Friday, December 26, 2003

Festive joy

Well, yesterday was grey (green if you're looking on the bright side) day, with a couple of deep red roses still in full bloom in the garden. And so mild that if it weren't also so wet, I'd've felt compelled to go out and mow the lawn which still hasn't stopped growing. I did have to haul more leaves out of the pond, and rake others off the lawn today, as well as topping up the bird feeders, and putting out the trash for tomorrow's collection.

As usual, we started the holiday Wednesday evening with a 5 course dinner with college friends - soup, fish, sorbet, traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings (ham, sausages in bacon, cranberry sauce, potatoes, parsnips, broccoli) , and pudding ablaze with brandy - and more in the brandy butter, mints and coffee (but none of the Chablis, Côtes de Rhone or Tokay as I was driving - chiz), which went in leisurely fashion until gone midnight. Then the obligatory visit to the in-laws - which would be better if it didn't involve driving M11, M25, A2 - I dislike motorway driving at the best of times, the M11 is the most boring road on this part of the planet, while the M25 is just nasty, and at dark they're both worse, even with only holiday traffic (while I'm doing a nice fuel efficient just under 60mph, there are flashy motors streaming past at at least 30mph above that); and of necessity again dry.

This year, through the magic of amazon.co.uk, I'd already put a wish list in place, which could be communicated to those who are not on-line, so there was only one shirt in an extreme plum purple fine grain corduroy (really!), and a couple chocolate bars (not being a chocolate eater) that I had to grin and accept - and the usual festive food basket containing a fair amount of normal plain Indian leaf tea (something I rarely drink - an occasional cup of something spicy and exotic after a cold autumn's session in the garden, perhaps - maybe half a dozen times a year, and even then not much more than scalded in the water, so most of the tannins are left in the leaf), which can be passed on. Now I just have to organise the obligatory visit to my parents, maybe catch up with the brother who may only live a few miles down the road, but whose news I usually catch up with from his website.

It was amusing to note that of the wish-list items, the Revengers Tragedy DVD, Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver, and Alastair Reynold's Absolution Gap and the second series of The Water Margin turned up, but no-one contaminated their own accounts with any of the anime or manga items...

Spent today reading Absolution Gap and not doing a lot else (especially, not doing eating, since I'm still waiting to feel hungry again after the last two days). I'd guessed after Redemption Ark that there would be two more volumes in this cycle, not one - and there was indeed a lot of material skipped between the last chapter and the epilogue which finessed the overall ending. Endings are always difficult as the resolution can never be as transformative to the reader as to the characters. In cases like this, where the story has grappled with things that affect the entire human race, and with big events happening on screen, endings that focus down just on a handful of characters and how their parts in the story turn out, where the camera pulls back from the battered, bloody, but unbowed protagonists and fades to black with all the mopping up still left to do, just leave me with a sense of anticlimax.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Did it!

For the first time in years, conditions were opportune for me to take advantage of the fact that the shortest working day fits inside the daylight hours of the almost shortest day, and I cycled in to work.

Setting out just about sun-up, with the crows cawing in the oak tree at the end of the road, it was a milder morning than many in October - T-shirt, with a denim shirt over that, completely un-buttoned, just to provide sleeves. In the overcast early light the various plastic Santas and snowmen looked drab and dispiriting. The snowmen are ironic given quite how mild and wet it was; and the Santas showed that this is indeed the festival of the patron saint of carbonated stimulant beverages.

For the last leg of the journey, along farm track into the side of the still under construction new villages, it was no suprise to find it muddy enough that it was better to walk than clog the wheels up with gritty mud. And no surprise that the pathway had been mucked around with again, and had been re-routed.

But all in all it was marvellous. I really miss the endorphins from the exercise. Roll on mid-March, when the days are long enough again - and the current project has to have completed.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

At the nadir

Only a few hours now from solstice.

It's easy to see why there are mid-winter festivals - a little bit Things can only get better... from times past, Saturnalia and Yule, however later rebadged. And why folk Down Under express a wish for a mid-year festival for their midwinter. And why the suicide rate peaks at this time of year in lands further north yet.

Thursday, the frost was like a dusting of snow, barely below freezing, and bright in the sun; frustration at work gets taken out at the gym - a personal best on the rowing machine of 2 miles (3218m) in 14:41. Friday was milder but duller, and Saturday opened with heavy rain, and the streetlights on a half hour or more after sunrise. Today was brighter, with sun for much of daylight hours, but not many of those - under 7h 45m from rise to set - and the strong wind chill from the North, so raw, even if the air temperature was well above freezing at about 6C. There's a promise of snow in the next day or so.

Saturday, town was very quiet - no problem parking, no crowds when going for brunch, some economic therapy, and a panettone for Thursday's breakfast. Today, going for another workout, more cars in the car-park, and many more people about when I went to top up on cash.

Meanwhile, the festive inanities continue, with self-appointed style gurus on the radio telling us what we should be hanging from our trees this year (apparently tinsel is well out of fashion). Over recent days at work, when I've been considering something along those lines, it would require a much more substantial tree than the usual miniature spruce. And a hempen rope. Unfortunately, improving company productivity by permanently eliminating folk who have demonstrated positively Soviet levels of value subtraction over the last year isn't looked on kindly even under American hire-and-fire employment legislation.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

A lifetime of flight

A century on from Kittyhawk, people are still queueing up to do this thing.

My first flights were to and from Glasgow from London - what I was doing when JFK was shot was taking a BEA flight to Heathrow. My next flight was in late '65 as a £10 pom, 48 hour long-haul in a Vickers Viscount (a turbo-prob job), London-Kuwait-Columbo-Singapore-Perth, with the Columbo to Singapore leg going through (it couldn't go over) a tropical storm, with passengers praying in the aisles as we were thrown around, up and down, in the turbulence, the wings flapping, and some of the passengers helping a stewardess hold a mattress over the leaky seal of the rear cabin door.

The next time I flew was in 1985, a business trip to Rome. In the early 90's a number of short-haul flights to Amsterdam (starting with the Worldcon in 1990), and Paris (for transfer to rail and thence cycling holidays until the Eurostar was available - much more comfortable and convenient, and much less chance for luggage to get lost). 1992 Jordan and back to see Petra (and realising that I prefer to be in a developed country even on holiday), 1995 to Melbourn on business, 1996 New Zealand to see relatives, 1999 Dublin on business, 2001 and 2002 business trips to Florida.

I hope I can keep the number of flights down similarly over the next 40 years.

Nearing the turn...

A still, cold morning, temperature averaging -2, some thin strips of mist. If it were like that a week from now, ideal for cycling on the shortest (working) day. But a week from now is long enough for the next weather pattern to change.

Meanwhile, the approaching Solstice is marked by my having to roll the blinds down to elbow height so that I can see what I'm doing on my screen when the sun is out.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Bright today

Only a few shreds of cloud on the eastern horizon. Stars showing as I set off, temperatures just above freezing. The sky lightens to an almost colourless dawn, throwing a cool white light off the buildings and landscape ahead of me. By the time I get to work, stars are not visible; Jupiter needs searching for, near the waning half moon.

For the record

What a weekend - first the Queen goes into hospital to avoid having to knight Mick Jagger; then on Saturday, the unlovely EU Constitution runs into the sand, if not, alas, the rocks. And Sunday, only 15 years late, Saddam is captured.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Decisions, decisions

There was a piece in the news recently about how intelligent animals display signs of indecision. I have to conclude that there are two types of indecision, since our fluffy ginger cat is an archetypal beautiful but thick animal. His bouts of indecision seem to be more a matter of getting from zero alternatives to one, rather than refining two or more down - except when he can't decide which door to come in by and sits outside squeaking his usual pathetamew.

Red sky at dawning...

Getting to work at about 07:40, dawn was like a conflagration, handsbreadth high, of intense red, just shading into orange near the horizon. And the weather forecast is for rain to arrive this a.m. and continue until tomorrow afternoon.

With the eccentricity of the Earth's orbit, evenings stop drawing in about now, but sunrise continues to be later up to the New Year. So we're getting close to the nadir now, but with one measure - the more obvious one to me, getting up in the dark - making things more miserable for a while yet.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Writer's Block

It's amazing what things will cause the juices to flow, and what not. This a.m. I've spent doing end-of-year self-appraisal, which is one of those regular events that really causes the flow of words to dry up. It's not even the sort of thing that can be worked around by cut-and-paste.

On a lighter note, I'm now about 3500 words - about 1/3 the way - into the latest chapter of Castles in the Sky, the words coming in slow fits and starts since the summer. Meanwhile on Sunday last I just dashed off 2500 words of Dirty Pair fanfic in a couple of hours. Ease and merit of writing output don't correlate.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Network junkie

Getting into work today, I discovered that the network linking us to other sites was out, and we had only one ISDN's worth of connectivity to the outside world. It's amazing quite how little work can get done without being on line these days. Even simple things like looking up HTML standards - no-one has them in dead tree form, when there's w3.org just a click of a mouse away.

