18 Dec 2020

December Already?

Wow, where did the time go?  My last post was in September.  Time for some catching up.

First, I'm still alive.

October came and went.  I ordered 1.8kg of spearmint leaves candy, mostly for use during NaNoWriMo.  There's still half a box left.

November was NaNo.  I wound up going with Total Security Concepts, which is now set in the Subject 13 universe.  Total words was 50 262.  What I'm finding is that I can write at a decent pace, 2000 to 2500 words a night, provided I have time off to recharge.  This matches up with my writing for Lost in Translation, where it takes me two days to write a 1500 word review.  I up my game for NaNo, and I've figured out how to pacce myself for the marathon.

Total Security Concepts began as a look at how normal people in a world of superpowers defend themselves.  It then turned into a murder mystery that included corporate meetings.  One character went from just having a superheroic ID to being lead investigator.  It was fun writing the story just to see where it went.  The result is satisfying but will need a bit of time to congeal before I serialize it here.

Sneak peak of the minis
to come, with the
Miniatures painting fell to the wayside.  NaNo doesn't really leave time for anything extra, especially when work is still a thing.  Work is still going, so here's hoping I get through to two years on the current contract.  My main goal with work is to get to the two year mark.  After that, I'll feel better.  I won't be changing unless something permanent or interesting comes up.  For interesting, this contract got back to me before a potential six month contract in Iqaluit, Nunavut had.  I would've jumped on the Iqaluit contract, especially with its potential for an extension.  It'd be different.

Lost in Translation is still going strong.  The pandemic prevents one of my main methods of looking for review fodder - checking the rows of DVDs at the music store.  I may have a secondary method, but it's going to need refining.  I have five potential reviews for the new year, once the end-of-year posts are done.  There may be news related to Lost in Translation coming up in the New Year.  Stay tuned.

Coming up, more Lost in Translation, possibly a serial in January, and hopefully some gaming posts.  I want to get a comparison of Cyberpunk 2020 and Shadowrun characters done.  I also want to create a character or two for Shadowrun Sixth World.  Maybe during some down time during the holidays.  Minis will get finished at some point.

Today, over at Psycho Drive-In, Quantum Leap - "A Leap to Di For".

Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Wrapping up 2020

25 Sept 2020

Brace Yourself - NaNo Is Coming

It's been some time.  Somehow, March has become September.  Summer existed and it was hot but, well, time has ceased to have meaning.  Autumn is coming, when trees become colourful and stop having sex.  With autumn comes November, and with November comes NaNoWriMo.

I have no idea what I'm writing.

That's not new for me.  I usually have a few ideas on the go that I could just pick up and run with.  This summer, though, the creativity is just out of reach.  No worries, I can make this work.  I do have a few ideas, though.

28 Aug 2020

Prohibition, Corruption, and Repeating History

Over the past couple of months, I'd been reviewing the various works based on The Untouchables, the team of Prohibition agents gathered by Eliot Ness to take down Al Capone and his South Side Gang.  One thing that kept popping out, whether it was from the 1959 series, the 1987 movie, or the 1993 syndicated series - the biggest problem of the era was corruption, not alcohol.

This is going to be my impression of events, past and current.  I may have things wrong.  The source of the problem was lawlessness, but the problem was money.  It's a problem that's still around, maybe worse today.  Time to dig deeper.

14 Aug 2020

Test Run - Demon Hunters: A Comedy of Errors - Demona

 A couple of years ago, I created Demona using the Demon Hunters RPG.  I mentioned that I wanted to get the more recent version of the game.  Well, I have the most recent version.  Let's see how Demona looks in the new edition, Demon Hunters: A Comedy of Errors.

The quick summary of the settings and idea behind the game - players are Demon Hunters, members of the Brotherhood of the Celestial Torch, whose job it is to go out and slay demons and other threats to humanity.  Some members of the Brotherhood are supernatural, including those who could be considered threats to humanity.  The Brotherhood sends out teams of Demon Hunters to contain and eliminate the threats.  Sometimes, it may take sending another team to clean up the remains of the first.  More details can be found in the original Demon Hunters, the follow up Demon Hunters: Dead Camper Lake, and the Brotherhood Orientation Video.

Let's rebuild Demona!

31 Jul 2020

Shadowrun Thoughts - Mr. Johnson and Chronic Backstabbing Syndrome

It's been quiet around here.  I hate summer.  And record heat and humidity.  It makes doing anything difficult, even thinking.  The heat and humidity just drain you of energy.  Summer sucks.

On to the meat of the post.  A recent thread over at RPG.net, "The worse tropes in modules/scenarios that new writers should really avoid", had me thinking.  Shadowrun and, to a lesser degree, Cyberpunk 2020, especially in published adventures, tended to have the PCs betrayed by their employer in one way or another.  It's not as bad as it used to be, but after the first betrayal, the players aren't going to trust anyone who hires them.  This is a problem.

3 Jul 2020

Painting Minis - Modron Part I

Finally found some sliver of time to get back to painting.  The past bit has been either busy or oppressively hot.  With a break in the heat, I started the modron.  Since this is pic heavy, the post will continue after the jump break.

18 Jun 2020

Miniatures Update

It's been a bit.  The last time minis appeared here, I was planning out how to paint some modrons.  I haven't started yet, but there's some motion.  My work week is shifted back a day, so Tuesday to Saturday.  During my workday on Saturday, I received emails that the paint I ordered for the monodrone was arriving and, later, had arrived.  During my first break, I checked the front door and found the package.

4 Jun 2020

Security in Cyberpunk 2020 and Shadowrun - Part 3 - Example

It's been a couple of weeks, but here's how the security levels play out during a heist.  I'll assume a pure cyberpunk approach and point out where the magic from Shadowrun can make a difference.  If you need a refresher, check out parts 1 (the levels) and 2 (the responses).

Meet the crew, one I was going to use for a Shadowrun story that needs some work before I start.  Skater is the group's hacker; she uses skating metaphors to get past the Intrusion Countermeasures (or IC).  The Chrome Rainbow is the team's cybernetically enhanced combat expert, a street samurai if you will.  Hudson is the getaway driver, one with the car.  Tempest T. Pot, the team's face and dealing with a few personal issuesAnd for Shadowrun, Datalore, a mage who uses detection spells.

The crew gets hired to break into a corporate facility to remove a MacGuffin that Mr. Johnson wants.  Mr. J has added a "no killing" clause to the contract, so the crew wants to get a better idea of what they're walking into.  Skater and Tempest, being the least likely to draw casual attention thanks to a low amount of cyber installed, are sent to the facility during an open house of job seekers.  Between the two of them, they make note of the security guards around, which are mainly the first level, obvious but lightly armed, the security cameras, and get copies of employee IDs to check later for security tags,  Skater and Tempest leave after spending the entire time under the watch of guards and trying to fit in, and report back to the rest of the crew.  In Shadowrun, Datalore stays back; the crew assumes that the corporation will have someone scanning the astral and mages are rare enough that one walking in will be noticed.

A day and a half later, the crew has a plan.  Mr. J has given a general location of his MacGuffin and everyone has less-than-lethal weapons like tasers and stun batons.  Skater has done some more homework online and has a map of the facility's grounds, including entrances.  She has also given the crew modified security access to use to get through doors.  The access won't last long, but they just need to get inside.  The door near the facility's parking lot responds to the stolen security access, and the crew enters.

