Ocean travel without a boat

Journal of Peter Greenwell

Page 2 of 24

Dw i’n dysgu Cymraeg

Or rwy’n dysgu Cymraeg – I’m not certain which one is more correct. In plain English it means I am learning Welsh. Just started mind you, but so far I’m having fun with it. Yes, the “ll” digraph is a horror to get right. Nonetheless, it’s all good stuff and someday, I’ll actually contribute to this blog in the language. Wouldn’t that be something?

A new grimdark fantasy story – some basic facts

I always have ideas for new novels germinating in my head. I guess most writers do.  There’s quite a few false starts in my repertoire of tales; a few excerpts and doodlings that haven’t gone beyond the 5000 word mark. Lots of incomplete material that I occasionally cannibalise for other projects. What I’m about to put down here is one such thing.

This is “high-falutin'” fantasy, full of big words, purple prose and passive sentences. It’s a self-indulgent workout, but it’s fun to do. It’s set on a world I haven’t named but gods and dark magic rules. It’s definitely “grimdark” to use a modern term, and the emphasis is on grimness and darkness. An assassin’s spirit gets resurrected inside the body of a powerful woman who died several thousand years prior to events in the novel. Ostensibly, she is raised to hunt down another woman, but that’s a front for something far more sinister.

Characters

Tila – I’d used this name in another story, but am appropriating it for this one. The other Tila will need to search for another name. The assassin who is reincarnated; the protagonist.
Sosophra Ikananyar – the body into which Tila is resurrected. Sosophra was the last Empress of Girsadea, and her war with the alien alfen race almost destroyed the world.
Chieftain Quana of the Yssusois – the ruler of Quscec. An evil, tyrannical necromancer. I’ve taken this name fro ma character in another story..
Ydrys – the god of secrets and shadows. Ydrys is a transplant from my Fels milieu.
Maorth – the goddess of death.

There’ll be more characters but these five take up the first parts of the novel.

Places

Quscec – once the holy city of the Empire of Girsadea, now the largest city in the world. A grim, horrible place where millions struggle against the evils of crime, sorcery, the undead, and poverty.
Blackfire Abbey – the abode of Maorth, the goddess of death. It is a dismal place.
Felltower – the stronghold of the Chieftain of Quscec, the ruler. Aptly named.
The Craeft – the realm of the Mages, the sorcerers of Quscec

Some action also takes place in “extraplanar” realms, such as the one of Ydrys.

I’m imagining this story as a precursor to a more traditional fantasy I have in mind for this milieu, that I’ve written about 7500 words for. It’ll be less wordy, more character driven than what I’ve outlined above. Anyhow, stay tuned!

Mass Effect 2 – crashing after Stolen Memory mission

Once you’ve completed Kasumi’s loyalty mission – Stolen Memory, and gotten the mission rundown, your game may crash. This is what worked for me (Windows 7, 64 bit, Origin edition).

In Windows Explorer, navigate to the ME2 folder – the default is C:\Program Files (x86)\Origin Games\Mass Effect 2\ and go into the Binaries folder. There, make a shortcut to ME2Game.exe on the desktop and in the properties of that shortcut, add -nomoviestartup to the end of the Target section. Make you sure you put it outside the quotes.

Load the game and it should work. If not, try the above with MassEffect2.exe instead.

Edit: this fix works for the crash at the end of the Lair of the Shadow Broker mission too.

Thanks to the various posters here for the tips.

Aswell, dissapointed and alot

More non-sequential musings


It kind of irritates me to see the above in text. Even in notepad++ all three come up as spelling errors, which of course they are.

It’s lazy and/or ignorant writing that leads to these horrors. I suspect that lessons learned in school were promptly forgotten amidst the madness of the Internet. Logically, I’m standing in the way of a tidal wave if I think this small homily will change either jack or shit. But it’s nice to give voice to it.

Folanae fanlo

I love putting obscure gaming references into the things I write. The title of this page is the password you need to get into the Mountainmen’s treasure room in the game Ultima Underworld 1. The heading of this section is the password you give to Illomo the Seer in the same game, who then gives you a mantra you need.

It’s not difficult to feel nostalgia for these old games, but when I load them up and look at those blocky, 8-bit graphics, of course I wonder how I ever played them at all. Well, it’s what I was accustomed to at the time. I genuinely believed back in the 90s that they were wonderful.

