Thursday, September 06, 2012

The Underdark

We have been out here on Vancouver Island for four year now. We haven't really had the opportunity to do much exploring, aside from a trip to Tofino shortly after we arrived. Several people we know recommended that we see the caves at Horne Lake Provincial Park, about an hour northwest of Nanaimo. So, a couple of weeks ago, we decided to take the trip. The girls declined the opportunity to wander around in a dark, unlit cave, so it was Julie, Avery, and yours truly who made the trek.

Horne Lake Caves are in a mountainous region of the island, and the entire area is breathtakingly beautiful. Horne Lake itself is nestled between these low mountain ridges, and was so beautiful that we almost didn't go to the caves.

We did though, and embarked on a 1.5 hour Family Adventure Tour. Our guide was a cool young guy by the name of Jess-C (yes, that's his real name, and yes, his parents are hippies), and we were lucky enough to have him to ourselves.

The caves were about a 20 minute hike up the mountain from the parking lot, and we learned a fair bit about caves and karst geography along the way. Also, poisonous plants, and how I'm in the worst demographic for following instructions (middle-aged white guy).

I've never been in a cave before, and I have to admit that I had some trepidation about descending a steep metal staircase into a narrow cave that seem to "glow" with a black that swallowed the sunlight, with nothing but the feeble glow of our headlamps to guide us. Those concerns were unfoundeed, as it turns out.

One important rule: You can touch the river rock (yes, this was a seasonal riverbed we were descending) but DO NOT touch the limestone. Not only are they fragile, they also pick up the dirt and oils from filthy human skin, and incorporate it into their surface. So they get dirty, and stay dirty for decades.

The caves were amazing, We saw a foot-long soda straw that was 1200 years old. A limestone wolf, the guardian of the caves. Stalactites and stalagmites, "popcorn", "curtains" and other amazing structures formed by the slow deposition of calcium carbonate, dissolved in the water.

We learned that the First Nations people in the area never went deeply into the caves, believing them the entrance to the spirit world. They would have never gone as deep into the caves as the limestone wolf guardian we saw, yet in their stories the guardian of the caves was a wolf.

It was an amazing trip, a glimpse into the fantastic world under our feet. We plan to go back, for the 3 hour tour next time. I'm not sure I'm up for the cave rappeling yet, or the tour that takes place when the river is running, but we will return.

I highly recommend it.

Monday, July 09, 2012

This blog tends to be critically-neglected. Most of my communication is through Facebook, and while I do a lot of writing, most of it is either for 2300AD, or else the novel I'm working on. There doesn't seem to be a great deal of time to devote to something like this. Which is a shame, because some long-form writing, rather than the occasional morsel I manage to post in Facebook, may be a useful way for me to sort some ideas out.

The novel that I'm working on, in close partnership with my wife, Julie, has the working title of "Protector's Hope". It is fairly hard science fiction, with a great deal of speculation on the possibilities of mind-machine interfaces. Within the book, though, these technologies are an accepted, and even normalised, component of society in the colony world where this book is set. I've got it planned as an adventure book, with some underlying threads about free will and the nature of identity. 

While the civilazation depicted in the book will seem almost utopian at first, it becomes clear over the course of the book that they are every bit as draconian as the regime back on Earth that they fled from, they are simply more sneaky about it.

On the 2300AD side, Tools for Frontier Living is currently being edited, and will head to layout soon. French Arm Adventures should follow. I'm currently working on the French Arm Sourcebook, andI have started the outline for Chinese Arm Adventure and the Chinese Arm Sourcebook. Somehere in there will be the military sourcebook, covering weapons, equipment, vehicles and some specific information about national militaries,. 

In between and around those books will be at least one short adventure, tentatively titled "The Secret Garden", and set on the distant Canadian colony world of Kanata. Also in the works for generic Traveller, and headed for self-publication, are a book on robots, drones, cyborgs and androids, along with another book on gun design. Each should have significant illustrations, even I have to do them myself.

My writing life looks to be very busy for months to come. Of course, I also have the ongoing saga of my home renovations, the need to protect my gardens from marauding deer, kitten rescue, an escape-artist dog, and three very bright kids, and my life is pretty full. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud
for man's been endowed with a mushroom shaped cloud.
And we know for certain that some lovely day
someone will set the spark off and we will all be blown away.

They're Rioting in Africa, the Kingston Trio

I'm 41 years old. The earliest years of my childhood were spent on a military base, where every so often they would test the air raid siren. These weren't the fear-filled days of the 50s, but the tense days of the 70s and 80s. That air-raid siren hammered a point home every time it went off, that I, and everyone I knew, lived in the centre of a big, fat, nuclear target. Canada's largest military airbase was certainly on some Soviet list, targeted for destruction. Even moving away for university didn't really help that perception. My next stop wa the capital city of Alberta and home to a great many juicy refinery-type targets. Another bulls-eye.

