Incyanity What color is your straitjacket? Sat, 13 Jan 2018 18:31:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 135273068 It’s 2018: Temperature Blanket is a Go! Mon, 01 Jan 2018 18:08:34 +0000 Read More]]> 2018 has arrived and I’m excited to “officially” begin my temperature blanket. :) In Calgary we’ve been having a deep freeze, so curling up on the sofa to work on this crochet project sounds just perfect.

My goal was to finish all sixty of the blank filler squares that the pattern requires by December 31, 2017 and I did! Truth be told I fell off the “one square a day” wagon after reaching square forty-four due to some other commitments and shenanigans that monopolized my time…and also because making that many black squares over and over and over got really boring (Color! My hook cries out for color!). After Christmas I powered through and got the last sixteen squares made, just under the wire!

Piles of black filler squares.

Piles of black filler squares.

Sixty squares represents about 14% worth of progress on the blanket. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? The piles stacked up on my shelf certainly look like a lot and I wonder where I’m going to keep all the other squares as I continue on. Based on the pattern, I won’t be able to seam my first row until about the middle of April. That’s just over one hundred days (one hundred squares!) from now, and not all sixty of the squares are going to be used up right away. Piles and piles and piles of squares… I’ll have to label each square with the date so I don’t lose track of them!

The sixty filler squares used up almost 600g (two big balls) of Bernat Blanket yarn. I have just a scraggly mess of the coal colorway left over. Based on this I think I bought way too much of the other yarn, since each of the remaining squares will be two colors: the first round for the daily low, and the second round for the daily high. (But can anyone ever have too much yarn, really?) Also, since I will be using the daily low, it means I will wait until tomorrow to do today’s square. Our weather has been so crazy (and so cold) that using the expected forecast for the day might not be how things actually turn out. I am too anal to go by some weatherman’s best guess on the day of—I want the actual results. Thankfully, I can use the Weather Network or the Farmer’s Almanac websites to look up the previous day’s data, and these websites will also be handy if I end up falling behind at any point.

My color chart only goes to -28°C (and below). In the last week we’ve had some overnight temps reaching into the -30s and daily highs that weren’t much warmer. In the coming days this is supposed to improve but I have wondered if I might need to re-jig my chart again if another deep freeze hits, to add another temperature bracket on the low end. If the winter is going to be brutally cold I don’t really want to end up with a huge block of lead (the colorway I chose for temps of -28 and below) dominating the blanket and making it monochrome. Just have to wait and see, and hope I don’t end up with a bunch of frogging to do… (I smell a spreadsheet in my future! It will probably be prudent to record each day’s high and low, in case I do end up frogging so I don’t have to go back and look up all the temps all over again.)

Have you decided to do a temperature blanket for 2018? Tell me about your project, the colors you chose, and the area you live in, in the comments below!

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Culinary Adventures: Quick and Easy Alfredo Sauce Sun, 12 Nov 2017 20:39:30 +0000 Read More]]> I’m not much of a red sauce person. If I’m at a restaurant and in the mood for pasta, and if there’s Alfredo on the menu, chances are I’m going to order that dish. If I buy frozen pasta meals to eat at home or take to work as a lunch, I’ll buy something that has Alfredo in it. Alfredo, Alfredo, Alfredo. In my book, it’s the king of cream sauces.

On occasion I’ve tried buying Alfredo sauce in a jar, or as a powder packet (just add milk!), as a slightly more economical choice as compared to premade frozen dinners. The problem I’ve had with the premade stuff is that while I like the sauce, the premade sauce doesn’t like me back. I end up being punished with food-induced issues for days after enjoying my one night of pasta bliss, which of course wrecks the whole thing. For whatever reason, I don’t tend to have those same issues when eating out or buying certain brands of frozen dinners—I’m not sure why (maybe the preservatives?). It’s always been disappointing though, because the frozen dinners never have quite enough pasta in them to satisfy me, and having all that extra waxy cardboard left over afterward doesn’t feel terribly environmentally friendly. Eating out all the time isn’t good either.

But I also hate cooking. The idea of making my own Alfredo sauce has always been intimidating, and as a matter of course I tend not to like to keep fresh milk or cream in the house because it will usually spoil before I can use it all. Additionally, I’ve sort of had it in my head that Alfredo sauce must surely be this magical, super complicated substance that only the most masterful of cooks can make. Master cook? Definitely not me!

Recently I had a craving for Alfredo, a strong one, so decided to bite the bullet and try making it myself, from scratch.

The recipe I used is called Quick and Easy Alfredo Sauce from I chose this one not only for its promise of being “quick and easy” but also because it calls for cream cheese as an ingredient—and I love cream cheese too!

The other ingredients are straightforward, though I only used a sprinkle of pepper due to my allergy to it. I didn’t have butter either so substituted margarine. Half a cup of butter seems like a lot and indeed it was, particularly when cooking for one. This recipe overall makes enough sauce to serve pasta to 4-6 people (maybe even more) depending on the final serving size.

I combined the margarine, garlic powder, and a splash of pepper in the saucepan first and gave that a good stir. It smelled fantastic, and if I had something like a hotplate to keep the mixture from solidifying I’d consider using this stage (with a bit of parsley added) as a hot dip with some really nice French bread.

Once the margarine had melted it was time to add the cream cheese. I had prepared ahead of time by allowing the brick to come to room temperature so it was softer. I think this was helpful, as even with the warm saucepan it would have taken longer for the brick to get to a point where it was easy to mix in.

Cream cheese with melted butter and garlic.

Cream cheese with melted butter and garlic.

Honestly, at this stage it didn’t look all that appetizing. Sort of like a mass of scrambled, greasy eggs, kinda? I’m not sure if the appearance would have been better if I’d used butter (would butter blend better with cream cheese?). I stirred until it seemed like one big smooth congealed mess, and prepared to add the milk.

Like I mentioned earlier, I don’t like keeping fresh milk in the house. Instead I buy powdered milk and mix up what I need when I happen to be making something that calls for it. Easy enough, right?

No sense crying over spilt milk...

No sense crying over spilt milk…

Apparently, for me at least, milk (and cooking in general) is not easy at all. This mess slopped all over the floor, down the cupboards, over my feet, and had a splatter radius of about ten feet which means it hit the carpet outside my kitchen too. So while my margarine-cream cheese concoction continued to simmer in the saucepan and I started to worry about it burning (or something) I was stuck on the wrong side of the kitchen trying to mop all that up while swearing profusely under my breath about how much I hate cooking.

Ready for cheese!

Ready for cheese!

Once I had conquered the milk and regained entry to my kitchen, and then managed to get the milk into the saucepan where it belonged, it was time to add the Parmesan cheese. The recipe calls for six ounces of cheese which wasn’t a helpful measurement for me as my Parmesan came in a jar measured in grams. Since my sauce was already in-progress and I didn’t want to dick around trying to convert it to something that did make sense, I decided to wing this part. In the end I added roughly one cup. Overall I think the cheese can be left up to individual taste: more might be more appealing for some people but overwhelming for others. “To taste” would come with making this recipe a few times.

Vermicelli Alfredo!

Vermicelli Alfredo!

While the sauce thickened I boiled up my vermicelli, strained it, and then poured in the amount of Alfredo I wanted. I made enough pasta for two meals for me, and I have enough sauce left over for almost another two batches of the same size.

I ate, and it was good! I actually enjoyed this very much. It didn’t taste too cream cheese-y at all which I probably wouldn’t have minded but it was good to have more of the regular Alfredo taste that I was looking for. I’m writing this the day after and so far haven’t suffered any ill effects either, so I’d call this one a win. Makes me happy, even if my kitchen had to suffer a milk bath in the process!

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The Agency Sat, 28 Oct 2017 00:40:15 +0000 Read More]]> I poked around with the new Agency window tonight. I like it! It’s like an “uber agent finder plus” and feels useful right out of the box. I see the old agent finder is still available too but there was always something about it that I never quite liked. Maybe it was just too fiddly. Either way I never used it much.

The Agency window.

The Agency window. Click to enlarge.

This new feature? Pretty slick. I think for new and old players alike the Agency will greatly improve finding any and all PVE content in a given area—even content that players might not have previously known was there. I like how visual it is and that the different kinds of PVE content are differentiated by color and with unique icons that show up on the minimap.

One thing I found myself wishing for immediately is a way to exclude certain results. For example, I’m not in Faction Warfare so suggesting FW combat sites to me is pointless strictly from a PVE perspective. Not that the Agency should be so clever as to automatically exclude them by default when a character is not in FW, because you never know how someone might discover new content they want to try…and PVPers will likely use the Agency to find spots to fight in whether or not they’re in Faction Warfare. But having some way to “do not suggest this to me” so players can customize the Suggestion tab on the fly in a future iteration would be great.

Have you used the new Agency window? What do you think about it? Let me know in the comments!

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Fall 2017 Pod Pal Auction! Sun, 22 Oct 2017 23:00:20 +0000 Read More]]> The next Pod Pal auction is here! Bid your in-game ISK for a chance to get your very own Pod Pal, customized to look like your EVE Online character! Don’t know what a Pod Pal is? Check here for details!

Auction Start: 22Oct2017 17:00 Mountain

Auction End: 29Oct2017 17:00 Mountain

Sniper Rule: 15 minutes

Bids must be made as a comment on this post to be eligible. Bids sent via in-game mail, Twitter, Reddit, email, or by any other means will not be accepted.

Starting bid is 2 billion ISK. Minimum bid increment is 100 million ISK. Highest bid by auction close wins!

Winner must transfer 50% of their winning bid to Sakaane Eionell in-game within 7 calendar days of the auction close date. Failure to make payment means forfeiture of the commission slot to the next highest bidder. Winner must also cover trackable shipping from Canada via PayPal, in Canadian funds.

Click here for full details and terms.

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Coveted Crochet, aka My Work Was Stolen Sun, 15 Oct 2017 14:15:10 +0000 Read More]]> My elephant.

My elephant.

Anybody remember this guy? My very adorable crochet elephant, my first proper amigurumi project that wasn’t for practice, that had no mistakes… I made him in the spring of 2016, not long after I started learning to crochet. I adore that elephant and have been very proud of it. It’s small! It’s cute! It’s huggable!

The company I work for uses an elephant as its mascot. I was so happy with how my elephant turned out that I took it to work to put on my desk. My coworkers love it. Everybody loves it.

Occasionally, the sales guys go on the road to do trade shows and other industry-specific events where we set up a table and hope to build new and expand existing business relationships. After I brought my elephant in, one of the guys asked if he could take it with him to put on the table as a decoration. Sure, I said. That was a huge compliment in and of itself. The professional dudes at work want to use my stuff to help them sell our actual products? Heck yes! Turned out the elephant was a big hit. It attracted people with its adorable cuteness! Yay me! My elephant has since travelled around Canada numerous times with the sales guys. It’s been to places I’ve never been!

My elephant was on the road this past week. I got a text Thursday night from my coworker, raving once again about how popular the elephant is and how great it would be if I could make another one specifically to raffle off at the next event or something like that. I had been thinking along those lines for a while so that I could bring my elephant home, while the one I’d give to the sales guy would be dedicated for his use. I even wanted to try using surface slip stitch to see if I could get an approximation of our company logo on the elephant’s hip. My coworker also told me that one lady apparently gave her business card to him with a request that I should please call her because OMG CUTE ELEPHANT. I went to bed that night feeling really awesome!

Friday morning shortly after I got to work, my coworker called to say SOMEONE STOLE MY ELEPHANT. That’s right, STOLE IT. This person—A SUPPOSED PROFESSIONAL IN OUR INDUSTRY, someone that we MIGHT BE DOING BUSINESS WITH—swiped it off the table while the sales guy was standing RIGHT THERE but was engaged in conversation with other people. This person waited until my coworker was suitably distracted and then WALKED AWAY WITH MY ELEPHANT.

The sales guy was so angered and devastated he enlisted the assistance of other people to go around the event hall trying to see if they could find the person carrying the elephant around with them. He confronted people, including the lady who gave him her business card! He emailed the event rep to complain (not that they can really do anything about it) and asked for help to spread the word that the elephant was handmade by me and should please be returned. He sounded so guilty when he was telling me about this on the phone.

I am so mad, and so upset! Not at my coworker—at the broker. It took me a month to make that elephant. I realize I can make another one but THAT’S NOT THE POINT. What kind of lowlife “professional” adult does a person have to be to steal a stuffed toy from an industry event?! Does this person run their business this way?? Not to mention the audacity of stealing the elephant from under the nose of the sales guy while he’s standing RIGHT THERE. He’s not a small guy either. He’s like 6’2” and built! The elephant wasn’t even at the front of the table. Hard to misconstrue as a freebie when it’s not at the front! But hey I guess that doesn’t matter. Other people’s stuff? Whatever, just take it if you want it!

My mother says having my work stolen is a kind of compliment. “That person wanted your elephant so much that they couldn’t resist taking it.” Pfft. Like that is supposed to make me feel better. You know, if that person had just shown respect and asked I could have made another one. Now? Suffice to say, I’ll make one for myself but not for the sales guy to take on the road. He agrees: obviously we can’t trust the people we do business with! Even if the elephant turns up anonymously (not holding my breath), one bad apple ruined it for everyone.

SO MAD. SO BUMMED. Never going to see my elephant again! :’( PEOPLE SUCK.

RIP elephant. ;_;

RIP elephant. ;_; Click to enlarge.

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One Square A Day Mon, 09 Oct 2017 21:18:36 +0000 Read More]]> I decided to get a head start on the temperature blanket! The pattern calls for sixty “blank” squares that don’t correspond to any calendar days so there’s no reason not to do them ahead of time. :) Sixty is a lot of squares though, so just like with the rest of the blanket, I plan to do just one per day for the next two months so I don’t become overwhelmed or burnt out.

My first two blanket squares, made with Bernat Blanket yarn in Coal.

My first two blanket squares, made with Bernat Blanket yarn in Coal.

This is my first time making granny squares as well as an actual blanket so it’s going to be quite an adventure! Overall, Bernat Blanket yarn is easy to work with, although so far I’ve found pulling the magic circle closed can be a bit tough—but that may be because I crochet pretty tightly and this is bulky yarn. I’m sure as I get more practice with more squares I’ll get the hang of it! I also have to get some mats so I can block the squares as I make them.

We’ve had some snow already (and then back to pretty nice weather!) so I became curious how my squares might turn out if I was doing the blanket right now. These squares are two rounds and I plan to do the first round as the daily low and the second round as the daily high.

Two weeks’ worth of local weather.

Two weeks’ worth of local weather.

Kind of a yo-yo, eh? Well, that’s Alberta…

Lots and lots of teal...

Lots and lots of teal…

Presented like this, the squares look kind of bland but I think the real deal, with the double crochet stitches making a kind of starburst in the center of the square, will look quite nice!

Each square measures about four inches in size, and the blanket is 17×25 squares, so the finished item will be about 68″x100″ not counting added width from seaming. This is bigger than a queen blanket width-wise but not quite big enough to be a king. The length is very generous though! Given how soft and cuddly Bernat Blanket yarn is, it’s going to be so snuggly when it’s finished!

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New Pod Pal Auction Soon™ – But First, A Test! Thu, 05 Oct 2017 00:41:32 +0000 Read More]]> The end of summer has been pretty busy! In August I drove down to Wyoming to watch the eclipse and got some very good shots (for an amateur), one of which is featured above. :) Seeing totality with the naked eye was something else—one of those “once in a lifetime” astronomical events that, if you’re lucky, you might actually have more than one chance in your lifetime to see depending on where in the world you live and how cooperative Mother Nature is with the weather. This was my first chance to see totality and I’m glad I made the trip. In September I had a business trip to Victoria… Now here we are, already October!

Despite all the travelling, I finished the EDU 2017 Pod Pal for Gold Rat on September 30, 2017. Since Gold Rat is wearing a jacket with a high collar I experimented to see if I could duplicate that particular feature. I think it came out great!

EVE Online Pod Pals: Gold Rat

EVE Online Pod Pals: Gold Rat

Now that he’s done, I’m thinking about my next Pod Pal auction. People have been waiting very patiently since the first auction that took place in the spring and I’d like to get a second one in to close out 2017. To do that, I need help from my fellow capsuleers to make sure it’s a success.

The first Pod Pal auction was conducted on Twitter and overall I think it worked pretty well. I chose to hold it there because auctions for out-of-game artwork (Pod Pals count as artwork) can’t be held on the official EVE forums, and (at the time) I had been having some issues with the comment feature on this website. The tweetfleet is also very big and I wanted to try to reach the widest audience possible outside of the EVE forums.

But, a few people have commented to me that it would be nice to be able to bid without having to sign up for Twitter. I think that’s a fair comment to make. In the months since having that auction I’ve done some work on my WordPress install and I think (I hope!) the comment feature is a lot more stable and reliable now than it used to be. Unfortunately this is mostly just me being optimistic because it’s based solely on having not received any recent complaints that someone’s comment failed to post! (I’ve done my own testing of course but there’s only so much I can do from one computer and one mobile device.)

So here’s my request: Before I actually commit to holding the auction here, if everyone who reads this post could please leave one test comment over the next few days that would be a huge help. Maybe tell me if you travelled to see the 2017 eclipse (or any other eclipse) and what you thought about the experience!

If the comment box, or the site itself, misbehaves, please mail me in-game (Sakaane Eionell) to let me know. It will be helpful to know what browser you used, what error message you received (if any), and maybe also where in the world you are located so I can try to investigate. I don’t want to open an auction and then have bids get eaten or lost! That would really suck!

Just to be clear: This article is not an actual Pod Pal auction. Commenting on this article doesn’t improve your odds or constitute any guarantee that you will get a Pod Pal later. I just need readers to test the comment feature to make sure everything is working properly. The actual Pod Pal auction will be in a separate post at a future date, or (if my site misbehaves) will be held elsewhere.

Thanks everyone for helping!

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Temperature Blanket: Final Charts! Sun, 17 Sep 2017 00:46:32 +0000 Read More]]> I wrote last time about how it’s been a hot summer in Calgary so Mom and I decided to tweak our temperature blanket charts in case next summer is just as hot. I made some changes to my chart and then ordered the Bernat yarn I needed. When the (very big) box arrived I excitedly laid out the balls…and immediately decided that a few of the colors weren’t going to work for me. Sigh! I guess I am a yarn snob (and I want my blanket to be really awesome)…

So, more changes! In the end I adjusted the temperature brackets for my blanket too, while Mom is keeping to the original set but with the +30° and -30° brackets added on. (We also discovered that the original set of charts were both missing a bracket for -1°C to -4°C. Oops! So, don’t use the charts from the previous post!) Here is where we’ve ended up:

My finalized temperature blanket chart. Mom's finalized temperature blanket chart.
My finalized temperature blanket chart (left) and Mom’s (right). Click to enlarge.

Pretty sure I’m happy with what I have now! All that needs to happen is for January 1, 2018 to arrive so we can get started!

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Custom Postcards: Unboxing Magic Fri, 15 Sep 2017 23:44:57 +0000 Read More]]> It’s been almost a month since I first joined Postcrossing. So far I’ve sent seven cards (two are still in transit to their destinations). The two cards I’ve received to date have come from Germany and Ireland:

My first received cards: from Germany (left) and Ireland.

My first received cards: from Germany (left) and Ireland.

I’m actually having a lot of fun! The card from Germany arrived first and was in my mailbox on a day when I’d come home from work feeling lousy. It was a great pick-me-up! There was a lovely note on the back which made me smile. But what really got me grinning today was receiving my shipment of custom postcards from MOO!

I admit I’d become a little nervous about using my own photos for Postcrossing after I ordered them. Some users have things like “No handmade cards” in their profiles, and having read the forum it seems like some people can actually be really snobby about the cards they want to receive. I guess these folks value the card itself more than the gesture of communication and friendship from another human being. At the same time, it’s a community guideline on Postcrossing that members aren’t allowed to make demands in their profiles, just wishes, and that ultimately it’s up to each member to choose what to send—so long as it’s a postcard.

My cards aren’t “handmade” in the sense that I didn’t print them at home, so I have that going for me. When the package came I couldn’t help but be excited. My own photos, tangibly printed (and not from a kiosk at WalMart either)! It’s the first time I’ve done something like this, and other than my Photostreams, also the first time I’ll really be sharing my photography with anyone beyond friends and family.

Something else I was nervous about was how the quality might turn out. I got an electronic proof of the cards of course, but seeing something on the screen and having the finished product in your hand is never really the same. The Postcrossing forum had some complaints from other users who had used other printers (not MOO) to have their cards done, where they said that the cropping was bad, color quality was poor, the cardstock was flimsier than they expected, and so on. I didn’t want that to be my experience!

I ordered three sets of postcards.

I ordered three sets of postcards.

When I opened the bubble mailer I found my cards wrapped up in these really cute green-dotted packs. I felt like I had received a gift!

It is a bit like magic, seeing something you made come to life...

It is a bit like magic, seeing something you made come to life…

The packs will be handy for storing the cards in and keeping them protected while I gradually send them out. Each pack also had a card insert with it for the specific order, and those cards have nice motivational phrases on them. :D This is like magic! I took all those photos but they’ve just been sitting around as bytes and pixels on my computer all this time… Now they will hopefully delight the people they go to and maybe become a part of some treasured collections. (A girl can dream!)

Not gonna lie, I squealed out loud!

Not gonna lie, I squealed out loud!

Actually opening the first pack of cards was a WOW moment. The postcards are phenomenal (if I do say so myself!) and they look so professional! They’re all glossy on the picture side, the colors are vibrant, the cardstock is very nice, the cropping is perfect! The reverse side is printed clearly and has proper areas for the stamp, address, and message. Honestly… There’s nothing quite like seeing my name as the photo credit. MOO did such a great job with these cards that the recipients might think they came from that nebulous place where all “official” postcards come from! Worth every penny!

(The cards are so nice I might actually have trouble sending them away… I’d like to keep them all for myself!)

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Postcrossing! Sun, 03 Sep 2017 22:29:59 +0000 Read More]]> Something I did as a kid was participate in pen pal programs. I’ve always loved getting mail and writing letters to someone far away was fun, especially when we decorated them with stickers or included postcards, photos, stories, and other mementos. Two pen pals in particular have stayed in my mind over the years: the first is Carly, a lovely writer and animal lover from eastern Canada who I now keep in touch with via Twitter. I still have all her letters and we killed many a tree sending each other copies of stories we were writing that would surely be incredibly embarrassing if anyone were to read them today.

Ikue Ozaki, c. 1993

Ikue Ozaki, c. 1993

The other pen pal was Ikue, a girl who lived in the Ehime Prefecture on the island of Shikoku in Japan. I was in my pre-teen and early teen years when Ikue and I started writing to one another. She wrote the most incredible letters on very fancy, delicate paper, and adorned them with anime- and manga-style drawings (in ink! with no mistakes!). She taught me simple Japanese words and sent me an entire children’s magazine (which probably helped influence my later interest in anime) as well as numerous postcards of her country’s beautiful landscapes and many other adorable things. Sadly, when the Kobe earthquake happened in 1995 I never heard from her again, though I wrote to her several times for a couple of years afterward. Almost 6500 people were killed in that earthquake (roughly 1800 from outside the Kobe area) and I have always wondered if she was one of them or if her home was just destroyed to the point that her family moved with no forwarding address. Maybe it was just a coincidence. None of my letters were ever returned so I really have no idea what happened. It will probably be one of those life mysteries.

Over the years, letter writing seemed to become passé, probably because life gets busier as people grow older, but also we had the advent of supposedly marvelous new technologies…like email. I used to love email. It made communicating with pen pals so much easier! Typing is faster than writing and you could hear back from your pen pal in a matter of days rather than weeks. Another friend and pen pal, Alexis, and I burned up many many bytes writing epic novel-length emails to one another (mostly about Sailor Moon!). Email became an evil thing later on as I got more and more swamped thanks to work (and my life seemed to have more and more not-nice things happening in it), so looking at my inbox was just something I didn’t enjoy doing anymore (and I felt I had nothing good to say). I still owe Alexis a response to an email he sent in…2015… I know, I can blog hundreds of words but fail in replying to one email? I suck and I’m terrible and I swear I’ll write soon! My friend Amber is living in Japan right now and I’m terrible about writing her emails too…

Most of the time these days my mailbox—the real one attached to my home address, not the virtual ones on my computer—is empty. All but a few of my bills are delivered electronically and I’m on Canada Post’s “no junk mail” list. Unless I know I’ve ordered something, I generally only check the mail once every couple of weeks. (I’d go longer between checks except I missed a jury duty summons once, which was both scary because the paperwork says THOU SHALT NOT IGNORE THY SUMMONS LEST YE WISH TO SUFFER DOOM all over it, but also disappointing because it would have been a worthwhile life experience to have had—but as it turned out, I was also in Iceland on the scheduled duty dates so it wouldn’t have worked out anyway.) I’ve often lamented that empty mailbox, and how terrible I am at getting back to people via email, and how nice it is to get real mail. Amber sometimes sends me postcards, or little packages with fantastic Japanese candies in them, and that always makes my day. I started to think to myself, I should really do things like that too: get back to simpler things. Maybe not letter writing, as I really do have too much on my plate as it is, but postcards? Postcards should be easy.

Coincidentally, or maybe by fate, Stargrace recently mentioned Postcrossing in her Twitter feed. I forget exactly what she posted, but whatever it was got me curious enough to ask and look into it further. What’s Postcrossing? From their site:

It’s a project that allows you to send postcards and receive postcards back from random people around the world. That’s real postcards, not electronic!

This is a pretty cool idea! Not exactly the same as having dedicated pen pals (although I understand that some people end up becoming pen pals this way) but still means there’s something to look forward to in the mail, and it provides opportunities to learn about other places in the world that one might never actually get to visit, from the people who actually live there. Postcrossing is also set up to force people to be proactive: you don’t get to receive postcards until you send some, and to keep getting them you have to keep sending.

As a newbie, I can only have 5 postcards travelling to start with.

As a newbie, I can only have 5 postcards travelling to start with.

The project has a tiered system in place that gradually allows newbies like me to increase the number of cards that can be travelling simultaneously. Five is the initial limit and until they are received at their destinations I have to wait before I can send more. My stats won’t update to say how many have actually been sent by me until each card reaches its destination and is registered on the site by the recipient. My allowed limit for how many cards can be travelling simultaneously likewise won’t grow until the initial ones are registered at the destination too, so there’s a bit of patience involved. But as my limit grows, there is nothing requiring me to max out on that limit all the time. Postage, even on postcards (as I have discovered) is not cheap ($2.50 CAD to send a 4×6 postcard outside North America) so I will probably limit myself to sending four or five postcards a month, depending on how quickly my slots free up. As the picture above shows, my first five are travelling to Malaysia, Russia, USA, Germany, and Finland. Malaysia and Russia will probably take the longest to arrive: three or four weeks to go at least!

My hope is that doing this will help me stay motivated to send my friends real mail too. :) When I took my first batch of cards to the post office I also had a separate collection that I bundled together to send to Amber (better late than never?). So far, so good!

There’s another aspect to this as well…

The Postcrossing FAQ has an entry in it to help guide people on where they can buy postcards. After all, if you’re not usually a tourist in your own area you might not really know where to find postcards in the first place. Or maybe you know where to get them but you’re not fond of the selection. Or…you’re an amateur photographer with gigabytes of photos just sitting around on your computer… Postcrossing has a deal with MOO for printing custom postcards and the price is decent, particularly in that they allow each pack to contain 25 unique images at no extra cost!

A selection of images I’ll be using for postcards!

A selection of images I’ll be using for postcards!

I really enjoy taking photos but I’ve never done anything with them other than make Photostreams. Wouldn’t it be nifty to send them around the world as postcards? I thought so! They’re unique, they showcase the world through my eyes, and no one will be able to get them anywhere else—only from me! I’ve ordered my first batch which should arrive later this month. (This has also started me wondering what else I might be able to do with my shots. Something to think about!)

My public Postcrossing profile is linked in Incyanity’s header and footer. I’m looking forward to seeing it become populated with stats, as well as seeing what postcards I will eventually receive (and from where)!

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Temperature Blanket: Back to Square One Sat, 02 Sep 2017 21:11:15 +0000 Read More]]> The summer has flown by and soon 2018 will be here! It might be a bit early to be thinking about the new year for most things, but when it comes to yarn projects more lead time seems better, especially when trying to source specific yarn or adhere to a particular plan. The other day I reminded Mom that we should think about getting yarn for our temperature blankets. She (quite excitedly) exclaimed that she had finally found a pattern she felt she could use—and now I’m excited about it too!

Temperature Blanket pattern by Devrie

Temperature Blanket pattern by Devrie

The pattern Mom found is Devrie’s Temperature Blanket (which is free on Ravelry for the 2017 calendar year!). It’s both a knit and a crochet pattern which is really cool. Devrie cleverly figured out how to spread 365 days over a rectangle in a balanced way, which nicely solves the problem I was having when I was trying to figure out how to adapt the pattern I originally chose for my blanket. Her pattern is way better than what I was going to do!

The idea is to make a square for each day of the year (which is why the pattern works for both knit and crochet). So long as you end up with a square, and each square is the same size in the end, it doesn’t matter what stitch is used. Different stitches or square patterns could even be used for each day (or month) to add more texture to the blanket. The squares are then seamed together to make the blanket, basically like a quilt.

When Mom showed me this I instantly liked it! I also think it will be nice if Mom and I use the same pattern but different yarn and techniques so we can compare our blankets after they are done.

For me, the obvious choice is to do granny squares, but I worried that since I want to make my blanket with Bernat Blanket yarn that I might still end up with something that is ginormous. Nothing wrong with a big blanket of course, but I don’t want to drown in it either. I’ve also never done granny squares before!

Repeat Crafter Me's Bernat Blanket Granny Squares

Repeat Crafter Me’s Bernat Blanket Granny Squares

Thankfully, the internet came to my rescue: Repeat Crafter Me has an excellent and easy method to make granny squares with this bulky yarn! I tried it out with a 7mm hook and the square is about four inches wide, which will be perfect for the pattern Mom found. I might buy a slightly bigger hook to make the squares a little bigger (as the pattern calls for 4.5″ squares). These squares are also just two rounds which means I can easily work two colors into each one: the low temperature of the day (round one), and the high temperature (round two). I think this will be really cool and create nice contrasts in colors (particularly in the winter when it can be bitterly cold overnight but a chinook could roll in during the day and send the temperature rocketing up).

Speaking of temps rocketing up, it has been a pretty hot summer in Calgary this year with a fair few days over the 30°C mark. Yuck! I’m not fond of the cold but this heat is a bit much too. In the event we have a similar summer next year, I’ve thought it prudent to add a 30°C+ temperature band to my color chart, otherwise the summer months could end up with a huge chunk of 25°C+ days that won’t reflect as accurately how the weather really was. Likewise, for balance I’m adding a -30°C+ band too. Unfortunately, Bernat Blanket doesn’t come in the same range of colors as other yarn so I’m still trying to figure out how to rework my color palette. I did find a few surprise shades at Michaels that weren’t listed on the Yarnspirations website, so hopefully I’ll get lucky and be able to fill in everything. I also need to be able to order what I haven’t been able to source locally, but some of the colors I need are out of stock online. Fingers crossed they show up again before I need them!

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A New Chibi Daenan Mon, 28 Aug 2017 23:52:49 +0000 Read More]]> It’s been a long while since I had any truly new art to share for Heart of the Empire, but on Saturday I had an opportunity to get a commission from Sarah “Sakky” Forde. She was kind enough to draw Daenan using the updated ardrakin species design I’ve been working on. The female version of that new design hasn’t been started yet, but Sakky’s commission is chibi style so the proportions for a female versus a male aren’t as important. It came out great! Here is her adorable work:

Chibi Daenan!

Chibi Daenan!

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EDU 2017 Pod Pal: The Winner Is… Mon, 07 Aug 2017 16:21:11 +0000 Read More]]> Gold Rat - EDU 2017 Pod Pal Winner

Gold Rat – EDU 2017 Pod Pal Winner

EVE Down Under 2017 has come and gone. I hope everyone who attended had a great time!

My Pod Pal commission slot was given away during the gathering as a door prize. The winner has been confirmed to me as Gold Rat! Congratulations! :) A mail is waiting for you in-game so please be sure to get back to me ASAP so I can get started on your Pod Pal.

Thanks again to the folks at EVE Down Under for the opportunity to help out!

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Quality of Life Improvements – Incyanity Updates Sun, 16 Jul 2017 21:08:32 +0000 Read More]]> One of the things I love about WordPress is its flexibility. Since moving Incyanity off Joomla in October of 2015 I’ve continued to tweak the site here and there as the need arose, and in the meantime have been able to add new content on a fairly regular (for me) basis. The other thing I really love about WordPress over Joomla is its built-in RSS functionality: whereas Joomla very annoyingly did not have a combined RSS feed for all content regardless of its category, WordPress provides that by default (along with the ability to follow only specific categories or tags if a person so desires), making it very easy for readers to subscribe to the site. WordPress also makes it easy to update existing content and “republish” it simply by updating the published date of the article. I’ve done this a few times since posting the various Heart of the Empire compendium articles, as the creative process is ongoing and several updates have been made to them—and what better way to let readers know there is new content than to simply republish it?

One of the things I hate about RSS reader apps is, depending on the app in question, the updated article isn’t always fetched. Said article appears at the top of the RSS feed on the site based on its updated publish date, but some reader apps remain blind to that change…meaning certain people who follow my content will never know it’s been changed no matter how many times they check their app, unless they come to the site itself and see those updated articles on the landing page. This was aggravating to discover: I tried a few so-called “popular” RSS apps and a few of the highest-recommended ones didn’t show my republished content even after clearing the app cache or deleting and re-adding the feed. Other apps had no issues but weren’t as widely used, probably because they are poorly designed or don’t have as many features. Rawr.

One of the few things I miss about Joomla is its built-in ability to display the date an article was last modified. WordPress has the function but doesn’t seem to integrate it by default and none of the WordPress themes I’ve ever considered bothered to use it either. Bummer. Originally I didn’t care so much because I could just republish…until I discovered that some RSS apps are stupid about that. Full circle arg. What to do?

I asked Iceable, the very very excellent designer of Incyanity’s current theme, to help me out with a solution that would blend seamlessly into my site. (Iceable deserves so many kudos for the work he does and the support he provides. If you’re looking for a new theme for your site, he should be your first stop!) As always, he delivered: various articles on Incyanity now display the published date and the last modified date, if the article has been modified after publishing, like this:

Published date on the left, last modified on the right. The little "refresh" icon is cute. :)

Published date on the left, last modified on the right. The little “refresh” icon is cute. :)

With this in place, I can now update an article without republishing it, which nicely preserves the original publication date (which I have reasons for wanting to preserve, regardless of SEO considerations). Big quality of life improvement from my perspective!

So, because some readers will have missed them, here’s a list of articles that have been updated recently:

  • The Myst Series articles now have links at the end to take readers directly to the next post in the series. Soon™ I will start playing Exile!
  • HOTE – All chapters: They’re outdated (and marked as such), but I was asked by a reader to restore the old copies to the site. Ask and ye shall receive! They also now have links at the end that will take readers directly to the next chapter.
  • HOTE – Ardrakin Character Profiles: I’m considering combining (and renaming) a few characters, so several profiles have been updated. This article is still extremely spoiler-y.
  • HOTE – Ardrakin History: This article has been completely rewritten and is spoiler-free. It chronicles the development of the ardrakin from their earliest origins four million years ago right through to the years just prior to the beginning of the story. I wrote this article to help wrap my head around where this society has been in order to help inform where they are going to go as I rewrite Heart of the Empire.
  • HOTE – Ardrakin Society: updated with additional notes about clan organization, the lunar calendar, and the Dragon Mother faith. This article still contains several spoilers.
  • HOTE – Ardrakin Race, Ardrakin Science & Technology, and Berwen (Planet): Miscellaneous updates due to changes in other articles. The Race article also has some new details about altitudes that ardrakin can comfortably fly at.
  • HOTE – Artwork: A few old pieces of artwork (mostly gift art) has been recovered and posted.

That’s all for now! Enjoy!

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Temperature Blanket Sat, 24 Jun 2017 19:04:19 +0000 Read More]]> What’s a temperature blanket? Is it a blanket you plug into the wall, or is it something less likely to short out and burn down your house? I had never heard of temperature blankets until a few weeks ago when @LionBrandYarn tweeted this:

Discovering temperature blankets for the first time!

Discovering temperature blankets for the first time!

When I looked into what a temperature blanket was, it seemed to be a nifty and fun idea, especially since Calgary can have some pretty wild weather at any time of the year!

A temperature blanket (or temperature afghan), as I came to understand, is a project where colors of yarn are made to correspond to brackets of temperature, and every day for one year you crochet or knit one row of a blanket based on that day’s high temperature (or average temperature, or low temperature, depending on personal preference) where you live. This makes it a long-term but low-pressure project.

I mentioned this to my mom and she liked it too, to the extent that we’ve each decided to make a blanket for ourselves starting at January 1, 2018 (no time like the present to plan ahead). She will knit hers and I will crochet mine.

Neither of us wants to do the rainbow concept, though. I mean, Rainbow Brite was cool and all…when I was four. For this? We’d both rather end up with blankets that still reasonably match the decor of our homes or use colors that we really like. So, I came up with these temperature charts:

My temperature blanket chart. Mom's temperature blanket chart.
My temperature blanket chart (left) and Mom’s (right). Click to enlarge.

As the charts show, I’ve decided to use Bernat yarn (specifically, their chenille Blanket label) for mine, while Mom will use Red Heart yarn for hers. I really love Bernat Blanket yarn because of how soft, squishy, and cuddly it is!

Bernat Larksfoot Blanket

Bernat Larksfoot Blanket

Mom hasn’t picked her pattern yet. I’ve picked the Bernat Larksfoot Blanket pattern because it specifically calls for the chunky Blanket yarn I already adore. I also like that it’s not a plain block stripe or zigzag. The neat thing is each finished stripe “hooks in” to the stripe after it which I think could create a really nice effect for the gradient my chart uses, depending on how the weather turns out next year!

Just one problem…

The Larksfoot blanket is supposed to measure about 46″x58″ when finished. To achieve the right look for this pattern I should actually do two rows per day rather than just one (as each colored stripe is two rows to get the shape correct). In the picture, the finished blanket appears to have about 25 stripes (or 50 rows). If the height of 50 rows is 46″… That would make my temperature blanket about 14.6x longer after one full year (730 rows, or 672″, which is…56 feet). Yikes!! Even if I do one row per day and potentially change colors halfway through a stripe the finished blanket would still be 28 feet long. Still yikes!

I really like this blanket, and I really like the yarn, so how can I make this work? What if each “circle” in each stripe were to represent one day? Not a bad idea, except…365 only divides evenly by itself, 1, 5, and 73. A 5×73 piece of work isn’t much of a blanket! (A leap year wouldn’t be better. 366 divides evenly by itself, 1, 2, 3, 6, 61, 122, and 183. A 6×61 piece of work is still too narrow.) Arg!

If the photo can be trusted as reliable (that the finished blanket is supposed to have about 25 stripes to get to 46″ tall) and if I make the blanket, say, 33 “circles” wide, I could dedicate one stripe to each month of the year (12 stripes total, or 24 rows) and have alternating stripes on each side to get to 25 total, like this:

Excel, where would we be without you?

Excel, where would we be without you?

This should then be representative of the finished size of the blanket, more or less, and it’ll be pretty close to the intended original. The raggy ends for those months that are shorter than 31 days (especially looking at you, February) don’t look that great when presented like this, but in the actual blanket they shouldn’t be too bad because all the colors in my chart are fairly muted to begin with. This will make it a bit easier to identify which month is which without stitching labels on too.

Black (Coal) is already in my temperature chart but though I live in the Great White North, the odds of the high on any given day being -25°C or below, even in the thick of winter, are not that good unless Old Man Winter is really going to beat the shit out of us next year, so I should only end up with a few “circles” here and there in each stripe that bleed into the blanket’s background.

In order for this to work, I think I’ll have to track the high temperatures every day for a month and then do the stripe for that month (thank god for Excel), because each “circle” will only be half-finished in each row otherwise. When we have chinooks, the temperature can swing anywhere from -20°C to 15°C or more in a few hours, so in winter I could be color changing a lot and will want to minimize having ends to weave in wherever possible.

I’m looking forward to this project! It will be nice to see how my blanket evolves compared to the one my mom will do. I’ll be tagging future entries for this project with temperature-blanket so if you want to follow along, you can bookmark that URL or add the tag-specific RSS feed to your reader. The project will eventually be added to my Ravelry profile too!

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A Pod Pal for EVE Down Under Thu, 15 Jun 2017 03:14:28 +0000 Read More]]> If you’ve been following me on Twitter you know I’ve had a couple of crocheted surprises for the Tweetfleet recently, particularly the TESTosaurus-Rex and her buddy the CO2 dude. These projects were spontaneous and I had great fun with them, including finding good spots outdoors for the TEST-Rex to pose in.

Now I have another surprise!

I’m super excited to announce that my next Pod Pal commission slot will be up for grabs to one lucky attendee at EVE Down Under! It will be given away as a prize during the event, so if you’ve been waiting for a chance to get a Pod Pal and you’ll be there in Sydney, keep an eye out for your chance to win! Don’t have your ticket to EVE Down Under yet? Can’t win the Pod Pal if you aren’t on grid, so click here for info on booking.

Once I receive confirmation of the winning player’s name from EDU, all that person has to do is get in touch with me in-game using that same player name so we can work out the details. One Pod Pal will be made at no cost to the winner. Free shipping is included.

A really big thank you to the fine folks at EVE Down Under for asking me to support their event!

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I Want to Crochet a Prorator Fri, 09 Jun 2017 23:31:12 +0000 Read More]]> Last night my corp caught a pilot who has developed a habit of farming the plexes in Intaki. It’s not the first time this guy’s found himself in our crosshairs; probably won’t be the last, if his unchanging behavior is anything to judge by. I was in station when his ship exploded, but afterward the pod failed to warp away from the wreck, so I undocked. Just before I could get into range in the plex, the pilot decided to try logging off as a means of escape. The log off timer meant there was time to probe him out, and a few moments later I had a fresh corpsicle to add to my private collection.

“You’ve been official executioner for a little while now,” Daniel quipped at me in Corp. It’s true; I have a bit of sec status to spare, whereas others in ILF who PVP more regularly (like Daniel, who killed the farmer initially and then probed him out for me) don’t, so if I happen to be around when they’re doing their thing, it’s not as inconvenient for me to shoot pods as it is for them. We still get a second kill report to put on the board, and I get to be a bit useful.

After that, I docked up and waited out my criminal flag by perusing skills I might want to stick into what was, at that moment, an almost empty skill queue. In the end I determined I needed some books that weren’t available at the CAS station in Agoze, so got ready by swapping to my Prorator. While spinning it, I was hit with a powerful urge to crochet one.

In the end, since I only needed a few books I decided taking the Prorator out was overkill so did my shopping in a different hull. But, as I jumped between systems, that sudden desire to make a cuddly, plush EVE ship didn’t go away. I found myself looking over at the ship models on display in my living room (an Apoc, a Navy Apoc, a Megathron, and the Rifter USB hub) and once again felt a familiar :sadface: that EVE ship models are not readily available. (I’d kill for one of those floating Nyx models, but the price…ouch.)

My brain said, Make your own. Um, not that I don’t already have enough to do or anything, but okay, let’s potentially add something else to the pile, sure. I know some players are clever enough to know how to 3D print certain ships, but as I chatted away with Daniel and Bataav in Corp about kill rights and just how ridiculous a ship Daniel could come up with to shoot that farmer with next time (because of course he returned to Intaki again within about forty-five minutes), my brain began chewing on just how exactly I might be able to crochet a Prorator (or a Sigil, as the case may be).

There are no amigurumi crochet patterns for EVE ships that I know of. (But if you Google crochet eve online ship some of the image results are my Pod Pals and the TESTosaurus-Rex which is very squee!) Anyway, not having any patterns already available is hopefully not an issue. I’m fairly certain I could make do without. It should just come down to geometry. For example:

Side view of a Prorator.

Side view of a Prorator.

With the magic of Photoshop, the ship can be broken down into very simple shapes:

Blocked out into simple shapes.

Blocked out into simple shapes.

A Prorator is essentially a teardrop with some gobbledygook jammed up on its otherwise flat underside. The big trick would be getting the increases and decreases correct across the primary section of hull so the teardrop ends up with the correct shape.

If I actually tried this, there are two techniques I’d probably use: a foundation chain to ensure the pattern starts as an oval (rather than as a circle), and then chains strategically placed across the bottom to build directly on to (rather than crocheting the primary hull section shut and sewing separate pieces on afterward, as that would probably result in the bottom of the ship being rounded instead of flat). Once the overall pattern is worked out, it would hopefully be simple enough to determine where to change colors to seamlessly integrate the big gold hull plates, while finer details could be put on with surface slip-stitch.

That little dangly bit toward the front that I didn’t block out? That could be added on afterward too. A chain with a couple of extra stitches in the middle would probably do well enough.

What say you? Cuddly, plush EVE ships FTW?

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The Growing Stash: Becoming a Yarn Snob? Mon, 05 Jun 2017 00:03:51 +0000 Read More]]> In my entry called Beginner Crochet: Ten Tips I Wish Tutorials Had Taught Me, I said:

Make it a rule for yourself that you’re not allowed to get more yarn if the basket is full.

At the time, I’d just purchased a fairly large wicker basket to stash my yarn in. I had more yarn than I expected and when I was done putting it all in, the basket was full. I wrote that quote above with the best of intentions and figured it’d be reasonably easy for me to keep to that rule, mostly because I’m primarily interested in crocheting amigurumi and one does not really need a lot of yarn for that.

In that entry, I also said:

Fact is, unless you are remarkably strong-willed (but just assume you aren’t, it’ll be easier in the long run), your stash won’t be confined to that small space for very long. There are just too many pretty yarns out there…

Pretty yarns indeed. I now have direct evidence to support that, like many other people, I am definitely not strong-willed. I have succumbed to the lure of pretty yarn! I am not ashamed of this! But now my stash doesn’t fit in the basket, not even close. It got to the point where the basket was an overflowing mess that was taking over the living room. While organizing it, I started to wonder if I’m becoming something of a yarn snob.

How did this happen? I had to go to the store because I was running low on the cream colored yarn that I use for fair-skinned Pod Pals and the like. I said to myself, “I just need one or two skeins of this color,” which is true: one or two would be enough for upcoming projects.

What actually happened? I walked out of the store with seventeen skeins of yarn. Seventeen.

I’ve laughed that laugh.

One dollar sales of pretty yarn are irresistible!

One dollar sales of pretty yarn are irresistible!

Why? Because as I rounded the end of the aisle that led down to where they keep the yarn, I came face to face with a display of gorgeous little skeins on sale for a dollar each! I groaned and squeed at the same time. WHY, YARN GODDESS, WHY! Such temptation! But OMG they were such brilliant colors, and such cute little skeins that would be perfect for amigurumi projects, and who can resist just a dollar? (Not me.)

Then I noticed they were the Colorwheel label from Loops & Threads, and my squee got a bit more excited. This is a new yarn that has been mentioned a number of times recently in some of the blogs I follow, and the commentary had made me want to check it out. Possibly, the sale was fate because when I felt the yarn’s texture my brain went ooh. This yarn is nicely soft! My skin is sensitive so if the texture of a yarn doesn’t hit me right I won’t use it no matter how fancy it is or how much I like the color, even if the finished item won’t be something I’m going to wear. Fingers that are raw from crocheting with scratchy yarn are definitely not ideal!

Snobby? Maybe a little. No, not that yarn, it’s not good enough for my delicate little hands! Ooh, but this yarn, yes yes yes!

After I’d finished failing to limit myself to just ten dollars of the Colorwheel yarn, I hunted down the other skeins I had actually come in for, forced myself to go to the cashier before I ended up buying the entire display, and went home. That was when I discovered not one but two, um, large bags of yarn that I’d completely forgotten I’d bought on previous occasions hiding quite nicely behind a large decorative plant that sits beside the wicker basket. Yikes. Where was I going to put all of this yarn?!

As I looked through my stash, I noticed specific brands and labels kept coming up:

  • Bernat, particularly Blanket and Satin Solids
  • Lion Brand, particularly Scarfie, Shawl in a Ball, Unique, Vanna’s Choice, Vanna’s Glamour
  • Loops & Threads, particularly Facets, Woolike, and now Colorwheel
  • Red Heart, particularly Boutique Unforgettable, Soft Solids, and Super Saver

I also have some skeins of Caron Simply Soft, some miscellaneous Patons, as well as additional miscellaneous labels from Bernat (Boa Variegated, Galaxy, Giggles) but haven’t worked much with them specifically. The ones in the list above suddenly feel like my “go to” choices…yarn that I’m likely to return to more and more as I continue to crochet. (Although, I can see Super Saver dropping off. That yarn is pretty scratchy as compared to the others!) Who knows? As my preferences develop further, I can see myself gravitating to just one or two brands or labels to use exclusively. (I’m even tempted, just a little, to donate or trade all the unknown and leftover yarn in my stash simply so I can get started with all this fabulous pretty yarn and make room in my stash in the process!)

Yarn snob? Yarn snob.

Definitely doesn't fit.

Definitely doesn’t fit.

All of this made me wonder how I could better utilize the Ravelry stash feature, because the thing I find most frustrating is not knowing what brands/labels a yarn is that I like working with. When I first signed up at Ravelry, I took pictures of just about every ball of yarn I had on hand at the time, laboriously uploaded those pics, tried to figure out what brand and colorway the yarn was (most of those balls no longer have labels)…and then promptly ignored the Ravelry stash thereafter. I’ve rarely bothered to assign any of that digitally stashed yarn to my projects and I never tried figuring out how much yardage I’d used for something (what a hassle).

Now I’ve decided to use it as a reminder list of the yarn I enjoy working with the most. I’ve deleted all the unknowns and created new entries with just the skeins that already appeal to me or still have labels and might appeal to me in the future. Going forward, I’ll assign these yarns to the projects I use them on so that when all I have left is a small ball without a label, I won’t have to try to guess what it was originally. Assigning them to projects will also help me keep track of the specific colors I’m making use of most often, again so I can see which ones are my favorites and which ones aren’t. If I work with a yarn and decide I don’t like it? Off it’ll come from the stash…or maybe I’ll keep it but make unhappy notes about it. Perfect!

In the end, I put my oldest yarn back in the basket, left the newest purchases organized in the bags they were already in, and piled it all up together. Eventually it’ll all fit in the basket. One day. Maybe. Or maybe I should just buy another basket!

Mom says I’ve definitely become a yarn junkie. She probably meant yarn snob. >.> Honestly, either way I can’t say I disagree!

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On the Go Sun, 28 May 2017 18:17:21 +0000 Read More]]> As I start writing this entry I’m sitting on my balcony, rocking gently on my deck swing. It’s mid-morning on a Sunday and it will be a beautiful spring day, even though for the moment I have a blanket wrapped around me because the sun hasn’t quite come around the building far enough to warm up my deck. My neighborhood is quiet; other than a distant lawn mower and few cars going by there’s nothing to listen to except for chickadees, swallows, red wing blackbirds, and some other songbirds I don’t know the names of. It’s a clear day and I can see the Rockies stretching away to the south all the way to the Chain Lakes and then some. They still have quite a lot of snow on them. There’s a May tree growing off to the side just below my balcony that in a few years will be almost tall enough to touch. I like May trees; like lilacs and crab apples, the gentle fragrance of the flowers is one of the best parts of spring in Calgary.

This year I’ve taken to sitting on my balcony quite a lot on weekends when the weather is good (and even when it’s tolerably miserable). Life has been busy…maybe a little too busy…and these moments offer some peace and quiet that I feel I desperately need.

I have a lot on my plate. That actually seems to be a constant these days and I wonder how I manage to keep a handle on it all.

Things are going on at work and the pressure is very high with no signs that it will get better any time soon. I’m months behind on my work; I have new obligations being thrust on me without enough of the old ones being delegated away. I can barely get one thing done before the next thing has to be finished. Go, go, go. My manager has started rumbling about how she “would quit if…” because things are just as bad for her. If she quits, her job will either fall to me (not good) or we’d get saddled with someone new who would have such a steep learning curve that I’d still end up having to bridge the gap anyway. I often arrive home feeling so drained and worn out that I can’t be bothered to do anything else so end up in bed at times like 6:30…only to have nightmares about my job. As soon as I wake up I’m already thinking about the coming drudgery. I’ve started having anxiety attacks and a few times I’ve burst into tears while driving. Some days I feel like I just can’t. This is all very bad. But I don’t feel I’m in a position where I can quit this job either, so I also feel trapped and helpless on top of everything else.

Thankfully, I’m also busy in ways that don’t result in a feeling of impending self-destruction, that help stave off the stress of my job.

Crochet All the Things

I’ve done quite a lot of crochet recently. Good weather on the balcony plus crochet makes for a pleasant time, and the repetitive (but not mind-numbing) aspect of the activity helps keep my mind focused and calm. I delight in finishing a new project. Having created something tangible is satisfying, particularly when I get such positive feedback from the people I share the projects with!

Click to enlarge.

The TESTosaurus-Rex was a spontaneous project inspired by propaganda artwork for TEST Alliance Please Ignore in EVE Online and it has been popular! I happened to finish it right at a time when I was feeling particularly low about work, too, so to get such great feedback (especially on Reddit) was very awesome. :)

Groot was another surprise. Mom wanted to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 for Mother’s Day (do I have the coolest mom ever or what?) and then she also said she wanted to have a Baby Groot of her very own, so I found a cute pattern and made one.

Since making these, and finishing the very challenging Pod Pal Otto, I’ve been approached by a few people to do a few specific things! I now have the following queued up:

  1. Sekrit Crochet Project #1 (a special request, almost finished)
  2. Sekrit Crochet Project #2 (a thank you gift, partially started)
  3. Heinzelmännchen (a house gnome for Mom)
  4. A Pod Pal for EVE Down Under
  5. Baby Groot (a commission)
  6. Elephant (a thing for work)
  7. Snowman #2 (to complete the set for Mom)

Somewhere along the way I hope to make a few things for myself. :) There are two pieces of clothing I’d like to try but I also have at least two, maybe three, little dolls I want to do, well, simply Because I Can™.

Write All the Things

It doesn’t look like it but I have been writing…a little. This is harder for me to do when I’m stressed out, as I find if I’m lacking in sufficient energy to be bothered to cook dinner, do housework, or generally remain conscious, then I also lack the ability to connect with my muse. Creating stuff from scratch is hard and takes a great deal of effort!

But, all is not lost. I did expand on some of the HOTE notes recently and have some more ideas I want to get written down. Some of this has been hampered by having my laptop in the shop for repairs since May 8 thanks to an intermittent problem that causes the boot up sequence to fail. (Not having my laptop has also contributed to why there’s been so much crochet this month!) I have some image editing that I want to do to support the new notes I made that can’t be accomplished with the tools available to me on my iPad. I have unfinished HOTE art that I’d like to work on, and not that long ago a new scene that may or may not actually make its way into the story came to mind. I want to write it down and have been debating making it available (for now) as a Fiction One Shot until I have a better idea of where (if) it might fit in.

I’ve also been working on some new content for Solitary Pilot that will appear simultaneously on my account and the blog itself (but backdated) when it’s done. As above, it’s been hard to work on this given how crummy I’ve been feeling but every time I poke at it I do make some progress.

Not much actual stuff to show, but so long as actual sentences are being written somewhere, I’m not too unhappy with myself.

Gaming All the…Oh

Well, without my computer I can’t really do much about this right now, but the plan is still to continue with my Myst series playthrough. Exile is such an excellent game! I’m also in the midst of a Mass Effect replay and it’s been a while since I spent any serious time on my witch in Black Desert Online, so I’d like to do that too, all on top of still being involved in EVE Online.

The manager at the shop told me that if they can’t get my machine repaired within five days (given they already had it almost two-and-a-half weeks the first time) I’m going to get a new one. This is both “woo” and “ugh”. A fresh machine will ideally have no faulty hardware in it which is fine and dandy…but I’ll have to reinstall everything which is just…just…gross. All the OS updates! All the reconfiguration! All the restoration from backup! Ew ew ew. It’ll take forever to do all that so ideally I’m hoping to get my actual machine back by the end of the week. Fingers crossed.

Now it’s just after noon and my stomach is rumbling. Rather than going up to the café I think I’ll stay in, cook for myself, and continue enjoying the day out here on the balcony…and see what else I can get done before my work week starts anew.

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Quietly EVE-ing Sun, 21 May 2017 21:59:16 +0000 Read More]]> Life has been busy. Work has been kicking my ass since the start of 2017 which doesn’t leave much time for gaming. Even so, I’ve still managed to quietly continue my existence in New Eden, though my activity has shifted around some.




I’m still crocheting. Other than a Baby Groot that I made for my mom for Mother’s Day, everything I’ve created recently has been for EVE.

Otto Bismarck’s Pod Pal was finished on April 11. It took a long time because the details on the armor were so challenging. I’m happy with the end result though! There are some images of Pod Pal Otto in the gallery on the Pod Pals info page.

My latest creation is the TESTosaurus-Rex! I have seen the propaganda by Layckhaie Kaele, and after Otto was done I wanted to work on something a little different. The little dino was just too cute to pass up doing. Not strictly a Pod Pal per se, but still really fun. The little CO2 guy was a bit of a challenge but since he was in most of the images I was using for reference (and usually being held or cuddled by the TEST Rex) he had to be included too. Mostly I just wanted to see if I could get the crocheted object to look right as compared to the artwork. The end result is so adorable! I’ll have a hard time parting with him. :)

Game Activity to Support RP

The graphics card in my computer decided to have a meltdown at the end of April so my PC has been in the shop while I wait for a replacement card to ship in (thank god for product protection plans). Before it went in, I had been spending some time in-game running courier missions for Aliastra to boost standings.

Even though standings between players (or player corps) and NPC entities aren’t visible via Show Info anymore, in ILF we nonetheless try to put our money where our mouths are when it comes to public statements that we support specific entities over others. We had previously reviewed the various NPC corps available to mission for in Placid and decided which ones we like, which ones we are ambivalent about, and which ones we are against, based on their Show Info descriptions and what we know about them from the lore. From this we compiled a big master list that corp members are encouraged to refer to when they want to PVE. This of course helps all of us out for things like station service fees and the like, since it ideally means everyone is putting effort into grinding common standings. Aliastra is very high on our list of corps we prefer, seeing as it is the “Intaki megacorp”. Some of my people have made it a personal goal to get to +10 with the NPC corps that ILF favors the most.

Well, when I actually looked it turned out that my personal standings with Aliastra were essentially non-existent, which just wouldn’t do. I can’t (or shouldn’t) put up roleplay posts that say we are such best buds if I, as the CEO, would be barely tolerated by their people, eh? Running courier missions for Aliastra sounds mindless but is fairly easy to do with a movie on in the background and a crochet project in my lap. With work being such a stressor lately, this kind of low-impact activity has been perfect when I’ve been up for doing it.

(Re)Writing All the Things…Sorta

In the last few years my roleplay activity in EVE has really taken a beating, to the point where I’ve lost interest in real-time channel RP simply because I no longer have the patience for other players’ bullshit. But the lore of EVE still interests me and I still have stories I want to tell about Sakaane.

Getting back into the swing of writing EVE prose after being off that bandwagon for so long hasn’t been easy. The rut I fell into was pretty deep so it was hard to know how to climb out of it, especially when a big part of me felt so tired and even ambivalent about doing so at all. So, I decided to go back to the start, when I first began roleplaying this character, to see if I could recapture the enthusiasm I once had. After all, there are over 225,000 words of roleplay posted on this blog… Surely I could rediscover the RP spark somewhere among them.

Did you know I have an account on It’s been there for a long time but I never really used it. When I decided to go back to the start I also happened to notice that has an EVE category and there are player fiction pieces posted there. This led me to decide it was time to do something with my account. Since November I’ve been slowly reposting my early Solitary Pilot content there. It’s all still available here too of course but putting it up on gives me an opportunity to review it as I go, make some minor improvements and corrections, and also retcon a few things that probably made sense at the time but don’t anymore. I’m only putting the ficlets (third person narratives) there, which also means that in some cases I have to come up with completely new content to fill gaps where I blogged my activities ICly in first person.

I think it’s working. Revisiting my character’s history has brought a nice feeling of nostalgia and reminded me of things I wanted to do with her that never (or haven’t yet) occurred. I have started writing new content, too! Gotta fill those gaps. :)

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Time for Music Sat, 15 Apr 2017 23:07:45 +0000 Read More]]> The commercial ended and she came back on the screen.

What is that thing called again? Devek wondered, contemplating the black box on the wall. Ah yes. A television. Forefather of the integrated-vid data stream… The information tickled his brain for a moment. Strange how the ads of this time and mine seem so similar. Did we really lose everything, or is it still there, somehow?

He was sitting at the bar, a glass of scotch, on the rocks and nearly empty, between his fingers. His CO would put him on report for drinking while on duty—and not only that, but drinking real alcohol—but Devek didn’t care. Hell, that bastard had ordered him into this mess. Devek figured he deserved to get drunk. He rubbed a hand through his close-cropped brown hair.

She was singing now. He drained the last of the cool liquid, feeling it bite as it went down. The sensation was disappointingly not comforting. Devek coughed, unused to the drink, and signaled the bartender for another. His eyes never wavered from the screen. Yes, she was singing again, but it was becoming evening and the lounge was filling up. Her sweet voice was almost lost among the clink of glass and the yammering of the other patrons.

Couldn’t they shut up and listen? He wanted to climb onto the bar and yell at them to quit with their pointless small talk. Just listen, he felt like shouting. Too soon music will be dead!

Devek was miserable. His scotch arrived and he downed half of it in one go. Absently he wondered what his next physical would show. The ship’s doctor would probably be furious. “Look what you’ve done to your liver!”

He didn’t care much about that either. She wouldn’t be there with him, so what did it matter?

There was a clock near the TV. A quarter to seven, Devek noted, momentarily shifting his eyes away from the screen. She would be here soon. She came every Friday night, no matter what, for nachos.

What is ‘nachos’, anyway? He’d never asked. It was one of her favorite foods, he knew that. They didn’t have nachos where he came from. That knowledge, like so much else, had been lost.

The image of her on the screen was a recording, made before they came for her and whisked her away from this planet, from this century. She looked a little nervous behind the mic, red hair flaming in the spotlight, fingers subtly fiddling with her dress. It was one of her first broadcasted concerts.

He’d seen her sing like that countless times, always just a bit nervous to perform in front of the scientists and historians as they made recordings and scribbled notes. After a while the nervousness went away; she began to sing only for him, eyes locked on him, words, voice, music, only for him.

Now they were back in this ancient place, their time together finished. He had one last mission to complete before he could go back to his present, her future, a time they were trying to rebuild.

He had to ensure that she remembered nothing.

The door to the lounge opened. Devek turned, his shoulders tense, the scotch and the television forgotten.

Rane stood a moment in the entranceway, surveying the lounge for an empty table while simultaneously shedding a light coat. A few people recognized her; one or two even pointed to the TV above the bar. No one rushed up to ask for her autograph. She wasn’t that famous—yet. Devek smiled as he watched her. There was time before the war would destroy it all. She was good at what she did. The fame would come.

There were no open tables tonight. Rane resigned herself to the bar—and headed for the stool next to the one Devek had chosen.

He returned to his drink, steeling himself for what would come next. His senses vibrated: he could feel her approach. Each step she took was a knife in his heart. His breathing quickened; his heart pounded. Wasn’t there some other solution? Did he have to do this? Damn the regulations! He wanted her with him!

Then she was there, asking shyly, “This seat taken?”

He swallowed and grunted no. Sweat collected in his armpits and between his shoulder blades and he hoped it wouldn’t show through his shirt. Here was the moment of truth: her next words would either rip his soul to shreds or… His shoulders sagged. Or? He was damned either way.

Would she remember? None of the others had. But it was still in the regs to make sure. They had to be sure. Changing the timeline was the worst offense. He didn’t dare speculate what the punishment for it was. The higher-ups hinted but never really said, leaving imagination to take care of it. But the consequences were dire, that he knew.

