Tuesday, 16 September 2014


She was, yet was not.

A scion of the sprawling and stately Viridian-bound-by-Sienna.Mere potential, not yet her own entity. She waited. Impatient to be... powerless to begin.

Finally released with the rest of her cohort, they lay abandoned. Some were snatched up by a night forager, the excitement palpable as they were jostled and shoved. Her excesses stripped from her, she rolled into a shallow indentation - one of the lucky ones. Discarded and abandoned, she lay nestled amongst the leaf litter and other detritus of the forest floor. Near her, less fortunate kin wasted away before even coming into the birthright of their names.

At first she believed a similar fate was in store for her. But as the days lengthened and warmed, she felt the fabled stirrings and realised the time of portents was nigh. A new fear gripped her, the uncertainty of the unknown. Good or ill, it would have to be better than longing for change - a beginning. Unsure of what to do, she sent out tendrils seeking for support and nurturing. Although tentative, she was successful and this gave her the confidence to try something even more daring. Gathering her courage she fought to grow and rise above all that was concealing her and keeping her down. Hard though it was, finally she surfaced from the soil. Basking in the warm glow of evening sunlight, she experimented with unfurling her newly crafted leaves. And so it was in the way of her kind that she finally came into her name. "I am Jade-superceding-Blue!" she declared, thrusting her stem towards the vault of the heavens. The forest was impassive in the face of this announcement, for the emergence of yet another sapling is a common occurrence, one that happens frequently every day. Undeterred by the apathy, Jade-superceding-Blue knew eventually the rest of the forest would indeed take note.

The passage of years is erratic for trees. Often characterized as timeless and wise in fiction, this is not always the case. To them the march of days can blur together… one sunset after another, though they acknowledge each has a mystery and splendour all its own. Seasons pass in a companionable, complacent silence with only the susurration of their leaves in wind and the ceaseless chant of sap marking time’s progress. Yet other moments can feel drawn out, their consciousness crystallized and concentrated in an instant. This deep introspection for the trees can be triggered by almost anything and they become lost in wonder for what feels like an eternity then transcribe their emotions in a flurry of activity. Though few humans can interpret their messages, their ways of communicating are of great interest to their own kind and many creatures of the woodlands as well.

It was not long until Jade-superceding-Blue made her first expressive artwork: the interplay of dappled shadows cast by her branches upon the ground. As she was new, there was little recognition for her. Her next attempt - the the creaking of her boughs in the strong gusts that heralded the arrival of plump raindrops - caused a sensation. Soon those elderly trees that surrounded her began to seek out her insights which were vibrant compared to their own tired discourses. As she grew out of her awkward sapling stage, Jade-superceding-Blue vowed to never ossify as they had done, instead to always be reinventing herself and following her passions wherever they lead.

Deciding such a stand should not be made in secret, Jade-superceding-Blue announced it to the forest in an ostentatious riot of blossoms that shocked the deadwoods. Her audacity caused many more to champion and flock to her, but her statement was not for their benefit. Instead it was her attempt to stay true to herself. Before suitors could even begin to curry her favor Jade-superceding-Blue caused the bulk of them to recoil in horror when she developed a knot in her bole, which was her moving portrayal of a butterfly eaten while concealed within its chrysalis.The rest of her coterie abandoned her as she spent the better part of a decade considering the first frost of the season in silence. Intertwined new growth which was the result of her meditations upon it received a response that was muted at best. Jade-superceding-Blue followed it up a few months later with a sprinkling of leaves that was a joyous paean to clouds. While she was happy with her creation, many thought it was passé and overdone. Their opinions did not worry her, uninterested as she was in accolades. She garnered notoriety once more with a niggardly fruiting, which encapsulated her disdain for the abundant and unbridled fecundity of her peers: plenty of words, but little substance. After a period of contemplation, she next set forth a torrent of pollen which was meant to be symbolic of the deluge of ideas she felt swamped with and her inability to choose which one to commit to. Many took it as an apology for her previous work, and derided her for selling out and going mainstream.

So it goes even now, the slow sonorous cycle of the changing seasons aped in miniature... her tenuous new growth reaching ever skyward derided as immature posturing, the folly of a washed up artiste seeking the limelight again; then her foray into peeling bark marking her as a feted celebrity. Loved or loathed, through it all Jade-superceding-Blue remains immune, happy in doing what she enjoys, secure in the knowledge that hers is a name of renown.


This was a special one off piece, with a prompt given to me by a great mate who saw me say a while back that I should do more writing, and came up with the idea. She even took a screenie, including a typo (so much for proofreading on my part):

Though it can hardly be considered as flash fiction, seeing as how it’s taken more than six weeks to get around to posting it. Some of that was because I was trying something new: writing it solely on my new (well, new back when I started) phone - a Galaxy Note 2 that Tho got me specifically for the stylus for writing. While the handwriting is faster than pecking away at tiny keys, it does occasionally do some weird stuff, and I tend to play with silly writing styles to see how good its recognition abilities are. Madeline is also a fan of presumptuously ordering I hand over the pen and the phone. Editing wasn’t done on it though, as that’d be a painful.The piece in general was an interesting exercise. I did a lot more passes in the editing of it, trying to weed out repetitive word use and to live up to the high opinion I have of my friend. It also makes me wonder if for my normal pieces do I do enough of that - I will have to go over older pieces and see how they hold up with a more critical eye to editing. I was hoping to make it to the botanical gardens and take a picture of the banyan tree there as it is the largest, most impressive tree hereabouts but getting there is not as easy these days as it should be. I did manage to get a picture of a new seedling on the family farm in Dong Anh though, so that is at least something. 

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Five Sentence Fiction - Waiting

Just scraping in before the cutoff for the topic of waiting for Five Sentence Fiction. It's not autobiographical... I think >.>

Aspiring Author

Things are too busy at the moment so I'll wait till they slow down to start writing. Wonder what's on T.V. tonight? Nano isn't really for me, I'm more of a planner. Where's my muse when I need her?

Epitaph: Wish I'd written a book.

Friday, 15 August 2014

State of the Empire Address

Well, it's been quite a while since I've done one of these, and I've been dormant for ages so it seems appropriate to do it now. The new school year is about to kick off, and I am at a new campus (with the same company) so while a lot of my old complaints will still hold true, but there will also be a delightful newness, helped in no small part by swapping to Year 1 International (so that means I have the same class for the whole day, and have finally ditched the third grade text books which were horrible). I will have a lot less typing time as it will be a more hands on, but I'll also have less marking too - something that makes me very happy. That will just mean I will have to be more focused in my free time. They do like their forms and paperwork here, but I guess it is only fair that I atone for previous years by submitting it all on time.