Winter Wonderland

Well, for the first time in ages, it was frosty today, with bright winter sunshine. I hate to think what it would have been like setting out at ~07:30 as usual in the misty grey half-light of a cloudless winter dawn. Going in late, it was still -3C at the coldest; but the air was damp enough that within seconds of scraping the screen clear, it had frosted up again.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Man is the measure

One interesting thing I've noticed over the years is how RPGs tend to work from the author as norm, and what is actually human doesn't always fit. At under 150cm in height, Lee Gold (Alarums and Excursions, Land of the Rising Sun, GURPS: Japan, Lands of Adventure) never finds herself on other peoples' height/weight charts. Neil Taylor, a gamer friend of mine from college days, was surprised to find that he only fitted as a Melnibonean on the original Stormbringer height/weight charts. Ron Wheelhouse, another college friend, had such poor night vision that as well as at times having to help him through dimly lit parts of various Cambridge colleges, I found that I rated somewhere between elf and dwarf in his nightsight tables. And the 100kg normal human from Hero System is more an upper bound than a mean.

And it's not only what makes a human. It's the ecology too. A lot of USAn material assumes USAn ecology, with funny stuff like poison ivy or critters like racoons (but it's not only games - see also the live action 101 Dalmatians for a racoons near London episode), rather than old world bestiaries. Glorantha has shedloads of New World material - pumas, maize, potatoes.

And the climate. OK, the UK does have a fairly anomalous climate, in terms of mild winters at high latitudes (until the North Atlantic Convergence chokes). But I just discovered one that had passed me by. It's about the Wastes, east of Prax in Genertela in Glorantha. Historically, my reading of these has been rather like the Red Center of Australia (or perhaps the Tekla Makan desert of Central Asia), with Prax being like the West Australian acacia scrub.

But the other day I read The Book of Drastic Resolutions : Prax for the first time since burn-out, and looked at the climate descriptions there. The wastes are supposed to have 20" rainfall a year, almost all in the winter half.

Hello?

I live in East Anglia. It's the grain and sugarbeet arable heart of UK farming. It has an annual rainfall of 18" a year (semi-desert - real desert starts at 12" or below); again mainly in the winter, with summer thunderstorms. That's a whole different take on the Wastes as being mainly just steppeland, south of the snowline.

That's before we consider that the Heortlings (standard skills including snowshoe use) live to the south of the inveterate toga wearers of Dara Happa. IMG, at least, Sartar is more like the Yorkshire Dales in terms of climate - but the cool is due to altitude and being south of the Solar equator, which passes through Dara Happa.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Too busy

All of a sudden, after a couple of years when stuff I've been working on in the pre-product line has always been handed over to other teams for integration and release, my team is currently actually going to go directly to release. This means back-filling all the process documentation while simultaneously shepherding the product through test.

So posting is likely to be light into the new year.

Road Rage

Rain absolutely bucketing down on the way to work this morning, puddles all over the road, showing all the unevennesses of the surface - especially the "tram-lines" worn by the passage of traffic. And still there are drongos who think that it's good conditions for doing 60mph along winding country lanes. I wish they'd all go somewhere else to try killing themselves.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Sad bunny...

Where, I wonder, is the transition between over-grown adolescent and dirty old man?

After a couple of years where, though I had a DVD drive on my home computer, I didn't actually use it as such, only its CD-R capabilities, this autumn, I've started to spend more time in front of the virtual square-eyed monster - as noted previously, I gave up the TV in the '80s because I resented paying the TV Tax for the rubbish on air, and that was just before video players became mainstream rather than luxury goods, so I never got into the habit of watching movies at home.

In the past, I've often used the 20:00-22:00 slot after supper and before bed as hacking time, working on one freeware project or another, so a movie would overwrite the bulk of that slot; but my home coding usually goes inversely to the amount of coding (as opposed to design) I'm doing at work, and this autumn that rule has meant no drive to cut code after hours. So the evening becomes a bit of mail filtering, any downloads I've identified, and then it's about 9pm, so there's a slot where I can fit in something a bit more bite-sized, like the odd episode of The Water Margin, or yielding to watching girls'n'guns anime.

And it's the latter that prompted the original question. I mean, how sad is it to go trawling for freeware region-free DVD playing programs for Windows just to be able to make use of disks that were only issued in the region 1, some time in the mid-90s, and so I don't have to reboot into Linux to use them. At the moment I'm using the VideoLan client, which may not be the slickest player around, but does have the advantage of playing Region 1 disks while leaving the drive "cherry" (as the Yanks would put it). And all to watch episodes of Original Dirty Pair [who do look better in motion - hair especially - than when still, though I still hew to my original discovery of the two, and consider the early Adam Warren visualization as the best of the canonical-costume versions].

But if that wasn't sad enough, I actually went out trawling fan sites, and stumbled across an on-line translation on line of the first of the Dirty Pair original treeware-published stories - The Great Adventure of.... I don't know how old and what experience the author had when he wrote it, but it reads like my own teenage juvenilia (prior to the stuff I kept and have put on-line) in its simplicity of plot and character motivation - but at the same time shot through with touches of promise - or at least things where from the viewpoint of 20+ years on, one can see hints at the use of tropes that didn't come into the SF genre until much later, for all that it is laced with solidly retro spaceship-fiction tropes too.

Perhaps it has to do with the optimism and vitality of the Japanese economy at the time (when it was going to rule the world) which moved over to the States in the 90's, and fuelled the ever-Higher Beyond feeling that permeates the Adam Warren comics.

Grumbles

From time to time at work I'm called upon to do interviews. And for that reason, I'm entirely unhappy with certain aspects of government policy.

I'm ashamed that a government from a generation of people who benefited from free university education, including a maintenance grant are simultaneously kicking away the ladder that allowed those, like myself, from poorer backgrounds, to get an advantage in life that my parents never had, while diluting the worth of a degree. On the former, I know I'd have been very reluctant to take on the size of debt that a modern student when not in a position of knowing what I'd be doing afterwards that could hope to clear the balance. On the latter, if your aim is to get 50% of the year cohort through higher education, and allowing for the bright entrepreneurial sparks who go and make money instead, that means you're going to be - by definition - opening the doors to people with 2-figure IQs.

To cope with that courses - certainly in the computing arena - seem to be caught by the need not to fail too many of the marginal cases. This leaves us with new graduates - even those with new-minted M.Sc.s by examination on a one year course [sub grumble - my M.Sc. was a cashing in of a Ph.D. thesis that got credited for two years worth of work, since my 2nd year was spent going around in circles beating on an apparently intractable paradox. That's a real degree.] - who really don't have much of a clue.

Oh for the days of 15-20% intake where the students could be stretched, without worrying about how to pay for a second-rate qualification.

Oh, what a beautiful morning...

Setting out just after 07:30, the sunrise was a red band in the rear-view mirror; the rest of the sky was grey, textured with fractured cumulostratus. A couple of miles on, and the rear-view was rose, gold and lavender; another mile, and the gravestones in the churchyard ahead were glowing tangerine, while the palest pinks had leapt past overhead, and were now to be seen on all the clouds around. Another couple of miles, and all the rear view was hot gold. Two miles further, and red brick buildingd were glowing in the first horizontal light of the risen sun, and the trees burnished with fiery light.

And then the sun rose past the window beneath the cloud layer, and all the colours faded.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Let it rain...

What a weekend - two solid days of grey and rain, the light going not that long after 15:00. It was nice four weeks back that the drought broke after some months, and the garden - and water table - need a lot of gentle just-more-than-drizzle to replenish over the autumn; but this was a bit much. We'd been spoilt with the previous dry weekends into actually doing some tidying of the garden. Now we have the soggy state that left the compost unused for previous years because the garden wasn't in a state to receive it.

So I spent a lot of time at the computer - extracting user facing strings from FOX 1.1.41, so it can be localized; a topic that no-one on the foxgui mailing list has ever raised - which speaks well for the US idea that international means including Hawaii and Alaska too...

And then doing a lot of fiddling with HeroQuest character sheets, and watching some DVDs.

Wet weather also meant a lot of alternately stir-crazy and soggy moggies. *sigh*

Friday, November 21, 2003

Blah

It's the last rag end of autumn fading in dull grey into winter. My mood tells me that I've not been getting enough sunlight these last couple of days, so it's going to have to be SAD-hat time for the next few evenings at least.

Not that the world is helping. Setting aside imbecilities perpetrated by some of my colonial colleagues - not quite as bad as last year where tooth-grinding annoyance led to dental work - there's the whole world. If I put on the radio in the car, I have the choice of popular music stations (which seem to be 60+% motormouth presenters who are too full of themselves and seem to belive that we live for the sound of their voices, 20+% unlistenable music - manufactured pap or shouty stuff - and the rest mostly harmless), news and current affairs (which is either depressing [terrorism], boring [media self consumption - celebrity stuff, however masked as investigative journalism], or both [Westminster politics]), so in increasing Grumpy Old Git-dom, I end up listening to the Third Programme - which is fine when it's plain classical, or world music, but I still really, really, cannot stand opera, lieder and jazz that's sung in that sort of style.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

More politics

A few days ago, I did the Political Compass test. Following that one, I discovered another, which is collecting results as before.

I end up aligned pragmatic-left, which is a surprise, since I find that my views are usually closely allied with the Economist, which is gung-ho free trade.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

All change...

After some thought, Peter and Janet have decided to swap, chop and change characters. Peter is now intending to play the same sort of weakling character, but as a hunter, and initiate to Odayla, while Janet will play the merchant, and initiate to the default-weirdo cult for such things of Issaries. And I'd had such hopes for the original ideas. For one thing they all had mythic antipathies to Darkness. Ho hum.

Keeping a tradition alive

It's always been assumed (at least since campaigns became more than a dungeon which characters appeared in out of a between-time limbo) that in FRPGs, the PCs are misfits and trouble-makers. This was amply proved again the other night when I started character generation for some HeroQuest.