The crew has a plan.  Skater and Datalore will go grab the MacGuffin while the rest of the team pretends to go after another target with the intent to fail.  They're not getting paid for stealing a second item.  Skater is prepped with the needed props, a copy of an IT work order.  Datalore will look at the work order from time to time.  Tempest, Chrome, and Hudson make their way through the facility, staying in touch with Skater and keeping close to exits and not going too much deeper.

Team False Intrusion eventually trip an alarm.  The security station sends out drones to locate the intruders, followed by several human guards a few metres back.  Without Skater to hack into security's radio encryption, Team False Insertion doesn't know that theyve been discovered.  However, that is part of the plan.  When the drones appear, Chrome throws one into a wall, guaranteeing the security control knows where they are.  The human guards take up posiition and tries to stop TFI.  Chrome's reflexes allow him to tase two before they can react, and a quiet foot chase begins in the facility.

Skater arrives at the location where the MacGuffin is.  She hacks her way into the secure room, but notes that the lock used is something she has seen where there is more security.  Yet, there isn't thing here, no drone, no camera, no tripwires, nothing.  Inside the secure room, she finds the MacGuffin and notes that it's older than she expected.  Again, the security surrounding the MacGuffin is off.  Tight but not.  Skater gets what she came from and lets the rest of the crew know.  Datalore checks for magical security, but magic and tech don't play well together, and the room is almost a storage space for tech gear.  While Skater does her work, Datalore magically keeps an eye out for security passing outside.

TFI is still dealing with security.  On the part of security, they're noticing that they're not being killed.  Security control makes the choice to not call in heavier troops.  With TFI withdrawing, security decides that pushing the intruders out is enough; going for an arrest may turn the intruders violent and they're not getting paid enough to be killed.  TFI escapes, leaving a number of tased and confused guards behind.  Hudson gets his car going and the crew escapes with what they came for.

If Mr. J. was after something else, say a weapon prototype, the crew may have run into high levels of security who might not have bothered to warn them before opening fire.  Security, though seemed light, leaving the crew wondering just what Mr. J. wants with the MacGuffin.  Skater takes some notes so she can follow up after exchanging the MacGuffin for the crew's pay.


Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Live-Action Adaptation.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, hiatus week.
This weekend, Renaissance Press is holding a virtual convention.  I will be on a panel about adaptations Saturday at 4pm Eastern.

29 May 2020

Virtual Appearance

A few adminstrative notes.

The big announcement

I will be on a panel at Renaissance Press' Virtual Conference.  The conference runs June 5-7, registration is free, but panel space is limited due to technology.  I will be on the panel, "Why the book was better... and why it wasn't" Saturday at 4pm Eastern.  Check out the rest of the panels to see what else looks interesting; I've signed up for a few already.  There will also be a vendors room through Discord.

I haven't been able to get back to painting minis again.  Between heat and an attack of gout, I've had other things on my mind.  I did find some day-glo orange paint online, so I've ordered it to use with the modrons and possibly other uses, such as magical effects like /fireball/ spells.

I'm still working from home.  No word yet on when that will change, so I'm assuming that I'll still be sheltering-in-place until at least the end of June.  Better be safe than be sick.  But whoever said residential neighbourhoods were quiet never lived in one, especially one filled with toddlers and yappy dogs.

To close out, have a melted kitty.

Model: Jewel.  Photo by author.

Today, over at Psycho Drive-In, Scooby-Doo.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The Live-Action Adaptation.

22 May 2020

Painting Minis - Coming Up

I haven't been able to continue painting since the last minis post.  Part of it is lack of energy when I've had the time and lack of time when I've had the energy.  Go fig.  This year is not normal.  However, I am keeping an eye out for interesting minis.  I have a bulette to go with Sharkie, but I'm not ready for that.

Instead, I have two modrons, a monodrone and a duodrone.  Modrons are Lawful Neutral, coming from the plane of Mechanus.  They are geometric, from the one-sided monodrone to the five-armed pentadrone.  One thing that struck me was their appearance

Modrons with elf for scale.  (Photo by author)
and how they correspond to the binomes from Reboot.

From the Reboot Fandom Wiki
And the spark ignites here.  Why not paint the modrons like binomes?  My minis, my decision, right?

That means planning the colours.  Let's start with the duodrone first.  As can be seen above, the one binome has three sections, the upper head with eye and hat, the lower head with mouth, and the body/pants.  The upper two thirds are silver or blue-grey (ignoring the viral binomes who are Megabyte blue).  The mouth and arms are gold or copper, the eyes are white with a black pupil, and the hands are red though fingerless.  The lower third depends on the costume.

A better look at the duodrone.  (Photo by author)

The duodrone has a big difference from the one binome - it has two main sections with a connector.  Might work enough for my plans, though.  Two eyes instead of one, with goggles.  Not too bad.  Colours I'll need - grey or silver for the head, gold or copper for the arms, some sort of red for the hands, brown for the bottom portion and legs, and green for the feet.  The same green can be used for the spear's haft and gold or copper, matching the arms, for the spearhead.

The zero binomes are a little more tricky.  They have three sections, a large middle that is blue-grey or silver, with exceptions, and two end pieces the same colour, acting as a shirt.  Arms and legs are gold or copper, and the hands are red.  The exceptions are binomes like Jean-Luc, a Captain Picard parody, and Hardboot.  I may have more room to maneuver, really.
This guy gets around.  (Photo by author)
The monodrone has wings, one less eye, and less stubby arms and legs.  It also looks like the the figure has armour, with a guard infront of the eye.  That adds to the complexity of colour.  Arms and legs are still going to be gold or copper, as will be the wing supports.  Hands again will be red.  The eye will be white with a black pupil.  Inside the armour, I could got with red, to match the hands.  That leaves the armour itself.  Silver or grey may work, to give the proper impression.  Feet might get brown, to imply boots.  The spear, I may go with a reversal of colours for the duodrone's weapon.

Will this work?  No idea.  I'm aiming for impression, so accuracy can be off as long as people look and think, "Hey, Reboot!"  That's the goal.  Colours could change as I get the details done.  Even as I'm writing, I remembered the exoskeleton suits that Dot and others used.  Instead of silver or grey, the monodrone's armour could be yellow or orange.

Dot showing off the latest in exoskeleton fashion.  (From the episode "Infected".)
Sure, it's not a binome, but the only zero binome to wear any thing resembling armour was Hardboot from "Icons", and his was makeshift.  But Hardboot is also why I'm going with red for the visible part of the monodrone in the armour.  So, who knows?  It's worth a try.

Today, over at Psycho Drive-In, Alien Nation, the series.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Scooby-Doo (2002).

20 May 2020

Security in Cyberpunk 2020 and Shadowrun - Part 2 - Response

Oops.  Meant to post this last week.

What follows is a discussion of how security in a near-future science fiction setting would work, not a how-to on breaking into a secure facility.  Some of the information comes from my personal experience in working in public- and private-sector offices.  The rest is imagination.  Any similarity to a real location is coincidental.

Last time, I wrote about the layers of security that can be expected at a megacorporation in Shadowrun and Cyberpunk 2020.  This week, how the layers respond,

Security response will depend on how far the PCs have gotten into a facility and the time of day.  Ideally, heists are done when there aren't as many witnesses, but sometimes there's a deadline looming and a daytime break and enter is needed.  Given the levels above, here's what the PCs can expect to run into.