I went on a short hiatus here while I was working on a project I have been referring to as the Honkin' Big Book Project. But "working" should be in air quotes, as the end of the school year with a newborn at home wasn't quite the best time to choose. I do have plans of working on it, especially now that I am largely waking up around 5 o'clock or so most days due to one daughter or the other. I have slowly been weaning myself off my early morning clickbait feast, and by small steps I'm becoming more productive then - so long as neither Madeline nor Rosalyn wake up again. I intend to go back to posting more regularly here, even if it is just something short. I have however also found a nice new place to play on, so I will have to do my best not to spend all my free time there

To aid with all this I have just recently finished a rather drastic overhaul of HabitRPG, coughed up for a subscription and used another orb of rebirth. I still hadn't hit level 100, but once again standards were slipping a bit. I also hadn't really been using the Habits column much, relying instead on Dailies and To-Do's. I've pulled a lot of no-core activities that I've either mastered, are too easy or aren't what I want to focus on, and dropped some challenges that were equally distracting. I'm excited for the new start of the school year, and new focus that I've got... we'll just have to see how long that lasts.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Zoinks and Jinkies

This week's entry for Five Sentence Fiction. The topic is Doors.

Picture Source
As a kid I'd always loved Scooby Doo, the chase scenes especially. In one door then out another, on and on. Running away from different monsters (back then they were scary). It's not so great, now that I'm dead. It's the best explanation of the afterlife I've ever seen.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The Clockwork Thurmaturgist

This is my entry in the Dirty Goggles Stempunk/Dieselpunk flash fiction challenge. You’ve got till May 18th to get your entry in in, so there’s still time if you hurry. 

Title: The Clockwork Thurmaturgist
Word Count: 795
Name/Twitter Handle: Snellopy
Category: Steampunk

The Clockwork Thurmaturgist

Satiated after a sumptuous repast, the members of the Xerxes Club repaired to the smoking room for postprandial brandies. After some appreciative murmurs about the quality of the liquor, there was a lull in the conversation.  “That was a passable tale you told over the roast Higginson old chap, yet you’ll not win the bet. Not by a long shot!”

“Years ago when I was just starting out in the business, I went through a period of following up all sorts of unlikely leads, on the chance that there was something there that most sensible people would ignore. I was reading a poor translation of a familiar Babylonian tract looking for any inconsistencies. The dashed thing was full of them, and the script was abominable! I was about ready to throw it away in disgust when I noticed a whole page where the scribe was blathering on about a key with peculiar qualities. Completely unrelated to the text. You have heard all this recent faff about a blind watchmaker? Well, think of this key as crafted by a blind locksmith. No lock, shackle nor bond was able to resist it. I at first wrote it off as poppycock, but as a lark decided to run it by a technomancer I’d recently heard about who was billing herself as the Clockwork Thaumaturgist.”

“When I got to her abode I nearly turned round then and there. Not out of fear mind you, but because the shingle above her door was so plain and shoddy it could have been that of a drunken cobbler. Upon seeing her man who opened the door however, I felt much more inspired. His livery was spotless and presentable, but he himself seemed not all there. He gave me a quick apology about difficulties with phase shifting, and led me in fits and starts to an audience chamber. Once again, my spirits sank, for the room was crammed with gewgaws and cheap gimcrackery such as mechanical nightingales wittering away and crystalline perpetual motion machines.”

“After a short wait, I was received by a mere slip of a girl that I took to be yet another servant, till she turned her head and I saw a flywheel where her cheek should be. She gave me a frank glance then had the temerity to ask me if I was sure I was wanted to engage her services for something as venal as pecuniary affairs! Wanting to hide my disdain - just in case there was something to her powers - I merely nodded. ‘Very well,’ said she ‘the price will be your shadow and all that it entails and implies!’”

Without hesitation I reached out and shook her hand. For a moment the very air glowed with opalescence of a multitude of colours, then things… changed. Her hand, which had first been lithe and pleasant to grasp, now felt cold and grainy. The tuneful warbling of the birds had become harsh and jarring. Nowadays I’m am used to these minor adjustments, and prefer it, but at the time it was most vexing.

Offering me a small smile, and bade me follow. Down a short hallway we came to a nondescript door which she flung open. The room - if indeed room it was - was cavernous, the walls distant and shrouded in writhing shadows. Suspended from an unglimpsed ceiling was a large orrey of astounding detail. Walking to a summoning circle that was currently overshadowed by mighty Jove much as Damocles by his fabled sword, she set about inscribing it with sigils and equations. From a nearby tool rack she selected a range of parts, pipes and tubing of copper, glass and some that had definitely been organic. After tightening the last screw, the Phillips head in her hand served double duty as a wand and she did an admirable job of Bartholomew's invocation in Old Eldritch.

The creature she summoned was all horned and befanged - a denizen of the ninth netherhell if I’m not mistaken. I knew not what dialect they communed in, but after a heated discussion it disappeared in an actinic flare. A mere moment later it did return, yet breathing heavily and with one arm hanging useless and bloody. ‘Here is your prize, wrested by my minion from Raoul Ibn Wazarik... the Djinn of the Trackless Namib. Yours now and fear ye no repercussions, this is not the first time that he has held something of interest to me.’

She escorted me back to the door which this time opened upon the street and sent me on my way, before I had uttered a single word in her presence. The key has served me well, and not just in the telling of simple wagers such as this!”

Picture source

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Scientific Discourse

"Scales? Oh, my goodness no! Such a miss-informed opinion only hangs on in ‘popular’ culture my friend. You see, further research has shown that velociraptors are actually covered in feat-"

"Shut it and ruuuun, Doc!"

I've been lax at joining in at Five Sentence Fiction the past few weeks. Does just what it says on the tin, though I do my best to pare down my normal meandering sentences (unless it's for character). The topic this week is feathers

And I couldn't resist a scaled - and feathered - Velociraptor for an illustration.

Fantastic picture found here.


With every prod the fire crackled and danced, illuminating the night with vermillion flames. Nictitating membranes closed to guard against errant sparks, the Kthakii scanned the slumped corpses. Beardlings. Their watchfire had been ineffective for none of the lesser beings could make out the form of a Kthakii as it hunted silently on moonless nights such as this.

Ik-Naa reached out a dactyl and traced the hair that sprouted from the slain dwarf. Plaited together with the others, it would have made a decent first offer for a seat at the upcoming ritual. In hindsight it seemed that dismembering the delicately fingered Woodlander in a fit of pique had been… unwise. Severing the heads, Ik-Naa drew the sigil to create a niche Beyond, and placed them there for storage. Not deigning to taint its palate with such a lowly meat, the Kthakii vaulted to the air, wings flung wide.

Back at the colony Ik-Naa was unable to sleep, even long after the Sky Fire had driven all others deep underground. Reveling in the unfamiliar tingling on its scales, the Kthakii felt invigorated. Before long, Ik-Naa came to a solution that made it hiss with delight. It would summon a host of new prey, from other continuums, times and places. Tonight’s haul could still be put to good effect as a pitiful opening gambit, making the final offer even more striking. Truly, this would ensure a victory that would garner immense prestige.