At the moment it's only Karen, Peter and Janet. Young Elizabeth was too busy writing a D&D 3e character generation program in VB4 with all the tables of skills and what-not in Access; and at not yet 11 she was demonstrating hacker persistance in extending and fixing it until, after much convincing, she agreed it was time for bed. [I must say I was impressed - if one ignores the fact that she's used a lurid colour scheme, and assumes a given screen resolution, it's actually a well featured and systematic program.]

I started by running them across a version of the on-line clan generator, stopping before the Lunars come on the scene, as that's when I want to start the campaign. They managed to build a clan that was Balanced when Heort showed the way; it ended up in modern times as a Peace clan, but one whose favourite gods included Urox and Humakt! This game it's not only the PCs who are going to be odd...

At that point we started the first bit of the character descriptions - filling in the blanks in the initial "[Name] is a Heortling [profession]. [Pronoun] is a [relationship] to [deity]."

So after a couple of hours explanations, discussions, and passing books around, we have

  • a merchant, initiated to Desemborth the Sly Breeze - according to Peter's outline of character concept (the words still have to be firmed up) he's an avowed non-fighter, and disappointment to his family. So having lighted on the thief sub-cult of Orlanth as the obvious complement to his profession, but really not wanting all the Combat affinity and expected skills of the usual location as part of the Adventurous aspect, and not being respectable enough for Allfather, will have to reach Orlanth though his Thunderous aspect instead.
  • a hunter, initiated to Gavren the Hunter, the subcult of Yinkin the Cat.
  • a warrior, initated to Vingamakt the Defender (Vinga with sub-cults of Defender Storm and the Orlanth Thunderous sub-cult of Helamakt the Warrior Storm).

This leaves them all with 89 words to use; and I can see the two latter characters picking up alynx followers or sidekicks.

I was intending to start off with some of the material from Barbarian Adventures, modified for a starting date in the 1590s - but with the majority of the players being female, and the PCs being same-gender, the sections that assume the default all male (even in the modern-day when that's only usually the Orlanthi all) party, will be, shall we say, interesting.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Kids these days

Visiting friends with children this weekend, I was astonished as always at how messily kids seem to eat these days. I've seen some who were already at school, but at meal times would be wrapped up in a plastic gown to keep the spillage from their clothes. My earliest recollections of eating properly (i.e. with knife, fork and spoon) were at about age 3, when I know I was scraping dishes clean to get every last scrap. Perhaps kids are being fed too much simply accidentally, so they have no incentive to worry about waste.

Though the particular messy eater in question has other naughty habits. On a previous visit, he started pawing at the pie put out for dessert while dishes were being fetched, and was told off. This time he was doing it again, reaching out with the fork he'd kept from main course (he being the last to finish eating), claiming, when told off that it was because he was still hungry that he was wanting to help himself. I pointed out that if that were true, there was a lot of his dinner still on the table around him for him to eat, and was told "I can't eat that. It might be rotten."

Someone, it seems, is overdoing the food hygiene message, methinks, if a six-year-old is parroting such.

Autumn

The garden is continuing to subside slowly. The apple trees shed all their leaves, bar those on the newest growth, over the last week, and the California Poppies have at last stopped flowering. The fuschias continue to bloom as are the pelargoniums on the patio, and I needed to do some finger-and-thumb work on some of the rose-buds that are starting to open, to remove the continued aphids.

Clearing the dead parts of the escholzias and some weeds from the front did make room for a thick mulching with the composted elder plus clematis from the pollarding in late May, which means that there's now room in the garage to move even with the two wheelie bins.

Road improvements

I'm getting rather hacked off with Halifax Visa - they used to send my statements out to arrive at the beginning of the month, so I had a couple of weeks to get around to paying. Recently they've started sending them out later (dated the 3rd, arriving on the 11th) with a due date of the 22nd, less the week or so to allow for archaic sloth in the banking clerance system.

This month, the statement didn't arrive until Saturday lunchtime the 15th, so needed paying the same day to allow the recommended delay. Fortunately, it was a nice day, so I took the opportunity to get on my bike and cycle into town to my bank to pay it in.

This being the first time for a few weeks that I'd been on my bike, the first thing I noticed was exactly how quickly one gets out of the habit - a month ago, it would have been just as natural as walking round the corner. This time it felt a bit like work.

Also in the interim, two things had happened along the route. First, the National Hedgelaying Championships had been held next to the cyclepath, so now rather than having a hedge made of wrist-thick trees a couple of man-heights tall, there is chest-high plaited hedge all around a junction where a 'B' road joins the 'A' road that the cyclepath follows, with the left turn being a nigh-on 120 degree angle. Having the visibility on what was a blind corner is great.

Further on, the cyclepath goes by the side of the road over the M11, and where it goes up to the bridge on either side, the soil has been subject to subsidence. The path was just about cyclable for about a handsbreadth from the kerb where it joined the bridge, there otherwise being a serious step; and on the town-ward side, the path is starting to slide down the slope to the left. In the same intervening period, a line of blocks has been placed narrowing the road, so that cyclists could use the meter-strip at the edge of the road instead of the cyclepath. I had fondly assumed that as a couple of weeks had elapsed, the repair work would be well advanced. But no. All that's been done is to put in a dropped kerb at each side of the bridge and a diversion sign. So much for a transport policy to encourage the cyclist.

Please give (blood) generously

Friday night it was time to take Smoke back to the vets for another blood test for hyperthyroid, and a repeat prescription. Last time, the sample was taken from a vein in his throat while he was under for the dental work also being done. This time he was conscious, and is back up to 6kg, filling out from being almost all skin and bone.

So as the vet advances on his right forearm with the scissors to clip back the fur, he starts to retreat. An assistant is called in to hang onto said hind limbs. Smoke starts to howl, with all the resonance of a large chested (ex-)tom, and flail with the other forepaw. So I hang onto that, as the vet tries to get the needle into a vein.

At this point I become very glad that Smoke no longer has his two top canines, as he sinks his teeth into the back of my hand, and keeps them there while the vet has to make a second puncturing of the skin to actually find the vein. At this point, Smoke loses bladder control - and being a big cat, he did not do this by halves (even when just spraying to mark territory, he lets fly with spoonsful) "<Expression of surprise> - he's pissing for England here!" was the vet's reaction.

By now a little blood had accumulated in the sample tube - maybe a quarter of a cc at most - and probably about the same as I'd now leaked, so we called a halt, while I was directed over to the vet's scrubbing sink and heavy duty surgical antiseptic wash. At least that meant that the vet and her assistant were left to mop up.

I then had to go back and wait until the test results came out, since we only had a couple of days worth of pills left, so we could get a proper repeat prescription, and the other folk asked wonderingly what had been going on. Smoke had stopped bleeding long before, but my hand was still oozing slowly.

Upshot was that he was now down to low-normal thyroid levels, so we could back off to one pill a day. Fortunately they are the size and colour of large red lentils, so dosing Smoke isn't too much of a pain, especially now that he associates the ordeal with being fed the extra tasty senior-cat formula food, though if he starts to look scrawny again we'll go back up to two for a while - overdoing the dosage just leads to a fat and lazy hypothyroid cat, rather than anything serious.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Martial Arts Carnage

A few days ago, I wrote about having bought the first season's worth of the Water Margin on DVD. The show was shown at least 3 times on TV from the early '70s to the early '80s, and on the last showing, at least, had been cut by at least 5 minutes per episode.

The cuts usually removed bits that might be considered to be a little gory - so when I saw that the package was digitally remastered, and given a 15 certificate, I'd hoped I was getting the complete version.

Alas, no!

Watching disk 2 last night, the flashback start of episode 4 showed Lin Chong's fatally wounded wife stumbling into the river, with the water going red all about her - but the previous episode had been entirely sanitized. Also missing from ep 4 was Hu San Niang's younger sister taking down all but one of the ruffians who accosted her using her blowpipe, leaving the last to cringe; and the confrontation between the sisters ("I am as good as you are, elder sister." "Go home anyway, younger sister." "Let's fight!" dagger parries darts and the elder sister betters the younger) leaving a scene where we see the elder holding a dagger at the younger's throat, and then the younger riding off with a comment of "She'll do what she's told, now." which would be mystifying to anyone who didn't remember 30 years back to the un-cut version.

Admittedly, having watched this sort of thing as a teen, it's possibly not surprising that I didn't find the rather clinical violence in Kill Bill to be particularly gruesome.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Quiz stuff

Trying the test at http://www.mindmedia.com/brainworks/profiler gave me the following, which, in the text form, does seem to fit (at least as well as the average horoscope:) ) :-

Your Brain Usage Profile

Auditory : 38%
Visual : 61%
Left : 75%
Right : 25%

Steve, you are somewhat left-hemisphere dominant and show a preference for visual learning, although not extreme in either characteristic. You probably tend to do most things in moderation, but not always.

Your left-hemisphere dominance implies that your learning style is organized and structured, detail oriented and logical. Your visual preference, though, has you seeking stimulation and multiple data. Such an outlook can overwhelm structure and logic and create an almost continuous state of uncertainty and agitation. You may well suffer a feeling of continually trying to "catch up" with yourself.

Your tendency to be organized and logical and attend to details is reasonably well-established which should afford you success regardless of your chosen field of endeavor. You can "size up" situations and take in information rapidly. However, you must then subject that data to being classified and organized which causes you to "lose touch" with the immediacy of the problem.