During business hours, intruders will warrant a quiet response to avoid panicking workers.  Last thing security wants is workers running through the line of fire.  Security control will use cameras to locate the intruders  Drones could be sent in to follow the intruders. A few guards, lightly armed and armoured, will walk into the area to isolate the intruders to deal with them away from the workers.  If the intruders begin a firefight, the first guards will fight a holding action to ensure most of the workers escape and to hold the intruders in place until the second wave arrives.  This new wave will be using firearms and won't care as much for collateral damage.  Depending on the setting, heavily armed drones will accompany or even lead the way.  If the intruders are able to make a stand, more guards will arrive, though the average team of expendables are going to cut their losses at some point.

Outside business hours, the first line of response will be armed drones.  Unless there intruders area in an area of the facility that is in use 24/7, the drones won't hesitate to open fire, especially if the would-be thieves have obvious weapons.  Guards will follow, more to confirm that the intruders are down than to get involved.  The fewer live targets around, the more likely the drone will shoot intruders instead of guards.  However, guards can't be hacked line a drone can be.  Sure, there's social engineering, not quite to the point of, "these are not the droids you're looking for," but asking the right questions and carrying the right props can get an intruder into a facility past guards.  Drones, thus, are second level response.

If the intruders get past the drones, then out come the heavy hitters,  Heavily armed, heavily armoured.  The intruders are after the expensive, core business, and need to be stopped.  Traps are activated, lockdown and alarms go off, and security stops the pretense of caring about the average workers, though the braintrust and senior C-level executives get to see far more guards than normal.  The goal becomes directing the intruders into a designated killzone and making sure none survive.

The elite guard, like Renraku's Red Samurai and Arasaka's elite corporate soldiers, are only going to be in areas that are mission critical.  The average worker will know about them more from corporate propaganda pretending to me entertainment.  If they're around and get called in, they will be calling the shots.  They are the last line of defense.  And they will be combat monsters.  Player characters may want to think of running away if they hear that the elite guard are involved.

Shadowrun adds one more twist - magic.  Cyberpunk 2020 is the near future, with today's society having been shattered and destroyed by unfettered capitalism.  Pretty much today but worse, really.  Shadowrun tosses in the return of magic, so it adds a twist to how security operates.  The last thing any corporation wants is to be on the receiving end of a magical intrusion when they have no way to counter it.  Given that magicians and adepts of any tradition are rare and are worthy of being protected by security themselves, those who go into security are worth their weight in Unobtanium.  This means that they are never going to be part of the front line, especially in a setting where, "Geek the mage.first," is an altruism.

The security mage is going to be busy handling astral security, not physical or network.  Full mages and aspected mages focusing on conjuring can create weak spirits known as watchers to keep an eye on out-of-the-way corridors and report on any activity and full strength spirits to patrol independently.  The runners will have their own magical capabilities, so the corporations are going to try to get the magical edge.  Magical research is one of those categories that could bring out the elite, though the researchers may be better at defending themselves.

Next week, an example run from security's point of view.

Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Alien Nation, the series.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Scooby-Doo (2002).

8 May 2020

Security in Cyberpunk 2020 and Shadowrun - Part 1 - Levels

What follows is a discussion of how security in a near-future science fiction setting would work, not a how-to on breaking into a secure facility.  Some of the information comes from my personal experience in working in public- and private-sector offices.  The rest is imagination.  Any similarity to a real location is coincidental.  If you choose to use the following in anything outside a tabletop RPG, it's on you, not me.
For GMs, figuring out the opposition is one of the tougher jobs in the role.  Too easy, and the players run roughshod over the plot.  Too hard, and it's a Total Party Kill and no one leaves the session happy.  Level based games, like D&D, have ways to help balance encounters, but games like Cyberpunk 2020 and Shadowrun aren't so easy.  Being skill-based games, sometimes the lack of a skill causes problems, or a player gets creative or even lucky with their character's skill set and completely bypasses a challenge.

The issue in a stereotypical mission in the two games mentioned is that the characters are hired to be disposable, untraceable cutouts in the grand game of corporate espionage.  The opposition will be corporate security.  But even in a time where a corporation can expect a bunch of reshirted murderhobos to smash in to steal some cutting edge tech that isn't exactly ethical, the corp isn't going to put their best or most effective security up front.  They cost too much to cover the front desk instead of the multi-billion dollar research lab.

In the dystopias of the games, corporations are 24/7.  However, humans function best during daylight hours, so there still is a concept of business hours.  During business hours, when the bulk of the workforce is in, security's physical presence is going to be light.  There will be a small number of uniformed guards at the main entrance, three to five, making sure that commuters are able to sign in and checking ID badges.  There may be one stationed on each floor of the building, not obtrusive, but visible to reassure employees that they are safe.  They won't be in the cube farm.  An armed guard out of sight is one thing; an armed guard watching workers is another.  The goal is productivity at a low cost, and worried workers are inefficient workers.

The uniformed guards, though, are there as a deterrent.  They are a sign that the facility is under guard.  Deeper inside, probably in the basement, is a security room with banks of monitors.  Electronic security is handling the bulk of the work.  Cameras will be everywhere.  Privacy is not a perk; if workers wanted privacy, they can start their own corporation.

The light security will be in areas that aren't critical - parts of IT, accounts payable, HR, essentially, anywhere that counts as support instead of money making.  Network security will be covered and may work with physical security directly.  Deeper in, security is going to be more obvious, with weapons visible.  Critical areas, such as the multi-million dollar research lab, are going to have the best security the corporation has, to hell with how the scientists feel about it.  At that point, though, the scientists will appreciate having the beefier guard.  They, too, can be targets for extraction.

Short version?  The Renraku Red Samurai and Arasaka's elite guards aren't going to be found at the main entrance of a low-level facility with only support staff and rookie guards aren't going to be guarding an ultra-secret lab performing unethical experiments for fun and profit.  Unusual levels of security can act as a hint for players that something is not quite right, whether a run is too easy or too hard.

Getting a little long, so I'll pick up next week with security's response to PCs creating havoc,

Today, over at Psycho Drive-In, Remaking Emergency!
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Star Trek Continues.

1 May 2020

Sneak Peeks

Serials are still on hold, though Greg Taylor is starting a new Epsilon Project soon, with plot voting open.  I didn't get a chance to do anymore painting this past week, either, so the elf and the marilith are still waiting to be finished.  However, I do have a few stories in the works, so why not a sneak peek of what's in the pipes.  Just an interesting scene or two, to entice.  This will get long, so everything continues after the break.

23 Apr 2020

Painting Minis - The Marilith and the Elf

Continued with the Marilith to get a bit further.  First was to fix up the problems with the lower body by adding an extra coat as needed.  I also started to fix a mistake, though another coat may be needed there  Since this is about to get pic heavy, since it involves painting minis, the rest is after the break.

16 Apr 2020

Painting Minis - Finishing Sharkie

It's been a while since I've worked on Sharkie.  I've finished the eyes, teeth, and waves.  I just have the tone wash to go, which can wait for the paint to dry.  Since this is going to be pic heavy, I'll just put a cut here.

10 Apr 2020

Self Isolation

No serials for a while.  Today, though, I want to get a few things off my mind about the self-isolation, physical distancing we need to do to slow the pandemic.

I am naturally an introvert.  Thanks to an incompetent government, I have had extended unemployment where I couldn't afford to go anywhere.  Being alone was something I thought I could do.


Except that I had a social life of sorts, with gaming with friends.  I got out to the library, getting some fresh air and spending time job hunting.  I got out for groceries.

