasn’t a priority.

But here I am now, writing this post on a tiny portable Bluetooth keyboard, using a word processor on my phone. And it’s not too bad!

The device itself was pretty cheap (less than $25 for a backlit model, under $20 if you don’t need it backlit), and it connected easily, and it’s responsive. It’s chiclet, which I hate (most laptops have gone chiclet, too), and it’s miniature, which takes getting used to (but no moreso than my old eeePC). So, no snags on hardware.

There was, I’m sorry to say, a brief snag on software. I was assuming I’d just use Google Docs; I’ve been using it a lot for campaign documents and such and it’s comfortable, convenient and powerful enough. Usually. But … Google Docs doesn’t support text reflow when zooming in Android (or if it does, I couldn’t find out how to switch the setting on), nor do several other word processors and office suites I tried (including a couple I've been using for years, but before today I didn't need that function).

Ironically, the app I had the least hope for, Microsoft Frickin’ Word, supports text reflow, and that’s what I’m writing in right now. WPS Office (formerly Kingsoft) does as well (with a handy easy-to-spot on-screen reflow button) and, while it’s deliberately light on features, the markup-oriented Writer Plus does a version of zoomy reflow, too.

I was shocked that so many “full-featured” office suite apps had no apparent concept of text reflow, but here I am with my old nemesis, Microsoft Office, and it’s doing everything I need it to, and I love it and I resent it and that’s my lifelong relationship with Microsoft in a nutshell.

There’s still a lot to learn, but this far into the blogpost, the notion that I’m writing on my phone has pretty much vanished as I type. Word (Microsoft Frickin’ Word; I can’t believe I’m in you again, and away from Windows, no less) is behaving well; the correction features work seamlessly with touch-screen interaction replacing the mouse, and … yeah, It’s good.

In a few months it's going to look a lot dirtier, so I want to remember it this way.

I’ve always done a lot of visual work on my phone. I do preliminary sketches and layout thumbnails here, plus map-development drafts, Risus LCB drafts (and a few final LCB drawings), and recently, I drew two entire fonts on my phone. So, it’s a great device for doodles, and fortunately for me, my work gets pretty doodly.

This right here, though, is the longest bit of writing I’ve ever done on my phone. I’ve used fingerswipes and dictation to do the occasional sidebar or addition, and I’ve done that with increasing frequency, but it’s always for tiny stuff: 300 words or so and I’m tired of swiping, or of trying to get dictation apps to parse phrases like Sindran attitudes toward Raansa veneration among the Mourfa.

But this … this, I can write a blog post on. And if I can write a blog post this way, I can write my books this way, too. Hello from my phone!