Rane hopped onto the barstool and looked for the bartender, for the moment oblivious to Devek. He tried to not let his hopes sink and rise at the same time. The lighting by the bar was subdued. Maybe she didn’t recognize him out of his uniform.

He blushed. She would recognize him out of his uniform, but that was different.

The bartender came over. “The usual?”

Rane smiled. Devek felt his body grow warmer. “You got it,” she said.

His glass twisted in his hands; he was reluctant to take another drink with her there. Over the odor of liquor, intoxicated bodies, and his own sweat he could smell her delicate perfume. Suddenly he had to grip the glass to prevent himself from reaching out to her. His mind’s eye was cruel and dragged up memories tangled in her scent: walking together in the ship’s arboretum; private performances away from the scientists and historians; his hands running through her long red hair…

Devek coughed to clear his mind and to catch Rane’s attention. She gave him a sidelong glance. Here it comes, he thought. “Hi,” he said. “You’re really familiar to me. Have we met?” Internally he winced. What kind of godawful opening line was that? She’d never forgive him for being such a dork.

If she knew. If she remembered.

He couldn’t breathe.

Rane looked at him, quirking that small smile that had driven him to fall maddeningly in love with her. His bowels turned to ice and he suddenly felt the scotch rush to his head. Panic bubbled. She was just looking at him. He couldn’t tell if she recognized him or not. The room spun.

She continued to stare, her eyes roving over his face. The smile turned to a puzzled frown. He stared back. Her eyebrows knitted together.

“Actually…” she began.

His heart felt like it was going to burst. He could see it there in her eyes: she didn’t know. No clue. He was a complete stranger to her. That was it: everything was over. Their time together really was lost. He’d go on loving someone who never knew he existed. He couldn’t think; his disappointment and anger wiped everything from his mind.

Devek’s throat was tight. “Sorry,” he said hoarsely and made to get off his stool. “Must’ve mistaken you for someone else.” Somewhere inside he was relieved. His mission was over. Then the other, bigger, part of himself came over and stomped on the relief, beat it to a bloody pulp, and left it to twitch and die a slow death. He wanted her to remember even though it was impossible. He wanted her to love him.

He hadn’t taken one step before a hand grabbed him and spun him around. Accusing, hurt eyes confronted him, eyes that said they knew exactly who he was. “Devek! Tell me what the hell is going on!”

“Oh shit,” he muttered.

A booth opened up near the back of the lounge. Rane signaled the bartender and then they slid into it.

The nachos came.

“My god,” Rane swore, pinning Devek with her gaze. A newly awakened light was in them. She hadn’t remembered—not until he asked her if they’d met. “What the hell are we doing here?”

Devek looked at the steaming food. He couldn’t help it. It was a tempting distraction from the misery—and elation—he felt. He didn’t want to deal with this again. Food was the easiest thing to latch onto. “Can I…?”

“What?” She followed his eyes and then shoved the plate forward. “Devek, this is serious! What happened to the Reclamation Project?”

He plucked a chip from the plate. He recognized most of the ingredients: the chip was smothered with cheese, chives, diced tomatoes, cubes of chicken, sour cream…and something else green. He put the chip in his mouth and chewed; it was hot, crunchy, and delicious. “Please keep your voice down,” he mumbled and reached for another.

Fire erupted along his tongue and involuntarily he yelped, grabbing at the nearest glass—his nearly empty scotch—and dumped everything, ice cubes and all, in his mouth.

Rane tried not to laugh. “I wouldn’t—”

The scotch made it worse. A few ice cubes fell out of his mouth as he gasped for cool air. Nachos, Devek decided as he drained Rane’s glass of water and stuffed the handful of plain chips that she handed him into his mouth, were somehow made out of the interior of a volcano. This is evil! How can she eat this stuff?! Tears streamed from his eyes.

Rane laughed and signaled a waitress for more water. People stared at them. She leaned conspiratorially across the table and whispered, “You really should be more careful with foreign food.” Her hand had a napkin in it and she wiped at his red, flaming face, then mopped up melting ice cubes and spilled water.

Devek gasped for a moment more, then suddenly found himself laughing along with her. She always knew how to improve his mood; her laughter was like her music: light and soothing. The tension he felt broke as he watched her shoulders still shaking with barely contained giggles, her eyes alight with amusement. She’d always had that effect on him. Life in his time was never so bleak and empty when she was around. She’d brought color back to him, and happiness, and fun. She’d given him hope that they could rebuild. That was why he loved her.


The moment withered like a flower left in a desert sun and he shivered despite the stuffy heat of the lounge. The sparkle in her eyes died as she watched his face turn sour. We may rebuild the future, but Rane’s color won’t be in it. Not with me. It just…can’t be. I can’t be selfish. There is a bigger picture…

Devek had been assigned to the Reclamation Project as Visitor Liaison. The title itself was a joke intended to mask the truth: the “visitors” were actually kidnapped from their places in time and brought forward to help the project achieve its goals. It was his job to convince the people to help. He was pretty good at it; his record showed five to one in favor of the project. There were other VLs as well; they’d all done fairly well.

He snuck a glance at Rane as she chewed on a nacho and waited for him to explain. He remembered how she’d been that first day: frightened and hopping mad. How dare they “borrow” her right in the middle of her first PR tour? She was trying to get her career off the ground! She didn’t care that she would be returned at the moment she left. She didn’t appreciate the interruption, and where the hell was she, anyway?

That was the clean version of her verbal tirade, at least. In response he had taken her to the observation deck, a heavily shielded part of the ship that boasted clear hull plating. When she saw the nebula and the triple star system out the window, and when he told her what had happened to humanity, everything changed. She agreed to help. Soon after that he wanted her to stay forever.

It was against regulations.

There had been a war, long before Devek’s grandparents were born, long after Rane’s grandchildren had become dust in their coffins, that destroyed the human culture. The people lost nearly everything that defined them, including the ability to redefine themselves. The people were crippled. By the time Devek had grown into a man, they were still trying to find ways to piece things back together. Some of their allies among the stars had been eager to assist, and technology was shared.

Of everything that was gone, humanity lamented their arts the most. Save for alien entertainment and the like, the arts were virtually unknown to Devek’s people.

They couldn’t use time travel to prevent the war. Changing the timeline was strictly forbidden, no matter how appealing or beneficial the change might be. That was the deal for getting the technology. Its owners strictly enforced the rule and were merciless to those who broke it. But simply raiding the past for information and bringing it forward was not as easy as it sounded. The equipment they had to use was too big and bulky—and obvious. The materials and information they wanted was often in formats not compatible with their systems. Transporting anything with moving parts through the time stream rendered it useless. The human culture had to be rebuilt in the future.

The project’s team gathered all the information they could. Sometimes it took months. The visitors were allowed to see and view everything about the future in order to encourage them to recall and share whatever they could that they found lacking, and relate how things had been. Many of the visitors were horrified by what they learned their own race had done to itself. Then they were sent home, their memories erased, with someone to follow up and make sure they really didn’t recall anything. None of them ever had.

Except Rane.

Why? It was a question he couldn’t  answer.

“You shouldn’t have recognized me,” Devek said finally. “Those memory pathways were removed. We’re going to have to put you under again.” He couldn’t look at her. He stuffed more nachos in his mouth and this time welcomed the blazing hot distraction of the green things—the jalapenos.

Rane buried her face in her hands. “No no no,” she moaned. “I don’t want to forget! I want to stay with you. Don’t you want that too?” She looked up, reaching out to grasp his hands. “Think of how much more I could give the project if I stayed! And then there’s us—”

He knew there was truth in her words. All of the visitors could help the project by staying longer or indefinitely, by working together, even by being allowed to travel to what remained of Earth and the colonies to spread knowledge of their talents themselves. But that wasn’t allowed. The people were not to know that access to the past wasn’t a myth. If they knew, they would ask to be allowed to escape their present to go to that better time. Staff on the project already made the request often enough. It was understandably tempting, but not a viable solution, nor an option. History could not be altered.

“I’m a good man,” Devek interrupted, his tone soft. He stared at the table. “I try to do right by people. I follow orders, I don’t break the law. I’m trying to help my people get back on their feet. I don’t ask for much in return, just my paycheck and the assurance that we’re doing the world some good.” He looked at her. “Yeah I’m human, and I have my own needs, but—”

They’d had this argument once already. That one had been days long, with plenty of yelling and crying. The one thing they would not admit was that their problem was their own doing. Rane had been told right at the beginning that eventually she would go home. It was too easy to ignore that. It was—

Rane snorted. “You didn’t follow orders where I was concerned.”

“Yeah, I know. Damn regulations.”

“So damn the regulations again! I can just as easily make my career in your time as I could here. Hell, it would be even easier! No competition! And then everybody would get the real thing. Bring forward the other people who helped before. They probably wanted to stay too. You can’t beat the real thing, Devek!”


“Or stay here. That would be easier. What are they gonna do, send in a squad to track you down and drag you back to your time? At least then you would get back everything your time doesn’t have!” She stroked her thumb across his hand. “We’d both win that way.”

“The recall is automatic, you know that. I can’t avoid it.” It was so tempting to say yes. Maybe there was a way to interfere with the recall. He’d never loved anyone like he loved her. He wasn’t supposed to have become personally involved with any of the visitors, but with her he couldn’t resist. She was so alluring; her voice was intoxicating. She was fun, and kind, and loved what she did. That was why he had been ordered to check on her, instead of the usual guy. It was a cruel punishment. “If I stay here, the timeline will change. I’m not supposed to be here. You’re not supposed to be there. I can’t—”

Rane snatched her hand back. “Yeah, yeah,” she spat bitterly. “Regulations. Sometimes you can’t play by the rules, you know.”

“I have to. I can’t be selfish here. If I break the rules, all of my people could suffer. We’ll lose the technology. Where will that leave us? Without access to things we need to revive. This is about more than just you and me. I can’t forget the bigger picture.”

She looked at him long and hard. He cringed. For a moment tears sparkled in her eyes; the tightness in his throat got worse. He knew she was tempted to argue again, and he felt sorry for her, sorry for himself. They were both hurting; if it was possible, he’d go back and prevent them from getting involved in the first place. He saw her jaw working, like she was trying to think of something new to say, to argue with, but there was nothing left that hadn’t already been said, either now or in the future. And she knew she’d already lost once.

God this is hard.

He ate another jalapeno.

Her face changed, became forbidding and cold. “To hell with it, then,” she hissed. He recognized that: this was her defense. She’d gone like this the first time, too. “To hell with humanity, and fuck the future. Rules.” She slapped a bill on the table and then hauled him out of the booth. “Let’s get this over with.”

It was Friday. Again.

Devek was at the bar again, drinking scotch again, watching the TV again.

He nibbled on a plate of nachos, trying to enjoy it. He’d have to see about getting the dish made when he got back to his present. He was nearly used to the searing heat of the peppers.

Rane would be here soon, again. He was sure there would be no problems this time. They’d used the maximum settings, pushing the equipment to the redline to ensure all recollection of him and the future was gone. He hated himself for destroying that part of her. It was a despicable feeling knowing he’d played a part in relegating himself to being alone. She’d never be the same person he’d grown to know and love.

The question of why they’d had to do it twice still nagged at him. Everybody seemed baffled. Nobody would give him any information.

Devek chewed his lip. It was going to be hell getting over her. They wouldn’t let him go under for  memory removal—that was also part of his punishment. Already he missed her badly, and here he was, about to see her again, to play the part of a stranger. Torture.

His mind wandered to more pleasant thoughts and he flushed faintly. Beyond her personality, the sex had been great too, better than anything else he’d had. They clicked on every level. To him she was perfect in every way, a twenty-first century woman full of wonders! They were meant for each other—and yet they weren’t meant to be. It wasn’t fair, dammit!

Someone jostled him from behind. He spilled his scotch.

“Hey! Watch it!”

“Oh! I’m terribly sorry!”

Devek turned. It was Rane, looking up at him apologetically and trying to mop up the scotch with a napkin.

“Did I get it on you? I’m so clumsy—so sorry—”

His heart hammered. “N-no, I’m fine. It’s okay.”

She stopped wiping and studied him. “Have we met?” she asked, a puzzled look on her face. “I swear you look familiar.”

He felt sick. This was too much. They’d used the maximum settings! And yet, he hoped the memory removal would fail again. They’d be forced to find another solution, maybe something that included maintaining her memory.

She leaned in to get a better look. “No, sorry. I must have mistaken you for someone else. Anyway, can I get you a new drink? What was that? Scotch?”

“No, thanks,” Devek mumbled, tossing the money he had been given onto the counter with the hope it was actually enough. “I was just leaving.” He made a beeline for the door.

Rane didn’t try to stop him.

The scenery blurred and Devek thought he might cry. The tightness in his throat had moved into his chest. It was unbearable. Cool night air washed over him, and he stopped a moment to get a hold of himself. It was over. There was no changing that. She was lost to him, forever.

Why am I such a rule-loving idiot?

He took off at a brisk pace, heading for a previously-scouted remote area where he could be recalled without being seen. When he reached the small, wooded park he was already starting to fade from view.

Pausing behind a tree, Devek waited for the recall to take full effect. He put his hands in his coat pockets.

There was something in one of them, but he knew he hadn’t been carrying anything except the money. He pulled it out. His surroundings had almost faded from view, dissolving instead into the swirling no-man’s-land between that time and his.

It was a small device with a silver, rectangular nib sticking out of one end. What was it called? He’d seen Rane use one before he’d brought her forward to the project. A USB stick! But how had it gotten in his pocket?

Maybe when—?

When Rane bumped into me?

A chill swept him. She knew, dammit. Playing possum, my love! Despite the technology, the maximum settings, nearly frying every synapse in her head, she still remembered who he was, and she had known he’d be there to check on her.

How? How?! The question burned through his head. It wasn’t possible, yet there was the thumb drive. The power of love? He felt silly considering it.

The no-man’s-land of whiteness began to fade into the familiar surroundings of the lab. His CO would be waiting for him.

Devek’s first instinct was to report again that Rane remembered, that the memory removal had failed. But the stick in his hand gave him pause. Why would she pretend to not remember, and then put the drive in his pocket, thereby admitting that she did?

Why did she remember? If he reported it again, they’d have to study her, but would they tell him the reason?

Did he want her to become their pet experiment? He tried to visualize Rane strapped to some table, subjected to countless tests, biopsies, and who knew what else to find out why she was immune to the memory removal procedure. If he reported that, she’d be with him then, but was it worth it like that? Kept under watch and poked and prodded like a lab rat?

The corners of the USB stick dug into his skin. No. No, that wasn’t fair. Goddamn regulations.

Things around him began to solidify. The body of his CO took shape.

“Sometimes you can’t play by the rules, you know.” Her voice echoed at him from his memory. He didn’t want to do it again. He knew she didn’t want to do it again either. She’d pretended to not remember in order to get him out of the lounge—and out of her time—as quickly as possible.

“I can’t be selfish here.” His own words. I will be selfish, he decided, and stuffed the USB stick into his pocket; he would try to extract and convert its data later, if he could. All I know is that when I went to the bar, she didn’t recognize me. That’s good enough.

Before it disappeared into the folds of his clothing, Devek caught sight of what Rane had written on a label stuck to the drive. Her handwriting was small and neat:

Always have time for music.

He tried to smile but it didn’t quite come. “I love you, too,” he said.

Originally written September, 2002.

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HOTE Worldbuilding: Getting Organized Sat, 15 Apr 2017 18:01:30 +0000 Read More]]> If you follow Incyanity via RSS, your reader app may have exploded yesterday with fourteen new posts. Sorry, not sorry! They are all for Heart of the Empire. I decided, rather spur of the moment, to post various notes and other tidbits to the HOTE Compendium in an effort to help myself get organized and continue worldbuilding for this story. For this reason, all of the posts are for members only and they all have spoiler warnings attached to them. I’m open to feedback, discussion, and suggestions from members on this content, but please do take the spoiler warnings seriously. :)

Some of the existing HOTE articles were updated too. For example, the Ardrakin Character Profiles article was renamed and has a number of additional characters listed in it now, even if they don’t have proper profiles yet. That article in particular is very spoiler-heavy at the moment and I will make an effort to tone it down when I get around to making proper profiles later. I also updated the Music article, as I discovered some of the links to YouTube were broken. The HOTE menu overall has been reorganized.

Why did I do this? I wrote before about needing to rebuild HOTE due to problems with the plot. I also wrote before about being a slow writer and wanting to get back to writing actual sentences. It’s high time I got started as far as my original work goes. Part of rebuilding HOTE involves making sure the world this story exists in makes sense and feels like a living, breathing place. I’m also fairly fascinated by “extra” content such as the Lord of the Rings Appendices and books like Klingon for the Galactic Traveler. I enjoy watching movie “making of” featurettes and consuming anything that talks about the thought process that went into creating a fictional world that I enjoy, simply to allow me to better understand that world’s “big picture”. Perhaps it’s overly ambitious of me, but I’d like to have similar kinds of content available for Heart of the Empire too. I don’t necessarily mean thousands and thousands of words of extra content, but enough to help flesh out this universe.

Since I’ve been working on this story in one form or another since I was a teenager (my earliest artwork dates back to 1996), I have a lot of information scattered all over the place. The other day I was unpacking some boxes left over from my move in the summer of 2015 (yes, still things left to unpack!) and discovered a stack of papers from high school, yellowed with age, that have scribblings on them for this story. If it was important enough for me to write down and then haul around from place to place for the last twenty years, I better have a look to make sure there isn’t some jewel of an idea in those papers before I shred them! Additionally, my more recent attempts to tackle HOTE have become spread out over my computer and various backups. I feel a need to organize it all to see what bits still appeal and could be useful, and then properly bin the rest. Putting the bits I want to retain here on Incyanity will, I hope, create one central resource that I can refer to when I eventually begin rewriting the story itself. I hope other people will find it interesting too.

The chapters are still unpublished, and every time I log into the site I see the draft count on the posts page which drives me crazy (I don’t like having drafts sitting there!). Getting to the rewrites is taking longer than I anticipated, so the chapters have been reposted in all their ugly outdatedness. This means they won’t reflect any of the updated notes that are now posted. Before I can tackle rewriting the story itself I have a huge and very detailed synopsis that needs to be cleaned up. That document will not end up on the site (at least not in a form that anyone but me could access).

Getting all my ducks in a row (or at least as many as I need to feel comfortable to proceed) is, for me, an important step toward easing the sense I’ve had that HOTE became too big of a mess to know where to start. So, this is progress!

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Genesi Character Profiles Fri, 14 Apr 2017 22:39:01 +0000 You must be logged in to view this article.

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Eruos Character Profiles Fri, 14 Apr 2017 22:33:12 +0000 You must be logged in to view this article.

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Ardrakin Society Fri, 14 Apr 2017 22:15:06 +0000 You must be logged in to view this article.

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Ardrakin History Fri, 14 Apr 2017 22:09:08 +0000 You must be logged in to view this article.

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Ardrakin Notable Locations Fri, 14 Apr 2017 22:00:27 +0000 You must be logged in to view this article.

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Ardrakin Science & Technology Fri, 14 Apr 2017 21:51:53 +0000 You must be logged in to view this article.

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Drakiru (Fauna) Fri, 14 Apr 2017 21:35:46 +0000 You must be logged in to view this article.

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Drakiru (Planet) Fri, 14 Apr 2017 21:26:24 +0000 You must be logged in to view this article.

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Berwen (Planet) Fri, 14 Apr 2017 21:21:01 +0000 You must be logged in to view this article.

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Drakiru (System) Fri, 14 Apr 2017 21:16:26 +0000 You must be logged in to view this article.

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Berwen (System) Fri, 14 Apr 2017 21:12:31 +0000 You must be logged in to view this article.

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Genesi Race Fri, 14 Apr 2017 21:05:17 +0000 You must be logged in to view this article.

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Eruos Race Fri, 14 Apr 2017 21:01:15 +0000 You must be logged in to view this article.

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Ardrakin Race Fri, 14 Apr 2017 20:51:12 +0000 You must be logged in to view this article.

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Camping Trips of Doom Sun, 09 Apr 2017 22:09:15 +0000 Read More]]> Camping is something my parents introduced me to when I was a child. We had a pickup truck with a slide-on camper (Mom and tents are NOPE), and during my school breaks we’d go to places like Two Jack, Waterton, Elkwater, or to secret places along the Old Man River and elsewhere. I’d go fishing with Dad, or hunt for pretty rocks (I should have been a geologist), and otherwise romp around in the wilderness. When we weren’t camping, I would sometimes sleep overnight in the camper while it was parked in the driveway, and later on when I started using a tent, I’d occasionally pitch that in the backyard and sleep there, because camping out is fun no matter where you do it. These days, I still go camping now and then, though not as often as I might like.

I have a lot of fond and amusing memories of past trips, like how it always seemed that the radio station out of Pincher Creek would play Wheel in the Sky, without exception, every time we turned along that last long stretch before arriving in Waterton. Or the time we camped on Crown land but I was too tired to get up to go fishing so Dad went without me, and I woke up later to find the camper surrounded by cows—I was maybe seven years old and freaked because a cow was blocking the door—so I blasted the radio and when I looked again, it was like the cows had evaporated. Totally gone, couldn’t find them anywhere. Didn’t imagine it though… Dad and I had to muck out the campsite when he came back, and we had a good laugh when I said the cows had been looking in the windows. Then there was the time I woke up in the back of the hatchback to find a horse’s butt resting against the window a few inches from my face, because apparently cars are great resting places for weary trail pony bums. (Couldn’t get out that time either.)

Not all trips have gone according to plan though.

There was the time Dad and I meticulously planned a fishing weekend, packed up the car (the camper had long since bit the dust so we slept in sleeping bags on a foam mattress under the stars), excitedly headed off…only to find upon arrival hours later that we’d left all the food at home, except (for some reason) six hotdogs and a fry pan. Being in the middle of nowhere with no services for hours in any direction, we stuck it out by rationing the hotdogs in order to grease the pan and then fished every meal out of the river for the next three days. Every meal.

I didn’t each much trout again after that.

Still, it wasn’t the worst experience I’ve ever had. There are three in particular that really stick out as Camping Trips of Doom. I was recently asked to recount these failed adventures, so without further ado (and listed from least horrific to most):

#3: Bearberry

Bearberry is a tiny community northwest of Calgary, and somewhere northwest of Bearberry is a nice little meadow on Crown land that makes for a pretty good freebie campsite. In 2009 I was invited to go there with my then-boyfriend and his friends. It started out great: sunny skies, just the right temperature, not a lot of bugs. Everyone set up tents, got the fire going in the fire pit, roasted our food. The wild horses came to visit! Naturally, I wandered around taking pictures, some of which became one of my very first photostreams:

Looking back now, I probably should have realized things were going to end badly when, on the last night while sitting around the fire before supper, I felt a sudden sharp pain in my upper jaw that quickly turned into an abscess. When I couldn’t deal with the pain anymore I excused myself and hid in the tent. Eventually, everyone retired to bed too.

As is wont to happen in Alberta during the summer, a series of very lovely days weather-wise tend culminate with some rain. We had watched a thunderhead building over the horizon to the northwest as that afternoon wore on but didn’t think much of it. It would probably swing north and miss us, but even if it didn’t, so what if it rained? Whatever. We weren’t sissies!

It was pitch black outside when I woke up. One moment everything was still and peaceful; the next moment there was a deafening roar. I could feel it rushing toward us. It was terrifying, terrible, and enormous. I have never been so frightened or felt so small in my life and I will never, ever, forget that sound. Mother Nature was going to kill us.

The storm blinded us with ceaseless lightning. I was being suffocated: the tent was on my face because the wind had flattened it. Outside we heard what sounded like explosions: the poles on one of the other tents had snapped clean through and trees were toppling over (thankfully, not on us or any of the vehicles). The downpour was instant and torrential.

I don’t remember getting dressed or putting on shoes, I just remember chaos, shouting, and swearing. And then panic when I realized the meadow we had so happily decided to camp in was turning into a quagmire. The ground was soft and it was raining so hard that the water was actually kicking up mud (we would find the spatter later on the backs and undersides of our camp chairs). Not such a big deal for the others: they had a 4×4 SUV and a truck. But me? I drive that black Saturn ION Quad Coupe in the photo at the top of this post. Yes, I really do take my little sport car off road to places no self-respecting sport car would go, and normally it’s not a big deal. That Saturn is an awesome car!

But in this case, my car was sinking, so while everyone else scrambled to do the fastest camp tear-down in history, I coaxed my baby into keeping traction so I could get out of the mud and back onto the “gravel” road…which was also mud that she started to sink into, just not as badly. After that it was a lot of running in the pitch black (save for headlights and lightning ) to stuff everything, soaking wet and full of mud, into the trunk and the backseat.

The fog rolled in just as we started to pull out. It was god-awful thick, pea-soup-where’s-the-lighthouse kind of fog. The SUV led the way, my car was in the middle, and the truck brought up the rear. We had to go bumper to bumper because we couldn’t see and didn’t want to lose anyone in the dark, particularly if one of us slipped off into the ditch. It was slow going. There were branches and detritus everywhere that we had to maneuver around. The road itself was nothing but mud until we hit the highway. We were soaked and filthy, freezing cold, and exhausted. Plus I had that abscess going full bore in my head. Really, really tough drive.

When we eventually got to Sundre we saw how lucky we’d been: hail had smashed out car windows and destroyed siding on houses everywhere in the town. There was a 7-11 open that we tumbled into for a hot drink. To the cashier we must have looked like wild people.

Driving Highway 22 back to the city was easier but not by much. There was still a lot of fog and a lot of debris on the road. In the distance we saw blue and green bursts of light that we figured was electrical stuff exploding from lightning strikes at the gas plant. Spectacular from a distance but…yikes. Eventually we caught up to the storm itself, but while there was still a lot of lightning, most of its rage seemed to have been spent and I simply had to white-knuckle the drive through the rain and wind.

We arrived home at 4:30am.

#2: Waterton

I love Waterton Lakes National Park. I did a photostream specifically for it. Can’t get enough of it, even though the Alberta side is tiny and there isn’t much to do there as compared to, say, Banff National Park. Even so, if I have a choice of where to go to camp, first choice is Waterton, every time. I’d drive the three hours from Calgary just to stop at Zum’s in the townsite for a burger because Zum’s is that good. You can usually count on seeing at least one bear each time you visit too (unless your name is Mat and you’re visiting me, in which case Waterton will be a scorching 36°C and there will be absolutely no animals of any sort to be seen anywhere, except for the Richardson’s ground squirrel that hung out with us by the fire, and the horsefly that bit you. Sorry man).

June 15, 2014. I was living in the condo from hell and desperately needed a vacation, so I took the week off. Dad took the week off as well and we all decided to go camping. Mom and the pup were going to come too. It was going to be great!

I packed my stuff and left ahead of my folks, who were still packing the RV, so I could snag us a campsite. The preceding weeks had been kinda wet, so the countryside was green, and I had a lovely drive down:

A grey owl.

A grey owl.

Lundbreck Falls.

Lundbreck Falls.

Click for panorama!

Click for panorama!

But then I hit this:

Ominous fog...

Ominous fog…

A sign? At the time I didn’t think so.

I passed through the fog and got to Waterton. The sky was grey and moody, with only an occasional sunny break. It’ll blow over, I thought. We’ll be fine.

I found us a campsite, paid for it, set up my tent, stuck a note on the message board so my folks would know what site to look for, and then went to the bison paddock. This is a neat place you can drive through to observe the bison (if you’re lucky and they aren’t hiding), but you’re not allowed to get out of your vehicle (and for good reason) because the bison can just pop up out of nowhere. Like this!

Close encounters of the bison kind.

Close encounters of the bison kind.

So yeah, that happened, and while I was hastily taking this shot through the windshield I was also praying she wasn’t about to turn around and head butt my car, because between my Saturn and the bison, the bison was bigger. She had a calf with her, and later on I saw half a dozen other calves in the herd, all caramel colored and cute as buttons.

I went into town, ate at Zum’s, watched the grey sky, noticed the bright yellow COUGAR IN AREA – TRAVEL WITH CAUTION sign, headed back to camp. It takes maybe fifteen minutes to get from town to the camp, and in that span of time I saw seven different bears at different points from the road. Seven, all black bears of varying colors. The best was this sow and her two cubs:

I spy a bear tongue!

I spy a bear tongue!

When I arrived at camp I found a young buck hanging around.

Bambi blows a raspberry.

Bambi blows a raspberry.

(Strangely, a lot of the photos I took on this trip of wild animals show them with their tongues hanging out. But all the pics of the dog? No tongue to be seen.)

My folks eventually arrived, the sun came out for a bit, we settled in. More deer showed up, and a particularly aggressive doe (she had a fawn with her) challenged my mother while she was walking Bailey through the campground, to the extent that when they got back to camp Bailey hid under the picnic table and wouldn’t come out.

Scary deer is scary.

Scary deer is scary. :(

The sky spit a bit of rain that first afternoon, but that was all.

The next day we went up to Cameron Lake, which still had a lot of ice in it (the water was slushy). It was cold up there and the wind was howling, which made the ice clash loudly against itself. Very eerie and uncomfortable to listen to. There was a cloud creeping ominously  down the mountain on the US end of the lake.



This was a sign. A big one. But at the time, well… Mountain weather will be whatever it will be, and we weren’t concerned. Back at camp, the weather was fairly decent. We saw yet another bear on the way. The buck was still hanging around our site so I took more pictures of him while he munched on green things and wagged his tongue at me. We had some more sun—just a little.

By evening, that misty cloud from Cameron Lake had arrived. We had a fire despite the light drizzle; it got late; we went to bed.

I woke up in the dark. It was raining. I felt around the floor of the tent; everything seemed dry. I went back to sleep. I woke up a few more times in the dark. It was raining harder each time. Hmm.

Grey light crept into the tent. It was pouring. I was awake and wet. I put my hand out and felt the floor of the tent. There was about a centimeter of water on it and it went squish when I pressed down. I realized then that the gravel pad wasn’t level after all and my tent was now in a puddle.

I had a roll of paper towel in the tent. Over the next few hours I swapped between dozing and using the paper towel to soak up the water and wring it outside the tent flap. Totally futile of course, since the water was just seeping back into the tent through the floor.

At some point after 7am I finally extricated myself from my damp accommodations, pounded on the RV door to wake my parents, and told them I was making an emergency run to town for the biggest damn tarp I could find. I then discovered my car was standing in deep water that had collected beneath it overnight, because my car, too, was parked in a depression. There was only an inch or so to go before the water would have started seeping in under the door.

Going into town meant my phone had service, whereas there was none at the campground. I got a tarp and then checked the weather report. Severe rainfall warning. A huge weather front had moved in from Montana overnight and had already dumped several inches of rain. 80mm more was expected. Yikes.

We should have gone home. We didn’t. Camping is not cheap. I’d paid for the whole week for a double occupied site and they don’t do refunds. “Let’s wait it out,” we said. “It’s only Tuesday. It’ll pass.”

Uh huh.

Mom cut up garbage bags for ponchos because naturally we couldn’t find the actual rain gear that is always supposed to be kept in the RV, and Dad and I set about rigging the tarp so the rain would run off behind the pad instead of onto it. I mopped up as best I could and retreated into the RV.



I was too wired from having not really slept to have a nap, while Bailey, who got worked up because there was sudden excitement and activity that she was not allowed to participate in, conked out. I changed from my wet clothes into slightly less wet clothes. We had breakfast. We played cards. We ate lunch.

It was still raining. My car, parked in a different spot, was starting to look like it was about to drown again.

At some point in the early afternoon, a park ranger came around and pounded on our door. The creek that runs between the campground and the road was threatening to overflow its banks, because of course, 80+mm of rain falling on steep mountain slopes gets funneled down into the valleys very quickly. There was concern that the bridge out of the campground would shortly end up washed away. We were being emergency evacuated.

Thus began the second time in my life where I’ve had to tear down a tent in the pouring rain, roll it up into a ball, and stuff it into my car along with soaking wet camp chairs and all my other gear—and this time squish in a soaking wet tarp too. Dad, in the meantime, had to quickly jack down the RV. We got soaked.

They relocated us to the townsite campground (essentially a glorified parking lot) and said that if we wanted to stay and wait out the storm they would honor the fees I’d paid up at Crandell. I said we had to stay at least one more night because I was too exhausted to make the drive home in the current weather conditions. So, we pooled our change and I found a laundromat nearby to take all our wet clothes to.

Then it started raining inside the RV. It was a slow drip at first, over the sofa that I was supposed to sleep on that night. We put down a pot. Then water started dripping out of a cabinet. We put down another pot. Another drip…out came the last pot. I would have to share with Mom. Then water started dripping out of the air vent over the middle of the bunk above the cab, where Dad sleeps. He said he would deal.

We probably would have been okay if not for this. Rain in and of itself isn’t the end of the world when camping. But as it was, we ate dinner by candlelight (we didn’t want to run the lights since water was coming in) and I watched for weather updates on my phone. More rain coming.

We went to bed. Overnight, the water dripping inside the RV eventually travelled to the other bunk where Mom and I were sleeping.

She got soaked. I didn’t.

By 7am on June 18 (Wednesday) my mother had morphed into the angriest, most fed up, NOPE NOPE NOPE WAKE UP WE ARE GOING HOME RIGHT NOW mother I have ever seen. I would have gladly faced off against a grizzly than what we woke up to that day. I’m pretty sure the RV door didn’t have time to open I got into my car so fast.

We left. The campground people were very understanding and given the exceptional circumstances, refunded me the remaining four days that I had originally paid for.

The drive home was not fun. It poured the entire way until we hit Bragg Creek. Lakes and rivers near the highway had burst their banks and one section of the road looked like it would end up swept away if the water kept eating at it like it was. A farm we passed was completely cut off from the road because their land had flooded (the house was on high ground though) while a hydraulic excavator they’d been using sat stranded in what had become a lake, with water up to its cab.

A flooded valley, with water approaching the highway.

A flooded valley, with water approaching the highway.

flooded valley, with water approaching the highway.

A burst creek chewing away the highway.

It’s normally a three-ish hour drive from Waterton to Calgary along Highway 22. We left somewhere around 8am that day…we didn’t get home until 2pm.

When I unloaded my car, I found about an inch of water in the back of it. Thankfully Dad had a wetvac but even so it took a couple of days for the interior to dry out, and I had to pitch the tent in the backyard and wait until Saturday before that was dry too. We also learned that—probably in the haste to evac from Crandell campground—the top of the RV had ripped open along a seam, leaving a gash about a foot wide. No wonder Mom got wet.

I went back to work the following Monday frazzled and worn out. I decided I wasn’t such a fan of tenting anymore. I didn’t go camping again that summer, and not at all in 2015. But…the ultimate camping trip of doom was still ahead of me.

#1: Horsefly

The route to Horsefly Lake Provincial Park.

The route to Horsefly Lake Provincial Park.

Depending on who you ask, horseflies are big, nasty, biting insects that can rip nickel-sized chunks of flesh from your body. Whacking one of these things with a fly swatter isn’t enough, even if the body looks dented and appears to be dead. If you wait and watch, eventually these evil things will wiggle a bit, puff themselves back into shape, and fly away. You have to whack, then smear to ensure the dead fly stays dead.

So, imagine my reaction whenever my folks have said, “Come with us to Horsefly!” The name is not at all a ringing endorsement. Nevertheless, they have made this plea to me every year for the last decade or more at least. I don’t know how they found this place but they love it there, and usually take a week or so in September to camp and go boating.

2016 had been another hard year at work so once again I was in desperate need of a vacation. September is usually difficult for me to take time off from work, but this time around things worked out and I could go with them. My folks rave so much about this place that I accepted it can’t be judged by its name.

The plan was to leave on September 4, 2016 and arrive in Horsefly the next day around noon, after everyone who had been staying for the long weekend had left. We’d stay the week and come home the following Sunday.

From the moment we started getting ready for this trip, everything that could go wrong, did.

First, my period unexpectedly started the day before we were supposed to leave. (I don’t care how fancy the facilities might be or if the RV has a toilet in it, no woman wants to be on her period when she’s camping.) Then I couldn’t find my sleeping bags (I’d moved four times in the previous three years, and my current condo is only about 580sqft… There were only so many places my gear could be). Once that was sorted, I showed up at my parents’ place on Sunday morning to help Mom pack my stuff into the RV. My car was staying behind this time, as I would be sharing the driving with my dad.

We didn’t manage to leave on time. The boat was on the trailer in the garage, and the RV was backed into the driveway. Hooking the two together was easy. Getting the boat out of the garage? Not so much. They’ve done this dozens of times before on their own, but this time around the trailer snagged on the car parked beside it and got stuck. The car was gouged and had one of its running lights trashed, while the fender on the trailer was crumpled in. Then we couldn’t get them unstuck. All of this necessitated unhooking the trailer from the RV, wiggling on the trailer until it detached from the car, then hauling the boat out of the garage by hand and rolling it down the driveway to rehook the trailer to the RV.

Whew. Ready to go! Or not…

Whew. Ready to go! Or not…

Five minutes after we got that sorted, the RV started leaking transmission fluid. So there was Dad, lying on the road under the engine block, trying to find the leak. He didn’t find it, but it wasn’t gushing either, so he loaded extra transmission fluid into the RV.

1:38: We finally left. Given the potential for engine trouble, Dad drove first to see how the RV would behave.

2:29: As it turned out, it wasn’t the RV we had to worry about. We’d just reached Dead Man’s Flats when we heard boom and then everything started to shake. As we pulled over, a giant cloud of smoke blew past the cab. One of the (brand new) tires on the boat trailer had blown out, not just a little bit, but in two separate places. It basically looked shredded. We were lucky we didn’t lose the boat completely.

The shredded tire.

The shredded tire.

Fifteen minutes later, while Dad was still working on putting the spare on and I was trying to get Bailey to do something in the bushes by the highway, it started to rain.

We limped into Canmore, picked up a proper replacement from Canadian Tire and decided that since it was now late afternoon we should get something to eat before moving on again. Dad was frazzled and cranky. Tim Horton’s seemed like the easiest bet, so we ordered. I tried to pay. The credit machine crashed and the transaction didn’t go through.

“Can’t I just give you cash?” Dad demanded as the very young cashier looked like he wanted the floor to crack open and swallow him up while he and a supervisor tried to get the machine working again.

“We’ll have it fixed in a minute sir!”

Twenty minutes later. “Just let me pay with cash.”

Right. Got our food and left. Then it was my turn to drive. By 5:45 we were in Field, BC and I’d managed to not crash the RV. Sweet! By 6:30 we were in Golden without issues.

Beautiful British Columbia.

Beautiful British Columbia.

A Steller’s Jay watching us at a rest stop.

A Steller’s Jay watching us at a rest stop.

Problem was, now it was getting late. If you’ve ever driven the Trans-Canada Highway through BC, you know that the section around Three Valley Gap is very twisty and narrow, with a mountain immediately out your window on one side and the lake on the other. We came to this stretch of road in the pitch black, and there was an insane amount of oncoming traffic that made it difficult to see. We were only doing 80kph but it felt like we were going twice that speed and I was certain we were about to die.

My friends on Twitter got to experience this horrific drive with me in real-time!

My friends on Twitter got to experience this horrific drive with me in real-time!

An hour later, all of us frazzled (including Bailey and Tika, my parents’ new pup), we pulled into Salmon Arm and stopped for the night in a parking lot for Save On Foods.

No thanks to the condo from hell, I’m still a terribly light sleeper, so when I camp with my folks I sleep in the tent because my parents (and Dad in particular) snore. But since we were parked in a parking lot, I had to sleep in the RV that night. The RV is supposed to sleep six adults “comfortably”. As with tents, I don’t know how this determination was made. Three adults, one medium-sized dog, one puppy barely larger than a kitten, plus all our stuff was pushing it for space.

Mom isn’t usually too bad for snoring but Dad has to use a thing that wraps around his head in order to help control it when he can’t have his CPAP machine. Suffice to say, that night Mom was awful and Dad wasn’t helping much either, so we all got about zip for sleep.

The next day was a slow start. We still had about five hours of driving ahead of us so should’ve been on the road by at least 8am, but at 10:00 we were still in the parking lot finishing up breakfast, shopping in both the grocery store and the Canadian Tire, and trying to get the dogs to do their thing (which they both refused to do).

“We’re gonna get us some good lake trouts… :D” I said.

“We’re gonna get us some good lake trouts… :D” I said.

We got on the road by about 10:30, just in time for the sky to cloud up and start teasing us with rain. But to be fair, this part of the trip was probably the most uneventful and most enjoyable for all of us even though it took ages to make our way north. The scenery was nice (Dad was doing the driving for this section so I got to take a fair amount of pictures through the window, particularly once we left the Trans-Canada and headed north on Highway 97, which I had never travelled before) and my parents spent the time telling me stories about adventures they’d had when they were first exploring this route.

Middle of bf nowhere BC. Getting close to the destination!

Middle of bf nowhere BC. Getting close to the destination!

By 3:30 we were somewhere between Lac la Hache and 150 Mile House. I’d managed to sleep for a while and at 150 Mile House took over for the almost-final stretch. For the RV it’s about an hour from 150 Mile House to Horsefly village (narrow, twisty, hilly secondary highway), and then from the village (where Dad took over again because the road was not paved) it’s another half hour or so to the provincial park itself where the campground is located.

So let’s recap. It’s supposed to be a ten hour drive (non-stop, at proper highway speeds) from my parents’ house to the provincial park. Instead, we originally departed at 1:38pm (Mountain) on September 4 and arrived somewhere around 6:00pm (Pacific) on September 5. Yuck.

When we got there, my parents handed me a camp chair and said, “Go sit in that site right there while we launch the boat.” The campground operator came around to let me know there was a black bear wandering the area, gorging itself on berries before winter and by the way did I know there was a giant patch of berry bushes just right over there? Wonderful. But the bear had not been aggressive, just wanted to eat berries in peace, so even though I was tenting we weren’t likely to be bothered.

Our campsite, right on the lake.

Our campsite, right on the lake.

The campground itself is small but quite nice. I could see why my parents like going there: if the weather is nice it would be very beautiful and more or less quiet. If you have a lakeside site you can pull your boat up on the beach, which makes it convenient to go out later. There are loons on this lake and when they call out it’s a wonderful but very haunting, otherworldly sound.

Mom drove the RV back to our site, and then we hung around waiting for Dad to bring the boat while we got the dogs out of the RV and the firewood organized. Except…it seemed to be taking him a long time.

Floating away into the great grey yonder.

Floating away into the great grey yonder.

It’s hard to steer the boat back to shore if the steering isn’t working. Dad worked on it for a while but couldn’t get it fixed, so had to paddle back manually. Unimpressed.

The rest of that first night was a write-off. We were exhausted, strung out from driving too long, frustrated by the boat, and the dogs were beyond antsy for having been cooped up so long. I got my tent up, Dad helped me string up tarps, and other than walking the dogs for miles in the damp we did nothing else.

Tuesday morning was still grey.

A mirror made of water.

A mirror made of water.

I started to hear my parents say things like, “We’ve never had weather like this here before. It’s usually so nice and sunny when we come!” But this time around the RV was dry inside so it wasn’t so bad. Dad spent the morning trying to fix the boat. He concluded that the steering cable was busted or seized, and this was not something we could immediately fix. But one of the whole points of having driven all this way was to go fishing on this very deep lake, so by golly he wasn’t going to be defeated.

Our little boat, floating uselessly in Horsefly Lake.

Our little boat, floating uselessly in Horsefly Lake.

He started by duct taping one of our canoe paddles to the side of the engine, figuring we could just steer manually. As I watched him do this, and then saw the loud, obnoxious people in the site next to us watching him do this, a kind of disbelieving giggle burst out of my throat and I facepalmed. There are rednecks on this lake, I thought, and they’re us!

Here, fishy fishy…

Here, fishy fishy…

Well, it didn’t work. We puttered around on the water for a while but the duct tape wouldn’t stay stuck to the engine when trying to move the paddle to make the boat turn so we discarded that idea on the basis of not wanting to get stranded and made our way back to shore.

It rained that afternoon, and not a little bit. A wall of water marched its way up the lake and drenched everything.

A rainbow over the lake while Dad works on the boat.

A rainbow over the lake while Dad works on the boat.

Dad spent the rest of the day in the boat, in the rain, trying to figure out a fix. He repeated this process the next morning too while I wandered around camp taking pictures, trying to keep my mother and the dogs entertained (and dry), and picking up dog poop.

Eventually, after disassembling part of the engine, we found a hole in the casing that we could use and jammed a short metal rod into it. It held and let us steer the boat, which finally put a smile on my father’s face. By then it was early afternoon and the weather had started to break up, so finally we could fish!

My first Kokanee!

My first Kokanee!

We found some schools and trolled our lures. I was using the downrigger while Dad was trying to get lucky with something biting closer to the surface. After about an hour of this with no luck, he reeled in first, then helped me bring up the rig. When my line was freed from the weight, it suddenly ran itself around to the back of the boat! Say what? We quickly killed the engine and found a very exhausted 14.5” Kokanee hanging off my lure. That’s big for the Kokanee in this lake, but not big enough to have had the strength to pull the line free of the rig. Somehow, it had gotten hooked through the cheekplate (ouch). Who knows how long we’d been dragging this poor fish around behind the boat…

Faith restored! I was pretty excited, actually. I’d never caught a salmon before—and neither had anyone else in my family. Dad and I swapped places so Dad could use the downrigger.

The engine wouldn’t start.

Horsefly Lake isn’t small. According to the sign in the campground, it has a surface area of 14,500 acres and is about 50km long from end to end. My parents’ boat is not very big, nor very new, and with the steering busted we weren’t going to venture too far. Even so we were still quite a ways from our campsite—too far to just shrug it off and paddle back.

What to do? We floated uselessly for a while before being able to get the engine going again…but then it wouldn’t stay running at low idle. In the end we had to give up on fishing and head back to camp at top speed. The lake wasn’t too choppy so that was a thrill (I haven’t done much boating in my life) but I could tell Dad was frustrated and disappointed.

It wasn’t a total loss. All of us headed over to the day use area where they had a horseshoe pit. On the way…

Woody Woodpecker!

Woody Woodpecker!

I had never seen a pileated woodpecker before! He was hard to photograph but I did manage to get this reasonably decent shot as well as some video footage.

Closest to the pin…

Closest to the pin…

Horseshoes, as I quickly learned, is not easy, but we had fun. One of us, I forget who, actually threw the shoe to that position in the photo above. Alas, it started raining again so we had to bail back to camp.

That night, as I lay in my tent in the dark and the drizzle, something came around the site. I could hear it moving around the tent. It didn’t sound big enough to be the bear…but it wasn’t small either. Whatever it was, after a few minutes it went away and the night fell silent again except for the loons and the patter of water.

Thursday was dark and still raining. Mom opted to stay in the RV with the puppy while Dad and I walked a trail with Bailey up to a bluff with a viewpoint. From there we could see something big and black out in the lake on the opposite shore. It looked like a moose. We wondered if it was stranded, or maybe dead, and even though the boat was sopping wet, we decided to hop in it and go check it out.

For the record, it was a tree.

While we were out there trying to find this big black thing, a fresh wall of water swept up the lake and hammered us. The boat ended up with a layer of water in the bottom of it and of course we were drenched.

Fine. We got off the lake. The clouds cleared off, giving us our only opportunity to actually sit around the firepit and enjoy the stars while the loons called.

Later that night, my friend from the previous evening returned and tried to drag my tent away with me in it! Obviously not successful, and I don’t think whatever it was actually had the strength to drag the tent even if it hadn’t been pegged into the ground, but cripes! It gave it a couple of solid tugs. I had flashbacks to that scene in The Lost World: Jurassic Park where the t-rex sticks its head inside the tent where Sarah and Kelly are sleeping… NO THANKS. I was definitely ready to get out of there, but whatever it was went away again and I heard nothing more the rest of the night.

Friday morning the weather had turned sour again. This time the rain brought high winds with it that ripped the tarps and made a mess of our campsite. Dad found bear poop about twenty feet from my tent in the bushes. We talked about leaving early, and by 3:00 had packed it in. (Once more, packing up a wet tent in the rain.) Even though we managed to do a few fun things, overall we felt wrecked. Mom spent almost the entire time in the RV. I spent most of my time trying to walk the dogs for Mom, and thus, picking up dog poop. (Not a dog person.) Dad spent most of his time fixing the boat. It just wasn’t fun overall.

The drive back to Salmon Arm was dark and dreary. I did a good portion of it, and any time I was behind the wheel, Bailey sat beside me and stared at me. She couldn’t be coaxed away. Later on, Mom asked if we were sure the other cars on the road were being rained on too or if there was just a grumpy cloud following us specifically.

We hit Salmon Arm near midnight and zonked. Or rather, we tried to but none of us slept much. The next day was another slow start while Dad continued to sleep. I worked on my Yoda amigurumi and kept Mom company. Eventually we left.

The aggravation of the trip really started to show when we left Revelstoke and Dad and I got into an argument about my reading comprehension skills—apparently I didn’t have any when it came to reading legal documents even though that’s been my job for the last thirteen years. Mom slept through that unfortunate incident and then there was stony silence until we started the climb up into Roger’s Pass…and got pulled over by the RCMP.

The cops were nice enough to wait until we’d hit the top of the pass before making us stop, because I don’t know that we’d have been able to get going again on that incline. But there we were, at the side of the highway, while the cops quizzed my father about ownership because the boat trailer didn’t have a license plate on it.

Recall all the way at the start of this very failed camping trip that the boat trailer had gotten stuck inside the garage. There was a lot of time spent standing behind it by all of us, first to help get the stupid thing unstuck, then to check that the taillights were working properly and so on. Then when we arrived in Horsefly there was more opportunity to stand behind it when the boat was being launched, when the trailer was being unhooked and maneuvered into the campsite, when it was being hooked back up (and lights tested) when we left, when the boat was being loaded back onto it…

None of us noticed the plate was missing. Where was it? At home in the garage. Dad had forgotten to put it on before we left.

There were a lot of problems with this situation. The registration Dad was carrying for the plate that was supposed to be on the trailer was valid, but didn’t have the same VIN number that the trailer had. Dad had the proof of sale for the boat in the boat, and while the cops were very nice about letting him exit the RV to fetch it (while Mom and I quietly sniggered to one another that apparently the cops didn’t realize if we had wanted to steal a boat surely we would have stolen a nicer one) Bailey and Tika were both very unhappy when one of the cops peeked into the RV through the window by the table. The one cop kept circling around like he was looking for stuff. After Dad provided the bill of sale and such, the records the cops dug up showed that while the sale of the boat had been properly filed, the sale of the trailer never had been, and it was still listed somewhere as being owned by the guy who owned it prior to the person who sold it to my father.

Half an hour later they got it sorted to their satisfaction. The “good” cop said he had every right to impound the trailer and not let us keep going but as we were obviously travelling as a family and heading home, he wrote Dad a ticket for $110.00 instead with a stern warning to get the registration and the sale records sorted out as soon as we got back.

Properly chastised, we continued on. There wasn’t much talking for the rest of the trip. It stopped raining about ten minutes from home. We got in at about 9:30pm on September 10. I jumped in my car and immediately went home—I wanted nothing more than to sleep in my own bed. I spent the next several days helping Mom unpack the RV before going back to work and wishing for another vacation.

This trip left us feeling so bad that we have since all agreed that we will never go camping as a family again. Mom and Dad will go together, and Dad and I might go together, and I might go by myself (sans tent). But all of us together? NOPE.

Oh, the Kokanee?

Home cooked salmon goodness.

Home cooked salmon goodness.

We ate it the following Saturday and it was delicious, so at least there was that.

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Photostream: Best of 2004 – 2007 Sun, 19 Mar 2017 01:41:48 +0000 Read More]]> Photography is one of my hobbies, though I don’t dabble in it as often as some of my other pastimes. Actually, because of life and other things, my camera sat neglected for a few years (but because of said life and other things, I thankfully didn’t miss out on any significant photo opportunities) and I also fell behind on putting together any new photostreams. Recently, after becoming painfully aware of just how long a hiatus it had become, I spent time organizing my archives and creating collections of my best photos. “Best of” collections are easy as a theme, so I’m hoping this will be a good way to get back into the swing of things.

Here is the first fruit of that labor: Best of 2004 – 2007. Enjoy!

More of my photostreams can be viewed by visiting the Gallery.

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The Fifth Age: Riven – Day Five Sat, 04 Mar 2017 21:58:03 +0000 Read More]]>

Riven – Day One | Riven – Day Two | Riven – Day Three | Riven – Day Four | Riven – Day Five

At long last, I return to Riven to finish my playthrough. This is the final post for this particular installment of the Myst series. I’m tickled pink that I was able to get through the entire story of the Fifth Age in five parts! Next I’ll move on to Myst III: Exile.

A rich tapestry of the D’ni number five.

When I left off last time, the prison book had been returned to me by the Black Moiety and I had picked up enough information to allow me to finally solve the puzzle of the golden domes. All I have left to do is confront (and hopefully trap) Gehn, free Catherine, and help save the Rivenese.

Riven, like Myst before it, has multiple endings depending on choices made by the player. Come with me to find out how I finished my journey!

Fair warning: if you’ve never played Riven, there are spoilers ahead!

Temple Island

I’ve been bent over the grid for a while, worrying about accidentally dropping the colored marbles and losing them in crevices along the golden dome’s construction as I carefully count out and double-check coordinates. The grid has dozens of small holes and the right fire marble has to be placed in the correct location. There are literally trillions of possible combinations.

There are six marbles but only five Riven islands and five domes, so one of the small, brightly-colored orbs stays unused. As I finish, I cross my fingers and hope I remembered the position and color coding of each dome correctly. If not, it’ll be a long trek to retrace my steps all over Riven to figure out where I went wrong.

With the firemarbles placed, I return to the controls and pull the switch down. The press descends into place. Anxiously, I stab the button the switch previously hid, and am rewarded with a low rumbling sound that fades to a gentle pulsing thrum. I think I’ve done it!

I make my way back to the gate room and onward until I’ve come around once again to the outside of the golden dome where the vertical track will drop me down to the hidden passage leading up to this island’s linking book.

Count carefully…

The dome should have power now, but before I can get to the book I still have to unlock it. Having been nosy earlier when I was in Gehn’s lab, and thanks to that awful counting game in the schoolhouse, I have the combination. There are five markers in the panel below the porthole, so I slide them into the necessary positions, then push the button.

The dome opens, the porthole sweeping away from me while what must be the rusted half with the eye symbols on it quickly clips over my head with a sharp clang, sealing me in. Good thing I’m not too tall!

At long last, the linking book.

A pedestal rises up and light bathes the linking book. On the cover is the “name” of the Age, the number Gehn noted in his journal, which I now understand is 233. The implication of this number for the amount of failures Gehn encountered over his thirty-year exile before achieving what he believes to be a link to a stable Age is staggering.

I’m not sure exactly how this contraption is able to provide power to the book but open it anyway. For just a moment, the gateway image is solid black, but then…

Revealing the 233rd Age.

…as if an invisible fire is burning the darkness away, the Age Gehn escaped to is revealed. I watch as the gateway flies through the Age, showing me spectacular rock formations glowing in the golden light of sunset, with a richly-colored sky reflected in a vast sea of water.

I hesitate. Until now I’ve more or less had my freedom in Riven. My earlier loneliness at wandering the Age by myself suddenly doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. Although I was captured by the Black Moiety, they didn’t hurt me—and, in fact, I now realize they helped me by keeping Atrus’s prison book safe while I prepared for this very moment. But if I go through this linking book, I’ll be on Gehn’s turf, and I really will be completely alone. What if he is already lying in wait for me there? Suddenly I recall the missing rifle from his lab and my gut clenches uncomfortably.

The gateway image has settled on a structure that must be Gehn’s office. If he’s inside, I can’t see him—but I know I really have no choice but to continue. Gehn needs to be stopped, and I still have to find Catherine. Atrus is counting on me!

I place my hand on the book and feel myself slipping away.

233rd Age

I materialize on the other side and groan when a familiar sight greets me.

Gehn is very fond of cages.

I grab the bars and give them a good shake but they don’t budge. Stuck, again. Sigh.

Across from me, but out of reach beyond the cage, is a small desk with several items on it, including what looks like another book or journal. To my right is a large spherical device that reminds me of the kiln in Gehn’s lab, except it doesn’t seem to have a proper door on it. If I turn to my right again, I can see a ladder leading into an opening in the floor. Another turn to the right: I see a panel with a button on it welded between the bars of my cage, but I’m fairly certain I won’t be set free if I push it. Despite the strong temptation to try, for now I ignore it so I can finish studying the room. Beyond the button, on a ledge that spans the circumference of the room below the windows, is a switch. I bet that will open the cage, but damned if I can reach it! I turn to the right one more time and find myself facing a door.

Then I glance down…and notice, positioned around the cage at equal distances, are five linking books on pedestals just like the pedestals inside the domes. Each book has one of the map symbols of the five Riven islands on its front, and as I stare at one in particular, I realize how lucky I am after all. Except, the half-cages around the pedestals are dim, telling me these linking books currently have no power, and sure enough when I open the books the gateway images inside are dark—and stay that way.

Turning back to the button—the only other item in the room I can currently interact with—I push it. It lights up but for several long moments nothing happens. Then, outside, I can faintly hear the scraping of footsteps over dry rock, and look to the door.

The villain approaches…

I only have to catch a glimpse through the window to know the approaching man is Gehn. He comes casually inside and doesn’t seem terribly surprised to see me as he pulls off his goggles and gloves.

The first thing he does is apologize to me for the cage, which makes me blink in surprise. Actually, he’s quite well-spoken and acts politely, rather than giving me the cold, menacing reception I expected, but still I’m wary. Even though he’s apologized for the cage, he also doesn’t let me out of it, so I’m forced to stand and listen to him.

He speaks, at length, about his experiences since being trapped in Riven. Thirty years is a long time to be stuck facing the truth that he tried to kill his son and that Atrus imprisoned him for that and his other transgressions. At one point, Gehn even seems regretful. “No sentence could be too harsh for the man I was,” he says before claiming he’s changed. Oh really? I try to keep control of my face when he adds that his “mission was an honorable one”. Honorable to terrorize the Rivenese and feed them to the wahrk? Honorable to toss people into the Star Fissure just to see what would happen? Give me a break. If he’s changed, he has nothing to show for it. I know what you are, Gehn, and I saw evidence of it everywhere in Riven. You’re anything but honorable.

But then, interestingly, he speaks about relocating the people of Riven and not wanting them to perish. I feel my resolve waver slightly as he continues to talk. I suppose, on some level and in his own twisted way, Gehn probably feels responsible for the people of Riven even if he’s also made them disposable for his own perverse curiosity and depravity. After all, this is the man who thinks himself a god, thinks he creates the Ages from nothing when he writes the books. In the end I find myself refusing this interpretation: I can’t imagine this man being responsible for creating the world I’m from, nor any other.

Giving me a death glare!

Gehn becomes much more…intense…once he starts talking about Catherine and the Black Moiety, saying that they’ve put his life at risk which means putting the people of Riven at risk too. He leans in close to my cage and implores me not to free Catherine.

Sorry, bucko. I have one mission here, and letting you continue to lord over these people ain’t it.

My defiance and determination must not be showing on my face because Gehn continues to puff on his pipe and circle around my cage. His eyes wander to the travel pouch at my waist and the prison book stashed there. I tense as he steps near again, but he politely—almost regally, which is unnerving—asks to see the linking book. I hope he doesn’t notice that my hands are shaking as I give it to him. I’m sure he must be able to hear the hammering of my heart it’s so loud.

Could it be?

When Gehn peers into the book he seems surprised, even shocked. Of course, to him it appears to link to D’ni. I watch, my breath frozen in my chest, as he raises his hand.

Do it! Do it do it! You know you wanna!

For several agonizingly long moments he hesitates. Just put your hand on the book! I want to scream, but manage to swallow the desire and stay silent. If he actually were to link into the prison book while standing way over there, I’m in trouble, because I’ll still be trapped in this cage with no way out and no way to get the prison book back.

My mind starts racing as his hand drifts closer to the gateway image, but at the last moment, Gehn pauses and turns back, lifting the prison book to present the gateway image to me.

In case of booby trap, send the boob in first.

“Perhaps it would be best if you went through first,” he says.

Crap. This isn’t part of the plan either! If I go into that book, there’s no coming out of it again! Of course, Gehn doesn’t know that… Or does he? Could he tell what the linking book really is, even if he’s only had a cursory glance at it? Would he suspect Atrus of sending me to Riven without a true path back to D’ni?

My hesitation pays off. Gehn closes the book and says it’s reasonable for me to need some time to decide. Relief floods through me and I almost miss what he says next: “Until then, as a token of my good intentions, I will allow you free access to my linking books, crude though they may be, and to the rest of the Fifth Age.” He flips a switch on the kiln, revealing it to actually be a generator, which activates the pedestals around my cage, then warns me not to disturb him again unless I’m ready to prove that my intentions are honorable. Then he leaves.

A thrill of excitement lances through me as I watch him move carefully down the hill outside until he’s out of view.

The linking book to Prison Island.

Before me is the pedestal with the book on it that links to the only Riven island I haven’t been to yet.

You’re a fool, Gehn, I think to myself, then open the book and link through.

Prison Island

I materialize inside a dome. A button at the base of the pedestal sends the linking book sinking down and forces the dome to open. I turn around to take in my first real glimpse of Catherine’s prison.

All that remains of the Great Tree.

For a short moment I gaze upon what remains of the Great Tree. Its giant, dead roots reach down into the water and only a short stump of the immense trunk is left, atop which sits what must be Catherine’s prison. How cruel Gehn is to keep Catherine here, faced with a daily reminder that the world she came from has been destroyed at his hands. Yes, he must end up in the prison book.

I follow the path and climb stairs to the prison’s entrance, then go inside. The path ends at a caged alcove. Before me is a switch with three tabs below it, and each tab plays a different sound when I push them. I experiment with these for a few minutes, trying different combinations and then throwing the switch, but nothing happens. Above and to my right is a handle dangling by a cable. I pull on it and the alcove begins to rise.

When it stops, I find myself looking into a room I’ve seen before, from the viewer in the wahrk room on Survey Island. This is definitely Catherine’s prison. The room is small and sparsely furnished, but also positively luxurious compared to the cell above the wahrk gallows. I can see a doorway that leads to a small, sunlit patio enclosed with bars. Though she’s been a prisoner here, at the very least, she won’t have been too uncomfortable.

After a few moments, the woman herself appears and my heart leaps. Finally, I’ve found Catherine, and even though she’s not free yet, she’s safe. Atrus will be relieved.

Conspiring with Catherine.

When she realizes I’m not Gehn or one of the Rivenese, she’s taken aback. She reminds me that Gehn is probably watching and hoping that I will lead him back to D’ni. “You can’t let Gehn— Atrus sent you to save me, but if Gehn gets back to D’ni, he’ll kill him,” she says, then steps forward and lowers her voice, saying that I will have to trap Gehn first before I’ll be able to find the combination that will unlock this prison. Then she steps away and draws herself stiffly upright. “Go then,” she says formally and loud enough for someone else to overhear, as if I have rebuffed her. “If you won’t help me, I have nothing more to say.”

I smile to myself as she leaves the room and I pull on the alcove’s handle, which sends the lift back down to the first level. As I walk back to the dome and regain access to the linking book I wonder if I’ve been gone a sufficient amount of time to have Gehn think I’ve come to a decision to help him. Possibly, it won’t matter that I’ve only spent a scant few minutes here. If Gehn thinks Catherine has gone mad, perhaps he’ll also think that my abbreviated visit was all I needed to come to the same conclusion.

233rd Age

I link back into the cage and immediately hit the switch to let Gehn know I’ve returned. He wastes no time in coming, showing up with his goggles on and the rifle in hand, and I wonder what exactly the nature of the work is that he’s doing outside.

He thanks me for returning and presents the prison book to me, saying that if I go through first, he’ll follow immediately behind me. I only hesitate for a moment (he’s giving me that death glare again)…and then place my hand over the gateway image.