Reaching into the space carved in No-Space, Ik-Naa roughly sheared the fibres from the trophy heads with a talon. Then - as an added insult to the other competitors - Ik-Naa wove the rope itself, rather than commanding a lesser race to do so. Next the Kthakii prepared a flayed hide with incantations and unguents. These ensured that the message would be translated and propagated to many worlds. When read, they would capture the entity’s essence, adding it to Ik-Naa’s collection. It paused for a moment, then began to write... With every prod the fire crackled and danced, illuminating the night with vermillion flames...

For Finish that Thought, you get the first sentence, and away you go. Just a day to write it, that's all. I didn't think I'd be able to play often, but such a short time frame does wonders for my attention span - or at least it has for the past two weeks. This time, the bonus challenge was to make it a cliff hanger. At first I thought yes, but now I'm thinking no. 

Monday, 14 April 2014

Do you see her much?

"Do I see her much?"

Only every time I close my eyes. When I blink. When I stare into space. When I can't sleep. In my dreams. Out the corner of my eye. Always.

"Nah, not really. We just drifted, you know?"

I've found a new lightning fast place to find prompts: Yeah Write

This is an entry for their Gargleblaster Challenge - it has to be 42 words on the dot, and open to the first 42 people. This week (#157), the prompt is Do you see her much?

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Way Up High

She stood in the doorway, unable to believe what she saw. A trail of clothes, leading erratically from the hallway to the chair to the wall and finally ending at the bed. The covers were in a crumpled pile that was lurching spasmodically, threatening at any minute to cascade over the edge of the bed. A rhythmic creaking was emanating from the mass, with an occasional grunt or squeal providing some variation to the beat. Sighing, Janice quickly strode over and whipped the blanket off.

Surprised by the light, the twins looked up and started giggling. Sue, her skirt demurely tucked under her armpits squealed "Mummy! Jump with us!"
Clad only in a shoe (with the sock inexplicably on the opposite foot) Sam clapped happily nodding all the while.
Biting back a smile at the way her daughter’s curls were escaping the hairband, Janice reached up to undo her necklace. “Let me just take this off, so it doesn’t hit me in the face,”
She placed the ruby necklace down on the bedside table. “But I think I’ll keep the rest of my clothes on.”
The pair started to pout, so she took off her rings. “But you two can wear these, if you want…”
After a ragged cheer and some time to admire their new finery, the children ‘helped’ her onto the bed.

While still bouncing, Sam said in a small voice “I wish daddy was here, too.”
The levity of the moment gone all too soon, Janice knew she had to do something to rekindle the fun. She grabbed the photo next to her discarded necklace and held it close.
“He is, children. He is.”
All smiles once more, they started jumping. Sam started singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow and the others soon joined in. They bounced unsteadily to the beat.
“Mummy, if we jump really high will we be up with Daddy?”
Unsure of her voice, Janice paused for a moment and ran her hands through her daughters’ curls. They were so evocative of her late husband. “No, sweetie, you still have a lot of jumping to do before you get to visit daddy again.”

This was my first try at the Finish That Thought flash fiction prompt week 40. You only have a day once the prompt goes live to finish a story, so I'm not sure how often I'll get to play along. I did get it entered on time, but posting it here took a bit longer. You get a starting sentence, and a challenge to throw in. This time it was a gemstone. Mine was a tad tokenistic this time round. Given a re-edit, I think I'd have spent some time tying it to a present from the husband. Originally I wasn't going to have him dead, just a workaholic, and have him burst in roaring like a dinosaur, having come to an epiphany about spending time with family, but I'm a tad glum at the moment.

Monday, 17 March 2014

In Memoriam

I posted this for the Mid-Week Blue-Buster's anniversary last week but didn't have time to put it up here until today. It was originally a lot longer, but I had to cut the first few opening paragraphs, and condense all the activities together. First time I've ever really banged into the word cap for any flash fiction. And happily, it placed second.

Tramping in to do their filial duty, the visitors looked anywhere but at his face or the frail hands that gripped the blanket.
“I’d dearly like to spend today talking to my grandson, Michael,” George Weiland said, gesturing for the rest of them to leave.
“He’s becoming a fine young man. I want to give him some pointers for the future.”
Giving an audible sigh, Michael pulled one headphone out and rolled his eyes. Fan-fucking-tastic. “Hello Grandpa! HOW is the FOOD?” thumbs still busy on his tablet, the teenager nodded his head a few times, a tokenistic smile plastered to his face.
“At the moment, you stand to inherit the bulk of my fortune, so long as you help me with my… what’s it called… bucketlist.”George held his hand up. “I don’t expect friendship, but I do want a modicum of respect - even though the things will be downright childish. Let’s start again shall we?”
“You serious? What do you want to do?”
“For now? Get here early tomorrow, with a backpack. While the nurse who gives me a sponge bath has a good figure, I most definitely do not. And I’m sure you don’t want to see me semi-naked.”

Michael knocked on the door frame, worried he was late. George waved him in.
“Load all that stuff in your bag, and then load me in that,” he said pointing at the wheelchair. “We’ll need to see Tallulah. I hate that bitch, but your grandmother loved her.”
“What about the nurses?”
“They’re in on it.”
Still expecting to be stopped every step of the way, Michael pushed the old man out of the hospital. After the wheelchair was loaded into a taxi, George gave an address and leaned back, eyes closed. Left with nothing else to do, Michael pulled out his iPad.
“So can you drive stick?”
“What? Why?”
George smiled. “Better hope there’s an app for that.”

They stopped at parking garage. Waving away the wheelchair for now, George walked slowly over.
“Mr. Weiland! Everything is as you asked. Right this way, sir.” A short distance away was a pristine Oldsmobile, in mint condition.
“Hello, Tallulah, “ George said, hand on the bonnet, eyes misting.
“I’m doing this for Cynthia.” He hobbled into the passenger seat and threw the key to Michael. Engine purring, they drove sedately out of the parking lot.
”Let her off the rein, I’ve got my seat belt on. To the funfair!” The speedometer leapt and the tyres squealed, and once again George closed his eyes.

Picture from here
The rest of the day passed in a blur - a pastiche of childhood joys. Toffee apples and paper planes, jumping castles and blowing bubbles, swings and balloon animals, paddle boats and ice-cream vans. They watched the sun setting over a sandcastle they’d been constructing on the tide line, and once again George closed his eyes and sighed. Thinking their adventure over, Michael stood up,dusting sand off his knees.
“Back to the hospital Grandfather?”
“Nonsense! We’re just getting started! Time to change into something more suitable, then hit the town.”
“Are you sure? We don’t want to over do it. Maybe tomorrow would be better?”
“For a long time I’ve known there might not be a tomorrow, but this is the first time I’ve actually acted that way.”

After belting out a few tunes at a karaoke joint, they grabbed a cab to another address George rattled off from memory. The neon was garish and the place was packed. After looking around for a while, George made his way slowly to the bar, placing an order that made the barman laugh. He pointed to a raucous table that was strewn with many empty pitchers before paying and heading over.
“Gentlemen,” he said, “May I invite you to join me in multiple screaming orgasms?”
Frowns. Laughter.
“The fuck did you say, old man?”