Now?  I'm discovering that I can't completely shut myself in.  I found a good contract, one where the position is considered essential, so I am managing to work.  I was also one of the first to try working from home, and considering that I'm in a call centre of sorts, it's working out better than expected.  The gaming groups are finding a workaround with Tabletop Simulator.  I can order DVDs, books, games, and cushions and have them delivered to me.

I don't have to leave the apartment to work.  I don't have to leave the apartment to game.  I don't have to leave the apartment to shop.

Problem is, I do have to get out to get groceries and do laundry.  I live alone, and if something needs to be done, I have to do it.  And some of my shopping is through just browsing.  I seldom go to a store for DVDs or books or games with a specific title in mind.  I search the racks, looking for something interesting or something I can use for Lost in Translation.  Most of the exercise I get is from walking - to the bus, from the bus, through the building at work during breaks, In the time I've been working from home, the weather has gotten warmer and the ice has melted off the sidewalk.  Walking would've gotten easier.  Instead, I'm cooped up in my apartment.

I need to get out.  Not just for groceries but for exercise.  To be able to keep walkign despite ailments taking advantage of the downtime.  I prefer having a place to go to, but that's not possible now.  Right now, thanks to an old back injury and arthritis, walking around the block leaves me in pain.  That's not good.  But there's no other way to get out.

Time will tell if we ever get back to working in buildings together.  I'm hoping for not too much time.  Turns out, I need some human contact, even if I'm on the periphery of it.

Today, over at Psycho Drive-In, Self-Isolation and Creativity
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Surprise!  It's an Adaptation!

3 Apr 2020

Ottawa's LRT - Still a Mess

Back in June 2019, I worked out how OCTranspo and the City of Ottawa could completely screw up the roll out of the new LRT.  I tend to assume that if there's a way to screw up public transit, OC Transpo will do or has done it.  If there are multiple ways to screw up, OCTranspo will start with the most disruptive way first.  Murphy could learn from OCTranspo.  Go read my original post then come back, or open it in a new tab so you can compare.

1) The 12 days of testing post-handover.  OCTranspo did not have twelve consecutive days of testing.  There was a three day break during the testing around day 8 or day 9, then testing continued instead of restarting from Day 1.  That got the service running in a soft open, where buses ran regular routes alongside the train.  The true opening came at the start of October, where buses no longer ran downtown.

2) Route changes and face planting.  The soft open did well.  Some people tried the LRT, others remained on the buses to see what happened.  The LRT was busy but not crush levels.  No major problems during the soft open.  Once the LRT became the only way to get downtown during rush, problems began.  Overcrowding on the LRT, on the platforms, and on the buses.  Delays came up.  The trains' doors often got stuck open, with passengers being blamed for them being held open.  Definite face planting occurred.  In November, there was an eleven day stretch where over 11 hours of delays happened.  On a system where a five minute delay causes everything to break, having trains out of service threw the entire kit and kaboodle into useless disarray.

3) Winter.  Early November is when winter looms.  End of November, winter has started.  The cold weather caused issues for the tracks.  Switches froze.  Ottawa did not get the weeks of -35 degree Celcius we had the previous two winters.  What we did get is a mix of snow, freezing rain, and rain, with fluctuating temperatures.  One train managed to not only take itself out but also take out the wires above because no one thought to clear the dirt and grime that built up on the train roofs.  At one point, OCTranspo was down to six trains running out of a theoretical 15 (in practice, 13, with two trains on standby, and two other trains that should be there somewhere in the ether), requiring buses to be run downtown.  Again, this is a train that travels mostly outside, and Ottawa gets extreme seasons.

Winter also revealed another problem - the outdoor platforms provide no protection from the elements.  The platforms are great for a spring day, 15 degrees Celsius, partly cloudy with a light wind.  They're not good for -20 degrees Celcius with wind gusts.  Except where there's a bridge over the platform - see Tremblay and Cyrville Stations - people will get rained and snowed on.  There's no shelter, leaving questions about whether the designer had even bothered to check weather conditions in Ottawa.

Bus service has gotten worse.  No one at OCTranspo or the city worked out the math of having 600 passengers every four minutes arriving at stations.  To clear space for the next trainload, and the LRT was running at crush capacity at the beginning, there has to be a way to clear out 600 passengers by bus.  Problem is, OCTranspo cut back on drivers and buses before realizing that there's not enough of either to handle the loads.  New drivers are being hired and trained, but there's not enough buses.  Cancellations and no shows are up from before the LRT opened.

Because drivers are being pulled in to work rush hours, they're too tired to work on the weekends.  Judy Trinh tracked the cancellations, both announced and not, and found that there is a sharp increase.  One Saturday saw 70 announced cancellations and over 210 cancellations total.  Reliability is non-existent.

Austerity costs.  People have lost time and even jobs because OCTranspo cannot get people where they need to go.  I believe I'm allowed a "I told you so!" here.
Really, OCTranspo passengers have told them so.

Stage 2 is starting.  The problems from Stage 1 haven't been fixed yet.  Stage 2 will continue to use the too small, too exposed platforms that were built for Stage 1.  There's no attempt to fix things.  The expansion may be needed, but it needs to be done right, not on the cheap, not using what we know is broken.  But things already look bad, with the roaming SNC-Lavelin scandal striking again, with the company failing the technical portion of the bid but still winning because prices had a higher weight.  Austerity costs, and going cheap means getting cheap and having to pay far more in the long run.

Over at Psycho Drive-In, hiatus week to get ahead on potential reviews.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, creativity in a pandemic.

27 Mar 2020

Digital Magic - Wrap Up

Last chapter ended suddenly.  That's where I finished Digital Magic at the end of November 2007.  I did not feel that great about the story for many, many reasons.  However, it needs to be wrapped up for closure.

Jackie and Donna have been tossed into fighting each other and trying to keep the raw magic from ripping apart the local space-time continuum.  Ripping the fabric of reality is a major occupational safety and health violation, especially if no one has the permits to do so.  It's a battle of metaphors; can Jackie's computer programming metaphor build up the magic she needs to repair things before Donna's aria builds to a climax?  Jackie has the advantage; she can set a spell off to continue without having to tweak it on the fly.  The drawback is that if she gets something wrong, reality bluescreens.

Of course, Jackie wins this battle of wills and magic, finishing with smacking Donna around with magic for a victory lap.  With the threat over, Lance reappears having rescued himeself from Donna's dungeon.  Self-rescuing damsels are more interesting, though, so Lance's escape remains offscreen.  Donna is dealt with, placed into exile.  Jackie and Lance get their happily ever after, or at least their happily ever after for now, and officially become a couple.  Weather returns to normal in Ottawa, whatever normal is.  Trish gets off Jackie's back about getting a boyfriend.

I cannot write a romance, not as an A-plot.  I got too interested in how magic works to the point where Jackie's relationships never developed.  Lance was more mentor than love interest and Steve was too slick bordering on sleazy for her to consider him for anything more than a one night stand.  Trish was the better romantic lead.  Lesson here - romance isn't my forte.

However, I do have romances building in other stories.  Nasty finally admitted to herself and to Eric how she feels about him in Crossover.  Laura and Mackenzie are a couple in Unruly, though the development of their relationship needs work.  Brenna and Officer Matt came out of nowhere in The Soul Blade and almost derailed the ending.  But the focus of those series is something else beyond the romances.  The romances are subplots, not the main plot, and I'm more comfortable with that approach.

I doubt I will get back to Digital Magic.  What I may do is mine the story for the good parts, like the eyes following on the walls and in mirrors to freak out a main character.  It's a good horror bit, adding spookiness.  I may pull Jacinda out of her video game for a new story and just handwave away how Jackie learned magic.  Odd weather as fallout from major magic is always something to have on hand.