The world turns black and I wonder where, or even if, I have rematerialized. There is literally nothing here, and I can’t even see myself, despite waving my own hand in front of my face. Then I hear a sound and look up.

Gehn peers through the gateway image.

Above me, bizarrely, is a rectangle floating in the vast expanse of nothing, and I realize I’m looking out through the gateway image into the Age I just left. Gehn is peering in at me. From his point of view it must look like I am standing in D’ni.

Or so I hope. A cold feeling passes through me as I remember what the gateway images in the red and blue books looked like when I peered into them to see Sirrus and Achenar in their prisons: just the men, standing against unending fields of static. What if the illusion of D’ni has fallen away and all Gehn sees is me, standing in this godawful blackness?

They say there’s a sucker born every minute…

I gulp with relief when I see Gehn readying his rifle before his gloved hand finally eclipses the view and I feel myself being pulled out of the prison book.

The 233rd Age solidifies around me. Gehn and I have traded places. The prison book lies on the floor, and I pick it up, tucking it away in my travel pouch without opening it. No need to subject myself to his reaction at finding out I’ve betrayed him, or worse, accidentally palm the gateway image with my hand and end up freeing him.

I’m on the outside of the cage now, and free to explore the office. Catherine said I would be able to get the combination to her prison once Gehn was trapped, so it must be around here somewhere.

But first, I turn to see the cage behind me, and then cross to the lever below the window. Flipping it withdraws the bars into the floor. Good. Once I link away to free Catherine, we won’t have to worry about being stuck.

The door leading outside is locked and can’t be opened from the inside. Strange. But the key must be with Gehn, so I shrug and go back to the desk. The cover of the book is blank and the gateway image inside is black. Most likely, this book would link to the Age Gehn was hoping to evacuate the Rivenese to. I contemplate putting the book on one of the pedestals behind me but decide against it. A fancy fountain pen and an inkwell shaped like a beetle from Jungle Island also sit on the desk so I assume the book isn’t finished. Given Gehn’s apparent hardship with being able to link to stable Ages regardless, it’s probably better to leave well enough alone. Besides, I don’t have a linking book tied to the 233rd Age that would enable me to get back here. Gehn’s pipe and a few other items are also on the desk, but nothing that seems to contain the combination I need.

A further inspection of the office leads me to a device near one of the pillars.

The cannen, playing Gehn’s maral-obe recording.

Touching the golden cylinder makes it sink down slightly, and after a moment music starts to play—this seems to be a recorder of some kind. Did Gehn record this? The song is slow and quiet, almost mournful. I leave the music playing as I inspect the rest of the office, though I find nothing else of note on this level.

I go down the ladder and find myself in Gehn’s bedroom. It’s simple and neat.

Five pen nibs surrounding the D’ni number five.

On one wall behind a wash basin is a rich-looking tapestry, once again depicting the D’ni number five. As I look at it I think of all I have seen and read. Six colors for the Rime viewer. Six eye symbols. Six lights in the wahrk room. Six marbles in the press. Riven might be the Fifth Age, and the base twenty-five math system might be tangentially linked to the number five… But now I wonder if six isn’t actually the more important D’ni number. If all goes well and I manage to meet Atrus again, I should ask him.

I turn away to rifle through the rest of Gehn’s belongings. On the sill by the window I find a small wire globe—a viewer—similar to the one I found in the schoolhouse. I crank the handle.

The imager plays a recording.

A woman appears, but it’s not Catherine. She’s very pretty and has a delightful, light laugh. I can’t understand what she says but she speaks softly and earnestly, with much love and affection, before her image fades from view.

I find out who she is when I turn to another wall. On it hang two photographs, as well as a musical instrument similar to an oboe that seems to confirm my earlier thought that Gehn recorded himself playing the music I heard upstairs.

One of the photographs is a man I don’t recognize. He’s older and bears some resemblance to Gehn and Atrus. Possibly Gehn’s father?

Keta, Gehn’s wife.

A message handwritten on the photograph of the woman reads, To Gehn, my husband and my salvation. I dedicate myself to the love that rescued me. I wonder where she is and, if she is alive, has she missed Gehn—not to mention her son Atrus—all these years?

On the bedside table I find a journal and a small, silver device. Faintly I can hear it ticking. Possibly a clock of some kind?

A D’ni timepiece.

When I touch it, the device opens, revealing that it is indeed a timepiece. It also loudly plays a series of sounds—the same kind of sounds I heard from the tabs in the caged alcove on Prison Island. I play the combination several more times to make sure I’ve memorized it, then pick up Gehn’s journal, propping myself on the edge of his bed to read it.

The first entry begins with a recounting of Catherine’s arrival in Riven and how she slipped from Gehn’s grasp immediately afterward. He goes on to write about how desperately he needs to get back to D’ni if he’s to ever resurrect the lost civilization. I scowl when I read that he thinks Atrus is “emotionally crippled”—not so regretful of how he treated his son after all—and how gleeful he seems when he writes about how easy it will be to keep his wahrks fed because the Rivenese are acting up following Catherine’s arrival.

As I read more of Gehn’s arrogant drivel about resurrecting the D’ni civilization, his condescending snark about the intelligence of the Rivenese, and his smug satisfaction at finally capturing Catherine, I find I have no regrets about trapping him in the prison book—until I reach the entry dated 87.6.20. Gehn’s handwriting is shaky and the pages are stained with water drops. Tears? The entry is about his wife. Keta, he writes, you were the only true kindness I have ever known. Watching you flicker there in the imager… I sometimes wonder if you were real. If I could restore your life with my pen, I would do so in an instant, and leave the rest of the world to their own wretched fate.

I pause to look up at her photo again, feeling a pang of sadness. If nothing else, these words, written in a moment of true loneliness and despair, lay Gehn’s naked heart out as a widower. Despite everything else he is and all the evil things he’s done, he still loves his wife and misses her deeply. Suddenly I feel guilty for having stampeded in on his privacy.

Gehn’s heartfelt moment is brief; the next entry in his journal is angry. Ah, he is raging about my arrival and how his “useless minion” was unable to capture me either. It’s the last entry in the journal—apparently, waiting and observing my activities around the islands kept him too busy to write more.

I close the journal and put it back on the table, wondering if, one day, someone else might find their way in here and read it. What will they think?

No matter. It’s time to free Catherine and signal Atrus. I make my way back to the linking books upstairs.

Prison Island

The lift takes me up to Catherine’s cell, but she refuses to come into the room to speak to me, so I go back down to the alcove where the switch is. Pressing the tabs in the correct order and then throwing the switch results in a satisfying metallic grind as the cage bars swing to the side. Then the lift goes back up and Catherine eagerly joins me. “We have to move quickly,” she says. “Gehn’s people may already know what’s happening.” Then she asks to see the prison book.

“You did it. We’re all free!”

When she sees Gehn trapped inside, her shock quickly turns to elation. “You did it. We’re all free!”

I can’t hear Gehn, nor see the gateway image, but I imagine he must be howling with rage at Catherine’s face grinning down at him.

Catherine closes the book and goes on to tell me she will take care of getting the villagers to safety. I’m tasked with returning to Temple Island to open the Star Fissure. That will be the signal Atrus has been waiting for.

When we arrive at the bottom of the lift, Catherine dashes off ahead, leaving me alone. By the time I can reach the dome, she’s gone and I have to use the viewer to stop the rusted contraption from spinning so I can get inside.

I try not to feel too dismayed when I link to the 233rd Age to find myself standing inside the locked cage again. So much for trying to plan ahead. A quick look through the linking books around me shows that Catherine has ripped out the gateway image pages in all but the book that leads to Temple Island. The others are forevermore inoperable. I link through after her, leaving the 233rd Age behind.

Temple Island

As expected, there’s no sign of Catherine when I arrive back in Riven. Although I feel some urgency and eagerness, I also take my time to make my way from the linking book, around the golden dome, and back to the Star Fissure in order to give her enough opportunity to get to the village and evacuate the people there to Tay.

As I walk, I realize all is not how I left it. The catwalk inside the golden dome has been retracted, preventing me from going the full way around if I wished to. I take one last look at the interior of the dome and the pool below before turning to the exit and throwing the lever that will lower the stairs from the marble press level so I can get across to the gate room. Once across, I go down the stone steps and arrive where my journey in Riven began.

Full circle.

The pipes leading to the telescope pop and hiss quietly as I approach. By reviewing Catherine’s journal I’m reminded of the combination I need to open the hatch below the lens. Pulling the hatch up reveals a pane of glass, and before I do anything else I curiously put my eye to the telescope’s viewer.

A foggy view into the cosmos.

There’s definitely a field of stars down there, but the view isn’t clear. There’s too much light spilling in over the lens. The telescope must not be positioned properly.

I fiddle with the winch, lowering the scope until it hits a protective stop and the lens is just above the glass barrier over the fissure. Then I put my eye back to the viewer.

My god, it’s full of stars!

Amazing. A whole universe spreads out beneath the iron panels at my feet. Myriad worlds must exist in that vast glittering abyss, including Myst and, somewhere, the place I came from.

I wonder about the large black empty area in the middle of the field, and watch for a while longer, but the view seems timeless and unchanging.

As I step away from the scope, I glance toward Jungle Island. Has Catherine had enough time to get the villagers down into the tunnels to link through to Tay? Opening the fissure will mean the end of Riven and it would be a cruel fate indeed if anyone is left behind. But she asked me not to wait for her, so I look down at the legs supporting the telescope. On the left is the safety stop that prevents the winch from lowering the telescope further.

All that stands between Riven and the abyss below is a single pane of glass.

I pull the safety stop out and then lower the telescope one last time.

Breaking the seal.

The lens strikes the glass and cracks it. Panic grips me as the fissure starts to open. I’m about to get sucked into the void of space!

Wind rushes by, the sky darkens, and the telescope vanishes.


I am the harbinger of destruction. Riven is coming to an end.

Chaos and destruction.

Strangely, I seem immune to the pull of the fissure. The iron plating ruptures and the giant dagger of the Black Moiety tumbles forward to disappear below me, but I’m still able to stand at the fissure’s edge, watching with horror and dismay as this world crumbles.

A moment later, Atrus appears at the link-in point and runs toward me. His coat and hair are buffeted by the rushing wind but he, too, seems unaffected by the pull of the Star Fissure. “There isn’t much time,” he says. “Where’s Catherine? Where’s the book?” I’m not given a chance to explain anything, for Catherine arrives just then.

Loved ones, reunited.

All my hard work, all the worries and doubts, all the danger now feels worth it to see these two reunited. They embrace before Catherine gives Atrus the prison book. Then they both approach me. Catherine says the villagers have been safely evacuated, and they both thank me for my help. “You’ve given me back my life,” Atrus says, before allowing Catherine to link first back to D’ni.

Then my blood runs cold.

Atrus links away, leaving me behind!

“This is where our paths must part,” Atrus says. “Perhaps we’ll meet again someday. You know where to find me.” Then he holds his book out over the fissure and links away before I can stop him. The book tumbles into the abyss.

You’ve got to be kidding me!

The ground gives way beneath my feet and I fall into the fissure. As I’m sucked into the ocean of stars, I manage to twist around and look behind me.

Looking up at the Star Fissure, from the other side.

I can see the tear in Riven that represents the Star Fissure in the midst of a black smudge and I wonder if that means the other black area I glimpsed before is somehow an entrance to another world.

Riven diminishes into the distance and I wonder how long it will take for that Age to collapse and completely die. The people of Riven are free, but what of the sunners, the ytrams, and other creatures left behind? Fleetingly, I feel bad for the wahrk, but then turn my worries to myself.

I’m still falling. Is this my end? I realize I can do nothing but wait to see what future has yet to be written for me.

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The Slow Writer Sun, 05 Feb 2017 22:55:24 +0000 Read More]]> When I was in school (roughly twenty years ago now, yikes), I was always carrying around a notebook and generally scribbling something down any chance I got: diary entries, letters, stories, fanfic. I wrote a ridiculous amount of words back then (most of them not very good).

Then what happened? I graduated high school and things changed. The world said I had become an “adult”. The fanfic I was writing at the time turned into a drama-filled burden, so I quit that and decided to put my effort into other written work instead. But I also got a “real” job (then another, and finally another), bought my first house, and started to have “life things” going on, many of them not good. I wrote less. Then a lot less. Projects stagnated, then were shelved. Some of those not good “life things” actually got pretty bad and for several years straight I basically wrote absolutely nothing worth mentioning.

2010 was the turning point, sort of. I was still a godawful mess that year, but I was also getting more involved with EVE OnlineSolitary Pilot became a thing, and between 2010 and the fall of 2012 I wrote 225,000 words on that website. I’ve since added more, but that was the bulk of it.

Holy shit. 225,000 words! Gimme a minute here, mind is blown.

Okay, so, obviously I was not the slow writer when that was going on, and looking back on it now, I have to say that is actually a pretty epic achievement. But how many words did I write for any of my other projects during that time? Eh. None, though in June 2011 I did have one very excellent conversation with a creative buddy about how to resolve several entrenched problems with Heart of the Empire. My writing for EVE Online was going so well, I hoped to keep riding that wave and I had every intention of getting back into my original work. I did! Alas, the “road to hell” and all that… Obviously I didn’t actually get back to HOTE and when the shit hit the fan at the end of 2012 all my fiction writing ground to a halt again. Nothing at all was posted to Incyanity until the fall of 2014 when I started trying to revamp this website, and while Solitary Pilot did see activity between 2012 and 2014, almost all of it was out-of-character content. It was like I didn’t know what fiction writing was anymore.

I realized recently that I am the slow writer. No two ways about it. Even though I have nothing to show for it, all these years I have still been “working” on my various fiction projects via the process described by the pie chart. Mostly I’ve been in the first three wedges. A lot. The problem is getting around to that last wedge: writing actual sentences. I need to write actual sentences.

The “life things” aren’t so bad anymore. After 2014 ended, I wanted to get back to doing all those things I hadn’t been doing for all those years. I had to fix my domestic situation first, and that took some doing. In the meantime, I started playing other games and began writing here about that. Most recently, I learned to crochet, and have also been writing here a bit about that. There have still been some other “life things” I’ve had to deal with along the way that have beaten up on my creativity, but lately, you know, things are getting better. Even if I haven’t been writing creatively, at least I have been writing something.

But Heart of the Empire continued to sit there, staring me in the face every time I posted something else to my website. When will you work on me? it asked. Argh. For the longest time that story has felt like this massive stinking mess with no easy point of re-entry. Soon, I would tell myself. I’ll work on it again soon.

In June of 2016, having still not touched HOTE at all, upon the encouragement of a friend I threw up my hands and said, fuck it, I’m going to start writing a brand new “just for me” story, simply for my own personal enjoyment, because I can. Even if it turned out to be the most horrible, embarrassing, ridiculous thing ever, I should just write something. I was out of practice trying to write “serious” fiction, and thought that was probably another reason why I was avoiding HOTE so much. Why not work on something I could let loose on and have fun with, to rediscover and reawaken the writer of myself? No pressure, no audience, just do what I wanted, and to hell with any rules or expectations. So I did. It was hard to get started; I actually felt intimidated by the idea of writing this silly piece of fiction even though I kept telling myself the whole point was to not take it seriously. Now it’s just shy of 26,000 words. I might not finish it; I might turn it into something else. (No, I won’t post it anywhere no matter how much you beg!) Still… I have been writing actual sentences.

In November of 2016 I started reposting some of my early Solitary Pilot writing on as an experiment, not just to see if I could expand my readership a little, but also to see if revisiting that old work (and doing some minor editing and revision) would help me get back into the right frame of mind to continue roleplaying in EVE, finish off the threads that need finishing, and begin writing more “serious” fiction again. It seems to be working, at least a little bit.

But still no work on HOTE.

This past Christmas, my friend Mat visited me for a couple of weeks. We spent a good portion of our time working on creative things together, talking through ideas and encouraging each other to overcome creative roadblocks. I think our most productive sessions happened while at the coffee shop up the street from where I live. He wrote a little about the fruits of that effort here. For me, he helped me look at things I have continued to be stuck on for Heart of the Empire, and though I’ve now (temporarily) unpublished the existing chapters from Incyanity, on Christmas Eve I also, for the first time in I don’t know how many years, updated some of the other HOTE content still on the site. Mat helped me fill some holes and get crucial worldbuilding work done. It’s not much, but it is a start. Thanks to Mat I think I have a way to get back into this story, and that is awesome.

Mat’s visit highlighted something vital to me. The slow writer—or, at least, this slow writer in particular—is also slow when working in a vacuum. All those years I didn’t do much of anything? They were also years I didn’t really have any creative buddies to share my work with in the same way I shared when Mat was here. When I think about it now, a good portion of what I wrote on Solitary Pilot over the course of 2010 and 2011 was also greatly helped along thanks to other people who willingly brainstormed with me, gave feedback, reviewed my work, and so on. I can rattle around in my head and daydream in the shower all I want, and a writer’s work should mostly come from their own effort…but sometimes there’s just no substitute for a creative friend’s encouragement to help get the wheels turning and keep them moving. Thanks, Mat.

I’m hoping I’ll stay in that last pie chart wedge for the next little while.

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On the Radar Thu, 02 Feb 2017 00:23:33 +0000 Read More]]> Intaki V – Moon 5 – Astral Mining Inc. Refinery

The crisp, polite knock on her office door was familiar and not unwelcome. “Come in, Bataav,” Sakaane called out in response. The door opened, then closed, and she heard nothing more. She never did, even though she knew he had entered, crossed the room, and was waiting patiently for her to look up from the document she was working on. A silent, comforting shadow.

She scribbled on the paper for a moment longer, paused to examine what she’d written, then shook her head. Sometimes it helped to write, actually apply pen to paper, rather than simply conjuring up words digitally via her neocom, but today it seemed her muse insisted on being elusive regardless. Pushing the document aside, she met Bataav’s gaze with a warm smile. “What do you have for me?”

He returned her smile and took one last step toward her desk, offering her a datapad. “Something curious.” Taking a seat in the chair she gestured to, he added, “It just came in.”

Sakaane glanced over the mail. “‘I am preparing an investigative report concerning narcotics trade near the Intaki homeworld,’” she quoted. “‘Your organization’s efforts to disrupt the activities of a Serpentis-affiliated local Intaki drug dealer, Aacryx Vultron, have come to my attention. The ILF’s aggressive push-back against this criminal is noteworthy.’ Well, it’s certainly nice to be noticed.”

Bataav nodded. “The sender is a gentleman named Zorzion, a ‘roving correspondent’ with The Scope. He goes on to say that Vultron appears to have gone to ground, which matches with our intel.”

“Laying low, to regroup after his losses to us?”

“Possibly. He might not have anticipated he’d attract our attention quite so soon after his arrival in Intaki.”

Sakaane smirked. “Surprise.” She read over the rest of the mail. “Have you run a background check on this reporter?”

Bataav accepted the datapad back from her. “It’s compiling right now. He hasn’t been with The Scope that long. Interesting that of all the daily clashes in Placid that this in particular has come up on their radar.”

“Junior reporter, on his first assignment. Could be as simple as all the really juicy stories are already spoken for by his more senior colleagues. Either way, we should take him up on his offer to comment. Never hurts to wave the flag.”

The Mahesha stood. “I’ll write up a statement. Davadas, Suresha.” Then he was gone, gliding out of her office as silently as he had come.

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A Big Thank You – Pod Pal Auction Mon, 30 Jan 2017 00:30:19 +0000 Read More]]> My first Pod Pal auction has ended with Otto Bismarck as the winner!

Wow. Seriously, WOW. I’m completely floored by the response. Mind is officially blown and broken. When I started talking about making Pod Pals and did the beta Sakaane I didn’t really expect that other players would think it was that much of a cool idea. Grown men and women, hardcore EVE players, getting excited about a doll? Nah. Not exactly on the same level as commissioning an alliance logo, a painted portrait, a corp video, or a Guristas toque, eh? At best, maybe it’d be a curiosity that people would smile at and say “that’s neat” and then change the subject, and I’d become that weird crocheting gamer.

Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained… I was going to make one for myself either way, and if nobody ever expressed interest in wanting one for themselves, well, that would have been disappointing but not the end of the world.

I’m actually quite shy. Putting myself ‘out there’ isn’t in my nature. I constantly deal with anxiety and other unfortunate feelings. In some ways, playing EVE has helped me get better at handling that part of myself, while in other ways it’s made it way more difficult. Deciding to throw my hat in the same ring occupied by very highly visible and respected players who offer incredibly excellent, high-quality commissions in a variety of mediums caused a lot of debate in my head over whether I should try it in the first place or if I was just kidding myself by aspiring to it. After Mynxee took her Pod Pal to EVE Vegas and I received all the very positive and encouraging comments thanks to the photos she posted, I did feel much more confident that offering Pod Pals to the playerbase would be an okay thing to do. Reactions to Pod Pal Darius reinforced the decision. CCP Logibro saying he wants one was seriously an OMG moment.

Despite all of that, when I posted the auction a week ago, a grain of fear settled in my gut that whispered, What if no one bids? Self-doubt is incredibly difficult to live with. No matter what, it’s constantly there and it seeps into every aspect of everything I do and it’s stubborn as hell to get rid of. Did those people actually mean what they said or were they just saying it to be polite? What if no one bids?

Then the likes and retweets started to come in. Then the first bid arrived (thanks Mark!), then more likes and retweets, then the next bid… I posted Pod Pal Rixx and my Twitter feed started to explode. I walked around in an amazed, stunned state. Holy shit, guys. What I was seeing was nothing at all like what I expected, really. More bids. More likes, more retweets. More well wishes and encouragement. Saturday I wandered around whispering “oh my god” to myself and was thankful I had just parked the car when even more bids came in, because if my phone had flashed those messages while I was driving I probably would have gone off the road.

Not thinking I needed a sniper rule? Totally my bad. I didn’t in a million years think the interest would be this high. Lesson learned. I will include one next time!

To everyone I want to say, thank you so much. Whether you submitted bids, signal boosted the auction with retweets and quotes, tapped the like button, commented—everything! I am amazed, stunned, humbled and more than a little emotional over how well this has been received. That grain of fear was called as primary and has been properly annihilated. Thank you!

Now I have a Pod Pal to make. :)

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Pod Pal Auction! Mon, 23 Jan 2017 00:00:37 +0000 Read More]]> If you’ve been waiting to get a Pod Pal, now’s your chance! An auction has just started on my Twitter account and will run until 17:00 Mountain on January 29, 2017. To make your bid, read the image attached to that tweet for instructions!

The easiest way to see who has bid so far is to check the Twitter thread.

Good luck!

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Revisiting Sec Status Sun, 08 Jan 2017 06:19:22 +0000 Read More]]> In August of 2014 I wrote a post called EVE Unbalanced – The Sandbox is a Lie and in one part of it I explored an idea of how player security status could potentially be made more meaningful. I still think the idea has merit and is a change worth making to reduce EVE Online’s “villain” bias so “hero” play can be more integrated and more visibly represented in the game. Having sat on the idea now for two and a half years, I’d like to expand on it a little, particularly in light of other small mechanic changes CCP has introduced recently.

Standings toward NPC corps now have additional practical application thanks to the new mining fleets. I was really excited about this; it creates new and worthwhile motivation for players to engage in PVE and even to be more choosy about which corps they PVE for. Great! While standings are a totally separate thing to sec status, the mining fleets elegantly demonstrate how CCP can make a relatively small change to an existing mechanic that results in reasonably meaningful impact for lots of players.

So what about sec status? The issue I lamented about before still exists: PVPers are unilaterally punished by CONCORD in the form of sec status hits regardless of the sec status of their target (excluding criminal flags or combat in lawless space). Still dumb overall, while positive sec only being obtainable via PVE continues to foster the nasty and toxic attitudes that exist about positive sec, PVE, and carebears.

The Idea

I posited before that sec status should actually be awarded or revoked based on the difference in sec status between the attacker and the target. The idea in its basic form is this:

  • Sec status below zero equates to varying degrees of “criminal” PVP; above zero equates to varying degrees of “lawful” PVP; sec of zero is literally “neutral”.
  • If a player with negative or neutral sec attacks a player with higher sec status than their own, CONCORD should view this as a bad action and slap the attacker with a sec hit;
  • If a player with neutral or positive sec attacks a player with positive sec, CONCORD should also see this as a bad action and slap the attacker with a sec hit;
  • If a player with neutral or positive sec attacks a player with negative sec, CONCORD should view this as a good action and award the attacker with a sec increase;
  • If a player with negative or neutral sec attacks a player with lower sec status than their own, CONCORD should also see this as a good action and award the attacker with a sec increase.
  • No -10 or +10 cap on sec status. Go as low or as high as you can based on how active you are in PVP.

This system would make the sec grind completely PVP-focused regardless of which side of zero someone is on, effectively allowing players whose only desire is to PVP to concentrate completely on that playstyle. Negative sec players would not have to be forced into PVE in order to recover their rating. Obviously, this also means divorcing PVE activities from sec status so that PVE only grants standings gain/loss (no more sec bonuses from killing NPCs). “Tags for sec” should be converted to “tags for standings” and PVE players could turn them in to any NPC corp instead of just CONCORD.

Result: negative and positive sec status become equal in-game indicators of PVP prowess and credibility across the playerbase. Negative sec means you play as a villain and you’re going to find it hard or impossible to get into hisec (lawful space); positive sec means you play as a hero and hisec continues to welcome you with open arms.

Like with standing gains and losses, the amount of sec status hit or increase applied would be percentage based. The larger the difference between attacker and target, the bigger the penalty or bonus. This would ideally encourage players to seek out more challenging targets in order achieve greater impact to their sec status in less time, the idea being that someone with a sec status value further away from their own should mean the target is that much more practiced and thus more valuable and worthwhile to hunt. (Griefers and players looking for “easy” kills will, of course, do the opposite by seeking out characters whose sec status hovers around zero. Depending on the sec of the griefer, the trade off of focusing on these less credible/experienced PVP targets will be less impact to the griefer’s sec status and thus less visible “PVP cred”.)

This change would be a boon for pirate and anti-pirate players alike (and invested roleplayers in particular), allowing them to more easily make informed choices about who they attack and why, depending on what they want their sec status to say about their playstyle and PVP credibility. Other players who don’t care what their sec status says would continue PVPing against everyone as they already do.

Filling the Gaps

My original idea from 2014 wasn’t complete. For example, it didn’t address situations where the attacker loses the fight. What should happen then? The easy answer is to have CONCORD do the sec calculation in reverse, but in some scenarios this could actually produce a result the triumphant target might not want (for example, -8.2 attacks -6.8 and loses; -6.8 would get a sec increase, pushing him or her closer to 0 when maybe -6.8 doesn’t want to go that way). In the grand scheme of things this scenario might not actually matter too much depending on how big of a change the calculation grants; that player could easily go off and attack some higher sec players to drive sec status back down again.

What about when the combat is more than a 1v1? Whether the target is attacked by one player or one hundred players the sec calculation could still be done on a per-player basis so each attacker has their sec adjusted accordingly. The game already calculates percentage of damage contributed by each player on a kill report so it should be able to figure out who needs to have their sec adjusted in a similar manner. With the additional monitoring the crimewatch system does for remote repping and things like that, the sec calculation could be extended to those pilots as well because they are participating in attacking the target.

What should happen if one of the involved parties escapes? The initial attack occurs but maybe the target slips out of scram range and warps off, or the attacker realizes he’s in over his head and breaks off, or it’s simply a stalemate and both parties disengage. What happens if the ship explodes but the pod gets away? In all of these scenarios the key is that one player still aggressed another, so a multi-stage calculation system would be needed: one penalty (or increase) for hitting F1 at the start, then a second penalty (or increase) depending on whether or not a ship explodes, then a third penalty (or increase) depending on whether or not the pod explodes. The initial penalty/increase would be smaller than the second one, and the second smaller than the third one, even if the second and/or third ones aren’t applied in the end. Why? Because hitting F1 is easy; sticking it out for a fight is harder; catching a pod is (in principle) hardest—and in the end, the sec status adjustment should be viewed as part of the reward for seeing combat all the way through (being committed to the playstyle), even if the individual value gets lower as a result of the player’s actions.

Duels? Sec adjustments shouldn’t be applied here. CONCORD shouldn’t care if both parties willingly decide to bash each other’s brains out.

War decs? Setting aside how broken the war decs mechanic is, no sec adjustments when under war either. Yes, this means if players end up really valuing what their sec status says about their PVP cred, it ends up being in their best interest not to declare war except for really exceptional circumstances.

Attacking fellow fleet, corp, or alliance mates? If anything, this should result in a hefty negative sec adjustment for the attacker regardless (a true punishment), especially if friendly fire is illegal in the corporation. (Friendly fire should be an option for an executor corp to apply across an entire alliance, too.)

Nullsec? Anoikis? Interesting question. Right now, PVP in lawless space doesn’t impact sec status. I can imagine the null players might not care, but some might enjoy showing their “PVP cred” with this kind of mechanic. Others might be completely opposed. Since I only play in lowsec and hisec, I can’t speak to implementing my idea in lawless space, but if those players did see value in it and it was introduced there I’m sure CCP could come up with some kind of lore explanation about why it happens even though CONCORD is nowhere to be seen. (After all, if not CONCORD, what in-character entity is responsible for generating kill reports out there? If you can have kill reports why can’t you have sec status too? Surely there are players out in 0.0 who want to play as “heroes” against the “villains” of null.)

Attacking new players in new player systems? I get that griefing is permitted in EVE but the game won’t go on without newbies who stick around longer than their first few days. Burning newbies in the starter systems is a fantastic way to make many of them quit. To discourage villain players from farming newbies, newbie systems should probably be immune from sec adjustments. If that doesn’t sit well, then the punishment for attacking in newbie systems should be so severe that it makes it highly inconvenient for the attacker to do it in the first place (or unrealistic to do it more than once on a given character) so as to encourage those PVPers to find more suitable targets elsewhere.

In implementing this, CCP could issue an optional one-time sec status “reset” to every character. On logging in after downtime when the mechanic change has been launched, everyone could be presented with a dialogue box that tells them what their current sec is and gives them the option to keep that value or reset it to zero depending on their PVP preference. Villains who want to stay villains would opt to keep their negative sec. Heroes who have been stuck with negative sec could reset to zero to more easily begin building positive sec. Everyone else who doesn’t care or doesn’t dabble in PVP can make their choice accordingly. A sec status reset token could also be added to the AUR store for players to buy when they want or need to get back to neutral sec faster than grinding will allow.

So in the end, the entire mechanic might work something like this:

Revisiting Sec Status Flowchart

Revisiting Sec Status Flowchart

In this system, being the attacker is generally better than being the target, since the attacker ends up with three opportunities to impact his sec status whereas the target has only two chances. This puts some emphasis on being proactive in PVP, which is good for everyone and should appeal to the min/maxxers out there who would want to get the biggest sec status change possible. But the flowchart asks, “TARGET Safety off?”, talks about lifting safety restrictions, and has three instances of “Safety Penalty”. What’s this about?

Let’s Talk About Safeties

In principle, the current safety feature is not bad, but in practice having three options is more complicated than necessary. It’s just one more thing in an already complicated UI that people have to remember to change depending on where they are and what they’re doing. More than once I’ve heard comments like, “I died because I forgot I was set to green” or “My safety was off and I didn’t notice I was in hisec” or “His pod got away because I was set to yellow”.

Instead, I’d like to see the safety feature simplified to an on/off toggle:

  • Safety is “off”: Players are allowed to initiate every type of PVP act.
  • Safety is “on”: Players are not allowed initiate any type of PVP act.

This would still be “safe” in the sense that “on” would prevent players from accidentally CONCORDing themselves. If they have no interest in PVP, they also wouldn’t be able to steal from owned wrecks or otherwise do anything that amounts to taking action against another player, period. If they want to do any of those things, then they have to set the safety to “off” and take the risk of incurring the entire range of PVP consequences the game has, including CONCORDOKKEN.

Of course, the toggle should not prevent any player from defending themselves when attacked by someone else, even if safety is set to “on”. If attacked, all bets should be off and the targeted player can freely fire back.

Some players don’t like that griefing is permitted in EVE and want more protection, while the opposition bemoans making EVE “more safe”. Both sides of the argument have merit, particularly when it comes to discussions about respecting different playstyles.

Everyone has to face it: some players simply do not want to PVP. That isn’t going to change. They have zero interest in that aspect of the game. They are content to sit in whatever system (whether or not it’s hisec) and mine rocks, suck gas, shatter ice, run agent missions, take hauling contracts, tweak PI, explore, build, invent, trade, whatever. Signal Cartel proves how desirable and successful the non-combatant way of life in EVE Online is to some people.

Non-PVPers will naturally tend to have their safety set to “on” (or green, in its current iteration). Under the mechanic I outlined above, these players would also tend to have sec status of zero because none of the activities they engage in would result in sec status changes, except in cases where they are attacked and overcome their attacker.

When a PVPer comes along and is deciding whether or not to attack one of these players, he would still have the ability to do so, but the other player’s safety being “on” should act as a deterrent (not a prevention) to griefing. Why attack someone who obviously isn’t a PVPer other than because the attacker is too lazy to find someone with better PVP experience? This is where the “Safety Penalty” comes in as that deterrent.

Every capsuleer ship comes equipped with a basic level of defense capability in the form of its inherent hp levels and damage resistances. After that, it’s up to the fitted modules and the skill of the pilot to achieve victory in combat. But, just as how we have anti-virus software in the real world to automatically scan and quarantine threats to our PCs, I’d like to think the ships of New Eden would also have some kind of defense software built in to assist the capsuleer when the ship is threatened.

Call it a kind of basic EWAR if you like: when safeties are on and the ship is attacked, I envision Aura reacting by “hacking” the attacker’s ship to compromise the attacking ship’s systems for the duration of the conflict. This is the Safety Penalty and the idea is to make the fight a little harder for the attacker. It would be a passive debuff against the attacker that the target can’t influence, similar to the “capsule interference” debuffs that are experienced during Sansha Incursions.

Penalties would be applied only if the target’s safety was set to “on” prior to the attack being initiated. Players with active PVP timers or PVP combat flags would not be able to change their safety setting, meaning an attacker couldn’t aggress and then turn his own safety “on” to trigger a debuff against the target when the target fires back. (Remember, he can’t do the reverse either, because having the safety set to “on” means he wouldn’t be able to initiate PVP against the target in the first place.) By the same token, if the target didn’t have his safety turned on before being attacked, he is out of luck until after the fight is over because as soon as he’s attacked he’ll get a combat flag. A target switching to “on” just prior to being engaged should have to wait for a spool up timer—this so he can’t leave his safety off until the very last second and then switch it on just as he is being yellow-boxed. Being engaged before the spool up timer finished would override the process of turning the safety on.

Safety Penalty 1 would come into effect as soon as the attacker hits F1 for the first time. This debuff could reduce the attacker’s rate of fire, damage bonus, and damage resistances.

If the target’s ship explodes, the attacker immediately gets Safety Penalty 2. This would be like “Aura’s Revenge”: as the target’s ship explodes, the onboard AI makes a last-ditch effort to “hack” the attacker’s systems in an attempt to help the capsuleer’s pod escape. Under Safety Penalty 2 the attacker’s ship still has a chance to catch the target’s pod but the debuff will make this more difficult by inheriting the debuffs from Safety Penalty 1 and adding, say, reduced targeting time, reduced scram/disruptor strength, and reduced web strength. The attacker will have to be on the ball to get the pod kill and the sec adjustment.

If the attacker catches the pod and blows it up, the attacker gains Safety Penalty 3 from the capsule’s onboard AI carrying on where the ship’s AI left off. Along with the criminal flag (in lowsec and hisec) this debuff would inherit everything from the previous two penalties while adding increased align time and reduced acceleration, making the attacker an attractive target for other PVPers who might happen to be in the same system, thereby encouraging even more engagements.

The debuffs would last until expiration of the weapons timers/combat flags or the destruction of the attacker’s ship, whichever happens first. Of course, these could not be huge debuffs, otherwise too much advantage would be given to the target (provided the target is in a ship that is equipped to fight back). In this way, griefers would still be able to grief just as they can today, just not quite as effectively as before. The point is to encourage the PVPers to put more focus on other legit PVPers rather than players who are dabbling in other activities.

There would have to be a visible indicator of safety status in order to give attackers a way to easily determine who is a viable target and who is a waste of their time. Creating a new color tag to indicate “Pilot Safety is off” (meaning they do want to PVP) would probably be easiest, and then players can set their Overviews accordingly. The crosshair icon but with a red background (instead of orange for kill rights) might be a good choice.

Would this safety change mean “everyone” would fly around with safeties on to make life difficult for attackers? Possibly. But keep in mind that safeties on would mean those targets couldn’t initiate any kind of PVP action themselves, so they’d look like the oft-disdained carebears while they do it, and a spool up timer would force players to choose carefully when they change from “on” to “off” (and vice versa). Flying with safeties off could simply become a matter of honor: If you’re serious about PVP, you’ll never turn it on. A true PVPer might just disregard people who fly with safeties on as not being worth the time or effort, unless the ship would make for a really juicy kill report regardless.

Baiting tactics would have to adapt too. Will you sit by yourself in a belt or a plex with your safety on, hoping your attacker is a dumbass or isn’t paying attention? Or will you sit there with your safety off to shout to the entire system that you want a fight and leave it to your attacker to decide whether or not you have friends waiting in the wings?

So, what do you want your sec status to say about you?

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Ardrakin Lifetime Sat, 24 Dec 2016 19:30:37 +0000 You must be logged in to view this article.

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Ardrakin Anatomy Sat, 24 Dec 2016 18:23:56 +0000 You must be logged in to view this article.

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Pod Pals Info Page Sun, 30 Oct 2016 23:02:24 +0000 Read More]]> Mynxee took her Pod Pal to EVE Vegas and was kind enough to share pictures! As a result I’ve received a number of really nice comments on Twitter and new interest from other players, all of which made me blush like crazy and squee like a little girl. ♥ Pod Pal Mynxee even got to meet CCP Guard! That’s really awesome. :D

If you’ve been waiting for a chance to find out when you can get a Pod Pal of your very own, there’s a new info page about them up there in the menu. Check it out!

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EVE Online Pod Pals Sun, 30 Oct 2016 20:41:14 +0000 Read More]]>

Several years ago on my daughter’s birthday, she begged me to get the newest Andorandy doll set for her. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find even one of the popular dolls, even though I ran market database searches repeatedly in this region for several weeks. Well, I’m happy to say I turned all that effort into a lucrative business; today, I sell Andorandy dolls and many other sorts here from my offices. Maybe you’ve heard of us? My Little Girl, we’re called.

Anyway, right now I have a problem: I have a shipment of dolls awaiting delivery, but some inventory problems in one of my warehouses are interfering. Can you pick up the dolls for me and deliver them…?

Cargo: 6 x Crates of Raggy Dolls (240.0 m³)

—My Little Girl, Level 2 Distribution Mission

This mission has interested and amused me since my earliest days of playing EVE. Here we have a universe where capsuleers, the immortal demi-gods of the cluster who are feared and awed for their ability to command legions of starships in great battles, who are renown for tossing aside the lives of baseliner crews without so much as a blink of an eye (only to have scores more sign up to replace them), who build corporations, alliances, and coalitions that can rival the major empires…are nevertheless still being tasked to deliver children’s toys.

On the surface, it’s silly, right? Maybe even humiliating. Can you imagine the look on a Brutor’s face when his agent asks him to do this? The agent is more likely to get his skull punched in for even suggesting a capsuleer do something so trivial. And yet… We know from the lore that capsuleers enjoy a kind of celebrity status in the baseliner population. Their wild space adventures attract fans who follow their every move, celebrate their victories, and mourn their losses.

What else do fans like to do? They like to collect merchandise.

When I started crocheting I got to thinking about this, and I wondered, what if those crates of raggy dolls might actually be cuddly stuffies modeled after famous capsuleers that are bought, sold, or traded to the delight of young (or not so young) New Eden denizens everywhere? Collect them all!

This is how my Pod Pal idea was born.

What Is A Pod Pal?

A Pod Pal is a crocheted doll about 3″ in size. Each doll is 100% handmade and customized to look like an EVE Online character.

Here are some pictures of Pod Pals I have made:

I really enjoy seeing pictures of the Pod Pals after they have been received, so please feel free to share your pics!

Cool! How Do I Get One and What is the Cost?

I started out by making Pod Pals as gifts. Occasionally, I’ll still do that. Otherwise, Pod Pals are only available on a commission basis via auction for in-game ISK.

When a commission slot is available an auction will be posted on Solitary Pilot (unfortunately, auctions for out-of-game stuff can’t be posted on the EVE-O forums) and advertised on my Twitter account. Be sure to follow me so you don’t miss your chance to bid!

The cost of your Pod Pal depends on how much you are willing to bid in an auction. The starting bid for each auction is 2B ISK. The highest bid wins.

Current Status: The Fall 2017 Pod Pal Auction is over! Look for the next auction in 2018.

What Happens Next?

If you win the auction, you’ll be notified. Half of your winning bid is due up front in order to secure your spot (see the Fine Print section, below).

You must also ensure your capsuleer has the correct appearance so I can use the in-game viewer to take screenshots. This includes hairstyle, hair color, and eye color in addition to the clothing. Keep in mind that the Pod Pal is intended to be a recognizable version of your character, so if you’re considering making some wild changes to his or her appearance, best do that first. :)

Once I have your ISK and the screenshots, I’ll create a new Pod Pal project on my Ravelry EVE Online Pod Pals page so you can keep track of my progress. I’ll also work with you to color match the yarn and eyes. Along the way I might also create a video or two if I get stuck and need more comprehensive feedback. You’ll need to keep an eye on your in-game mail or provide me with an out-of-game email address that I can reliably contact you at.

How Long Does It Take?

This depends primarily on how complicated your capsuleer’s clothing and hair are, but also on how busy I am with offline commitments. A simple doll can be done as quickly as fourteen days, but on average it takes six to eight weeks to make one. I know that seems like a really long time to crochet, stuff, and assemble a 3″ doll. There are twenty hours (or more!) of work that go into each one, and even though I’m working from a basic pattern, I have to come up with each character’s unique details on the fly. Hair is usually the most challenging part. (This is why I only do one Pod Pal at a time.) Your patience is appreciated!

Getting the Pod Pal

When all the pieces of the doll are ready to be assembled, I will let you know the other 50% of your winning bid is due. Upon receipt of payment, I’ll put the Pod Pal together and then complete the hair. Once the hair is done, the doll is ready to be shipped. A copy of the shipping costs will be provided to enable you to reimburse me via PayPal. Once payment is made I’ll ship the doll and provide you with the tracking number.

The Fine Print

  1. First and foremost: Please be certain you can commit to the full commission before I get started, because it really is a lot of work. :) If you change your mind after I’ve already started I will not refund the ISK you already paid.
  2. If for any reason I become unable to complete your Pod Pal, you’ll get all of your ISK back.
  3. Auctions are only open during specific dates and times. Only bids made in accordance with the rules posted for each auction will be eligible. Bids sent as in-game mails, DMs, in tweets, or by any other means will not be accepted.
  4. The starting bid for each auction is 2B (billion) ISK. The minimum bid increment is 100M (million) ISK. Additionally, if you win you will need to cover the cost of trackable shipping from Canada via PayPal, in Canadian funds.
  5. I will declare the winner when the auction closes. At that point, the winner must confirm their character name and transfer 50% of the ISK value of the winning bid to Sakaane Eionell in-game within seven calendar days of the auction close date. Be sure to spell my in-game character name correctly. I am not responsible if you accidentally transfer your ISK to the wrong place. If your ISK fails to arrive by the due date, you forfeit the commission slot. It will be passed to the next highest bidder from the auction.
  6. When your Pod Pal is ready to be assembled, the other 50% of your winning bid must be transferred to me in-game within seven calendar days of me notifying you. Again, be sure to spell my in-game character name correctly so your ISK goes to the right place. If your ISK fails to arrive by the due date, you will not receive your doll and I will not refund the ISK you already paid.
  7. You will be given the opportunity to approve yarn colors but an exact color match is not guaranteed. Software can generate millions of colors, while the yarn I can use comes from what I have on hand or whatever dye lot happens to be available if I have to go to the store. I will try my best but you must be willing to accept a match that is “close enough”.
  8. You will be given the opportunity to choose the eyes but an exact color match is not guaranteed. Safety eyes come in a limited number of colors and selection is restricted to what I have on hand. You must be willing to accept a match that is “close enough” if you want colored irises, or go with solid black otherwise. Once the eyes are attached to the doll they cannot be removed.
  9. I may not be able to include certain details such as scars, tattoos, logos, buckles, and intricate clothing patterns (it depends on the detail). I may not be able to do hair that is more than one color either depending on the hairstyle. Sorry!
  10. Your winning bid entitles you to one Pod Pal regardless of the value of your bid (so long as it meets or exceeds the 2B ISK starting bid) or the value of winning bids from previous auctions.
  11. I reserve the right to refuse bids and/or cancel commissions from any player who is disrespectful or abusive toward me and my time.

Any questions? Please don’t hesitate to ask!

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Practice Makes Perfect. Sort Of. Sun, 16 Oct 2016 19:10:39 +0000 Read More]]> In February I was still really new to crochet. One of the projects I did back then was a Star Wars stormtrooper. I was reasonably happy with how it came out, but I also knew I could do better. In August, having completed a few other projects in the meantime, I tried the stormtrooper again. The second one came out much better, though in looking at it today I can still see places where further improvement could be done. Here is a comparison of the two, to show how practice makes perfect (sort of) and how quickly it’s possible to improve in crochet over a short period of time. :)

Completed project pictures of both stormtroopers can be found in the Gallery. Here they are side by side:

Left: Stormtrooper 1 (February). Right: Stormtrooper 2 (August).

Left: Stormtrooper 1 (February). Right: Stormtrooper 2 (August).

Both pretty cute, but right away some things stand out:

  1. Stormtrooper 2 is smaller. Both were done with the same hook (3.5mm) and stuffed with the same kind of fill, but my stitches for stormtrooper 2 were tighter and more even.
  2. The arms aren’t the same length. On stormtrooper 1, I followed the pattern as written by Lucy Collin. This results in the arms looking disproportionately long, basically reaching to the doll’s knees. On stormtrooper 2 I skipped a few rounds to make them shorter and more appropriately sized to the doll.
  3. The feet are different. On stormtrooper 1 I was still getting into the habit of using stitch markers, and partway through the legs I forgot to put a marker in. By the time I realized that, I had lost my place and was forced to guess where I was, so his feet came out gibbled. Unfortunately it also means stormtrooper 1 doesn’t stand on his own, which is why he’s so sad (Vader is always unhappy with his performance). In comparison, stormtrooper 2’s feet are properly formed because I never lost my place, and he does stand by himself.

Here’s a closer look at the feet to show how badly they came out the first time as compared to the second try:

Stormtrooper 1 probably doesn’t get disability pay.

Stormtrooper 1 probably doesn’t get disability pay.

The back of each doll shows a few more improvements and areas to keep working on:

Color changes in spiral amigurumi aren’t always neat.

Color changes in spiral amigurumi aren’t always neat.

Color changing from white to black to white again on stormtrooper 1 caused me the frustration I talked about in Ten Tips I Wish Tutorials Had Taught Me. The uneven jogs just look ugly and I would be embarrassed to give or sell an amigurumi project to someone with the color changes looking like that.

On stormtrooper 2 I used the invisible color change method that I described in the tips article, so the jogs are much less apparent. I really like that technique.

On the other hand, because my stitches were tighter on stormtrooper 2, some of the black (along the neck) isn’t as visible as it could be. If I did this pattern a third time I think I would do an extra round in black before changing back. I’m also not sure what happened with the black stitches around stormtrooper 2’s legs—maybe something in that particular color change didn’t quite work out right that time since that one black stitch is particularly bulgy. More practice!

Here’s a closer look at the color changes on the arms:

No more ugly misalignments!

No more ugly misalignments!

Pretty nasty on stormtrooper 1, eh? It looks like a complete screw up in stitching but that’s just how spiral color changes work out when the new color lasts for at least one full round. Bleh. It takes a bit more effort to do the invisible color change instead (especially because it technically means temporarily breaking the spiral) but the end result seems so much more worth it.

All in all, it’s nice to see how I’ve improved over just seven months and how new tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way can really help a project come out better! Have you ever redone an old project to see how the new work compares and how your skills have improved? Let me know in the comments below!

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Black Desert Online – A New Player’s First Impressions Sat, 17 Sep 2016 03:14:57 +0000 Read More]]> A few weeks ago I was chatting with a friend about my desire to find a game to play which has a social aspect to it but is more or less free of the kind of negativity, stress, and sense of obligation I have experienced in the other MMOs I’ve dabbled in (Age of Conan, EQII, and most particularly, EVE Online). I wanted something I could have fun with but not feel chained to if I didn’t log in for a while. She recommended Black Desert Online (BDO) as an alternative and gave me a guest pass.

BDO is described on Wikipedia as “a sandbox-oriented massively multiplayer online role-playing game by Korean video game developer Pearl Abyss”. It’s had a staggered world-wide release: Korea in 2014; Japan and Russia in 2015; North America and Europe just this year. In NA and EU it’s buy-to-play while the other markets are free-to-play.

I like that it doesn’t have a subscription model. I don’t mind that there’s a cash shop for stuff that can then be sold by players on the in-game market to earn them in-game money. So far to me it feels more like a solo-player game that has other people in it who I can play with if I choose to. I like that I’m protected from PVP encounters until I’m higher level and more familiar with the game.

I spent five days playing quite heavily on the pass, then took a week off my PC to go camping. When I got back I bought the game. Here are my first impressions and early experiences!

A Different Kind of Fantasy

First and foremost, I’m having fun—the kind of fun I haven’t had in an online game in a long time, so that’s a major plus right there. If I hadn’t thoroughly enjoyed myself while playing on the guest pass I wouldn’t have bought the game at all.

The Black Spirit.

The Black Spirit.

BDO being a sandbox is good. In this case I wasn’t looking for something that would funnel me into any kind of linear path of progression like a solo-player game does. Even so, players do get a ‘guide’ called the Black Spirit which accompanies them and acts partially as tutor and partially as…well, I won’t spoil the story. Yes, there is a solo story to follow, if you choose. The game has a plot and rich lore background to it (over 2.8 million words in-game, with more to come). You can totally ignore the Black Spirit if you want.

BDO has a high fantasy setting but it’s not strictly warriors, thieves, mages, dwarves, giants, imps, and elves (though those are present and I hear there will be a playable dark elf class in the future). The setting is familiar enough to satisfy one’s interest in the traditional fantasy tropes but different enough to pique curiosity and avoid seeming like just another rehash of Final Fantasy.

A huge, seamless world to explore.

A huge, seamless world to explore.

I don’t mind that it’s not a single shard game like EVE Online—it’s actually nice to know the assholes in this world (because, let’s face it, there will always be some) aren’t all crammed into the same playing space as me. There are servers for different regions of the real world (NA, EU, KR, RU, etc), and each one has multiple instances. Moving from one instance to another within a server is easy. And, just because a person might live in a given region doesn’t mean not being able to play with friends elsewhere. I already sucked in one of my EVE Online buddies from the UK and we’re playing together on the NA server.

Something amazing about the game is that its world is seamless. The only loading screen players encounter comes up when choosing which character to load onto the map. After that, traveling from one area to another area to yet another area, or entering/exiting buildings, happens no differently than it does in the real world: you simply go there, over hill and dale, and eventually arrive at your destination, or open a door. No transitions, no watching progress bars. Given the size of this world, I don’t know how Pearl Abyss managed it but it’s pretty fantastic. People coming from other games which have fast travel options might find this a bit tedious and even aggravating at first. If you want to get from one side of the map to the other, yes, you really do have to walk, run, or ride the entire length of the map to get there. There are a few ways to ‘cheat’ and perform various kinds of fast travel but these methods are expensive or have certain downsides. The developer wants you to experience the world rather than skipping over it.

Players can choose from a variety of classes to play, which is where the differences in the fantasy setting are most apparent up front: berserker, kunoichi, maehwa, musa, ninja, ranger, sorceress, tamer, valkyrie, warrior, witch, and wizard. Some familiar ones, and some not so much. These classes are all gender-locked but a few have a similar choice for the opposite sex (warrior and valkyrie, maehwa and musa, ninja and kunoichi, wizard and witch). Choosing the opposite gender’s class will generally mean a slightly different style of play, different skills, and overall feel. When I play fantasy games I tend to enjoy casters most so I chose a witch to start with, as I wanted something that would feel familiar while I learned the UI and other unique aspects of BDO. Eventually I want to roll a sorceress and a maehwa, and I might one day try a valkyrie too.

Beautiful Characters

My witch, Nalaiah.

My witch, Nalaiah.

The character creator is pretty slick and offers quite a lot of customization, but not as much as it could. When I created my witch, there were several different face shapes to choose from which could then be sculpted to create a more unique look. As far as I can tell, the pre-rendered faces are specific to the witch class to give all witches a certain similar style overall, while I assume the other female classes have their own sets unique to them.

I actually found this a bit limiting and disappointing, as I couldn’t push the sculpting far enough to get the look I had envisioned at the outset. Having said this, I do like the end result. My witch is cute and youthful!

Too cute to be ferocious.

Too cute to be ferocious.

Where the creator really shines is with skin tone, hair styles, and color selection.

There are a lot of hair styles to choose from, and many aspects of those styles can be sculpted, such as for length, curliness, positioning of the part, etc. I got lost in this aspect of the UI and so far haven’t managed to figure out a good portion of how it works. Choosing hair color was a riot though; the potential combinations are many and varied. I had a hard time settling on the colors I eventually chose.

Skin tone was another area I agonized over. There are so many choices, from the darkest black to the very palest white, and even a few that would result in something a bit…alien. Choice! So much choice. And if your character ends up looking a bit…bizarre or unusual…well, I guess the developer is okay with that if you’re okay with that.

Did I mention that some types of gear (for yourself, and for your mount) can also be dyed different colors to personalize them? Then there are the costumes (also for you or your mount), and the…lingerie…

There’s A Learning Cliff

Nalaiah is pretty uneducated so far.

Nalaiah is pretty uneducated so far.

One thing that hit me right off the bat: BDO is very in-depth, almost overwhelmingly so. There’s a huge amount of stuff to learn about the characters, ecology, and other topics within the game, as well as how the mechanics of the game itself work.

There are in-game tutorials and guides that pop up to assist players with the mechanics but I found some of it goes by too quickly or wasn’t presented well, so I have felt bewildered. For example, on loading the game for the first time I saw that the UI is fantastically minimalistic (a very huge difference for me after EVE’s crowded UI), but at the same time, it took me a frustrating amount of effort to figure out how to toggle the mouse cursor so I could actually click on those bits of the UI that are visible, while a tutorial video that I couldn’t pause whizzed by trying to explain something else that I needed to know. Another example: the tutorials that came up for spell combos progressed in such a way that when they were done I felt like I hadn’t actually learned what I was supposed to learn even though I had passed the tutorials. I passed most of the required steps by accident and never really saw or understood what the advantage of the combos is, and the required controls to achieve them didn’t sink in, so I’m probably not successfully using any of them. I can reasonably deduce that spell combos do enhanced damage, but I feel like the game should actually tell me that and also tell me how I can repeat the tutorial or where I can reference my spell combos later. (I have since learned how to repeat the guide stuff but, jeez.)

Additionally, I’ll admit that the opening cinematic for the game, while interesting, mostly went over my head and didn’t seem altogether relevant immediately after I took control of my character. Now that I’ve progressed through some of the in-game lore a bit I think I need to watch it again so all the bits will click together.

This bewilderment is reminiscent of the bewilderment I remember feeling years ago when I first came up against EVE Online’s learning cliff but in this case is thankfully not as stressful. The pressure to learn in BDO seems different: if I don’t really learn that thing right now it doesn’t seem to be a big deal; I can return to it later, still have a fulfilling play experience in the meantime, and not end up frustrated because I was killed every other time I turned around simply because I don’t quite ‘get it’ yet.

BDO’s fighting system in particular is different to what I’ve encountered before: unlike other MMOs where you can tab or click to target your enemy, and once targeted, that lock sticks unless the target moves out of range, BDO requires you to always pay attention to the direction you’re facing and whether the aiming reticule is red, just like in an FPS. If your target moves, you have to move with it and stay in range. Not every spell or ability can be slotted to a quick key or mouse button either; there are actual key combinations you have to learn (not the same as spell combos) in order to master your class and do good damage (I will admit to having resorted to simply mashing my keyboard a few times). When I was first told about this I wasn’t sure it would be a style of play I would enjoy for this kind of game, as compared to an actual FPS, but now that I’m in it I’m enjoying it a lot more than the old-style tab-targeting systems. It feels more active and involved, totally in a good way.

I’m also told that, as a caster, I have to learn how to dodge and teleport properly in order to avoid the stronger baddies mopping the floor with me if I just stand still. I like that idea a lot too, though so far I’m really bad at actually doing it. It means I have to actually pay attention, even in PVE, which is more realistic to how combat would be if it weren’t a game—which adds to my immersion. On the other hand, it’s a bit challenging and means being able to dance my fingers across a lot of the right keys at the right moment. It means putting more effort into my gameplay like I would have to in an FPS. Too often, PVE in fantasy games simply becomes a mind-numbing click grind. In BDO so far I’ve actually had to think about strategy (where should I aim the spell for maximum effect?)…without it actually being a strategy game.

Because of BDO’s learning cliff, having a knowledgeable buddy to ask questions to has been invaluable to get me started. Thankfully, since the only way to trial the game is to get a guest pass from someone already playing (pass giveaways notwithstanding), new players coming into the game on trials will generally already have someone they know that they can ask to help them through these hurdles too, so I think that’s good for new player retention. The Black Desert Tome, Black Desert Database, and Dulfy’s Black Desert Master Guide List have also been useful resources for me so far.

One last note on this topic:

Gamers would be lost without their spreadsheets.

Gamers would be lost without their spreadsheets.

Just like EVE, BDO is also ‘Spreadsheets Online’. Depending on which activities you engage in, you’re going to need at least one spreadsheet, and maybe more than one, to help you keep track of your stuff. I started building my first spreadsheet within a day of buying the game.

Do All the Things—If You Want

There are a wide variety of activities a person can do beyond questing or PVP, like cooking, building furniture (for your house(s)), building ships, fishing, breeding mounts and pets, hunting, exploration, trading, enhancing gear, crop farming, and who knows what else I don’t know about yet. Compared to other games I know, these activities seem to have been implemented extremely well, particularly when it comes time to make money off your efforts.

So far I’ve encountered four in-game markets: NPC vendors to sell loot trash to; NPC traders to sell trade items to (very much not the same as loot trash, as you have to build and maintain a trade network for this to be at all profitable); the player horse market; and the player item market. The player markets are the only way to move certain items between players, as trading directly between player characters who do not belong to the same family (account) is not allowed (to discourage loot farming). However, you have no idea who is selling on the market and no idea who is buying. Items that can be sold on the player item market are sold based on a floating floor and cap model which prevents price gouging and discourages inflation (as a poor newbie I have very good feelings about this).

This is the sandbox aspect of the game and the amount of choice is fantastic. I have spent entire play sessions dabbling in things that had nothing to do with running to NPCs for quests, like fishing. Just standing along a shoreline and fishing… There are fishing-specific quests too, but you can just fish for yourself as a personal pastime if you want.

Beached and dead.

Beached and dead.

I come from a family that hunts deer, elk, etc in real life for food so I don’t really subscribe to the rhetoric some people spew about hunting, but even so I’m not sure yet how I feel about BDO including whaling as one of the hunting activities. One of the species that can be hunted in BDO is the humpback and that does bother me. I was surprised the first time I saw the in-game broadcast about a blue whale having been spotted, and more than a little sad when I came across a dead humpback on the beach.

Mostly I think I just wasn’t expecting to see hunting represented on such a large scale like this. There’s a difference between a mob of wolves, foxes, bears, or other creatures that will attack your character and fight back when you come around to kill them, and a whale just cruising along in the ocean minding its own business. Just like in real life, BDO whales don’t fight back and the worst thing that can happen to the player is to fall overboard and drown, so in some ways this seems to lean closer to hunting for sport or pleasure, which as a real life activity I don’t agree with.

On the other hand, I get that it’s just a game and these are just pixels. Hunting pixel whales is infinitely better than hunting the real thing. Players (including me!) spend hours in the game slaughtering pixels that represent many other animals and creatures, and even pixels that look like human beings, so ultimately it should all be the same and carry the same amount of discomfort. Somehow it doesn’t; somehow, the idea of whaling seems more horrific than any of the other activities. From what I’ve read, other people are sensitive about engaging in whaling too. Possibly I would feel less unsettled about it if the whales were not so specifically real life species, as compared to the more generic “fox”, “wolf”, “boar”, “deer”, etc. (You know the game developer has done a good job if something in the game touches a moral or ethical nerve in the players.)

From what I understand, hunting the blue whale is an activity that can take an hour or more to complete and requires groups of players to accomplish, so it’s a pretty big investment that fulfills the social aspect of the game and seems similar to participating in a raid or world boss event. Some of the best items in the game can be crafted from things obtained from the whales, and only the top five groups who contributed to the whale kill get to gather resources from the carcass, so it does have its purpose in-game beyond simply being there for a thrill.

I’m not sure yet if whaling is something I’ll ever do. As with everything else in BDO, you don’t have to do any activity if you don’t want to.

My Little Pony

An activity I have found great pleasure in so far is horse breeding. There is some “science” to it (hence my spreadsheet). There are numerous tiers of horses (a tier could be looked at sort of like a breed I guess) and higher tiers are more valuable, faster, have fancier appearances, etc. Nothing wrong with the lower tiers though; they’ll get you by as a traveling companion well enough if that’s all you’re looking for.

If you’re rich you can buy a top-tier horse off the horse market if someone is selling one, but otherwise you’ll have to breed up to it yourself. Unlike other games where mounts are generally locked out from low-level players, BDO lets you get a mount like a donkey very early depending on which quests you do first. After that, once your training skill is sufficiently progressed (took me no time at all), getting your first horse only requires a simple investment in capturing ropes and lumps of sugar—because there are wild horses out there, and you can catch and tame them yourself.

So far I’ve had quite a lot of good luck with my first taming forays, coming away with several wild T1 and T2 stallions and a whack of wild T1, T2, and T3 mares. Apparently this is extraordinary because mares are supposed to be much rarer than stallions in the wild, but mine outnumbered my stallions three to one when I was finished taming after a single day. No, I won’t tell you my secret.

Horses shouldn’t be bred immediately (you can if you want, but as I mentioned, there’s some “science” involved so without that the foal wouldn’t be the best it could be) and while there is also some color theory that can be applied to try to get a particular appearance in the offspring, you still have to pray to the RNG god to give you a good result. My first foals were bred from T1 parents of the same color (light grey body, dark grey manes) with optimized levels. For my effort I received Dijon, an ugly mustard yellow T3 mare with a dark grey mane and roan tail, and Oreo, also a T3 mare with a Holstein-type patterned body, cream mane and tail, and feathered feet.

Foals grow up fast!

Foals grow up fast!

Horses require proper stabling, must be taken care of regarding their tack, health, and stamina (this isn’t as tedious as it sounds), and they can be killed by monsters or other players if you’re not careful where you leave them. They also have skills they can learn (skills must be practiced if they didn’t learn them perfectly the first time, if you care about using them). Best of all, it’s possible to engage in combat while mounted, so long as you have the right tack equipped.

There are other mounts in BDO too: camels and elephants.

I shall call him Dumbo and he shall be mine and he shall be my Dumbo.

I shall call him Dumbo and he shall be mine and he shall be my Dumbo.

I can’t wait to get myself an elephant, just because it’s so small and adorable and OMG I died of the cuteness.

AFK Is Okay

Sometimes, people have time available to play their games but no opportunity to dedicate their full attention to it, and in BDO that’s just fine. What this means is, you can afk certain aspects of the game and nobody will grouch at you for doing so. Actually, I have never before played a game that so intentionally incorporated mechanics that actually help players be afk like BDO does.