“My wife had a rather coarse sense of humour and she loved approaching strangers and making that offer before buying them a round of drinks. It would have been our anniversary today, so please - these cocktails are on me.”

Thursday, 6 March 2014

All Ye Sinners

This is only the second time (I think?) that I've managed to participate in the Midweek Bluesbuster. The idea for this prompt is always a song, but you can use anything about it - lyrics, pictures, the vibe of it - for the kernel of your story. It's also got a very forgiving word limit, which makes me surprised I haven't attempted it more often. Even the times I've not had a stab at it, I've often listened to the song a fair few times.

For this week, the song was Put Your Lights On by Santana, featuring Everlast.

The tavern was on the disreputable side of run-down. That was to be expected since it was so far from the major trade routes. Aithan didn’t mind though, he felt more at home ministering here than in the lavish marble palaces of the cities. He had been doing the work of the Gods for the best part of a century, and it certainly showed. Only a few whipsy tufts clung to his pate and his right eye was milky with cataracts. The other was disconcertingly blue, like a nostalgic summer sky from your childhood. They were deeply entrenched within wrinkles, paradoxically carved by both a stern visage and frequent laughter. He smiled to himself as he finished the bowl of broth before him, and then called for another beer. Mean as this inn was, it would be a fine place to serve Tai, the God of Remorse.

As the evening wore on and the other patrons became more raucous, Aithan decided it was time to start the service. Doddering over to settle his bill, he fumbled his purse before staring myopically at the coins within. He tapped his way out of the bar leaning heavily on his staff.. He’d barely gone a dozen paces when he heard the door slam behind him. A couple of the surlier patrons quickly caught up to him, smiling in a way that carried no warmth.

“Father, a moment of your time, please!” one said, taking hold of his arm.
“Mmmm… a moment, mmmm...” Aithan said, nodding his head a few times. He stopped walking, and turned slightly towards the fellow on his left. Cupping his hand round his ear, he spoke again. “Mmm… speak up, my son! What ails you?”
“We’re poor, father. Mighty poor! Perhaps you’d be kind enough to give us alms?” he said, fingering his dagger meaningfully.
A snigger behind him.
“Yeh father, mighty poor! I’m guessing a man of the Gods like yerself would feel right blessed giving us all your money as alms. A blessing for all of us, and best all round.”
“Mmm… blessings…” Aithan began. Then in an instant his visage flipped from that of a kindly old fool to a rictus of fury. His raised arm scythed in a vicious arc, catching the would-be brigand in the temple. The man reeled away cursing extravagantly. Aithan spun round, his staff sweeping the legs out from first one then the other, their  knives clattering away. A few quick blows to the pair of them and the were cowed and bloody.

Reaching into his robes, the priest produced a small pouch. He took a pinch of incense and smeared it liberally on a potsherd before flinging it on the ground and invoking Tai’s name. The cries of his “assailants” now magically muffled, Aithan set to work. Methodically he hit them with his staff, smashing finger bones and causing multiple fractures in their legs. When he was satisfied the damage would be beyond the healing even of an acolyte of Tuan, Aithan ceased the sermon.  His Lord’s work done, Aithan wiped the blood off his steel shod staff and set it ringing against the cobblestones in counterpoint to the psalm he was belting out in closing. Let them in the cities have their indulgences and silks. He served the Lord of Remorse by being the cause, not remedy.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Dealing with Corporate Office

What do you mean the it's too late?

The paperwork has already been processed?

I've already been replaced?


For future reference, re-sign and  resign don't mean the same thing!

Happily they haven't been that incompetent yet. But there's always the fear lurking at the back of my mind when dealing with them (and my contract is up for renewal soon). Usually my sentences are crazy long, full of comma splices and parentheses but in Five Sentence Fiction I try and make it as short and to the point as possible. This week's topic is misunderstanding. The sentence wasn't really replaced, as I'm quite an accomplished swearer, and there's no way I could limit such a tirade to five paragraphs, let alone one sentence.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014


Warm white sand. The muted susurration of the roiling ocean. A hammock with just the right ratio of sun to dappled shade. A good book - your choice of thought provoker, page turner, or trashy novel. Time enough to evaluate the age old question: do cocktails taste better out of a coconut or a pineapple?

Picture sourced from here
OK so that's not really a story but more of a setting, but with the manky weather we're going through, can you blame me for fond memories of our Christmas holiday. This is also not the first time I've used this picture before, because it so perfectly encapsulates my thinking of holidays on the beach. The topic for this week's Five Sentence Fiction was Sunshine. My answer to the question is: I need government funding to explore this complex issue in enough detail to be sure.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

A certain charm

I still don't know why Maude enjoyed coming here. "It's got a certain charm," she'd say, waving an arm around in a feeble attempt to highlight  what it was about the run-down stone walls or some other small elements that drew her - us - back to this boring backwater again and again.

"I just like it," she would say, and that smile of hers would break on through and because of that, I tried to like it too. I did like it in a way, because of her. For her. We always intended on moving here, but you know how it is. Next year. Life always gets in the way.

Some day one day just never seems to happen. You plan for it, but then without warning, it can’t. A wonderful shared dream together doesn’t work so well when there’s just the one of you. At least she didn’t suffer. I stayed away for a long time, hating this place that reminded me of Maude. Why did this town bring her joy when my joy is now gone forever? But because it reminded me of her, I eventually was drawn back here, and now I’m part of the ‘quaint local colour’ she loved so much. What’s a country pub without a maudlin drunk?


It's been ages since I've done any writing, time to get back in the saddle and try and make it a more consistent habit. This is my entry for Trifecta's 110th week, we have to use the word quaint somewhere in the Story. A distinct lack of magic, aliens, happiness and humour in this one, so quite out of character for me, but it tied in so well with this previous piece from long ago that I had to make it a closer match.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

A Habit of Excellence

HabitRPG is my latest productivity kick, from my opinion it's got me going gangbusters. I just did a quick breakdown comparing it to my other self-improvement tool/website, but I want to go over it at length on its own as well.

In HabitRPG you get a little avatar that you have to level up and keep alive by completing your tasks. The word avatar has been debased in recent times, nowadays it can mean something as minor as an icon that represents you in a chat forum. But it used to mean a vessel of a divine being - ole JC hisself, or Vishnu come to put the smack down, or Zeus to get it on with the ladies. That's how I feel with my 8 bit sprite, filled with even more potential than when I last had an alter-ego me who journeyed through Azeroth (though that could be because while I enjoy those sorts of games, I am terrible at them, and largely looked at WoW as a prettier IRC client with things I could poke with axes when there was no-one to talk to).

It's a me, Mario Snellopy!
As you tick things off, you're awarded gold and experience. After level 2, you're able to buy things (armour, swords) for your avatar, and you can also set up custom rewards too - though I don't find these as useful. For certain activities, not doing the task (or doing a bad task) inflicts damage on your little avatar, and you either need a cleric to heal you, level up for an XP refill, or spend your hoarded gold on a healing potion.