Incredible thing, nostalgia. I look back upon a lot of games I played 15-20 years ago with a wistful fondness. The first MMO I played to any length, Everquest, I often reflect back on with attachment. Gaming online – cooperatively – was very new then. I say cooperatively, as most of the online gaming with human interaction was with shooters such as Quake etc.

So I didn’t quite know how to react to certain people and occasions and I was a bit of a blowhard back then.

I got into it with a few people in Everquest, especially with one guy who had an interest in my wife. There was a hell of a lot of acting tough and hot-air generated threats, and I perpetrated some of it. Nowadays, people online laugh at that sort of thing – internet tough guy detected – or they make memes out of it.

So if I give that nostalgia close examination, my time in Everquest wasn’t as idyllic and fun as it initially seems. The game was also an horrific time sink requiring a major investment of time – it took a long time to do anything worthwhile in it. But that’s the allure of nostalgia. Some time ago, four of five years, I installed the game again and ran around on my wife’s wizard. Mixed feelings abound.

Cytherea alive

Random thoughts


Imagine if you will, that you get a new job somewhere…say, a baker in a bakery. You’re there for a few days and you get to meet the cast and crew of this workplace – some are new, some have been there maybe a year and others are veterans of the bread and cake making trade. Grizzled, hoary things of unenviable vintage.

One day, you turn out seventy loaves of new white bread and boy do they smell good. Your nearest workmate – let’s call her Alice – Alice has churned out ninety loaves of bread, and that’s the record she thinks a neophyte like you needs to better. But there’s another workmate – we’ll call him Gerry – Gerry points subtly to the old baker veteran up the end of the row and whispers, “But Harry there baked one hundred sixty loaves in one hit! and nobody else has ever come close to that.”

Everyone becomes reflectively silent as they take in this bit of breathless news. A quiet yet magnanimous respect for Harry descends on you and you regard him with new-found awe. One hundred and sixty mo-fucking loaves!.

160! What an unsurpassable effort! Insuperable! Harry is top dog in your smitten eyes now, big chief baker amongst bakers.

Of course, you’re no longer cognisant of the fact that before you joined the ranks of bakers, you wouldn’t have given a second’s thought about such an achievement.

I’m sure sociology has its own term for this, but I’m creative and made one up. This is a phenomenon I define as “relative heroism” and it occurs in nearly every workplace on Earth. The guy or girl who’s baked more in an hour, or arrested more criminals in a week, packed more cartons, sheared more sheep, cut more hair, served more beer, did the Kessel run quicker than Han Solo…

Elder Scrolls medals of valour

Relative heroism goes beyond the walls of the mundane workplace. It’s online too; ensconced in the virtual world. I was in a beta test for the game Elder Scrolls Online, and like most who applied to test it, I came into the beta fairly late, like a year after it commenced. Quite a few people had been accepted into the initial round of invites the developer issued, and some of these displayed the relative hero attitude. They’d been in beta for a year, therefore they were veterans; dogged, hardcore, burned-in veterans at that. So there was some condescending resentment towards the likes of myself, who was a “scrub”.

One went as far to suggest he had entitlements and perquisites with the game’s makers beyond what is probably normal in developer-tester relationship. He reasoned that the developers of the game owed him something for the time he’d put in.

He and his kith were heroes, almost of the war veteran kind, and felt they deserved some variety of reverential respect from beta-testing “scrubs” such as myself. Logically, and to the surprise of few, they didn’t get it.

Relative heroism.

Mee-gan

A piece of a free-form doggerel


Imagine if Megan went wandering somewhere…I don’t know, she left home one day, told her mother that it was too nice a day to sit inside and surf Facebook. So I came along and gave Ms Muffet oodles and acres of curds and whey.

The text editor I’m writing this with marks “Megan” as a spelling error. None of the variants I know render as acknowledged spelling either. Well, buggeration to that.

There are lots of Megans in the world, some taller than the others. Some live in the US, some hang out in the Ust Urt (or Ustyurt if you like). I wrote a story about a Megan, which is here for your pleasure. A rather salacious kind of Megan too, maybe for reasons that are mentally and socially unhealthy. I’ll revisit the life and times of that young lady one day(™). Or soon(™).