Being the complex game it is, you gain experience for doing just about everything including simply walking around, and your progress is displayed in your character’s profile window:

(Darkened areas are not relevant to experience gain.)

(Darkened areas are not relevant to experience gain.)

The uppermost training section with the bars for breath, strength, and health is for your character personally. Breath relates to exercise, which you get just by moving around the world, and increases your available stamina (stamina is used up while sprinting or swimming. For swimming, the more stamina you have, the less likely you are to drown). Strength relates to how much gear, money, and inventory you can carry around with you at one time, which you improve by intentionally lugging around heavy backpacks. Health relates to how much extra HP you have, which you get by eating food (based on the screenshot above, I obviously don’t eat a lot. Hey! Just like real life!). The other bars are for the in-game professions; the lower training bar refers to animal training (taming horses, riding mounts, etc).

In BDO, you can’t afk activities like quests, gathering, etc, which is good. You should be at your computer actually paying attention while those things are going on. However, gaining experience with other things to progress can be a real drag. Nobody likes grinding.

Take fishing, for example. I picked up an Apprentice Fisher’s Uniform as a quest reward very early on. The uniform has a +1 bonus for the fishing ability (shown as 0 Level in the darkened area of the screenshot) which increases the chances of catching better fish when actually fishing. Unfortunately it requires Fishing Beginner 10 to wear, and the screenshot above shows I’m only 19% of the way into Fishing Beginner 8 on this character. So, what to do? I could spend some hours actively fishing along riverbanks and the beach to increase my fishing level. While I do enjoy it as an activity, fishing for too long in one stretch could be super boring and burn me out on it, so an alternative is to afk fish instead. It’s slower, but if there are other things I have to do in the meantime, I can let the game sit open in the background and it will go through all the motions of fishing for me. All I have to do is check periodically to make sure my inventory isn’t full and that my fishing rod’s durability hasn’t been expended. (Gear and other things wear out over time from being used. Your clothing starts to look ragged and even gets holes, tears, etc if you don’t maintain it. Thankfully, stuff doesn’t seem to wear out too quickly.)

Horse training and strength training is another afk boon. The only way to level your horse is to ride it, and the only way to increase your strength is to drag stuff around on your back. BDO lets you set something called an “auto loop”, where you designate a series of waypoints on the map in a complete loop and then set your character to auto run along that path. So long as it’s a proper loop and you don’t get a hiccup in your connection (or, I assume, get attacked; it hasn’t happened to me…yet), your character will continue going around and around on that loop until you tell it to stop. Set it up and put the computer aside, then watch a movie, cook dinner, do housework, read a book, crochet, blog, whatever. Come back to a stronger character or a higher level horse!

I’m not sure yet if there are any other ways to afk in the game like this but even if there aren’t, this is pretty cool to me.

What A Wonderful World

The launch trailer for BDO quotes VG24/7 as saying Black Desert Online is “drop-dead gorgeous”. I am still more or less hanging around in the “starter” areas so I’m not sure about the ‘drop-dead’ part yet but yes, it is very pretty. Just look at these screenshots:

Sunset at the Coastal Cave.

Sunset at the Coastal Cave.

Lumbering by moonlight with the fireflies.

Lumbering by moonlight with the fireflies.

Standing in light and shadow.

Standing in light and shadow.

The golden hour.

The golden hour.

Dashing home before dark.

Dashing home before dark.

Naturally, sunset and sunrise tend to provide the most dramatic screenshots so far. The day/night cycle in the game is done really well, to the point that some NPCs actually go home in the evenings (so are unavailable to access) while others only come out at night. Monsters get stronger and more numerous after dark too. Dark really does mean dark. Depending on where you are, you need a lantern to have any hope of seeing anything unless you have a personal ability that naturally lights up your surroundings. I got stuck in a cellar because it was nighttime, pitch black, and I couldn’t see my way out. I had no lantern so had to wait for the sun to rise and cast some light in. Yep.

The world has weather too, including fog, gentle rain, downpours, and all-out thunder/lightning storms. The weather is localized, meaning it can be raining in one town but sunny if you ride out into the hills. When it’s raining, you get wet, your horse gets wet, everything gets wet—and looks it. Your defense is less effective in bad weather, maybe because you’re shivering and feeling miserable, and there are certain things you can’t do (like drying fish, which is logical). Wikipedia indicates there can (or will) be large scale weather events like typhoons which will influence gameplay, so that’s interesting. I haven’t been anywhere with snow yet but I’ve seen screenshots so maybe there can be blizzards. There’s a desert in the world somewhere too so I also wonder about sandstorms. I’ve been told that traveling in the desert comes with its own set of perils based on the daytime and nighttime temperatures, like dehydration or hypothermia. I did climb to the top of a mountain and it sure was windy up there!

All in all, a good buy that I’m looking forward to spending more time on!

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Beginner Crochet: Ten Tips I Wish Tutorials Had Taught Me Mon, 22 Aug 2016 02:16:35 +0000 Read More]]> It’s been eight months since I started crocheting amigurumi. I’m having a lot of fun with it, particularly as it still allows me to engage in other things I also enjoy, like science fiction, fantasy, gaming, and so on. So far I’ve completed about a dozen projects and have progressed fairly well with my skills (though I still have lots to learn!). While reflecting on how far I’ve come, I realized there are things I’ve learned along the way that would have been helpful to know up front. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, so, without further ado, here are ten beginner crochet tips I wish amigurumi tutorials had taught me!

1. Learn the Jargon

In some ways I probably struggled with this the most when I first got started. I did have the benefit of having knitted (a little bit) before learning crochet so some terms were familiar or at least similar. The beginner crochet tutorials I read were good about explaining basic stitch abbreviations and acronyms (like “YO” for “yarn over”), but even so, there were other terms I came across that made me feel like I was reading a foreign language. Things like:

  • Amigurumi, as in, Your amigurumi is so cute! Amigurumi is the Japanese art of crocheting (or knitting) cute stuffed animals and anthropomorphic creatures (as opposed to scarves, blankets, sweaters, etc).
  • CAL, as in, Join a CAL to quickly get experience. It means “crochet along” and is used in a group setting. The idea is for multiple people to crochet together at the same time. The CAL organizer might specify a particular pattern everyone is to use, or the CAL might just have a theme, for example, “fantasy creatures”. A CAL usually runs for a certain period of time and might have certain guidelines or prizes.
  • Colorway, as in, That colorway is beautiful. It refers to the specific name (or number) the dyer or manufacturer gave a particular yarn to describe its color. For example, if the yarn label says “Parrot” on it, that’s the colorway. Colorway is not really the same thing as color, because yarn can be in the same colorway but have slight differences in hue or tone depending on the dye batch it came from. So, you could get some “Royal Purple” colorway yarn from dyelot ABC, then a while later buy some more “Royal Purple” colorway yarn from dyelot DEF, and when you put them side by side, the actual color of the skeins will be similar but not exactly the same. (This is why it’s important to buy enough yarn from the same dyelot to be sure you don’t run out for a particular project.)
  • FO, as in, Round 26: FO. So far I’ve only seen a few patterns written this way (so I assume it’s not a common practice), but in this context it means “fasten off”, or tie off the yarn to finish that piece and/or the entire project.
  • FO, as in, Show me your FO! In this context it means “finished object”, the item you end up with when you complete your crochet project.
  • Frog, frogging, or frogged, as in, I have to frog this, or I don’t like frogging work, or I frogged a project yesterday. This is a slang term used in crochet, knit, and even cross-stitch communities to describe the act of unraveling work (pulling out a portion, or all, of the stitches). It’s a play on words: frogs say “ribbit, ribbit, ribbit” when they croak; when crafters find a mistake in their work, or decide they no longer want to continue with that work (or want to recover the yarn to do something else), they “rip it, rip it, rip it”. Hint: You do this a lot as a beginner!
  • MCAL, as in, My MCAL turned out pretty well. It means “mystery crochet along”. Same idea as a CAL except the designer/organizer only provides hints as to what the finished object will be (or what it will look like), so the participants don’t necessarily know going into it what they are working on.
  • NATCROMO, as in, Are you going to do anything for NATCROMO? National Crochet Month, which I didn’t learn until well after the fact is March. Similar idea to NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month). Mark your calendars!
  • Stash, as in, My stash is taking over the house. It refers to the supply of yarn you have on hand, which may or may not actually be taking over your house if you have a tendency to go to your local yarn shop and leave with, um, large bags of yarn.

2. Join a Community

To be fair, this was suggested to me up front but I didn’t do it until after almost a month of crocheting on my own, partially because I am shy and partially because the front-facing page of the website that was recommended didn’t actually hook me (no pun intended). In hindsight, I should have listened and joined right away.

The community I joined is called Ravelry and I highly recommend it. I wrote about my first impressions of Ravelry here and since then it’s proven to be a great resource. At first, Ravelry can be intimidating because of all the stuff it has to offer but it’s worth taking the time to poke around and see what’s there. There are thousands of people of all ages and experience on this website and tons of groups. It would be difficult not to find a group on Ravelry that isn’t also interested in the things you want to crochet! (The first groups I joined were “EVE Online Crafters”, “N7 Crafters”, and “Nerdy Hookers”. Yes, really.)

Sometimes I just spend an evening browsing the various forums to read posts from other beginners or the conversations people have in general about fiber arts, like how to dye yarn (even though it’s not something I would do), and I’ve learned a lot that way. Ravelry is a very positive community overall which helps a beginner feel encouraged to keep going and try new things.

Mostly I use Ravelry to keep track of patterns I want to try and the progress I’ve made on projects I have on the go, but now that I’m more confident in my skills I’m participating in my groups more and I’ve joined my first CAL. You can see my public Ravelry projects here.

Through Ravelry and the crochet community in general I’ve also discovered other bloggers to follow. My favorites so far are All About Ami, Amigurumi To Go, Crochet Spot, Okanagan Knits, and PlanetJune. Check them out!

3. You’re A Hooker Now. Get it? Get it??

Yarn mug available from KnotworkShop.

Yarn mug available from KnotworkShop.

Knitters and crocheters are not all rocking chair grannies with a lot of cats and a shotgun within easy reach. (I’m sure some are.) In fact, a fair amount of men are involved in the fiber arts community too.

The community has a great sense of humor. For some reason I didn’t really expect that—I’m not sure why. Be prepared to encounter more innuendo in your travels. You’ve just become a hooker; your balls are bigger than your spouse’s; sex might actually mean buying yarn (stash enhancement experience); a man sock doesn’t go on his foot, and so on. You might be surprised at what turns up in what you thought was an innocent Google search for baby beanies. Most of it will still be safe for work. (I said most!) Yes, some people really do crochet penis warmers. It’s all in good fun and can result in some great laughs about protecting important stuff from frostbite. >.>

4. You’re Going to Need a Kit

I got into crochet because my mom bought me a “Jolly Santa” crochet kit for Christmas as a stocking stuffer. It came with enough yarn for that pattern plus a plastic 3mm hook. When that kit proved too challenging for me to do as a beginner, she then gave me a plastic 7mm hook and some leftover yarn. I took to the internet to find tutorials, and here we are.

But when I say you’re going to need a kit, I don’t mean a pattern prepackaged with yarn and hook. That kind of kit was honestly nothing more than a gateway drug! Very quickly I found myself collecting patterns I wanted to do, then making numerous trips to craft stores to buy supplies. Then I collected more patterns and found that what I had on hand wasn’t suitable, or I was struggling because I didn’t have a certain thing, so I made more trips to the store.

Save yourself some time and gas by getting most of what you’re going to need up front.

My crochet kit.

My crochet kit.

My crochet kit includes the following:

  • Crochet hooks in a variety of sizes. At first I thought I could get away with having only one or two hooks. In reality, you never know what you might need, though that doesn’t mean you should buy every hook size under the sun. Hooks can be made of plastic, bamboo, aluminum, steel, etc. They can also have grips on them. Get hooks that feel comfortable and fun to you, but if you’re going to be working with hooks smaller than 4.5mm, I’d stay away from plastic as the plastic can easily bend or snap (been there, done that). I’ve come to prefer Boye aluminum crochet hooks. I have thirteen hooks ranging from 2.25mm to 7mm, but so far I use the 2.25mm, 3.5mm, and 7mm ones the most.
  • Stitch markers. Amigurumi is often crocheted in spiral rounds, meaning there’s no definitive end between one “row” and another, so if you lose your place you’re really going to be stuck. Sure, you can use a piece of contrasting colored yarn to mark a stitch, but it can easily be pulled out. Actual stitch markers can mean the difference between a FO that is “just okay” because you lost your place and only sort of figured out where you were, and a FO that you’re really happy with because you were able to properly keep track all the way through. A safety pin works, but they’re sharp and not very fun. Stitch markers come in a variety of styles, some of which are like safety pins, others which are more rubbery and flexible, and still others which are so fancy they look like they ought to be earrings or key chains. Whichever style you buy, be sure they lock so they can’t accidentally slip out of your work.
  • Push pins. Sewing amigurumi together can be a pain without these, particularly if the pieces are small (like arms). Get some that have fairly large heads so the pins don’t disappear between your stitches into the interior of your work. Also, if your pins come in a cheap plastic box like mine did (it was taped together to keep it closed), you’ll find the box tends to pop open a lot, spilling pins everywhere. My solution was to buy a rectangular salad dressing container (intended for use in a lunchbox) from the grocery store. It’s still small but snaps shut securely.
  • A row/stitch counter. These also come in a variety of styles and are handy for keeping track of where you are in your work rather than using a scrap of paper and pen. I tend to use the first digit to indicate which row or round I’m on and the second digit to count the stitches in that round.
  • A small pair of scissors. There’s nothing worse than having to rummage around in the junk drawer for a pair of scissors when you’re ready to fasten off, and then having to maneuver big bulky blades into position. Big scissors make me worry I might accidentally cut into the work itself and ruin it. A nice small pair of scissors is less likely to catch an errant piece of the work and can be easily carried around with your other supplies.
  • Yarn needles. I have a few sizes for when I’m working with different weights of yarn. Most of them have blunt ends but having one or two with a sharp point can be useful, particularly if your amigurumi is firmly stuffed. Also get a small plastic tube to carry the needles in so they don’t get lost.
  • Safety eyes. You can use buttons or felt, or just stitch on eyes using yarn, but actual safety eyes can make your amigurumi take on a totally different kind of personality. Unfortunately (at least in my area) they are hard to find in stores so I order mine from 6060 or Glass Eyes Online on Etsy. Depending on the size of the amigurumi you make, you’ll probably want some 6mm, 9mm, or even 15mm eyes in a variety of colors. I keep mine organized in very small ziplock baggies stashed inside a couple of slightly larger ziplock baggies.
  • A pencil case. Depending on where you shop, hook cases can be pretty pricey and the ones I’ve seen tend to only have space in them for the hooks and not much else. If you don’t want to spend that kind of money, or would prefer to keep all the other supplies in the kit too, a pencil case will do just fine. The one I use has a zippered pouch on each side. I put the hooks, stitch markers, stitch counter, and push pins in one pouch, and the scissors, yarn needles, and safety eyes in the other.

5. You’re Going to Need Somewhere to Keep Your Stash

I’ve laughed that laugh.

I’ve laughed that laugh.

Crocheting doesn’t really use more yarn than knitting, so don’t believe anybody who tells you otherwise. But…remember how I mentioned gateway drugs earlier? If you really get into crochet, you will experience more yarn in your life overall. Maybe a lot more. Pretty soon, going to a craft store will become a dangerous affair where “I just need one more skein in this color” turns into “I saw all these balls and OMG they are gorgeous!” People make jokes about this and from what I’ve seen it’s because a lot of people succumb to it really easily.

Where do you keep all that yarn? At first you can try piling the balls on the floor in a corner, or maybe in a drawer, or stuffing them all in a shopping bag that you put in your closet or under the bed. Fact is, unless you are remarkably strong-willed (but just assume you aren’t, it’ll be easier in the long run), your stash won’t be confined to that small space for very long. There are just too many pretty yarns out there…

Some people put up cubby-hole shelves to stack their yarn on, which is great if they are lucky enough to have a spare room or set of shelves they can set aside for crafting. If that’s not an option, you can consider doing what I did:

There be treasures hidden in here...

There be treasure hidden here…

Buy a stylish basket like this one. Get the biggest one you can afford that fits in with your décor at home. Make sure it has a lid. I chose the one I did because it sort of looks like a treasure chest which I thought was fun.

Put your yarn in it and close the lid. Now the yarn is always nearby but still out of sight where it won’t look messy to guests or be tempting for pets and kids to get into. This is also how you can (try) to rein in the desire to buy more yarn: Make it a rule for yourself that you’re not allowed to get more yarn if the basket is full. If the basket can’t be closed because there’s too much in it…well, you better get cracking on some more crochet!

My stash is pretty full.

My stash is pretty full.

Take care to consider whether or not the basket is smooth inside. If it’s uneven, your yarn might snag and become damaged. My basket is wicker so has edges sticking out on the inside. I used a large clear garbage bag to line the basket before putting the yarn in.

Mmm, leftovers...

Mmm, leftovers…

Speaking of bags, kitchen catchers are handy for putting leftovers in so that these little balls don’t get lost among the bigger skeins or otherwise buried at the bottom. Yes, these have to fit inside the basket too! I keep the bags closed with Bevara sealing clips from IKEA.

6. (Hook) Size Isn’t Everything

My kit contains a variety of hook sizes. Hook size is important if you are crocheting a garment or have to ensure your finished object meets a particular measurement, in which case you should be sure to use the hook the pattern calls for. Otherwise, in amigurumi the hook size is more about how big you want your finished object to be. Bigger hook = bigger FO; smaller hook = smaller FO.

For example, the pattern for Timothy T-Rex called for a 3.75mm hook but I wanted to use super bulky yarn to get a big stuffed toy out of it. I had to use a 7mm hook to accommodate that thicker yarn. Instead of a 7″ tall dinosaur, mine came out over twice as big: 16″ tall. And that’s perfectly fine.

7. Magic Rings Are Awesome

Many amigurumi patterns begin with instructions like ch 2, work 6 sc into first ch (6). The idea is to create a closed circle that begins the spiral for the rest of the piece. Problem is, if you don’t crochet very tightly, starting this way can leave a hole in the middle of the circle. This isn’t desirable since the stuffing will be visible and could even be pulled out through the gap.

Unless the amigurumi pattern has a very good reason for starting with chains, you can generally always substitute that first round’s instruction with a magic ring (also called a magic circle, adjustable ring, or magic loop) instead. The magic ring is a better choice because you are sure to end up without a hole when you’re done.

The magic ring was difficult to learn from all the tutorials I looked at until I found this fantastic video by Patrones Valhalla:

8. Invisible Decrease Everything

As a beginner, you’ll probably work most of your amigurumi projects using just the single crochet stitch. As I understand it, amigurumi is mostly made with single crochet regardless of skill level, with more complicated stitches (like popcorn or bobble stitch) used only for highlights or to achieve a certain look in particular areas of the object.

When working with single crochet, a pattern might have instructions in it to “dec”, “sc dec”, “sc2tog”, “sc3tog”, or just “tog”, indicating you’re supposed to decrease the number of indicated stitches in your round. The problem with decreasing in rounds is that it generally leaves an unsightly bump in the work.

Thankfully, all of these decreases can be treated as if the pattern actually calls for an invisible decrease (“invdec”). An invisible decrease is exactly what it sounds like. When you’re done, you generally can’t tell you decreased.

So, if the pattern calls for “sc2tog”, this is the equivalent of one “invdec”. Push your hook through the front loop only of the next two stitches. This means you now have three loops on the hook. Yarn over, pull through the first two loops, then yarn over again and pull through the remaining two loops. Ta da! (If the pattern said “sc3tog”, you’d push through the front loops of the next three stitches and have one extra to pull through on.)

Here’s a great video from PlanetJune which shows how to invisible decrease:

Keep in mind this technique may not work well if your amigurumi happens to be done all in another kind of stitch (like all half-double crochet, all double crochet, etc). This technique also doesn’t work for patterns done in rows (ie, the work requires turning), since the decrease is only worked in the front loops. The reverse side of those same stitches will look unfinished or missed. If working in rows, use the normal decrease instead.

9. Invisible Color Changes

One of the things I was most dissatisfied with early on in spiral amigurumi was color changes. Tutorials teach how to switch color halfway through the last stitch of the previous color, which is perfectly fine to do if your new color only lasts for a portion of one round. If the new color persists for at least one full round or more, that “normal” method results in an unsightly misalignment where the start of the color change meets up with itself 360° later due to the nature of working in a spiral.

If this misalignment happens at the back of the work where no one will ever see it, well, that’s not so bad, but since amigurumi FOs tend to be handled or viewed from all angles it would be nice to have cleaner color changes. In spiral work, you can get pretty close to an invisible color change and minimize that awful misalignment by following these steps:

Part 1: The Invisible Finish

  1. Complete the last stitch of the first color you were working with.
  2. Put a stitch marker in the next stitch in the round (if there isn’t one there already). This helps avoid working in the wrong stitch by mistake.
  3. Cut the yarn, leaving a tail about an inch long.
  4. Pull on your hook to increase the size of the loop still on the hook until the cut end of the yarn is pulled completely through.
  5. Thread the yarn through a yarn needle.
  6. Skip the stitch with the marker in it and insert the needle from front to back under both loops of the next stitch. Pull through but not too tightly.
  7. Insert the needle into the middle of the stitch the yarn came out of originally (the last stitch of the color you were working with) and come out under the back loop of that stitch.
  8. Pull until the new loop matches the size of the other stitches (don’t crimp or buckle the work). Take the needle off the yarn. You’ve just completed an invisible finish (or invisible fasten off).

Here’s a great video from Ahooka which shows how to do the invisible finish:

Part 2: Add the New Color

  1. With the new color, create a slipnot with a tail of about one inch on your hook. Insert the hook under the two loops you just created that are sitting on top of the stitch with the marker in it.
  2. Yarn over and pull through. You now have two loops on the hook.
  3. Yarn over again and pull through both loops. This is the first single crochet of the new color and is called a standing single crochet stitch. Move the stitch marker to this stitch if the color change happens to coincide with the start of a new round. (With practice, moving the stitch marker becomes unnecessary. Instead, it can simply be removed and set aside until it is needed again for the start of the next round.)
  4. If needed, tighten the loose end of the previous color to make sure the shape of the stitch and the work remains consistent, then tie the loose end of the previous color to the tail of the slipnot to secure it.
  5. Carry on with the new color in spiral rounds as usual. Go back to step one above if changing to another color if that next color will also be used for one or more full rounds.

Here’s another great video from Ahooka that shows how to add the new color:

10. We Learn By Doing

Some tutorials start with the premise that beginners should do row after row after row of the same stitch in order to learn them properly. There’s probably some merit to that (practice does make perfect) but unless all you ever plan to make are dishcloths and scarves, this method can also be really boring and even discouraging. Hey look, I made a rectangle! Er, wait… Know what I mean? Some people aren’t going to feel like they actually accomplished something (or didn’t accomplish enough) if all they made is a geometric shape.

So, as a beginner with amigurumi, I say this: Don’t be afraid to jump right in with something that appears “more complicated”. It probably isn’t as complicated as you expect. There are lots of really easy patterns out there that will allow you to get the practice you need with single crochet, increases, decreases, and other techniques while also ending up with a FO that actually looks like something. If all you want is the practice, grab some leftover yarn and do the whole pattern in that one color if you want. The point is to end up with a FO that has the right shape and has consistent stitches, even if the color is “wrong”. If it’s not right or you’re not happy, frog the work and try again. Also try practicing those patterns with a larger hook and thicker yarn (easier to see the stitches) or, if that isn’t working, go the opposite way: try a smaller hook and lighter weight yarn. You’ll quickly figure out where your comfort zone is.

I found the Beginner Lessons from Expression Fiber Arts (particularly, How to Crochet a Flower) very useful to encourage a sense of accomplishment early on. Other easy patterns I would recommend if you’re just starting out are the Angry Birds Pig from Nerdigurumi, Pac-Man Ghosts from Gemugurumi, and Newborn Guinea Pigs from Kati Galusz.

Do you have any beginner crochet tips that you wish someone had told you up front when you first started crocheting? Let me know in the comments below!

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Scouting for Cute: Pod Pal Mynxee Sun, 14 Aug 2016 20:46:31 +0000 Read More]]> In May I was working on crocheting the second test for my Pod Palls doll. Beta 2.0 was going to be more detailed, potentially able to stand on its own, and would have been a bit larger than Beta 1.0. In the end I scrapped that test as it was taking too long and I was getting frustrated over trying to work in the extra details. Possibly I’ll give it another go in the future. Instead, I decided to move on to doing my first official Pod Pal, for Mynxee!

Getting Started

The process to set up to make a Pod Pal is straightforward:

  1. The capsuleer has to be wearing what the Pod Pal is supposed to be wearing.
  2. I take numerous screenshots using the in-game viewer and/or get screenshots from the player.
  3. I color match yarn as closely as possible to the screenshots.

Color matching is fairly easy yet still the most challenging part of getting started. People sometimes have personally significant reasons for choosing a particular skin tone, hair color, and even the clothes that their capsuleer ends up with, so it’s important to me to pay attention to that. If the Pod Pal is going to be a recognizable representation of that capsuleer then the yarn color has to match, otherwise the player is obviously not likely to be happy with the finished item. I’m quite detail-oriented so I end up wanting the match to be “perfect”.

Mynxee helped choose the colors I used for her Pod Pal.

Mynxee helped choose the colors I used for her Pod Pal.

In reality, a perfect color match isn’t actually possible. Software can generate millions of colors, while the yarn I can use comes from what I have on hand or whatever dye lot happens to be available if I have to go to the store. Color matching therefore ends up having to accept whatever is “close enough”.

Checking In

The pattern is worked in a spiral round which means each piece (head, torso, legs, arms) is crocheted continuously until there’s a color change. Along the way I stopped to check in with Mynxee to make sure she was okay with my progress.

The head is done first. As a solid color sphere, it works up very quickly (couple of hours, if that). Before it can be stuffed, the eyes have to be inserted.

Two choices: black or colored?

Two choices: black or colored?

Once the eyes are in they can’t be removed (except with drastic measures that would likely destroy the doll). Eyes, like yarn, also end up having to be a “close enough” match if colored irises are desired. I have to order these online in batches and there are only so many colors to choose from, so selection is limited.

Pod Pal Mynxee is wearing the Upwell Consortium/SOE Analyst Coat.

Pod Pal Mynxee is wearing the Upwell Consortium/SOE Analyst Coat.

Mynxee chose the eyes she wanted, so once they were in and the head was stuffed, it was time to do the torso.

The clothing we can choose from in EVE has quite a lot of detail in it, whether looking at an Amarr tunic with lots of swirly designs or Gallente t-shirts with multiple blocks of color, and the Upwell coat is no exception. The crochet pattern I work from is obviously not modeled after anything in the game, so knowing which details to include and when to change colors on the doll is trial and error.

Because of this, I have to approach the clothes with an attitude of “simplify”. What are the most important details that have to be shown and which details can be left out, while still making it recognizable? The torso therefore took the longest to do out of all of the body parts (not including hair) and often required ripping out and redoing stitches along the way when something didn’t turn out right. The Upwell coat has only two colors but it still needed several hours of work over a couple of days to complete before I could move on to legs and then arms. Then I had to make sure Mynxee liked what I’d done. :)

My Suresha-dom for a Barber

Just like with Pod Pal Sakaane, when it came time to do Mynxee’s hair I ran into problems. Torso notwithstanding, hair seems to be the most complicated and challenging part of the Pod Pal. In amigurumi there are certainly a wide variety of different techniques for adding hair but none of these were suitable as dreads for Mynxee. I had to think outside the box on this one to come up with a way to make something that looked like a dread with the yarn I had on hand without being too thick for the size of the doll.

What to do? Mynxee lives most of a continent away from me so it’s not like I could just pop over to discuss the problem and show her examples. An email with pics only goes so far. So, I made a video!

This helped a lot to allow a decision to be made. Plus, it gave Mynxee a way to see the actual doll in more than just static progress shots, and it was kind of fun for me. :)

Once I got going with the chains I made her another update:

The second hair update was posted on August 7, a full month after I started the doll. It took me six more days to finish and in the end I needed a pair of pliers to help me pull the yarn needle through the head to get all the dreads stitched in, because the amount of threads in the head ended up making for a pretty tightly-packed environment. In the end I used thirty individually crocheted dreads.

The effort was worth it though! Pod Pal Mynxee is all set to explore New Eden in her Upwell analyst coat while leading scores of Signaleers in adventures to seek treasure and deliver hugs to capsuleers across the cluster. She’s about three inches tall and sits by herself. ♥

Pod Pals fit in the palm of your hand.

Pod Pals fit in the palm of your hand.

The finished Pod Pal!

The finished Pod Pal!

Pattern based on Thor Amigurumi by Jess Newstone.

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Frogged Sun, 03 Jul 2016 17:27:39 +0000 Read More]]> I frogged a crochet project for the first time yesterday.

Frogging, as I have learned, is a slang term used in crochet, knit, and even cross-stitch communities to describe the act of unraveling work (pulling out a portion, or all, of the stitches). It’s a play on words: frogs say “ribbit, ribbit, ribbit” when they croak; when crafters find a mistake in their work, or decide they no longer want to continue with that work (or want to recover the yarn to do something else), they “rip it, rip it, rip it”.

I had finished the Octopoda the day before so picked up some other work I was going to continue with, did a few rounds on it, and just knew I didn’t care to keep going. All enthusiasm for that specific project had gone. This was a bit of a weird feeling for me, as I’m the kind of person who tends to feel bad about not finishing something. Yet, the desire to move on to something else was strong—stronger than my innate guilt to want to complete the project anyway.

Wooly Ichiban.

Wooly Ichiban.

I didn’t want to waste the yarn, so out came the stitches. I’ve seen other crocheters refer to their frogged yarn as ‘spaghetti’, but I dunno… To me it’s more like getting a fuzzy lump of Ichiban!

Readers with a keen eye will probably figure out that this frogged project is the Beta 2.0 attempt of my EVE Online Pod Pals project. Having made—and now abandoned—this attempt with the slightly larger, more detailed pattern, I think I will stick only with the Beta 1.0 body (sans jacket).

Frogging All the Things

As a concept, it occurs to me that I’ve started to “frog” a couple of other things lately. When I get home from work I want to do something that relaxes me and promotes a feeling of fun, entertainment, and personal accomplishment, however, quite often lately I run into the word obligation instead. I’m not talking about the kind of life obligations all adults have, like cleaning house or paying bills; I’m talking about things that I once chose to do because “I like to do this” that have now turned into “I feel like I have to do this”—but not in a good way.

Don’t get me wrong: in many cases, obligation can be a great motivator. But it has to be the right kind of obligation and/or obligation at the right level.

I think about activities A, B, C that I want to do, but then remember that activities X, Y, Z are waiting for me—where X, Y, and Z all used to be optional, enjoyable things I engaged in—so A, B, and C get quite reluctantly set aside. Add to that a few recent personal situations that have left me feeling less than stellar and I end up with massive frustration instead.

Well, screw that!

I started by deleting a few apps from my phone that have been nagging me about not paying attention to them. If I’m dismissing the notifications with a sense of “ugh, go away” then what use is that app? Off it goes. It’s a small act but one less thing to feel negatively obligated about is still an improvement.

Then I considered how there is so much META and plain old noise online. It’s easy to become swallowed by it to the point where trying to keep up feels overwhelming and impossible. This has also been part of the problem lately. There are people I know online who have the freedom and the energy to post to their blogs multiple times per week—or even multiple times per day in some cases—and power to them for being able to create their content at that pace. Do I need to follow these people in multiple places? No, actually.

So, I went to Twitter and unfollowed almost 100 accounts. Many of them were inactive, but others I got rid of because I decided they didn’t contribute worthwhile content to my timeline. In Feedly I got rid of all but what I felt were the blogs I wanted to be notified about the most. In G+ I unfollowed anyone I was already following on either Feedly or Twitter. The reduction in the amount of stuff to sift through has been enormous. I am still considering filtering out a bit more. It’s not personal; the content those people create is worthwhile and should be enjoyed by people who have the ability to consume and appreciate it properly. Right now I’m just not one of them.

Maybe most importantly: Two weeks ago I took a break from EVE Online. It was coming up on month-end, quarter-end, and half-year-end at work. With my manager still away on disability (and me trying to do my job and a good portion of hers with no real training or guidance) I just feel wiped when I get home. The end of June was going to make that even worse. It occurs to me now that one of the things I said when I sent the note to my leadership team was, It would help if I didn’t feel obligated to log in.

Since doing these things I have started to feel better and can concentrate on other stuff instead. Most notably, in the last two weeks I have written over 20,000 words on a fiction project—more than I’ve written in the last four years—plus added to my Myst Series playthrough, crocheted a bunch, and have started thinking about other things I’ve wanted to do for a while but haven’t gotten around to because of those other…“obligations”.

Obligation. It really sucks, so don’t be afraid to frog.

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Octopoda Sat, 02 Jul 2016 14:56:59 +0000 Read More]]> I spent Canada Day by sleeping in late, tidying up my home, enjoying some sun on my balcony, and then finally by watching episodes of Stargate SG-1. While Jack O’Neill and his team went out on their adventures, my idle hands needed to be kept occupied…so I made something new and tentacle-y. Check it out in the Gallery!

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The Fifth Age: Riven – Day Four Sun, 26 Jun 2016 03:11:51 +0000 Read More]]>

Riven – Day One | Riven – Day Two | Riven – Day Three | Riven – Day Four | Riven – Day Five

I recently got an itch to revisit the Myst series of games. The serene yet subtly disturbing puzzle-oriented mysteries of Myst and Riven were ground-breaking for their day. I’m a gamer today primarily because of this universe.

The number five in an ornate gate.

The number five in an ornate gate.

It’s been a while since the last post in this series, so definitely time to get back to solving the mysteries of the Fifth Age!

I feel I’m nearly done Riven. Things are quickly coming to a head between me, Gehn, and the Black Moiety.

Come with me as I continue my journey!

Fair warning: if you’ve never played Riven, there are spoilers ahead!

Tay Age

A new world solidifies around me as I pass through the linking book. I find myself standing on the shore of a shallow lake surrounded by towering cliffs. In the middle of the lake stands the most bizarre tree I’ve ever seen.

Home sweet home?

Home sweet home?

The thick trunk has a door embedded in its base, while the branches support a grey globe pitted with dozens of windows. Warm light glows from within and a thin stream of smoke drifts lazily from the top. It’s after sunset but a bright moon casts more than enough light to see by; overhead dark clouds that threaten rain are rolling in.

Just like at the village lake on Riven, there is no boat within sight. If I want to get to the tree I’ll have to swim. I wonder what creatures might be in the water and decide I’m not in any hurry to get wet just yet.

I turn around. Behind me is a cave with a large figurine standing in a lit alcove.

Beware all ye who enter here...

Beware all ye who enter here…

A shiver snakes down my spine. The face isn’t human and seems to glare at me with sharp, slitted eyes. The body is pierced all around with Black Moiety daggers, as if in warning to any who would approach the linking book balanced in the figure’s hands: Beware, for a great evil lies ahead. I decide this figure must represent Gehn and step closer to examine it.

I hear a scuff of footfalls in the dirt of the cave behind me and whirl to find two people have entered: one, dressed in red and black like the person who saved me from the cage when I first linked to Riven, and the other, the prisoner who vanished from the cell to lead me here in the first place.

Friends or foes?

Friends or foes?

It all happens so fast: the man is babbling urgently at his masked companion while gesturing at me but I don’t understand the words; the other raises a dart gun and I feel an impact on my neck. As the poison seeps into me I see the Black Moiety rebel step forward curiously while shrugging off the man. Then everything goes black.



I’m not dead. Somewhat to my surprise, I wake moments later to find I’m lying limp and useless in a boat. My vision is blurred and it’s hard to focus. The tree looms large overhead and in the gloom I can see the man gesturing to it while talking to someone behind me—presumably the rebel with her dart gun. The man notices I’m awake and gives me a suspicious look before turning away. Then I fall back unconscious.

When I wake again I have no idea how much time has passed. I feel like I’ve slept for days, and though the respite is not altogether unwelcome, once more I find myself imprisoned.

Not quite the Ritz.

Not quite the Ritz.

This prison is much more comfortable, comparatively speaking, than the one I found above the wahrk gallows: it has a ledge, rather than the bare floor, to sleep on; a light; and a window overlooking the lake and the linking book cave I arrived in. Rather than cold stone, this prison seems made of a warmer, natural material—and then I remember that I must be inside the tree.

A bowl on a shelf below the light is empty and again I wonder how long I’ve been here. I don’t feel hungry, and though I can’t remember, I feel as if I must have been lucid enough now and then to have eaten whatever food I was brought. Perhaps they dunked me in the lake at some point too. I’m not as dirty as I expect.

The door to my cell is made of wood but solidly locked, though I can see through it to the village beyond.


A new village to call home.

It’s quite peaceful here and I find myself wishing I was free to walk through the village. I wonder how many Black Moiety live here and whether there could be room for all the Rivenese to join them. The homes here are round just like in the village on Jungle Island and I can see they have tried hard to create a new life. The rest of the Rivenese could leave their fears and Gehn’s terror behind if they came here.

But this is one of Gehn’s Ages, and he tried to burn the linking book. This Age must not be stable, just like the others he has written. The Rivenese and their rebel brethren need a home that won’t threaten to fall apart on them.

In the distance I can see one of the Black Moiety paused thoughtfully on a walkway leading from one home to another. Is that the same person who brought me here? I can’t be sure. I’m tempted to call out to get attention but decide against it. Shouting into the stillness of the village seems like it would be…rude.

I watch a bit longer, wondering what the people who occasionally eclipse the windows are up to, and then wander back into my cell. How do I get out? First obligation of a prisoner is to escape!

I’m contemplating trying to squeeze out the window and climb down the outside of the tree when I hear the door open behind me.

A woman comes cautiously around the corner. She’s dressed in black and red, and though not wearing a mask, I suspect she is the rebel who rescued me when I linked to Riven and then shot me when I linked to this Age.

Nelah brings gifts.

Nelah brings gifts.

She speaks. The only word I recognize seems to be Catherine’s name, though this woman pronounces it Katran. While speaking, she unwraps a bundle of bright red cloth and places two books on the shelf next to the bowl. She seems unaware that I can’t understand a word she says, and I don’t interrupt. One thing is certain: she’s anxious for me to read the books. She gestures for me to stay put and then leaves. I hear the door close and lock behind her.

As soon as she’s gone, I pick up the books. One is thick and has a familiar green cover. Opening it quickly, my heart leaps. It’s Atrus’s prison book! Gratefully I close it and slide it into my travel pouch, next to his journal.

The other book is a narrow, leather-bound journal. I perch myself on the shelf and move the bowl aside so I can see better. The handwriting is light and feminine. This is Catherine’s journal! But how did the rebel woman get it?

I read. Catherine suffered the same fate as me when I first arrived in Riven: trapped in the cage at the link-in point, though after that she was darted and fell unconscious. Her journal confirms that the drug the Black Moiety use muddles the mind, as she cannot remember well what happened to her immediately after that.

There’s a note tucked into the journal. It’s for me. I learn the name of the rebel woman is Nelah. Catherine also warns me that her prison requires a combination before it can be opened. The combination is kept in Gehn’s office. Where is his office? I wonder. Surely not the lab I found on Book Assembly Island. Lastly, she implores me not to signal Atrus before she is released.

The rest of Catherine’s journal reads with much pain: the awkward reception she received from her people; her observations of how drastically the Age has changed; the Rivenese belief that Atrus must be a true god; their belief that Catherine had transcended into a deity; the rise of Gehn’s power; her inability to see her father, who still lives in the village on Jungle Island; her rage at finding out Gehn is still trying to write books. She notes that the Moiety shun the Rivenese who have not joined them.

The journal also talks about the fifth Riven island. Catherine says it has drifted so far away from the other four islands that it can’t be seen anymore and that it was once the location of the Great Tree. I wonder if Gehn chopped down this important Rivenese icon to try to make book paper from it.

I almost toss the journal away from me with frustration when I read that the Star Fissure can be found ‘on the island which the Rivenese call “Allapo”, meaning “water pool”, but which is referred to by the Moiety as “Allatwan”, meaning “pool of stars”. Right. Very helpful. But then she notes the fissure was sealed using a ‘skin of heavy iron’ with a crude telescope placed over a viewport, and immediately I know what I’m looking for: the odd contraption I peered into after I was freed from the link-in cage! The journal provides me with the combination I need to unlock the hatch for the viewport as well.

Then I’m horrified to learn that not only has Gehn fed the Rivenese to the wahrk, but he has also thrown people into the Star Fissure simply to see what would happen! Those poor souls disappeared and no one knows their fate.

The journal answers a few other questions too: Catherine is the origin of the large daggers which the Black Moiety have adopted as their sacred symbol; Catherine created the gateway crystal herself, not via a D’ni schematic as Gehn suspected; the name of the Age I am in now is Tay.

Catherine’s last entry notes that she needed to return to Riven to see if the recent rebel activity had aroused Gehn’s suspicions. I must conclude that it did and that she was captured as a result.

I tuck the journal away and contemplate what to do next. Nelah returns just then, carrying something new in her red bundle.

A way back?

A way back?

She lays a linking book on the shelf and places a crystal over its gateway image, all the while chattering away at me and mentioning Catherine’s name. I wish I understood. My gut tells me she’s imploring me to rescue her friend.

The gateway image works.

The gateway image works.

Then she’s gone, leaving me to link back to Riven alone.

The stone chamber that hides the Tay linking book is quiet and empty when I rematerialize. Quickly, I make my way up through the passage to the open prison cell and then away from the village.

As I hurry along I take stock of my progress: I know the combination to Gehn’s domes but the books inside need to be powered before I can use them; I have the prison book back; I know where the Star Fissure is located; I know the combination to the hatch below the telescope; I need to get to Gehn’s office to find the combination to free Catherine.

If Gehn’s office isn’t here on Riven, then it must be in the Age the dome books link to. It seems to me that before I can do anything else I need to get the power to the linking books turned on, and for that, the source must be on Temple Island, in the giant golden dome.

Temple Island

The tram car deposits me at the foot of the stairs leading from Gehn’s temple, and I pause before continuing on, puzzled.

The way is shut...

The way is shut…

The door is closed. When I was last here, I left the temple door open. And since all other doors and things I’ve interacted with have been left alone—save for the lake sub—seeing this one barring my way makes me nervous. I approach cautiously, slowly making my way up the stairs.

As I reach the landing, the door begins to rise up on its own.

A familiar face.

A familiar face.

It reveals the temple interior and the large wire globe—with the image of a man projected inside it, the same face I saw in the small globe in the schoolhouse. Gehn!

This isn’t a recording though. He’s staring at me, his expression cold and calculating. Then the image fades and I remember he is only feet away, just up the hall! At once I dash to the temple’s interior door and run up the corridor, nearly slipping on the smooth stone floor, until I reach the chamber containing the globe’s projection chair.

I push the door open but…the room is empty. Gehn was here—had to be—but he managed to slip away.

I check the room carefully, looking for a linking book. If he used one, it would still be here, but I find nothing. Since I didn’t meet Gehn in the corridor, he must have gone the other way, across the bridge toward the golden dome. Will I catch up to him there?

I look carefully ahead as I cross the bridge but there’s no sign of him. Of course, Gehn will know all the ins-and-outs of the puzzles of this Age, so I have no doubt they present little in the way of barriers to him. But if the books in the domes have to be powered first before they can be used, does that mean some of my work is already done for me?

The telescope above the Star Fissure.

The telescope above the Star Fissure.

I decide to inspect the Star Fissure first. The iron plating rings out dully as I walk over it and it occurs to me that on the other side, apparently just beneath my feet, is a field of stars. This is where Atrus fell all those years ago, jumping in with the linking book to Myst… The book I eventually found, that started me on this journey in the first place.

There are pipes leading to the telescope, similar to the ones I saw on Book Assembly Island, and I notice the telescope seems to be hooked up to a kind of winch that could raise or lower the lens pointed at the closed hatch. There doesn’t seem to be any power to the scope though, so I climb over the railing and continue following the iron plating. It ends at a ledge and I look down into a crevasse.

There doesn’t seem to be anything further here, and no sign of Gehn, so I go back up the stairs to the bridge and consider the gate room. The way inside to the golden dome is still blocked by the gate. I recall that the room rotates a small number of degrees each time I push the large button outside the main door. Doing so blocks off my ability to get inside but I notice the alcoves that appear each time I push the button contain a peephole. Peering through the hole lets me track the position of the opening.

I rotate the room until I can see the opening that was previously in front of the gate is now in front of another passage. How do I get there?

I step back and go down the stairs that take me further away from the link-in cage and the Star Fissure. I’ve been here briefly before, when I noticed the view was similar to the image of Riven that I saw through the crystal viewer on Rime.

Not as locked as it appears.

Not as locked as it appears.

The gate here is still chained and padlocked shut. I tug on it experimentally but it doesn’t give.

Then I notice the Moiety dagger stuck in the ground at the gate’s base and bend down to examine it. That’s when I realize I can probably squeeze through the gap between the gate and the ground. Good thing I’m skinny!

The cave.

The cave.

On the other side it’s much cooler. A dim light illuminates the cave. I brush myself off, then climb a wooden ladder leaning against the rock. I cross a rickety plank and enter the gate room again, only to find I still haven’t achieved anything because the only other exit is still aligned to the gate-blocked passage to the golden dome.

I return to the main entrance and push the button again until my way into the room isn’t blocked. This time the openings are oriented slightly differently: instead of the gate preventing me from going to the golden dome, it now blocks the way to what looks like an ornately carved, but closed, door.

So near and yet so far.

So near and yet so far.

I peer closely through the gate but see no way to open the door from here.

Monkeying around with the rotation and going back to the cave eventually gives me access to a smaller cave with pipes in it.

Powering the telescope.

Powering the telescope.

The picture above the lever reminds me of the telescope over the Star Fissure. I throw the lever and hear a satisfying hiss. The scope probably now has the power it needs to work.

I return up the narrow passage to find this doorway not only has a button on one side, but also a handle. I use it and hear a metallic scraping. Is the gate lifting out of the way?

I rotate the room again and this time can cross over to the ornate door I saw before. There is no way to open the door from this side, but at least the gate is no longer a problem.

After several more attempts to rotate the room I have it situated again so that I can finally access the bridge to the golden dome. I cross over, looking curiously left and right, and stand for a moment to admire the view of Jungle Island.

Then, at long last, I enter the dome itself.

The interior of the golden dome.

The interior of the golden dome.

It isn’t what I expect. A catwalk curves almost all the way around the inside, while below me, pale blue water sloshes quietly. Is this the pool Catherine’s journal spoke of? Ahead I can see a kind of control center with thick pipes coming out of the bottom of it but there seems no way to reach it right now.

Familiar symbols.

Familiar symbols.

Ahead of me on the railing is a diagram. If the central portion represents the dome I’m in now, then the lines must be the pipes leading to the five Riven Islands and, ostensibly, the domes located on each. I find it interesting that there is a dome on the fifth island. Did Gehn put it there before or after making it a prison? If before…why? If Catherine is right and the island is so far away that it can no longer be seen from here, what use was it to Gehn before he captured her? How would he get there anyway, never mind running sufficient pipe across the ocean to reach it?

Then something else occurs to me: if this Age is slowly tearing itself apart, is Catherine’s prison still drifting and if so, how much longer will it be before the pipe intended to supply power to the dome on that island pulls into pieces?

As I hurry away, I also realize I haven’t yet discovered a linking book dome on this island either.

The catwalk leads to an opening in the side of the dome and continues on as a path that curves around the outside of the rock formation the dome is built onto. By following the path I come across a pipe venting steam into the air. The pipe has a picture of a bridge on it and seems to indicate that it can control whether the bridge is raised or lowered. I flip the switch on the pipe to redirect the steam into an adjoining pipe, then look up.

Nearby, above me, is the long bridge leading from Book Assembly Island. A section of the bridge nearest the dome is raised and I realize that is where I tried to get at the dome once before but couldn’t because the bridge wouldn’t drop down.

Before I go back there I decide to finish exploring around the dome. The path takes me around its circumference to a strange vertical track that has a small button on its wall. Ahead of me is a tunnel, which I decide to go into first. It opens up onto a small ledge and another pipe venting steam.

After returning to the strange vertical track, I look up. Above me I can see part of another walkway with a section missing. Is this an elevator? I push the button to see if it will take me up to the walkway but nothing happens.

I seem to be stuck. The path doesn’t lead anywhere else. How did Gehn get off this island so quickly ahead of me if all of this work still needed to be done to get the linking books powered? Then I consider: maybe he didn’t leave; maybe he was hiding in the cave behind the locked gate and slipped back across the bridge to his temple and beyond while I was inspecting the telescope.

Frustrated, I trace my route back through the dome and the gate room, then cross the bridge to the temple and get into the waiting tram car. The fastest way to get to Book Assembly Island is to jump into the lumber cart.

Through rings of fire...

Through rings of fire…

After everything else I’ve seen and done here, this latest trip at breakneck speeds through the ocean now just barely fazes me, and when the cart dumps me into the wood chipper at the other end I don’t even pause before I’m jogging across the shore, climbing the ladder, and making my way along this island’s catwalk to the long bridge.

Coming back to Temple Island.

Coming back to Temple Island.

I pause at the bridge to catch my breath. It’s now that I notice what I missed before: Temple Island’s linking book dome is on a tall outcropping of rock just behind the golden dome. From this distance I can just make out a catwalk that seems to lead to it. Maybe now that this section of the bridge has power I’ll be able to get there.

I cross the bridge and climb the stairs at the other side to the raised section of the bridge. Faintly I can hear the popping and hissing of steam, and am rewarded when I throw the lever and the bridge begins to lower.

I enter the dome again, this time on the opposite side from where I originally entered. Right away there’s a path branching to the left to take me back outside and I notice this is the catwalk that has a section missing. It’s a long way down.

There’s a small button in the wall behind me, similar to the one I found below that didn’t work. I push this one and hear a scraping sound—then turn around in time to see the missing section of the catwalk rise into place.

I probably could have jumped the distance but better safe than sorry. The catwalk curves around…but this one doesn’t seem to lead to the spinning dome. Instead I find myself arriving at the backside of the gate room…and another closed door. This side of the door is smooth, but the color suggests it’s the other side of the ornately carved door I couldn’t open.

I pull on a handle embedded in the rock and the door opens. When I step inside I’m stopped by a peephole alcove, another button, and another handle. I decide to leave the handle alone but push the button. The gate room rotates until I can enter it. The other access isn’t lined up with the bridge to the dome though, so I try again. I end up having to align the exit with the main entrance I first used, then continue rotating the room until I can once more get on the bridge.

A mild sense of déjà vu creeps over me as I walk through the dome again and out onto the lower path. This time when I get to the vertical track the button in the wall seems to be glowing. I push it and feel my stomach jump into my throat as the ground drops away and I’m lowered into a shaft.

Watch out... Low head clearance!

Watch out… Low head clearance!

Behind me I discover a hidden passage, and as I walk carefully along it, the sound of the spinning dome grows louder. I climb another set of stairs and arrive at the dome viewer.

A golden eye.

A golden eye.

After a moment I get the dome to flip over and have a look. This one is the same as all the others, and the path does not go anywhere else, so I head back.

I feel like I’ve missed something, and then realize that I turned off the upper catwalk before seeing where it ended. To get back up there I have to retrace my steps through the lower part of the dome, back to the gate room, and then through its rear entrance to the long, curving catwalk. This brings me back to the section with the piece that had been missing. It’s still in place so I can re-enter the dome and turn to the left.

The catwalk dead ends just meters from the section I first used after leaving the gate room.

Expanding the catwalk.

Expanding the catwalk.

The distance is too great to jump, but there’s a large wheel here that turns easily and extends the catwalk so that it connects to the other side.

The bridge becomes stairs.

The bridge becomes stairs.

Now I’m standing back at the entrance, facing across the Star Fissure below to the gate room. There’s a lever here, and when I throw it, the bridge rises up along a track. The planks that were flat and smooth while it was horizontal angle themselves automatically to become stairs. I look up and realize there’s another level to the dome that I didn’t notice before.

With the catwalk now forming a complete circle around the interior of the dome, it’s easy to make my way back to the gate room and align the exit so I can climb the newly-formed stairs.

Nobody on Riven needs a stairmaster...

Nobody on Riven needs a stairmaster…

The glare from the dome hurts my eyes as I climb. When I get to the top I find myself in a long corridor between two hemispheres of gold. In the dome’s center, blocking my way forward, is a strange contraption that looks like some kind of press controlled by a simple lever and button panel.

The contraption, pressed down.

The contraption, pressed down.

I manipulate the controls, causing the press to descend onto its base, but nothing happens. Manipulating the controls again resets the contraption, so I step forward to take a closer look.

Where do the beads go?

Where do the marbles go?

The base of the press is a grid. Faintly I can see shapes outlined on it: the Riven island map. Along the right side are colored marbles, and suddenly something more from Survey Island falls into place: the silver grid there, the colored lights in the wahrk room, the eye symbols on the dome viewers.

I settle myself in, ready to solve this puzzle.

Next in this series: Riven – Day Five

]]> 0 920
Waka Waka Sun, 19 Jun 2016 02:33:30 +0000 Tomorrow is Father’s Day, so I made my Dad a little gift: the ghosts Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde from Pac-Man. Check the Gallery to see pics!

]]> 0 1122
A Different Look Mon, 23 May 2016 17:52:51 +0000 Read More]]> They say the eyes are the window to the soul…

I have started working on the next test of my Pod Pals doll. As with the first version, the pattern calls for the addition of safety eyes before stuffing the head and moving on to the rest of the body. This is my first time using this pattern so, just like with Beta 1.0 I’m not entirely sure how the final product will turn out and don’t want to commit actual safety eyes to the doll. Once they are in, they can’t be removed—waste not, want not.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t test, right?

While working on Beta 1.0 I ordered a bunch of eyes in different colors, figuring (perhaps presumptuously) that it would be good to have a variety on hand. When Beta 1.0’s pattern called for eyes the shipment hadn’t arrived yet so it wasn’t as easy to get an idea of how they might look. And, once a doll is done, the eyes can’t be permanently put in after the fact without somehow opening up the work and sewing it back together, which would be tantamount to destroying the doll itself.

So now I have lots of eyes, and the Beta 1.0 version of Sakaane has been growing on me. While I can’t permanently change her eyes, I can temporarily stick other colors into her head, so gave it a whirl:

9mm blue, 6mm green, and 6mm black

9mm blue, 6mm green, and 6mm black

The blue 9mm eyes have posts so thick I couldn’t actually work them into her head, so the image of them above is a digital edit. The other two pictures are actual photos of the 6mm eyes in her head. The different sizes and colors really change the look of the face, don’t they? Of these three I actually prefer the solid black the most even though I did want the doll to have green eyes like my in-game avatar does; I think the solid black adds the most “cute factor”. Other people might think differently.

The Beta 2.0 doll has a slightly larger head owing to the pattern calling for a larger hook than the one I used for Beta 1.0. The yarn isn’t entirely getting along with the bigger hook though so I might start over with the smaller size hook I used for Beta 1.0, in which case the heads should turn out to be about the same size. For now though, here is the eye test on the existing Beta 2.0:

9mm blue, 6mm green, and 6mm black

9mm blue, 6mm green, and 6mm black

Same set of eyes (no digital editing). Again, big difference in the look between each one. I think I still prefer the solid black, but who knows? This pattern actually calls for eyes 10.5mm in size, even bigger than the blue ones I have! It’s true that big eyes can convey a greater sense of cute…but to me I think they would be overwhelmingly large at that size. I guess anyone I make these for will have to decide for themselves what kind of appearance they prefer. :)

I see you...

I see you…

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Timothy the T-Rex Sun, 22 May 2016 17:59:20 +0000 Read More]]> After completing the Pod Pals Beta 1.0, I took a break in my crochet plans to try something else.


The result was Timothy the T-Rex!

Rawrrrr is dinospeak for "Give cuddles!"

Rawrrrr is dinospeak for “Give cuddles!”

Cannot decide if hug, or snack.

Cannot decide if hug, or snack.

Timothy is sixteen inches tall and was crocheted with Bernat Blanket “Teal Dreams” super bulky yarn and a 7mm hook.

Not sure what I’m going to do with him… Maybe donate him in a goodwill bin or give him to a charity raffle. :)

These pictures can also be found in the Gallery!

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Pod Pals: Beta 1.0 Sun, 13 Mar 2016 22:36:10 +0000 Read More]]> Some players like to collect things, particularly when those things are items which represent something they are passionate about. When it comes to EVE, the playerbase gobbles up official merchandise from CCP whenever it can. Many corporations, alliances, and coalitions have also made buttons, armbands, patches, coins, medals, pens, mousepads, mugs, and all manner of other kind of promotional materials for their members. Then there are the individual players who frequently make their talents available to create fabulous artwork, videos, logos, tshirts, posters, paintings, sketches, and more by request.

Welp. Here I am, tentatively throwing my hat into that ring.

Back in January I wrote about how winter is a good time for crafts. This came about particularly because of a couple of gifts my mother had gotten me for Christmas, one of which was a crochet kit. Once, some years before, my mother had tried to get me interested in knitting, which is a favorite pastime of hers. I tried it a few times but it never really stuck, though I did make a puppy and a doll. The doll was a character from a story I was trying to write at the time. After that, I tried to knit a doll based on my EVE character, Sakaane.

The disembodied SakDoll.

The disembodied SakDoll.

This is as far as I got: Two arms, the body, a belt, and hair. What I still had to make was the jacket. I got stuck on that, as I couldn’t find a pattern I could successfully adapt to the size of the doll. Frustrated, I gave up. As it turns out, knitting is actually fairly difficult!

But even though I had given up on knitting, I always did want to finish that Sakaane doll. Now that I know how to crochet, I am going to try again. Compared to knitting, crochet is so easy. (Famous last words?) The doll will still be based on the clothing she was wearing at the time when I bought the yarn.

Not exactly clone biomass material.

Not exactly clone biomass material.

There’s an agent mission in EVE where the pilot is charged with the Very Important Task of couriering crates of dolls from one station to another. We also know from the lore that capsuleers can and do end up with fans in the baseliner population, much like any bona fide celebrity (just one who goes out and commits mass murder on a regular basis…). Suppose the dolls inside those crates might actually be Pod Pals, cuddly stuffies of capsuleers that are bought, sold, or traded to the delight of young (or not so young) New Eden denizens everywhere. Collect them all!

She's watching you...

She’s watching you…

Progress to date. The eyes are the wrong color (green is on order) but so far, so good.

When she’s done? If she turns out well, and if people want, I will make a Pod Pal of their in-game avatar for ISK. No details about cost or anything yet; I need to successfully make Sakaane first! This post will be updated as I go. :D

Update: March 24

Progress! The doll is coming along, although I had to do the torso twice to get it to come out right, as the pattern was unclear that it is crocheted from the crotch up rather than from the neck down, so when I was done it was technically backward (colors were reversed). This might not have mattered except for how the neck and the head are stitched together, which meant that I couldn’t simply turn the body over to make it “correct”.

In the meantime, my order of safety eyes came in from 6060. I now have a fair amount of colors to choose from:

A rainbow of eyes

A rainbow of eyes…and some carrot noses

They are so pretty! The colors are quite nice too. Pearl green, pearl blue, sky blue, yellow, gold, brown, and black. Not sure I would need anything else for the Pod Pals! (The carrot noses and the big 15mm eyes are for my mother to use in her projects.)

Coming together!

Coming together!

Despite now having green safety eyes in hand, I decided I wouldn’t use any on this particular doll as it is just a test, so I stitched on eyes instead. At this stage, with the legs attached, she sits on her own without having to be propped up.

But, in doing the legs and arms and then trying to stitch the body together, I’ve become a bit dissatisfied with this pattern to the extent I feel like I should consider a different one—hence the “beta” tag in the post title. :) It’s possible I’m a bit spoiled, as the project before this one was the essentially one-piece elephant (and I know the other pattern I’m considering has the legs attached to the torso directly rather than separate). Not having to stitch limbs on and worry about positioning them evenly is always nice, whereas for this doll the limbs are quite small so it makes it fiddly to work with. Maybe I just need practice with the assembly to get the hang of it? The flip side is that if I try the other pattern (which is a bit larger and more detailed) and like it, I could potentially offer a choice of which body people want used.

Either way, it’s coming along, and I will complete the doll simply to have a finished product. I think she’ll be cute when she’s done!

Update: April 3

Pod goo wreaks havoc on capsuleer hair.

Pod goo wreaks havoc on capsuleer hair.

Here is my second attempt at hair. Looks pretty wild!

There are no pictures of the first attempt, as what I tried came out looking like the doll was wearing a blonde-colored mushroom. Fungus hair. Nope.

The second attempt was fairly easy to accomplish but isn’t a winner for this particular doll. Trying to style the yarn into the twist Sakaane wears proved basically impossible, so out it all came. She’s bald again. :(

All is not lost, though. This particular technique will work perfectly well to easily create a ponytail, whether tied high or low. It could potentially also work for short spiky hair but I’m not sure yet. However, if the capsuleer has long, loose hair, I’ll have to use a completely different technique for various reasons.

I’m trying something else now to achieve Sak’s twist. Maybe third time’s the charm?

Update: May 1

She’s finally done!


Creating doll hair with a French twist was not easy!


Pod Pal Sakaane wants to give you a hug!

Pod Pal Sakaane also had a photo shoot today with my EVE ship models. :) Have a look!

In the end it took four tries to get the hair right. As the pictures show, the doll is quite small (fits in the palm of your hand). With actual safety eyes I think the cuteness factor would go up quite substantially. However, I don’t think the jacket is a suitable accessory for this body size. The extra layer just feels too bulky. I could get lighter weight yarn for a thinner garment but my yarn stash is overflowing as it is so I need to work through that stuff first.

All in all this doll took about fifteen to twenty hours to complete, mostly because of the multiple tries at the hair. With more practice, simpler hair, and no jacket I think I could get it down to around ten hours or less. I’m fairly happy with how she turned out and will consider using the pattern again if someone wants this one, but I’m also still keen to give another pattern a try for comparison. Onward, to version 2.0!

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Elephant! Sun, 13 Mar 2016 16:43:47 +0000 Read More]]> Another crochet project has been added to the Gallery! This one is a very cute elephant. After a couple more projects I think I will split the crochet work into its own Amigurumi section.

I’m really enjoying crochet. It’s a wonderful pastime and fairly relaxing, something I can do when I’m not really interested in playing games or otherwise working on my computer. Good activity to keep my hands busy while I’m watching a movie!

My next project will be a doll. A very particular doll. :D

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The deGuerre Family Sat, 12 Mar 2016 19:58:32 +0000 Read More]]>

On February 29, 2016, CCP discontinued the EVElopedia. Unfortunately for some players, the wiki contained the only record of their adventures in New Eden.

The following article was originally authored by Carl Marsalis. I am republishing the content with his permission so that these character histories are not lost.

Louis deGuerre

Louis deGuerre

Louis deGaulle was born on Gallente Prime in the Gallente Federation, the empire of the free, where you have freedom of religion, freedom of speech…and freedom to starve. At a young age he was abandoned by his mother on the dark streets in the shadow of the stratoscrapers that define the Gallente cities. Like many other disregarded citizens he survived alone on the refuse of those more fortunate until he was arrested and enrolled in a Youth Reclamation Program. When he was tested in the camp school his analytical skills were noticed and eventually he was enrolled in the Federation Navy. There he became a capsuleer and ventured out into the universe. In gratitude to the Federation Navy for the change in his miserable life he assumed the surname deGuerre, meaning war in the now archaic language of the original founders of the Gallente Federation.

Using the skills he acquired in his studies he hacked into the Federal Administration’s DNA records trying to find out if he had any family. He discovered that his mother and father were long dead due to substance abuse, but that two other children matching his DNA pattern had once been arrested as well. His brother and sister had been sired by other men than his dead father. After their release from custody their DNA matches never appeared again. This meant that they were either dead or living in another empire. He continued to search for them with little success, as all he had were two police ID photos of angrily scowling youths and their names, Hanako Nakamura and Batukhan Kiyat.