Since no-one else sees your list (except for specific ones that are added to challenges) you're free to list anything down without fear of judgment. Since you don't have to explain your ideas to others, it's also possible to gamify everything, which is what I've done. I also added a little icon emoji next to each one, to help me find things faster, and there's mouse over text explaining what each one is just in case I forget (like after my holiday).

Habits are best thought of as things that you do either more than once a day, or every now and then. They come in three different types: positive only, positive or negative, negative only. Each suit a particular situation. Writing an email is just a positive one. Having one too many beers is a positive/negative one... I click on the minus when I have an extra one and take damage, and click on the plus when I've been all saintly. Sitting for a whole period is just a negative one. I could make it so that it went both ways, but since I count even the most tokenistic foray from my computer chair, I don't think it'd be fair.

The vast majority of mine are plus only, but I do have a couple of each of the other types.

I didn't realise I had so many until I screenshotted them all.
Here's a screenie of all my non-challenge habits (I took this at the end of the day, that's why they're pretty much uniform in colour). Normally they're in one single big scrolling column, but I figure this way they're easier to see. Some of them map obviously to what they are - tome of knowledge is reading a self help book, Soulbond is spending time with Tho. Flash of Magic is posting flash fiction. Some of them are more fictionalised like regaling over ale (forum interaction) and dented shield (too much internetting).

Dailies are things that you want to do on specific days every week. Most of mine I have set up to only be active on Monday to Friday, because they're school based. I do have a few for weekends as well, but if we go away for the weekend and we have no internet, then my little guy is going to take damage.

I have my dailies set up in five main groups. Everything is gamified with a dwarven or cleric bent.

Clan and Kin, Forge and Foundry, Axe and Anvil, Mine and Mountain, Beer and Beards. These headers are always grey because they're inactive. This means I never take damage from them. They're also set to hard, because when I've had a crazy productive day in that area, then I can tick it off for an extra payout. All my habits are tagged with at least one of them too, so even if there's not a lot sitting in the list under dailies, there might be other things causing the free points. I like this idea because often they're pulling me in different directions, so it is really hard with the way I have set it up to get a clean sweep of all my dailies.

Clan and Kin is stuff to do with family. Vespers with the Novitiate is playing with Madeline, Circle of protection is cleaning up the house.

Forge and Foundry is works stuff as you might guess by the mark roll online. Goblin warband is homework and the Slay an Ogre is my weekly plan (they're grey at the moment as they're not due every day)

Axe and Anvil is self improvement stuff. Kern is mentioned in a few places, I made that my dwarf's deity's name. Communing with Kern is meditating (which I suck at). Hang up my axe is a productive day in general.

Mine and Mountain is writing or other creative pursuits. Sellsword and Swordplay have tomato icons as they are pomorodos for work and fun respectively. I have different variant of the pomodoro system that is tailor made to me. When I was at uni, I was a terrible slacker, leaving all my essays till the last minute. When it was time to write them, I'd put on Cotton Eye Joe (the most annoying song I could find) on repeat until it was done. I wasn't allowed to turn it off when I slept (if I needed to sleep) and I took it with me on an mp3 player if I left my room. My mates all knew if that song was playing it was pointless trying to talk me into anything. Even now if I hear that song playing anywhere, my fingers start twitching and I feel all jittery if I am not typing, have a pen in my hand or looking at papers/books. Possibly I should be kinder to myself, but it is working so far.

Beer and Beards is the generic catch all/misc category. Wordstorm is always greyed out, it for an extended amount of typing in a day. Does that mean that I sometimes double/triple  dip, if I've done some flash fiction while listening to Cotton Eye Joe? Yes, but again, we have to use whatever motivates us, and I don't consider that cheating.

In association with the android app, the To-Do column is really useful, especially because I have such a piss-poor memory. If I think of something late at night that I have to do tomorrow, I just jot it down, and it's right in front of me when I open the website at either work or home.

Because of this improved organisation, this list as got very long very fast. I think I'm adding to it faster than I am knocking tasks off, but that can't be helped. I don't bother gamifying the to-Do's I add, because they're all one shot things, and hopefully knocked on the head quite quickly. But I do have headings for sorting them too.

Hack and Slash is the 2 things I plan to focus on the head today.

King's Sovereign is normally kept empty. It's for sudden, bullshittedly important things that get dropped on you and were due yesterday.

Caravan Guard is for things coming up in the next week or so.

Crows Nest is further down the line, sometime this term.

Scribing Spells emails to write to people

Flash of Magic creative writing or reviews I want to do.

Bag of Holding someday one day stuff. Some of it likely will never get done, some of it just takes a minute but there's too many other fires to put out.

Hired Blade is where I shove all the Challenge To-Do's so they don't clutter up my stuff.

The other reason for having headings like this is they slowly ripen for more gold and XP over time, so if something REALLY big comes up and I think I haven't got a decent reward that is commensurate to the effort and/or stress involved, I can click on a couple of these and cash them in for something more appropriate.

There's two sorts of rewards in the game - one's that you make yourself, and ones that are gear for your avatar. The latter are far more effective for me.

All but the starting gear has various stats that help out your avatar and change the gameplay mechanics. But since the introduction of the inventory, you can be waving around something big and stat-heavy but be wearing something else as a costume.

I recently restarted my character, so instead of the avatar of me at the top of the page, I currently look like this:
I think I look a bit like Van Gough, with a yeti-hair paintbrush and a blue paint palette
I am frantically trying to save up for the last bits of the cleric winter gear, before they disappear on the 31st. So extra motivation there! And much as it pains me to do so, I won't just wave my axe and horned helmet round, though I will have a soft spot for them. I guess I could set up my custom rewards as negative habits, and take a health hit each time I clicked on them, but that would make it more likely I would die, so I'd be less likely to actually click on them and just ignore them instead. With the way it is set up, they appear next to my to-do list, right next to my hack and slash and King's Sovereign headings, so it helps decide if I really do have time to slack off. They're also above the armour and weapons, so I have to consider how close I am to buying a new sexy piece of gear and if going to chase links for a moment overrides my desire for better equipment. After I've bought ALL the things, and my gold just starts stockpiling with nothing else to spend it on, I ratchet up the prices on each of my time wasters to compensate.

The old me

The new me. See how this me looks far more honest and trustworthy?
I recently restarted my character, as I was a dirty no good cheat (but I reformed). It's the second time I've restarted, for exactly the same reason. On my first run through, I was still working out the mechanics of everything. I saw a lot of people had an achievement for Ultimate gear, but that meant they all looked the same. So I zipped through, collecting ALL the things, and deciding on what I was going to use so I looked different. I've always been a fan of customisation, and that was the only way to know what was available. I've also clicked I've done stuff when I haven't really to keep a streak alive (doing things for more than 21 days), to keep my avatar alive (no way am I dying again!) and just on the off chance I got a drop, because today was rough and I wanted a prize. Yeah, yeah, you're cheating no-one but yourself. But that's OK, I do cheat sometimes in single player games. But with the advent of classes and the inventory, I instantly became way more attached to my avatar. My party is doing the occasional bit of RP (I haven't joined in yet, as I would feel silly doing so as a cleric with no healing spells, but I only have one more level to go and I have them all), and I want my little guy growing up properly, that's why I reset him. Will I stick to this new improved Snellopy? Only time will tell, but it is looking promising so far, especially as I'm idly telling myself stories about him, inventing a pantheon for him, and other facets that make him more interesting and appealing to me. Whatever works, right?