Your logical and methodical nature hamper you in this regard though in the long run it may work to your advantage since you "learn from experience" and can go through the process more rapidly on subsequent occasions.

You remain predominantly functional in your orientation and practical. Abstraction and theory are secondary to application. In keeping with this, you focus on details until they manifest themselves in a unique pattern and only then work with the "larger whole."

With regards to your career choices, you have a mentality that would be good as a scientist, coach, athlete, design consultant, or an engineering technician. You can "see where you want to go" and even be able to "tell yourself," but find that you are "fighting yourself" at the darndest times.

An enneagram test tells me I am Type 1w9, Social:

Conscious self
Overall self
1w9
3w2
Enneagram Test Results
Type 1 Perfectionism |||||||||||||||| 66%
Type 2 Helpfulness |||||||||| 34%
Type 3 Ambition |||||||||||||| 58%
Type 4 Sensitivity |||||||||||||| 54%
Type 5 Detachment |||||||||||||||| 62%
Type 6 Anxiety |||||||||| 38%
Type 7 Adventurousness |||||||||||| 42%
Type 8 Hostility |||||||||||| 42%
Type 9 Calmness |||||||||||||| 54%
Your Conscious-Surface type is 1w9
Your Unconscious-Overall type is 3w2
Take Free Enneagram Personality Test

Much ado about nothing

So the tabloids are whipping themselves into a frenzy, while a certain royal servant is keeping his head down. It was the same years back with Camilla vs. that awful selfish manipulative plastic Barbie-doll royal broodmare (of whom, good riddance*). And all this is supposed to be shaking the rotten edifice of the monarchy to its core!

These people have no sense of history. When we have the shining examples of Henry VIII and Edward II to look back on, to name but two, what's going on with Big-Ears is hardly novel. I'm personally more concerned with his talking to trees and general mystic noodling.

While I am, as an Englishman of my generation, loyal to the core to Her Majesty Elizabeth II of England, I really don't feel the same about the available successors. That said, any of them would be better than President Thatcher or Rev. Prez. Tony, which is the sort of thing that we'd be in line for if we got rid of the current rebadged House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

[* - My most ambiguous 40th birthday present - her funeral, which rather disrupted trying to get beer in for the party and surprised me in the creepy mourninger than thou hysteria, when my first reaction to the news on the Sunday evening previous had been "Ding dong, the bitch is dead!". Any other week, and Mother Theresa's** death would have been headlined, not bumped to the end of the news bulletins.]

[** - yes, I know that particular idol also had feet of clay - I'm more trying to look at the normal priority things would have been accorded.]

Remember, Remember

Saturday was the village fireworks and bonfire. This is a good place to get rid of the large bits of burnable waste that build up over the year. This time it was the results of pollarding an elder tree whose outer branches were mainly dead and some rotten. All the stuff <1" in section and the creeper growing up it were shredded and is now composting down in a dozen bin-liners in the garage, but the main branches were left intact - about a dozen or so pieces.

With a small car, this would be awkward to transport, so I usually tie the tow rope to big bits and just drag them the few hundred yards. But this year there were about a dozen such bits. So I sawed up the bits up to about 2" thickness to fit in the green wheelie-bin (which is now full again for the collection on the 21st), and only had half a dozen lumps, which went as one on each end of the rope, and one carried.

Other people were using trailers to bring in smaller amounts of hedge clippings and the like - exactly the sort of stuff I'd shred and compost myself, or, nowadays, put in the green bin.

And as Sunday started fine, it was also time to do something about the compost, as the previous two wet autumns had meant I'd not actually deployed any, and the bins were getting full to bursting - hence the overflow into the garage. The vegetable bed (apart from where the broccoli is growing) is now heavily layered with most of one heap, and the bed under the lilac tree that gets the full summer sun, and is generally parched and poor quality soit the rest, and much of another. Apart from a few feathers, that second pile has done a good job of reducing the carrion from uneaten cat kills (mainly pigeons and squirrels) to useful organic material.

I recall reading some years back a pathologist saying that the average compost heap was better than an acid bath for getting rid of unwanted bodies, and in the limited case at hand, I can say that he was right.

Now we have the green bins, input of prunings and grass clippings will reduce, except as to leaven the wet waste that isn't accepted - things like windfall apples from next-door's tree that always leaves a cider-smelling horizon in the bins - things may get more under control, though there is currently about a bin's worth of rotted material still to deploy, and two bins each about half-full of the un-rotted material from the tops of each heap, as well as the stuff from the garage.

Some of that latter will probably all go in the front garden, where the bed in the centre is almost sandy in texture, once the escholzia's finally stop flowering, and can be pulled up.

Steve talks politics - shock

Reading London Lifer the other day (6-Nov-03) I spotted a reference to the Political Compass test to locate you on a left/right vs authoritarian/libertarian scattergram; and a collection that is plotting such a scattergram for the blogosphere.

I plotted out as just about centre on the left/right axis (+0.38), and weakly libertarian (-2.1). On another such quiz I saw some years back, which cut off the corners of the Political Compass diagram to give a diamond, I came out about 1/4 the way from the libertarian pole towards left. I think it was this one, or something a lot like it.

Participatory democracy for me is a bit of a non-event. Save for the heady years of the mid-80s where I lived in a 3-way marginal constituency in Stevenage, my vote has been in one solid Tory seat after another - the current one is, to first approximation, 50% Tory, 25% Liberal, 25% Labour. Only in local council elections has my vote ever counted towards anything that might be considered as "voting the bastards out".

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Welcome to the future

In the '60s the future was holidays on the moon, space stations and monorails everywhere. By the 1970s, it was doom gloom, resource crises and all the rest of the Club of Rome Limits to Growth scenario.

So it's well past 2001, and I have seen the space station go over, though I can't catch a scheduled PanAm flight up there just at the moment. And it looks like we're more into the 2nd of the Limits to Growth scenarios - take off resource input restraints, and it's pollution that chokes things off. So inter alia our local council is having a go at killing both birds with one stone and imposing a fairly draconian waste policy.

As a consequence, I spent some time this morning sawing up corrugated cardboard boxes to fit into the new green recycling wheelie-bin that we had delivered yesterday, for tomorrow morning's collection. The bins were supposed to be deleivered a couple of weeks before the first collection using them, but that's the way things are, so I had to make use of the only intervening daylight to go through the accumulation of "not recyclable yet" stuff from the garage that now could be put out.

There is a bit of the "living in the future" about going through all the bins and putting plastics, used cat-litter and other insanitary stuff into one pile, paper into another, card another, metals in yet another, and glass in another. Just not the future that I'd been hoping for when small.

The new wheelie-bin scheme will have collections of green waste and other recyclables one week, and the non-recycled the other - which means that if you're away on holiday on a black-bin week, the waste will be 4 weeks old when finally collected. I just hope that the rigorous separation will reduce the amounts above the irreducible non-recyclables so that 3 weeks worth will fit in a bin. The green bins are useful, though, as the garden generates more compostable waste than I can make use of, so having an official way of handing off rose prunings, grass clippings and similar compostables will eventually free up some space in the set of compost heaps behind the garden shed.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Eastern delights

One of the good things about DVDs is that I can watch films at home without needing a TV. And not only films. I indulged myself a little at the weekend - going up to London and visiting the Virgin Consumatorium in Oxford Street I picked up the collected boxed set of The Water Margin first season, a bit of nostalgic TV history for me - and, I suppose, many of my generation as teens in the '70s. Watching the first two episodes showed that yes, they are as much fun as I remembered. And this looks not to be the butchered-for-rerun version that removed the slight amounts of gore. [But then I didn't find Kill Bill to be terribly gory, either.]

I also tried another oft recommended martial arts movie (Zu : Warriors of the magic mountain) and decided that even the good ones are rubbish. This makes it 3 strikes and out for this genre as far as I'm concerned, as I do tend to prefer to have some level of narrative flow connecting the scenes (even as perfunctory as Hollywood is at the same, it manages better than this).

And as a sheer bit of silliness, the first two Dirty Pair - Flash disks, which were entirely fun, if not at all serious (the second being an excuse to send the team through a whole set of stock 1990s-setting anime clichés). Having first met the Lovely Angels in the pages of Adam Warren's comics from Dark Horse, I'd always been more of a Yuri fan (even though his new fat-lips version is not the same as the one I lighted on originally); but in DP-Flash, I found I had switched sides. And, I must say, I prefer this of the visualisations I've seen of the pair - the original Warren costumes had at least a pretense of function, and so are still the best of the original concept visualisations, but his recent ones are just superhero spray-ons more extreme than even Emma Frost's outfit. The stills I've seen of the Original videos series show the girls with hairstyles looking more like a Lifeguard's bearskin, which is just plain ugly.

Autumn

Leaf fall is at its height now, so driving me out every morning in the early light to clear leaves out of the pond. It's really being mild at the moment, sufficiently so that this morning, I startled frogs that had been sitting on the side of the pond, and not hiding in the warmer depths.

The trees on the way to work are half-way bare now, but the ones still in leaf are magnificently golden. Meanwhile the apples are still in full green leaf, and the few leaves on the plums are more green than yellow.

Too few hours

Having spent a week on holiday (so away from the always-on Internet) had the expected effect on the posting frequency, especially when I got engrossed in other things. Passive consumption of old media, or ruminations about what I might do in an HeroQuest game aren't the stuff of great blogs. And then when I got to work, a project I had expected would have been handed over to another team to complete has been bounced back, so I'm neck deep in work.