YC109 December (Trinity)

After his required service as a combat pilot for the Federation Navy, Louis became interested in Astral Mining Inc.’s network of extensive contacts with other empires, hoping this might help him in his search for his missing siblings. While he worked for them he flew with Legion of Shadow (SLOS) corporation and rose in the ranks to become director. Wishing to learn more about industry he joined their newly created sister corporation Paladin Mining and Production (PMAP) and there soon became the CEO.

After climbing his way up the ladder at Astral Mining Inc. to better agents he got a lead that his sister Hanako might be found in the Amarr Empire. Understanding that the huge Amarr Navy had the best resources in Amarr space he offered them his services which they gladly accepted. During his long service with the Amarr Navy his search also brought him deep to the lawless 0.0 region of Providence, where a Bestower carrying a Caldari national bearing the name Hanako Nakamura was last sighted. While searching through Providence he flew with Risen Heretic Armada (R H A) corporation.

Sadly, he never found a trace of the missing ship, but he did find Amarr space becoming ever more unwelcome to Gallente capsuleers and awash with rumors of impending war with the Gallente Federation. Disheartened with his failed search, he left messages for Hanako at The Scope and other corporations and returned back to Gallente space where he re-applied to the Federation Navy. The debt of honor to his benefactor had to be paid.

YC110 May

Dark clouds began to hover over the fragile peace between the empires.

In May the last surviving Gallente veteran of the first Gallente-Caldari War, Admiral Alexander Noir, deliberately crashed his Nyx supercarrier FNS Wandering Saint into the Ishukone megacorporation headquarters station at Malkalen V – Moon 1 where an economic summit was taking place. Among the many dead was the Ishukone CEO Otro Gariushi, which allowed warmonger Tibus Heth to take control of the Caldari State and made war almost inevitable.

Later that month there was a tense standoff between CONCORD DED units and a combined Republic Fleet/Thukker Tribe fleet in Yulai. This would later turn out to be an Elder Fleet.

During the quiet before this storm Louis met some nice people and, making the most of the last days of peace, he joined their corporation Chimera Tech (CMERA). He spent a very relaxed time flying with them, learning the finer points of small scale frigate combat and sharing some of the skills he had acquired during his training by the Federation Navy.

YC110 June (Empyrean Age)

On the 10th of June total war broke out between the four great empires when in a surprise attack by the Elder Fleet the CONCORD station in Yulai was destroyed, effectively disabling CONCORD temporarily. The Caldari Navy wasted no time in invading Gallente space and capturing the Luminaire system which contains their old homeworld Caldari Prime as well as the Gallente homeworld and Louis’s birthplace Gallente Prime.

While the Caldari were occupying Luminaire the Minmatar Elder Fleets invaded Ammatar and Amarr space in an all-out assault to free their enslaved brethren. The Amarr were pushed back and the conflict resulted in the Battle of Mekhios in the Sarum Prime system when presumed dead Heir Jamyl Sarum suddenly appeared and annihilated an entire Elder Fleet with a Terran superweapon. After this disastrous defeat the Minmatar fled back to their own space.

After a day of all-out war, CONCORD managed to get their station in Yulai operational again and combat between the empire navies ceased. However, unable to restrain the war hungry capsuleers, they decided to issue the CONCORD Emergency Militia War Powers Act so that controlled Factional Warfare over disputed lowsec regions would still be allowed.

When news of the Caldari invasion of Luminaire reached him, Louis and other Gallente loyalists rushed to their ships and engaged the Caldari task force guarding Caldari Prime, consisting of a Leviathan class titan with a large escort fleet. After fighting for hours against the Caldari Navy, Caldari capsuleer loyalists, and CONCORD who was there fighting everyone, the Gallenteans managed to destroy all opposition except the Leviathan, effectively leaving the Caldari in control of the skies over Caldari Prime. To his dismay CONCORD allowed the Caldari to remain in control of Caldari Prime. Over time Louis took part in several capsuleer attempts to destroy the titan, all without success.

After Louis heard about the new capsuleer militias he immediately decided to fight for his beloved Federation and applied to the Gallente militia. Many capsuleers followed his example and joined one of the militias. The war had begun.

All his training had not prepared Louis for the grim reality of continuous chaotic fleet battles all over the combat zone between the Gallente Federation and the Caldari State. For four months he flew with the Federation Zone Operation Command (ZOCOM) corporation in the brutal conflict with the Caldari over control of the Black Rise region.

YC110 October

As a result of her victory over the Minmatar in June, Jamyl Sarum was crowned empress of the Amarr empire in a grand ceremony.

Meanwhile Louis spent brief periods flying for the regular Federal Defense Union militia and the Universe At War (U.A.W) corporation in his continuing struggle against the Caldari in the faction wars.

Exhausted from the endless warfare, he went on a pilgrimage to to the EVE Gate in the New Eden system, looking for spiritual renewal. After evading the local pirates, he reached his goal and marveled at the spectacle before him. He spent a few days meditating and reflecting on his ancient ancestors from Earth who had created this miracle of engineering. He realized they must have had an incredibly strong sense of purpose to be able to have achieved this and this inspired him to regain his own sense of purpose. He dutifully returned to the war.

YC110 November (Quantum Rise)

In a surprising turn of events, the Amarr Heir Uriam Kador ordered his family fleet to invade Gallente space where his forces clashed with Gallente defenses in the Ratillose system. A massive Gallente counterattack followed and the Amarr fleet was completely annihilated. A retaliatory strike at Kador Prime followed where the remains of the Kador fleet were wiped out and the Gallente traitor Grand Admiral Anvent Eturrer was captured after which the Gallente forces returned to their own space.

With his morale restored, in December Louis switched tack and spent three months fighting a solo guerrilla war deep behind Caldari lines under the banner of Hanako’s personal mercenary corporation Public Funded War Targets (PFWT).

YC111 March (Apocrypha)

On the 10th of March the empires were confronted with terrible news. Various stars suddenly experienced a main-sequence anomaly and in these events an ORE expedition in the 3HQC-6 system in the Outer Ring region and the hundreds-of-ships-strong Thukker Great Caravan Lakat-Hro in the SL-YBS system in the Great Wildlands region were completely destroyed. The Gallente planet Seyllin I in the Essence region was heavily damaged and, after frantic rescue operations which saved hundred of thousands, was completely destroyed as well when it was hit by what appeared to have been a stellar mass ejection. Millions perished in these cataclysms.

After the initial shock it was discovered that since these events took place, unstable wormholes would form randomly in regular known space, or k-space, which lead to other places in New Eden and sometimes to uncharted wormhole space, called w-space. The empires sent in expeditions and found that this w-space was populated by a deadly race called the Sleepers. Wormhole space would prove to be both highly dangerous and highly lucrative so soon the capsuleers ventured into w-space, established bases, and began to exploit it and fight among themselves for the best systems.

Curious, Louis took part in some of the exploration of w-space, but then returned to normal k-space and the trenches of the faction wars. His solo campaign of terror was noticed by the elite Azure Horizons Federate Militia corporation and he was invited to join. He spent five months flying with some of the best pilots in New Eden.

Meanwhile the massive numbers of the Caldari State Protectorate militia began to push the Gallente Federal Defense Union militia back while the Gallente Federation Navy dithered. In March the Intaki system containing Intaki Prime, the homeworld of the Intaki and one of the most important planets in the Federation, capitulated to the Caldari invaders. The outnumbered Gallente loyalists struggled to turn the tide but the Federation Navy proved no match for the Caldari Navy. By the end of May the Caldari had achieved total victory.

In a bitter mood a counter offensive was launched and the Gallente militia was slowly regaining ground and closing in on the Intaki system when it became clear that the Gallente and Intaki government lacked the political will to recapture their lost space. On August the 20th the Intaki government threw their lot in with the Caldari Ishukone megacorporation. After a few days of stunned disbelief, Louis left factional warfare in disgust at the Gallente appeasement policy.

He had spent more than a year in endless combat and had contributed so much to the liberation and defense of lowsec systems that he had risen to the rank of Aegis Commander. Meanwhile, the endless fighting had honed his combat skills until they were as sharp as the stiletto he used to wield when he was still living in the shadowy streets of Gallente Prime. As he left the lowsec battlefields behind him he was surprised to receive a message from his long lost sister Hanako.

YC111 August

Louise deGuerre (Hanako Nakamura)

Louise deGuerre (Hanako Nakamura)

Hanako had grown up on the streets of Gallente Prime like him, but had managed to get out of that life by getting a job as a security guard on a passing Iteron Mark V. Traveling all over the New Eden and taking every opportunity to improve her combat and piloting skills, she had quickly risen to become a professional mercenary. After several years of dangerous jobs and hard work she eventually rose to capsuleer status in Caldari space.

By this time Louis’s name had become known to the State Protectorate as a byword for vicious guerrilla attacks and so his name was often in the news when the Caldari had suffered another defeat. Hanako had been living in Caldari space since she left the Amarr Empire and when she saw his face on the Galactic News Network she was strangely fascinated by him. Some research on him quickly led her to the discovery of his long search for her.

She was shocked to find she had a half-brother and strongly moved by his quest to find her. They agreed to meet and hit it off like a station on fire.

From then on she operated as his second, rarely seen but ever close by, ruthlessly executing his plans when he was unable to implement them himself due to his many commitments. Her loyalty to him was so strong she changed her name to Louise deGuerre, to symbolize that they were as one.

Louis Khan (Batukhan Kiyat)

Louis Khan (Batukhan Kiyat)

Searching together, they managed to locate Batukhan Kiyat. He was living in Minmatar space on the planet Matar running a small crime syndicate. A cunning and secretive man, Louis and Hanako never found out how he ended up there. They paid for his transformation into a capsuleer without questions. In a symbolic gesture of fidelity Batukhan renamed himself to Louis Khan and joined their partnership. He then handled the intelligence and administration side of Louis’s ventures.

Hearing of his availability and presence in Minmatar space, Louis was quickly approached for a director role in The Rise Of The Dragon Knights (ROTDK) corporation. He had always enjoyed teaching new pilots the finer points of flying and this became his focus for quite some time. He quickly became the CEO, and eventually became the Executor of Void Alliance (VA) which his corporation had joined.

After half a year the alliance was betrayed by the previous Executor magei and suffered some damage before control of the alliance was recovered. The veteran members of the alliance regrouped into the newly founded Amicus Morte (AMICU) corporation and looked to move into 0.0 space.

YC112 April

Amicus Morte was invited to join Shock An Awe (-AWE-) alliance and come to Providence to fight for Against ALL Authorities (.-A-.) alliance in the Providence War against Curatores Veritatis Alliance (CVA) as part of a large coalition of smaller alliances called the New Providence NIP. Shock An Awe slowly gained more power in the coalition, eventually gaining three 0.0 systems, by which time Louis had become the CEO of Amicus Morte. After half a year the alliance Executor Bootdisk was overthrown by the CEOs of the member corporations and they reformed as the Dead Muppets (-DM-) alliance and claimed a fourth 0.0 system.

YC112 November (Incursion)

After a drama-filled six months which saw great personal success for Louis, the end was in sight for the New Providence NIP. The powerful Ev0ke (EV0KE) alliance was removed from Cloud Ring and decided to take over Providence. All-out war raged day after day, but Ev0ke did not manage to get a foothold against the combined forces of the New Providence NIP. After a month the French Not Found (404) alliance and the Northern Coalition (NC) alliance joined the Ev0ke offensive and the stalemate was broken. In the following weeks most of the alliances of the New Providence NIP evacuated Providence and went their own way.

Dead Muppets regrouped in hisec and Amicus Morte merged into Malevolence (.MOVE) corporation where Louis took up a director role. After considering many suitors Malevolence joined Imperial Order (I0) alliance.

Imperial Order were based in Impass and were fighting The Initiative (INIT.) alliance together with Against ALL Authorities and Stainwagon for control of Catch at the end of the First Catch War. After The Initiative was crushed and fleeing Catch Imperial Order claimed the entire constellation of FDR-EQ and its two stations.

YC113 April

After a fairly quiet time Imperial Order became involved in a war to control the Omist region. Together with Against ALL Authorities they assaulted the region and captured it with ease. Omist is about as far away from hisec as you can get, so the logistics were hard work and a continuing headache while living there. Meanwhile the overarching conflict of Against ALL Authorities versus the Drone Russian Federation (DRF) coalition was happening close by in Detorid. The battle lines swept back and forth but the front was slowly closing in on Louis’s new home in constellation 8MJO-4.

YC113 September

While Louis was having good fights all over Omist and the surrounding regions it was becoming apparent that the leadership of Imperial Order was becoming shaky. The charismatic alliance leader Vampire Lord was losing control over the bickering upper echelons. There were internal conflicts about the future direction of Imperial Order and with trepidation Louis watched the rise of suspicious characters to director level.

So it came as no great surprise to him when A Puppetmaster betrayed the alliance and disbanded it. As he did not enjoy living in Omist, Louis was not unhappy about this turn of affairs.

Malevolence evacuated back to hisec for some well deserved R&R and plans for the future were made.

YC113 November (Crucible)

MulaSoldats, one of the former Imperial Order directors which Louis did respect, had managed to get his corporation The Dark Tribe (TDT) into Against ALL Authorities. PAPULA, one of Louis’s closest friends and a fearsome warrior, invited him to join along with other ex-Malevolence members. After getting some guarantees about the quality of the membership Louis accepted and moved to his new home in the C3-0YD system of Tenerifis.

In the fairly quiet situation Louis found himself in he spent most of his time becoming an expert in the exploitation of 0.0 space through planetary interaction and teaching his sister Hanako the finer points of space warfare. Batukhan spent a lot of time out of sight in New Eden‘s largest trade hub Jita, most likely engaging in shady dealings.

YC114 January

For a year now hisec space had been terrorized by invasions of the evil Sansha’s Nation. Feeling some concern for the hisec denizens and enticed by the lucrative bounties Louis joined in the capsuleer struggle to beat them back. He spent a lot of time fighting against their incursions, though he also still found time to teach his sister who was becoming highly skilled in the noble art of deep space laser fencing. Meanwhile Batukhan was taking his first steps in learning how to fly the stealthy covert ops ships.

YC114 October

After many excursions and small wars in mid-YC114, Against ALL Authorities became involved in another giant conflict, namely the Southern Coalition (SOCO) versus the Clusterfuck Coalition (CFC). Heavily outnumbered, Against ALL Authorities was slowly pushed back and with the fall of GE-8JV (and thus the whole Catch region) imminent, Louis evacuated to Against ALL Authorities’ unconquerable core system LGK-VP in the Stain region.

Personality: Louis deGaulle

Cautious, Analytical, Honorable, Friendly

Louis’s background and experiences have made him cautious and analytical of his surroundings. Everything to him is a potential combat situation where victory must be attained. This can be quite wearisome to other people. On the other hand, the camaraderie and friendship he has experienced in his career have made him open himself up more to other people, so people don’t quite know what to make of him, introvert and intellectual one moment, extrovert and exuberant the next.

He is fiercely loyal to his siblings and to the Gallente Federation. He loves his half-sister Hanako but is worried that her ruthless disposition might get her into deep trouble one day. He loves his half-brother Batukhan as well but it annoys Louis that he never manages to get to know his brother better.

Personality: Hanako Nakamura

Cold, Reserved, Ruthless, Vindictive

Hanako’s harsh childhood and hard life as a mercenary have made her a strong and dangerous woman. Like her half-brother Louis, she was abandoned on the streets by her mother the moment her Caldari father left. Her only loyalty is to her siblings and whomever is paying her retainer. As long as she is paid on time she is completely loyal and not afraid to die for her employer. Despite her Caldari ancestry, she does not care that Louis is a Gallente loyalist.

She is a strict disciplinarian and especially hard on herself. Her only form of entertainment is physical exercise and mastering rare or unusual weaponry. Like Louis, she does not understand her other half-brother Batukhan, but unlike Louis, she does not care that she doesn’t as long as he is loyal. She rarely smiles, but she is rumored to laugh when she is finishing a termination contract. As only the victim knows for sure, no one knows if this is actually true. She is known to take offense easily and hold grudges for a long time.

Personality: Batukhan Kiyat

Amiable, Smooth, Calculating, Mysterious

No one knows how Batukhan ended up on Matar. His siblings speculate that he traveled back with his Minmatar father who left him in the care of the local clan orphanage when they arrived. Later in life Batukhan became a successful local crime lord before he met his siblings and became a capsuleer. He never speaks of his childhood, always managing to avoid questions by spinning outrageous tales of his recent criminal exploits instead.

He seems to be a very cheerful person, always laughing and cracking jokes and with a smile for everyone while somehow people around him end up defrauded or robbed due to no apparent fault of his. His motives for his loyalty to his siblings are unknown but he has safeguarded billions of ISK-worth of their assets, even taking care of alliance administration for them, without fault. He prefers to stay in the background, but may sometimes come to the fore when his stealthy skills are needed.


EVE Search – Posts by Louis DeGuerre
eveboard – Louis deGuerre
EVE-Kill Pilot Details

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Remember Reschard V: Suresha’s Speech Wed, 10 Feb 2016 01:01:29 +0000 Read More]]> Reschard V was once a fertile world, lush with life, a green jewel nestled away in low-security Placid. Millions of people called it their home. They had built a successful agrarian society they were proud of, and had lived peacefully for generations without the need of any military.

Ten years ago today, all of that changed. Everyone in Placid—and beyond—remembers where they were when everything that Reschard V was, was taken from us in a brutal and unforgivable terrorist attack that too few survived.

Everyone remembers where they were just days later when the Sisters of EVE convoy, bringing much-needed relief supplies and rescue equipment, was set upon by pirates and ultimately destroyed just within reach of its goal, adding thousands of more deaths to a toll that was already so difficult to comprehend. We remember how we thought that something like this could never happen to us, to Placid, to Reschard.

Today, the fields of wheat that once stretched like gold to the horizon are gone. There are no rows of corn reaching to the sky. Only the wind carries echoes of laughter of children who once played games of hide-and-seek among the crops, echoes of laughter of the hard-working men and women—entire generations of families who sought only to live their lives in peace. Today, Reschard V is a barren wasteland, a graveyard silently guarding the dead.

The tragic events of February 9, YC108 still have an impact on many people today. No one can ever fully appreciate the struggle the survivors endured during the seven months they spent trapped on the surface before being rescued. Some of them suffer post-traumatic stress disorder and many are unable, even today, to put their experience into words. We recognize and celebrate their courage, their determination, their perseverance.

On this day of remembrance, let us rededicate ourselves to the ideals of peace and justice, and let us look to the future with hearts full of hope. Let February 9, YC108 be a day that we wish never to know again.

Though the victims may be reborn someday, we are nevertheless diminished by their absence. Please join me in observing a moment of silence at 0900 today in their honor.

Thank you.

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Sad Stormtrooper Sun, 07 Feb 2016 18:27:52 +0000 My first crochet project is done! Check out the Gallery for pictures. :D

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Hooked on Ravelry Sat, 16 Jan 2016 20:32:06 +0000 Read More]]> As a new crocheter, it was suggested to me to join Ravelry, a free community website.

Ravelry is a place for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, weavers and dyers to keep track of their yarn, tools, project and pattern information, and look to others for ideas and inspiration.

About Ravelry

The website requires an account to get into so when I first visited I didn’t actually sign up right away. The front page, while colorful, didn’t immediately grab my attention much. I thought, Meh, maybe I’ll bother with it later.

Well, I’m glad I did!

This website is amazing. And when I say “amazing”, I mean it will probably blow your mind as to the sheer magnitude of resources, tools, and patterns available, and much of it for free! Free!! I can’t wait to see my mother’s reaction when I show it to her.

I do appear to be hooked. Ravelry has a “library” area for users where people can store patterns they like. My first random foray through the site had me add about twenty patterns to my library. That in turn sent me off to visit a few stores…

My growing yarn stash and supplies.

My growing yarn stash and supplies.

Somewhere in the house I have a few more bits of yarn hidden away that I need to find to add to the pile. The hooks are a set of eight tapered throat anodized aluminum crochet hooks in pretty pastel colors, ranging from 3.25mm to 6.5mm. This adds to the 4.5mm and 7mm hooks Mom gave me to practice with and the 3mm hook that came with the Jolly Santa kit (that I still can’t quite figure out). No duplicate sizes either! I also got a set of locking stitch markers which I think will help me a lot with keeping track of starting chains and rounds.

Once I had this, I went back to the site and spent some more time (actually, an embarrassing number of hours) going through the pattern categories…

My Ravelry library.

My Ravelry library so far.

Amigurumi (the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals and anthropomorphic creatures) seems to be something I’m going to spend most of my time on! (But there are also a few fingerless mitten patterns in there.) The patterns I’ve collected so far are all adorable and many of them are gaming related.

GrumBee by Dennis van den Brink

GrumBee by Dennis van den Brink

This bee doll caught my attention because 1) he’s grumpy, and 2) the bee is an iconic symbol in EVE Online, for Goonswarm. I’m tempted to crochet this and send it to Mittens for lols. I also came across several other doll patterns that at first glance look like good candidates to make EVE characters with. :D

My crocheting isn’t going to be all about gaming or EVE though.

Pretty fish! Pattern by Aurélie MarieMad

Pretty fish! Pattern by Aurélie MarieMad

This fish is gorgeous. Look at the detail! As an aquarium lover I just have to try it.

Lastly, what kind of a geek would I be if I didn’t get on the recent hype?

OMG ADORBS! Star Wars minis by Lucy Collin

OMG ADORBS! Star Wars minis by Lucy Collin

Based solely on this image I ordered the Star Wars Crochet pattern set. It will be here next week.

No idea what I will do with my creations other than the dolls I hope to commission, but even so I’m looking forward to this! There are also so many patterns to choose from now, I have no idea where to start!

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The Fifth Age: Riven – Day Three Sun, 10 Jan 2016 00:07:05 +0000 Read More]]>

Riven – Day One | Riven – Day Two | Riven – Day Three | Riven – Day Four | Riven – Day Five

I recently got an itch to revisit the Myst series of games. The serene yet subtly disturbing puzzle-oriented mysteries of Myst and Riven were ground-breaking for their day. I’m a gamer today primarily because of this universe.


A five-sided door.

This is my fourth post in the series. I’m now five hours into Riven. To date I have explored quite a bit of the five islands and uncovered more than a few uncomfortable facts about Gehn, the villain. I know that Catherine is still alive and imprisoned somewhere in the Fifth Age. I still need to recover the prison book that Atrus gave me and figure out where the Star Fissure is located.

Come with me as I continue my journey!

Fair warning: if you’ve never played Riven, there are spoilers ahead!

Jungle Island

I wake up inside the strange metal structure that contains the wahrk throne. It’s hot and stuffy in here, but before I leave I should really investigate this thing further. Two levers are positioned in front of the throne within easy reach, so I sit down and give one a try. The chair lifts up and rotates, the ceiling of the structure splits open, and I find myself thrust into the sky.

Controlling fate from high overhead.

Controlling fate from high overhead.

Actually, it’s a spectacular view from up here, even if I feel like I might topple off the throne and plummet to my death at the slightest bit of wind. The fact there are razor sharp teeth lining the jawbone behind my back isn’t comforting either.

The village is quiet and still, just like when I walked through it. I suppose as soon as the throne contraption started to lift up, the Rivenese all scurried into hiding, possibly thinking that Gehn was about to appear. But it’s only me and I wonder what thoughts are going through their minds right now. I can’t see anyone but I can feel their attention. It’s as if the village is holding its breath, waiting and watching to see what I do next.

I look down. Directly below me is the lake and the wahrk gallows. I already know that, usually, someone has to be standing down there on the platform to pull the handle that lowers the crossbar. So what does Gehn control up here? Now that I think about it, it seems a bit odd that Gehn isn’t the one who actually serves the victim up as a meal.

Or maybe it isn’t that odd. A cruel man would make one of his own subjects, possibly even one of the villagers rather than a scribe or some other henchman elevated beyond the lowest ranks in this society, be the one to actually do the deed. He wouldn’t want to actually get any blood on his hands. Plus, the poor soul standing down there would be front and center when the wahrk comes to feed.

I throw the second lever, not knowing what to expect.

No wahrk meals today.

No wahrk meals today.

To my surprise, a platform irises into place at the base of the gallows, blocking off access for the wahrk. Intrigued, I leave the lever in place and throw the first one again, which pulls the throne back down into the metal structure.

On my way back to the gallows I have to pass briefly through the jungle. I take a moment to breathe in the cool, shaded surroundings one last time. The rumbling of the lava far below catches my attention again and I look down over the railing.

It’s hot down there.

It’s hot down there.

Though Gehn is clearly the most menacing threat this Age faces, the orange glow is a sobering reminder that nature contains its own dangers and this Age is tearing itself further apart every moment. I never once stopped to consider whether there could be any predators in the jungle. Maybe the wahrk was at the top of the food chain here, at least until Gehn showed up.

I make my way back to the village via the boardwalk. The sub is still where I left it, at the first dock near where the walkway exits the cliff. I get in and soon find myself climbing up the ladder that leads to gallows platform.

Ready to go for a ride!

Ready to go for a ride!

The closed iris has Gehn’s star pattern and the D’ni number five emblazoned on it. Each piece is so well made that I can’t tell where the seams are.

Just as I reach out to pull the handle, there’s a metallic banging in the water below me and I hear the frustrated call of the wahrk. The gallows vibrates and dimly in the water I can see a shadow circling! It’s ramming the gallows, trying to knock me into the water so it can eat!

Finally, the creature gives up and retreats. The lake falls silent again and my heart eventually comes down out of my throat.

After I pull the handle, the crossbar lowers. Before it can retract out of reach I grab it, then hang on for dear life as I’m pulled up. At the top of the gallows the crossbar just narrowly skims through an opening. Thankfully I don’t have to reach far to get my feet back on something solid.

When I stand up, I nearly slip and fall back through the opening. Five wahrk jaws surround me, their razor teeth pointed inward and sharp tusks shining.

Worse than having to “walk the plank”!

Worse than having to “walk the plank”!

I have no illusions that Gehn would have been kind enough to kill his victims first before feeding them to the wahrk; rather, I’m certain he made them walk toward this platform with these skulls staring them in the face, knowing they were about to be eaten alive, before they were tied to the crossbar and hung by the ankles.

Turning away from the gallows, I come face to face with a door set into the rock face. The door is round and rusted, with a pentagon shape cut into it and bars leading to an open circle in the middle. The circle is too small for a person to crawl through, but big enough for a plate of food. This is a prison cell.

I look inside.

Waiting to be eaten.

Waiting to be eaten.

It’s dim and hard to see in the cell compared to the bright light of day out here, but after a moment I spy a bit of movement and make out the form of a man! He doesn’t seem to see me at first, though when he finally does look up he says nothing.

I don’t say anything either. If my very presence is enough to cause the villagers to hide from fear, actually trying to speak to this person might give him a heart attack for all I know. Besides, he probably wouldn’t understand me anyway.

I step back and look around. To my right on the rock face is a rusted wheel with a knob protruding from it. The control for the door? I turn it and hear a satisfying sound of grinding metal.

The door opens!

The door opens!

The door opens and I wait a moment, but the prisoner doesn’t emerge. Maybe he is too frightened of me to think that I have freed him? I wait again but he still doesn’t come out.



When I look into the cell, I’m astonished to find it empty!

The Rivenese have impressed me before with their ability to apparently vanish into thin air, but this is getting ridiculous. I know I haven’t eaten or had water in a while but I don’t think I’m hallucinating. The prison cell was sealed up and is made of solid rock. How did the man get out without me seeing him?

I go inside to investigate. The cell has no windows, just the door I came through. In one corner I find a metal plate, empty. There is no furniture or amenities of any kind, not even a cot. I suppose the people Gehn sacrificed to the wahrk probably weren’t in here long enough to need one, or Gehn just didn’t care to make their last moments comfortable.

The only other feature the cell has is a small metal grate in the floor.

Don’t mind the smell.

Don’t mind the smell.

The grate is rusted too, but after a good tug I get it open. Brown, sludgy water fills the basin below it and I try not to think about why it’s that particular color or what that smell is.

The prisoner didn’t disappear through this grate, not unless he magically shrank himself first and grew gills and a resistance to…sludge. The water isn’t that deep though, and just below the surface I think I see…something.

I brace myself, roll up my sleeve, and reach in. My questing fingers find a thin metal handle, which I quickly pull up.

The grinding sound I hear next makes me think the cell door behind me is closing, but in actual fact part of the wall in front of me is slowly receding!

An escape route.

An escape route.

The prisoner covered his escape by opening this secret passage at the same time the cell door was opening.

Why let me know this passage is here? Surely the Rivenese haven’t started to trust me, because the village across the lake is still silent. What if the prisoner is part of the Black Moiety? They have Atrus’s prison book, and if they’ve been watching me, maybe they’ve begun to divine its purpose—or, at the very least, mine.

The passage must be more than just an escape route. Shaking off my wet hand, I crawl into the opening and locate the switch on the other side of the wall that closes it up again. Now if Gehn or any of his people come to the cell it will simply look like someone opened the door and let the prisoner go.

The passage is narrow and quickly becomes pitch black. I have to make my way along mostly by following the rough wall. The low ceiling forces me to crouch and I whack my head a few times. The floor slopes downward and after a while I can hear the ocean.

A dead end.

A dead end.

Finally, light seeps into the passage again and I emerge at water level. It’s a dead end! There is nothing down here but the sea. The way behind is darkness. Did the prisoner come all the way down here just to jump into the ocean and swim away? Swim where? The water is frigid; if I try it I’ll probably die of hypothermia before I get anywhere.

Then I notice the stick protruding from the wall. It has a small white bulb attached near the end that bursts with illumination when I touch it. Now the passage back isn’t quite so dark. A little further along, just as the light from the last bulb is about to fade out, I find another. Then another.

A door to a hidden passage.

A door to a hidden passage.

Pretty soon the entire passage is lit and I discover what the darkness was hiding: about halfway along, there’s a stone door that neatly cuts off an alternate passage. The door swings silently and I take the other path. The passage is just as narrow and tight as the one I was just in.

Idly, as I crawl along I wonder how the Rivenese, or the Black Moiety, were able to dig out and construct all of this without Gehn noticing. Or maybe Atrus was been doing more than just trying to repair this Age; did he write these secret passages into the Age after Gehn was trapped here?

The entrance to the stone ring chamber.

The entrance to the stone ring chamber.

Finally, the way ahead opens up and I can stand up straight again. Before me is a lit chamber containing a ring of stones.



Each stone has an animal pictograph etched on it. The first one I recognize is the wahrk. The shape looks similar to the rock I found out on the beach, the one that had the wooden eye embedded in it. I reach out to touch the stone and when my fingers make contact, the stone sinks down slightly into the ground!

Then I notice the wall behind the wahrk stone. The wall has a basin carved vertically into it and it’s full of this Age’s weird water. I can’t tell what is preventing the water from succumbing to gravity and leaking out all over the floor.

At the bottom of the basin is a square depression, and in that is a stone or wood covering with the Black Moiety dagger symbol on it. But because it’s in the water I can’t reach it to find out what might be behind it.

This must be another puzzle. I turn back to the stones and look at the images on each one. The next one I recognize seems to represent the sunners I saw on the beach by the wahrk rock. I touch that one too and it sinks down.

What next? I find a beetle that matches the shape I saw in the pool up on the village cliff.

That’s three. In D’ni culture the magic number is five, according to Gehn. I don’t recognize any of the other animals though, and despite several attempts at touching the stones, I don’t manage to find the combination that solves this particular puzzle.

There must be other animals, and thus animal symbols, hidden in this Age somewhere. Then it occurs to me that when I found the wahrk symbol, the wooden eye had the D’ni number five on it. Maybe it’s not enough to know the right symbols; I probably need to know what the right order is, too.

I leave the stone room and retrace my steps to the prison cell, emerging carefully and making sure to close the passage behind me.

Where else have I seen the wooden eyes? There was one in the beetle pool above the village. There’s one floating in the village lake as well—which Gehn has a duplicate of in his lab. I also recall I saw one right when I first arrived on Jungle Island. That means I really only have one more to find.

Then I remember something else: the ytram trap on Book Assembly Island. I never figured out how to get it working. If I do, maybe I will get lucky and find out what exactly a ytram is supposed to be.

I exit the prison cell—being sure to leave the door open, so Gehn hopefully won’t investigate the cell more closely once he discovers his prisoner is missing—and quickly retrace my steps to the path that takes me past the sunner’s rock and the wahrk rock, and up to where I found the beetle pool. This wooden eye has the number two on it.

The fastest way to get back to Book Assembly Island is via the wood chipper cart.



Not that I’m especially keen to risk my life again by hurtling at breakneck speeds along a track that plunges into the ocean through firey rings of death, but… Well, okay, it is fun.

Book Assembly Island

The first thing I do after climbing out of the wood chipper is re-examine the switch in the middle of the lake. The first pipe leading from the switch powers the wood chipper; the second pipe powers the boiler, which is what the switch is still set to. I point it at the third pipe instead. The third pipe runs off to the base of the cliff below the balcony. Maybe now the trap will work.

As I walk back to shore I notice something else. From this angle it looks like there is a ladder attached to the cliff below the balcony that I didn’t notice before. Perhaps I don’t have to go crawling through the boiler pipes again.

It’s a long way up. When I get to the top of the ladder I’m directly underneath the balcony, and while there is a hatch of some sort here, I can’t open it from this side. Ugh. Fine. Into the boiler I go.

The trapdoor.

The trapdoor.

When I get back to the balcony and hop over the railing, I see the hatch at my feet and wonder how I could have possibly missed it the first time. I release the lock and open it, leaving it that way so I can use the ladder later.

Ready to be sprung!

Ready to be sprung!

This time when I set the trap and throw the lever, it hums to life and descends out of sight into the dark cavern below.

I head to Gehn’s lab next, expecting it will take a bit of time before the trap might be sprung. The front door is still unlocked, so thankfully I don’t have to crawl through the vent duct to get in.

Something about the lab doesn’t seem quite right. It’s like catching just the faintest whiff of someone’s aftershave in an empty room and then not being sure if I actually smelled anything. Has someone else been here?

Something is missing...

Something is missing…

Then I see one of the desks. When I was last in the lab, there was a pipe on the shelf…and a rifle laid on this corner. Now both are gone. This being Gehn’s lab and pipes usually being something of a personal thing, I can only guess that it was Gehn himself who returned here to fetch both items. Wonderful.

I hastily turn around, searching the rest of the lab with my eyes, hoping I won’t find Gehn with his gun pointed at me. He was already dangerous. Now he’s armed, too. I should have taken the rifle for myself.

Thankfully, the lab is empty.

I examine the wooden eye on the desk. No matter which way I roll it, it makes no sound. The number on it is one. What sort of animal makes no sound at all?

I try to concentrate on this, rather than the idea of Gehn hunting me with a gun, while making my way back to the ytram trap. When I pull the lever back, the trap eventually comes back into view—and it’s closed! Something is inside.

Why hello there!

Why hello there!

I open the trap to find a brightly-colored frog peering up at me. Gehn’s journal spoke of poisoned darts used by the Black Moiety and I nod: frog poison is a good choice.

The ytram chirps at me—the same sound I heard from that first wooden eye on Jungle Island—before hopping out of the trap and flinging itself into the darkness below. I hear a faint splash.

What have I pieced together? The wooden eye from the lab had the number one on it, but I don’t know what the symbol is. The beetle is number two. I don’t recall what number was on the ytram eye, as I foolishly didn’t examine that ball too closely when I first came to the island. I know the wahrk is the fifth symbol. So, the ytram will either be number three or four. And what creature is symbolized by the remaining wooden eye I haven’t found yet?

Jungle Island

Careening into the ocean.

Careening into the ocean.

I take the wood chipper cart back to Jungle Island. The last wooden eye could be anywhere, but since the other ones all originated on that island, it’s likely I’ll find it there. First thing’s first:

The ytram symbol.

The ytram symbol.

The path leading back to the wooden eye I found first makes me laugh. If I had never figured out how to power the trap, at the very least, coming to investigate this eye again would have told me what the creature was thanks to the shape of the cave from this angle. Like with the beetle pool, the wooden eye is positioned where the ytram’s eye would be.

I turn the eye and hear the creature’s distinctive chirp. The number is three. That means the missing eye has to be number four.

I think about the layout of the island. There is an eye here, two in or near the village, and one down by the beach. The only location I haven’t found an eye in yet is the jungle itself.

The beach had two animals: the wahrk rock and the sunners. Probably, the final animal is the sunner.

I go back into the jungle and carefully look along all the paths, trying to find a location where someone has concealed the eye. It isn’t until I reach the path with the large stone dagger that I notice the steps cleverly hidden in the naturally-undulating floor of the forest.

More than just natural beauty.

More than just natural beauty.

Now the Black Moiety dagger seems to be more than just a large stone carving in the jungle; it’s also a marker, a signal to those in the know that something helpful is nearby.

I tread carefully down the path. Where the dagger’s tip is buried in the ground I find the fourth eye. Rotating it, I hear the bugle of the sunner and see the number four. Success!

Now the only remaining piece I need in this puzzle is the symbol that represents the first creature, the one that makes no sound.

The eye originally came from the lake below the village. I can’t reach it there unless I jump in the water, but now that I know the wahrk has free access to the lake, I don’t think I’ll be taking a swim anytime soon. There might be another way though…

Survey Island

I leave Jungle Island by way of the tram car hidden below the wooden wahrk. Survey Island is quiet and empty; I meet no one as I make my way to the wahrk room.

I lower the viewer and first peek into Catherine’s prison cell. I see her moving about the room but still cannot discern any clues about where exactly she’s being held. Perhaps she’s on the fifth island the map on this island says is out there somewhere. It’s the only island I haven’t yet been able to get to. It doesn’t even seem to be visible from any of the other four.

Then I switch the viewer to the spy scope Gehn put in the village lake. Now that I know what I’m looking at, the blue-tinted images in the viewer make more sense. First I see the dock nearest the scope; by rotating the handles around the edge of the viewer I know the scope is rotating to show me other views of the lake.

A shadow of a fish.

A shadow of a fish.

Finally I see what I was hoping to see: the scope rotates to show the wooden eye floating at the end of its tether in the lake as well as the symbol I need. The opening in the cliff with its reflection in the water forms the shape of the fish I saw drying on strings in the village. No wonder the eye didn’t make a sound!

I flip up the viewer and sit for a moment, staring into the ocean water before me. Fish, beetle, ytram, sunner, wahrk.

Wahrk. I pull down the other viewer and turn on the red light.

The wahrk comes when summoned but is still unimpressed to see me, possibly more so now because I refused to fall in the water to be eaten.

I know this animal is just as much a victim of Gehn’s insanity as the villagers, but I also suspect it’s more than just a run-of-the-mill predator. It appraises me with eyes that glint with higher than average animal intelligence, then seems to snort and swim away.

Still can’t get at me, nyah!

Still can’t get at me, nyah!

Simply to be annoying I summon the wahrk back until it rams the glass. Then I wave at it and leave.

Jungle Island

Look closely...

Look closely…

On my return to Jungle Island I’m able to quickly get up to the prison cell thanks to a ladder leading to a catwalk that curves around the cliff. Curiously, I notice the sub has been returned to the top of the cliff by the village, where I first found it.

Not long after, I’m standing in the stone circle again.

Fish, beetle, ytram, sunner, wahrk.

Fish, beetle, ytram, sunner, wahrk. Click to enlarge.

I touch the stones in the correct order and they sink into the ground.

Revealing secrets.

Revealing secrets.

The water in the basin behind the circle of stones ripples and then flows away through channels that arc around the perimeter of the room. Once all the water has drained, the panel opens and a shelf slides out with a linking book on it!

The burned linking book.

The burned linking book.

The book has been burned. Someone from the Black Moiety must have nicked it from Gehn’s kiln before it was damaged beyond repair. Where does this book link to? If it was tossed by Gehn doesn’t that imply he wrote it and the Age it goes to as well? Atrus told me—and Gehn’s journal seemed to corroborate—that all the Ages Gehn writes are unstable. Why would the Black Moiety save a linking book to an unstable Age?

On the gateway image sits a clear piece of crystal. I’ve seen this shape before, in Gehn’s journal. It’s a powering device like the one that was confiscated by one of his men, that he suspected Catherine had created before he captured her.

A mysterious new Age.

A mysterious new Age.

The man who escaped the prison cell far above me must have intended for me to find this book. I take a breath, place my hand on the gateway image, and feel my body become drawn into it.

Next in this series: Riven – Day Four

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Culinary Adventures: Pitza! Thu, 07 Jan 2016 19:43:32 +0000 Read More]]> I’ve mentioned before that I really don’t like cooking, but since we still don’t have Trek-style replicators handy, I guess now and then I have to hunker down and actually make food for myself to ensure I don’t starve.

From time to time I go to Extreme Pita, which is essentially like Subway except they serve their food in pitas instead of buns. This is more up my alley since yeast and I aren’t good bedfellows and I’m not fond of bread in general.

But also on their menu are “flatbaked pitas”—essentially a pizza made on a pita rather than pizza dough. I like pizza but often have issues eating it, as the sauce could be prepared with spices that I’m allergic to and many varieties of pizza have toppings I can’t eat either. (Essentially, I can only really eat Hawaiian pizza from Pizza Hut because their sauce is fairly bland.) Lately I’ve had a hankering for pizza, and while there is a Pizza Hut just down the highway from where I now live, it wasn’t what I really craved. Alas, there is no Extreme Pita conveniently placed on my route home.

Then I thought, why go out of my way to a fast food joint when I could probably make this at home?

So I did! As to be expected, it’s actually super easy, which I like since complicated food is kind of a drag.

The ingredients.

The ingredients.

I’m not big on having vegetables on pizza, particularly as I’m allergic to one of the most common ones (mushrooms), and green pepper is just ick, so my fixings are pretty simple: sauce, meat, cheese. When having pitza as a meal I’ll have cherry tomatoes, mini cucumber, and baby carrots on the side with dressing as dip.

The sauce is President’s Choice no name brand. The tin looks super small (only 213mL) and I was worried I might react to it, but it also only cost $.85 so wouldn’t have been a huge loss if that turned out to be the case. Thankfully it’s also bland so I have no issue with it. Other people might want to add some pepper or other spices. The small size is actually perfect, too. For a pitza I only need maybe three small spoonfuls to spread around. Out of one tin so far I’ve made at least four pitzas and could probably get at least two more out of it. Any leftover sauce that won’t be used within a day or so needs to be put in a plastic container with some plastic wrap pushed down onto the surface (don’t trap any air) and then put in the freezer.

Deli meat seemed like a more economical option than buying prepackaged “pizza meat” from the grocer. Ziggy’s offers $5.00 double packs that are pretty good (not too wet). Three slices of black forest ham and three slices of smoked turkey diced ended up being the perfect amount per pitza for me. One double pack of each kind of meat will make me about eight pitzas.

I could shred my own cheese from a block of marble but I like Tex Mex from Cracker Barrel for recipes like this. Tex Mex is pizza mozzarella, cheddar, Monterey Jack, and a hint of jalapeño peppers. I say a hint because the cheese is honestly not spicy at all, but it adds a nice touch of zing that I don’t have to worry about reacting to. :) I really like cheese so I probably use more than I need to on my pitza. One package of Tex Mex is a little more than half gone on the four pitzas I’ve made so far.


Ready to be cooked!

Once it’s all put together, I pop it in the toaster oven rather than the regular oven. (Actually, I rarely, if ever, use my oven because the toaster oven is so much more convenient.) I used a piece of parchment paper on the toaster’s baking sheet and put everything in for 15 minutes at 350°F on the Rapid Cook setting. This was enough to melt the cheese, heat everything through, and crisp the pita without burning it. Once done, let it stand for a couple of minutes, then use a regular pizza cutter to cut it into pieces, and nom!

Try it! Let me know how your pitzas turned out. :)

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It’s Winter, Therefore…Crafts! Sat, 02 Jan 2016 22:07:01 +0000 Read More]]> Winter finally arrived in Calgary, just in time for Christmas! We had snow for the holiday and the chilly weather seems to be sticking around, more or less.

For whatever reason, when winter hits I tend to get into the mood to make stuff. The cold, howling wind, and blizzards just seem like the right time to curl up on the sofa and get crafty! This winter seems to be heading in that direction, thanks in no small part to my mother.

Color All the Things

The gift I am enjoying most from Christmas is the coloring books I received. Yep, I’m 34 and squeed when I opened a particularly heavy bit of wrapping to find it contained these:

Break out the pencil crayons!

Break out the pencil crayons!

An adult using coloring books might seem kind of odd to some people, but it’s actually a pretty legit thing, especially as it promotes reduction of stress and anxiety, among other benefits.

Is this a big deal? To me it is. 2015 was tremendously stressful for me and my family. I’m (unfortunately) no stranger to stress and maybe have a fairly high tolerance level for it. I indulged in massage, quiet music, bubble baths, DVD marathons, and my other usual coping mechanisms, and while these things helped, it didn’t quite seem to be enough. There were more than a few times when I wasn’t sure I could really deal or find where the light at the end of the tunnel was. My friends (and even my employer) helped a lot. Thanks guys. I made it to 2016 and things are looking up.

Anyway, the coloring books Mom got me are awesome. Wanting to be stress-free, calm, and happy are at the top of the list for the new year for sure. But also? It’s fun.


Start with a flower…

Many of the patterns in the books are styled as mandalas (which have all kinds of interesting and appealing zen about them), but there are also water and nature scenes, or just abstract stuff. The patterns are intricate and I find them engaging. The artist for this set of books is Angela Porter (have a look at her holiday mandala for a great example of her work) and when her other books are available I’ll probably get them too.


…continue on with a great burst of color!

Before this, I hadn’t picked up any pencil crayons, markers, or gel pens since shortly after high school. Almost all of the art I did in the early 2000s was digital. Actually, I was a bit daunted at first by the idea of going back to a physical medium like pencils. Choose a color, but there’s no undo! Ack! But once I got started I realized it doesn’t really matter. This coloring is for me and I should just go with it. And I am. So far I’m coloring for about half an hour before bed. Is it helping? I have no idea. But I’m enjoying it and that’s all I really need to care about.

The Great Owl Hunt

Mom was crafty for Christmas in other ways, too. Since many of my other hobbies and interests revolve around my computer and things they “just don’t understand”, my folks often resort to gift cards instead. Great! But what fun is there in receiving a handful of credit-card shaped gifts? Meh…

Mom's poem.

Mom’s poem.

I opened a card to find the above poem written in it. This was great fun! Searching the house for the owls reminded me of a childhood birthday when my father had taken a jewelry box actually shaped like a treasure chest, put a gift and “gold” coins (chocolate wrapped in gold foil) inside it, and buried it in the garden outside. When I got out of bed on my birthday, I found a card with a riddle inside that prompted me to hunt for a hidden treasure map he had drawn, which, just like in the movies, then challenged me to figure out what “landmarks” in the backyard the drawings represented and how many steps I had to take to find the X. It must have been a mild winter that year, as I recall going outside on the quiet February morning still in my pajamas and using a spoon to dig up the box. No idea what the actual gift was now, but that isn’t the point. The search was what made it so fun.

So was this. When I arrived at my parents’ house on Christmas Eve and eventually sat down to dinner, I had spied a pink owl sitting in a pillar candle in a wall sconce in the dining room. “Why is there a pink owl in that candle?” Mom gave a non-committal reply. During our shopping excursions earlier in the month we had both noticed how many of the decorations on sale seemed to be bird and animal themed. I shrugged, thinking little more of it. Christmas morning? I happened to notice a green owl nestled among the pine boughs adorning the mantel. “Don’t touch!” my mother cried as I reached out to pick it up, causing me to jerk my hand back as if the thing was made of napalm. “Come eat your pancakes!” Okie doke! No getting in trouble on Christmas morning for me, yikes!

Eventually came the card. It all made sense!

All four owls, reunited.

All four owls, reunited.

I enjoyed searching for the other two. :) The white one was a bugger to find, as Mom had hidden it in the Christmas tree. The tree is fake and frocked, so also mostly white. Clever camouflage!

She made them herself! They are each done with a different pattern of wrapping paper that she basted with something (I imagine) similar to paper mâché so they would hold their shape. Each has a slit in its head to hold the gift card. Very cute!

But that wasn’t all for crafts.

It’s Woolly Fun

When I was in my 20s, Mom taught me how to knit by getting me a beginner’s “Knit a Pony” kit for Christmas. Knitting is her primary hobby: when I was small she would make sweaters and blankets, but over the years she has moved on to other things like dolls and toys which I always thought was kind of neat. After learning to knit the pony (which I still have), I wanted to learn to do other things. In 2009 I knitted a small puppy and also made a doll of a character from one of my stories (visit the gallery for some pictures). I even started a doll that was supposed to become my EVE Online character, but never finished it due to trouble I was having in adapting the doll pattern.

Plus…knitting hurts. Or rather, I found it made my hands cramp up a lot. Maybe I wasn’t holding the needles correctly. Either way, I found I couldn’t do it for very long before I got too uncomfortable. So, since 2009, I haven’t actually knitted anything, just thought about it as winter came around. Hey, maybe I should finish that Sakaane doll. Eh…maybe later.

In my stocking this Christmas was a “Crochet a Jolly Santa” kit. I’m not sure why Mom thought to give it to me, but hey, something new right? But before I could tackle that kit I had to actually learn how to crochet. Thanks to Google, I found various tutorials including this super helpful video on how to easily make a magic circle to get me started.

My first crocheted thing!

My first crocheted thing! A small heart, tutorial by Crochet Lovers.

Crocheting, in contrast to knitting (at least so far), seems to be going much better for me. I spent hours with some leftover wool of Mom’s and didn’t experience any cramps in my hands. Great start! So after making the heart, and being the kind of ambitious woman I am, I wanted something a bit more complex (but not that jolly Santa…that pattern is still all Greek to me).

A double-layered flower! Tutorial by Expression Fiber Arts.

A double-layered flower! Tutorial by Expression Fiber Arts.

This flower is pretty cool, and for some reason reminds me of the weird undulating orifice in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Anyway, I learned a lot of different stitches in making it so it was really a great way to start. It’s fairly large, about the size of the palm of my hand. I have no idea what to do with it now, but hey, I made a flower! I could see doing this pattern again in white and yellow/orange, then making a third layer in green… A water lily!

What’s next? I still don’t seem quite ready to tackle that Santa, so Stargrace pointed me to a few sites that have cute patterns suitable for beginners. My next project?

A happy minion pig. Pattern by Nerdigurumi.

A happy minion pig. Pattern by Nerdigurumi.

Yep. The minion pig. I’m still working with leftover wool for this so he won’t be the right color, but it’s just for fun and practice. I learned another new stitch (so far) for this pattern too.

Doesn’t look like a pig...yet.

Doesn’t look like a pig…yet.

It’s just a featureless ball at the moment (looks more like a partially-deflated motley-colored soccer ball or something) but there we go! Just need to stuff it, then make eyes, ears, and snout.

After this? Well, back to that Santa. Ultimately, if this crochet thing works out for me I’d like to find a good doll pattern and see if I can’t get that Sakaane doll restarted and then finished. Wouldn’t it be cool to offer commissions of EVE character plushies to people? I think it might be!

Edit January 7, 2016:


The finished minion pig!

He’s finished! Maybe not as cute as Nerdigurumi’s version, but still cute nonetheless. Onward to something new!

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War and IPI Sat, 02 Jan 2016 19:45:48 +0000 Read More]]>

This article was originally posted on October 12, 2014. I recently submitted it for consideration to the WarDec Project being undertaken by members of the EVE community. Today, Crossing Zebras published Lore Wars, which posits some very interesting ideas about how the war dec mechanic could be changed, partially inspired by my post below. Go read it! Well worth the time. Thanks to Jason Quixos for the shout out! ♥

Another war rages on against the [ipi].

Not a great war report.

Not a great war report.

And by “rages on”, what I actually mean is, “ILF got some in-game notifications about it but we’re ignoring them and going about our usual business”. Public-Enemy dec’d IPI for the second time in as many months just so they could shoot the customs offices ILF owned in the Placid hisec island. Power to them I guess, if hisec structure grinding floats their boat. If they (or their client, if there is one) wanted the offices that badly they could have just offered to buy them from us to save time and ammo. We weren’t making any ISK off them anyway. :p I shrug and hope they enjoyed shooting them.

I recognize that wars (“lol griefer” or otherwise) are part of PVP in EVE. I chose to give my time to this universe where people can destroy my stuff, even in hisec, whenever they feel like it. IPI by design is smack in the middle of one of the hottest PVP areas of Gallente space simply because of Intaki. That’s just how it is, and it isn’t going to change. After all, we wouldn’t be the Intaki Prosperity Initiative if we moved somewhere else. Everyone will always know where to find us. We will always be a target of one kind or another because of where we live and who we are.

Will we ever be an “elite” PVP alliance? Thousands of kills in a month? Wicked ISK efficiency? Probably not. Sure, I want to be a capable PVP pilot (yes, I know that means I actually have to undock!) and have people in my alliance who are capable at it too. I want my guys to have good fights and enjoy combat. But IPI being able to unzip some crazy PVP e-peen? That’s not why I play EVE.

I’m not interested in fighting wars in the same way a “war dec alliance” is interested in them. The people who fly under me aren’t really interested, either. It’s not a game mechanic that gets us excited. In all the years we’ve been around, IPI has only declared war once, and then only because it served as a way to help shape the course of a story being told between other players.

Yep. We declared war to foster roleplay, not because we wanted to pad our killboard with a bunch of green. That war involved making plans with the other group first, deciding on possible outcomes and RP angles, making sure both sides were ready and willing to fight, writing up whatever RP propaganda was needed, then issuing the dec when everyone was ready, and watching to see how it all played out. Guess what? Any war we might declare in the future would be handled exactly the same way.

(I feel a great disturbance in New Eden, as if thousands of PVPers suddenly cried out in terror…)

Why do I approach war this way? Partly because I think it’s really not fair to be able to dec another group for no reason at all or with no warning, and partly because I think RP and engagements in general are better and more enjoyable when everyone has at least some idea of what to expect.

To the first part: Just because you declare war doesn’t make the target obligated to fight back (even supposing they are in a position to adequately do so), but many PVPers act as if it does.

(But not really sorry.)

(But not really sorry.)

Surprise! If you don’t require my consent to war dec my alliance, I don’t require your consent to blue ball you. And blue balling you is exactly what I’m going to do if your war is of no interest to me, or isn’t worth my time, or is beyond my ability to fight.

If EVE is a sandbox, players should always have the option to not participate in something if they choose. But war is something no one can avoid except by being in an NPC corp, and we all know why players sitting in NPC corps is largely a bad idea. Docking up and logging off isn’t an appropriate way to handle it either. War decs against groups that aren’t interested in fighting wars drive otherwise paying customers out of the game: after one too many wars, they just never come back.

In the real world, war doesn’t come as a surprise note in your inbox, so it’s dumb that it does in EVE. In real life the world sees the situation building for a good while before one or more sides finally decides to take that plunge. Wars in EVE should function more like that.

There should be two buttons: a “propose mutual war” button that would be available at all times but that the other side would have to accept the offer for (similar to the duel mechanic) which would maintain the ability of groups like RVB to function; and a “declare war” button that would only be clickable after sustained hostilities between two entities reach a given threshold.

For the second button, I envision a hostility gauge as a kind of cross between the Incursion/Faction Warfare gauges and the existing war report mechanic. The hostility gauge would only exist after two groups have a certain number of engagements between them, and would not exist at all if only one side is doing all the killing. Once it pops into existence, a notification about rising hostilities would be sent. If those two groups keep fighting, the gauge would start to fill up. If the groups don’t fight for a while, the gauge would gradually start to empty (erosion of hostilities due to time). Only after becoming full would the “declare war” button light up. There would also have to be some kind of mechanic available to forcibly lower the gauge if one side decided it was filling too quickly and actively wanted to try to prevent war from becoming an option. And in all cases, the gauge shouldn’t fill at all if only one side perpetuates the hostility—because it’s a game, and no corp or alliance should be forced to engage in something they don’t want to.

To the second part: The answer builds tangentially on the hero-villain discussion. IPI is, and always will be, a roleplay alliance. It was created as an extension of ILF which is also, and always will be, a roleplay corporation. Saxon Hawke’s passion first and foremost was for storytelling and world building. So it is with me, and that means my definition of what constitutes “playing EVE” tends to be different than (most?) other people’s.

I believe supporting the lore of EVE provides a much richer and more rewarding gameplay experience than just learning the game mechanics alone. I believe that Intaki culture, Intaki independence, and the struggle against piracy in Placid are the most interesting subjects the EVE lore, and thus the game itself, has to offer. My goal is to have players come together and find ways to use their in-game activities to support and influence the creation of entertaining and meaningful stories about these topics and their part in them. Crafting those stories as the content on this website, and the content on the ILF website, all count as “playing EVE” to me just as much as logging into the actual client does.

Every choice I make and every action I take as the leader of IPI and ILF flows from and must support our roleplay, and always will, above all other considerations. In the same vein, everything I do as an individual has to support the roleplay of my character and where I want her to go. What I do in-game is a means to perpetuate the story IPI is trying to tell, not the other way around.

War decs from hisec griefer corps don’t help tell our story so aren’t worth our time. Most other war decs fall into this category too.

In the fall of 2012, IPI was on the receiving end of a war that had the potential to foster some pretty epic roleplay for both sides. Serpentis loyalists versus Serpentis adversaries? Hell yes please. Stated that way, the premise was right up IPI’s alley. But Coreli fucked it up at the outset by choosing to not approach us ahead of time to ask if we were interested in setting anything up with them, what our capabilities were like, was the timing good (it wasn’t), what goals could each group try to achieve, etc. There was no planning involved, no consideration from them about us, nothing. They simply imposed the war on us out of the blue, tried their best to stomp on us, and in the end it was little more than a pathetic RP shitstorm. Too bad. Not my idea of a valuable use of game time. Definitely a lost opportunity to create meaningful content, and in the end it had the unfortunate outcome of driving away paying customers from IPI (and thus EVE as a whole) who had no interest in fighting a sustained war we didn’t ask for and weren’t prepared to fight in.

Don’t get me wrong. Knowing PVP is essential to the success of the stories we are trying to tell in Intaki. It’s not enough to say “we defend Intaki”; we have to prove it too, and we have a long way to go to that end. Just like mining, and ship building, and killing Serpentis NPCs, and so on, PVP is an in-game activity we must engage in to some degree. It legitimizes our reason for being here in the first place. But if we know the war targets will pile ten or twenty guys in system (or undock a Thanatos just to save their Brutix from losing a 1v1 with us), why should we bother undocking at all? Just because the deccers expect us to, for lulz? Sure. Putting ships into situations where we are guaranteed to lose sounds pretty stupid, and not very fun, to me. I’d rather have my guys go into a fight where they have at least some kind of chance—even if they still lose in the end—rather than have them just throw ISK away, end up frustrated, and think about quitting.

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Inspiration Fri, 18 Dec 2015 09:30:52 +0000 Read More]]> Stuff™ is afoot for the Front!

Since November I have been thinking about making some (more) changes in the Intaki Liberation Front. Although I am the kind of person who enjoys being in a comfortable place where the status quo is stable and any curves have plateaued, leaving me to be free to spend my energy on other things, for ILF I think we are not quite there yet. There’s room for more improvement, even if it might be time-consuming and challenging. So for my corp (and alliance), it’s time to shake things up a little. Or a lot. (At least for us.)

The biggest change I’ve considered to date has the support of everyone in my leadership team except, I think, one person. The internal discussion was promising. Everyone that I needed to have participate took the time to say their piece and while we didn’t all agree 100% on what I proposed, enough was agreed on that I am going to move forward. Not sure when the results will be public—maybe early in the new year—but it sure will be exciting for us when it all comes out and I really hope it changes us for the better.

Some of the other changes are ones I have been thinking about for quite a long time (a few of which I have touched on in some respects in earlier OOC posts here) but they never coalesced in my head into anything useful. To be perfectly honest this frustrated me in a lot of ways, and has made me feel that my corp is suffering unfairly as a byproduct. The longer this went on the more I started to feel like I needed to talk to somebody outside of my group. I frequently talk to people in my group to get their take on things, but sometimes fresh eyes and a different perspective from someone on the outside is better.

Mynxee, Signal Cartel CEO and wonderful lady

Mynxee, Signal Cartel CEO and wonderful lady

So…the other night I finally got up the courage to reach out to Mynxee of EVE Scout/Signal Cartel. Of everyone I could have asked, I felt like she would be able to relate most closely to me and ILF.

I wanted to talk to her primarily about corporation member engagement. Signal Cartel has a unique purpose and is very particular about expectations, conduct, and certain rules for members. They are not an aggressive group and look for positive ways to enjoy the game. At a high level this reminds me very much of ILF’s niche RP and our desire to be the “good guys” in New Eden. Beyond that, the similarities peter out quite quickly. Signal Cartel is large and successful, while ILF is small and…well, we haven’t failed, but we aren’t where I want us to be either. I wondered, what is she doing that I’m not? How does she get so many people so easily and so quickly? How does she ensure her members willingly, thoroughly, and eagerly adopt the corporation ethos that she and her leadership team created? What could I learn from her that can help me be a better CEO and make ILF a better team?

This was a big deal. I am actually super shy by nature so to ask to talk to someone like her who is “EVE famous” is normally just NOPE, particularly as once or twice in the past I have tried to reach out to a few other people in the community for similar reasons, to no avail, and because I am probably a bit more prideful than I should be and stupidly think I should be able to solve all my problems myself. Others might think that is silly, but if they are not shy then they may not understand the challenge people like me face in order to put ourselves “out there”, never mind actually asking a stranger out of the blue for advice or help. (Being CEO of an EVE corp has done a lot to help me out of my shy shell but even so.)

EVE players in general have a reputation for being pretty cool and helpful people overall, and Mynxee lived up to that for me. I figured I would maybe get half an hour or an hour to talk with her. Instead she gave me four hours of her life! I actually had to break away from the conversation to go to bed, and I felt bad to do it because we were having such a great time. Having an opportunity to talk openly to someone so willing to consider my perspective and what I want to achieve, without prejudice or assumption, and never a hint of “It must be done like this instead!” was very uplifting, encouraging, and inspirational.

The desire to encourage members to adopt the corporation ethos is, to me, a core requirement in order to see success follow naturally into other areas of the game. If I want my corp to work together on a particular goal, that goal might be better achieved if the individuals understand and are keen about the underlying reasons why that goal is important to the corporation. Mynxee was kind enough to talk at length about her leadership style and gave me a lot to think about when it comes to enforcement. I wonder now if that has been one area I am maybe not so good at. What is important to Mynxee is what becomes important to her corporation, and from what she described she can be fiercely up front about making sure people know it. I also have a lot of things that are very important to me about ILF, but if I am honest with myself I think I try to please people too often, try to compromise, try to be “everybody’s friend”, rather than putting my foot down and saying, This is how it is because I’m in charge and I say so. If you don’t like it, find another corp. One thing she said to me really stuck: “This isn’t a democracy.” Mynxee is tough! Which isn’t to say that popular opinion should be dismissed, but at some point what the CEO says goes. It’s her house.

ILF is my house.

We touched on many other things. Recruitment ideas. Ideas for “wardec funnies” given wardecs are not an area of interest for either of us. How to get people to actually do stuff. How to raise my profile and thus my corp’s profile (Mynxee wants to make me do something that terrifies me, but it will honestly be good for me to try). How to be the CEO and give enough shits that people see I care, but not so many shits that it drives me to burn out. In return I was able to give her a few ideas about things I have started in ILF that she would like to try in the Cartel, which was delightful and satisfying for me!

Then she showed me Gizoogle, which had us both in tears of laughter in the middle of the night reading her website and mine.

Great chat. For someone who has been tied up in more than a few knots about what to do with her corp, it was exactly what I needed. I am buzzing with ideas and enthusiasm and the desire to revamp my corp and see what happens. If all fails, we can always go back to the way things were, but I have high hopes and I can’t wait to just…give these new things a try, and I hope my existing members will be as excited as I am when I get to tell them.