Interaction with others
There's a few different ways you can interact with others if you choose to. You can form a party that is supposed to help you be more accountable, especially if you're doing quests, as any dailies you don't complete while questing (if it's a boss battle) will injure your party members. I'm not sure if that's going to make me accountable, or more prone to cheat, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. My current plan is to be able to heal my party members for more damage than I inflict on them, so hopefully that will work out OK.

Our party: Snellopy (me), Questing Orc, Raymond Luk, Retridemption, aiseant, littleleez
We can cast buffs on each other, and we have our own chat section, and as I mentioned, we're even doing a bit of Role-play in there too.

There's guilds, which are larger groupings (where you can't buff each other) that are aligned more along the lines of interest groups - writing ones, parents, dancers etc. Some of them are a lot more active than others.

Finally there's the Tavern, the chat room for everyone who wants to hold forth. All these chat sections are ephemeral, storing only the last 200 lines of conversation, so during busy periods there's going to be things that you never see. As much as I like lurking and reading what people say, I find this a very good middle ground so it doesn't become a horrible time sink.

At all these grouping levels, players can set up challenges. This is a set of habits/dailies/to-do's that work towards a particular goal. There can be gem prizes for winning, and whoever wins the challenge also has it listed as their achievement. But even if you don't snag the top spot (if like me, you can't often do things on a weekend, or perhaps you start a challenge late) it's still worthwhile participating, as you're still working on forming habits that you want to instill in yourself. Though when challenges first came out, I did go overboard and took on too many, killing my avatar again because I had too many dailies that I couldn't complete. Now I'm more circumspect, and sometimes steal the ideas I see in challenges and add parts of them as habits instead, so they won't damage me if I don't get around to them.

There's plenty of friendly camaraderie at all three levels, with things to stimulate your creativity or some other facet of  your life. And the conversations are often fun to join in, too. If someone strikes you as interesting you can look up their character description by clicking on their name. A lot of people list blogs, twitter accounts or other places you can see their output. A nice way of grabbing new, interesting sources of distraction.

If you're really enjoying Habit, there's two main ways you can help out - one is by throwing money at them (always appreciated) by buying gems, and the other is by doing something that moves the project forward: pixel art, coding, or writing stuff up on the wiki. Do enough of it, and you'll be acknowledged by a different colour name for your chat messages, and an achievement listed. I've done a tokenistic amount on the wiki, just enough to stand out from the normal run of the mill folk. I plan on doing more, but life tends to get in the way, you know how it is. It's nice that they acknowledge you for your efforts, in a way that everyone can see. Depending on how much you do, you also can unlock special gear for your avatar. Gems can be used for buying customisation stuff for your character - it's important to note that no-one of it has buffs or stats, it's purely cosmetic. There's no pay to win or play to pay here, it's merely for the fashion conscious. Beards are one example of that. It also allows you to put up a challenge in the tavern and form guilds, or skip the randomness of waiting for a drop if you just have to buy a golden hatching potion.

Drops and Streaks
Two ways they try and motivate you (on top of the buying of armour and weapons) is by a chance of drops when you click on tasks. These can be eggs, hatching potions or food to feed the pets (that hatch out of the eggs). They give no boost apart from cuteness to your avatar, and if you give them enough to eat they can grow up and be ridden (again no bonus except for customisation, which is something I love).

Streaks are when you've completed a daily 21 times in a row (not necessarily 21 days in succession, for example if you have one for taking out the rubbish which only falls due on a Friday). I'm a bit ambivalent about these myself, as I have in the past ticked off some when I didn't really do much if anything towards them. For a while there I had a couple of rewards which for a hefty slug of gold I could tick stuff off that I hadn't done. That system didn't really work for me, so I've discontinued it.

What is really great about Habit is there's an app you can use to check off things while you're doing them. But far more useful for me is to list down things that I think of (usually while in bed) that I need to do tomorrow or in the near future. Grab my phone, pencil it in, then it is in front of me the next morning at work. Much better than writing it down on a piece of paper I will lose or leave at home, and streets in front of trying to hold it in my head until I need to do it. I've had a couple of nights where I haven't been able to sleep, so I have just lain there brainstorming things I need to do and entering them in. Good for productivity, and eventually I get tired enough that I can put my phone down and sleep, so win-win.

What are you playing?
Another serious advantage to Habit is both my students and my wife have glanced at the screen and asked me what game I'm playing (it was a bit more accusatory in the latter case, until I explained how it's been so useful for me, though I don't think I've convinced her of the need). The game elements are fun and not too distracting, the same as the chat functions. I have just added a fee in gold if I spend too long in any of the chat areas, especially if I am not posting and merely lurking. It's a great way of hooking you in and making dreary, boring jobs that you have to, should, or want to do more appealing.

Habitually Super Better

For the past few years now, I've been slowly shaking off my slovenly ways in the name of self-improvement. Mainly due to the gentle insistence of my good natured and long suffering wife, but more recently I've taken it somewhat upon myself to take an interest in it too. I've been using two websites to help do that, and I thought I'd do a bit of a compare and contrast here, since they're both about gamifying your tasks in the name of self improvement.

I've been using Super Better for longer (I'm not good with time, but it's nearly three years). I picked up quite a number of allies over that time, though a large percentage have stopped playing. I have had a couple of them come back to the game though, as they've seen the difference it has made to them. I like the depth of connection you can make with allies, and greatly value their feedback, insights and witticisms. I'm a better person due to my interactions with them. I've talked a few times previously here to my imaginary audience about Super Better, so I'll just skim it quickly now:

In the rainbow corner, Super Better

Super Better is designed mainly with healing from injury or quitting bad habits. There's a range of users who are battling a diverse array of problems. While you can play it solo, I don't really see the point of that, as the interactions and feedback you get from allies takes it to a whole new level, and is the game for me. You take on as many allies as you feel you're able to support (I've got quite a large stable of allies, because I like the interaction, but there's nothing wrong with a handful, or even none). It's a good idea to pick your allies carefully, because if you're using it to your full potential, then you're baring your soul to random weirdos on the internet. A couple of times I've picked up a new ally, and had raised eyebrows as I've read over some of their custom made quests or powerups, but the way I look at it is they're providing me a point of view from somewhere that's completely different to what I'm used to, so that might be of great value.