Thank you for putting up with Digital Magic.  The blog will go into a low posting mode for a few weeks while I try to figure out the next serial.  There should be some more gaming posts to make up for the lack of story, and I have some fanfics I can pull out and dusty off if need be.

26 Mar 2020

Digital Magic - Commentary n+1

Jackie rescues herself, in Digital Magic chapter n+1.

Brute force versus artistry is a battle of the ages.  Does brute force win due to its simplicity?  Or does artistry and complexity gain the upper hand in knowing how to redirect brute force away?  Jackie and Donna are coming up to the battle between youth and old age, raw power versus experience, and desperation versus focus.

Jackie is doing what she can to escape.  Natural thing to do, really.  First, try to get through to Steve's better side, something he drowned in a bathtub as a teenager.  Donna traded hers for power.  Jackie is a battery pack to her, something to drain dry and toss away, one of a number of young adults that Donna has destroyed.

The Virgin Ploy goes back to the idea of various cultures' ideas of what is best to sacrifice.  Virginity is seen by some as akin to purity.  Erzsébet Báthory went to extremes, bathing in virgin blood, but it's a theme that repeats in myth and legend.  So why not try to use it?  Jackie has already been established to have had sex before, and there may or may not be a sex scene with Lance and/or Steve in the missing part between Chapter 17 and Chapter n.  Donna doesn't care, though.  She wants power, pure, impure, whatever.

Donna's metaphor is music.  She could be a singer, though she prefers opera and classical over anything popular.  If she realized that, today, money is power, she'd find a way to have multiple singing careers.  Jackie is trying to apply brute force, knowing she can't match Donna for skill.  Music can be disrupted.  A long, loud, low note can be effective, thus the tuba.  If this was written after the FIFA World Cup of 2010, Jackie might have gone with the vuvuzela instead.  Angry bees are always disruptive.

Jackie's metaphor allows her to set off one spell and let it run autonomously.  Donna still has to conduct.  The difference lets Jackie ignore the evil sorceress long enough after hitting her.  With the flow of magic disrupted, it becomes a race between the two women to get their metaphors to come out ahead of the others'.

Tomorrow, summarizing Digital Magic.
Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, RWBY, the manga anthology.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, hiatus week to get ahead on potential reviews.

20 Mar 2020

Digital Magic - Chapter n+1

Chapter n+1

"Moonrise is in ten minutes."

"Magic isn't beholden to the man-made concept of time.  Even those muscle-bound fools can feel the power building."

"Just pointing it out."

Donna rose up on my left.  "Steve, I have done this many times over the centuries.  I am well aware of the schedule, more aware than you'll ever be."  She patted my shoulder.  "Even this one with no training at all can feel what's building."  The best I can respond is to give her a whithering glare.  She's right, though.  The hair on my arms are standing on end and there's something in the air, like touching it and getting the smell of cinnamon.

"What would you like me to do, Donna?" Steve asks.  I can hear a tone of lustful want in his voice.

Digital Magic - Commentary n

Jackie in distress, in Digital Magic chapter n.

I discussed the gap before, but I should go deeper into the reasons.  The chapter was written in the final days of NaNo 2007, my second year doing NaNo.  What would now normally be a push to leave myself in a good spot to return to was then a desperate push to reach the 50k word goal.  I didn't know how to get to the ending and wound up getting advice from a fellow NaNo-er to just jump the gap.  So I did.  The change gave me that one last burst to reach goal.

Jackie's been kidnapped by Steve and is in the clutches of Donna.  Donna, despite not having appeared in person at all, though her eyes did show up earlier, had a background with motivation.  It's not a deep background, but it worked for what I needed.  Donna is an evil woman who uses the magical potential of younger women, like Jackie, to stay young and gain power.  She's been doing this for centuries, starting in Italy.  Her real name isn't Donna; she took that from a former title, Donna.  It's one way to hide her history while still feeling superior.  Jackie means nothing to Donna beyond being a battery to drain and toss away.

Keeping with the idea of magic has to be worked through metaphor, Donna's is music.  She must sing her spells.  The more complicated the spell, the more difficult the spell.  However, she's had the time to truly learn to sing.  If she wasn't so far into being an evil person, she could easily make a living in popular music.  She has the range needed to sing opera, which is probably how she learned to cast spells.

Jackie gets the required begging out of the way.  Always happens.  And the villain always denies.  It's a cliché, but that's the level of thought I was capable of at the time.  And Donna was fun to write at the time.  This sets up Jackie's rescue next chapter.  The stakes have been raised.

Tomorrow, Jackie fights back!!
Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Orville.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, RWBY, the manga anthology.

13 Mar 2020

Digital Magic - Chapter n

Chapter n

[Author's note: Please see last week's note on why there is a gap.]

The first thing that I'm aware of is a throbbing headache, the type that makes me wish I had gone out for a night in the Market.  One where keeping my eyes closed doesn't help it, but opening them will make the headache worse.  Beyond the pain, though, I can tell I'm on a bare concrete floor, like I'm in someone's basement.  I really should look to see where I am.

Two things occur to me when I try to look.  One, I was right about not wanting to open my eyes; and, two, I wish this was just someone's basement.  The taste of whoever owns this place runs to medieval dungeon chic.  The chains on the wall just add to the dank décor.  I push myself up so I'm sitting.  The pounding in my head gets a groan from me before it starts easing to just the tom-toms instead of the full drum set.  There's no furniture, just a bare light bulb, the floor and four bare walls.  The only way out is through a windowless wooden door.

12 Mar 2020

Digital Magic - Commentary 17

A chat with Lance, in Digital Magic chapter 17.

And the commentary has caught up!  Or the main story has a lag.  Doesn't matter.  The two are synchronized again.  Celebrate!

I needed Jackie and Lance to talk.  I wasn't in the mood by the time I reached this chapter to have a full dialogue with characters moving and doing things so I don't have to keep writing "Jackie said" or "Lance said".  I also established the instant messaging earlier, so an online chat made things easier.  This was written near the end of November 2007, so I was drawing deep from the well.  I couldn't figure things out so I went with the easy option.

NaNoWriMo is a beast to do, especially when starting out.  Digital Magic was my second NaNo project and in a genre I don't normally read let alone write.  I managed to get to 50 000 words, but I was pushing it in the final days.  I had to stop and figure out where I was going.  I've done that in later projects such as The Devil You Know, where I needed to step back to gain perspective.  Digital Magic, though, wound up having enough problems that there wasn't any way for me to get to where I wanted.

The gap between Chapter 17 and the chapter coming tomorrow is the result of me giving up on a linear plot and having no idea on how to get to the ending I finally had in mind.  I worked out a general idea of what happened, barring the romances that just weren't coming together.  No details, just what I needed to get to where I wanted to be.  Then I jumped to there.

Tomorrow, Jackie in trouble!
Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, "Galactic Battles". a fan-made four setting crossover.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The Orville.

6 Mar 2020

Digital Magic - Interregnum


There is a gap between Chapter 17 and what will be coming next.  What follows is the infill that I need to do.

If you've been reading the commentaries, I've mentioned a few times that the romance aspect of the romance novel that Digital Magic/ was trying to be wasn't quite working.  By Chapter 17, I had worked out who was behind the magical weirdness and figured out the plot.  A little late, and this plot should've been the B-plot despite me setting things in motion from almost the beginning.  I dumped dealing with the romance because it was getting bogged down into Jackie not taking hints and caring more about magic than romance.

