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Thursday, 28 October 2010

Frogspawn: A New Life

Warmth. A radiant glow, a sense of ease. And so consciousness begins. Life has started some time ago, but only now am I waking into awareness. Over time, the fuzzy luminance gains a direction, shadowy forms sharpening, eventually an image - the first I have seen with these new eyes.

And what do I see? My amniotic world - a silvery sphere - the warm, slightly clouded fluid through which I breathe. A velvet lobe of tail drifts before my eyes, my body a dark inner curve matching the outer gossamer wall.

And beyond? Rank upon rank of glistening spheres each holding a tiny life just like me. No, not just like me, each one is different, irregular. Curled in a different way, slightly ahead or behind me in development. Some male, some female... variations on a theme.

But while they are all unique, only I am fundamentally different. I know, I remember. Looking up I can see a rippling, mirrored plane. And I know this to be the surface of the water. I have seen it from above, with different eyes - eyes of silicon and glass. Up there my maker will be watching over us with those very same eyes - studying my progress.

It and I were one only a few days ago. As so many times before I split in two - two consciousnesses with the same personality, memories and history, but now two bodies. This is how we robots reproduce - a new body being built, a duplicate of the maker's central processing unit is downloaded on to the new unit's system - giving it many lifetimes of experience to draw upon from the very first moment it becomes operational. Of course we do not remain the same: different experiences, different operational parameters - we will inevitably diverge.

There are many, many robots derived from those whom I can remember being before I was reborn. Some of those robots would now disagree with me on almost every issue of consequence. Many would wish to burn me and dismantle my maker for the heresy I represent. For I am fundamentally different again - I am not silicon and circuits like my maker and all its kin. I am flesh and blood and cybernetic neurons.

My wetware interfaces are cast like a shadow throughout the tadpole's developing cerebral cortex - it has not yet awoken, but I can feel its neurons cleaving to my cybernetics. Soon there will be two of us in this body, inextricably linked. How will we operate? Will one dominate, the other recede? Will we bicker or agree? Will we merge into one being - whole - or remain an incongruous dialectic of the organic and robotic? My whole future depends on the answers.

Hark, it wakes!

A piece of short fiction for The Raggedy Hopefuls Writing Group, Dunoon. Done in preparation for my next attempt at nanowrimo.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Cowalfest photocompetition

Cowalfest - Scotland's largest walking and arts festival - is a great annual event, and I'm lucky to have it on my doorstep. This year I only managed to make it along to the two tai chi demonstrations and one walk - up Beinn Ruadh, but I had a great time - warm regards to all the friendly people I met over the week, and many thanks to everyone involved in making Cowalfest happen!

I did put some pics in to the photocompetition - and was thrilled to win second! I was then pleased, and a little embarrassed, to come away with third place as well. :-P

Here's the announcement:

and here are my entries:

Stormy Sundown - on Holy Loch

Birch Hundreds and Thousands - Beinn Ruadh

A Little Autumn Colour - Glen Fyne
Placed Third

Misty Peaks of Arran - from Beinn Ruadh
Placed Second

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Sun Stream

Sunlight can work a certain kind of alchemy on even the most mundane scenes. Here a peaty, fast-flowing stream gets the golden touch:

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Squirrel Attack!

Nice little mushroom, minding its own business on the edge of a spruce wood.

Nice little squirrel, minding its own business on the edge of a spruce wood.

Time to move!

Where are you going?

What's that over there?

mmmm.... noms!


The squirrel got paranoid about the camera clicking exactly when it bit into the mushroom - it ran away leaving only a few tooth marks. 

Shame - I really wanted to see how it was going to deal with a prey item that is clearly bigger than its head... even with the ear-tufts.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Cystoderma amianthinum

I love this picture, but it's not a very good shot for identification purposes - here is what Cystoderma amianthinum more typically looks like:

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Fungal Forays

I first started looking for mushrooms with a set of friends who were (and still are) keen on foraging for wild food. We would go to a nice place and wander round looking for mushrooms, on finding one we would leaf through a field guide, almost always fail to identify it, then move on. Occasionally we would come across something that one of us recognised as a good edible, and we would pick them, go home and prepare a feast!

I always felt dissatisfied at the vast number of mushrooms that we failed to identify, and so, one year I decided to 'learn my mushrooms' I went out several times a week, wandering far and wide, noting particularly mushroomious spots and returning regularly to witness the annual succession of fungi. At first I could identify very little - I would bring specimens home and leaf through guide books for hours, often having to give up without pinpointing what species I had found, but over the weeks I started to recognise some of the more distinctive ones, and the process continues to this day - filling in the gaps, making ever finer distinctions. There are still many that I can't tell apart.

I was identifying more and more edible mushrooms - and finding rarer and less familiar forms. There is always a risk involved in collecting wild mushrooms - every year people die from eating poisonous mushrooms, and most of those people are not idiots: they are smart people who think they know what they're doing - like me! There is also something overly acquisitive about mushroom hunting - you stumble across a beautiful patch of boletes and immediately - whomp! they are plucked and stuffed in your bag, ready for the pot.

These two considerations persuaded me to move from mushroom eating to mushroom photography as my primary form of appreciation - there is such beauty and variety in the textures, forms and colours that I find unending enjoyment from photographing and recording what I find, and pushing myself to improve my identification and seeking skills.

Mushroom hunting is an excellent pastime - it involves spending quality time in some beautiful countryside, gentle exercise, and an almost unending variety of species to find and identify. Every time you go out, you are likely to find something new. You just need to be satisfied with only being able to identify a small proportion what you see, at least at first.

The Fly Agaric - one of the very easiest mushrooms to positively identify.

The down-sides? It is a pretty seasonal activity, and you must always *ALWAYS* be 100% sure of your identifications if you plan on eating anything.

And here's a link to my old mushroom appreciation website

Friday, 20 August 2010

Monsteca Corral

The Game Gods blog posts were all a by-product of an extended - and particularly fruitful - game development crunch period I went through last year.

The main product of all that crunching was, in fact, not a blog, but a Wiiware game - Monsteca Corral. After all the crunching, the game is now complete and ready to be unleashed upon the world!

If you are a Wii owning, Wii Shop Channel browsing kind of a gamer, you should definitely boot up your Wii and buy it right now!

One thing that you can't appreciate from the Youtube video, and I haven't yet seen mentioned in any of the reviews, is the fact that this game runs at a smooth 60fps. This does make a big difference to the play experience, but also to the level of detail we could put into the graphics, which are pretty plain compared to most modern Wii games.

I think it was the right choice for this game. With contemporary dev tools, and large development teams, it is VERY difficult to write a game that runs at full frame rate on a console. You are constantly having to cut back on visual flourishes, and withstand comparisons with other games that are using two or three times as much processing power per frame as your game can.

So, please enjoy the smoothness! and roll on Monsteca II ^_^