It’s a sere day

There’s this one expression in the English language that keeps an unwanted currency – all over bar the shouting. Really? If there’s still shouting in reference to the thing allegedly over, then – wait for it – it’s not over. So, it’s an inherently absurd statement. You hear it frequently with regards to sports, at least here in Australia. A team wins a close one and it spews forth: “all over bar the shouting”.

I’d dearly love to hear a commentator with wit take this execrable trite thing apart; something like “it’s all over bar the post mortem on the slab” or “it’s all over bar the post-coital cigarette”. But unfortunately we have no commentators with wit in Australia.

Blade Runner 2049 plot holes

Spoilers abound! Don’t read this if you haven’t seen the film.


  • As a civilian, how was Luv able to traipse into a police station and steal Rachel’s bones without being apprehended/shot/zapped or whatever?
  • As a civilian, how was Luv able to traipse into a police station and kill the lieutenant, after previously stealing bones, and killing the forensic scientist?
  • As a civilian, how was Luv able to deploy an armed drone and fire missiles?
  • For that matter, how are air vehicles allowed to carry armaments and use them in a public area?
  • K is a LAPD cop yet he pulls his badge out on the orphanage master, and the film states he’s in the San Diego area. Isn’t he out of his jurisdiction?
  • Why would Wallace want to send Deckard off-world to show him pain? Doesn’t a guy of his clout and power have the facilities on Earth? Since his enforcer Luv has already demonstrated a blase disregard for the law, why would it matter?
  • What made K so special that he had Deckard’s daughter’s memories implanted into him?
  • Joshi and Luv seem to have a history. How do they know one another?

I’m sure I’ll think of more as time goes by. I liked the film, despite its propensity toward artiness and consider it a worthy successor to the original.

A Richmond Range adventure

Please do not cite this blog post in a report or paper. It’s not peer-reviewed and is simply an informal account.


Between 23 August and 26 August 2017, I attended a camp for university at Cambridge Plateau, which is part of Richmond Range National Park, approximately 35 km west of Casino. Richmond Range is a dividing point between the watersheds of the Clarence River to the west, and the Richmond River to the east. Both of these rivers are part of what gives the Northern Rivers region its name. (The Tweed River is the other one).

We made camp at the picnic area at Cambridge Plateau, which is ordinarily not legally possible, but the NPWS of NSW has given the uni special dispensation as we were a research organisation and ultimately will be benefiting the national park (and environmental science in general).

Where we were:

Area map for Richomd Range NP

Area map for Richmond Range NP (Source: Google Maps)

The picnic ground is along the ridge, with a very scenic view facing eastward, and Mt. Warning (Wollumbin) could be seen if conditions were clear. Interestingly, the picnic ground is a transition between two biogeographical areas, with dry eucalypt forest to the south, and subtropical rainforest to the north. There are two scenic walks accessible from the picnic area, a short ten minute walk, and a longer, more challenging hour-long one.

The rainforest component of the national park has achieved World Heritage listing, and the visitor’s information signs at the picnic ground state that the entire park has among the highest biodiversity in Australia. During my stay at the picnic site, a lace monitor (Varanus varius) wandered in occasionally, and a red-necked wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus) was seen along the road to the south, in addition to the myriad of birds that could be heard, especially the sulphur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) with its ear-shattering shriek.

After setting up camp, we were briefed as to the activities and projects we would undertake, then we travelled to our assigned transects (ours was in the eucalyptus forest) and laid out Elliott traps and infrared motion detector cameras. The box traps were baited with a rolled ball of oats, peanut butter and honey.

Where I set up camp:

My tent at the site

My tent at the site

I did not have a great first night. My sleeping bag, which my youngest daughter currently uses as a doona, would not zip up, so I had to use it as a blanket. This was not very successful, as the cold from the ground seeped up through the inflatable mattress and made sleep a patchy affair. The net result was I had about three hours of productive sleep. So I was in a daze a good deal of the following day. Even with a mid-morning nap, I was feeling it throughout the day.

Anyhow, after breakfast, we went back to our designated transects and checked the traps. We retrieved the SD card from the camera, and found it had exhausted its batteries overnight (it operates on 6-12 AA batteries). So we caught nothing on camera there, but we had better luck with the Elliotts. We caught five animals from 25 traps, which gave us a 20% success rate. Four of the animals were the fawn-footed melomys (Melomys cervinipes), a native rodent and one Stuart’s antechinus (Antechinus stuartii), a marsupial. I never managed to get a photograph of the antechinus but here’s one of me holding a melomys. As is visible, its tail is longer than its body.