I figured out what I needed for the end.  I had the main villain, her motivation, her goals all worked out.  Donna, the villain, went the evil sorceress route, wanting power and longevity.  What good is ultimate power if you can still die?  Jackie is perfect for her plans to stay alive and gain power.  Donna wants to drain the magic and youth from Jackie.

Steve was never the brains of the operation.  He's working for Donna and is not a nice person.  He asks Jackie out, then kidnaps her on Donna's orders.  Lance is out of action during this.  He gets to be the dude in distress here.  When the action picks up next week, Jackie has been kidnapped and is unaware of her surroundings.  She is aware of Steve's double dealings with her.

5 Mar 2020

Digital Magic - Commentary 16

Trish knows Jackie too well, in Digital Magic chapter 16.

Just a reminder that the commentary will be a week behind for a few weeks.  Eventually, there will be a catch up, but not right away.

Trish wants Jackie to be happy, like a good friend would.  Trish has also seen Jackie's lack of love life.  Trish has an active dating life and is happy with it.  Naturally, she sees the best way for Jackie to be happy is for her to find someone.  And Jackie is happy after seeing Lance.  Trish makes the obvious conclusion.  I just wish that the story had gone that way.  But Trish is acting as the gauge on who Jackie should end with at the end of the story.

The threat of Trish becoming Columbo is a dire one.  Columbo's method of investigation is to find the key clue, then hound the murderer until they break.  The murderers didn't have Columbo living with them.  Trish is going to find out the truth or break Jackie in the interrogation.  Knowing this, Jackie crumbled.  And Trish gets to smack her with reality.

Strange weather isn't odd for Ottawa.  The city gets weather extremes, often over the course of two or three days.  Imagine a day where the high is -30° Celcius and the low is -40°, then the next day, the temperature goes up 20-30 degrees, stays around or even just above freezing for a day or three, then plunges back down to -30°.  That was Winter 2018-2019.  I have seen rain clouds completely miss parts of the city.  Weather trackers mention the Ottawa "rain shield".  One year, the grass was greener a few days before Christmas than in June.  I have been in a low-hanging cloud bank pretending to be fog on the Queensway that would stay on the highway, even if there were exits to lower roads.  Those lower roads were clear.  Oh, and three tornadoes hitting populated areas that weren't trailer parks last year have to count for something.  So making the weather strange for Ottawa meant trying to work out what would be odd.

It's late fall in Digital Magic, so temperatures jumping around isn't that odd.  A weather system getting stopped at city limits is, especially when city limits follow township lines and not geographic features in the west end.  Weather cares not for man-made limits and should just blow through, barring the above-mentioned rain shield.  Here, though, there's a block.

Lightning during a snowstorm does happenOttawa gets thundersnow during winters, but they're always the actinic blue of regular lightning, not the rainbow of colours Trish and Jackie saw.

The blackout Jackie mentions is the 2003 blackout that saw Ontario and several northeastern states lose power.  Quebec, since it runs on its own power system that needs transformers to interact with the rest of the continent's power grid, wasn't affected.  Prior to that one, there was Ice Storm 1998 that caused blackouts by the sheer mass of ice on power lines.  In 2003, I had just left work to go meet with an investment broker of sorts and was sitting with her at a Tim Horton's when everything went off.  The sun was still out as it was the start of rush hour, so that wasn't a problem.  I saw the crowds building, so decided to wait to let them die down a bit.  I even went to the counter to get another drink and fortunately, I had cash.  Everyone was going home.  When I left, I saw downtown had no power.  I get home, still no power, and I lived on the 20th floor at the time.  That was a hike.  Had to stop twice to catch my breath.  Got home, no power, no water pressure, and once the sun set, not much to do except go to bed in the dark with the cats.  Fun.

Tomorrow, a quick discussion on the story's direction.
Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, hiatus week.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, a fan-made four setting crossover.

4 Mar 2020

Painting Minis - Continuing the Shark

Last time, I finished the grave markets and started a shark.  Things got a little busy since then, but I managed to sit down to keep working on Ol' Toothy.

Half-painted shark.  Mini by Wizkids
Photo by author..
The goal in mind is to finish the dorsal side, get going with the ventral, and get a start on the mouth and eyes.  The dorsal just needs broad brushstrokes, with some care where shark and wave meet.  That's one colour of paint.  The ventral side will be lighter, and I have a second colour decided for that.  Mouth will be a third colour, teeth a fourth, and the eyes will be black and beady.  That's more or less the order I wanted to work in, too.  Large to small, difficult to reach to outside.

The dorsal is complete.  The eyes are the same colour as the rest of the upper half because it was easier.  I can paint with black on top, using coats if needed.  The underside got tricky.  Turns out, the colour of paint I used was a slightly different shade of the grey used for the plastic, so there are layers there that I wasn't expecting.  With the right light, I could see the difference between the unpainted mouth and teeth and the painted ventral side.  Not easy, but I saw it.

Smile for the camera!

The mouth may need a second coat.  I'm not worried about the red streaks on the teeth.  Even if they show through the paint I'll be using, that'll just add to the fearsomeness.  Just who has Sharkie eaten lately?

28 Feb 2020

Digital Magic - Chapter 17

Chapter 17

[Author's note: The formatting really should remind readers of some sort of instant messaging system.  A blog might not be the best way to do this.]

Jacinda_9: Lance, are you there?
Lance179: Hi, Jackie.  Be right with you.
Lance179: Sorry about that.  What's up?
Jacinda_9: You saw the storm last night?
* Lance179 nods.
Lance179: How bad was it in your neighbourhood?
Jacinda_9: Lots of snow and hail and wind.  It was kinda pretty, though, with all the colours.
Jacinda_9: What was it?
Lance179: Colours, huh?  That was a mage storm.  The weather is so hosed around here because of some sort of magic that it had to reset somehow.
Jacinda_9: And that's what the mage storm did, try to fix the weather to what passes as normal here?
Lance179: Something like that.  The ley lines are still bright, though.
Jacinda_9: You've probably thought of this, but if they're like a river, can't you trace the flow downstream?
Jacinda_9: Geez, that sounds so basic that just suggesting it makes me feel dumb.
Lance179: Don't beat yourself up.  Yes, we tried.  We wound up in a loop after going all around town.
Jacinda_9: *phew*  Hey, when you went around town, did you actually leave Ottawa at all or were you always within city limits?
Lance179: I don't think we did, but I can't be sure.  Why?
Jacinda_9: The weather's been contained in the city.  I'm wondering if there is a connection.
Lance179: There is.
Jacinda_9: . . .
Jacinda_9: You can't leave it there like that, Lance.
Lance179: You won't be able to help, Jackie.
Jacinda_9: Why not?
Lance179: It's too dangerous.
Jacinda_9: That doesn't answer my question.
Lance179: ...
Lance179: Okay, then you're still learning.  You're not ready to deal with this.
Jacinda_9: Lance, I think I'd know if I'm ready or not.
Lance179: You're still thinking about what you're doing when you cast a spell.  You've picked up on what to do faster than I've seen anyone else, but you don't have the practice.
Jacinda_9: ...
Lance179: Jackie, I don't want to get you hurt.
Jacinda_9: Then hurry on the teaching.  You might need me.
Lance179: Patience, Jackie.  This isn't like learning mathematics.
Jacinda_9: I don't know.  I had to do multiplication drills.  This seems similar to me.  Practice practice practice until I get carpal tunnel.
Lance179: I promise you won't get carpal tunnel, Jackie.
Jacinda_9: Good.
Lance179: And when you're needed, I won't hesitate to call you in.  You're learning quickly.  I just don't want to get you in over your head.
Jacinda_9: It's frustrating, you know?  I feel like I should be able to help.
Lance179: And you will, when you've gotten used to being a magician.  You've just discovered your abilities.  Wait until you've discovered what you can do.  You'll be amazed at your potential.
Jacinda_9: *sigh*  Alright

Are we still on for tomorrow?
Lance179: Sure.  Want me to pick you up or would you prefer to meet me at the Bridgehead downtown again?
Jacinda_9: The coffee shop sounds good.  I'll see you there when I'm done class.
Lance179: Great! :D

27 Feb 2020

Digital Magic - Commentary 15

More lessons with Lance, in Digital Magic chapter 15.

