Monthly archives: July 2002

The must have garden accessory (thanks to boingboing for finding it).

Mind you, when I was a kid, my dad built an experimental wind mill. It was made of two old oil drums, split in half. The halves were offset to act as scoops at 180 degrees to each other. The scoops were placed one on top of the other, at 90 degrees to each other (I hope this makes sense, I’m not drawing a diagram), so that no matter which way the wind came from, at least one scoop would catch it and begin turning.

It sort of worked. I don’t think the dynamo it was supposed to run was much good so it never generated much electricity. The point of this little ramble is- I could sit inside one of the half barrels on the top and when things started moving, it was a lot like sitting in a very tight roundabout. I went too fast once and was terrified and ill.

We had to make our own fun in the old days, you know.

And a little bit of Seeds

At high sun, the light played off the glacier, sparkling on the melting ice. The old road bridge, closed now to all but official traffic, was the only vantage point Boran could find to watch his engineers as they marked fire points and laid remote mines. His office on the southern side of the fjord afforded a nice view of the rail marshalling yards and on the northern side the mass of the city was further to the west.

The twin cities of Cora and Munss, possessing the only bridges on the great fjord which split the continent west of the mountains, had been the first prize of the great thrust northwards. Common wisdom held that if the North were to attempt liberation, troops would stream down the glacier in tracks and powered sleds. They had come that way before, aiding the cities� battle for independence from the South.

Boran had been too young to remember the Glacier war. He did recall the smiling uncle who would take him up on the ice and keep him safe whilst he scoured the surface for wreckage. One time, when they had dared travel further than usual, they had come upon the truncated fuselage of a heavy bomber. The aeroplane had buried itself on impact, but the flow had finally thrust it back into the open. In the half enclosed cockpit the crew were crumpled over the controls. Uncle Hian had made the sign of the Silver Tower and flagged the wreck for recovery. Not long after, Boran�s favourite uncle and mother had died in the same house fire. Within days his father had everything in order and they had moved to the family home in the South.

And now he was back. The military had sought out the young engineer shortly before the cities were due to be attacked, and drafted him. It would have been a pleasure to be back in his old home, if there weren�t such a risk of being knifed or thrown over the cliffs should he stray out of the militarised areas.

The motor trike started on the third pull on its starter cord. Boran raced a gigantic lumber train, on the next bridge over, to the southern wall of the fjord. He had to get some joy in his head before his daily briefing with Commander Janssen.

I haven’t done this for a long time. Back when I had mostly tapes, I used to stack them all up and then go through them from the top to the bottom, listening to everything once. I decided to do it with my CDs. Today’s, so far, have been-

NME- Album of the year 2001, James Robert Morrison- J.R., Pixies- Bossanova, White Stripes- White Blood Cells, Stone Roses- Stone Roses, Less Than Jake- Borders and Boundaries, Ten Benson- Hiss

So the Commonwealth weather broke, very spectacularly. The front door of my house is below the level of the road in the Close, so water can runn down and pool in front of the step. In a quarter hour period it rained so hard that the water was an inch and a quarter deep. Nowhere near flooding, but still quite spectacular. Eventually the downpour stopped being quite so torrential and the ground drainage managed to overtake the flow.

I finally have a working scanner, after trawling the web for drivers. It didn’t help that it wasn’t a Packard Bell, but a re-badged Mustek scanner.

Then, of course, my modem had to decide it couldn’t get a dial tone and I’ve been sans Internet for two days. After testing every connection about three times, I’ve put back whichever one had pulled loose.

Tomorrow I scan. A lot.

