Sunday, June 24, 2012

Working on a skill

For the last 30 days, I had decided to try a sketch a day. Nothing too complex, just something every day.

Now I happened to have come across this LifeHacker article on how to get past the "I suck" barrier.

Several pieces of advice there make sense

  • take breaks - well, that was one advantage of sketching - I didn't work long enough on any one to need that but I can see it would be useful.
  • know when to quit and learn from your mistakes. Now I did this one several times. Sometimes I'd just rapidly realise that the thing I wanted to draw was way too complex for me or that if I kept trying to correct the problems, I'd make things worse.
  • try a smaller project - like above, find a simpler subject for sketching but one that still forced me to work at the skill
  • and KEEP practicing. 
So, while still needing a lot more practice to actually be good, 30 days of sketching certainly did prove to me that I could learn and get better at the skill.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Fallen (Part 3)

(disclaimer - reposting this - originally on tumblr.)

“Dark red. The whole underwing should be dark red.” I smiled at Raph. “I know, it’s usually done for contrast but I’m going for subtle dramatic.”

“Right, well, full body is going to cost you.” He pointed at the price list. I didn’t even glance in that direction, I’d been here enough times with Maria to memorise the entire list.

“Here’s the cash,” I handed him a small pile of gold and silver coins. Raph took the money and motioned me to the back of the shop.

“Right, full body. So, take off anything you don’t want dyed black. You can tie any of these,” he motioned to a large range of pieces of cloth, “around any bits of you that shouldn’t be dyed. When you’ve done that, I’ll put some protection over your eyes and we can start.” The pieces of cloth had obviously been used to keep dye off his customers in the past. Some were too stiff to be useful any more.

I removed my garments and tied one cloth around my hips. “Done.”

“You weren’t kidding about full body, were you? Now close your eyes.” I closed my eyes and he placed a couple of small sticky things on my eyelids.

He led me over the a small platform and then moved my arms and wings for best exposure. “Now just stay like that.” I could hear a small click then the platform started to slowly turn. I could feel the mist of the dye hitting me. Raph was spraying up and down very steadily as the platform moved.

It was only a few minutes later when he stopped spraying. “That’s a nice even coat, from top to toe. It’s pretty fast drying, so we should be ready to do the second colour soon.” I just stood still, waiting for instructions.

“Seems like forever since you or Maria came in. What’s been happening in your lives?” Raph asked.

“Well, Maria kind of pulled out of the party and dance circuit because she had a baby. A lovely little clouding.” I was trying to keep all of my feelings under control. “And she is more the party goer than I am. So we both stopped.”

“Well, maybe Maria should come by with the little one.” I could hear some rustling noises. “Should be ready for the secondary colour. Keep your wings well up and out. Let your arms drop to the sides.”

I did as instructed and felt the spray of dye against the undersides of my wings. This coat was finished even more quickly.

“Well, there you go, Luc.” Raph pointed at the mirror in the corner. “What do you think?”

I looked at myself in the mirror. The black coated all of me except for my eyelids and what the cloth protected. I spread my wings to see the red, such a deep colour it was barely distinguishable from the black. It should be impossible to see me flying after dark, even if the moon were full. “That’s perfect, Raph. Exactly what I was hoping for.”

“I don’t get much call for black, you’re lucky I had enough dye. And you probably remember, it will last 4 or 5 days or you can wash it off with the special formula. I’m sure Maria has some from all the dye jobs she’s had done."

“Thanks Raph, see you later.” I flew out the door.

There was still a couple of hours until dusk, and I was pretty sure that things wouldn’t happen until well past dusk. So I grabbed a bite to eat. Then I went back to my place, sat next to Celia’s crib and cried all the tears that I’d been holding back. Our Celia, our darling, was by now a groundling. What I was hoping to do tonight wouldn’t and couldn’t save her from that fate.

Finally, it was nearing dusk. I flew to my chosen spot and settled in for the night. From my vantage point, I could see both the exits quite clearly. I had no idea if my suspicions would prove to be right. Or if I’d have to come back a few times. Or if it was too late already, but I was pretty sure that wasn’t true.

Finally, sometime well after midnight, I saw a couple of staff members leave the building by the roof exit. One carried a small bundle, one that could easily be Celia. I waited until they were truly airborne before I launched myself into the sky. I wanted to stay within sight but far enough back that they wouldn’t hear my wing beats.