For anyone who's interested, the old cat is doing well - putting on weight now, and being right spoilt by having the individual servings of Senior cat food (which clearly taste better than the average run of meatblob) - and not too distressed by the twice daily dosing. He's filling out so the ribs don't show, and the spine is a lot less bony when you stroke his back.

Monday, November 03, 2003

That time again

Well, at least the blasted Yankified import of Halloween has been and gone - this year only one little kid in a Scream costume, and accompanying mum, who got the usual couple of apples saved from the home grown crop and a couple of satsumas. Last year there were 3 teens, who got a bit more than that.

I do like giving out fruit. If people are going to join in this custom which has been going on over here for less than a decade (pumped by the greetings-card industry and US TV imports), then the expectations can at least be subverted.

But now it's fireworks fortnight - no longer just the 5th and maybe an adjacent Saturday. The sooner fireworks get restricted to professional displays, the better, if people can't keep them to just the day, and thus cats have to be kept in for the night for days on end.

At least the village bonfire on Saturday will give me the chance to dispose of a lot of garden debris (bits of pollarded elder tree, mainly) that have accumulated over the past year.

A week of autumn

Took last week off to to a lot of boring things, like clearing out old clothes from the wardrobe; but midweek, went over to Stratford-upon-Avon to catch one of the last shows in this season, The Tamer Tamed, by John Fletcher - a contemporary rebuttal and sequel to The Taming of the Shrew. As the play opens, Kate is dead, and Petruchio is remarrying - but this time the tables are turned, and (apart from the moral and another wedding), the play ends with Maria, the second wife, saying "Dare you kiss me?" to Petruchio. A good fun bawdy romp of a play, with much stealing from the Lysistrata.

Also saw Kill Bill - and as a fairly squeamish person, was surprised at how un-squicky it all was. It would make a fine Vingan Red Vows workout video... Eagerly awaiting part II.

At the start of the week, the cherry tree in the lawn was still in full leaf; each day it shed enough to need raking, and now it is almost completely bare. There are a few leaves on the plums, but the apples and elders are all still green. The Japanese maple was a brilliant fiery red display during much of the week, but that has shed most of its leaves by now.

I had hoped to do some more garden clearance, but between the drought breaking, and the weather being mild apart from morning frosts, things are still growing - the escholzias that started flowering in late May are still squeezing out a few flowers even a month after I stopped dead-heading them, which means that the front bed is still cluttered and is not yet ready for a good cover of rotted compost. Meanwhile some new seedlings are growing quite large.

It gets worse

Outside I can't tell if the stars are out, but the sky is pretty much dark, the moon is showing, and the car-park lights are blazing away.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

I never remember...

...quite how bad the effect of changing the clocks from BST to GMT is. As I compose this (as opposed to go online and publish) it's about 16:45, and the sky is dull grey, a little off-apricot in the southwest where the remains of sunset are. It's getting dark and not yet going home from work time. Certainly it's time to need artificial lighting to do anything detailed except close to a window. Ugh!!

All good things...

The final homeward cycle ride of the year started in fine sunny, if brisk, late afternoon sun. A wonderful time to cycle. But by about 3 miles into the journey (just under 6 to go), I'd gotten past the first couple of creases in the land, and had a view down a valley in roughly the direction that home lay - and saw a large grey cloud, trailing virga. Uh-oh!

A couple of miles later, cresting the last rise, I could see much more clearly that the rain was just about over where I judged the village to lie. Time to pour on the coal, blaze down the hill, and through a couple of miles of straggling villages. Crossing the main road, the next good unobstructed view of the scene looked seriously gloomy. No traffic to wait for, speed across the dog-leg junction, and another mile of village, now heading almost directly into the grey. What would have been a fine ride was turning into a race. One last curve, and out into a mile of straight between open fields - and blessed relief! The weather was off to the north of the village, so I could ease up, cycling less desperately along in the low sunshine, my shadow long on the fields towards the rain.

So it stayed dry all the way home, and the rain missed us - but the grey cloud brought premature end to the afternoon; by 17:15, it was time to put the lights on indoors.

Rust never sleeps

Earlier this summer, as I touched up the few stone chips and couple of finger-tip patches of rust by the door-sills of my '92 Corsa, I remarked how corrosion resistant modern cars are - I'd had more rust repair to do on our previous car, 8 years older, when it was only 3 years old. Then late last weekend, for the first time in several weeks (a dry summer has meant less use of this than typical) I lifted the bonnet to check that the wash-bottle was topped up, and something didn't quite feel right as I lifted it.

Yep, one corner, where the double skin ought to have drained through a small hole, enough water must have built up to corrode a couple of square inches of the inner skin, and that was where I'd lifted it, and my fingertips had gone through. So this Saturday, I stood out in the raw north wind with a bucket of warm soapy water, a small file and some pliers, cleaning off the engine grime and getting rid of the corroded through area, and getting just about down close enough to just bare metal around the edges that it was sensible to apply the rust-eating primer. The area affected is a bit too small and awkwardly placed (and shaped!) to use plastic padding and aluminium mesh to repair, especially given that I definitely want the space between the skins to be able to drain, so in the end I let it cure overnight then just sprayed the lot with top-coat to cover the black iron compounds left after the primer has done its thing, and that will have to do.

[Now playing - Radio 4 Six o'clock news]

Friday, October 24, 2003

This too shall pass...

Well, I wasn't sure I would have the weather for it - yesterday the forecast for today was for lots of showers, but the morning forecast has improved - but I have cycled into work for the last full day where I can this year. I could have done on Monday (but for visiting the vet) and Tuesday, but for misleading forecasts; though Weds was wet, and yesterday we had a serious shower about going-home time, while I was in the process of retrieving an old puss.

This time it was 4 miles plus before the sun showed angry and red through cloud on the eastern horizon behind me; there's a lot of cirrostratus and classic mares'-tail cirrus, and only a little blue sky.

When I woke, I thought intellectually that it would be good - having with one thing and another not gotten around to any real exercise so far this week - that I'd feel better for doing so, even if the thought of being out in the cold didn't appeal too much. But with a heavy brushed-cotton shirt over the T-shirt I need for the office (south facing glass wall + low sun = hot in winter), the arms felt a litle surface chill, but no more than that; and by the time I got into my office, I was feeling on the sort of high that reminds me why I like to cycle to work, and that's a joy to rediscover in the spring.

Cool for Cats

Well, Smoke came through the op alright - a couple of bad teeth removed, and a serious de-scaling. And a thyroid reading of 280 on a scale where 15-40 is normal. So it's little orange pills morning and night for a few weeks, so that maybe with the eating like a horse that he does he'll actually put on a little bit of weight, instead of being mainly bone and sinew.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Business Cycles

It's been many months since I last got anyone contacting me as a result of my on-line CV; now two in as many days. Either there are agencies out there desperate for business, or the IT slump is starting to wear off at last.

Autumn thoughts

The sunlight alarm is doing a wonderful job - there is always a moment of tranquil first consciousness in the morning thinking "It must be a beautiful day outside!" before the rest of the process swaps back in, and I realise what it actually means. It does get more difficult to resist the lure of resumed hibernation.

Meanwhile, it is now a beautiful day, and if it weren't that I had to deliver Smoke to the vet for his dental work, it would have been just wonderful to cycle. As it is, I won't even get chance to get a work-out today, as I need to wait by the 'phone to hear a puss's progress if things reveal a need for more work or a disaster happens. Hope I'll have the chance to cycle tomorrow, on the very last full day of the cycling year.

The autumn colours are really at their finest now - the golden leaves are well outnumbering the brown scorched ones from the long dry spell that have been sticking around since August.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

That Darn Cat

Smoke, our oldest cat (14yr 7mo) has always been a big eater; only now he's getting rather skinny, and rather picky in his habits (preferring to have the jelly but not the meatblob) and has started to dribble a lot after eating. So off to the vets last night.

Verdict - needs a bit of dental work, and a blood test to check if his thyroid has kicked into overdrive, which he's going in for on Thursday morning. One earlier cat of similar age that went in for dental work came out of the anaesthetic with kidney trouble, and had to be euthanased soon after, so I'm a bit concerned about our old thug-lump.

OTOH, another went in for dental work at that sort of age at the same time as a young cat went in to be spayed. The older one was checked over, and we were told that she had a heart murmur and might not survive the op. As it was, the old lady came out feisty as ever, and survived until nigh on 17 years old, whereas the young (pedigree Burmese) cat took several weeks and a return for hospitalisation before she recovered.

Night & Day

By 18:45 last night there was barely enough light to navigate down to the bottom of the garden. Next week, with the clocks going, that'll be soon after half past five. It's at this time of the year that I'd really like to be able to seamlessly relocate somewhere like New Zealand for six months.

And this morning, driving in, the car thermometer gave air temperatures just below freezing most of the way, under greyish skies with high clouds.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Harvest Home

Brought in the last of the apples from the tree (a Charles Ross) yesterday, so they're currently all arrayed over the dining table and part of the kitchen breakfast bar. That's it until the broccoli starts doing its thing next spring. The plums finished six weeks ago or more, at the end of August, and the Bramleys came in shortly thereafter.

Knickers

At the weekend, I decided that some of my old pairs of underpants were probably past their "best before", so did like most blokes of my age have become accustomed to do - went into Marks & Spencer intending to pick up a pack or two of y-fronts, like what I've worn ever since I stopped wearing nappies.