Well, I think I have everything from the site copied to my PC, and I found a driver for my scanner. I’m trying to build up all the tools I need from cover disks and freeware, but it can be annoying. How come, when I put the same e-mail info into Outlook Express (which I’d rather not use) and Eudora (by all accounts a top notch piece of kit), OE can get stuff off the server and Eudora can’t?. Whatever I end up using, I’m going to take this opportunity to start a big rebuild of the site.
There hasn’t been any Seeds for almost a week, so-
[As far as this story is concerned, a digit is roughly half an inch and a span is twelve digits, ie six inches.]
The lead plane waggled its wings as it passed over the marker. The team collecting the canvas up waved back.
There were four crates, two of weapons and ammunition, two of food and supplies. The crates were wooden, so the evidence could be burnt later. Everything went into the canvas bags and was carried to the cave that had been their home for the last two nights.
Squad chief Lensman was viewing the wreckage down the valley through field glasses. “That was too large for a patrol. They were garrisonning something.” He handed the glasses to his sub.
“Target opportunity?”
“Let’s head there. It’s on the way.”
There were complaints at the increased loads after the light mountain kit they had carried on the way over. “We should of brought mules.”
“You are half mule Mov.” He was alos the most experienced mountaineer of a group made up almost entirely of mountaineers. As such, he was First Scout and blessed with a lighter load. Lensman pointed to the head of the valley. “We shall go and see where they were heading, eh? Pick a trail with good vantage and cover.”
“Aye. Right y’are.” Mov tightened the straps on his pack and picked a new half digit auto rifle from the pile. He headed down to the tree line, grabbing a shoulder bag of magazines that was tossed to him.
Young Kess, meanwhile, had fallen in love. At eight spans, the one digit long rifle was nearly as tall as its new owner. Lensman watched the squad’s youngest member assemble the monster sniper rifle. The blue banded bullets were anti personnel, capable of one shot kills at extreme ranges, red bands were armour piercing sabots. “How are you with that gun, Kess?”
“I put three hundred rounds through one in training sir. Best in my class.” They were all best in their class. They needed to be. The twenty man squad (all men, the air army’s equality hadn’t yet extended to the infantry) had to appear an army.
The packs were filled. Mov was up ahead on a vantage point, awaiting the squad. Lensman took the lead.

Manchester’s weather has reverted to type, just for the Commonwealth Games I guess. There hasn’t been a dry day since Thursday. I got completely soaked cycling into town so I could check my e-mail at the Easy internet cafe. Hey ho.
It’s doubly annoying because I ordered a PC on Thursday, which I was told would take two (working) days to two weeks to arrive (but probably the two days) and I’ve been sitting inside all excited and full of anticipation for the last two days with no delivery.
There have been a lot of theories about what went wrong with Worldcom et al, but I just can’t shake the feeling I’ve always had that the Stock Exchange isn’t about real money. Really, success should be measured by the number of customers, products shipped and quality of these products. I don’t know, maybe I’m just bitter. Anyone who works in an office will be familiar with what happened, only on a smaller scale. Whilst you’re busy making things which work and doing your best, it’s the bullshitters who land half finished disasters in your lap who get ahead.

Well, I was typing something really interesting on Thursday afternoon when the Easy internet servers went down. And then yesterday it was pouring down, so I didn’t get into town. Those are my excuses, anyway.
A bit of Seeds for you-
The Watney Slender Wasp was a fine mountain aeroplane, maneouvrable enough to pitch down the valleys and far tougher than its slender silhouette suggested. The trimotor they were escorting, on the other hand, was a fat ugly beast of a bird. Reed kept glancing back to check it was still lumbering up behind them. “Kenan’s gap in thirty counts.” his navigator/ gunner told him. Jay looked nervous, it was her first combat mission.
As they approached the turn she began counting down. “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, now.” Reed banked hard right, flattened and throttled up for the climb. “Horse is still with us, Jay reassured him.
They joined the road at the head of the valley. It clung to the cliff face, curving away from them. “Horse here. We are heading for our drop.” the cargo plane announced.
“Affirmative Horse. We’re going to cause some chaos.”
They couldn’t see the target yet, but no doubt the target could hear them. “Guns live, rockets live, bombs ready.” Jay pre-empted the command.
The valley straightened and ahead of them was the target. The convoy had positioned itself perfectly to be attacked. Most of the vehicles were still in a short covered section built to protect the road from the avalanches that swept down the gully above. Outside the tunnel two vehicles jostled for position, an armoured track and a softskin eight wheeler with anti air gun in its bed.
“Two and three with me, four, five, six around and take the rear. Let’s seal this at each end.” The rear three planes peeled off. “You have the plane.” Reed told Jay. He kept his hands close to the controls, ready to take them back, but he had to trust her. The plane nosed up slightly as Jay checked the targettting scope. A few more counts and the anit air gun would come to bear. Were they closing fast enough to cut them off?
“Rockets away.” Jay announced. Three projectiles jumped from the left wing, two from the right. They were little more than fireworks with shaped charges on the end, and sometimes they didn’t work.
The nose dipped and Jay let off a two count burst from the guns. The bullets reached the eight wheeler ahead of the rockets, bouncing off the anti air’s armour and decapitating a loader. Gravity hadd taken hold of the rockets and brought their trajectory down toward the gun. Two shaped chargespunched through the armour and destroyed the mechanism beyond. One lifted the gun off its mount and the final two found an ammunition crate. The explosion split the eight wheeler, sending the rear bouncing down the mountain, and rocked the armoured track.
The plane nosed up, as six smoke trails passed below. They flew over the track into the mouth of the tunnel, which lit up yellow as they found a fuel truck.
“Bombs gone.” Jay announced. The plane jumped up as she pulled back on the controls. There were mirrors mounted in the lower frames of the cockpit’s glazing. As Reed took back control, she checked on the bombs’ trajectories. “Dropping metal eggs” her instructor had called it. She had always preferred “Shitting death from above.” Thankfully there wasn’t a poetry section to the bombardiers exams. Both bombs collapsed the tunnel roof.
At the far end of the tunnel anti air guns had been brought to bear. The convoy was longer than they had thought. Four, five and six had dropped their bombs and were coming back up the valley three abreast to deliver a volley of rockets and bullets.
Reed brought the plane around in time to see a ripple of explosions along the road. Both anti airs, a number of soft skins and another fuel tanker took hits. Infantry spilled out of carriers to find cover. Not a vehicle was undamaged. One eight wheeler had driven over the edge in the confusion and was sliding sideways down the cliff wall.
“Horse here. Drop done.” came the message over the radio. That had been the primary mission, the chance to carry out this hit and run was just an added benefit.
“Okay. Flight, form on me and let’s go home.”