As a child, and even a teen, I lived under the shadow of nuclear war. Deep inside, I never thought that I would live to 30, let alone 40. Pessimism about the future was a strong undercurrent in much of my youth, and I think a similar cloud hung over many of the people I knew. 

In the mid 1980s, the game Twilight:2000 came out, postulating an altogether realistic (at the time) nuclear war scenario. Magazine articles in support of the game even listed targets, including the city where I went to school... 

Now, we worry about ecological disasters, global warming, climate change, and a host of other issues. But the warheads are still there. Not aimed at anything in particular, according to their owners, but Russia and the United States have over 8000 nukes between them, or more, depending on which source you read. France, Britain, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, and, likely eventually, Iran, have nukes too. South Africa used to have nuclear weapons, but actually dismantled them shortly before the end of Apartheid. The threat is still there. 

The sword still hangs over our heads, but it seems to be held up with more than a fine silk thread now. Hopefully in the future, that can become a chain, and we can get out from under the mushroom-shaped cloud.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 is fading fast...

2009 has been quite a year for us. After many trial and tribulations, we were finally able to sell our house in Alberta, and purchase a house on Vancouver Island. The kids have settled in, and we are at home.

Of course, like any home, it requires a certain number of modifications to make it more suitable. More and more as time goes on, it seems. Doors, walls, toilets, showers, floors (ah yes, the floors. All of them. Everywhere...). In the spring, it will be gardens and fencing. Fruit trees and rock gardens. I'm looking forward to it. All this sort of work is not really what I would call fun. However, it is definitely satisfying. At the end of the day, you've actually accomplished something, something you can point at and say "I did that."

That's a pretty cool feeling. My job doesn't produce tangibles, things I can hold. It's great that my life can.

But at 2009 draws to a close, I can say that it has been a good year. Were there problems? Of course. My "luck" would hardly allow anything else. The good outweighed the bad, and I think that is good enough.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

And so it begins

Snap-hiss. Raj woke with a start, the fear-sweat stink still sharp in his nostrils, overlaid with the smells of sweat and decay. Panic nearly crushed him before he remembered where he was. The bunk above him was barely a handspan away from his nose, military-style bunks for the castoffs of humanity. Hushed voices in the darkness near him, a protest, a muffled cry. Then a peculiar noise, almost like a pop, and then the folding sound of a body hitting the ceramic floor. Just another night in the Acropolis.

Monday, December 21, 2009

About that challenge...

Just to be perfectly clear, I'm going to win. Mocking rights will be mine. All mine.


Push the envelope

First post in over a year.

I'm challenging myself to do some new things this upcoming year. First, I'm going to update this thing at least once every two weeks, and find enough interesting things to say to make it worthwhile. If my buddy Steve Fitzpatrick can do it, so can I.

I'm going to work on both my writing and my drawing. Both have languished for a long time, and this is the year that I get going with both again.

On the writing side, I have challenged a couple of my friends to see who can get a short story published first this year. I also have the novel I'm working on, and an outline for another.

On the gaming side, I plan to write, and illustrate, a line of vehicle, ship, and planet books for the game Traveller. These I will self-publish in PDF format, and once I have a critical mass of each, I will see about getting them into print. On the print side, I have a couple of projects I'm starting, but I don't want to give anything away. These are personal projects, in the sense that they are mine, not work-for-hire. I just need to keep up my current momentum.

On the drawing side, in addition to the gaming books, I want to work on a web comic or two. One would be in conjunction with my friend Earl, if he can get off his butt, and the other would be in conjunction with one of my secret projects.

Yeah, I plan on a busy year, but as a wise woman once told me, "The more you do, the more you can do." I intend to push that to the limit this year in my creative pursuits. While, and at the same time, making sure that I am there for my family.

Off I go, and back to work.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Life on the Boompond

Just over a week ago, my little family was finally reunited. I've been living in Victoria for the past 11 months, while my wife and kids waited at home, trying to sell our house. The house never sold, so we finally had to bite the bullet and move out here anyway. We rented the house out, and found a place out here to rent, Not as nice, or as private, as our house, but it is in the right area.

It's a pleasant upscale neighbourhood, many of whose residents were up in arms about our arrival. It seems that this neighbourhood isn't friendly to renters. I guess they're worried that we'll lower property values, or something. For the first couple of days we got some pretty cold looks from our nieghbours, but before long they had started to warm up to my natural charm %) Or something. Maybe it was Julie.

We're getting settled in. It's a big house, but with a lack of convenient storage. And while nice, it's easy to see why it never sold. (It was up for sale before they rented it to us). Too many little things need to be fixed.

We've come to the conclusion that grey squirrels are evil, or at least seriously messed up. For someone used to the little red squirrels of Alberta, the big greys out on the coast seem just wrong.