Just a reminder that the commentary will be a week behind for a few weeks.  Eventually, there will be a catch up, but not right away.

Another session with Jackie and Lance.  There's no chemistry here.  Jackie is more about learning magic than learning about Lance.  Lance is almost in the role of expendable mentor, which would really cut a romance short.  But as a couple?  They're not quite at that point, and after fifteen chapters in a story that's trying to be a romance, there should be strong hints, like Public Displays of Affection,.or at least pet names.  But they're not there.  Jackie's more interested in figuring out magic and Lance is working on recruiting new wizards.

I was starting to figure out that maybe romance is not something I was comfortable writing, at least as the A-plot.  Later works introduce a romantic subplot, which I found easier.  The characters had other reasons to be in the story and things bloomed naturally.  Here, I'm trying to force a romance and I'm rebelling against myself.  The original lessons from Digital Magic was "don't even try a romance," which then becamse, "introduce potentials, but don't force anything."  I let my characters make the decisions.

Billiard balls are used in physics classes to teach momentum and angular direction.  Being as close to perfectly spherical as possible and meant to maximize energy transfer in a game of billiards, the balls have a uniform mass.  For teaching magic, using billiard balls removes the same variables as their use in physics classes does.  The game is also familiar to Jackie, so she can figure things out on her own if needed.  Visually, flinging billiard balls around is an amusing sight,

Discussing the weird weather, in Digital Magic Chapter 17.
Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, RWBY, the manga.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, hiatus week.

25 Feb 2020

Painting Minis - Finishing the Gravestones

I finally got out to look for a green or ground-coloured paint and found a few to use to finish the gravestones started last week.  I left off with the gravestones painted but not the ground.

Where I left off last week.  (Photo by author.)
Remember that I used different colours of primers to see the effects.  What I wound up doing is use a completely different green that I had, Greenskin from The Army Painter, instead of what I bought.  The paint was part of a starter kit my nephew gave me for Christmas.  But the different primer colours meant the appearance changed with each gravestone.

Same paint, different effects.  Ta-daa!  (Photo by author.)

The gravestone on the left in the above photo was primed with white.  The green didn't go over it evenly, but that worked out.  Grass isn't uniformly one shade of green.  I'm happy with how the paint came out.  The middle one, with grey primer, also had similar results.  The right-most grave, painted over black primer, has a different outcome that I'm not so sure about.  However, for the first time I've painted minis in a while, this came out well.

Armed with satisfaction, I decided to try painting another mini, this time a shark from WizKids.  I went with the mini because the number of colours would be low, the mini isn't complicated, and is large enough to see without taking off my glasses for close up work.

Gravestones left in for scale.  Note the fin mini on the right.  (Photo by author.)
The shark is definitely something a group of adventurers would not want to deal with.

Head on view of the shark. (Photo by author.)
I'm thinking I need x paints, a main colour for the dorsal side, a light colour for the ventral side, a third for the teeth, another for the lips and gullet, and black for the eyes.  A sixth might be needed for the water effect.

I focused on the dorsal side to start.  Long brushstrokes, no unusual creases.  Nice and simple.  I also painted the dorsal fin poking out of the water.

After about a half hour or so.  (Photo by author.)
I had an idea for the water effect for the fin mini.  Instead of painting on top, I painted the underside.  I wanted the top to look like sea foam.

Painting the bottom of the base.  (Photo by author.)
I think I pulled it off.  (Photo by author.)
I need to finish the shark, so the face and the ventral side.  The fin mini turned out well, so I will try the same thing with the larger shark.

21 Feb 2020

Digital Magic - Chapter 16

Chapter 16

Trish is waiting for me when I get step inside the apartment.  "Why didn't you call?"

"I didn't think I was going to be this late.  Besides, you could have called me.  I had my cell."

"I did call."

I fish my cell phone out of my backpack.  The phone shows that I missed seven calls tonight.  "I never-  Sorry, Trish, I didn't have my pack in with me."

"You better have a reason for making me worry, especially after last week with you freaking out over every bump in the night."

I hesitate to point out Trish's exaggerations.  It wouldn't help her mood.  "I was studying, sort of."

"Sort of?"  Trish puts her hands on her hips the way our teachers did when they scolded us.  "How do you sort of study?"  Her expression lightens.  "Who is he?"

20 Feb 2020

Digital Magic - Commentary 14

Family and fallout, in Digital Magic chapter 14.

Just a reminder that the commentary will be a week behind for a few weeks.  Eventually, there will be a catch up, but not right away.

What's this?  Jackie can catch the train in Ottawa?  What gives?  Well, at the time of writing, the O-Train, now Line 2, was a massive improvement in public transit to Carleton University.  The fact it was an improvement says it all.  Carleton tended to get service cut over and over until it was impossible to get on campus.  The O-Train provided reliable access.  Line 2 is not the trouble-plagued Line 1.  Line 2 runs.  Line 1 is in its fourth week not running with a "full" complement of trains.  "Full" meaning 13 double-trains, not the 15 that's needed but still not available.  Right now, it's easier to get to Carleton by light rail than to the University of Ottawa.

The question of what to do with a renegade wizard has come up.  It's not an easy answer.  If it was, Lance wouldn't be as interesting to me writing him.  What can be done with a renegade who is capable of making making physics sit up, roll over, and play dead?  Locking the wizard away just delays the problem for as long as the renegade decides to stay in jail.  Termination is excessive, but Lance's Circle keeps it on hand for the more extreme problems.

Lance confirms that the time hiccup was the fallout from a massive spell.  When one manipulates energy beyond the ken of humanity, something will break.  At least Jackie didn't have a full Groundhog Day event.  But there is something bigger happening and it is connected to the eyes watching Jackie.

The rules of magic needed to be set down, as much for me as for potential readers.  Ley lines are useful; they allow for the flow of magical energy.  Where ley lines cross, magical energy pools, perfect for someone to use as a source.  If a pool is in an area that gets negative emotions over, such as a jail, the magical energy gets tainted.  It works the other way, too; positive emotions clease the magic.  The Nicholas Street Gaol was not a pleasant place.  On the flip side, a holy site known for miracles that has a magical pool is going to be pure, and unable to be used to harm someone.  Magic has a flavour.

Jackie's approach to spellcasting is similar to her approach to computer programming.  There are good ways to program and bad ways.  Spaghetti code is to be avoided.  Memory should be released.  Jackie is trying to set up everything the spell needs before she casts it.  She's actually compiling the spell so she doesn't have to watch over the spell as it runs.  She could go with an interpreted approach, but she'd have to direct the magic while the spell runs.  The advantage of the latter, though, is that she can adjust the spell on the fly.  There's advantages and drawbacks of both in spellcasting in the setting.