It doesn’t hurt to try.

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Gallery Update Tue, 08 Dec 2015 13:26:59 +0000 Just a quick note to point out the Gallery and HOTE Artwork pages have been “renovated”: the picture descriptions are displaying once again, and this time to the right of each image like I always wanted to do in the past.

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HOTE: Rebuilding Mon, 23 Nov 2015 04:26:40 +0000 Read More]]> Over the weekend I went on a business trip to the nearby mountain community of Banff. The trip was nothing much special, though I did get an opportunity to spend some time with a few of my newer coworkers and hopefully build on the still-forming relationships (after all, I spend the majority of my time with these people, so might as well try to be friends).

The drawback of going on this trip is that I was away from home for the weekend and had most of my time taken up by meetings and work-related activities…which naturally meant the muse decided to pay me a visit and was pretty annoyed when I had to regrettably tell her, “Not now.”

This morning the trip was officially over so I got home as quickly as I could, and at the urging of a friend, sat down at my computer to see what my muse had to say. Thoughts about Heart of the Empire have been in my head of late, so I took the time to read through notes, organize a few things, and generally refresh my memory about why I was stalled on the project.

It turned into a fairly productive session. The story is what I can only call “galactic fantasy”, so certain aspects of it I actually care to have some (loose?) scientific backing for, even if large parts of the rest might be fantastically improbable.

One of the niggling questions has been how a particular life form could conceivably spring up on two worlds located many light-years apart. This led me to consider parallel evolution, but that didn’t seem like the right fit. Then I looked at rogue planets which also wasn’t quite right but gave me a hint to look up something else: the giant impact hypothesis, which I decided I liked much better. In turn I then I had to look up things like explosion debris velocity and solar system escape velocity, and then do a bunch of math and supposition about the nature of this particular life form and how it would survive such a journey.

In the end I answered the question to my satisfaction, and have made a bunch of notes. These notes push my worldbuilding efforts for HOTE back another few million years (but what’s another few million?). There was another tidbit of “discovery” as well: determining how long the life form took to get from point A to point B gave me a rough idea of how big the empire would be at its height.

In the meantime, Google also proved to be not my friend in the sense that it made me realize that two of the names I have been using in the story are actual things and places, and that bothers me to the point that I ended up spending several hours with random word generators and the search engine to find alternatives that don’t really come up with any associated real-world meaning. That took hours and in the end I only settled on a new name for one of the two that I need. The muse was getting tired at that point, I guess, so maybe something will come to mind later.

But all in all? I have some new points to go in and start cleaning up the story with. It’s the first bit of real progress in ages, and that’s really good. :)

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Joomla No More Tue, 20 Oct 2015 02:41:46 +0000 Read More]]> Welcome to the new Incyanity!

I know, I have said this before. It was almost a year ago that I wrote “Moving to Joomla was so easy!” and what has happened since then? Not a lot. Only nine new posts and no work on Heart of the Empire. :( No real new content for Solitary Pilot either. Most of the delay had to do with offline concerns like moving and my health, but some of it had to do with Joomla too.

To be frank, Joomla just isn’t that easy after all. I had three sites running on it and the more I got into it, especially with template customization and overall administration, the more bugs and crap I ran into. Probably the most frustrating was the fruity RSS handling. No native support for one feed for all content, what?? Each of my sites had at least three separate RSS feeds and that always seemed awful to me. The admin backend on Joomla was also fairly complicated. Too much clicking just to add one new article to the site in all the right places. There were certain other little things I was just never able to get working again either. Overall experience? Bleh. But, you don’t know until you try.

So here I am now, on WordPress. Importing everything didn’t take too long (I recall I spent months on it last time; this time around it’s been only a week) and all the little things I never got working with Joomla? Working now with WordPress. The admin backend is way easier to use. There is now just one RSS feed for all content and while yes, it means visitors will have to update their feed readers again I think it’s for the better. Overall I’m much happier. Nothing was lost in the conversion either; all the previous comments and user accounts carried forward. Woot!

What’s next? New content! I want to do another day of Riven and recently I found myself poking around in the HOTE documents. I also took a trip to Whistler last month which whetted my appetite for photography again, and so want to dive into my archive to see what I can put together for a new Photostream. I still have more unpacking to do at home, and some other high-stress family matters going on, but I think things are looking up. Onward!

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On A Mission Wed, 07 Oct 2015 20:34:38 +0000 Read More]]> Intaki V – Moon 5 – Astral Mining Inc. Refinery
Leisel Anteida, ILF Mission Agent

Leisel Anteida, ILF Mission Agent

“Overall, I think you’ll approve of the results!”

Leisel Anteida tapped on her datapad, then turned it toward Sakaane with a smile as she sat down on the edge of one of the chairs opposite the Suresha’s desk.

Sakaane leaned back and tried to give the datapad a serious look, but out of the corner of her eye she could see Leisel’s knee bouncing. The speed of the bouncing increased the longer the silence stretched. “How are you settling in?”

“Oh! Good. Great actually! Coming to lowsec wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.” Leisel smiled shyly but her eyes glittered from behind wispy bangs. “The girls back in Amygnon are still sending me messages weekly though, asking if I’ve been shot up by Serpentis yet, can you believe that?”

“What do you tell them?”

“That it’s not my job!” Leisel laughed. “I think they just miss me, and are still finding it a little weird that I’m exclusive to your corporation now, instead of working for Aliastra and providing work to any capsuleer who contacts me. I’m not sure any agent has ever done this kind of thing before!”

Sakaane smiled. “I’ll admit that Etaurtetel was reluctant to entertain my proposal at first.”

Leisel’s eyes grew wide. “You spoke to Ms. Ruyt about hiring me?”

“Certainly. We have a valuable relationship with Aliastra. I’m glad I got her to warm up to the idea. She recommended you specifically, actually.”

“I’d been trying to get reassigned to low-security space for a while,” Leisel said sheepishly. “Unfortunately the closest lowsec Aliastra station to Intaki is in Aulbres. Six jumps was one jump too many in the wrong direction for my liking.”

“Jufvitte is closer, I believe, though not quite low-security space.”

“They didn’t have any openings.” She shrugged and grinned. “Doesn’t matter now. Your offer was more than I could have asked for!”

“Perhaps one day we can get FedMart pushed out of Intaki. Aliastra could take over the station at Planet Four.” Then Sakaane looked back at the datapad. “Would you walk me through these numbers?”

“Sure!” Leisel sat forward as Sakaane set the pad to display its data via the holoprojector in her desk. The information glowed faintly in the air between them. “So. The incident at the Agoze warehouse seemed like the perfect opportunity to get the ball rolling, so that’s what I went with. Who would have thought fedos could do so much damage? Anyway…” She pointed. “I went with some fairly generous estimates for participation. I had to assume certain skills and ship loadouts too, which then allowed me to calculate these targets.”

“That’s a lot of ore.”

“Yes…but I didn’t really expect it would all be mined.” Leisel straightened up and looked at Sakaane through the shimmering display. “As an Aliastra agent, I had to adhere to strict guidelines. A pilot either met or failed the objectives of the missions I issued. But here… Well, you said I could be a bit more relaxed with my approach.”

Sakaane nodded. “Working for the corp shouldn’t just be about work. After all, we do say, ‘for fun and profit’!”

“Right. Instead of making these targets hard goals, they’re just…goals. Ideal totals. If they aren’t met, that’s okay too but it means less reward.”

“So there’s incentive to get to the goals but no fail state if they’re missed.”

“Yes ma’am.” Then Leisel wrinkled her nose, which scrunched up the pale white tattoo running across her face. “I guess that’s not entirely true. If nobody participates at all, then technically the mission was failed.”

“Go on.”

Leisel gestured to a set of percentages. “This is what was achieved, by ore type.” When Sakaane frowned, Leisel rushed to add, “These numbers may look small but the results are actually quite good! Don’t forget, I had to start with a lot of estimates. Half the number of pilots I calculated for participated, and these ore amounts provide a great baseline for future calculations. If you translate the percentages into actual units…”

Sakaane tapped a command and the figures shifted. “Ah! Yes, that looks a lot better. This much ore will refine into quite a healthy amount of minerals.”

“Yes. These results also provide valuable guidance in other areas as well. Your people had some good feedback.”

Sakaane smiled and dismissed the display. “So you think they’ll participate in future missions you offer?”

“Certain of it. They earned a lot of loyalty points for doing this one, and I have some ideas to encourage them to get their fellows to participate too.”

“Very good, Leisel. I’m pleased.” Sakaane handed back the datapad. “I’ll look forward to seeing how your program evolves.”

“Thank you, Suresha!” Beaming, Leisel turned and let herself out of the office.

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Getting Settled Mon, 05 Oct 2015 05:40:18 +0000 Read More]]> It’s been two months since I moved into my new home. Time flies!

Although I sold the previous condo on March 25, and then took possession of the new one on June 5, it wasn’t until the August long weekend that I could actually move.

In between I worked a lot of overtime, had a mishap getting the new place painted (yike$), and tried not to go crazy while living with my parents.

Now that I’m in my new place I’m almost (but not quite) settled in. Still a “few” boxes to take care of! But it’s been good. Very good, in fact. Much better than the previous place. It’s quiet, and appreciably soundproof. I don’t feel anxious anymore about having the TV or stereo on, or having a conversation. I can’t hear my neighbors except for the most obvious bumps and bangs, and then only from the neighbor upstairs, but not anything like what I experienced before. I no longer have to use earplugs to get any sleep! I still have some furniture to buy (shelving mostly), things to organize, and art to hang, but coming home isn’t a stressful endeavor that I’d rather avoid. What a relief.

My job has been overwhelming lately so getting back into my routine hasn’t been easy. A lot of overtime, and combine that with some family emergencies, well… Life has still been a bit of a challenge and I’ve struggled. I haven’t done as much creative work as I wanted, and feel like I basically missed most of the summer.

Thankfully, it hasn’t been all work and no play. Photo dump ahead!

Road Trip

In May, my friend Mat came for a visit. It had been three years since I’d last seen him in Iceland, and four since he’d last visited Canada, and we both needed a bit of a vacation. Very awesome to have a buddy come to see me simply because he could!

The last time he was here I treated him to Waterton, so this time we did something a bit different.


The path travelled.

This road trip was spread over three days. We left for Lake Louise early in the morning and had breakfast at the Chateau, then headed up Highway 93 toward the Columbia Icefield.

The joke that Mat and I have shared for the last few years is that there must not be any animals in Alberta, because while I swore to him on his last visit that he was guaranteed to see bears and other wildlife while we were in Waterton, it was so bloody hot (36°C/96.8°F) that no self-respecting animal was going to be caught dead out and about where they could be seen. The best he saw on that trip was a curious ground squirrel in our campsite.

But this trip? We were barely a few hours out of Lake Louise when…


Pretty bear!

We pulled out at a viewpoint at the side of the highway, intending to take a photo of the valley when this young female grizzly stood up directly in front of the car. Until then she had been hidden below the lip of the mountainside where she was busy eating fresh sprouts of grass. This shot was taken as she walked by the car, just 15-20 feet away. She was a pretty cool customer but we didn’t stay… A grizzly can open a car like a tin can if it wants!

It was a gorgeous spring day, and the highway didn’t disappoint for sights as we made our way toward the icefield.


Peyto Lake


The mountain pass was full of snow… Click for larger. (1830x315px)

When we finally arrived at the Columbia Icefield it was shocking (to me) to see how far up the valley the Athabasca glacier has receded. I can remember, as a girl (we’re talking mid-1980s), arriving at the parking lot just off the highway with my parents and more or less being able to step onto the glacier from there. Now? The only way to get onto it is to pay to take the crawler from the visitor center. Mat and I did this and on the way up the guide told us that at the rate the ice is melting (more than five meters of ice per year), the glacier will be gone within our lifetime. :(


The Athabasca glacier has receded.

After riding the cat up and walking out on the 300m thick ice, we went to the new Glacier Skywalk. I have a small thing about heights but it was a pretty awesome experience (bratty Japanese tourists jumping up and down to make the thing sway more notwithstanding).


The view from the Glacier Skywalk.

Let me tell you, you do feel that thousand feet of air when standing on a bridge of glass…

We were both lucky enough to see a mountain goat while on the Skywalk. Very rare!



After that came the long road to Edmonton. The drive was gorgeous and we drank in the sun and tunes. Mat is good company. :) Along the way there were signs to watch for caribou crossing the highway but unfortunately we didn’t get to see any. (That would have been a treat for both of us. I have never seen wild caribou before either.)

As we were leaving the park we were treated one last time:


Snoozing in the afternoon sun.

A large herd of bighorn sheep had parked themselves right by the highway to have an afternoon snooze. There were multiple males like these ones, a dozen or more ewes and kids, including this happy bugger:


All smiles.

Seriously, pretty sure there never was a happier sheep than this!

After that we drove on to Edmonton with the sun sinking behind the Rockies. Highway 16 is also a lovely drive but after the views along 93, it’s also pretty boring (hey look, more trees!) and we were both getting fairly tired. We made it almost all the way to the city limits on just one tank of gas—about 800km in all.

The next day was spent recuperating at West Edmonton Mall, where we watched the sea lion presentation, visited the sea caverns, saw Age of Ultron, ate a whole lot of delicious food, and walked our feet off while shopping. The day after that we headed out to Drumheller and the Royal Tyrrell Museum.


An ancient tree.

Mat had never seen real dinosaur bones in person before, and it’s one of my favorite destinations. They had a lot of art on display by Julius Csotonyi which I enjoyed.

I think we read every single display blurb in the museum. :)

The garden has also been recently renovated and it was pretty cool to see the Metasequoia growing there. This tree is from the Cretaceous Period and has supposedly been extinct for 2.5 million years, but one was found still growing in China in 1941. These days its seeds have been spread around the world. It’s a conifer that loses its leaves in winter. Neat!

One area we lingered over the most had to do with the mass extinction 65 million years ago, including detailed information about the “K/T Boundary”. There were several very interesting placards about this including photos showing where it is visible in the Drumheller area. The most distinctive feature of the K/T Boundary of course is that non-avian dinosaur fossils are only found below it.

We drove back to Cochrane after that, and spent the balance of Mat’s visit sitting around the fire, playing games, and taking day trips to places like Longview for very delicious jerky. :D

We also had our own, um, pig roast.




I’m burning! Burning!

Before arriving, Mat had joked about how he wanted to roast a pig while in Canada, so my mother scoured the dollar stores until she found this pinata. We had a good laugh as it went up in flames in the yard. :) Of course there was lots of BBQing of real meat too.

After all that, Mat went home. :( But he loved it here so much that he’s decided to try to immigrate! This is pretty exciting for me, since many of my friends live outside Canada. If all goes well it will be nice to have another local face.

Hopefully now that I’m getting settled, other things can start to get back to normal. I want to continue my Myst series entries and actually sit down to work on Heart of the Empire like I planned. More content for Solitary Pilot would be great too. We’ll see how it goes!

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Wanting Off the Beaten Path Sat, 25 Jul 2015 04:11:02 +0000 Read More]]> Hauling through new Eden

Hauling through New Eden

Recently I did a bunch of hauling for ILF and for myself, mostly to consolidate assets and get organized. This took me to various locations across New Eden, including a few systems deep into Domain where I’ve never been before.

Although the backdrop of space changed color the farther I travelled, all I really got to see were gates, jump tunnels, warp tunnels, the bright glowy butt end of my ship, and little triangle/house/turtle icons zipping past. There were a few interesting moments but for the most part these were uneventful journeys. Sure I could have hired someone to fetch all those cargo loads for me but having not been in game much recently due to offline stuff, I had a need to do it all myself, to feel useful.

Every so often a celestial beacon would show up on the Overview. Since it was unlikely I’d be coming this way again, I right-clicked and chose Show Info, the idea being to read a little about the landmark or whatever it happened to be as I was traversing the system.

Instead, Show Info was kind enough to tell me what a beacon is. Great. Thanks.

So on I went, system after system, with quite honestly very little to do or look at.

That got me thinking.

Blind Signposts

Is it helpful for the Overview to tell me what a beacon is? Actually, no. Any reasonably educated human being can deduce that for him- or herself.

But if I’m new to the game, or to a particular area of space, or maybe I’ve been living under a rock and haven’t undocked much, how do I find out if the thing the beacon has identified is worth my precious and limited game time to check out? There’s only the name displayed on the Overview as the “hook” to try to draw me in.

So my first thought was that the Overview is kind of useless if it doesn’t give me targeted information about the stuff it displays to me as far as these beacons go.

What’s my next choice? I suppose I could dock up, ALT-TAB out of the game (IGB? Shudder), and then use the EVE Wiki or Google to see what information I can find. Maybe (probably) Mark has written an article about that landmark. Or maybe not. The other choice is to take a chance on the name itself and warp in, possibly to great disappointment. Possibly to be exploded into tiny little bits when I’m not actually prepared or interested in being exploded into tiny little bits.

Neither of these options is all that appealing from my gameplay perspective. The first one requires me to interrupt my in-game immersion to use out-of-game resources to educate myself. EVE has a lot of out-of-game resources and they are all wonderful, but when I’m actually running around in my ship, I want to be able to continue running around in my ship with as little disruption as possible. Plus, reading about something is never as good as experiencing it firsthand.

The second option requires me to make a leap of faith, otherwise known as jumping in blind. This is not necessarily a bad thing but there’s a difference between, say, jumping through a gate when you know you have no scout on the other side but you are nevertheless already prepared to brawl should there be baddies waiting for you, versus warping to a location because you are just curious and want to look. If Show Info displayed something about the destination rather than about the beacon, this would give players a better sense of whether or not they wanted to go see what that thing is all about (and/or were in an appropriate ship to do so).

So based on that, I decided the game needs improvement on seamlessly feeding me more information than it actually does in order to be more likely to draw me in.

But right after this line of thinking, my next thought was that it’s actually pretty silly to have these kinds of things listed on the Overview at all.

No Secrets

A player lands in any system and immediately knows essentially everything that is located there and roughly where all of it is in relation to their position at any given time. The discovery scanner makes this worse because it splatters the screen with indications of every single anomaly or signature to be had.

This means that unless players remove things like celestial beacons from the Overview and otherwise disable icons or turn off the discovery scanner completely, exploration and any sense of independent discovery is spoiled, every single time.

Let’s look at this from the perspective of other games.

A player loads into a new zone. Whether or not they’ve been in this zone before, they’re probably going to bring up the map at some point. Depending on the game, maybe the map displays the entire zone, or maybe (if this is their first visit) it only displays the portion of the zone that their avatar can reasonably see with line of sight from the entry point, while the rest of the map is hidden. If this is their first visit, possibly the map has a couple of markers on it for very important locations, such as a town, major raid dungeon, or an exit to another zone. Possibly the map has a marker denoting an area where a quest goal is located. The map, unless hidden beyond the immediate view, probably also has major paths or roads marked on it.

What happens next? There is no list on the player’s screen conveniently telling them where exactly all the landmarks are and otherwise what else there is to see or do in this zone. These other markers are only added once the player discovers them. Never travel close enough to find a certain place? It’s never added to your map.

Maybe there’s a cave over there with a boss that pops out if you touch the crystal protruding from the ground. Maybe up there on the mountain are some good harvesting nodes hidden in the ruins of an old temple. Maybe down by the river is a mob of creatures roaming around. Maybe there’s a convenient respawn point hidden behind that waterfall. Maybe there’s an NPC deep in the forest who gives quests for epic loot if you happen to find him.

What about smaller things, details that are in the game simply to add depth, immersion, beauty, delight? Where are the best views of the zone? How about that forest clearing where the light slants through the trees and a dev has added fireflies for effect? How about that brook where the fish can be seen jumping upstream? How about that battlefield that still has the corpses of the fallen lying in it? How about that inn where the player can burst in on…well, you get the idea.

How about when a game gives the player a quest to search for Y item or kill Z thing, but only marks a general area on the map where that thing can be found, rather than marking its exact location?

The point is, even if the map is visible, for the most part the player still has to physically run around to discover all of these things. The player has to take it upon him- or herself to explore and look and experience the zone to find out what’s out there. The zone is the great unknown until then and who knows what the player will miss simply by only sticking to the main routes.

EVE has “exploration”. It requires the use of scan probes. But unless the player is “exploring” for ships to kill, the probes only get used if the discovery scanner shows Cosmic Signature icons across the backdrop of the system. No icons? The probes stay loaded and the pilot moves on.

Pilots can also “explore” the game by embarking on personal quests to visit every system, or flying to every celestial beacon, or checking out every district satellite around a planet. Screenshots are popular in EVE because the game is beautiful.

But these things are still not the same as the satisfaction of discovering something for yourself simply by moving around a zone to see what’s there. We don’t have opportunity to do this in EVE; we already know what’s there. There’s a lessened sense of wonder and awe as a result. What’s in that belt? The same as every other belt: rocks, and maybe an NPC or two. What’s orbiting that planet? A POCO. Anything else? Maybe a random can that someone has dropped—but no need to go look, just check dscan. How about that moon? A hostile POS, if you’re unlucky—but again, just check dscan. Anything else? …

What about all that empty space in between the warpable locations on the Overview or the scanner? The sprawling unused space. Deadspace. What’s there to see? Nothing? Nothing.

But shouldn’t (couldn’t) there be…stuff? Stuff that doesn’t appear on the Overview. Stuff that people have to actually go exploring to find. Stuff equivalent to those fish in the stream, or that random boss trigger, or that awesome vista, those temple ruins, and so on.

I know I would really like that. In EVE I’d like to do the equivalent of bounding into the forest or across the fields, off the beaten path taken by other players, simply to see what might be there. Point my ship in a direction that isn’t a station, a planet, a POS, a POCO, a signature, a belt, or a bookmark, and just go see.

But if EVE were like this…how would a player get there?

All Off-Ramps Are Closed

Unlike other MMOs which give players actual legs and feet to run around on, EVE Online cages us in (mostly) very pretty metal behemoths. When our ships are in space, we point them at a destination and most of the time we hit the warp button. This shunts us into a warp tunnel that eventually collapses when we are near the other end.

Nothing happens while in warp. A ship can’t exit warp voluntarily; once in, you’re committed unless 1) your capacitor didn’t have enough energy to send you the full distance, or 2) you are in 0.0 space where someone else can kick you out of warp at a location of their choosing…so long as that location is somewhere along the warp tunnel’s predetermined trajectory.

Warp represents a period of time where players surrender total control of their time to the game. We have no ability to stop and see what might be along the route, nor do much of anything else, as Aura will remind us: You are in warp. You cannot do that while warping. There is no equivalent to running along a road and then deciding to take a cross-country detour through the trees and over hill and dale because something interesting caught your eye in the distance. Even the tunnel itself muddies up the view of whatever happens to be passing by.

In EVE, we have to warp to get anywhere of consequence. Sure you can undock from station and MWD or MJD to that gate, or to that belt, or to that POCO, or to that POS, or to that tackled battleship, or to that celestial beacon, or to that cosmic signature, or toward the second star to the right…but better check that your Life insurance and your subscription are both paid up because it’s going to take you ages to get there. Years maybe. As it rightly should: star systems are big, space is vast, and that’s realistic.

But at the same time, it’s a game and it would just be so much cooler to have more in each system than what we actually can get to. New Eden has a ton of wasted space, literally.

Spreading Out

This is Intaki:

The Intaki System

The Intaki System

It has a star, some planets, some moons, some asteroid belts, some stations, some gates, and some structures. Now and then it has a smattering of Faction Warfare sites, anomalies, signatures, wormholes, and PVE sites—pretty typical, like most other star systems.

So let’s say I undock. Where can I go? Essentially, from Point A to Point B, like this:

Star systems have a limited number of destinations.

Star systems have a limited number of destinations.

Where can everyone else who visits my lovely system go? Also from Point A to Point B:

Everyone travels the same roads.

Everyone travels the same roads.

Of course there will be some offshoots here and there for randomly-occuring sites, and the central area of the system is squished in too small to see properly, but this is the gist of it. Multiply this by the number of solo pilots, gangs, and fleets that could come into Intaki and the overlapping lines will get pretty ridiculous.

But… The lines between points represent warp tunnels, and warp tunnels are narrow uni-directional prisons that you can’t get out of. So let’s look at that image again:

Activity is restricted to choke points.

Activity is restricted to choke points.

What? That’s it? That’s the usable area of the system?

Or, put differently:

It's lonely out there...

It’s lonely out there…

The entire grey area, save for the holes created in the immediate vicinity of planets and the star as well as any random anoms, sigs, and mission sites, is all wasted. This is negative, essentially unreachable space. Sure, if players make bookmarks at signature sites, deadspace complexes, and so on, they can thereafter reach those deep space locations again, even after the site has despawned, but once there, there’s nothing to do but turn around and warp somewhere else. Point A to Point B.

Telling Aura, “I Can, I Can, I Can So!”

What if warp wasn’t something players were locked into?

What if having an afterburner on our hulls was the equivalent to the walk setting for an avatar (not going to get very far very fast, maybe suitable for toodling around in a belt or other “local” environment like station ruins and so on), while microwarp drives were akin to jogging (going fast enough to make some progress, maybe suitable for travelling between a planet and its station, moons, and belts), and actual warp was akin to an avatar sprinting or getting on a mount (going fastest, suitable for getting from one planet to another, to the local star, to the system’s “edge”, and every point in between)? What if warp tunnels didn’t exist and a ship’s trajectory could be changed during warp and a pilot could voluntarily stop?

After all, in other games, if you want to attack a player, he can run in just about any direction he wants, and you can ambush from just about any direction you choose. In most cases he’s not going to come at you (or vice versa) along the limited number of predetermined trajectories that EVE players are constrained to with warp. If you see him out there in a middle of a field rather than on the road, you have no choice but to go chase him down, and along the way you might have to avoid NPCs randomly moving around the immediate area, too.

What would EVE be like if I could (more easily) wander off in any old direction in a star system? What if I could actually orbit a planet rather than having to use the district satellites to get around it? What if I could explore a planet’s rings? What if I could orbit a moon? What might I find hiding over the horizon? What if I could lose myself anywhere in the system?

Maybe I would stumble across NPC pirates constructing an outpost in what we currently think of as “deadspace”, or hauling illegal supplies “off the beaten path”, or who knows what, and they would turn and aggress for having been found out. Maybe I would stumble across an ancient relic that I can hack. Maybe I’d get an escalation after that. Maybe I’d find a location where one or more planets eclipse the local star in just the right way, spectacularly revealing the corona that can’t be seen from anywhere else. Maybe I’d find a wormhole. Or a patch of rogue drones at a planet’s Lagrange Point. Or Sleepers. Or a Jove structure. Or Sansha, and trigger (or halt) an incursion. Or just a mob of Serpentis out looking for trouble. Or a random CONCORD patrol that happens to trigger aggro from that mob of Serps, so I can sit there and watch them obliterate one another, or go help, or crash their party. Or maybe I’ll find a mob of other players. Or some random space trash to salvage. Or a monolith. Or an old New Eden-equivalent to a Voyager spacecraft. Or who knows what. Then I can do something with what I’ve found: kill it, salvage it, hack it, mine it, [fill in the blank] it, and after I’m done and have moved out of the vicinity, that thing will eventually respawn for someone else to randomly chance across too.

This means EVE would have fewer choke points. Players could spread out in the systems they like to live in. I think this is a good thing. Right now, encounters are forced upon us all whether we want them or not because warp only takes us from Point A to Point B, and all of those points are predictable.

Where do fights happen? At or near gates, at or near stations, at or near structures, at or near complexes, and otherwise at or near any location that can be warped to. What if they happened anywhere? What if the thrill and anticipation of undocking came from not knowing where exactly anyone might be, and what NPCs might also aggro because they happened to get too close to your gang and its almost-perfectly executed ambush? What if gate camps didn’t actually have to be on a gate, but could be “hidden” in the shadow of a moon, or amongst the ruins of a station, or even behind a really big asteroid that I haven’t yet fully orbited?

What if probing had less to do with finding ships and other things far across the whole system, and more to do with providing a pilot with additional or enhanced situational awareness of the immediate area? What if we had to actually wander around to find other players, gas sites, combat sites, and so on, rather than having these things basically handed to us? What if probes were needed to actively determine what kind of asteroids those are and their ore quality, rather than having types on the Overview? And so on.

What if we didn’t have an Overview at all, at least in its current incarnation? What if it only acted more or less like a compass or radar/sensors? What if we actually had to use the map to figure out where we are in system, where we haven’t been, what we’ve discovered today, how close we are to the station we want to visit and so on?

Changing EVE in these ways would be a huge shift in dynamic for everyone, regardless of whether or not you are a pirate or a miner or only dabble in PVE or whatever. But NPCs would have more presence and I think systems would simply feel more…occupied. The backdrop of space would be less pretty art and more of an enticing mystery: What’s out there today?

For me? That is an EVE I think I’d rather play.

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Glimmers of Awesome Sat, 06 Jun 2015 08:07:56 +0000 Read More]]> It’s been a busy few months for me. At the end of March I sold my home, then moved in temporarily with my folks. Living at home again at 34 years old has been honestly not bad but it has put a serious crimp in my usual gaming schedule on top of having to work a load of overtime.

Now the possession date of my new home has arrived, which has brought a slew of new chaos and things to do with it, the least of which is arranging to move yet again. It’ll be good to be in my own place once more!

Despite all these real life shenanigans, not everything has been quiet on the EVE front.

Official Fansite



I’m super stoked to share that on April 20, 2015, Solitary Pilot became an official EVE Online fansite! It comes up on CCP’s fansite list under Canada for “blogs” and “fan art and fiction”.

This is particularly awesome since the majority of content posted here is personal fiction, as compared to the OOC posts I only recently started to put up too.

I’m not sure why I didn’t apply to be a fansite earlier but all the same it’s a wonderful privilege to be recognized now. Thank you CCP!

Getting Back into the Swing of Things

On the topic of fiction, and writing in general, last month my good EVE buddy, Darius Shakor, flew roughly halfway around the world to visit me for ten days. I took him on a whirlwind adventure around my home province of Alberta, but we also sat for a while just to talk about EVE and even looked a bit at some of the loose roleplay ends we both have flapping in the breeze when it comes to our characters.

This might sound a bit odd, but I don’t actually get to do that too often. Oh, certainly I think about and talk about the game to some degree every day when logged in. But there’s something different about being able to sit face to face with a friend that helps get the creative fires lit and the juices flowing again.

Darius has a tremendous amount of fiction written for his character but it’s all hidden away on his hard drive where no one but him has seen it. His character is Minmatar and based on what he told me, sounds to have a pretty well-thought out and lengthy story going for him. I’m hoping to coax him into making a website to publish his work on so other people can share his adventures.

For me, I’ve been stuck with a block for quite a while now. Most of it has been due to real life drama and whatnot getting in the way, but some has just been awful ol’ writer’s block. I’ve known for ages what I want to write but the words haven’t come out right. Every writer knows what I’m talking about.

But now that I’ve sat with Darius, brainstormed a bit, and talked out some ideas, I feel like I can take another crack at it. Being able to see another person be excited about my ideas face to face helps a lot. I’m looking forward to opening those dusty documents again and then having new content to post.

Things Afoot for the Front

Darius’s visit, and being awarded fansite status, and getting out of my previous home—all have had other positive effects too. Having things to feel good about means feeling good in general. The stress and general funk I was in seems to be lifting, and while I’ll still have some adjustments to get used to in my personal life after I move, my energy levels are coming back up as the depression wanes.

This means that in the last week or so I’ve started looking again at projects I started for ILF and it looks like things are off to a great start.

May was the first month my pilots were able to accrue Loyalty Points for killing eligible targets. I wasn’t able to be around much but holy smokes did they step up! Richard alone ended the month with 50 eligible kills, while Daniel and Erun also racked up double digit totals. While to some players this might not seem like a lot, for us this is fantastic.

With that success in mind, I wanted to look at the other side of ILF: industry. We have a number of people who enjoy mining, building, and so on, and they are just as rightly deserving of recognition and LP awards as our PVP guys. Thanks to Erun’s help I’ve been able to add the first stage of what will grow into a proper LP program for these players, by offering LP in exchange for voluntary donations of their surplus minerals. I also have things to do to get the first of the ILF missions on offer too.

There are good times ahead!

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The Fifth Age: Riven – Day Two Sun, 03 May 2015 11:18:00 +0000 Read More]]>

Riven – Day One | Riven – Day Two | Riven – Day Three | Riven – Day Four | Riven – Day Five

I recently got an itch to revisit a game series that, next to the first-gen Nintendo, is probably primarily responsible for getting me into gaming in the first place. The first game in this series is called Myst. The sequel is called Riven.


A wooden eye hides the D’ni number five.

I’m three hours into the game. In my previous entry I discovered it’s been long enough since I last played that I don’t remember many of the puzzles, and even though I still have my Myst adventure journal which has copious quantities of notes in it covering Myst, Riven, Exile, and some of Uru and Revelation, I’m making a conscious effort to not spoil myself by reaching for the book when I get stuck.

Let’s see what puzzles and curiosities the Riven islands hold for me today.

Fair warning: if you’ve never played Riven, there are spoilers ahead!

Survey Island

I wake in the cavern with its glowing blue porthole into the ocean. I’m almost tempted to go back up to the chair to fiddle with the viewers again but decide against it. The last thing I want is that creature to get mad and come crashing through the glass! Besides, there’s still plenty more to do and I remember Atrus is anxiously waiting for a signal from me.

The first thing I do is check the tram room where the scribe escaped. The station is (still?) empty. Given his reaction to me, my guess is no one has been back to this island and probably won’t return until after I’ve gone.

There’s a switch here to summon the tram car the scribe took but before I leave I want to try to figure out what that strange silver device is in the metal hut at the top of the island. I retrace my steps to the golden lift, ride that to the tram station I arrived at, and then climb up the metal stairs to the pathway that winds itself through the rock formations until I’m at the second elevator and then finally at the platform with the odd switchboard.


L is a recognizable shape.

I study the shape of the rock formations. I wondered before if this is a map of the Riven islands and the longer I stand here the more it seems likely. The L-shaped formation might correspond to the island I’m standing on, as once I came up the metal catwalk the island did seem to be long and narrow. I push that button and then, once the water has oozed up through the grid on top of that formation, turn around and make my way to the metal hut.

The silver grid inside the hut is flat and featureless, but the shape in the magnifying glass is now the same as the L-shape I pressed outside.


A familiar sight!

I press the first section of the L-shape and watch as the silver grid reacts. Yes! I recognize the spiked rock formation at the very front of the island, with the algae-colored water surrounding it. This is a map. But what does this device do? I poke the other sections of the L-shape in the magnifying glass and rotate the sections around several times before I spot it:


Blink and you’ll miss it.

It’s subtle and easy to miss. The grid shows the location of the spinning dome—the one I opened earlier—on this island. It likewise reveals the location of domes (or suggestions of where the domes ought to be) on the other islands, too. I make notes.

Having gotten a grasp of this device, I decide to see where the scribe went and return to the tram room to summon the car. It’s a long moment before I hear it coming. It takes me to another island and deposits me in yet another underground station that leads to a rickety-looking wooden lift with a worn-looking control lever inside. A groove has been cut into the wall where the handle has passed by repeatedly. I go up one level, where I find a switch that would summon the tram car if I needed it. There’s also another lever and some kind of sloped space here but I decide to go up one more level for now.

Jungle Island


Step into the green.

My curiosity pays off: this rickety, wooden lift brings me to a metal catwalk leading into a lush jungle. I eagerly step out into the cool shade. It’s beautiful here, quiet with the sound of insects buzzing and birdsong. I spend several minutes simply walking slowly and looking all around me. Huge plants, some with leaves as broad as a man, grow up from the ground below and reach above my head to the treed canopy. Below in places the ground appears somewhat phosphorescent, glowing with a pale blue-white light.


Ahead, another dome.

The catwalk diverges into two paths, and through the trees I can see a spinning dome. I choose the left path first and it takes me directly to the dome itself. I can’t see the viewer, however, so instead I continue to follow the catwalk. A blast of hot air from below reveals an open seam of bubbling magma.


The lookout post.

I emerge from the jungle by climbing a set of stairs, only to be halted in my tracks partway up by a sudden wailing sound. Ahead to my right I can see part of what looks like a white pod-shaped structure. It must be a lookout post. Inside it someone is working a mechanism which turns a siren on the pod’s roof. The siren is a note of warning, and after a moment the lookout ducks down out of sight. By the time I finish climbing the stairs and can see the lookout station is propped up on stilts, its occupant has already vanished. Once again, the inhabitants of Riven know where I am and don’t seem too keen on having me around.


A strange structure.

Ahead of me, the catwalk dead ends at a metal structure surrounded by standing stones. There’s a door on this structure, but I decide to turn back for now. I want to explore the jungle some more and find the viewer for the dome first.

At the fork in the catwalk I take the right-hand path. This one quickly dead-ends at the viewer I was searching for. I peer through and patiently wait for the correct timing to turn this dome over, then go and have a look. As with the others, this dome also has a book inside it protected by the combination lock that I don’t have the cypher for yet.

The catwalk goes nowhere else so I’m forced to return to the wooden lift. I have it take me down to the second level with the tram switch, then throw the other lever here.


A sharp-toothed exit.

The wooden floor begins to drop away, revealing a jagged opening that glows orange. I step down onto the jungle floor and exit the structure. The sight that greets me when I turn around startles me. I have just emerged from the mouth of the sea creature I saw on Survey Island. A switch subtly placed on a lamp which bathes the wooden statue in the orange light makes the mouth rumble closed.


A wooden behemoth.

I can’t help but stare. Are the Rivenese so afraid of me because Gehn comes to them out of the mouth of this thing? The actual creature is fearsome enough but this wooden behemoth is right out of someone’s nightmare. Right now it’s broad daylight and I’m unnerved—what would they think if he appeared from this in the middle of the night? Perhaps it’s no wonder they came to revere him as a god.

I turn away to resettle myself by enjoying the peace of the jungle instead. A path leads ahead across the glowing carpet of the forest floor. I follow it up a short set of stairs and turn a corner—


A young Rivenese girl.

A young, very cute girl is alone on the path before me. She smiles shyly then turns and runs, tripping briefly before disappearing into the tunnel. I chase her but the tunnel branches left and right and I have no idea which way she’s gone. I choose left, but evidently she took the other path because while the view ahead is beautiful, there’s no sign of her.


The beautiful jungle.

By now I have learned well enough that there’s no use in turning back to try to find the little girl: like the scribe and the lookout, she will have already vanished as if like smoke. Besides, if the Rivenese truly are afraid of me, it won’t do any good to force myself upon them.

For now, my only companions are the creatures of the jungle. Ahead of me a very large insect buzzes through the trees while fireflies wink in and out of sight. A stone dagger leans to the right of the path. Was it always there, originally a large boulder of stone that someone carved into this shape? Or did Gehn write it like this into the Age, only to have its shape adopted later by the Black Moiety? For some reason I find its presence comforting.

The path continues through the forest. Ferns, flowers, and phosphorescent fungus grow all around. The moss is soft and save for the sound of insects and birds, it’s blissfully quiet. Eventually I find myself at another staircase and venture up it to where the path comes to a gate and the forest seems to end.


Emerging into desolation.

Ah… I know where I am now. This is the forest Gehn had been cutting down to pulp for paper. Sure enough, as I follow the path out through the gate, I find the hole in the ground where I first jumped into the cart that took me on the rollercoaster ride of death that landed me in the wood chipper.

Mysteriously, the cart has returned to this island on its own. I recall the odd creature trap in the cavern and decide I might brave the track again later to go back and see if I can figure out how to get it set properly. For now I’ll explore Jungle Island some more.

I choose one of the other paths. It takes me to a break in the cliff wall and down a flight of stairs to a wooden walkway.


The empty lookout.

Ahead of me is the now empty lookout. I’m kind of disappointed my presence was announced to the entire island. Other than the guard who stole the prison book, no one has actually spoken to me since I arrived and it’s getting kind of lonely.

My choices are to continue on down the path ahead or take a turn to the right. I choose to go right and find myself at another gate which opens at my touch, revealing a short set of stairs that crosses over the lava pool and leads down into the jungle and the hut with the dome on top. This would be the path the girl took when she ran from me. I close the gate and continue on down the wooden path. It takes me into the rockface again and down another flight of stairs which are lit by pale blue sconces.


A cave painting.

Something on the wall about halfway down the stairs catches my eye, but when I turn to look, I’m not sure I actually saw anything. In the dim blue light it takes a few moments to search the wall of the passage, but then I find it: a primitive-looking pictogram. It seems to show Gehn, a couple of the sea creatures…and two Rivenese being fed to them. A shiver creeps up my back.

The passage ends at another wooden path leading over water. Before me is a village built onto high, straight cliffs. The Rivenese are scrambling to hide: I see several people dashing about on walkways that run between spherical homes, and just a short distance away a mother gathers up a young child and disappears out of sight behind an outcropping. Silence descends over the village and I try not to sigh with disappointment.

To my left is a lake. As I walk along the path, an inverted cone-like structure comes into view on the opposite shore. I’m not sure how I could reach it. Perhaps there’s a boat closer to the village that I could use.


The village lake.

There also seems to be another lookout of some sort high up on the opposite cliff, but again, no obvious way to get to it. From here I can’t tell if there’s anyone inside either.

Then I notice something odd about the water. The lake is pefectly still: no ripples from current or wind to disturb the surface. And out some distance from me, I see what appear to be…depressions…in the liquid. I step to the edge of a platform and look down; there’s a metal ladder leading into a ‘hole’ in the water. At the bottom is another platform, perfectly dry, with tracks on either side.

Where is the car (sub?) that runs along those tracks? I’ll have to find it to be able to explore the bottom of the lake.

The wooden path takes me into the village itself. I find myself at the bottom of a series of ladders. With no other way to go, I climb up.


The surface of the strange lake.

From up here, the strange holes in the water are much easier to see, as are the tracks running along the lake bottom. I can also see what looks like a rock with a scope coming out of it and wonder if the images I saw from the viewer on Survey Island were of this lake. A bit further out I can just make out the floating orb that Gehn talked about in his journal, the one that he had removed but was then mysteriously replaced overnight.

The village behind me is quiet and closed. Not a door open anywhere, not a soul to be seen, although somewhere I can faintly hear an infant crying.

I want to still be surprised that the Rivenese are so afraid to interact with me, but having seen the pictograph, perhaps it’s not such a shocker after all. Perhaps Gehn has made it a law not to interact with strangers…else face being eaten.

But I’m here to trap Gehn, free Catherine, and, ostensibly, free the Rivenese in the process. The Black Moiety have the prison book, which I need to get back. The Rivenese might know where the rebels are…some of them are probably rebels themselves. I need these people to trust me, so I step up to the nearest door. There’s a star-shaped knocker hanging from it, and I recall what I have read about the significance of the number five in D’ni culture.

So, I knock five times.


A face in the door!

A panel in the door opens! A face peers out at me but before I can say anything, the panel is snapped shut. I knock repeatedly but no one answers.

Again I can faintly hear the cry of an infant somewhere in the village, but otherwise, everything is silent and still. I decide to move on.

The village is a maze of walkways, some of which I can’t fathom how to actually get at. The one I’m on takes me to a plateau where I find what looks like the sub car, a gold altar, and a kiln. By flipping a lever, the sub descends down the cliff to the lake bottom—I’ll still have to figure out how to get down there before I can get into it. For right now, it seems I’m at a dead end so I retrace my steps through the village and all the way back up to the tree stumps at the very top of the island.

There’s one more path I haven’t been down yet: the way to the left from where I originally emerged out of the rock after I first arrived here.


Going down to the shoreline.

The steps are steep and I’m glad they aren’t wet, else I might slip and break my neck. They go all the way down to the shore. I’m careful as I approach: on a smooth rock sitting in the shallows by the beach, two large finned creatures are sunning themselves.


Trying to enjoy the sun.

By approaching slowly I get pretty close, but one of the sunners lifts its head to bugle a warning. I watch them for a moment longer, but as I turn away they decide they’ve had enough of my intrusion and slip into the water with a splash.

The beach curves around the sunner’s rock and ends at a point by a stubby palm tree. From here there are no other islands in view, just an endless stretch of water that meets the puffy white clouds at the horizon.

I turn back and see a familiar sight:


The wahrk rock.

From this angle, the rocks happen to form the shape of that frightening sea creature. A coincidence of nature, or a sign of intelligent design? Gehn has used this half-whale, half-shark predator to intimidate, frighten, and apparently even eat the Rivenese. Like the number five, the wahrk appears everywhere I go.

But I notice the sand is thicker here, and half-hidden in the rock shadows is something I’ve seen before: one of the wooden eyes. I cross to it, and it rotates to reveal what I think is the D’ni number five. There’s a sound, too, one that makes my skin crawl. I rotate the eye a few more times to make sure I’ve heard properly: the cry of the wahrk.

A wooden eye, embedded in a rock formation that looks like a warhk, that makes the sound of a wahrk when rotated? Can’t be a coincidence.

That’s when I realize one of the other wooden eyes I found made a sound too. The one in Gehn’s lab didn’t, but the one by the tram car on this island made a kind of a chirping sound. I should probably go back to double check, and see if I can figure out what animal makes that sound. Maybe there are others I haven’t found yet. And the one in Gehn’s office? It came from the village lake, so perhaps if I can find my way to the sub I can find out about that one too.

I return to the path and follow it up into a tunnel that eventually opens onto another wooden walkway. Here again I find one of the pod-like lookout posts but this one is already empty. When I look to my right I see that I’m now on the opposite side of the lake from the village.


The beetle eye.

The path takes me to a plateau with a textured stone pool in it, with a wooden eye embedded in the bottom. The pool is dry, but there’s a lever on one side that lets some water into it. I watch, fascinated, as the water seems to draw a shape before my eyes. I’m not sure what the shape is exactly, so lean down to examine the wooden eye more closely.

It turns over and I hear a low fluttering sound. I’ve heard this sound before, in the jungle: the large flying insect that buzzed past me near the stone dagger. The shape makes sense now. It’s a beetle.

On the other side of the pool I find a ladder that leads me down almost to the water. Another path crosses into the rock and then comes out at a metal platform with yet another ladder leading down. At the bottom of that ladder?


We all live in a…brown…submarine…

The sub car. I stop to wonder for a moment how exactly it ended up positioned under this metal platform when I originally saw it dropped vertically from the top of the cliff. Perhaps someone extended this platform for me after I left the vicinity of the village?

I climb down the ladder. The access hatch opens easily. There’s room inside for just one person. As I pull the hatch closed behind me, I wonder if I’m about to be taken on a whirlwind ride again like I was in the wood chipper car.

But unlike that other car, the sub has controls. In front of me is a viewport out into the lake. I can hear the sub’s systems popping and pinging quietly, waiting for me to set it going. I push a lever forward, and slowly the sub lurches into motion. As I move down the track I see the bottom of the lake contains a trench and I recall Atrus saying this Age is slowly ripping itself apart. Somewhere on Riven is the star fissure, which I’ve not caught a glimpse of yet. Could it be down here?

I navigate my way around the lake until the sub emerges into one of the holes. I stop, pop the hatch, and poke my head out. I’m somewhere in the lake but there’s nowhere to get out of the water so I climb back in, seal everything up, and continue on. There seem to be at least two circles of track, along with a couple of one-off spurs, and where the circles intersect I can choose to switch from one to the other. I know from wandering around in the village that there must be fish in here, as I saw them hanging from strings to dry, but I don’t see any schools from the sub. There are beautiful bright red plants down here though.

Eventually I come to a hole I can climb out of. I’m right by the cliff wall and above me are rungs attached to the rockface itself that lead up to what I thought of earlier as another lookout post. I climb up…and up…and up… The room I emerge into is empty save for a bank of levers and a window that overlooks the lake and the village.


An impressive view.

From here I can see all the various holes in the lake as well as places I could get out…if the metal platforms reached out far enough. Right now the only one that seems to be extended is the one I started from on the far side of the lake. When I compare to the levers behind me, only one is flipped. So if someone flipped this lever after I lowered the sub, how did they get out of this room? Perhaps they swam across the lake after I was out of sight. I flip the rest of the levers and look back; sure enough, now the other platforms are extended.

I climb down to the sub and get in it.

The next hole I come to with a platform finds me at a large hut nestled away into a quiet corner of the lake. The door is ajar so I go in.


A Rivenese house of learning.

It’s actually a schoolhouse!

Wait, a schoolhouse? Over here? How do the students and teachers get here, one by one in the sub? Or do they have to swim across the lake themselves twice a day?

In any case, I take my time to explore the room. It has several rows of benches, two chalkboards (one with what might be the day’s lesson written on it), as well as what looks like letters of an alphabet hung on wooden planks close to the ceiling. Is this the D’ni alphabet? Some of it looks familiar but I can’t recall where I’ve seen the script before. Would a man like Gehn teach the people of Riven how to speak D’ni? Perhaps he would, if he thought D’ni to be superior to any language they had of their own. It might be beneath the man to learn something he felt was inferior.


Gehn, a teacher.

At the front of the room is a smaller version of the wire globe I saw in Gehn’s temple. This one sits on a stone pedestal and has a crank attached to it. I wind it up and watch as a man’s face appears—this must be Gehn himself—and speaks a language I don’t understand. He seems to be making eye contact with people even though the room is empty, so I guess this is a prepared recording that is meant only to be played when the students are here.

His attitude seems high and mighty and holier-than-thou. I’m reminded of Sirrus.


Math is scary.

The really interesting part of the schoolhouse is a game I find on a table off to one side. It features something I’ve seen before: two Rivenese figures dangling by their feet with a hungry wahrk waiting below. By grabbing the ring on the bottom part of the contraption and giving it a pull, the wahrk moves to sit below one of the figures. A roulette wheel spins inside the base and randomly chooses a number to display at the small window on the front of the game. Once chosen, the figurine above the wahrk drops down a certain number of notches. Pull the ring again: the wahrk moves to the opposite figurine, another random number is chosen, and that figurine drops down.

The figurine to hit twenty notches first drops into the wahrk’s mouth.

It’s horrible, really. To learn D’ni numbers, the children also learn about death. Twenty strokes and you get eaten. No wonder the Rivenese are afraid, what with this kind of mental conditioning. I can feel my resolve to find Gehn strengthening. Maybe I’ll forget about the prison book and just feed him to his pet wahrk instead!

Setting aside how disturbing this game is, it does offer something useful: a way to learn D’ni numbers. I play several times in order to catch several examples, and then start to work it out: like most everything else, the D’ni base their numerals around the number five. At five and higher the characters are written as combinations of numbers zero through four, with rotation and multiplication coming into play.

I know from Gehn’s journal that, at some point, numerals have to be written side by side to express larger numbers. Based on what I’ve just learned, the number twenty-five would have to be the first number to require this, as rotating the numeral five again would just turn it back into the number one. This makes it a base twenty-five math system.

I can now decipher the lock for the golden domes, which will give me access to the linking books contained within!

But am I ready to go to the Age Gehn managed to write? He is probably hiding there, since I haven’t seen him anywhere else in Riven yet.

Despite my sudden zeal for the idea of feeding Gehn to the wahrk, I decide not. I need to find Catherine first and get the prison book before I try to find him.

I leave the schoolhouse and jump back into the sub. I want to get to the strange conical-shaped platform. With the earlier pictograph and the game in mind I have a good idea now what it’s for.


The wahrk gallows.

Once I arrive, crossing the metal platform brings me to a ring surrounding a circle of open water. The pool below this platform is quite deep. Above me, the ribs of the structure come together at a point and what seems to be a platform high overhead.

I walk slowly around the ring until I come to a handle hanging by a rope. It’s within reach, so I pull it.

Overhead, I can hear a whirring sound, as like something unspooling. Sure enough, a moment later a crossbar lowers into view over the center of the pool. The crossbar is just wide enough to accomodate a set of ankles and chains.

This is the warhk gallows.

I’m nearly sick as I realize this. So not only does Gehn actually sacrifice the Rivenese to the wahrk, he does it within full view of the village!

I half-expect the warhk to jump up out of the water, looking for the meal that isn’t there, but the lake remains still. After a moment, the crossbar automatically retracts. It’s out of reach; I wonder if there’s another way to get up to the platform.

As I stare at the pool below I start to feel lightheaded and dizzy; I have to get out of here. It won’t do if I pass out, fall in the water, and end up eaten myself. I decide to leave the vicinity for now. The villagers remain locked in their huts and will stay there until I’m out of sight, and I’m sure I’ve terrorized them enough for one day. I’m also sure they’ve been watching me and I wonder what they think.

I decide to return to the jungle.


A slick golden carapace.

On my way past the forest gate, I see something large crawling up the thick post. It’s a beetle about the size of my hand, and it’s the same gold color as the domes. The beetles on the columns in the gate room on Temple Island were obviously modeled after this creature. It doesn’t seem to mind me looking at it, but when I reach out to see if I can touch its hard carapace, the insect startles and flies away with the same low flutter I heard from the wooden eye.

I wander back into the jungle. It’s time to give myself a chance to rest and think about everything I’ve pieced together today. But where to hide where I won’t be discovered? Despite how comforting the jungle is I’m not sure there’s anywhere here that would be secluded enough. Then I recall the strange metal hut I found up beyond the dome and make my way back to it. It’s sitting in full sunlight so will probably be like an oven inside, but maybe that will likewise dissuade anyone from thinking I’m hiding in there.

The door opens easily.


A wahrk throne.

I groan when I see what’s inside. It’s a kind of throne made from the lower jaw of a wahrk, with two levers in front. Is there nowhere this symbol of fear doesn’t exist in Riven? I almost decide to leave and look for somewhere else but in the end hunker down behind the throne and try to avoid looking at it. When next I wake I’ll see about figuring out what this thing is for.

Next in this series: Riven – Day Three

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Third Time’s the Charm Sun, 05 Apr 2015 09:32:00 +0000 Read More]]> (Or so I hope!)

threeI sold my home on March 25! I found out while at work and the first thing I did was start to cry when the words “I sold my home” actually left my mouth. Disbelief, mostly, I think. Relief, too. By the time the offer to purchase came in I was quite a ways down the road to giving up. Sure, it had only been just under two months since my place was listed, but the oil price-related economic downturn here has been a huge factor. The worry that my listing would become lost among all the others that were still languishing on the market was very strong.

But, I got lucky. :) A young couple came along and viewed my home, liked my home, wanted my home. I will gladly let them have it.

Where I Am Now


Don’t judge a book by its cover…

Part of me—a small part—does feel bad that this couple is moving in. If they are anything like me, they might not like living here any more than I have. But maybe they aren’t like me. Maybe they’ll like it just fine. I hope they do.


Living room.

I can’t make myself responsible for their happiness though. They were given all the information required by law about the building, including the board meeting minutes which mention the complaints I made over the last year. The buyers even engaged a professional to review the documents for them. Maybe they had no concerns about it. Maybe they assumed I’m a nitpicky OCD crank. Maybe they didn’t care. There are a lot of possibilities.



Ultimately, I have to look out for me, because while there are people like my friends and family who do care about me and my wellbeing, the only person who will get anything done for me is me.


A bowl of stone fruit on a granite counter.

As with the mobile home I lived in for nine years, I’m trying to view this condo as a stepping stone rather than a mistake. I needed out of the situation I was in, so I purchased it, perhaps without properly thinking through my options at the time, and definitely without knowing better what to look for. It’s been a learning experience for sure, albeit an incredibly stressful one. Life goes on.


My bedroom. Ooh la la!

The new owners take possession before the end of the month. When their offer came in, I started packing. I plan to be out in a week, which gives me an extra week to repair walls, clean up, and so on before the final walk-through.



It’s not a bad looking place, is it? Actually, I’ve been disappointed that things didn’t work out here for that reason. It goes to show that looks aren’t everything.

But… Am I going to miss living here? No, I don’t think so. Idiot property manager, boards that make poor decisions, obnoxious neighbors, crime and vandalism, low quality building construction, and so on.

Where I’m Not

During my hunt I considered a lot of listings. A lot. Mostly I wanted to avoid another wood structure if I could help it. Concrete buildings still transfer sound but the normal, every day stuff that I can hear plain as day in my current place—like light switches being flipped, dresser drawers opened and closed, closest doors sliding open and closed, people getting in and out of bed, and so on—would be drastically muffled.


Looks like a fortress.

This building is located within spitting distance of the train station I use to get to work. The listing I found in it was gorgeous. The unit is bigger than what I have now, recently renovated, and spot on in my price range. I viewed it, wanted it, but had to wait to offer on it until my own home had sold.


Decent landscaping.

At first blush, this building appealed. Beyond the great location for getting to work, it’s within walking distance to a variety of shops that I like, a couple of grocery stores, and even a shopping mall. I liked the rock landscaping and the mature trees around it too.


An entryway fit for a hotel.

The main entrance to the building was pretty impressive. Lots of light, marble finishes, security cameras. I was reminded of a hotel lobby. It uses a keyfob system to access rather than having to juggle another key on a ring. So far, so good, I thought.


It has a pool!

And it has a pool! And a gym! And a recycling program! The city is enacting a new bylaw soon that will force all high-density residential complexes to incorporate recycling programs which of course will mean condo fees will go up. But this building has a program already, so no extra costs for that would be needed.

The unit I wanted ended up being purchased by someone else just days before the offer on my home closed, so I lost it. But by then there was a second unit in this building for sale with an identical layout, just on a different floor, also in my price range.


Living room.

It had not been renovated like the other one. Everything was original, although the carpet was supposedly “newer”. This was probably realtor speak for “purchased in the 80s”, because when I was a girl my family lived in a house that had that exact carpet!


A hidey-hole area.

I started to get a bit excited. If I lived in this building it would cut an hour off my round-trip commute. I wouldn’t have to take the bus anymore. I would still be in the quadrant of the city I wanted to be in. I would still be able to get out of the city easily to travel to the mountains.

Perfect, I thought.

A kitchen from 1977.

A kitchen from 1977.

Well, maybe not exactly perfect. A kitchen and bathroom from 1977, original fixtures, and so on. The balcony door lock was busted and there was no screen door.

A 1977 bathroom.

A 1977 bathroom.

But I tried to console myself because I knew what the unit could look like if I put some effort into it. My realtor and I talked about it and she was able to negotiate an offer that included a $10,000 allowance for renovations as part of the sale. Great deal!

View from the balcony.

View from the balcony.

Or not. I reviewed the disclosure documents and my excitement quickly dried up. Drug busts, a resident assaulted, flooding, a fire, concerns about mold and asbestos, and multi-million dollar “mandatory” structural repairs which owners would have to pay for. Only some of that work had been done, while the rest had been deferred by the new board to an unknown date in the future. They had fired the construction company and the consultant.

Apparently the owners in that building were thrilled. No more special assessments! But the documents made it plain that the work needed to be done. Legal stuff. Insurance stuff. Serious stuff. I calculated it out… The remainder of the work (whenever they got around to doing it) would cost the specific unit I had offered on an additional $24,000 over and above the mortgage and normal fees. That would become my responsibility if assessed after my purchase date. Yikes!!

I withdrew my offer, and good thing too, because the mortgage wasn’t approved anyway due to structural concerns in that building. Flee! Flee post-haste!

Where I’m Going

Even though it was a good decision to not buy in that building, I was still discouraged and even a bit panicked. I’d now sold my home and had nowhere to go, save for the basement in my parents’ house until I could find something of my own.

I looked again through listings in the city. There was just nothing else in my price range that I was interested in. The ones I did find were in awkward locations, or were ancient buildings, or the size of postage stamps. No thanks.

I told myself, I deserve better. Buying a home is a huge financial commitment and I shouldn’t settle for something I’m not completely happy with. I’d already spent nine years of my life in a moldy old mobile. I want something better.

Mom asked me if I had looked at listings outside of Calgary. I hadn’t. Moving out of the city wasn’t something I had really wanted to do because it would mean going back to using my car to commute, which would increase various expenses.

But I hadn’t found anything in the city that I liked. Nothing with a “wow” factor. So I looked.

Surprise! I immediately found something I liked.

The new neighborhood.

The new neighborhood.

For this, I actually am excited. Unlike where I live now, this neighborhood is established. It’s quiet, near walking trails, a pond, and some parkland.

The new building.

The new building.

The building is one of three in the complex. It’s about seven years old—old enough to have its feet under it and all the kinks worked out, young enough to not have major problems yet. (Knock on wood.) Looks nice: rustic, with some stonework, a decent western feel.

The lobby.

The lobby.

The interior of the building is clean, and nicely decorated. Not sterile like the building I’m in now. They actually have artwork on the walls throughout the building. No vandalism there. Nice to have some chairs to sit on too, say, if waiting for a taxi or a friend to pop by for a pickup. Also uses a keyfob system to get in and out.

The kitchen, with breakfast bar.

The kitchen, with breakfast bar.

The unit I viewed is quite similar to the one I have now, though it is a bit smaller. But because of how it’s laid out, it actually feels bigger. The kitchen is nicer, and has a proper breakfast bar, which is something I’ve wanted for a while since actual dining room tables just aren’t my thing.

A flat-topped stove!

A flat-topped stove!

Stainless steel appliances! Lovely dark grey backsplash. And a flat-topped stove. I really like that. No more burners to lose food under on those occasions I actually decide to cook.

Looking into the living room.

Looking into the living room.

The kitchen overlooks the living area, which is nice and bright, and not a weird shape like the one I have now. Like in the photo above, I plan to get a nice sitting chair to compliment my sofa. I’ve wanted to get a nice chair for a while!

An office nook.

An office nook.

This layout even has a neat office nook, a cute little spot to put my laptop on those days when I don’t want to lounge about on the sofa. I could do some of my crafts at this built-in desk too. I’ll have to get a new office chair though. :)

The living room and balcony door.

The living room and balcony door.

The living room has nice long walls, perfect for decorating. Something else I’ve wanted to do for a while is get canvas prints of some of my better photos. I didn’t bother with it in my current place because, well, lost the desire to decorate and all that. But here? I can see them hanging on these walls.

My new bedroom.

My new bedroom.

The bedroom is bigger than the one I have now. It has a walk-in closet with a built-in organizer. It comes with a ceiling fan too! The windows look out onto the balcony.

Spiffy bathroom.

Spiffy bathroom.

As bathrooms go, it’s pretty standard, yet still roomier than what I have right now. Big enough to take a proper photo of, at any rate. I didn’t try it, but I’m hoping the toilet flushes properly (unlike the one here, where the handle has to be held down an extra three seconds to ensure all the evidence is, uh, done away with).

The balcony.

The balcony.

The balcony is large and covered, and not attached to the balcony belonging to either neighbor. This unit faces southwest, so on a clear day the southern range of the Rocky Mountains can be seen beyond the building across the way. The balcony has a natural gas hookup for the BBQ too. No more propane tanks to haul around.

One of the views from the balcony.

One of the views from the balcony.

This is the view to the west, taken from the balcony. If I position my swing just right I should be able to look out on this. Where I am now? I have a northeast view of the sidewalk, the road, and the houses across the way. Southwest exposure means lots of sunlight, especially in winter. Lots of heat too, but I’ve always preferred warmth over cold.

The parking is pretty sweet too. The first stall is indoors, underground, heated, across from the main entrance, and right by a stairwell, so I have a wall on one side. The stall is wide and comes with a storage cage bigger than I have now. It’s also right below a security camera. I’ve already met the stall neighbor, a nice older gentleman who likes to polish his Jeep. The second stall is outside, a surface location within easy walking distance to the door.

This building also has a recycling program in it already, and actively encourages residents to make use of it to save on costs. Thumbs up all around.

But as I’ve learned already, looks aren’t everything. The devil will be in the details of the disclosure documents.

I read them. Twice. Then asked for a few more, and read those. They look clean. Well-organized. Issues look like they’ve been handled properly. Nothing set alarm bells off for me. Big sigh of relief? Oh, yes.

I snooped around the building too, hung out in the halls for a while. Sound transfer in my current building is horrendous in the halls… I can hear chatter in units as far away as a couple of corners. The day I visited the new building, both the visitor and owner surface lots were full of cars. The parkade was also full. So I paused outside doors to see what I could hear. And there was chatter, movement, TVs, small children laughing and so on. But as I moved away from those units? The sounds fell away. The building was quiet.