Yours truly and a captured melomys

Yours truly and a captured melomys

Like most rodents, the melomys is an omnivore, and is apparently an adept climber as one we released scurried straight up a tree. An interesting point about the antechinus is that it is semelparous, that is that the male has a single reproductive episode and then dies. The antechinus and a few related species among marsupials are the only mammals in which this occurs. As it happened, this time of year (August, late winter) is their breeding season, so the male antechinus we found was very feisty and highly-strung, and drew blood from its handler.

After checking the traps, we left them closed until the afternoon, where we re-opened them, as our programme called for trapping over two nights. Later that day we ventured down the same transects for a reptile survey, which mostly entailed us turning over logs and large branches. We saw a few reptiles, mainly small skinks and legless lizards. There were centipedes, millipedes and slaters (woodlice) as well. However our reptile count was below expectation, and we theorised this was due to low rainfall over the last month. In Casino, there has been 0.2 mm of rain in the month, which is the lowest in twenty years.

Also on the second day, we examined what bats were caught in the harp traps. The bats in question are microbats, carnivorous mammals generally smaller than their flying fox cousins. In fact, many of them are among the smallest mammals in existence. They are insectivorous, catching their prey on the wing by using echolocation. To facilitate this, many of them have elaborate ears and facial structures that have evolved for the purpose of sending and receiving the high-pitched frequencies.

The majority of echolocating microbats emit frequencies that are well above human ability to hear. We used a device known as a bat detector to hear their calls. This instrument bounces down the signal (often 40-55 kHz) to a frequency humans can hear. This little fellow below made a lot of noise while he was being measured.

The little forest bat (Vespadelus vulturnus) having his particulars measured.

The little forest bat (Vespadelus vulturnus) having his particulars measured.

Unfortunately, a number of captured bats died in the traps after antechinuses climbed into the trap receptacle and ate them. All up, we captured four different species of bat, and all surviving animals were released the following night.

In the evening of the second day we went spotlighting along the road near our transects. The object of this was to survey nocturnal arboreal mammals such as gliders and possums, and other creature we could see, such as owls. Along our transect, which was 250 m in length, we saw three greater gliders (Petauroides volans) in total. This species is renowned for simply staring back at a spotlight, whereas other glider species, and possums, tend to avert their eyes or get out of the way of the beam. The gliders we saw were 25-40 m high in the branches of the Eucalyptus trees upon which they feed. Their yellowish-white eyeshine is rather striking in the nighttime darkness.

I borrowed one of uni’s sleeping bags, and a neighbour gave me a blanket. That night, I slept infinitely better and woke on the third day feeling much happier about things. Firstly, we performed a bird survey along our transects, 20 m in from the road. Didn’t see much, but certainly heard a lot, especially the omnipresent belling from colonies of bell miners (Manorina melanophrys). These birds are problematical in the Australian bush, as they feed on the exudations (lerps) of psyllid bugs (a type of sap-sucking true bug of the insect order Hemiptera). They don’t eat the psyllids, but their territorial nature chases away smaller birds that do. The upshot of this is that psyllids flourish, and trees die from sap deprivation. This is known as Bell Miner Associated Dieback and is an increasing problem in the forests these birds dwell in. They are cryptic to see in the canopy, as their colouration matches the mottled green to yellow leaves of Eucalyptus well. Definitely one of the heard rather than seen creatures of the wild.

We then checked our Elliotts and found two female Stuart’s antechinuses, and two male bush rats (Rattus fuscipes). The latter is a very common species in the wild of Australia, though it avoids urbanised areas, which sets it apart behaviour wise from the exotic black rat (Rattus rattus). Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of either of these species. Since our ground-dwelling mammal capture regime was to last only two nights, we took the traps up, as well as the SD cards from the cameras.