Objects having their own magical resonance was an idea I had while writing the chapter.  Oranges having a natural sine wave was spur of the moment.  I had no plans involving this factoid yet.  I just thought it'd be neat.

Trish tries to get through to Jackie, in Digital Magic Chapter 16.
Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Simpsons Movie.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, RWBY, the manga.

18 Feb 2020

Painting Minis - A Return

It's been a while since I've tried painting minis.  I'm feeling up to trying again after the past few years, but I am not jumping into a difficult figure right away.  Since this will be photo heavy, I'm placing things below the break.

14 Feb 2020

Digital Magic - Chapter 15

Chapter 15

I have the car today.  The engine might be sounding rough, or it might be my imagination and guilt for magicking it without having a clue of what I was doing.  The Honda should be okay for what I want to do, though.  It'll be parked at Carleton all day until I go meet Lance at the warehouse, then it'll be in moderate traffic that moves fairly steadily instead of the stop-and-go of Bank Street.

I do hit the gym today, giving myself a good workout to try to work off all the calories I picked up thanks to the parties over the weekend.  My arms and legs will feel it later tonight, but the shower helps mitigate the expected stiffness.  Refreshed from both the workout and the shower, I run off to class.

Most of the lecture is taken up by the return of the previous assignment and questions about it.  Once it's done, I rush out, trying to beat the bulk of the crowd.  Okay, I'm a little excited over what Lance wants me to try tonight.  I managed to try a few things last night before Trish got home.  Nothing big, though; I didn't want to have to explain broken lights and such to her.  Even then, I almost took out the balcony door.  I stopped after that.

13 Feb 2020

Digital Magic - Commentary 13

Family and fallout, in Digital Magic chapter 13.

Just a reminder that the commentary will be a week behind for a few weeks.  Eventually, there will be a catch up, but not right away.

The best time to threaten someone is always the night after a party.  A mysterious phone call warning Jackie.  Weirdness intrudes on a day of rest.  And the villains finally start making a more overt move.  Eyes appearing on walls just wasn't working.

Something I hadn't realized during the writing but have come to figure out since is that I like the idea of the mundane and the supernatural/paranormal existing side by side, with each imposing on the other.  I think this comes from the superhero comics I've read and TSR's Marvel Super Heroes RPG.  Heroes didn't just go out, fight crime, and call it a day.  They had to balance their hero life with their regular life.  The RPG had a mechanic that rewarded characters for keeping up with their day-to-day life and penalties for breaking commitments.  There's more to being a hero than the costume.  And when I write urban fantasy, this same separation comes up.  In LTV Paranormalists, the characters straddle the line, but Ayel won't tell anyone because she doesn't want to sound crazy, despite having Ginger as Exhibit A.  Digital Magic was an evolution point that led to the later work.

The time hiccup threw me on re-reading.  I was starting to wonder how I could duplicate an entire conversation when the loop began again.  It's been thirteen years, so some details have slipped my mind, like a looped conversation.  Minor spoiler - the loop is a side effect of a major spell being cast.  Subtle magic is preferred in the /Digital Magic/ setting; it doesn't cause a ripple effect   More blatant magic causes shifts in weather patterns and, if powerful, temporal disruptions.

Training with Lance, in Digital Magic/ Chapter 15.
Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Archie Meets Batman '66.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The Simpsons Movie.

7 Feb 2020

Digital Magic - Chapter 14

Chapter 14

Dinner went well.  Hannah's cooking skill has greatly improved.  Nick figured out how to use utensils somewhere and doesn't embarrass himself or anyone else.  There wasn't as much wine as the previous few days, but my liver could use the break.  I let Trish drive us back.  She uses the back way, using Baseline Road instead of the Queensway.  It's really for the best for my poor little abused Honda.

I turned in before it got too late.  The sleep felt good, except for the waking up with the alarm part.  I've never liked that aspect of Mondays, even when I have the day off.  I get through the morning ritual without a hassle.  Showered, clothed, caffeinated, even got in a bite of toast before I ran out for the bus.

Trish needs the car again today.  She's aware of the need to take it easy with the wee beastie and won't tax it.  Seems odd having to treat a mass of metal as if it was as fragile as a coffee mug.  The problem isn't major, according to Uncle Larry, just potentially expensive.  I should be able to coax my car along until the new year.

I arrive at Carleton and dash up to my classroom.  There are no eyes in windows watching me as I run up the stairs.  Always a good thing.  Normally, I'd have stopped at one of the Tim Hortons in the Unicentre.  Today, though, I want to see if I can catch Lance before class and arrange a tutoring schedule.  It never occurred to me to figure one out on Saturday when I was with him.  In fact, it only occurred to me on the bus ride in to school.

I get my laptop started up and connected to the university's wireless network.  I log into my instant messenger and send Lance a note.  For good measure, I send an email from Jacinda's Hotmail account.  Redundancy, it's not just for backing up data and schoolwork.  I open a window to write down notes from the class and keep my email and IM available in case Lance replies.

6 Feb 2020

Digital Magic - Commentary 12

Recovery day, in Digital Magic chapter 12.

The commentary will lag a week for the next little bit.  Eventually, there will be a catch up, but not right away.

Digital Magic is still in a raw first draft version.  I have marks I use for later passes to fix later.  In NaNo. the idea is to get the words written, not agonized over.  If I don't like a word but can't think of the one I want, I'll leave a special character that wouldn't normally appear, like $, or block out the word or phase with {} or [].  On an edit pass, these stand out.

I didn't want to write out the party and all the events happening during it.  Not even as a montage.  It wasn't plot or characterization critical, even with me trying to get Jackie and Steve together.  The aftermath is more interesting and lets readers fill in their own details.  Everyone has a different definition of a wild party.

Speaking on chemistry, Jackie and Trish's nameless classmate might have more chemistry than the intended potential pairings, Steve and Lance.  Again, romance be hard, yo.  I try to challenge myself, but this went beyond my skill level.  Some planning might have helped, but even when I do some primitive outlines, things change as the story decides to go elsewhere.  It's something that came up with other stories I've posted that had large gaps before the last few chapters were done.  But I thought I had the characters thought out for Digital Magic.  Just not thought out enough.

The hookups mentioned were mainly for the fun of wrapping up the party.  They also emphasize that Jackie hasn't paired up yet.  Adding in Gary and Liam was an early attempt by me to show some diversity.  At the time, it was something I just tossed in.  Why not?  Chances are good that at least one of Trish's classmates is gay.  No use in denying or whitewashing it.  Someone else can write their story, though.  I'm having enough problems with a heterosexual romance.

Jackie's training session with Lance covers three elements.  One, that he is in the running with Steve for Jackie's affection.  Two, that Jackie is developing her own approach.  Magic, at least in this setting, changes from caster to caster.  Three, Lance is part of a larger group of people.  One-person operations don't really need a warehouse.  And the B-plot comes out, finally.  I think, on retrospect, I would've been better off getting the B-plot out sooner and making it the A-plot.  Hindsight is, much like this year, 2020.  The B-plot gave me a structure to work in, one that I can build out from.  The Soul Blade went this route.  The romance in that story came organically.  That, ultimately, is the problem with Digital Magic.  The romantic elements aren't organic and Jackie is resisting being paired off as a result.

The nature of ley lines, in Digital Magic Chapter 14.
Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, History of Adaptations, 2010-2019..
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Archie Meets Batman '66.