It won’t be perfect. It’s a wood frame building like the one I’m in now. I will still hear things. But it was built by a builder that I’ve actually heard of before, one that has quite a good reputation. The building I’m in now was built by a company nobody I’ve ever asked has heard of. Maybe simply being in a building that wasn’t put together by god knows who will make enough of a difference that I won’t be driven insane by the amount of sound transfer that will still happen. I’ll have to get used to the commute again but it’s nothing I haven’t done before… Back then it was graveyard shifts in winter.

I offered on that unit the day I viewed it. I got it for a fantastic price! The owner has tenants in it right now and they are entitled to ninety days notice to vacate, so I won’t be moving in until the end of June. Or…possibly sooner if the tenants find another place to rent before their deadline. Until then I’ll bunk up with Mom and Dad and make plans for my new flat.

I’m looking forward to it! This is going to be my third home. And third time’s a charm, right? Fingers crossed. :)

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Relief Thu, 26 Mar 2015 09:39:00 +0000 soldOfficially homeless. Best news!

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Nine Days to Relief? Thu, 19 Mar 2015 03:04:40 +0000 Read More]]> Don't ask if it's a lie, just gimme cake.

Don’t ask if it’s a lie, just gimme cake.

It hasn’t been an easy couple of months. At the start of January I wrote about the troubles I’ve been having at home, and following that I put in the effort to get a For Sale sign up. I signed away my life to do that on February 3—my birthday.

Although I’ve sold a home before, this has been my first experience going through the process most other people go through to rid themselves of real estate they don’t want. It’s been an eye-opener for me, especially with dealing with feelings of discouragement.

Right when I put up that For Sale sign, the price of oil crashed. Calgary is an oil and gas town in an oil and gas province. The change in mood around here was palpable: like in other cities, companies began cutting operations and laying off employees, and there were a lot of grim faces all around. This also meant that, quite suddenly, people became cautious and protective of their money. Very quickly, my realtor began telling me how the market was drying up. Other homes larger and nicer than mine were slashing their list prices yet were still languishing on the market. Some were getting no showings at all.

In light of this, I’ve actually been lucky. I was still getting some requests from people interested in seeing my home. Not a lot, but some. With all but a few of the other listings in my quadrant of the city (in my price range) having already sold, my condo was the biggest…but also most expensive…listing available.

What I’ve found stressful is all the uncertainty. Every day I’ve had to leave my home in a showable state: no dishes left out, no mess, nothing. It’s had to be perfect. But there’s tidy and then there’s “showable”… And this is when you get a very harsh lesson in other people’s expectations. Realtors are supposed to provide feedback to the owner after the property has been shown to give an idea of how the viewing went, was the property well-received, etc. Most of the showings I had resulted in no feedback at all, as apparently this part of the process is like pulling teeth or getting blood from a stone. But the first time I did get feedback? Apparently the client hated my condo and the building. Like, hated it. Granted, I know it’s not perfect, else I wouldn’t be trying to move. But the client doesn’t know why. The only impressions they had were based on how it looked (and sounded) at the time of the showing—which was actually a quiet afternoon, and I have been working hard to keep the place spic-and-span.

Unless hell descended after I left that day I’m not sure why the review was so bad. Obviously my condo and that building was not a good fit for that client. But for me? To hear that as my first piece of feedback was really depressing. I started to question if none of the other showings had given feedback because those clients had similar feelings and were just too polite to share. That started me on a spiral of thinking I was never going to sell.

Somewhere along the way, the condo I had my eye on to buy ended up conditionally sold. I’d had one of those excellent gut feelings about the property, that if I bought that one I would be okay. But then it seemed like it was being snatched out of my grasp. To say I was sad and discouraged and depressed doesn’t begin to cover it.

Eventually, though, I did get some positive feedback from showings on my home, and then an indication that someone was interested in making an offer. The conditional sale on the condo I want fell through. I started to feel a bit better. But the client that was interested in my place didn’t follow through. And then requests for showings seemed to dry up for me, too.

On Sunday I spent the day with my mother in Banff. I’d actually left the house the day before. I needed the break, to get out and simply be away. I was trying not to think about the status of the sale at all, and just concentrate on having a good time.

While walking down the avenue with snow gently falling around us and the dog eagerly sniffing every blade of grass, my phone started ringing. On the other end was my realtor, somewhat panicked. “I have not one, but two realtors who want to show your place like right now!!” How relieved was she when I said I wasn’t there and wouldn’t be back for hours?

How excited was I?

To go from nothing to two showings in one day was fantastic. I told her it was no problem and hung up. Then, naturally, I started wondering if I actually had left my place in a showable state. Did I make the bed before I left? Were the curtains open? Did I empty the dishwasher? Well, it was too late to worry about it, so I did my best to put it out of my mind.

It usually takes a day or two to get feedback. But on Sunday after I got home I sent my realtor a text:

All the exclamation points in the world...

All the exclamation points in the world…

Mind blown. I’m not really sure what I did after that. I have this thing about trying to not concentrate too hard on potential good news because in the past when I have focused on things too hard it’s seemed like those things never came true. Murphy looking over my shoulder. I didn’t want that here, for sure!

Monday evening, I did some shopping and then sat down to log into EVE like I usually do. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to hear anything from my realtor. I wasn’t even thinking about it. Why should anything come through now when none of the others had? Whatever—just another day for me.

Until it wasn’t. The text came in at a quarter after seven: an offer to purchase was coming! And then it came! Then there was a flurry of activity and phone calls and negotiations. The buyers were in a rush and had given me until midnight to make up my mind.

By 9:30 we had come to an agreement on price and I was digitally signing documents and reviewing the next steps with my realtor.

March 25 is the “go no go” day. The buyers have until then to review the condo documents and get their financing in place. I’m not sure exactly what happens if they don’t meet that deadline. Obviously if the bank refuses to finance them, there’s nothing I can do about that. But if they just need a bit more time? Do I get to give them that? I don’t know. Hopefully it won’t come to that.

Nine days from the date of offer. Nine days to determine if I get to move out. Nine days to relief.

If everything comes together, I’ve agreed to a possession date in late April. This gives me about a month to pack and find somewhere to move to. I can’t think about offering on the condo I want until I know for sure if I’m sold. But come hell or high water, if the buyers are buying, I’m going to get out of here even if it means living in my car or moving back in with my parents until I get my own place!

Fingers crossed. :)

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The Fifth Age: Riven – Day One Sun, 08 Mar 2015 08:51:15 +0000 Read More]]>

Riven – Day One | Riven – Day Two | Riven – Day Three | Riven – Day Four | Riven – Day Five

I recently got an itch to revisit a game series that, next to the first-gen Nintendo, is probably primarily responsible for getting me into gaming in the first place. The first game in this series is called Myst. The sequel is called Riven.

D'ni number five.

D’ni number five.

Riven was released simultaneously for PC and Mac in 1997, and I must have picked it up right away. It starts off more or less right after Myst ends and is quite a bit longer and more involved compared to the first game. I have memories of playing it while still in high school. A friend played it at the same time and I remember talking with her over the phone about the puzzles we were both stuck on. Sometimes we would play together via phone and talk our way through what we saw.

Now I have Riven on Steam, and it’s time to walk the paths of the Fifth Age once more. Unlike realMyst, Riven has not (yet?) been updated for more modern machines and play; it’s still the point-and-click slideshow (with occasional Quicktime movies) puzzle adventure it originally was. A fan project called The Starry Expanse is working on updating the game with Cyan’s support, and I hope to see that succeed.

Fair warning: if you’ve never played Riven, there are spoilers ahead!


Having exhausted all avenues of exploration in the Ages that can be reached from Myst Island, I return to D’ni to visit Atrus. He still appears to be hard at work on the book he’s writing, but when I link into the room with him he looks up and says, “Thank God you’ve returned.” The level of relief in his voice is surprising. I haven’t been gone that long, but perhaps to him it seems that way. This underground, ruined room seems to have no windows and no clocks. How does one’s perception of time change in a place like this?

Atrus gives me no opportunity to tell him about what I have seen in the other Ages, not even in Rime. He goes on to request my help and gives me his latest journal. Compared to our last meeting, Atrus’s whole demeanor now seems rushed, almost panicked, and I wonder what has happened. Then he tells me he’s sending me to Riven without a linking book. That means I’ll be stuck there with no way to get back.

Atrus contemplates the fake linking book.

Atrus contemplates the fake linking book.

Instead of the linking book, Atrus gives me what he calls a prison book. It appears to link to D’ni and I’m to use it to trap his father, Gehn. He doesn’t tell me why I should do this, but apparently the contents of Atrus’s journal will help fill in the blanks. Atrus also asks me to find his wife, Catherine, whom I remember is being held hostage in Riven. Perhaps Gehn is her captor.

Linking to the Fifth Age.

Linking to the Fifth Age.

He writes in the book on his desk for a moment longer, then turns the large tome toward me. The gateway image is full of noise and interference; I can’t make out anything of the Age I’m about to travel to. Briefly I think I see a face looking out at me but can’t be sure. As I disappear into the book, Atrus says, “There’s also a chance, if this all goes well, that I might be able to get you back to the place that you came from.”

Temple Island

I arrive in Riven and immediately find myself trapped—literally—inside a cage. The bars spring up just as the world has solidified around me. There are no obvious locks, latches, or keyholes, so I can do nothing but stand and think to myself that this quest is off to a fabulous start. Outside I hear the ocean. Across from me but out of reach is a lever and a bit further on I see a large shiny conical contraption, but I don’t know what it might be.

Trapped on arrival.

Trapped on arrival.

Suddenly I hear footsteps! Someone is coming. A moment later a man in what looks like some kind of uniform steps into view. It doesn’t take him long to notice me in the cage. He speaks but I don’t understand the language. He doesn’t seem to know it very well either, as it appears he’s reciting from memory. Then he shrugs and gives up, coming closer to me. He seems friendly, holding up his hands in gestures possibly meant to placate me.

Trying to communicate.

Trying to communicate.

I can tell he wants something. He’s making motions of exchange: I give him something and he gives me something back. The next thing I know, he’s stuck his arm through the bars and has nicked Atrus’s prison book right out of my hands! I want it back but the man has stepped out of reach. I watch him open it and he seems delighted when he sees the gateway image inside. But then there’s an audible thwack. He drops the book, then collapses to the ground.

Another set of footsteps. The man’s body is dragged out of sight.

My rescuer.

My rescuer.

Another figure appears, dressed in black and red. The face is covered by a scarf and large goggles. This person picks up the prison book, then throws the lever. As the cage bars slowly retract I see my rescuer hammer something into the base of the lever before fleeing. By the time I can step out of my cage, I’m alone again. I could chase after my rescuer but I have no idea where to look, and it might not be a good idea to rush through Riven since there are obviously other people here, unlike the Ages I visited from Myst Island.

I decide to remain concealed inside the cage for the moment so I can read the journal Atrus gave me. The very first entry tells me why Atrus has been working so hard on that book: after thirty years, Riven is beginning to fall apart again. Apparently this problem is a recurring theme with books written by his father, which Atrus has been trying fix so he can go rescue Catherine and evacuate the other inhabitants.

The journal outlines why Gehn is a threat. I also learn that Riven is Gehn’s “Fifth Age” and that the linking book I originally used to get to Myst is the one Atrus threw into something he calls the Star Fissure thirty-three years ago in the hope the linking book would be destroyed. A smile lights up my face when I reach the entry describing my arrival on Myst and Atrus’s further musings about how I may be able to assist him.

The rest of the journal outlines Atrus’s plan in reasonable detail. I close the book, feeling a little better equipped to tackle the challenges before me: find Catherine; get the prison book back so I can trap Gehn; signal Atrus to bring the linking book so we can all escape.

The cage.

The cage.

I step out of the cage and take my first real look around Riven. In the distance I see other islands and what looks like a kind of tram system running to at least one of them. At the edge of the cliff I look down and see the body of the man who first took my prison book. Is he dead? I’m not sure, and I can’t reach him to check. Behind me is the odd conical contraption. There’s a viewport but nothing is visible when I look into it. On the ground is a metal trapdoor with a series of buttons. I push some of them but nothing happens. A lever attached to a railing turns but doesn’t do anything either.

I decide to leave this thing alone for now and go back past the cage and its lever. My rescuer has jammed what looks like an ornate stone dagger into the lever’s base. Looking behind me, I notice a very large stone carving towering over the cage that has the same shape. The dagger is firmly wedged in; the lever doesn’t budge, so I know if anyone follows me to Riven there is no chance they’ll be trapped.

Stone stairs leading up to a bridge.

Stone stairs leading up to a bridge.

Ahead of me is a set of stone steps leading up to a bridge. At the landing I notice there’s a room to my left that has been cut out of the rock. A button at the doorway seems to make the room rotate.

The gate room.

The gate room.

The room’s interior is ornate: the floor is adorned with an intricate star pattern while the ceiling is blue and sprinkled with stars. A gate bars a second way out.

Five columns decorate the gate room and on each is a golden beetle.

Pull the string...

Pull the string…

By pulling on the circle, each beetle opens, revealing a viewport. I look into each one in turn and find a story unfolding before me:

Gehn's Story.

Gehn’s Story. Click to enlarge.

I decide the figure in each image must be Gehn. The story feels eerily familiar, and not just because the third image seems to depict Atrus falling into a field of stars with a book. In these images I see echoes of the greed and lust for power that gripped Atrus’s sons in the Myst Ages. What is wrong with this family? Was Atrus spared this flaw, or is it within him as well, lurking beneath the surface?

So… Based on what I see, the story seems to be that Gehn wrote the Age, came to be revered as a ruler or even a god by the people of this Age, then brought destruction, chaos, and conflict when his son left, and then… The fourth image seems to show Gehn overseeing the Rivenese building something that has to do with plans or pages falling from a tree like leaves. The fifth image shows tree stumps, some kind of machine eating trees, and the Rivenese worshiping a book in Gehn’s hand that is being pushed toward a pit of fire.

In his journal, Atrus mentioned that one goal of trapping Gehn in Riven was to deprive him of the D’ni resources that would allow him to write more books. I get the impression from these images that Gehn didn’t let that stop him from trying anyway.

The gated door.

The gated door.

The gate blocking the second exit doesn’t seem to have any way to open it right now, so I leave the room and continue down the path to the left, around the outskirts of the hill. It leads to a dead end, though there’s another door here. It’s chained and padlocked, so I turn away.

A familiar sight.

A familiar sight.

Just as I’m about to go back up the stairs to the landing, I stop. The view from here seems familiar. Where have I seen a mountain and a bridge like this before? Then it comes to me: this is very close to what I saw of Riven through the crystal viewer in Rime not that long ago. I turn around and look to see if I can spot where the viewer’s angle came from. Perhaps it was closer to the shore, or even from a vantage point on a small island a little ways out in the water. Either way, there doesn’t seem to be anything for me to do here right now, so I ascend the stairs and cross the bridge.

Looking back at Temple Island.

Looking back at Temple Island.

At the other end of the bridge I look back, noticing for the first time the great golden dome. Based on its position, the blocked door in the gate room probably leads there. I’ll have to come back later to see if I can figure out how to open it.

The bridge takes me into a passage leading into the mountain. I walk down gently sloping steps and find a door which opens at my touch. Inside the room is a chair contained within a wire globe, which raises up as I approach. On the wall seem to be two viewers: one shows a room cast in an orange glow, and when I flip the switch beside the viewer I can see a door in that room slowly opens. The other viewer shows a kind of platform—perhaps a location where I can access the tram system?

I go back out into the passage and continue downward, emerging into the orangeish room I saw from the viewer.

The temple.

The temple.

Before me is another wire globe in front of a spectacular piece of stained glass which is lit from behind. Standing here, I’m nearly in awe. The mood in this room is hushed, almost reverent. Then I notice the statues of strange creatures to either side of the globe.

Offerings to the wahrk.

Offerings to the wahrk.

What are these things? The scales seem to suggest a kind of sea creature with tusks. It looks a bit fierce. Bowls of fruit and vegetables have been left by each statue.

Then I understand. This is Gehn’s temple. The Rivenese probably come here to worship and make offerings while he sits in the chair in the other room, watching through the viewer. Does the wire globe project his image to them while he’s there? I recall the projection of Achenar I saw in Channelwood. Like grandfather, like grandson?

Let's go on a ride!

Let’s go on a ride!

Outside the temple I come to the platform I saw from the second viewer in the chair room. There’s nothing here other than a glowing blue switch. I push it. At first, nothing seems to happen. Then, in the distance, I see something whisk toward me on the rails, and a moment later a fish-shaped tram car arrives. I get into it and throw the navigation levers inside. The car rotates in place and then whizzes away along the track, swinging this way and that until it comes to rest across the water at another platform.

Wherever I’ve landed now, I’m not here long. The platform opens into a shaded cove. I find an odd-looking wooden eyeball embedded into the rock face, and it rotates to show me a symbol when I touch it. The only other way to go is up a set of stairs on the left that lead into the mountain. I emerge onto another stone pathway. I can hear birds, and above me to my right I see trees. I opt to go that way. The way is steep, but as I emerge at the top of the path I find myself looking at one of the scenes from the gate room: all around me are tree stumps.

An axe left behind.

An axe left behind.

Somewhere overhead a hawk cries out, hoping to startle prey. It’s hot up here and I can hear insects buzzing about in the ruined forest. The path ahead splits so I take the right-hand fork and find someone’s axe still embedded in a large stump. These are the trees Gehn had cut down, probably to make paper so he could try writing his way out of this Age.

The path ends at a hole in the ground, and below I can see something that looks like a mine cart. I jump down into it and before thinking it through, flip the lever I see. This sends the cart careening down a set of tracks—and me along with it! Almost right away the tracks angle sharply down and I’m certain I’m going to be killed, as the cart hurtles along at breakneck speed. Then, in the distance, I see fire.

Hurtling to a fiery death?

Hurtling to a fiery death?

At least, I think it’s fire. In the time it takes to blink I’ve passed through the glowing ring, and then another, and then another, and dozens more, but I’m not burning.

No need to hold your breath!

No need to hold your breath!

The cart zips along through the rings, and suddenly it seems like I’m underwater. Panic grips me: surely now I’m going to drown. There’s no way the cart can keep following these tracks through the ocean. Any moment now I’m certain water will rush in and crush me under its weight. But nothing happens. Finally I let out the breath I’ve been holding. I’m not wet; I’m not drowning. The glowing rings seem to create a tunnel through the water, and the next thing I know, the cart’s momentum is taking me upward into the sunshine before coming to a stop at the end of the line.

There’s a moment of silence before I’m unceremoniously dumped through the bottom of the cart onto a slide that empties into…a wood chipper.

Thankfully, the wood chipper isn’t turned on when I land in it. I get up and dust myself off, then have a look around.

Book Assembly Island

The first thing I see is a very turquoise lake ahead of me, and a high, ridged cliff all around. To my right is a big boiler and I recognize it from one of the images in the gate room. This must be where Gehn pulped the wood to make paper for the books he has been trying to write. I wonder if he was successful and isn’t in Riven any longer for me to capture.

I wander out onto a wooden path that leads into the middle of the lake. There’s a switch here that seems to send water through different pipes depending on where the switch points, and I’m reminded of Channelwood. I point the switch at the wood chipper and return to find I can now turn the mechanism on though it has no wood to chip. Then I return to the center of the lake and point the switch at the next pipeline. Back at shore, it seems the boiler is now boiling. Playing around with some more knobs and switches drains the boiler and turns off its heat. There’s a door on the side of the boiler so I go in.

It’s hot and steamy in here, but seems safe. Below me there’s a pipe with a ladder leading into it and after a bit more fiddling I figure out how to get down to it. The pipe is large enough to crawl through. Outside, there didn’t seem to be anywhere else to go, so I bite my lip and go in.

It’s really dark in here. Pitch black even. I feel my way forward and try not to think about what I might actually be touching. I also try not to think about what might happen to me if someone else comes along behind me and turns the boiler back on. Thankfully, soon enough I’m climbing up and then out of the pipe. I have to jump down to a ledge and then follow a path up and around to find I’m now standing along the top ridge of the cliff.

The view of Book Assembly Island.

The view of Book Assembly Island.

The path leads me down to a balcony with a set of doors leading into the cliff. The doors aren’t locked so I go in. Ahead of me is a catwalk leading into a poorly-lit cavern. At the catwalk’s end I find what looks like some kind of trap: a small dish with food pellets sits to one side of a spring-loaded container and yet another lever. I put a piece of food in the trap but the lever doesn’t do anything. Overhead a fan spins loudly.

I turn back, confused. The doors are still open when I reach the balcony, so I climb back over the railing and head back to the pipe. But when I get back to the narrow ledge I find can’t reach the pipe overhead to climb back into it! Now what? Surely I’m not stuck up here!

My only choice is to go back to the balcony. The sun is blazing here too and has warmed the rock face to an uncomfortable temperature so I seek refuge inside, and this time close the doors behind me. That’s when I spot the railing that goes off to the left. Aha! A hidden passage. I follow the stairs down; below I can hear a whirring sound. At the bottom of the stairs is a door, and behind that door I find a large, rusted dome.

The spinning dome.

The spinning dome.

The dome is spinning so fast I can’t make out the symbols on it, but I do notice that one of them is etched in gold while the rest aren’t. But there’s nothing here to give me any hint about what the dome is for or how to stop it. I dare not reach out to touch it given how fast it’s moving, so I turn around and come face to face with the open door I came through. I’ve learned my lesson now, though, and close the door without going through it. I’m rewarded with yet another passage that takes me into a hidden room containing a spyhole that looks onto the dome. There’s some kind of special viewer in front of the spyhole, and as I watch, a rotating wheel clips the image of the dome so that I can actually see the symbols on the dome’s surface. Through the viewer it looks like a kind of animated eye, first widening and shrinking like a cat’s, then opening and closing somewhat like a human one. The viewer has a button on top too.

It takes a few tries, but eventually I get lucky and hit the button when the gold symbol flashes by. In response the dome slows and stops spinning. Then I hear it flip open.

The open dome.

The open dome.

The open dome is brilliant gold. At its core is a porthole, and as I lean in close, I realize I’m looking at a book! A book. A linking book? I can’t open the porthole to find out. There’s a lock on it and I don’t have the combination. For now, this is another dead end, but suddenly I’m nervous. If that’s a linking book, then it’s possible Gehn really has escaped already. What will Atrus do then?

I go back up the stairs to the balcony doors. At the landing I find there’s another hidden passage ahead of me, which would have been hidden by the right-hand door when it was open. I check the trap first and find nothing in it, then return and go down this other passage.

The path to Gehn's lab.

The path to Gehn’s lab.

The catwalk clings to the cliff before slipping between the rocks where I find a small pool of water and a stone and glass building. The door is locked, so I continue onward. The path goes through the cliff wall again and then becomes a vast bridge leading to the giant golden dome I glimpsed earlier from Temple Island. I cross that bridge but when I eventually reach the other side I find a section has been raised and the lever that would make it lower doesn’t work. I have to go back.

I’m not sure what to do now, so I walk back along the catwalk. Then I spot a lever I hadn’t noticed before. I can hear it humming, and when I throw it, the hum disappears. I notice a cable running from the lever and follow it to where it disappears into the rock—very close to the balcony. I decide to go back inside and investigate.

The trap is still empty and the lever still doesn’t do anything. But now I notice how quiet it is, and look up: the fan overhead is no longer spinning. The ducting is large and I follow it with my eyes: it disappears into the darkness in the direction of the building I found earlier. By balancing on the railing I can get a hold of the crossbar and then lift myself into the duct. A short while later I come to a grating which releases at my touch.

I drop down into the interior of the building. A cursory look around tells me this is Gehn’s lab: he assembled books here. I find some blank ones as well as some that aren’t quite finished. In the middle of the room is a kiln, and inside it I find a partially-burned book. Why would he make books only to burn them?

On the desk is a journal. I take the time to read it. Gehn has some thoughts about the Star Fissure and his son, and seems to believe Ages don’t exist until a book that links to them is written. It also seems that he’s been trying for almost all of his thirty-year exile to create the right kind of ink and paper needed to write the books the D’ni were masters at, and he’s been having trouble. The failed attempts end up in the kiln.

There’s also mention of how the number five is important to the D’ni. I’ve seen this in Riven too: star motifs in many places; rooms with five walls; the gate room with its five columns bearing five beetles; even the moniker that Gehn used for this Age. But then Gehn goes on to talk about color symbology and notes that there seem to be six colors rather than five. I think back to Rime’s crystal viewer: red, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink. In his journal, Gehn notes six eye symbols as well. These six and more were on the surface of the rotating dome I found.

Then a bombshell: in an entry dated 83.9.11, Gehn says he’s successfully linked to a new world by using something called a fire marble to power a linking book. I feel a sinking sensation in my stomach: if he could link to one new world, who knows how many others he’s linked to since then. The name of the Age he’s linked to is described only with two odd square-shaped symbols followed by ‘rd’. If Gehn refers to Riven as the Fifth Age, then perhaps this is some kind of number ending in three. As Atrus has planned in his journal, Gehn also refers to resettling the inhabitants of Riven.

Familiar symbols.

Familiar symbols.

I continue reading and find a page with a diagram of symbols that look familiar. The larger picture I guess to be the big golden dome that I can’t currently get to. But it’s the smaller, blocky notations that draw my attention. Where have I seen these before?

It takes me a while but then I remember: they were hidden amongst the images in one of the beetles in the gate room. This is probably important so I make a note of them before turning the page. Here Gehn has written that because of continued disturbances by the rebels (or Black Moiety, as the Rivenese apparently call them), he has installed a coded system onto all the domes. This is the information I need to get into the dome I found earlier… Except it’s written with the same kind of numerical symbols I saw on other pages in this journal, so I have no idea what numbers they actually represent. I make a note of the code anyway.

I find a reference to the “ytram traps” and wonder if that is the thing I found behind the balcony—ytram being the creature it’s intended to capture? Gehn talks about poison darts used by the rebels. That’s probably what my rescuer used on the man who initially took the prison book from me. So…the person clad in black and red was likely one of the Black Moiety. If this is true, then the rebels now have the prison book, which I suppose might be better than Gehn having it. Gehn’s journal goes on to talk about the strange daggers they use, the symbol for which is also prevalent throughout the islands I have seen so far.

At the end of the journal is an entry about a hand-held crystal that somehow powers the flawed linking books. Gehn attributes the crystal’s existence to Catherine, in that she must have created it with a D’ni schematic before Gehn captured her. The journal has a sketch of this crystal, and again I feel dismayed: if Gehn has one of these, there is no reason to think he’s still here.

I close the journal and finish poking around the lab. There’s an interesting device on one desk: a globe with some water in it, and a burner beneath. When heated, the water slides itself away from the bottom of the globe to the top, as if avoiding the heat. Gehn talked about this briefly in his journal. The glowing rings in the ocean must be how the cart tunnel is kept dry. On another desk I find a note and another wooden eye with a symbol—that I now realize must be a number—on the back of it.

There doesn’t seem to be much else of interest here so I decide to go out through the lab’s back door. This takes me to another tram platform, and this in turn leads me to another island.

Survey Island

I’m met with a strangely beautiful sight as I traverse a metal catwalk that leads me away from the tram platform and up into the interior of this island.

Survey Island.

Survey Island.

The water is shallow with colorful algae, and laps quietly at the rim from which dozens of tusks reach up into the sky.

A pretty view.

A pretty view.

If there was somewhere to sit I would gladly stay here a while simply to enjoy the scenery. But as it is, I’m on a mission and can’t linger. Instead I walk through strange rock formations surrounded by water, only to find myself at an elevator that takes me up to yet another level of the island. Here I find a platform looking out over the rock formations I just walked through.

The strange rock formations.

The strange rock formations.

Before me is a kind of switchboard. The buttons on it are broken up into shapes—the same shapes I saw in Gehn’s journal and in the gate room image. Pushing each button creates a reaction from the rock formations below. Water, or something like water, pushes up through the visible grid to form a shape that is almost topographical in nature. Is this a map of the Riven islands?

I continue exploring and find another spinning dome. The viewer for it has been knocked off-kilter but even so I’m able to trigger the symbol that makes the dome flip over. As with the last one, I find a porthole and can see a linking book behind the glass that I can’t reach until I figure out the access code.

There’s a building up here too, a kind of brown metal hut. Inside there is just one feature: an odd silver grid and what looks like a magnifying glass with one of the island shapes displayed in it.

The strange grid.

The strange grid.

I spend some time pushing parts of the island shape inside the magnifying glass and observe the results, but I’m not really sure what this device is supposed to do right now so I go back down the elevator.

As I pass the rock formations that represent the Riven islands, I pause to look at the strangely-shaped water still protruding from one of them.

One of the island representations on Survey Island.

One of the island representations on Survey Island.

At the tram platform I notice another door on the opposite side, so I get into the tram, rotate it 180°, and then step out. The passageway ends at a flooded chamber. The light is dim and it takes me a minute to notice the lever. When I throw it, a pair of chains rattle to life and after a moment a golden lift rises up in front of me.

Way shinier than a tardis!

Way shinier than a tardis!

I feel a bit reluctant to get into it. It came up out of the water and I see no golden rings. Surely if I go in that thing I’m going to drown? But once again there’s nowhere else for me to go so I step into the lift and push the button that closes the door. It sinks down into the water, then seems to pass out of water again and opens onto another passage.

I make my way into the caverns.

One of Gehn's scribes flees before me.

One of Gehn’s scribes flees before me.

Wait! There is someone here! I startle a figure in a white robe. This person immediately flees down an adjoining path so I chase after him, only to find the path leads to a tram platform. I arrive just in time to see the person looking over his shoulder at me as he escapes in the tram car.

I decide to let him go for now and go back into the passage, and then into the room where he must have come from originally.

The wahrk room.

The wahrk room.

I find myself in a cavern with a very large window into the ocean. Atop a column of stairs is a chair. Having been on my feet all day, I gladly sit in it. A button turns the chair around so I can look out into the ocean.

A lever on my left brings down a viewer. By playing with it I end up able to scroll through several views. Most are not too clear but it seems obvous that Gehn used this to spy or keep tabs on what was going on in other areas of Riven. I don’t see anyone in any of these views right now.

I press another button and do a double-take: the camera seems to show me a top-down view into a very small room with one door leading outside. A woman comes into the room and dons a red robe, then heads back out.

Catherine in her prison.

Catherine in her prison.

Somehow, although I have never seen a picture of her, I realize this must be Catherine and I’m looking into her prison. Relief fills me: at least even if Gehn is no longer in Riven, Catherine is still alive somewhere.

I fold up that viewer and bring down a second one. This one has six buttons on it, and each button is adorned with one of the eye symbols from Gehn’s journal. I press one and the viewer shows me a yellow colored light that appears to be underwater. When I rotate to the next button, the yellow light clicks off. The next light is green, and so on, until I have gone through almost all the buttons. The colors from the crystal viewer in Rime are all represented here.

Pushing the button corresponding to red has an unexpected result.

The red wahrk.

The red wahrk.

I hear the cry before the beast appears. It sounds somewhat like a whale, but not quite as peaceful as one. In the gloomy water before me a large shadow slowly takes shape as the beast approaches: it’s the same creature as the statues I saw in the temple as well as around the metal hut at the summit of this island.

It pauses outside the porthole and seems to study me. I’m a bit unnerved by this; it’s as if the creature was expecting someone else, and when it sees I am not that person (presumably, Gehn), it swims away and the red light goes out.

I wait a few moments and turn the red light back on. The beast returns and then leaves. Each time I call it back it seems to lose interest more quickly, until the final time.

Don't piss off the wahrk.

Don’t piss off the wahrk.

This time the animal seems genuinely upset that it’s been summoned by someone other than its master and charges the window! A loud and low bang reverberates through the room as it slams into the porthole. It pauses to give me a rather displeased look before swimming away.

Shaken, I decide it’s better to leave well enough alone and get out of the chair. It’s been a long day so far as well, so I descend the stairs and find a place to hide myself so I can sleep. When I wake I’ll continue exploring Riven, and pray nothing finds me before then.

Next in this series: Riven – Day Two

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realMyst Fri, 27 Feb 2015 11:50:06 +0000

Riven – Day One | Riven – Day Two | Riven – Day Three | Riven – Day Four | Riven – Day Five

Presently, I have forty-one games in my Steam library (small, compared to many gamers) of which I’ve only played about half to completion or an end-game state. I tend not to be the type of gamer who rushes out and gets the newest release; my library is composed mainly of games I became fond of by watching other people play (with the intent to one day play them myself), as well as games I played in years past on much older operating systems that have since been digitized and rereleased.

Recently I got an itch to revisit a game series that, next to the first-gen Nintendo, is probably primarily responsible for getting me into gaming in the first place: Myst.


The Myst linking book.

Myst came out for Mac OS in 1993. I was twelve and didn’t have a computer at the time, but a few years later I started babysitting a couple of boys up the street whose mother was in graphic design and had a monstrous-sized Mac. The boys and I would play Myst on it together.

I was hooked. This game captured my interest like nothing else I’d experienced until then. As soon as I got my first PC (a Tandy!), Myst was a game I absolutely had to have. The original version was a point-and-click slideshow puzzle adventure with a few bits of Quicktime video slotted in. The version I bought came with an official Myst journal for the player to use. I still have this journal with all my penciled-in notes, sketches, and questions. It still has lots of blank pages in it for future adventures.

Later on, Rand and Robyn Miller, the original developers, also released some novels, and I had to have those too. And then the soundtrack. And then the sequel, and the soundtrack to that. And so on.

In 2000, realMyst: Interactive 3D Edition came out, and somewhere along the way I picked it up on Steam. It’s spiffier than the original in that the entire game has been redone to render in real-time and with 360° free movement. It has some new surprises tucked into it, but the textures are looking a bit dated by today’s standards. (There is a masterpiece edition of realMyst out that uses modern textures that I will purchase in the future.)

Regardless, for me, Myst has lost none of its charm. Over the last week I took my time revisiting this world and put just over eight hours of gametime into realMyst. I plan to progress through the rest of the series. Here is my adventure.

Fair warning: if you’ve never played Myst, there are spoilers ahead!

Myst Island

I’m plopped down onto the dock on the east side of Myst Island. Overhead, seagulls wheel and cry out, but otherwise it’s just me, the dock, and a ship with the ocean slapping against it. The stairs in the distance, leading to a hill with what looks like a big cogwheel sticking partially out of it, are an invitation to start exploring.


Starting out on the dock.

The island is the first puzzle: a cursory inspection reveals that nothing seems to be entirely right. The ship at the dock is sunken; the cogwheel hill has a platform that looks like a door but has no obvious means of opening it; there′s a tower that appears inaccessible; the library is full of burned books but otherwise looks pristine; and so on. It′s obvious that only by poking around and being completely nosy will anything begin to reveal itself.


A gravemarker for Ti’ana.

That′s the thing about Myst: it′s essential to have to want to dig into things to learn more. Mom always said, “Don′t touch!” and “Mind your own business!” but on Myst Island, everything demands to be poked, prodded, twisted, turned, jiggled… If it looks like a button, push it! Then push it again when it doesn′t do anything. Then stare at it for a while and try to fathom what it might be for. Take nothing for granted; inspect everything. If it can be interacted with in some way but doesn’t seem to do anything right now, then it′s meant to something later. Bring curiosity, keen observation, and patience to figure out what. Be prepared to go ransacking through, well, everything. Anything written down is probably meaningful, and if I don’t figure it out, I’ll be marooned, alone, on this island forever.


It looks like a pool of water. But is it?

By reading the remaining journals in the library and picking up some other information hidden on Myst, I learn that the main feature of this world are the Ages, which were literally written in books by a man named Atrus. He suspects one of his two sons, Sirrus or Achenar, may be responsible for the destruction of the library. There’s also a message for his wife, Catherine, that she was supposed to erase after viewing. Since it’s still there for me to find, I can only conclude she never returned to Myst to see it.

Stoneship Age

By delving into the island’s puzzles, the first Age I’m able to unlock is Stoneship. Of all the Myst Ages, this one is probably my favorite. A thunderstorm rages overhead and the sea is angry. A large rock protrudes from the water and blended with it is a ship similar in design to the one at the dock on Myst Island. There’s a lighthouse too, and a wooden walkway that curls around the rock to a lookout with a small spotting scope at the summit.


A distant flash of lightning in the Stoneship Age.

Stoneship paints a darker picture than what the weather presents: having read Atrus’s remaining journals, I’m expecting to find people here, but there’s no one. The door to the lighthouse is broken and passages into lower levels of the ship and even the central rock are flooded. And then, by working through some of the puzzles, eventually I find my way into those lower passages to find two rooms…


A bedroom fit for a king.

The first bedroom is impressive in its luxury. Treed murals line the walls and a rich carpet adorns the floor. It’s meticulously neat. The globes in the corners on either side of the bed reveal strange geography when touched. I can investigate the contents of the chest of drawers and find some interesting items. The mood of this room suggests something of the character of its owner. I find myself impressed.

Then I find the second bedroom.


A lamp made from someone’s rib cage and vertebrae…

This one is starkly different and right away I’m a bit unsettled. The room is plain and the bed looks neglected and dingy. What captures my attention most is the lamp on the opposite wall: upon closer inspection it appears to be made from…someone’s rib cage and spinal column. There’s also an ornament of some kind on a small table that, when manipulated, changes its display from a perfect red rose to a skull. I spend only as much time here as is needed to find what I need.


Lionfish, jellyfish, and a rayshark.

After another puzzle I can access the lower level of the ship. It’s pretty down here and finally I discover I’m not alone: the stormy ocean is home to creatures like lionfish, jellyfish, and others. For a while I simply stand and watch, but eventually it’s time to leave. The linking book to Myst is here.

Mechanical Age

After returning to Myst Island, I’m prompted to continue my search by Sirrus and Achenar, Atrus’s sons who are trapped in separate books in the library. Each book has had pages removed from it and each brother implores me to find the missing pages so they can get out. Someone went through a lot of trouble to trap them in these books and spread the pages across the Ages I am slowly gaining access to. Their messages are incomplete, but even so I start to get an understanding of each man from their mannerisms: Sirrus is smooth and confident, but also arrogant. In contrast, Achenar seems…unhinged, even crazy. Now it seems obvious to whom the bedrooms in Stoneship belong. Regardless, I have no choice but to continue exploring.


The clocktower at dusk.

After some more investigation, I unlock the Mechanical Age next. Like Stoneship, this Age is little more than a few rocks in the midst of a vast ocean, though the weather here is calm and the sky clear. When I arrive it’s a little past sunset and the stars are just starting to emerge overhead.


The fortress.

I can walk freely into the fortress—no puzzles, no barriers. The corridor branches left and right and again I find two rooms. But these are not bedrooms… They seem to contain thrones. The one I attribute to Sirrus continues to impress: it’s rich and full of treasures, including items which seem to represent each of the Ages I can travel to.

Achenar’s throne room is…disturbing.


Pay no attention to the…curtain…

Implements of confinement and torture are left in plain sight. The box on the bench is interesting…rather than a colorful Jack to pop out, cranking its handle reveals a mechanical black cobra that strikes.

But that curtain… It’s obvious there is no window behind it. I stare at it for a long while, wondering what it might conceal. Then I decide…I don’t want to know.

I locate the red page I need, then solve the puzzle to reveal the Myst linking book.

Channelwood Age

The best part of Channelwood is when I get to leave.


The Channelwood linking book.

Don’t get me wrong: Channelwood is pretty. It’s full of trees and lofty walkways as well as a lonely windmill looking out into the fog. I want to enjoy being here.


The lonely windmill.

What drives me to distraction in this Age are the sounds. At ground level my ears are assaulted by a chorus of frogs backed by water rushing through pipes. The boardwalks running between the trees are a simple maze that I find myself hurrying through to discover a way to distance myself from the frogs, but they are everywhere.


A treetop sanctuary.

Finally, I find a way to get to the bridges strung between the trees overhead. The ribbiting of the frogs falls away…only to be replaced by relentless creaking of tree branches. Up here is another maze and many of the treehouses look identical. I can tell something has happened here though: there are upended chairs, splintered tables, broken clay jugs. Like the others, this Age is deserted too.

I find another elevator and figure out how to power it to get me to another level where I find yet another room that reeks of a mind which delights in inflicting fear and pain on others. A pedestal in the corner displays recordings of Achenar speaking in an unfamiliar language, along with a message from Sirrus. This confirms my earlier suspicions that Achenar is unhinged while Sirrus thinks quite highly of himself.

I grab the first page I can find and depart, not bothering to seek out the other one.

Selenitic Age

After Stoneship, Selenitic is my next favorite Age. Like the other Ages, this one is also something of an island surrounded by water. The sky is obscured by fog and visibility is limited to a few dozen feet. The puzzles here are engaging: I find stations all over the place and each one seems to be monitoring a different source of sound: the rumbling of lava from below, a burbling stream, wind through crystals, and so on. But to what end?

I discover a ladder to climb down. It leads to a tunnel and when I flip on the light, I’m surprised by a colony of bats. The squeaks of their echolocation cover my embarrassingly girly shriek.


Bats! They get in your hair.

Emerging from the tunnel at the other end brings me to a tall tower with what seems to have small receiving dishes attached to it. Here is where I find the tools to solve the first puzzle of the island. I make notes and then descend back into the tunnel to return to the mainland.


A spooky, almost bloody, atmosphere.

When I emerge again, the sun has set and night is rapidly closing in. Selenitic goes through a rainbow of change, eventually settling into a bloody red hue that leaves me wondering if this is a harbinger of things to come.

Having solved the first riddle, I can now unlock a door that leads me into the subterranean depths of this Age. Here I find a small craft on rails. In it, like a mechanical rat, I must find my way through a maze of sometimes twisting and undulating tracks using only a compass as a guide. At its end is the Myst linking book.


By now I have collected all but one of the pages that has Sirrus trapped in the red book. I have not brought the pages back with me for Achenar’s blue book, as what I saw of him in Stoneship, Channelwood, and the Mechanical Age has already convinced me that he should not be released from his prison even if he might not be responsible for the burning of the journals in the Myst library.

Sirrus? I’m not entirely sure. Unlike his brother, nothing I saw suggested any desire to physically harm whatever people may have existed in the Ages I visited. But his arrogant, self-indulgent attitude could be harmful in other ways. He’s obviously greedy and sees himself as superior. Perhaps he viewed the Ages as little more than a means for personal profit. That kind of approach can be just as harmful as torture.

I add the second-last page to the red book and open it. The viewport into his prison is clearer now, though the background is still filled with static, and I find myself wondering why he hasn’t starved to death. I can’t see any furniture behind him, not even a floor. It’s as if Sirrus is literally trapped in nothing. Then I wonder if this environment is what actually drove Achenar mad.

At length, Sirrus tells me about his father, the Ages, and—so he says—what has truly happened on Myst Island. He blames his brother for the destruction of the books in the library and says Atrus is the one who trapped him and his brother in the red and blue books. He asks me, one last time, to find the remaining page needed to restore the red book to functionality, and even tells me where to look for it. He says he will reward me for helping him escape.

And then he says, “Where the red and blue pages reside, also resides a green book. If you touch the green book you also will be imprisoned forever.”

Oh really? I close the red book and follow Sirrus’s instructions up to locating the final red page and the green book. But no harm ever came from opening a book, so I pick up the green book and look inside. Another face stares out at me, and when he speaks, I recognize his voice from the hidden message I found shortly after arriving on the island. This is Atrus, father to Sirrus and Achenar.

He speaks to me for a bit, telling me his story and pleading with me to believe him, but warns me not to join him unless I have a specific page with me. It’s been torn from the Myst linking book he took with him, meaning he is trapped on that side of the green book. He’s calm and sincere, though resigned and regretful about what his sons forced him to do.

I close the book and go searching for the white page. There were clues about this in the other Ages and it doesn’t take me long to find it. When I return, I link to D’ni.


The ruins of D’ni, where Atrus is writing.

The room is in ruins. There were mentions of D’ni in one of the remaining journals in the library, and perhaps I begin to understand why the Myst Island Ages had so many underground areas. Despite the rubble surrounding him, Atrus seems at home here. He is concentrating so hard on his writing that he doesn’t notice me at first.

I give him the missing page. He adds it back to his linking book and sits in quiet contemplation for a moment, weighing a heavy decision. Then he disappears into the book, leaving me behind. I wait patiently. Moments later Atrus returns and says gravely, “It is done.” He tells me his wife is being held hostage in a place called Riven and asks me to help him in the future if I can. Until then, I am free to continue exploring Myst and its Ages.

Rime Age

I link back to Myst with a cold feeling in my stomach. Atrus has obviously done something and while it was not easy for him, he also doesn’t appear particularly upset by it either. The linking book takes me back to the library…and I can see the red and blue books have been completely destroyed. Not just burned; the places where each one sat now only bear a scorch mark.

If the books are obliterated, do the Ages on the other side cease to exist? Are Sirrus and Achenar dead? I don’t know. Maybe the Ages continue on but any hope of return is forever lost, unless someone writes another book that would link to those exact Ages in exactly the right way. But how would anyone know to do it? And surely Atrus’s sons will soon starve or die of dehydration.

A very grim and severe sentence for a father to levy against his children.

On the floor in the library I find one of Atrus’s journals. I have read this one before, but pick it up again and page through it. I’m not sure why it’s here, rather than on the shelf where I left it; it looks as if it was dropped by mistake.

It’s about Rime, an Age I haven’t been to before. At the very end of the journal I see some new notations written on older drawings, and after studying this for a moment, I realize what to do. A short while later I return to the library to find it changed.


The Rime linking book revealed.

Rime is not what I expected. I link into a frozen world with snow falling gently from the night sky. Ahead is a hut and a large outdoor furnace. Behind me is the sea, almost as flat as a mirror. In it are tall metal towers with lights blazing from them. I wonder how they could have been constructed by Atrus and his sons.


A quiet winter scene.

It’s pretty here, and oh so quiet. I go into the hut to find a cold furnace, a Myst linking book, and a frozen door. I had to work hard to find the Myst linking book in the other Ages, to the point that finding one left sitting out in the open here feels wrong, as if inviting disaster.

After some investigation I get the furnace working. The room warms up and the ice thaws. The door leads into the mountain, to an elevator that takes me up to a second hut at the summit. I find myself standing at a simple control panel facing two of the towers out in the sea.

Playing with the switches has spectacular results.



This isn’t all the summit hut has to offer. I discover another room with a journal in it, and in turn this journal leads me to yet another room with a crystal viewer. There’s a note on the desk, but the handwriting isn’t male. Catherine has been here. The note gives a hint on how to use the viewer, and suddenly I find myself looking into another Age that I can’t reach. Perhaps this is Riven, where Atrus said Catherine is now held hostage.


A peek into Riven.

I’m certain that one day soon I will find out.

Next in this series: Riven – Day One

]]> 3 106
Putting the HOTE Puzzle Together Sun, 01 Feb 2015 07:31:03 +0000 Read More]]> In the last few days, a long-time visitor to Incyanity has peppered some of the Heart of the Empire pages with comments, which was wonderful for me to see during what was otherwise a pretty difficult week. So, thank you for that! They made my day. :)

I wanted to take a moment to share a little bit of what has been going on behind the scenes on the creative side of my life. Since I’ve been concentrating on trying to get ready to put my home up for sale, there hasn’t been much, but there is some!

An incomplete picture.

An incomplete picture.

In a prior post I mentioned one task on my “to do” list has been to revisit the plot of HOTE and fix some long-standing problems with the story. Those problems have been the major reason the story itself has not advanced in some years.

To date, writing HOTE has kind of been like putting together a puzzle where I was sure at the start that I knew what the puzzle’s image was supposed to look like, but when I actually got down to putting the pieces together it turned out they didn’t quite fit together as expected, or the overall picture had morphed into something else when I wasn’t looking. Or both.

I got as far as the chapters already posted and then found myself stuck because the holes in the puzzle (problems in the plot) that seemed small and a bit insignificant at the beginning had become huge and ragged over time, kind of like a tear in a knitted sweater that slowly unravels the more the sweater is worn.

When I got to this point I decided to make a big chart. I put all my characters on it in a column, and across the top I started noting dates in the story’s timeline. The intersecting cells were then filled in with the things each character was doing (or was supposed to be doing) on those dates and why. Anything that was posing a problem was coded with a bright yellow background.

The chart got pretty big pretty fast. I ended up adding columns for dates far before the story begins in order to help myself understand where certain plot threads started. The earliest date ended up being some six million years prior to HOTE’s opening scene. Yeah. Six million. Evolution FTW? The latest date was shown only as “Year XX” because one of the biggest problems in the story centered around how long things were going to take. In the end, the notes in the chart only went up to just after the end of chapter ten.

When it was done, the chart looked like this:

The first version of HOTE's timeline chart.

The first version of HOTE’s timeline chart.

All those yellow boxes on the right-hand side might not seem like a lot when compared to all the other ones, but they represent significant problems. And obviously most of those problems come up at around the same time in the story, which is why the chart peters out shortly afterward.

What to do about it? Some time ago I had several brainstorming sessions with other creative people I know who didn’t mind having the guts of the story spoiled for them, which was greatly beneficial to me. But then life happened and the notes sat on my hard drive, waiting patiently for a day when I could finally put some attention to them.

After I finished rebuilding Incyanity at the end of November that day finally came. I sat down, dug up the notes, and dusted off that chart. All that yellow? Well, now it looks like this:

The current version of HOTE's timeline chart.

The current version of HOTE’s timeline chart.

Big difference, eh? In comparing the two it’s easy to see where the timeline has shifted around on the right-hand side of the chart, and there are much fewer problems remaining than before. On the other hand, one of the characters that had notes before no longer has any, and might end up cut from the story completely. Some characters still have no notes because I’m still not sure what they are up to at these earlier dates since they aren’t expected to appear in the story until later on.

The remaining problems are questions like, “What consequences will this character face because of this choice?” and “Why is this event important?” and “Who is going to instigate this stuff?” among others. Some of it requires doing a bit of reading up on things like sweeping religious change. In particular I’ll be looking at certain schools of thought regarding the impact Christianity’s arrival in Britain had on more traditional faith systems of that period, as well as various events that happened with the Church of England between the years 1534 and 1558. Other stuff…is a secret. :)

Having solved many of the issues I faced before means I can revisit the existing chapters to make them fit the new timeline. I still need to solve the remaining problems before I can continue past those events, but at least the story appears to be in much better shape now than before, and it means I should be able to finish mapping out the rest!

]]> 2 84
Busy Little Bees Wed, 21 Jan 2015 03:59:35 +0000 Read More]]> Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with Goonswarm!

Busy busy bees.

Busy busy bees.

One hallmark of a good corp or alliance is that the group is busy. Potential recruits and existing members tend to place a lot of importance on not being bored, on having ops to join in on, and on being able to have fun. They tend to want to know there are goals to work toward and plans for the future. This is all perfectly reasonable and I know I’m responsible for making sure ILF and IPI live up to this expectation.

As with recruitment, I believe each member of my group should be willing to share the responsibility for scheduling ops and coming up with ideas for activities that everyone can partake in. Many hands make for light work.

Since we’re a roleplay group, I realize my members might sometimes find it challenging to come up with suitable activities (beyond the usual “Let’s go shoot reds!” patrol) if they exist in a vacuum of information. To that end, one of my primary tasks is to maintain and outline our overall RP in such a way that it’s easy for people to understand it, invest in it, and feel empowered to create content of their own in support of it, schedule ops regardless of their rank or length of time spent with us, and so on. The roleplay needs to have sufficient depth to keep people interested and allow them to find their own way within it, but not be so complex that their hands feel tied. This is an ongoing process.

But what happens when the group is small? In particular I’m thinking about scheduled ops. They take quite a lot of effort both to plan and to execute. When a question exists as to whether or not a sufficient number of players will be available on the chosen date, a low turnout can easily frustrate an individual and leave them feeling like their effort was wasted, or their op wasn’t interesting enough, etc. This can be compounded if the op goes ahead with less than ideal numbers and results in having the gang wiped. The “reward” for the effort doesn’t feel worthwhile. Under such conditions, there’s a tendency to favor ad hoc gangs instead.

There’s nothing wrong with ad hoc gangs. Spur of the moment activity is thrilling. But is a complete lack of scheduled ops bad? In general I say yes. “Ad hoc” doesn’t spell success nor equate to “being busy” in the same sense as “scheduled ops” do. Total reliance on ad hoc gangs raises questions in my mind about player investment. Nobody wants to wait around all the time in the hope that something might happen for the group.

On the other hand, I can think of people I’ve known who were expected to be logged into their game at scheduled times every other day or every week to raid or join fleets…or else. ILF has never operated that way and never will. Having my play schedule dictated to me under threat of being kicked from the group if I don’t show up when I’m told to is not my idea of fun. I have a life, thank you, and many other interests and responsibilities outside of EVE, and so does everyone else.

Where’s the middle ground?

Lately I’ve been tossing around the idea of group objectives—sort of like our own brand of “missions”. Other corps do something similar (“deployments”) but what I have in mind doesn’t involve picking up and relocating to a different place in New Eden each time. They could still be considered “scheduled” ops in the sense that they’ll run for a certain duration of time—maybe a few weeks to a month. They’ll be team-oriented; one person won’t be able to satisfy the objective alone without going to extreme measures (and shouldn’t try since the point is to encourage people to work together). Each objective will have a metric to measure success. RP can play a heavy or light role in the objective, too, depending on the nature of the activity.

My hope is that my members will be willing to participate. The objectives won’t take up all of their time but will give them things to do. I also hope they’ll be inspired to create objectives of their own—again, many hands making light work. It will still take effort to plan them out, but there are more possibilities for variety and the pressure will be off for everyone to show up on a specific date. People in off timezones won’t miss out. A bit of creativity and out-of-box thinking could make for some pretty interesting ideas.

A PVP objective might entail focusing on a couple of systems in our area of operations to achieve a certain amount of (eligible) targets killed or ISK destroyed.

A PVE objective might involve picking a specific NPC corp in our area to run missions for to raise corp standing by a particular amount, which will give us easier access to jump clones, lower station service fees, etc.

A mining (or even PI) objective might entail bringing in a certain amount of a specific material.

These are just some basic ideas. Tracking metrics for these categories is pretty easy: For PVP I can set a campaign on the killboard; for PVE I can look at wallet transactions and standings changes; for mining I can see how much material has been dropped into a can or hangar.

Exploration…? My people love to scan down signatures, but at the moment I’m stumped on what could work as an easily tracked metric for this. Creating bookmarks isn’t enough; the idea would be to somehow measure how many sites people actually completed. More thinking required.

DUST514…? Not sure about this one either but it would be nice to include those players too.

Objectives could come with rewards for successful completion (nothing wrong with encouraging a little competition).

I plan to get ILF started on this in the next little while and I’m eager to see how it pans out.

]]> 1 2478
We’re All Aglow in Intaki Tue, 13 Jan 2015 06:03:00 +0000 Read More]]> I went out this evening to haul some corporation goods into Intaki. When I arrived home, I was implored by my pilots to quickly bring a ship out to where they’d pointed, lost, and then re-pointed Foley Aberas Jones, a Sergeant Major with the Caldari militia, at a district satellite over Intaki Prime.

Except...they asked me to bring a launcher and load it with some…non-standard ammunition. Curious as to what mischief my people had gotten themselves into, I did as I was asked.

Hilarity ensued, for the better part of an hour.

Transcript follows.

Channel ID: 30003788
Channel Name: Intaki System Local
Listener: Sakaane Eionell
Session started: YC117.01.13 02:32:43

Foley Aberas Jones > Come on IPI… T_T

Richard Masseri > Intaki Defense!

Richard Masseri grins.

Foley Aberas Jones > I’m shooting Gallente forces! >__>

Richard Masseri > Look at the fit.

Foley Aberas Jones > :|

Foley Aberas Jones > :|

Foley Aberas Jones > :|

Foley Aberas Jones > God fucking bless you IPI…

Richard Masseri > Come back! Join the fun!

Foley Aberas Jones > I would but the ground forces need me. o7

Foley Aberas Jones > Fuck sorry…

Foley Aberas Jones > :D

Foley Aberas Jones waits for the sudden alpha.

Richard Masseri > THIS IS NEW EDEN!

Foley Aberas Jones > :D

Erun Talan > Light ’im up, boys!

Foley Aberas Jones > NOES

Foley Aberas Jones > MUH SHIP

Foley Aberas Jones > D:

Daniel Alpena > MOAR AMMO

Foley Aberas Jones > Stahp or I report you to the DED! >:O I got Angry CONCORD Guy on speed dial!

Foley Aberas Jones is lying.

Foley Aberas Jones > D:

Foley Aberas Jones > Dat’s it. I’m getting PL!

Richard Masseri grins.

Richard Masseri > Let them come.

Daniel Alpena > Millions of Intaki citizens are saying Ooooh and Aaaah right now.

Daniel Alpena > If we see a cyno we’re getting out the snowballs. Be warned!

Foley Aberas Jones > Ransom? D:

Sakaane Eionell > Speaking of snowballs…

Foley Aberas Jones > I pay you all 2m to stahp, yus? D:

Foley Aberas Jones > Oh fuck. ._.

Daniel Alpena > We’ll run out of ammo eventually.

Foley Aberas Jones > DENAK

Foley Aberas Jones > SAVE ME

Foley Aberas Jones > TOO

Foley Aberas Jones > FUCKING

Foley Aberas Jones > BRIGHT

Foley Aberas Jones > MUH CAMERA DRONES


Foley Aberas Jones > THEY HAVE KIDS

Sakaane Eionell > Beware the wrath of the Intaki Liberation Front… This is what happens when you OB.

Foley Aberas Jones > ;_; I sowwy.

Daniel Alpena > We also sell sunglasses at the V-5 trade hub, very reasonable.

Foley Aberas Jones > I can’t dock here .___. THUS NO SHADES.

Foley Aberas Jones > MUH EYES

Foley Aberas Jones > D:

Foley Aberas Jones > Holy shit how much ammo do you guys have?? D;

Richard Masseri > Too much!

Foley Aberas Jones > How much does it all cost? ._.

Sakaane Eionell > We run this thing called the Intaki V-5 Trade Hub. We bring in all kinds of supplies.

Foley Aberas Jones > MUST ESCAPE D;

Daniel Alpena > Every fireworks show needs a Grand Finale!

Foley Aberas Jones > BURN GOD DAMMIT

Foley Aberas Jones > D:

Richard Masseri > gg

Foley Aberas Jones > HA! I have escaped :3

Sakaane Eionell > We hope you learned your lesson!

Foley Aberas Jones > lol nope

Foley Aberas Jones points at the overview as he warps to a new satellite.

Foley Aberas Jones > :D

Daniel Alpena > We do stock other types of ammo.

Foley Aberas Jones > Oh shit. ._.

Sakaane Eionell > The pointy kind.

Foley Aberas Jones > Pls no. ._.

Foley Aberas Jones > I need to change my pants ._.

Foley Aberas Jones cries.

Sakaane Eionell > I think we sell pants too.

Foley Aberas Jones > I can’t dock tho. ._.

Sakaane Eionell > This is what cans are for.

Sakaane Eionell > Here comes some more pain.

Foley Aberas Jones > OH GOD

Foley Aberas Jones > THE REPS

Foley Aberas Jones > THEY

Foley Aberas Jones > ARE


Foley Aberas Jones > Y U DO DIS?? D;

Foley Aberas Jones > YOU EVIL FUCKS

Sakaane Eionell > Because we are the one…

Sakaane Eionell > The only…

Sakaane Eionell > Intaki Liberation Front!

Sakaane Eionell dances.

Daniel Alpena > Also we’re attracted to bright lights. We’re like moths.

Foley Aberas Jones > We are not even fighting on the ground. Everyone is just looking up into the sky, watching this…

Foley Aberas Jones > You managed to halt the war.

Sakaane Eionell > Be sure to hand out some tissues to catch the awe-inspired drool.

Daniel Alpena > I didn’t get to do any repairing. Someone damage his armor again, please.

Foley Aberas Jones > Kill: WreckBall (Logistics A/1-Series) Kill: MARKS Sanderley (Militia Caldari Heavy Frame)

Foley Aberas Jones > Easier to kill them… Wait wut? ._.

Sakaane Eionell > I technically didn’t have anything to rep either so I also require some damage on him.

Foley Aberas Jones > .______________________.

Foley Aberas Jones feels a tear run down his cheek.

Foley Aberas Jones > Please be gentle.

Sakaane Eionell > BRING ME MY THANATOS!

Foley Aberas Jones > D:

Sakaane Eionell doesn’t actually have one.

Foley Aberas Jones > You can borrow mine :x

Foley Aberas Jones doesn’t actually have one either.

Daniel Alpena > We’ll try, but you can’t reason with smartbombs.

Foley Aberas Jones > That’s it, you asked for it! TIME TO BUMP!

Richard Masseri warps in a Megathron.

Richard Masseri > Hey over here!

Foley Aberas Jones > 3v1?

Foley Aberas Jones > Oh shit!

Foley Aberas Jones > ._.


Sakaane Eionell grins.

Foley Aberas Jones > I give up. D:

Foley Aberas Jones > What are your demands? D:

Sakaane Eionell > Salvation from the Caldari and the Gallente.

Sakaane Eionell > Cheese for everyone.

Sakaane Eionell > Wednesdays off.

Sakaane Eionell > And someone to rub my feet.

Sakaane Eionell > And a cake.

Foley Aberas Jones > Do I get cheese too?

Sakaane Eionell > Yes, you can have cheese too.

Foley Aberas Jones > :O

Foley Aberas Jones > Thank you so much! :O

Sakaane Eionell > Oh…

Sakaane Eionell > One more thing.

Sakaane Eionell > Your allegiance to the sisterhood of Intaki.

Foley Aberas Jones > ._.

Sakaane Eionell > And your coat.

Foley Aberas Jones > ._. Ok now we are getting ahead of ourselves…

Sakaane Eionell > I don’t want your pants though, you can keep those given what you did in them.

Erun Talan > Hehe.

Foley Aberas Jones > I mean allegiance is fine but…my coat? Come on…

Sakaane Eionell > Fly safe Foley. :)

Foley Aberas Jones > .___.

Foley Aberas Jones > How much did all that cost…

Sakaane Eionell > It cost some laughs and some time! And a bit of cap.

Foley Aberas Jones > Because I kinda wanna give you ISK to buy more…

Richard Masseri > I have 50k more fireworks in station.

Sakaane Eionell > But… ILF gratefully accepts all donations of ISK and dreadnoughts for the good of the Intaki independence movement.

Sakaane Eionell > I mean—

Sakaane Eionell > ISK and fireworks…

Foley Aberas Jones > There’s 20m. Can I haz blue status now? .___.

Sakaane Eionell > There are benefits to having blue.

Sakaane Eionell > We use the blue fireworks then.

Sakaane Eionell > Rather than the green ones.

Richard Masseri > And the blue smartbombs…

Sakaane Eionell grins.

Sakaane Eionell > Thank you Foley. You didn’t have to do that.

Foley Aberas Jones > Have moar ISK!

Foley Aberas Jones > Welp I’m off to Akidagi. Fly safe IPI. o7

Sakaane Eionell > Have fun! Beware festival launchers.


Xander Pheonix > Do you guys mind if I run some plexes?

Sakaane Eionell > Hmm…

Sakaane Eionell checks to see how many fireworks she has left…


In the end I refunded Foley his ISK, and gave him blue simply for being such a good sport. Still waiting for his coat and that foot rub though…

]]> 2 3213
When Things Don’t Quite Work Out Fri, 09 Jan 2015 15:07:49 +0000 Read More]]> In the fall of 2004 I was 23 and coming out of a short-lived relationship. It was a relationship where nothing horrible happened, but nevertheless it failed hard to the extent that a friend from Australia (who happened to be in Calgary at the time for his book tour), after being introduced to my then-nearly-ex-boyfriend (at a book signing in front of a room full of prospective readers), immediately declared loudly, “You need to treat her better!”


After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I decided that was the single most excellent and epic example I would ever be able to point to of someone sticking up for me of their own free will, and that still holds true today. (Thank you, Adrian.)