And they wonder why there’s a Black Economy.
I’m available, ready and willing to work, and I’m putting time in each day trying to find work. But whilst I’m not working, I might as well write and work on this site, stuff which may- one day- earn me some money. So, filling out the forms, I admitted I was registered self employed (I may not be making anything, but this is costing money and I want to be able to claim it back) and that whilst I wasn’t employed I would be putting around 25 hours a week into various projects. I was being honest, and possibly looking for Brownie points, but whilst I’m unemployed I’m not allowed to admit to anything which might make me money- no matter how far off in the future- without risking the withdrawal of benefits. And if I do make any money and tell them about it, then they will generously let me keep the first five pounds and dock the rest from my benefit. Five pounds. That’s slightly more than an hour and a half’s work at minimum wage, less than half an hour at my last wage. The temptation to take cash in hand and still sign is very high. How about removing it by allowing income up to half your benefit before docking anything. It would cost more up front, but you’d recoup it in the money coming back into the legitimate economy (death and taxes) and steering people away from the more dubious employers, who, surely, are the ones more likely to have poor safety procedures etc.
Five pounds. It’s pathetic.

I’ve been busy scribbling Seeds stuff, I’ll post some more tomorrow. As you can tell, it’s very different to other stuff I’ve done. Just how different remains to be seen. I’m also going to start filling the gaps in The Eliza Effect. I just need to remind myself of all the sub chapter titles.

I’m trying to write every day, now I have all this free time, and post it the next. This is a chunk from my other ongoing project, the untitled ‘Seeds project’ story-

The silver wing reflected the sky, blending with the perfect blue at the edges. Harren could only tell where his aeroplane ended by spotting the wingtip aerial. He rotated the turret and gazed down the expanse of wing on the other side. It was all wing, this impossibility of a flyer, pushed through the upper atmosphere by six pairs of contra rotating propellers. So ugly on the ground, up here it was a slice of light high above the occupied territories.

Harren unhooked his feet from the stirrups and lowered himself into the main cabin. Jenss, the bearded, miserable top gunner nodded at him as he commented, “You have one of the finest views in the aerial military up there.”

“And none of the Northern Countries can fly anything high enough for me to shoot at.” Jenss didn’t return to his post, merely reached up and locked the turret into its aerodynamic rest position.

There was so much space in the main cabin of the flying wing. Harren had flown his first combat missions in the single engined, two seat ‘Stumps’ which still saw service with the Defector Brigades. They were solid, slow and stable, but the engines died too easily and there was no space to move in the cabin. Each of the wing’s bomb bays could hold the fuselage of a Stumpy and the crew of eight , it could comfortably hold twelve in gun platform mode, could move around the pressurised cabin.