Quests, Powerups, Badguys
These are the three main groupings of "things to click on" in Super Better. Quests can be repeatable or once off. Powerups are more designed for quick hits. With bad guys, you choose if you win or lose, and the severity of the battle (was it just a little un, or was it a great big challenge)

Rocking it old school in 8-bit glory, HabitRPG

I've had a HabitRPG account for a year now, but only really seriously started using it maybe six months ago (when Super Better was having some hiccups). For little things, I find it is very valuable. I've seen quite a few places mention if you just start something for 5 minutes and tell yourself you're free to stop after that, quite often you're in the swing of things and can't be arsed to stop (even though you had to cajole yourself in the beginning). Well, Habit is perfect for this sort of impetus. Your party members and guild mates can't see what you are working on improving (unless you join a challenge), so it is better for those concerned about privacy. This does mean that you're not as closely connected to them, but idle chatting in guild/party/tavern still means you can make a rapport. Habit gives you an avatar that represents you, that you buy weapons and armour for, and find pets that you can raise into mounts. It's not just for fun, they're tapping into extrinsic rewards that you work towards and those that happen randomly, so there's science behind it too.

Habits, Dailies, To-Do's
Habits are things that you want to improve at, and may do more than once a day, or not at all. They can be positive (give you gold and XP), negative (take health) or go both ways. I have a range of all three listed. Dailies damage you if you don't check them off on the day you've got them active. To-do's are a once off, and don't damage you. I've been using To-do's more and more, relying on Habit instead of my faulty memory for storing my ever expanding list of what I should be doing. They also have a rewards column, where you can add real life things if you want (though these don't generally work for me, but some people like them) and the aforementioned armour and weapons. I've added the three main distractions at work - feedly (my RSS aggregator), Facebook and Reddit, but the price is low (well, it's low when I'm not trying to buy new equipment) but just having it there next to a list of things I should be doing instead is working well for me.

Speed of Data Entry:
Habit has it hands down over Super Better. My work computer, home computer, tablet and phone all remember my login, and as soon as you load it, you're presented with everything you have to do:

Some habits (first column), dailies (second column) to-do's (third column) and rewards (fourth column). My party members are the avatars up the top of my screen, to the right of my health bar.

Mine are gamified, so while it doesn't seem like it's work, they are (the breakdown for the Skeletal army gives it away that its marking)

I have to log in on Super Better each day on each device (more than once if I close the browser).

I have to select the correct group on the left hand list, then I have to find it in the list

Then view it, then click I did this.

I normally right click and open everything I want to check off (sometimes multiple copies of each). Even if I am only doing one or two, I still right click, as that was faster when we were fighting the Oops Monster (may it never darken our halls again).


Graphs. Yay, I guess. I don't do maths, and I so I don't really care
Habit has a graph on your dailies and habits that you can click on to look at, but I don't really care so I hadn't actually done it before this (I've just come back from holidays, that's why I'm sucking at a lot of mine). You can also export your information as a CSV file if you want, but again, facts and figures don't do it for me

SB lists the number of times you've clicked on it, in reverse chronological order. If it's a bad guy battle, it also lists if it was a win or a loss, and what difficulty setting it was on.

Staff involvement:
Once again, a clear winner in Habit. The tavern is jumping with commentary from staff, and knowledgeable normal users. If it's more along the lines of bug reports or updating new features, it has them in spades as well. And since it's open source, we're all welcomed along if we want to help. I've been acknowledged for puttering around on the wiki for example. I forget the last time we had any official word from Super Better staff, even when it looked iffy and there was rumours on their forums of insolvency, spammers running riot etc, we didn't hear a peep out of them. It's a bit disconcerting, and is the reason I searched out other similar sites, in case it died and left me high and dry.

Super Better has forums and groups, but apart from the Cozy Circle and the newer Bunker of Badarsery, they're pretty deserted. Most users come in, say they're new, pick up a few allies and then never return to the forums.

Habit has a jumping Tavern - with the latest influx of users from Tumblr it often scrolls past the 200 line limit overnight or on weekends. There's plenty of special interest guilds, some of which are quite chatty.

Super Better's strength in this regard is the deep ties you form with your allies. Part psychotherapists couch, part happy hour with your mates having a whinge, it's a great format to blow off steam. Habit's Tavern gives you a more ephemeral and tenuous connection with a larger number of people, which is equally good but in a different way. Parties are similar to, but a pale comparison of the camaraderie of SB allies.

This is a tricky call, I think SB wins it slightly, because there's no pay-out apart from the input of your allies, so making up stuff is pointless there. In fact, you're more likely to not list losses when you've battled a bad guy, as you're often not at a computer when you do, and you likely don't want to revisit while you type it up again, even if they give you good advice. Because of buying gear/getting drops/wanting health/leveling up/keeping streaks there's sometimes the motivation to cheat in Habit. Yeah yeah, you're only cheating yourself, but it's just a little tick mark, so what's it hurt?

Unless they click on something or make a comment, there's no way to tell if an ally has logged in on SB. If you don't hear from them for a week, you don't know if they're busy, on holidays, or have stopped playing. When you click on someone's name in Habit, it shows you the last time they logged in, and some Zzz's if they're staying in the inn (often done when you're on holidays or sick), so you do have some feedback there if they're around and about.

Level of Detail:
Super Better wins this - and I'm not talking graphics.

Super Better wins this, so long as you put in the work and explain what you're doing. All my Quests, Powerups and Badguys have detailed descriptions and customised icons.

Here's an example. This one doesn't have much of a description, but you get the idea.

On top of that, I also often give a write-up of why or how something happened/went, and my allies will chime in on that.

This sort of sharing isn't really common in Habit, though I'm starting to see more of it, particularly in guilds where people are grouped by interest in a common cause. It may come with time with party members, but we'd have to be a lot more open about what we're doing and why.

I reckon this one is a tie. Like I said in the previous part, you can do icons and detailed descriptions on Super Better. Habit's aren't in such depth, but you've got your avatar you can play dress up with, and because your list of things that you're doing, you can be brutally honest (or whimsical and silly) in your descriptions. I've gamified all my dailies, habits and to-do headers, which I quite enjoy.

Support Network:
Again, the depth of your relationship with your allies means that Super Better has this one in the bag. In both places I've had people asking me about my recent holiday, and I've seen people in both places mention concern about users whose loved ones were in a recent car accident, there's the extra feeling closeness with SB.

For example, I had three long term allies, who I've chatted with extensively disappear from SB at the same time (one on an extended holiday, one other decided it was no longer for her, but she's changed her mind and returned, and the third was going to have a bit of a hiatus but again, it didn't last as long as she thought it would). For the next couple of days I was walking about, zombie-like. I felt dazed, and had quite a few people ask me if I was OK.

We had two members of our party leave in quick succession in Habit, and it had nowhere near the impact - though to be fair, we'd only been together about a month or so, and I still chat to them in guilds and the tavern, but still, the depth of the association is not there.

Habit wins this, because they're always adding new features and you've got the avatar you can play dress-up with. I think not knowing each other's tasks helps for this too. It can be hard to be lighthearted if your allies are having a rough time of it.

Habit wins by a country mile. They had a kickstarter at the beginning, and now you can buy gems (used for some customisation things, challenge rewards, starting guilds). They don't come begging or badgering emails ala happify and some other self improvement sites I've tried, and you could play happily and never need a gem. You can also earn them by contributing towards it by making pixel art, writing code or other things (I've picked up some like I said for working on the wiki).