Later that day, we had briefings on career paths for environmental scientists as well as an opportunity to draft the introduction and methods of the report that will come out of the camp. That evening we went on the second of our spotlighting excursions, but this time we performed it along a rainforest transect. Alas, we saw nothing, but this is to be expected. While rainforests are often touted as centres of biodiversity, this is largely true in the floral and invertebrate sense. Most of Australia’s arboreal mammals do not dwell in rainforest trees. However, there was incredible epiphyte growth in some of these rainforest trees, with one specimen almost covered in staghorn ferns (Platycerium superbum).

That night, the uni’s sleeping bag unzipped and wouldn’t re-zip properly, so I had a mixed experience. If/when I go camping again, I will definitely apply lessons learned. Before I went to bed, I had a chance to show off my star-gazing skills with a few people, pointing out Aquarius and Capricorn, et al, to them.

Rainforest habitat north of the picnic area

Rainforest habitat north of the picnic area

After one very cold night, we performed another bird survey, with much the same results. To add insult to injury, the zipper on my coat broke, making this outing a chilly enterprise. Then it was time for pack up, and we got everything in order to move out, leaving the picnic area and the environment the way we found it. All rubbish was taken out with us. There were no bins at the site, only two composting toilets, and as I mentioned at the beginning, camping is not usually done here hence the lack of facilities. So I was four days without a shower, and I enjoyed having one when I got home.

Withal, it was an enjoyable and educational experience, despite the cold and personal under-preparation for camping.  It’s certainly given me incentive to look forward to a career in environmental science, and seeing as I’m halfway through the last subject I need to graduate, that reality isn’t far away.

 

The Red Door memoriam (poetry)

Yes, I know – I’m a terrible blogger. I did say somewhere that I find the idea  and the execution of keeping a journal unnatural. If you see a diary writer, well I’m the person farthest from them. Anyhow, here’s a piece of free-form I dreamt up.


Scent is a powerful memory trigger

There’s no doubt about that

Red Door, elevated above all other

She walks past, and my mind reverses

To an office building in the nineties

A carefree time, a moneyed time

She wanted to be my counsellor

But who counsels the counsellors?

The ancestry reeked of Old Europe

One who could launch ships with a glance

So spake the legend, writ in water

In the end, we never even got on a boat

Yet we were a grand pair

Neither of us right or solid in the head

We talk, we talk, we talk, husky breathing

Two damaged souls groping for solace

Scream and rage, immature anger, Asperger’s stricken

But I wander close and there’s Red Door

Oh, how I want to be invited in

Friends with benefits, pre-meme, pre-trope

One evening I found a way

Not a well-travelled road, not even a path to follow

Trough and crest, peak and valley

That’s how that road was trodden

The highest high you are to me

But I don’t want to think about the lowest low

I made vows and compacts, half-spoken promises

Still that Red Door was closed

Even if I had unlocked it

It could never last, not even in semi-permanence

Doom, fate, karma, name it at will

It fled over the horizon, and the Red Door slammed shut

Icehouse – Primitive Man

I remember buying this on vinyl back on 1982, and hoping Icehouse had kept up the rocking new wave, borderline hard rock they did on their debut. Nope, no sirree. This is synth heavy, Linn drum-machine laden and very representative of the era it was released. Only one song here really rocks, and overseas releases didn’t even include it, and that’s Break These Chains.

The band that recorded the debut no longer existed, and though John Lloyd was still part of the band, he didn’t drum on this, and it’s all via  machine. More than any other record, this one could be labelled a Davies solo project. Davies still thinks he’s some lovechild of Ferry and Bowie here, and he never really sounded like himself on a record till Big Wheel, and that’s perhaps debatable too.

Bare-faced influences aside, Primitive Man grew on me. Apart from the obvious songs that were released as singles, there are tracks that have a slightly eerie edge even if Davies hadn’t intended such a thing. More than any other Icehouse album, this one goes into mystic places, if only briefly. The whole album has an “abandoned” feel to it, like it’s the soundtrack to empty, open spaces where humans no longer exist, and it’s not just Great Southern Land that conveys that. There’s only one filler track here and that’s Mysterious Thing, which sounds like a B-side. The remainder of the record varies for dreamy to hard rocking. It’s a widely ranging thing, but held back by production excesses and Davies’ imitating his favourite performers.

There’s a case to be made this is Icehouse’s second best record, though Big Wheel may have something to say there.

Choice cuts: Trojan Blue, Break these Chains, Street Cafe

howlers yo

« Older posts Newer posts »