Harren plugged his remote talker into a panel above the navigator’s position. “About time to come arfound Mister Karn.”

“Coming around to…. three five two?”

The navigator nodded. “Three five two.” Harren unplugged and walked forward as the wing began to bank.

“I can’t understand why we fly these missions. It would better suit the cause to go over the damn mountains and take the fight to what’s left of the Northen Countries. Or we could block the Arril pass for good.”

“Good time, Karn, good time. They believe there is a whole army scattered over the plains and in the forests. It is hoped we can find some of it and rain down fire upon them.”

The black tower of smoke which pinpointed the factory city of Reff came into view and the wing stabilised. Light glinted off the great river which lazily wound its way from Reff, having just as lazily sneaked out of the forested mountains of the unexplored far North.

“You have no need to lecture me. I am merely impatient and posing a rhetor…..” Karn craned forward as he trailled off, straing at something far above.

Harren strained for a moment before he spotted them. Twin trails of white vapour, running almost vertical, inclined ever so slightly toward the far side of the mountains. The trails started and ended far above the wing’s upper limits, though the bottoms were coming ever lower. Harren plugged his RT in. “Navigator come forward.”

The navigator spotted the vapour trails without requiring a prompt. He did some quick calculations on a wipe clean map. “They shall fall well short of Reff.”

“Really? What about now?” Karn asked, pointing. The trajectories were shallower.

“If they keep changing direction at that rate, maybe the great oil store, possibly Reff itself.”

“Comms. Flash traffic to Reff aerial defence. Tell them to expect a an attack. Gunnery, see if you can get me those things in the focals.”

The screen above and to the left of Harren made alow Punnnn sound as it turned on. In gun platform mode the optics and electronic imaging device under the nose turret fed images for the pilot and gunner to target the recoilless cannons slung below the bomb bays. The image resolved and zoomed in. At maximum magnification the picture was fuzzy, but Harren could swear he was looking at his own wing, only sleeker- as if it had folded up at great speed.

“The Northerners are experimenting with rockets to send their artillery further.” Karn repeated an officers’ club rumour. The trajectories were now almost flat, these were no dumb shells.

The objects, wing or bomb, were almost horizontal as they crossed Reff. Every aerial defence gun and rocket – and there were a great many- loosed several salvos. The air over the polluted city became darker still. The slave workers would have the threat of a shrapnel rain to add to the noxious fumes they breathed.

Both flying things entered the cloud, they could hardly avoid it. “No thing could survive that.” opined Karn. The viewer zoomed out, just in time to see two objects, each trailing flame and smoke, burst out of the cloud. One shot high and to the South, the other low toward the ocean. “Rockets.” Karn repeated as they disappeared from view faster than anything had the right to travel.

The girl two checkouts over had a very sexy urban peasant/ hippy chick look going on. Her denim wrap skirt hung off her hips and reached all the way to the floor. enticingly, it hung lower than the elastic of her knickers. Her knit top was slightly short, highlighting the glimpse of under garment. The white strap of her bag crossed her heart, separating and emphasising a pair of lovely handful-and-a-bit breasts. Straight black hair hung down to these prizes, where it fell forward, and framed a pale smooth skinned pretty face showing a little more worry than she deserved. I’d hate to look into those eyes and see an ounce of pain.
I fell in love for five minutes in Tesco yesterday. One day I should summon the nerve to act on one of my brief infatuations.

Well, interviews keep being put back and put back (or in the case of the one I should have had this morning, 7 grand mysteriously disappears from the advertised wage) so I figured I should sign on. What a joyful experience that was. They’ve changed the way they do it in the four years since I was last on the dole, and now they have funky touch screen job search thingies full of minimum wage jobs instead of those depressing boards full of handwritten descriptions of minimum wage jobs.

From the job centre I went off to the other end of the scale, dropping in on the BMW and Mercedes showrooms to get a few brochures for photo reference. When I admitted this to the guy in the Merc place, and added that I was looking for the criminals’ cars, he rushed off to get me the very plush- hardbacked- S Class catalogue. “Painted black with dark tinted windows, we sell more of them to drug dealers than anyone else.” he told me with glee.