There's not even an option to throw money at Super Better no matter how badly I want to support them. Madness! When the Oops Monster has come rampaging, we always worry it's because funds are drying up. When there was the rumour of they were out of dough, there was still no way to throw money at them. There's talk of an android app someday, which I'd gladly break Tho's rule of no paid apps for, but I can't until they release the damn thing. It drives me bonkers.

They haven't worked out how to monetize SB, which is why there was the worry that they were going to shutter. But they won't hand it back to Jane McGonigal, who created it, as they reckon it'll be a financial loss to them. At least with Habit, if it goes tits up because it's open source, I could pull down my own copy (and after a bunch of swearing) install it locally and keep using it. But let's hope it never comes to that.

Ease of Navigation:
Habit. Big time. Occasionally I forget where a certain setting is, but there's not that many tabs to flail around on. I've already said about the list I have to go through to check stuff off with SB, then add in visiting allies on top of that and it starts taking forever if there's been lots of updates, especially if they need thoughtful replies.

Privacy and Trolling Potential:
You could play both games completely ignoring everyone else, and you'd be right as rain. I'm really glad that neither network seems to be hit by griefers or trolls, but SB in particular. In the forums, it seems like a lot of people are battling some real nasty inner demons, and I don't reckon it'd be too much of a stretch to imagine someone offing themselves if a particularly malicious person became their ally. Especially if they  waited at first getting their trust. with Habit, annoying people aren't that serious, it's just forum spam that makes your eyes glaze over, that's all.

Since my list is just for me, I've really done a number of Habit. Our party is also talking about doing some RP as well (I haven't joined in yet, as I restarted my character, and I would feel silly since I'm a cleric and haven't unlocked any healing spells yet). For SB, I try and make my icons, titles and descriptions interesting for my allies, but that's about as far as it goes.

The Dweller in the Darkness

A good way to give an insight into the two different games is with the Dweller in the Darkness. This started off as a badguy in Super Better:

Petty Retaliation and Pointless Bickering are two other badguys that can trigger or be triggered by it. THey have their own writeups as well.

I added it as a +/- habit, and wrote it up for the inaugural Tales of Uncommon Valour (it won!)

The unhallowed hall was a jumble of haphazard pillars and jutting furniture (the use of which was best not imagined). Torchlight felt especially feeble here, but that was no great loss, as the graphic frescoes were disconcerting to say the least. 

Gripping the haft of his axe with clammy hands, the dwarf strained to see true movement amongst the flickering shadows. At the edge of hearing, there was a seething scrabbling and susurration. With a click of its chitinous carapace and scrape of scale on stone the horror left a moist trail within its enclosure. Tentacles writhing, pincers reaching, slavering maw gaping -  it was an abomination that surely belonged only in the deepest pits. “By Kern’s Forge!” Behind him, the dwarf heard one of his comrades being noisily sick. 

Grimly they advanced on the flailing form as it threw itself at the wards that were barely holding it in check. A pseudopod lashed out, escaping the constraints of the circle, and the dwarf hacked at it savagely. A meagre flow of ichor dripped from the creature as the axe head bit deep, but once it was removed the pulsating wound closed over and hardened spines formed where before there had been only putrid flesh. The beast roared its defiance at the party. Almost as one, they broke and ran for the stairs and the faint smudge of daylight that it promised.

So that's how the same task in both of them stacks up but the SB one is far more effective, as I can list what set me off, what I did to try and combat it, and my allies can give me feedback, support, or just listen to me whinge. If I click on it in Habit, no-one's the wiser.

This cuts both ways though, my allies don't really need to be informed that I took the stairs an extra time today, it dilutes the usefulness of Super Better for me - so Habit is the perfect place for me to get some sort of internal recognition of those tasks.

Overhauling and Refocusing
I've been playing on both sites for long enough that they've had to be overhauled a couple of times each, as I've either changed focus or become more familiar with their workings. Because everything is on one screen for Habit, it's by far the easiest to tweak (either for minor things, or really big changes).

Connecting in other places
To join up with allies, you need to exchange email addresses, so even if SB died suddenly, I'd still be able to get in contact with the people I've been talking to and seek out their opinion. A lot of them write or post stuff elsewhere, and they've given me links when I've expressed an interest (unless it's been stuff that's just for them). A few of us have also hooked up on Facebook, too (though we haven't interacted much there - but I don't really do much on facebook anyway, so that could be my fault). There's also the Private Messaging system on the forums as another way to talk to people that you aren't directly allied with.

For Habit, you have the option of linking your various sites under your profile, and so if someone has done that, it makes it a lot easier to follow them. You can also holler at them across the tavern (or a mutual guild) but since the chats there are limited to displaying the first 200 lines, there's no guarantee they will see it. If they don't list some website or way of getting in contact with them (twitter handle for example) then you're out of luck.

What worked well:
For Super Better - opening up to the idea of good positive changes, because they're good and I can instigate them, rather than just when Tho suggested them. Cutting down on drinking. Starting to mark and do paperwork more frequently. Fighting less. Learning the candle song. Giving reading self-help books a chance. Cutting down on swearing in the beginning.

For Habit: Marking a lot more (but this was also building on the original gains from Super Better). Going some days without drinking at all (again, building on previous gains). Writing more. Exercise. Now that I've got swearing largely down t acceptable levels, Habit is where I track losses there.

What doesn't work well:
For Habit: The sort of things where SB excels at - the deep thinking things where input from others is helpful. Occasionally clicking on stuff saying it was done so my avatar didn't die, or so a streak wouldn't be broken, or just because I wanted gold for a new item or a potential drop.

SB: not always logging losses, especially over the weekend or an extended break away from a computer, as I tend to rationalise that it's not that bad really. Sometimes the outlay into finding a new ally, explaining to them where I'm at and what I'm doing and getting familiar with what they're trying to do - and then they stop playing really annoys me. But that's on me, not them. For Super Better, the quality (and how active) your allies are affects what you get out of it. Waning interest in a few allies at the same time tends to have a domino effect on me - I've been under this for quite some time now. Even this week, I haven't really got back into it, instead I have been busy writing this comparison (and my next post, which is just about Habit).

Neither of them have been effective at motivating me to learn Vietnamese consistently (I'm still trying to work out a good system for that, on top of the million and one other things I want to do), nor for creative writing every day. I do have general writing ones on both, and specific ones relating to longer pieces and flash fiction, but I'm still not seeing me push out any consistent word count every day.

Also, both have completely failed at making me rich and/or famous, no matter how many things I click on. Same with getting me into space.

Which one is best? I don't think we have to declare a champion - this isn't a zero sum game, both are helpful in different ways. It's like saying which do you want, a dinosaur or a unicorn for a pet. The obvious answer is both! They're complimentary, and can utilize each other’s synergy or some other buzzwords. Try one, try both, or better yet try them in tandem. I've slowly been won over by Habit, but I would really like to cultivate the habit of using both, because they scratch different itches. But there's only so much time in a day.