But getting out of that relationship presented me with a problem: where was I going to live? At the time I had been sharing a place with Mr Didn’t Treat Me Better. Earlier that year I’d bought a brand new car and was basically at that point in life where I was ready to start doing other so-called “grown up” things…like having my own home, rather than being at some landlord’s mercy as a renter. Or moving back into my parents’ basement.

So, before I dumped that guy and moved out, I started looking around. But the other problem was that, well, I’d just bought that brand new car. I was also only about six months into a brand new job. That brand new job was making me more money than I’d ever made before (compared to minimum wage…), and almost eleven years later I’m still working at that company, but at the time I was a n00b and the Magic 8 Ball wouldn’t tell me if it would work out. I was being paid the entry-level salary…which wasn’t actually all that much. And, as a renter, well. I had no savings. Back then, rent in Calgary was still pretty atrocious (it’s even more atrocious now), even for a one bedroom postage-stamp sized apartment. But when rent is equal to or greater than a mortgage payment, you start to think about how dumb it is to burn money.

Could I get a mortgage? My credit rating was great but my bank still kind of sniggered and made rude comments behind my back. I went looking for a property anyway. It was obvious a “real” house, or even a condo, was out of reach. But how about a mobile home? They’re way cheaper and my grandmother had one in a park that was not the stereotypical white trailer trash kind of park you see on TV. There was one for sale in there by a little old man with dementia whose family needed to unfortunately put him into nursing care. It was 11’x68′ with an additional 10’x20′ add on, had three bedrooms, one bathroom, and six appliances.

My first house.

My first house.

Now, I said this park wasn’t a white trailer trash kind of mobile home park, but that isn’t to say it didn’t have old units in it. The unit this gentleman owned was old: built in 1975. For a real house, twenty-nine years is not really anything to sneeze at, but for a mobile home built in the 70s? Totally different story. It might as well have been one hundred years old. Back then they didn’t build these things using the same standards as actual houses (unlike today). The walls had 2x2s for studs so they were only three inches thick; the ceiling was made of a paper fiber material, and so on. But it appeared to be in decent shape and had a price tag I could actually afford. The bank agreed to loan me the money, so I bought it.

I moved in on November 20, 2004. My own home, at the age of 23! The first night there alone on my own was a bit unnerving (“What the hell do I do now?”) but I still felt pretty chuffed. It was going to be great. Queen of my own castle! So what if the bathtub and the toilet were green and some of the walls were pink?

One afternoon the next October, I popped out to the grocery store. Winter had come early that year so there was some snow piled up on the house already, and it was decently cold out. But everything was fine when I left. When I came home? It was raining inside my third bedroom.

I did what any self-respecting young first-time homeowner would do: I panicked and phoned my father.

A chinook blew in not long after and melted all the snow, which of course made the interior weather worse. We crawled up on the roof that weekend but couldn’t find a hole or a tear. Contractors were still swamped trying to fix roofs damaged by the torrential rains that past summer, so we decided to try tarring down some heavy plastic as a DIY seal until I could get actual repairs done. I was told the roofers would get to me in…May.

The winter of 2005/06 was heavy for snow, and the DIY seal didn’t work, so the raining inside never stopped. And, of course, there was the mold.

Mold growing on the ceiling early on during the leak.

Mold growing on the ceiling early on during the leak.

The repair to replace the 200sqft section of roof was quoted at about $7,000, so I lived on bulk rice, bulk pasta, and frozen veggies for that winter to save up for it. The room stayed wet the entire time. I was losing so much heat through the ceiling I had to keep the thermostat at about 15°C during the day and 13°C at night else the furnace would never shut off. I ended up with ice on the walls and my front door froze shut one night. Every twenty-four hours I had about twenty-five gallons of really gross water caught in a bucket.

When spring finally came, the roof got replaced, the carpet got torn out, and so did the ceiling.



That was when we realized the leak wasn’t new. The beams in the ceiling were rotted, and they crumbled when touched (the one in this photo is actually broken almost clean through). Water had probably been leaking into the space for a good long while but the vapor barrier had been sufficient to hide the problem until I came along. Lucky me.

Suffice to say, I never replaced the ceiling or the floor in that room. I couldn’t afford it so it became an unheated storage space instead.

The next winter, the hot water tank, which was hidden away in a fairly inaccessible corner underneath the kitchen counter beside the stove, rusted out and flooded part of the house, including one of the other bedrooms. I lost the flooring in that room (which was replaced).

After that, roof leaks and mold in various locations became a regular and otherwise unending thing. I gradually lost the ability to actively occupy about 33% of my home. I was sick a lot. A lot. But I was stuck, too. A mobile home doesn’t appreciate in value like a regular house; it depreciates like a car (and no wonder). So if I tried to sell it, I was guaranteed to not get enough money to pay off the mortgage. I had to stay put.

I paid off that mortgage in the middle of October 2013, a full year earlier than the bank expected. But my victory was robbed from me by a new roof leak that started up about two days after I made my final payment.

I went to a very dark place in my mind after that. I became very ill again, physically and mentally too. Later my coworkers would tell me that during this time my skin was grey. I was not a fun person to be around. I wouldn’t stop coughing until about August 2014.

Rock bottom? I was there. My first foray into home ownership definitely hadn’t quite worked out. There was no other choice left but to admit defeat and get out since it was paid off.

I wrote that history out to give context to this next bit.

My last day living in the mobile home was December 21, 2013. I sold it to a mobile home builder who paid me $15,000 cash for the privilege of being able to send my first home to a landfill so they could put a brand new $200,000 unit on the lot and sell that one to someone else. I took the money and walked. In the meantime I had been able to get my ducks in a row, and the bank was no longer sniggering at me, so I bought a brand new apartment-style condo.

I took possession of my new condo on January 10, 2014 and moved in during a blizzard. What relief I felt. What a huge step upward. Granite countertops. Modern appliances. Nine foot ceilings. Walls thicker than three inches. An interior temperature higher than 18°C! Heated underground parking! Sufficient hot water supply to actually fill the bathtub! No mold!


It took about a month and a half before I found myself missing my old place.

Don’t get me wrong: moving was the best thing for me. But while the grass is definitely greener in many ways on this side of the fence, I’ve simply traded one set of damaging problems for another.

After I moved in (after the walkthrough inspection), I noticed a recurring knocking sound coming from the ceiling in the bedroom. I didn’t pay much attention to it because I was living in a sea of boxes and had a million other things to do. But by the end of February I was basically unpacked and had time to put attention on that nagging issue. I heard it at least every hour…and then every hour turned into every twenty minutes the colder it got outside. It keeps me up at night, even with earplugs. As I write this, it’s banging away.

I was told it “obviously” was a problem with the heating system in the unit upstairs. So they sent a guy, who did some stuff, and they said it was fixed.

It wasn’t. To date it remains unresolved. When the temperature is above zero, the sounds don’t happen. Minus five and below? I’ve been told just about everything under the sun: the neighbors can’t hear anything therefore the problem doesn’t exist (so I’m lying even though I provided recordings?); the problem must be in my unit (my heating is installed at the floor, not nine vertical feet away at the ceiling); if it’s not louder than fifty decibels inside my unit then the city bylaw hasn’t been broken so I would have to pay for everything (what??).

Then the downstairs neighbors earned the nickname Sexual Olympians. The woman sounds something like a squealing puppy or squirrel. Recently they started roleplaying as farm animals which I’m sure is lots of fun for them but really is anything but that for me. Her boyfriend also seems to expel a fair amount of gas (maybe he roleplays the cow). One of them is a smoker and coughs constantly. Of course, when they’re not having sex at any hour of the day or night, she’s wailing and screaming at him about anything and he’s blaring the TV or his video games. Some mornings I’m not even out of bed yet and she’s already tearing into him about something.

Then there’s that tap tap tap sound. Not from the ceiling, but from downstairs. You know the sound I mean: that telltale credit card or razor blade edge on table sound that everybody learns by watching shows like CSI. That’s exactly what it sounds like, anyway.

The upstairs neighbor is marginally better. He pees dead center in the toilet bowl, and while I realize a person can’t really “pee loud” on purpose, he does stomp around like Big Foot and sounds like he’s destroying every stick of furniture he owns on a daily basis. Or maybe he’s dragging bodies around up there, or rolling elephants over marbles after dumping them on the floor. I really don’t know what he’s doing in his living room. Based on what I know the downstairs neighbors do, I probably don’t want to know what he gets up to. His bedtime and morning rituals partially seem to consist of tossing his belt buckle and anything with buttons against any hard surface he can find, such as the wall or the closet door. He also changes his mind at least five times every day about which pair of socks and/or underwear to put on. Every time he gets up in the night to pee or do whatever I worry his bed will come crashing through the ceiling because it sounds like he’s rolling a boulder around up there. He’s not overweight, either.

I asked him once, politely I thought, if he might consider trying to walk a bit more lightly and not wear shoes into his unit. He told me to fuck off. Nice guy.

One of my bedroom walls is a common wall with the bedroom for the kids next door. One is maybe four and the other is maybe six. It took me about six months before I found out they lived there, which was a promising start. But kids are kids and to their credit they only started to get obnoxious once the summer weather heated up. You know, when it’s 11:30 or later on a work night and it’s 30°C outside and you’re allowing your young children to sing songs on the balcony or scream and beat each other up in their room, or the father is shouting at them because they won’t behave in general, and when summer is over this kind of stuff keeps happening, well… I have no patience for parents who can’t discipline their children properly and don’t know when to put them to bed.

Living in the middle of all of that means I walk on eggshells. I have a reminder on my phone to turn down my TV at ten every night in the event I’m watching a movie. I don’t even like to take phone calls (or I speak softly) because when my neighbors talk I can listen in on what they say between them. I rarely turn on the stereo, or barely turn it up. The last thing I want to be is a hypocrite (except when I lose my temper, in which case we have stereo wars and to date I always win).

I wish that was all of it, but it’s not. In the last six months one or more people have been breaking into residents’ cars (and it seems likely to be someone who lives in the building), using bolt cutters to cut padlocks off our storage cages, and vandalizing the building. So far I have escaped having this done to my car or cage. Several openers for the parkade were stolen along with other belongings. People who have to park second vehicles out on the street have had them vandalized too, and so badly the police have come knocking door to door to ask if anyone has seen anything. One resident put up a letter in the lobby appealing for information about someone shooting his car with a bibi gun.

Did I mention the downstairs neighbors use their balcony door to enter and exit the building, rather than going through their front door like normal people? So when nobody is home, that balcony door is unlocked and anybody could see them leave from the street, then come right in.

If I didn’t know better I’d say I was living in Forest Lawn. But, no.

What does the board and the property manager of the building do about stuff like this? They issue newsletters. They just hiked our condo fees by 34% but do you think there was any mention about adding security cameras in the common areas? Of course there wasn’t. Did they have us change the pins on our parkade door openers after the others were stolen? Of course not. So whoever has them can come and go as they please—and once in the parkade, that gives them free access to the rest of the building, because the interior door from the parkade to the elevator and stair lobby doesn’t require a key.

Ridiculous. Inept. Irresponsible. There are a number of other choice words I could pick, but this post is already long enough.

If it was just the racket in the ceiling on its own, I might gear up enough energy to fight the board into taking proper responsibility for it like they should and force them to tear it all out to make it right, because otherwise I really like where I’m living. The unit is beautiful; the location is not too bad for work and getting out of the city for travel; stuff like that. But even if they fixed that problem so I could get more than three hours of sleep in a night when it’s cold out, there’s still everything else. I don’t feel safe here and I wonder how long it will be before it’s my car or my stuff that gets ripped off.

January 10 marks my first year here, and I think back to my old mobile home. It wasn’t a fun experience there by far (though sometimes I say it was character building…), but in many ways it was much better than this. At least all the problems there were mine and the choice and power to do something about them was still in my control, save for available finances. Where I am now? I am at the mercy of the board and the property manager, and they have proven themselves to be…inadequate to the task. Sometimes I just think this community is too new still, too unstable. Too full of lowlifes who refuse to think about anyone other than themselves and don’t have a considerate bone in their bodies. Maybe when it matures it will be better. I don’t have the patience to wait and find out.

So, I’m selling. Someone else who sleeps heavier or isn’t as sensitive to sound as I am and maybe doesn’t mind the crap going on elsewhere in the building might be really happy here, and power to them if that’s the case. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work for me. My health is declining again because I’m sleep-deprived and stressed. I can’t go back to being sick like that, so I have to cut my losses and go, even if it means taking a financial hit.

I’m disappointed, because when I first moved in I was excited about living here. I expected to stay for at least three years and maybe longer. I had plans for how I wanted to decorate that withered away to feelings of “can’t be bothered now” after about three months.

Maybe I just knew it wouldn’t quite work out.

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Team Investment Sat, 03 Jan 2015 06:59:10 +0000 Read More]]> This evening one of my members asked me if it was all right to put an alt into another corporation that operates in a different area of New Eden. He asked because sometimes when he logs in nobody else in ILF or IPI is around. This is a time zone/scheduling thing, and understandably, the player gets lonely.

teamHe gets major props for asking first. It’s considerate beyond measure: he could have just rolled that alt and joined that other corp without saying anything, but he didn’t. Thank you.

I told him I can’t tell him what to do, and said I hoped it wouldn’t take away from the time he spends with us and wouldn’t become a liability to ILF. I don’t think he actually expected I would say something like, “Absolutely not!” Obviously being CEO doesn’t mean I can forbid anyone from using the other slots on their account in whatever way they want. Still…it was nice to be asked.

But as a CEO I worry when this kind of thing comes up. I dread seeing comments about being alone in Corp chat, because nine times out of ten it usually means the next thing that happens is that person gets fed up and leaves. I left ILF once for that reason and I still feel bad about it. Not only do I hate looking at that gap in Sakaane’s employment history, but I wonder how I made Saxon feel by telling him I was quitting corp because no one was around. Did he feel like it was his fault? Did he question his effectiveness as an EVE CEO?

I was able to turn my absence from ILF into a decent RP opportunity after the fact, but at the time? I wasn’t actually enjoying EVE all that much so I flailed about, trying to find something easy that would satisfy the needs I had. After I came back to ILF I decided that leaving could never have solved the problem I experienced; there was no guarantee where I went would be any different (it was, but it was bad in other ways), plus I made the situation worse for everyone I left behind. And at the time, another player (his main and his alt) quit ILF with me.

When someone decides not to quit outright but puts an alt in another player corp first as an attempt to alleviate the solitude or the boredom or whatever, it creates a new problem: divided loyalties. The player now has one foot in two (or more) camps. If all of the corps are active in such a way to allow the player to maintain balance, things might be okay, but obligations to those corps can quickly come into conflict. And in a situation like the one I encountered today, I know the player’s needs aren’t being met by my corp. Unless I can do something to resolve that issue, his alt is probably just a stop-gap measure. If the other corp he chooses is more active in his time zone, eventually he’s likely to just decide it’s better to fly with them all the time. That alt will turn into his main, or he’ll pack up his existing main and move it.

Before I was in a position of authority in ILF I saw some players do exactly that to Saxon. They had alts in one or more other corps and eventually left us for them. Later on, some players started to do it to me, too, and one day in a fit of bitterness I kicked all the inactive characters I knew about while watching their active counterparts chatting away in other channels. It made me realize that some players, whether consciously or not, really do think it’s nobody’s job but the CEO’s to make the corp grow and that this will magically happen while they go off and do whatever they please. Not once did anyone who complained about being alone in Corp chat actually say, “What can I do to help?” That’s why I feel bad for quitting ILF in 2010. I never bothered to ask that question either; I just thought, Man it sucks to play by myself and then went looking for greener pastures.

I’m not saying the player who talked to me today is a selfish jerk who thinks that way too, or that he would end up leaving us for the other corp in the end. But having been there myself and having had it done to me before, and seeing that same kind of talk coming up again… Ultimately he’s stuck playing by himself and I feel like it’s my fault and I question my effectiveness as an EVE CEO.

Recruitment is hard. It’s the worst kind of PVP there is in EVE. For a corp like mine, we have to be charismatic, appeal to a player’s ego, playstyle, and roleplay plans, and make ourselves attractive in ways that outshine the competition, all the while hoping that the person we recruit will invest in the corp and not disappear after a couple of days or weeks or months for whatever reason. And there are thousands of Directors and CEOs just like me all trying to do the same thing. Talk about blobbing the target.

After my previous experiences trying to handle recruitment I decided I had to get everybody involved to spread the load around. Asking just one or two people to do the job can be tantamount to asking them to never undock ever again. So, there’s a link perpetually displayed in our Corp MOTD so anybody who sees a likely candidate has it handy. We’re roleplayers. We’re not pirates or villains. Our niche is ridiculously small. The more corp members who try to recruit for ILF, the more chances we have of actually finding people who will enjoy playing with us. The more corp members who actually use our public channels instead of just sitting silently in them, the more other players will notice that yes, we are actually active as a group. And so on.

That’s the only way I can think of to solve the problem the player I talked to today has been having. I do want to solve it. It’s not enough for players to just do their usual solo/small gang activities and hope they get noticed by someone in Local who’s looking for a new corp. The trick is getting my other members to actually pitch in and be more proactive beyond themselves.

And other than that, I don’t know what else to do to make recruitment easier without compromising the fabric of the corp itself. Maybe that makes me a bad CEO. I do what I can.

I was told today that PVPing in ILF is hard. I ask myself, “Am I too strict with our ROE?” It’s a lot looser now than it used to be. How do I make it easier for ILF to play the game, and thus make us more attractive to the average player, without turning us into pirates, so that our small gangs won’t be quite so small, so that we will have better fights against other players? Questions like this plague me every day. Do I say, “Fuck it—if ya can’t beat ’em, join ’em!” and toss our hat into that ring, destroying eight years of “We’re here to help people”? How do I mitigate the damage that would do to everything that has been built up by this group simply to make it easier for players to join us to shoot red boxes on the screen?

I look at ILF and see a team, not a bunch of individuals who happen to hang out together. My goal is to get people to invest in the team, which in my mind should mean that they’ll benefit as individuals automatically. If the team is helping to recruit, we’ll get those time zone holes filled more easily. If the team is working together, those time zone holes will stay filled because players will remain engaged. And if players remain engaged in ILF, maybe then we could have an easier time at growing the alliance, too. Then no one will have any reason to think about putting alts in other corps and won’t feel frustrated about spending a little time alone in Corp chat now and then.

That’s the goal. I can’t force people to not roll alts. I also can’t force people to invest in my team. So how do I get us there?

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ILF Celebrates Eight Years Wed, 24 Dec 2014 00:37:06 +0000 Read More]]> Today was the Intaki Liberation Front’s eighth anniversary.

A lot can happen to a corporation in eight years—and ILF is no exception—but our goals remain the same today as they were in YC108: campaign for Intaki independence, fight against piracy, and improve the local economy. It takes a lot of dedication and passion to remain true to objectives like these. Ultimately, I think we have been able to maintain these missions for so long because at their heart they have one thing in common: the desire to improve the lives of the baseline and capsuleer populations in the Intaki sovereignty. We’re here to help others.

As I look back on ILF’s history I see a rich tapestry of wins, losses, lessons, and achievements.

In YC112, the corporation’s founder and original Suresha, Saxon Hawke, was kidnapped. Despite fears that he would not be returned to ILF alive, both the corporation and members of the public rallied together while one pilot, Hawke’s second-in-command AncientGuardian, undertook a daring mission into Serpentis-controlled nullsec to rescue him. Just over a year later, when Prosperity Station was threatened by hostile forces, we again saw our members, allies (including pilots from opposing militias), and concerned citizens come together to assist us. These are just two humbling examples of the value of loyalty and friendship, and a reminder that fostering positive relations in New Eden is never a wasted effort.

A conglomerate of allies defend Prosperity station.

A conglomerate of allies defend Prosperity station.

The sixty-day conflict between IPI and Coreli in YC114 forced us to re-evaluate our ability to stand on our own two feet. Although public support for ILF and IPI was strong during this war, on the battlefield we came up short—and so we were taught several hard lessons about the need for self-reliance and maintaining combat readiness. This came at a cost of course, but despite this adversity we pressed onward and continue to work on improving our skills. We’ve since been described as one of the most resilient lowsec corporations in New Eden. Even in times of war, most of our regular operations continue unimpeded.

One of our ongoing projects centers around maintaining and growing lowsec trade hubs in Intaki and Agoze. The Intaki V-5 trade hub was formally launched on March 9, YC112 by Apollonius Verus and by July of that year the Interstellar Correspondents had reported on ILF’s success. Plans for the Agoze IX-2 trade hub began in April of YC114 and both hubs continue to be supplied by pilots in ILF and IPI, as well as other local traders.

Perhaps our best known and most successful initiative is the Intaki Prime Relief Effort which began in May of YC111. Originally spearheaded by ILF pilots Sumerio Rayej and Apollonius Verus, over the years the relief effort has provided hundreds of thousands of m3-worth of goods to Intaki. In its heyday the program garnered attention from the Interstellar Correspondents and now continues to be regularly supported by our members as well as the general public whenever Intaki and its colonies are in need.

I think it speaks volumes that our greatest achievements have come from non-violent initiatives and I’m proud of my members for taking time out of their busy day to support the corporation, whether by donating loot recovered from agent missions and exploration, or by volunteering to manage our production lines and market orders, or by tirelessly patrolling the Intaki sovereignty (in space and on the ground) and fighting the pirates who live here…or by doing so many other countless things. Thank you. ILF has been and continues to be graced with talented, dedicated, passionate pilots and soldiers who demonstrate tremendous integrity, understanding, and generosity. ILF could not have accomplished all it has done in eight years without them and their contributions.

In two years we will celebrate ILF’s ten-year anniversary. I hope the people working beside me today, along with many new faces, will be there to celebrate it. Who knows what new victories, projects, and other adventures await us? I’m looking forward to finding out.

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New Eden Yule Sat, 20 Dec 2014 00:32:49 +0000 Read More]]> December is often a quiet time of year around the IPI offices. Many of my pilots take leave to return home, spend time with their families, and observe the yule holiday that is celebrated by some of the New Eden cultures. I hope they enjoy themselves.

Tonight I worked late on a detailed report for our systems maintenance team—possibly in the near future they are going to overhaul the framework I must use daily to maintain ILF’s and IPI’s data, and I can’t wait for the day they do!—and after several hours, just as I was about to turn in for the night, a note—a very special note, as it turns out—arrived via my neocom accompanied by a delivery notice to my personal hangar. Both were from Richard Masseri, one of my members.

I wasn’t the only recipient; Richard showered all of the active ILF pilots with gifts! I can’t help but be touched by his selfless generosity. I’m also delightfully amused by the obvious thought and creativity he put into his yule gift to us:

Merry Yule
Shirt— It hasn’t got any gold on it. Yeah, asked the store manager, said, “You do realize I’m a member of the elite capsuleer force known as ILF who have been protecting your planet from those federal scumbags for so long?” He rolled his eyes and said that I looked just like the last twenty-two guys claiming to be capsuleers and that if I wanted custom shirts I could make them myself.

Long-limb Roes— I love some long-limb roes every now and again, especially at parties where they look incredibly posh and all the guests will think I’m one fancy guy. To be honest I’ve never been their greatest fan but I thought some of you might like them.

Spiced Wine— A warm glass of spiced wine is excellent this time of year… Well, in the north. I know you guys are mostly southerners so you might want to save it for when the weather creeps in or you could come and join me for a glass in my station quarters. Everyone is welcome.

Spirits— For those who have the stomach to fleet up with me I have a feeling you’ll be needing these. Not just for yourself, mind, there is quite a lot there. Might want to hand a crate or two to your crew. No, of course I’m not suggesting any of you should drink on the job! That would be very irresponsible, not to mention dangerous.

Marines x2— Well, being a member of ILF does sometimes make you a target for unwanted attention. Always good to have some guards around to keep you safe and these guys are as loyal as slaver hounds…oh. Hmm. That might not be the best or most tasteful way to put it but I’m sure you all know what I mean.

Clone Soldier Tag— I hear if your sec status gets low one of these will bring it up again. I’m sure none of you will need this but, well, just in case, aye.

Powergrid Implant— Most useful implant I have ever had. I won’t fly without it these days, just gives those fits an extra burst of power which in my opinion is all they normally ever need. I’m sure you will all find this rather useful and I wont be too annoyed if you just put it up for sale.

Camera Drones— Well these can be handy this time of year. I mean, mine looked pretty worn out so I’ve sent them away for an MOT and if your normal ones are still fine then maybe get them to take a few nice holiday snaps.

Neocoms— We can’t live without these guys so here is a couple of spares. If you ever find yourself in a pickle and don’t have one to hand well now you will.

Planetary Vehicles— I know, I know… But it’s really fast, goes from 0 – 120 in like…ok well I’m sure you’ll find a use for it. If not just give it to one of your marines.

Caldari Frig Skill Book— This goes with that other present just in case you couldn’t use it—now you have no excuse not to fly it!

AT Card— I love collecting stuff.

NEO YC Card— No, really I do, any little card, I just want all of them but I can never justify my position.

Last three gifts were a little big so I couldn’t fit them in the same box.

A Piece of Yule— So, it’s a little icy bit of winter. An ice flake, if a rather big one, stuck in a glass box so it cannot melt.

Temperate Command Center— Practical and helpful. If you haven’t done it yet, start a new business on Intaki today and boost that economy.

Have fun in that frig and make that starry night look pretty.

Anyway basically you guys are great. Thanks for putting up with me.

Thank you, Richard! You’re the best and it’s a privilege to fly with you.

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“Little Things” for the Corporation UI Fri, 19 Dec 2014 04:00:55 +0000 Read More]]> A CEO's nightmare.

A CEO’s nightmare.

The other day CCP Punkturis asked the playerbase to describe its “biggest pain points in the corp interface”. Wow, what a can of worms! Naturally, roles and titles are at the top of everyone’s list, including mine, and rightly so. It is by far the biggest pain point any CEO has to deal with in EVE Online. But then, forty-five posts into the thread, CCP Punkturis and CCP Sharq both backtracked to say, well, no, they weren’t really looking for the “biggest” pain points, they actually just want little things—the low-lying fruit—that might be easy to fix to help CEOs out.

If you’re a CEO, or have ever been a CEO at any time (even if for just five seconds!), do yourself and all CEOs everywhere a favor and post in that thread. Post even if everything you want to say about how godawful the corporation interface is has already been said by everyone else before you. Reiteration and repetition of these same pain points by multiple voices will help drive home their importance to the devs. It’s worth it.

And yes, mention roles and titles anyway. Pay no attention to the devs’ insistence that they aren’t looking at roles and titles right now. Do eeet anyway.

I already posted my thoughts in the thread, starting here. It took my entire evening and three forum posts to cover everything I wanted to say but it was definitely time well spent if it makes a difference for the future. :) Here it is, for posterity’s sake:

Individual pilots have a Notes tab (under Show Info). It would be nice if Corporations and Alliances also had a Notes tab on their Show Info windows.

The Corporation interface has a minimum height that is more than half of a 1080p screen. This is annoying. If I want to view less of the window vertically, let me shrink it.

I would like to echo suggestions made by others for some kind of organizational or hierarchy chart similar in design to the Fleet wing/squad tree so that I can organize my members by divisions I create (such as “Combat” and “Industry”) and by seniority so that newer members can see who they can approach for help and where their place is in the group. I want to be able to have subdivisions too (such as “Combat” being split between PVE and PVP, or Industry being split between Mining and Production).

Someone suggested more taxation options for both corporations and alliances. Yes please. In particular would really like to be able to automatically tax a portion of the ore my miners bring in so that they can go out and do ops solo or as a group and nobody has to worry about what’s “fair” to donate to the corp/alliance, or is everybody donating the same amount, etc. Less micromanagement would be great. I envision this working in some fashion like reprocessing.

Home Tab

The most recently-edited bulletin always pops to the top of the list. This might be okay for some people but it would be nice to have a choice for the sort order, for example, alphabetically by title, or manually by a settable priority list.

Corp (and alliance) bulletins are too hard for new members and/or new players to find. They need to be linkable in channel MOTDs.

The Edit Corporation Details window needs to be resizable and it should have rich text options just like character bios.

If I click the “Update With My Skills” button in the Edit Corporation Details window and the number doesn’t change, how do I know the game actually did anything, or if the button is broken? A confirmation of some kind would be nice.

Improved variety of symbols, symbol quality, colors, and number of layers in the corp logo picker would be great. Existing symbols shouldn’t be removed, but could be tweaked to look less 1998.

The number of Divisions for the hangar and for the wallet should be independent of one another. If I rename these Divisions these names should be displayed everywhere, especially when setting roles.

Recruitment Tab

I feel the Search and My Applications tabs don’t really belong in the Corporation interface. I think elsewhere in the thread it was stated that Search was going to be moved to People and Places but I think My Applications could go too. My feeling is the Corporation window should only be about the corporation you are currently in, not where you might be hoping to go.

Why is the “Edit Welcome Mail” button on the Corporation Ads tab? This is not intuitive.

If a corporation ad is about to expire, the CEO/Directors should get a notice about it rather than having to track the expiry date manually. Alternatively, an “auto renew” tickbox would be nice.

The Applications to Corporation tab displays a blank window if there are no apps. Similar to the Wars tab in Show Info, there should be some kind of placeholder text here so that people know the window has actually finished loading if there are no results.

Members Tab

The “Last Online” column is horribly misleading. People who are new to the corporation are going to look here and get the wrong impression about activity levels. For example, if it’s December 18 EVE time and one of my corp members was last logged in on December 17 EVE time, this column should not display “Last Week”! Likewise, if it’s December 18 EVE time and one of my corp members was last logged in on December 10 EVE time, this column should not display “Last Month”! Yet it does!

Find Member in Role/Role Management/Title Management – As others have said, the entire roles/titles system needs to be scrapped and rebuilt. I would actually prefer a role picker structured in similar fashion to the Notifications setting window: group abilities by category and let me select them individually.

Speaking of roles, the TRADER role is incomplete. People with this role can set buy/sell orders on behalf of the corporation, but they are NOT able to view the Corporation Orders tab in the Market window unless I ALSO give them the Accountant role. This is just so, so dumb. If I want people to be able to trade for the corp then that’s all I want them to do—but they should be able to see what orders other traders in the corp have posted without being handed a bunch of additional permissions that really have nothing to do with posting buy/sell orders.

Clicking on the Auditing tab immediately brings up the YOU STILL HAVE TO PICK A MEMBER prompt. Well, duh—I just got to this tab and haven’t had a chance to do anything yet! Please fix this.

The Decorations tab should be renamed to Medals since that’s what they actually are, and it should allow the following:

  • awarding one medal to multiple people at the same time
  • awarding one medal to members of the same alliance
  • awarding one medal to pilots outside the alliance, with their ability to accept/deny
  • ability to edit existing medal name and descriptions, specifically to correct typos
  • ability to delete existing medals if they have never been awarded to anyone
  • ability for CEO to hide existing medals from the list of available medals if they have previously been awarded (so existing awardees don’t lose them) so as to prevent them from continuing to be used
  • improve loading time as well as how this portion of the interface displays current recipients of each medal

Improved graphics, colors, etc for medal design would be nice too.

Standings Tab

Please add “Date Added” and “Added By” columns on the Corporate Contacts tab so I and the people with the ability to set standings can see at a glance when standings were added and who did it. Labels are a good start to being able to track the reason the standing was added, but it would be nice if the labels or an equivalent kind of field was visible to regular corp members so they know why, too. Please ensure labels (or future iterations of labels) are a ‘set once and forget it’ thing—I hate setting them and then coming back a few days later to see that only some of them stuck.

If someone other than me sets a new standing or amends an existing one, as CEO I want to be automatically notified about that. Actually, I would really like it if everyone in the corporation (or alliance, if it’s an alliance-level standing) was automatically notified about any standings changes no matter who makes the change—this would save having to send mails or make forum posts.

Please also add a way for a Corporation to automatically draw its standings from the Alliance instead of having to set its own. For example, if I set Corporation X as +10 at my alliance level, I don’t want my member CEOs to also have to set Corporation X as +10 so that Corporation X receives the right tax privilege at our POCOs. I’d rather have a checkbox that has the alliance +10 standing filter down automatically to the corporation level, and then have a checkbox on my POCOs that allow it to read my alliance standings rather than corporation standings. Having said this, if a corporation is drawing its standings from the alliance level it should still have the ability to set separate standings if it needs to–it just shouldn’t allow duplicates (if the alliance has set +10, the member corp shouldn’t be able to set the same entity as -10, that kind of thing).

Wars Tab

Please move the Kill Reports tab from this part of the interface, or have one here that is only specific to war kills/losses. All non-war kills/losses should not be listed under WARS.

Politics Tab

I’m really not a fan of the voting system, period, and would be happy if it got trashed. When I took over as CEO I discovered a swath of locked blueprints and had to endure the pain that was having them be unlocked so I could move them. That whole process and the massive amount of clicking required probably gave me carpal tunnel. Honestly, there should be better ways to deal with corporation issues than using a voting system–I think most corporations in EVE probably don’t run that well on a democratic system anyway.

Assets Tab

Please give CEOs the ability to remotely trash items (whether just in an office, or impounded, or in lockdown), especially if they are old items located in places I cannot now get access to (such as player-owned stations in 0.0).

On the In Space tab, it’s all well and good to see I have X number of POCOs in a given system but it would be infinitely more useful to know what planet and moon they are positioned at so I can tell the difference between them if I’m changing settings or transferring ownership.

Alliances Tab

The alliance portion of the interface should be completely separate, with its own Alliance button on the UI. If a corporation is not a member of an alliance, that UI button should either be automatically hidden or should take them to an appropriate tab in People and Places to find an alliance they can join.

I want to have an Alliance ad so I can recruit new corporations just like I have a Corporation ad to recruit new players.

Bulletins: See comments under HOME TAB above.

Under the (alliance) Home tab, one of the Details attributes says “Dictatorial” with “No” under it. I dug around on Google about this once and to my knowledge, all alliances say this. If this is never going to be developed, please remove it. But since voting is godawful it would probably be better if this attribute was actually used for something and could be editable by the current executor.

Just like the Edit Corporation Details window, the Edit Alliance window is also not resizable and does not have rich text options on it.

I’d like to nominate the Rankings tab as another portion of the interface that should be moved to People and Places. Personally, I don’t really care where/how my alliance ranks but if someone is curious about that stuff they are probably going to look in P&P.

The Applications tab needs to generate a notification to the alliance executor CEO at a minimum about new apps to the alliance. There is no category in either the old or the new notification system for this, and in writing this post I have discovered that an app to my alliance has been sitting on this tab for who knows how long that I didn’t know about. There is no date for this app either so I have no idea when it was submitted. This is really, really bad!

The My Applications tab in this portion of the interface should be moved and renamed. After all, it’s not “my” application—it’s the corp’s application to join another alliance. Just as how I think the corp interface should be about just the corp you’re in right now, the alliance portion of the interface should also be just about the alliance you’re in. Move this kind of thing to People and Places, or maybe even make a whole separate Recruitment window for corporation and alliance searching, etc.

On the Members tab, it would be nice to see when the members joined the alliance so I don’t have to look it up on their Show Info windows individually.

Alliance Contacts: See comments under STANDINGS TAB above.

Last but not least:

Bentakhar wrote:
Would be nice to have a little icon in corp chat (NPC corps excluded) with people’s status:
>Available to chat
>Wife Aggro

+1 to this, but make it say “Spouse Aggro” since some of us are female and might have hubbies who don’t play. :p


Makari Aeron
B. have the corp hangars be able to have a description

Aryndel Vyst
Please allow for a “rejection evemail” if you reject a corp application. Either standard format like the welcome mail, or individual mails like a “rejection reason” box somewhere.

The use case is someone applies to corp but they screw something up with their application, and you want to tell them why. As it stands now you have to physically EVEmail them with the reason which is a lot of effort. Streamlining that process would be extremely helpful to corps that handle hundreds of applications a month.

Corp contracts longer than 14 days. In fact, since your asking, how about sell/buy orders limited to your corp members if people so chooseþ

+1 to these ideas.

Tycho Bheskagor wrote:
Corporate training certificates to skill into doctrine ships would be nice.

I love this idea.

TigerXtrm wrote:
5. Hanger logging. PLEASE. Whenever something is taken from a public corp hanger it needs to be logged just like on secure containers. Create a role for viewing the log, maybe even separate roles per hanger. Why? Right now people are able to take every single thing in a corp hanger and there is no way of figuring out who took it.

So much this. I would rather use containers to keep things organized rather than to micromanage who took what, if I could see that on the hangar level overall instead.

Thank you for reading! I’m all done now. :)

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Now for the Hard Part Sun, 23 Nov 2014 04:27:07 +0000 Read More]]> I’ve finished reposting content to Incyanity and feel pretty good about the state the site is in now. Hallelujah!

Using Joomla to manage the backend is something I kind of wish I had discovered years back, as I realize now how much time it would have saved me. After all, Incyanity has been around in various forms and at various URLs since 1999. Anybody remember GeoCities? I started out in the coveted Area51 block. Yeah. Fifteen years of literally spending days coding in Notepad and Notepad++, learning HTML, CSS, PHP, and a bit of JavaScript from scratch and by examining the source code of other websites, and then being forced to go back and redo whenever the standards changed, things were depreciated, etc.

Fifteen years manually trying to build features for this website—and much of what I spent the most time on actually made very little difference to what visitors could see on the frontend! Now I understand that a lot of what I was trying to do all those years was actually to build my own CMS…and all along there were solutions like Joomla (and other CMS platforms) out there that could have saved me the effort of not having to work on coding. There were other factors of course, real life stuff that kept pulling my attention elsewhere, but Incyanity so often sat neglected simply because I ran out of energy to work on that unfinished backend code that was making it harder to maintain the frontend content simply because it wasn’t finished. Bleh.

Now I’ve been able to get the website redone and content reposted in what actually amounts to just a few days of effort over the course of a couple of months. That’s pretty satisfying for me, and when I look at the front page and click through to see how things load up, I feel pleased that my little corner of the internet is working again. But…at the same time I still kind of miss all that manual coding. I do enjoy it and there was a sense of pride associated with having the knowledge to build the website myself. As I get older, though, life gets more complicated and I have less time for coding. I realize the website is just the framework that holds the content and the framework itself isn’t content. It’s more important to get articles done than making sure the backend code is finished. Let someone else worry about that. Okay—so Joomla was the solution I chose, and here I am.

Now I have to face the fact that so much of the actual content is out of date. That’s the hard part. Using Joomla to repost what I had written was easy. Using Joomla to decide how I wanted that content to look was easy. Sure, the template still has a few bugs in it and there are things I need to change that will improve the frontend experience…but overall, after the template was installed and tweaked, all I had to do was copy/paste from my old PHP files and the old database, and FTP some images to the server. That’s not really work.

The work is knowing the Photoshop Tutorials are seven or more software versions behind, so I should at least update them to the version I’m using today (which isn’t current either, but still  newer than 7.0 or CS2). The work is in realizing it’s been over five years since the last time I drew something that wasn’t related to a particular project, so I should really dust off my old Cintiq and finish some of the half-done pictures still laying around. The work is in noticing the most recent Photostream I did was posted about a year and a half ago, so I should really dig up more of my photos and make new ones. The work is seeing that my most recent brainstorming notes for Heart of the Empire (HOTE) are from 2011, so I should really get around to doing that rewrite and building more of that world.

The work is in knowing the website sat stagnant for so long that all my old visitors have long since moved on, so I should get new content to attract a new audience.

HOTE is still a big deal to me. Even though most of my creative energy over the last few years has been given to Solitary Pilot, I’ve often spared thoughts for HOTE and its unfinished state. Originally my goal had been to just get the story written from start to finish regardless of how terrible the draft was going to be. The important thing was to just get it done, and I haven’t done that yet. The more I wrote, the more the problem with the timeline loomed over me and that made it more difficult to keep moving forward. So…rewrite. The notes from 2011 are actually a brainstorming session with my friend John Kastronis where we solved the timeline problem (much thanks!) so now I just…need to do the work.

Actually, I’m pretty excited about it. Wish me luck!

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Sphere Attack Sun, 23 Nov 2014 02:42:43 +0000 Read More]]> This tutorial will teach you one method for creating a fabulous-looking sphere of energy that can be used to simulate a magical attack in your artwork. It was created using Photoshop CS2 for PC. Newer versions may need slightly different steps. It also assumes that you are somewhat familiar with the software. :)

In order to complete this tutorial, first you need to follow the Lighting and Colored Energy tutorial to at least step 3 (step 4 if you want color in your sphere). Although following the tutorials exactly will help you replicate the same effect that I created, the best way to learn is to experiment and create your own results!

Let’s begin!

Getting Started: Draw the Sphere

Create a new document with a black background. For this tutorial I used the dimensions 1000×1000 at 300dpi.

Press CTRL+R to show the Ruler and then drag one horizontal and one vertical guide so they cross at the exact center of your document.

Create a new layer and call it “Sphere”.

Press M for the Marquee tool and set it to Elliptical, Fixed Size. Enter identical values in the “width” and “height” fields and then click on the canvas at the center to produce your marquee. If you draw your circle manually, ensure it is a perfect circle by holding down SHIFT.



Press D to set your default colors and then X to set the foreground color to white. Select the Gradient tool by pressing G and choose the Radial Gradient.


Place your cursor at the center of your marquee. Click and drag in any direction to a point just outside the circle and release. This will create a slightly nicer-looking gradient than if you only dragged the cursor to the edge of the marquee.

Press CTRL+; to hide the guides and CTRL+R to hide the Ruler. Press CTRL+L to bring up the Levels dialogue box. Drag the middle slider a little bit to the left to brighten up the sphere.

The Front of the Sphere

Spheres don’t actually have a “front” (or a “back”), but for the purpose of the image, the “front” of the sphere is going to be the side facing you.

Switch to the Lightning document you created earlier in the Lighting and Colored Energy tutorial. Press CTRL+A to select the entire canvas and choose Edit > Copy Merged (if there are separate layers). Then switch back to the Sphere document and CTRL+V to paste. The lightning image should be inserted into the document as a separate layer. If it isn’t above the Sphere layer, click and drag it into position.


Rename the new layer “Sphere Front”. Reposition the lightning image if needed so the desired lightning pattern overlaps the sphere.

CTRL+click the “Sphere” layer’s thumbnail to regain the marquee outline. Then choose Select > Inverse from the menu and press Delete to discard the unwanted areas of the lightning image.

CTRL+click the “Sphere” layer’s thumbnail again to get the original marquee. Make sure the “Sphere Front” layer is active and choose Filter > Distort > Spherize from the menu and enter an amount of 50% (Normal Mode). Click OK.

Lastly, change the Blending Mode of the “Sphere Front” layer to Screen.

The Back of the Sphere

The lightning image should still be on your clipboard. Paste it into the document again. Rename the new layer “Sphere Back”.

The back of the sphere should not be identical to the front of the sphere, so rotate/move the lightning image to use a different portion of it.

Trim the unwanted areas of the image by reacquiring the sphere marquee and inverting it. Then get the original sphere marquee back.


Make sure the “Sphere Back” layer is active and choose Filter > Distort > Spherize from the menu. This time, enter an amount of -50% (Normal Mode). Click OK.

Next, choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and use a low number like 3. Click OK.

Change the Blending Mode of this layer to Screen as well and press CTRL+D to drop the selection. The sphere is starting to take shape!

The Sphere Layer: Inner Glow

sph06At the moment, the interior of the sphere is a little too bright, so the details on the “back” are washed out.

Make the “Sphere” layer active by clicking on it. Lower its Fill (not Opacity) to 25%. The Fill drop-down box is on the Layers Palette across from the Padlock icon.

Now let’s add some special effects!

Click the Layer Style button on the Layers Palette (or choose Layer > Layer Style from the menu) and pick Inner Glow. I used the settings at right.

The Sphere Layer: Outer Glow


Click the Layer Style button again and pick Outer Glow. I used the settings at right.


Lens Flare


The sphere is looking pretty good at this point but there is still more we can do.

Create a new layer and call it “Lens Flare”. Press D to set the default colors and then ALT+Delete to fill the layer with black.

Choose Filter > Render > Lens Flare from the menu. Pick one to your liking.


ALT+click the preview window and enter the center co-ordinates of your image. This ensures (without guesswork) that your flare will be at the center of the sphere. Click OK twice to render the lens flare.

If you want, you can change the color of the lens flare. Set your desired color as the Foreground Color, then press CTRL+U to open the Hue/Saturation window. Click the Colorize option. You can also play around with the sliders to further change the color.

When you’re ready, change the Blending Mode of the Lens Flare layer to Screen.

Final Touches

Depending on the look you want, you can continue to add special effects. Just don’t overdo it!

First, I’m going to reorder my layers. The “Sphere Front” layer should be above the “Sphere Back” layer in the layer stack so all the blurred effects are truly at the “back” of the image.

Next, I want some light beams coming out of my sphere. This light beam layer goes between the “Sphere Front” and “Sphere Back” layers so some of the beams will appear to be behind the effects at the “front” of the sphere. Where the “front” of the sphere is empty, the beams will appear to shine through, creating a nice 3D illusion.

You can create light beams manually, or search Google for some free brushes. I’ve added some color and glow effects to mine. Here is my finalized Sphere Attack:


Once your sphere is finished it’s time to bring it into your drawing.

Press CTRL+A to select the canvas. Choose Edit > Copy Merged from the menu. Paste (CTRL+V) into your picture. The Sphere Attack should appear as a new layer. Rename this layer “Sphere Attack”.

Press V so you can click and drag the Sphere Attack into position. Use CTRL+T for the Transform tool to easily resize the image.

Lastly, change the Blending Mode of the Sphere Attack layer to Screen or Lighten—whichever you like better.

]]> 0 73
Space Art Sun, 23 Nov 2014 02:08:35 +0000 Read More]]> I LOVE space art. I’ve done a few pics which feature space as backgrounds or as the primary subject. It’s a great way to express your creativity because there is still so much we don’t know about space. Artists aren’t limited by “reality”—who’s to say what really is and isn’t possible out there? The void can be as beautiful or as harrowing—or both—as your imagination desires.

Space art takes quite a bit of effort and patience to make it look good and believable. I’ve spent upwards of six hours working on a single image. The artists I admire can spend double or more than that. There’s a lot of intuition involved, especially regarding color usage, shapes, etc. From what I’ve experienced so far, it takes a lot of practice. The results are oh so rewarding though!

I’m just learning and still experimenting with space art myself, so at this time I don’t feel I should be offering a tutorial of my own making. There are a number of fabulous tutorials out there that I have used (or are planning on using) to help me break into this art form, and my purpose here is to share them with you so that you can try them out and start making your own art.

I do not take credit for any of the tutorials linked below. Please respect the authors’ wishes if their tutorials list restrictions and give credit where credit is due. :) And have fun!

Exploding Planet
Planet Rings
Sun Tutorial

I also recommend the LunarCell, SolarCell, and Glitterato Photoshop plug-ins from Flaming Pear, though these plugins could be considered “cheating” and it’s usually much better to learn how to create the same effects manually. :)

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Lightning and Colored Energy Fri, 21 Nov 2014 04:34:14 +0000 Read More]]> To add realistic-looking lightning or a great magical effect to your artwork, follow this tutorial! The tutorial was created using Photoshop 7.0 for PC. Newer versions may need slightly different steps. It also assumes that you are somewhat familiar with the software. :)

Although following the tutorial exactly will help you replicate the same effect that I created, the best way to learn is to experiment and create your own results!

Let’s begin!

Getting Started: Linear Gradient

Create a new document with a black background. For this tutorial I used the dimensions 1000×1000 at 300dpi.

Create a new layer. Call it “Lightning”. Make sure this is the active layer.

lig01Press D to set the default colors. Select the Gradient tool (G) and be sure Linear Gradient is selected.


Hold down SHIFT and drag your cursor from the bottom of your canvas to the top.

This should produce a white-to-black gradient with the black portion at the top. If white is at the top, press CTRL+I to invert the gradient.

Rendering Clouds


Choose Filter > Render > Difference Clouds from the menu.

You may have to try this a few times (press CTRL+F to repeat the filter) in order to get a result that has a few distinct dark bands running through it.

I pressed CTRL+F twice after the initial render to get my results.


It’s Lightning!

Press CTRL+I to invert the image, then press CRTL+L to bring up the Levels dialogue box.

Set the middle input value to 0.10. You should see some immediate results.


To further sharpen the lightning, drag the left-most triangle below the levels diagram to the right until the “cloudiness” around the lightning has darkened out. Don’t overdo it, though! You still want some of that “cloudiness”.


For my example the corresponding input value of 125 (in the first box) was plenty.

If all you want is white lightning, you’re pretty much finished! Press L for the Polygonal Lasso tool and select bolts that will look good in the picture you are adding them to.

Copy and paste the bolts into their own layer on the destination picture. You’ll probably have to use the Transform tool (CTRL+T) to rotate the lightning to the angle you want. To “hide” the black surrounding your lightning, set the lightning layer’s Blending Mode to Screen.

Colored White Energy


The lightning created in the last step can be taken further by adding color.

Create a new layer above the Lightning layer and call it Color. Fill it with a color of your choice and change the Blending Mode of this layer to Color.

Now you have white lightning with a colored halo around it!

Choose Layer > Flatten Image from the menu (or use CTRL+E to merge the Color layer with the Lightning layer). Now select the parts of the lightning you want and copy them to the picture you are adding them to, changing the layer’s Blending Mode to Screen to hide the black.

Colored Black Energy


Black energy is useful for effects on pictures of characters of “dark” or “evil” alignment.

After creating your lightning in Step 3, press CTRL+I to invert the Lightning layer.

Create a new layer above the Lightning layer and call it Color. Fill it with a color of your choice and change the Blending Mode of this layer to Color.

Choose Layer > Flatten Image from the menu (or use CTRL+E to merge the Color layer with the Lightning layer). Now select the parts of the lightning you want and copy them to the picture you are adding them to, changing the layer’s Blending Mode to Multiply to hide the white.

]]> 0 59
Digital Inking Thu, 20 Nov 2014 10:34:26 +0000 Read More]]> The Freeform Pen tool is a fabulous alternative for artists who are not fond of inking their sketches. Some reasons you might not want to ink the sketch are:

  • not wanting to ruin the sketch if a mistake is made;
  • the pic is on lined or otherwise unsuitable paper for the finished product;
  • you don’t own a light table;
  • you are going to CG the picture instead of coloring it with traditional media.

Using the Freeform Pen tool to outline (digitally ink) the sketch allows you to create lineart that is perfect for CGing on the first try. The lineart will already be on its own layer and it will be 100% clean—no smudges or other souveniers from the sketch will remain to hamper coloring efforts!

The Freeform Pen tool can be a bit intimidating and frustrating if you’ve never used it before, so this tutorial is designed to help you become familiar with it. It does take a bit of practice and patience to get the hang of it, so don’t give up if you don’t get it right away!

This tutorial was created using Photoshop CS2 for PC. Newer versions may need slightly different steps. It also assumes that you are somewhat familiar with the software. :)

Although following the tutorial exactly will help you replicate the same effect that I created, the best way to learn is to experiment and create your own results! There are also many effects you can incorporate to the lineart while you are creating it, such as setting pressure sensitivity if you have a tablet or using different brush types for different styles of lines. For this tutorial I won’t be showing those advanced techniques. Experiment on your own after you’ve learned the basics. :)

Let’s begin!

Getting Started: Scan Your Sketch

Of course, before you can digitally ink your sketch, you have to get it from the page into your computer! Each scanner has unique software, but the basic steps are:

  1. Put your sketch on the scanner bed and activate the scanner. It will probably do a “preliminary” scan to give you a preview of the image.
  2. Check the scanner settings. Even though your pic is just a sketch, be sure the scanner is set to full color image and not monochrome or black and white. Doing this means you don’t have to convert the image later.
  3. Depending on the size of your sketch on the page, you may want to draw a selection around the sketch so you don’t have a ton of extra white space. There’s no point scanning empty areas. :)
  4. Finally, check the image dimensions. Set the scan resolution to 300dpi and ensure the image will be fairly large after scanning. When I’ve used most of the page for my sketch, the pic is often in the neighborhood of 2200 x 3500 pixels. This is great for printing or making other items, like mousepads, t-shirt transfers, etc. Scanning large also makes incorporating fine details easier when coloring.

Scan your sketch! If your software lets you export automatically into Photoshop, great!

Setting Up In Photoshop

After scanning, bring your image into Photoshop if your scanner didn’t automatically export it there for you.

I prefer not to leave the sketch as the Background layer; I erase the sketch as I complete the outline, leaving me with an empty layer when I’m done. This helps ensure I haven’t missed anything and also shows me my progress. Whether or not you do the same doesn’t really matter.


If you want to have a separate layer for your sketch, click the Background layer and duplicate it using CTRL+J. Name the new layer “Sketch” by double-clicking on the default name.

Check your image. Make adjustments now, including canvas size and positioning. Now lock the layer so you don’t accidentally draw on it, move the sketch, etc!

Then select the Background layer and fill it with a solid color of your choosing so you don’t have two copies of your sketch in the document.


Create a new layer above your Sketch layer and call it “Outline”. (Hold down ALT as you click the New Layer button so you can easily name the layer.)

Now we are ready to start the lineart!

Preparing the Pen Tool

Before we can start using the Pen we need to set the Brush tool to the width we want to use. Whatever settings the Brush has will be used when we create the lines.

Press B to select the Brush tool. Be sure it is set to Brush and not Pencil!

Choose a brush and size you like. I prefer a Hard Round brush around 2 or 3 pixels for most lines (1 or 2 pixels for finer details).

Be sure you select Hard Round and not Soft Round so that the lines are crisp! Set Opacity to 100% and Flow to 100%. Do not enable Airbrush.


Press P. If you’ve never used the tool before it may default to Pen tool rather than Freeform Pen tool. You may have to hold down Shift and press P again.


You have the right tool when the icon matches the one at right, with a little squiggle coming out the top.

Be sure your Freeform Pen matches these settings:


Tracing Your Sketch

Pick a starting point on your sketch and zoom in on it. Practice will show you how much zoom you like. Be sure you are on the Outline layer!

Click on the starting point and draw a small, short line. It doesn’t matter if this line matches the sketch, just draw a little bit. This is called a path.


Hold down CTRL. Your mouse pointer should turn into an arrow. Click anywhere on the path to activate it. It should now have two boxes on it, one at either end. Handles could also be poking out of the boxes, and there may be one or more boxes along the path, depending on how big you drew it.

Let go of CTRL. If there are boxes along the length of the path, delete them by hovering your mouse over each box until the pointer changes to a pen nib with a tiny minus sign beside it. When you see the minus sign, click, and the box will disappear.


Hold down CTRL again. Click on a box at one end of the path and drag it so it aligns with the “end” of the nearest line on your sketch.

Now click on the box on the other end of the path and drag it so it aligns with the other “end” of that same line (ie, where it stops or meets another line). The path will automatically stretch.

Each box on the path should have a handle coming out of it. If it doesn’t, try holding down CTRL and clicking on the box to make the handle appear.

If you accidentally click on the canvas while holding CTRL, the path will deactivate. Just CTRL+click the path itself again to reactivate it.


While holding CTRL, grab on to the end of one of the handles. This can take some practice, and if you’re using a tablet, the mouse is actually better for this for accuracy.

Drag the handle around. See how it manipulates the path? By dragging the handles at each end of the path you can now make the path match the line of your sketch.

This is where the “practice practice practice” and “experimentation” part comes in with using the Pen. You will have to play with it to gain the familiarity that will allow you to continue.

If there is something about the sketch line that you aren’t completely happy with (say, a curve that isn’t perfect), put the path where you would have liked the line to be by dragging the handles accordingly.

Sometimes the handles can get in the way of seeing how well the path matches the sketch. With CTRL held down, click somewhere else on the image to make them disappear. If you need to make more adjustments, reactivate the path by CTRL+clicking it.

When you are happy with the placement of your path, let go of CTRL.

Stroke the Path

Right click on the canvas to bring up a menu. Select “Stroke Path…” Be sure the new dialogue box matches this one:


(If you are using a tablet and have pressure sensitivity turned on, this is where you would activate the option to have your line reflect pressure. Experiment to see how it works.)


Click OK. Photoshop will draw a line on the Outline layer that follows the path you created, using the Brush tool settings we set earlier.

If you’re happy with the results, press Enter to clear the path. Otherwise, press CTRL+Z to undo the Stroke so you can make any necessary adjustments. When your adjustments are done, Stroke the path again.

Always press Enter to delete the entire path after Stroking to avoid restroking again!

Continue this method for the entire image.

Advanced Path Manipulation


Sometimes you need to have points on the path in order to get the path to match the curve. Remember that points are the little boxes you delete when you first draw the path.

To add a point, hover your mouse cursor anywhere along the active path until the pointer changes to a nib with a plus sign. Click once. A new point with handles poking out of either side will appear.

You can click and drag these points wherever you need them to be just like the points at either end of the path.

Be sure to use each point’s handles to make the path curve smoothly. (This takes practice!) If a point only has a handle coming out of one side but you need to adjust the part of the path on the other side, CTRL+click that part of the path and the missing handle should appear.

When you first start out or have a lot of details, it can take a long time to finish the lineart, but as you gain experience you will become faster at it. The end result is well worth the effort! :)

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Digital Coloring Thu, 20 Nov 2014 09:52:56 +0000 Read More]]> There are many ways to use Photoshop to color lineart. This tutorial demonstrates the method I use. It was created using Photoshop CS2 for PC. Newer versions may need slightly different steps. It also assumes that you are somewhat familiar with the software. :)

Coloring art in a program like Photoshop is not only fun (because you can get very creative using the tools and filters) but it can also save you time and materials, since you don’t have to worry about dry markers, broken pencils, or possibly starting over because of a mistake! You can also recolor the same image many times to see how different color combinations look.

Although following the tutorial exactly will help you replicate the same effect that I created, the best way to learn is to experiment and create your own results!

Before moving to this stage, I prepared my lineart using the steps outlined in my Digital Inking tutorial.

Let’s begin!

The Secret: Layers


The “secret” to coloring in Photoshop is to use layers so the colors remain separated. This makes it easy to avoid mistakes and will keep your lineart in pristine condition.

Notice the Outline layer is above all the color layers in the stack. Because of this, the colored areas will appear “seamless” and all the little white areas can be eliminated.

I typically name my color layers according to the color being used on it, although sometimes I will also use layers for specific parts of the image, such as “Hair Shine”, “Eye Highlight” or “Helm” in this example. Whatever way you name them, just remember to put each color on its own layer.

Why? Let’s say you pick a shade of green for the accents on your character’s clothing. Halfway through coloring the picture you decide that the green just isn’t working and you want to change it to purple. Now, if the green is with other colors on the same layer, changing it is a lot harder than it has to be. You could use Photoshop’s “Replace Color” tool or the Magic Wand but these can be tedious and inexact. If the green is on its own layer, you can lock the transparent pixels and then fill the layer with the new color. The new color will only appear on that layer where you colored before. This changes it everywhere at once without worrying about missing anything or accidentally messing up another color that you wanted to leave alone.

Start the Layer Stack


To begin coloring your picture, hold down ALT and click the “New Layer” button on the Layers Palette. Decide what color you’re going to start with and name the layer appropriately.

If the new layer is not directly below the Outline layer, click and drag it into position. If you still have your Sketch layer in your document (see the Digital Inking tutorial), turn the layer off by clicking the Eye (or, delete the layer, if you know you no longer need it).

Some people like to color one area at a time right to completion. They’ll pick, say, the pants, and do everything that needs to be done, including shading, highlights, special effects, texturing, etc. I don’t recommend this, because if you decide later you need to change something about what you’ve already colored, you already wasted a lot of effort.

If you build the entire picture as you go, you’re less likely to end up with extra steps. Some people call this a Color Test or Flats, which allows you to get an idea of how well your colors are going to work together before you start getting into the finer details.


You can go about this part two ways. The first way is to use the Brush tool to manually paint in the color in all the areas the color applies to. Nothing wrong with this, but if you have a large image it can take some time to cover everything as well as do the clean up work along the lines afterwards. The second method is to use the Magic Wand Tool to select all the areas of your Outline that should be that color and fill everything at once, which can save some time.

To use the Magic Wand, press W. Switch to the Outline layer. If you haven’t already, lock the Outline layer so you don’t accidentally draw on it. With the Magic Wand, start selecting all the areas that will be the color you have chosen first. You can select multiple areas at once by holding down SHIFT after you have made the first selection (or click the “Add to selection” button from the Options toolbar). If your outline has any holes in it, you’ll end up selecting more of the drawing than you want to. Deselect everything, unlock the Outline layer, and fix the holes before continuing.


Once you have everything selected, choose Select > Modify > Expand from the menu. Specify 1 pixel and click OK. This makes your current selection 1 pixel larger all the way around, which helps eliminate some clean up work later. This works especially well when most of your lines are at least 2 pixels thick.

Switch to the color layer. Be sure the color you have chosen is the Foreground color and press ALT+Delete to fill. Then press CTRL+D to drop the selection.

Repeat those steps for each color in your image until all the flats are done: Create a new layer, select the appropriate areas from the Outline layer, expand the selection, then fill the color on the color layer.

After all the colors are done, ensure nothing is selected by pressing CTRL+D.

Flats Clean Up


Now it’s time to clean up the image. The Magic Wand tool will not have filled in each area completely, as shown in the picture at right. There may also have been some areas too small to select which are still blank.

Press B to select the Brush tool. You’ll need a smaller brush; start with a Hard Round about size 5. You can use the square bracket keys ([ and ]) to enlarge and shrink the brush as needed.


Zoom in and work progressively through each color layer, filling in these “artifacts”. Treat this part just like how you would color if this was a coloring book: stay “inside” the lines but ensure the entire area is filled with no transparency left over. Press the spacebar to get the Hand tool, which will allow you to easily navigate around the image.

This is where having a tablet comes in handy. It’s not impossible to color effectively with a mouse, but a tablet makes things much easier because the shape of the pen is much more intuitive, allowing for more control and natural-looking strokes.

As you fix each layer, Lock it to preserve your work (the padlock icon on the Layers Palette). It’s near the top, just above the layer stack. To unlock the layer, click the padlock icon again.

Color and Shading


Now your Flats are done. Assess the overall image, and make any changes to the base colors now.

To begin shading, return to the first color layer in your stack. If it’s fully locked, unlock it and then duplicate it using CTRL+J.

Relock the original layer and switch to the new one. Rename the new layer as that color’s shadow and change its blend mode to Multiply.

The color on the shadow layer is now darker than the original color layer. Decide where your light source is coming from, press E for the eraser, and erase the parts that are supposed to be lit. This takes a bit of practice to get used to, as artists normally paint shadows on rather than “taking away” to reveal highlighted areas. If you’d rather paint the shadows by hand you can; simply create a new, empty layer set to Multiply, and paint with the original flat color.


If you want more levels of shadow, create more layers set to Multiply and erase the parts that aren’t needed (or paint on manually, still using the original flat color). For highlights or other effects, create new layers set to Normal (or experiment with other blending modes such as Lighten) and have fun!

Keep the layers locked until you are ready to work on them. While working, use the transparency lock so you only color where you’ve already filled in.


Add a background by using the Background layer already in your document or by creating a separate layer (I usually choose a separate layer).

There are many other options (such as folder groups) to help you keep your layers organized and your picture looking good. Be sure you explore and try things out!

Tip: Your lineart is on its own layer so you can lock its transparency and color it to enhance your drawing. You’ll have to be a little more careful doing this since you’ll be using more than one color on the Outline, but give it a try and see what happens. :)

This coloring technique, like anything, takes some practice, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll end up with a fabulous looking picture!

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Chapter Ten Thu, 20 Nov 2014 08:47:06 +0000 You must be logged in to view this article.

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Chapter Nine Thu, 20 Nov 2014 08:38:41 +0000 You must be logged in to view this article.

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Chapter Eight Mon, 03 Nov 2014 02:14:33 +0000 You must be logged in to view this article.

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Chapter Seven Mon, 03 Nov 2014 01:57:23 +0000 You must be logged in to view this article.

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