But no longer was I under the protection of St. Michael, patron saint of sensible underwear! Discarding boxers [which seem to have for no explicable reason undergone a revival - as far as I'm concerned, they're something only old geezers like my dad's generation would wear], trying to find something that sat in the old y-front/jockeys niche was a struggle. Most of the offerings were either things looking like cut-off thermal long-johns, or posing pouches. I still haven't dared try the ones I bought on - things they called "slips", though as far as I'm concerned, a slip is a satiny skirt-like thing a girlie wears under her dress.

Has the world gone mad?

Twenty Five Years On

Autumn 1978 was quite busy for me - and the 18th was most important in my life. I decided to scrounge some coffee in the hour's gap between to lectures and suddenly a thunderbolt struck. Unwitting, I'd met the love of my life, and we're still here together today, despite much in the way of trials and tribulations. And the fact that it all happened, so far as I can tell, with pheromones going directly to our respective hind-brains, my complete lack of dating skills didn't matter (any more than it did when a certain other young lady decided to add a notch to her bedpost a couple of weeks previously, an event which made the Hawklords track The Only Ones off the Twenty Five Years On album significant to me).

To mark a silver "unniversary" we took a bunch of friends out to dinner, with enough diversity but enough overlap (most were gamers, most were in software, most had cats, most were people we'd known as students - but the mosts weren't the same in each case) that conversation could range free and wide. It was a wonderful evening.

Alas age shows, in that although only 4 bottles of wine were consumed amongst 10 of us (ok, 6 drinkers and 4 drivers), and the after-dinner coffee back at our place ended not that long after 00:30, I felt pretty wrecked the next day.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Season's End

Yesterday I commented about my ride to work; by the time I was getting back home, the low chalk ridgeline southwest of the village was already rising to obscure the sun - I'd been out all the daylight hours. Soon it'll be back to the season where I leave the house in the dark, and get home again in the dark; time to break out the SAD-hat for light therapy.

This morning was much the same as yesterday, only more frost/heavy dew making the fields all grey-white for the first mile; and less mist, though one tendril did cross the road at one point.

Next week is forecast to be colder, and there's mention of snow in the north - so I expect we'll see rain down here, which may mean that today will have been the last cycling to work day of the year, unless the weather is crisp like this on 24th December, when it is traditional to go home at lunchtime.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

More Gloranthan musings

If Kallyr Starbrow exists in any campaign I run, I think she will have to be an follower of Rigsdal One-Eye-Open, not that funny foreign Polaris chap.

Season of mists...

First real frost this morning, greying the grass at the far side of the front lawn, and covering the windows of the car on the drive - though a quick wipe with the hand showed that it was as much dew as frost, clearly hovering in that latent heat gap at 0C.

As I left the village, Urth was just turning its face to the day, the houses just dropping from the face of the sun, and the mist starting to rise again from the fields. Climbing the first rise, where just a couple of weeks ago I would see the sun blaze back at me from around where my shadow fell on the white line at the roadside, with its reflective micro-beadings, the land was still all in shadow. There was frost on the verges all the way, though the forecast had suggested that the wind would keep temperatures up overnight.

As it was, it was a simply wonderful crisp morning to cycle in.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

A revelation

Thinking further about the Ehilm/Elmal thing. I just figured where Elmal is - it's the Orlanthi name for the Buserian Lightfore or Praxian Sun Daughter. The night-watchman, who patrols the skies while the Sun is absent.

MGDV as one might say.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

A dragon wing of string and sticks

A while back, I lamented a lack of possible takers for a HeroQuest campaign. Mentioning this to Peter and Janet, when I saw them the other day, for the first time after the rebuff from local players, they expressed a qualified interest, but in the face of a different problem to the one I had considered. Not that the kids would be up and demanding of attention, but that it would be likely that Lizzie, the elder of the two, would want to join in (having demanded to be let play, and having played a little bit of D&D 3e already).

Certainly when she puts her mind to it, as a bright 10 year old girl, she can be surprisingly grown up in the way she acts, especially when she is wanting to associate with the grown-ups, rather than stepping down to the level of her little brother.

It strikes me therefore as something that might offer an intriguing possibility. If I were to run a fairly standard Sartar/Heortling based campaign, where we now have a lot of data about the people and the society, playing up the culture game aspects, it would be possible to do things like turning the character generation into a story-telling/role-playing hybrid, talking her through the childhood and initiation/coming-of-age of her character. It would be an opportunity to tell the tales of the people, in a form that children might be told them, and let her make the decisions for her character in a role-played manner.

It would be work for me - I'd need to do the job pretty damn well - and it might just bore her to tears, but wouldn't it be something if we could pull it off!

[Now playing - Labradford E Luxo So]

The Seasons Turn

Bright, calm morning, and a brisk cycle to work, setting off a little before sunrise, and keeping a good pace in the cool. Maybe another couple of times to go this year. The waning gibbous moon was high in the northwest, in the place where the summer sun rides; and in one stretch, there was a layer of mist a few feet thick, a few feet off the ground, sitting on the fields, like ariver in the little valleys between the rolling uplands.

[Now playing - Labradford E Luxo So]

Long in the tooth

Well, actually yesterday would have been a cycling day , weather-wise but I had to go to the dentist to have a check-up, which would have taken rather a long time under my own power. Fortunately, I got a clean(-ish) bill of health. There is one filling that's got a polished wear spot on, and a tooth nearby is sensitive to cold (checking this involved putting a little swab soaked in some alcohol/menthol stuff on the tooth and watching me in agony) - all of which I blame on certain of my colleagues driving me to impotent grinding of my teeth.

Some discussion of a confusion over patient records - someone suddenly seemed to have acquired a perfect set of teeth. Short of a rebuild, this would suggest having not been subject to NHS dentistry on piecework rates during the 1970s, which got me a couple of new fillings every six months from a guy who displayed his rugby blue more prominently than his dental certificates.

Perhaps I'm a bit obsessive about teeth as a result - it has certainly shown up in my recent fiction.

[Now playing - Labradford E Luxo So]

Friday, October 10, 2003

Such Aladdin's Caves of Air...

Here are the answers to yesterday's questions. Most of these could have been googled - though the last one in the classical section is one where you would have had to know the answer in broad before that would have helped, and this page is now the only place that would help on the final question.

Classical (Before the fall of Constantinople)

  1. Q. Dante and Aeneas are linked by a person and a place. Who? And where?

    A. Virgil, and the Underworld

    The poems referenced are Virgil's Aeneid, book VI, in which Aeneas visits the underworld whilst yet embodied; and Dante's Divine Comedy, in which Dante, still embodied, is led through a descent into Hell and the ascent of Mt. Purgatory by the shade of Virgil. As a theological note, the function of the pagan underworld of the Aeneid is more akin to that of Mt. Purgatory, though its location matches that of Dante's Hell.

  2. Q. Who was the Golden Ass?

    A. Lucius

    The poem is The Metamorphoses, by Lucius Apuleius, a work more commonly known as the Golden Ass. The viewpoint character, also called Lucius, is transformed into the eponymous beast.

  3. Q. "Mind must be the firmer, heart the more fierce, courage the greater, as our strength diminishes..." Who died, and his body later buried at Ely?

    A. Byrhtnoð

    The poem is The Battle of Maldon or Byrhtnoð's Death - date and author unknown.

    The words

    "Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað.... "

    are spoken by Byrhtnoð's old comrade Byrhtwold over Byrhtnoð's body, as the Danes under Sweyn Forkbeard, son of King Harald Bluetooth of Denmark [yes, that Bluetooth] are closing in on the last of the English. After the battle the Danes probably carried off Byrhtnoð's head as a battle trophy, but his body was recovered by the monks of Ely and buried there - there's a carven stone there in the cathedral today that reads

    Brithnothus Northumbrior Dux, Prælio Cæsus a Danis A.D. DCCCCXCI
  4. Q. Where in the Divine Comedy does Dante explain that surface brightness of an extended source is unvarying with distance?

    A. The Moon

    The reference within the poem is to Paradiso, Canto II:46. In this canto, a number of hypotheses as to the mottled appearance of what ought be a perfect - as being heavenly - body are discussed. Dante refutes the suggestion that the darker areas are simply further away by referring to an experiment with a candle and three mirrors, the middle one set back from the other two.

Tudor to Victorian

  1. Q. "Thou art more lovely and more temperate" than what?

    A. A summer's day

    The poem - Shakespeare, Sonnet XVIII

    "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
    Thou art more lovely and more temperate:"
  2. Q. If the Lamb is Innocence, what beast is Experience?

    A. The Tyger

    The poems are Blake's - the Lamb, in Songs of Innocence, and the Tyger, in Songs of Experience.

  3. Q.

    "There was a naughty boy
    And a naughty boy was he,
    For nothing would he do
    But scribble poetry"

    - Whose self-assessment?

    A. John Keats, the poem being his A Song about Myself.

  4. Q. Who was the Red Cross Knight, and where did King Arthur meet him?

    A. The knight referred to almost exclusively as Red Cross is George, who later in the poem goes on to slay a dragon and hear the prediction that he will become patron saint of England; they met in the dungeons of the castle of Duessa, where Arthur rescues him from captivity.

    The poem is Spenser, The Faerie Queene, the meeting in Bk I, Canto VIII

    There are a lot of red-cross knights out there - Galahad (though I don't know of a poem), Hugo, son of Sir Uwaine, (Sir Uwaine's daughter by Thomas de Berverley (George Newcomen) - which dated 1925 is out of period), the Red Cross Knight by Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) - his poem of which I have no further detail, but is out of period, and Sir Lancelot (Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott) a poem from which Arthur himself is absent - but the epithet is only applied occasionally (once per poem) to those knights in the texts I do know.

Modern (20th century)

  1. Q. What is done in Madingley on Christmas Eve?

    A.

    "And things are done you'd not believe
    At Madingley, on Christmas Eve."

    - Rupert Brooke, The Old Vicarage, Grantchester.

    This is from the middle section of the poem in which he libels most of the villages and towns in south and west Cambridgeshire

  2. Q. If "London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down" by the end, what is cruel at the start?

    A. April - "the cruelest month"

    - T.S. Eliot, the Waste Land.

  3. Q. Who tells you "That's the way things are."

    A. Your father

    The poem is from Roger McGough, The way things are, and has the refrain

    "I'm your father, and that's the way things are."
  4. Q. If one invented a cure for the common cold, what other cure would be required?

    A. Another cure for complacency

    The poem is by the late Robert Calvert, The Recovery, and celebrates the return of the sense of smell after a filthy cold. This was a deliberately recherché question. The poem appeared in his 1978 collection, sold as merchandise on the Hawklords 1978 tour, Centigrade 232, and can be heard under the final section of the track Psi Power from the Twenty Five Years On album, from which, at time of writing, we are a few days over 25 years on from. (Doesn't time fly when you're having fun!)

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Oh, for a Muse of Fire...

Today is National Poetry Day, and as I won the it last year, I'm having to set a little quiz on poetry for the guys at the office; and I'm posting it here for the hell of it. As the theme is Britain, almost all of the questions are on the works of poets writing in this country, the exceptions being some of the Classical section. To make up for that, a couple of the questions relate to very local events indeed.

Ten fairly straightforward questions, and a couple of obscure ones to stretch you, and bring the count up to a round dozen in three sets of four.

Answers tomorrow.

Classical (Before the fall of Constantinople)

  1. Dante and Aeneas are linked by a person and a place. Who? And where?
  2. Who was the Golden Ass?
  3. "Mind must be the firmer, heart the more fierce, courage the greater, as our strength diminishes..." Who died, and his body later buried at Ely?
  4. Where in the Divine Comedy does Dante explain that surface brightness of an extended source is unvarying with distance?

Tudor to Victorian

  1. "Thou art more lovely and more temperate" than what?
  2. If the Lamb is Innocence, what beast is Experience?
  3.     "There was a naughty boy
         And a naughty boy was he,
         For nothing would he do
         But scribble poetry"
    
    
    - Whose self-assessment?
  4. Who was the Red Cross Knight, and where did King Arthur meet him?

Modern (20th century)

  1. What is done in Madingley on Christmas Eve?
  2. If "London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down" by the end, what is cruel at the start?
  3. Who tells you "That's the way things are."
  4. If one invented a cure for the common cold, what other cure would be required?

Acid flashback, man!

Caught a real nostalgic gig at the local Corn Exchange last night - Keith Emerson & the Nice, on the first date of their new tour. Yep, you read that right. c1970 keyboard rock rides again, down to the smoke machine, psychedelic light show and honest-to-God Moog Synthesizer, festooned with patch cables!

The first part of the set had the old hands, plus a young guitarist, doing old Nice numbers, then the old guys were substituted by a younger bassist and drumer to play a selection of ELP tracks, then absolutely everybody on stage for the finale and encore.

The down-side was that the voice mixing was mushy - could hardly make out a word anyone said or sang; and while the box we were in had the best view of the stage, it seemed also to be filled with the biggest prats in the audience, fooling around, throwing paper darts, and bootlegging, rather than just sitting back and letting the music wash over (or through) them like the folk in the body of the hall.

Certainly one of the loudest gigs I've been to for a long time, with the ears still noticing it a bit this morning - albeit nowhere near as loud as Motörhead were on the Bomber tour 25 years ago, where I was in the mosh-equivalent with the press of the crowd forcing me against the side of the speaker stack.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Wind and weather

Only two more weeks after this before daylight saving ends, and it gets dark at 17:00; 12 working days. And in the last 12 only one day of cycling as we get rain - and now strong winds, fragments of equinoctial gales, as well. The most annoying thing about the office having moved out of town - and 10 miles from home not six - is that on the days in spring and autumn where it starts wet and ends bright and sunny, I can't fall back to my old strategy of catching the bus in and walking home :( - yesterday's weather was like that, with showers in the morning, but bright autumnal sunshine in the afternoon (blinds down to keep it off my screen), albeit breezy, that would have been gorgeous to walk home in from town, with a stop for a pint at the half-way point.

Conan the Republican

It was back in '91 that a Shadowrun supplement had a throwaway about one Senator Schwarzenegger. Being born outside the US, that really is the only possible next destination for the new Gubernator.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Not Dead Yet

Another one of those weeks where miracles need to be performed on a daily basis at work, and then just too much to do in the way of hobby activities. On one strand I've been upgrading my network-facing machine at home from one I got 4 years ago to a more recent second-hand machine, which means a ton of stuff to do in the way of hardening it (not helped when Norton AV LiveUpdate doesn't play nicely with WinXP). Still to come are setting it up with all the external network stuff, installing all the hardware and software from the old box, swapping the network around, and decommissioning the old one.

Then, in the time I'd normally spend blogging, I've been advising my friends at Mhorann Games on the web-site they've put together. At the moment it looks slightly better than a "My First Website" - and at least there are no broken links now - but the table driven layout has its problems. If I were doing it myself, I'd be using .pngs with transparency for the banner and the buttons, and CSS layout, for reasons explained on sites like A List Apart. [That piece was written over 30 months ago. There's no reason to be molly-coddling old browers in Q4'03!]

Later

The Norton LiveUpdate issue turned out to be a proxy problem of some sort - at time of writing, both XP machines were going out through a copy of the Privoxy proxy server. Moving the new one to have the modem, LU seems to work OK. Although the modem seems to need to be on at boot time for XP to notice it's there. My older XP box has the same problem with my Visor in its synch cradle - have to see if the new one is better behaved. At least having an industrial strength OS kernel, however wrapped in consumer glitz and entry-level limitations, the frequent blue screens seen with the Mailwasher spam-filter on Win98.2 are a thing of the past.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Books — the October Horse, Oath of Empire and Hidden Empire

Colleen McCullough's the October Horse is a fine conclusion to her fall of the Roman Republic sequence, carrying on past Caesar's assassination to the victory of the Triumvirate - i.e. just about to the end of Shakespear's Julius Caesar. A pity, as I would have liked to read the next volume that would bridge the gap with I, Claudius, covering Antony and Cleopatra too.

Not so good was Thomas Harlan's the Dark Lord, billed as the conclusion of his Oath of Empire sequence. It managed to merge a "with one mighty bound" resolution and a more realistic messy, incomplete, compromised outcome, falling between two stools. There is also one blatant dangling plot thread which strongly implies sequels. A disappointment, as it was going quite nicely up to then - but this volume really seemed to have gotten out of hand.

A not recommended - Kevin Anderson's Hidden Empire. It looked borderline (first volume of N being a danger sign), but then so did Karl Schroeder's Permanence, which I liked, used a similar sort of scenario (two distinct human factions, various mysterious extant and extinct aliens). And it seemed to start out OK, though the economics of the mercantile human society seemed a bit implausible. But things soon went downhill - gas-giant planets that are being mined for hydrogen but which have breathable atmospheric layers just don't work chemically. And then the tired old "aliens want our women" plotline gets invoked. Verdict - avoid.

Film — Underworld

The setting for Underworld is really White Wolf's World of Darkness with the serial numbers filed off; and with enough running gunfights (with a pounding dance music backing) to match the average run of gun-bunny Vampire, a slight plot designed to string the action sequences together - and a hook for a sequel if the box-office take looks good.

It's the sort of film that you watch as a couple of hours of complete frivolity, or not at all.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Autumn

That time of varied temperatures. As noted, Monday was wet, but but 19:00 the rain had ceased and there was just a sheet of cloud, with a gap of a few degrees between the western edge and the horizon, displaying brilliant turquoise sky, with the crimsons and golds of the sunset reflected off the underside of the cloud, filling the house with a bright golden glow.

Tuesday morning was dull and overcast, but brightened later - a good cycling day that ended clear. The dull morning was enough to make me put the sunrise alarm on for the first time this season, and I roused about 06:15 feeling that it must be a lovely day outside - which is what the alarm is meant to suggest. Indeed it was - a bright crisp autumn morning, with the first frost on the car roof, and in patches of the verges open to the sky. I needed heavy gloves and shirt for cycling in - and now the sun is streaming through my office window, onto my desk, and it's over 30C in here, worse than in the height of summer.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Autumn

Well, we're past the equinox, and I am taking today's weather forecast of a cold front, rain and cool northerly winds on trust - so I drove in today. There was quite an assortment of roadkill after the weekend - squirrel, another snake, and the first hedgehogs I'd seen for a while (in recent weeks the corpses have been rabbits and the occasional farm cat).

The Orlanthi sun-god [update]

In the spirit of blogging, I'm adding a new entry rather than overwriting the earlier draft.

Greg Stafford asked an interesting and correct question over a decade ago, when asking about "who is the Orlanthi sun god?" - but the answer he got is one that caused a lot of confusion, until it was hammered into a compromise , such as this summary by Nick Brooke

Unfortunately, I still think Greg's answer was wrong in its essentials. One god is the night watchman who stayed behind when Orlanth went on the LBQ - his aspects are twilight and the watch-fire. The reconciliation with Yelmalio is an identification of the twilight aspects, which presumably rejected an origin amongst the Lowfires that the watch-fire implies. This is the god most obviously deserving of the name of Elmal. His devotees are able to use some minor fire magic appropriate to a night watchman's role (no Hill of Gold in his story), while Yelmalions are not. That aside, any deity around during the Great Darkness really, by definition, cannot be a sun god – the mythic precedent is too strong.

At about the same time that Greg dropped his bombshell, Neil's RQ game almost stumbled across the what I feel is the right answer, when the PCs stumbled across a remote Orlanthi tribe who partook of very austere ways like the Solar monks of the far northern Empire of long ago. Their Orlanth is, I think, much more likely to be the real Orlanthi sun-god.

The obvious Orlanthi Sun-God is, of course, Orlanth in his aspect as the successful completer of the LBQ, restorer of the Sun after the Great Darkness and the Gods' War, Orlanth Lightbearer, or Orlanth Lucifer if you rather. We can see the influence of Orlanth in the fact that what he restored was not the static Sun of the old sterile Fire Tribe Emperor, but a Sun that follows the Storm Spiral, around and around the world, sometimes to the north, sometimes to the south. Orlanth Lucifer would be the god of the Sun, but clearly not the Sun himself. The Orlanthi New Sun, the thing he came back with would be a separate entity - and Ehilm sounds the most plausible name for the sacred fire itself, which may or may not now be borne by Elmal.

Variant keywords:

Orlanth Lucifer: Affinities: Light, Underworld, Reconciliation; Secret: Return from Underworld. [This very mystical cult would have almost no devotees.]

To be initiated in this aspect, the candidate must have completed the Lightbringer HeroQuest, either as principal or by significantly supporting one of the principals. As a consequence, there are few initiates; and almost all of them are devotees.

Elmal: Combat as in Storm Tribe, but replace Light with Fire: Illuminate Surroundings, Tend Watch-fire, Kindle Brand, Unquenchable Light, Withstand Cold.

Ehilm, the sacred torch: Light as Storm Tribe's Elmal , Sunpath: Find Sunpath, Reveal Sunpath, Follow Sunpath, Sunpath Defence, Rising Leap, Warmth - Banish Frost, Resist Chill, Ripen Fruit, Cruel Heat; Secret - Radiant Gaze.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Night Watch

Well, as the equinox approaches, it's not until well after 07:00 that the sun lifts over the rooftops opposite in the morning; but the weather is staying as Indian Summer - though yesterday the clear bright start turned into mist about half an hour after sunrise. The fair weather means that this is the first week of the year when I've cycled to work every day, without weather, logistics or just plain laziness preventing.

Then in just over a month, the days will be too short, and I'll be back to driving again. Always the way - just about get the legs into proper condition, and the season's over. At least I'm still cycling - the couple of other occasional cyclists seem to have given up, going by the complete lack of other bicycles in the racks even when leaving work a bit early to cycle into town, or fit in an hour's blackberry picking [enough to fill my lunchbox so the fruit doesn't rattle and thereby turn into purée] on the way home.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

The moravec flight and other miscalculations

First some numbers. The speed of light, c, is 300, 000 km/s; a year is 365.2422 x 86400 = 31, 556, 926 seconds. The earth's gravity, 1g, is 9.8 m/s2. So 1g for 1 year gives 309, 258 km/s, or 1.03c. A year is 8765 hours ~ 10, 000 hours. The Earth-sun distance, called one astronomical unit (AU) is 150, 000, 000 km or 500 light-seconds (i.e. light takes 500 seconds to cover it).

And some formulae. From a starting point at rest, under constant acceleration a for a length of time t, the velocity change is at, essentially by definition, and the distance covered is just the time multiplied by the average velocity or at2/2 .

Ilium

This is the new book from Dan Simmons, who for the most part writes horror, rather than hard SF, so may be excused to some extent. Alas, when he actually quoted some numbers for a high-speed dash across the solar system it was enough to interrupt my reading with a bang with a "those don't tie up even on a simple order-of-magnitude calculation".

The moravec flight from Jupiter to Mars, then at opposition is quoted as accelerating at 3000g, and ending acceleration at a speed of 0.3c. Relativistic effects go as square root of (1 - (v/c)2), or about 95% - so enough to throw your watch out, but not enough to seriously affect the Newtonian formulae used above.

To achieve 0.3c with 3000g acceleration is to take 1/10, 000 of a year or 3156 seconds, and will cover 0.15 x 3156 light-seconds = 473 light seconds, or 0.85 AU - but their accelerator is the Io flux tube, and Io's orbital radius is only about 500, 000 km.

Later it takes them a day to cover the distance between Mars' orbit and Earth's - about 0.5AU. That's 250 light-seconds in 86400 seconds or about 0.003c - and that's before their big deceleration. Assuming that lower speed, then the acceleration would take only 32 seconds, and cover 0.048 light seconds or 14,400km - a much more reasonable size.

Then there is the matter of the neutrino ring that intersects the Earth at a certain date of the year that isn't seen moving at some noticeable velocity across the ground as the Earth rotates - let alone as it moves through the intersection point...

Ring

Now Stephen Baxter is a hard-SF writer who ought to know better. In Ring, he has an expedition set out to go 5 million years into the future. The ship accelerates at 1g constantly, turning over after 1/4 of the time, coming to a standstill at half the time, then returning as it left; relativistic effects keep the duration on board much lower.

For a uniform acceleration, the relativistic formulae are

at/c = sinh( aτ/c)

and

ax/c2 = cosh( aτ/c) - 1

where t is the external time, x is the distance covered and τ is the time on the ship. The sinh and cosh functions are hyperbolic sine and cosine (what the "hyp" checkbox gives you on the Windows calculator in scientific mode). If we work in years and light-years, and assume that the ship accelerated at 0.97g, so that a=1 in these units, we have for t = 1.25 million years, then

τ = sinh-1(1,250,000)

So using Inv Hyp Sin 1 250 000 gives 14.73 years shipboard. By symmetry the total voyage is 59 years, and the furthest distance is a whisker under 2.5 million light-years - a bit further than M31 in Andromeda.

Then how come the journey took his ship 1000 years shipboard? After 250 ship years, the external date would be 1.8 x 10108 - and the return would come at 7.2 x 10108 if we ignore the corrections that would be needed to account for cosmological effects. This is about as far into the future as the deepest look in his later book, Time. So the acceleration must be wrong. At a 0.097g rate, the shipboard time for the 5 million year voyage is 125,000 = sinh ( 0.1τ ) or τ = 10 sinh-1(125,000) = 124 years per quarter, or 500 years in all, so a kiloyear excursion would need less than acceleration even than that.

But that's not the end of the howlers. When the ship arrives back at the solar system after a 5 megayear excursion, they find that the constellations are just as they left - in particular, α Centauri is 4 and a bit lightyears away, opposite a W-shaped Cassiopeia. It's a pity that in about 350, 000 years, α Cen will be the brightest star in the sky, about a parsec (3.3 light-years) away in the constellation of Cancer, before drifting away into the northern sky, getting further away all the time.

There's a similar howler in forgetting about things moving in Time, too, where the first of the fast-forward-future views would happen after M31 collides with our galaxy - unless of course the posthumans have done the engineering work to use the magnetic fields of every star in M31 to channel its stellar wind as a rocket and moved the whole galaxy en masse - central 100-megasol black hole and all - sometime in the next gigayear. We certainly have to assume that there is such massive engineering for there to be a coherent galaxy in the Black Hole Miners epoch, as dynamical effects will have caused a galaxy that is not being actively maintained to have disintegrated by that sort of timescale - see John Baez's useful summary of the end of things; or my own riposte in fictional form.

Friday, September 12, 2003

The Orlanthi sun-god

(There is a later draft of this).

Greg Stafford asked an interesting and correct question over a decade ago, when asking about "who is the Orlanthi sun god?" - but the answer he got is one that caused a lot of confusion, until it was hammered into a compromise, such as this summary by Nick Brooke.

Unfortunately, I think Greg's answer was wrong in part. Elmal is the night watchman who stayed behind when Orlanth went on the LBQ - his aspects are twilight and the watch-fire. The reconciliation with Yelmalio as per Nick is an identification of the twilight aspects, which presumably rejected the contamination by the Lowfires that the watch-fire implies. Corollary - Elmali are able to use some minor fire magic appropriate to a night watchman's role, while Yelmalions are not. That aside, any deity that was around during the Great Darkness really, by definition, cannot be a sun god.

At about the same time that Greg dropped his bombshell, Neil's RQ game almost stumbled across the right answer, when the PCs stumbled across a remote Orlanthi tribe who partook of very austere ways like the Solar monks of the far northern Empire of long ago. Their Orlanth is, I think, much more likely to be the real Orlanthi sun-god.

The Orlanthi Sun-God is Orlanth in his aspect as the successful completer of the LBQ, Orlanth Lightbearer, or Orlanth Lucifer if you rather. Not the static Sun of the old sterile Emperor, but a sun that follows the storm spiral, around and around the world, sometimes to the north, sometimes to the south. And in the same way that the adventurer aspect of Orlanth has a separate name, so would this, the Orlanthi New Sun - and Ehilm sounds the most plausible name, but the cult of that name in HeroQuest is actually that of Elmal, the night watchman.

I shall have to think about what the appropriate keyword description would be for this.