The flight lasted for about half an hour. Soon the pair were circling a small groundling village. I felt sure they were checking the village to ensure no one was about. So I looked for a place I could stay that wouldn’t be noticed by the groundlings or the pair I was following.

Soon they landed and placed their tiny bundle down on the ground near the centre of the village. I watched as they looked at the baby and then flew away.

I waited a few minutes, until I was sure they had gone. I kept an eye on that tiny bundle while I waited.

Once I was sure that the village was quiet and the others had gone, I flew down and picked up the baby. It was our little Celia. She was fast asleep, I suspect that they had given her something to keep her from waking during the flight. I gently felt her back. All traces of her wing nubs were gone.

“Celia, my sweet. I wish so much that your wings had grown in. But you can’t live in the city with us now. You will be a groundling for the rest of your life.” A few tears dripped from my face and splashed her. She stirred slightly from the tear drops. “I will watch to see who takes you in. And I’ll help them in any way I can.”

I had to fight every instinct, I wanted to carry her home and hide her away. But truly, the city is no place for the wingless, there are simple too many places where flying is the only way in or out. And I’d never seen anyone in the city who couldn’t fly. Of course, I held part of the answer to how that happens in my arms.

I had to put Celia back down. It was getting too close to dawn, surely someone in the village would be moving soon. I gave her the last hug I’d ever be able to and place her in the exact same spot. It nearly broke my heart to put her down.

I flew to a spot where I could watch over Celia without being seen. As the sun began its long slow climb into the sky, the village stirred into life.

At first, people only left their homes to care for their livestock. No one went near the tiny bundle that I cared so much about. By the time the sun was completely over the horizon, people were starting to walk around the village a bit more. Still, no one so much as glanced at Celia.

Then the baby finally woke and started screaming her lungs out. A few people went over to look at the baby but no one picked her up. It took all my will not to fly back and snatch Celia up again.

Finally, one female stepped forward and picked up the baby. She chatted briefly with a male and then they both returned to one of the small homes carrying Celia inside. I memorised the house so I could return later. For now, I had to fly home and talk to Maria.

The flight back to the city took very little time. I flew into our place and looked for Maria. It didn’t take long for me to reach the conclusion she wasn’t home yet.
So first I removed the dye using some of Maria’s left over removal goop. It took a little while to thoroughly remove the black. I listened but Maria still hadn’t returned.

Next I flew back to the healers. It scared the hell out of me when the healer at the greeting desk took one look at me, turned pale and scurried to the back. A few minutes later, the elder healer appeared.

“Lucifer?” she started.

“I’m just here to find out if Maria is awake yet. She’s not home.” I explained. I didn’t want them to think I was here to ask about Celia.

“She’s gone,” the healer said. I tried to work out in my head where else she must have gone if not our place. “She died last night,” the healer finally said when she noticed my confusion. “We think she woke up at some point, opened one of our potion cabinets, drank some random potions and then returned to bed. By the time we noticed that someone had been drinking some very dangerous potions, it was too late. She had died.”

“Dead? How can she be dead?” I could barely whisper the words, it was so hard to say. “You were supposed to be watching her.”

“We didn’t know she had woken. The night attendant wasn’t responsible. It was no one’s fault.” The healer sounded defensive about the affair.

I let loose an almighty scream and then just collapsed into a sobbing heap on the floor. Celia was gone. Maria was dead. It was too much. Far too much.

“Do you want me to,” the healer started to say.

“Just get out! Leave me be,” I shouted blindly lashing out with my wings to push away anything within range. I heard footsteps retreating and a door quietly closing. I just let myself get lost in my grief, keeping my wings moving back and forth so nothing would get close.

My brain wasn’t coping with this. How could my life get shattered so thoroughly, so quickly? What was I going to do?

Finally, my mind snapped into focus. There was the life celebration ceremony to arrange. I’d have to start contacting Maria’s family and friends.

The next few days were just a blur. I remember flying to visit Maria’s mother Helen. I remember collapsing on the floor again as I told her first about Celia and then about Maria. She didn’t let me fly home that night. I think Helen said something about not thinking I should go there for a day or two.

She was the one that made the arrangements for Maria’s life celebration. Sometime during the morning after, she realised that I was still in a state of shock, probably because I didn’t answer any question with more than a one word reply. Yes, no, maybe was about all I could cope with.

It was a mere two days later that we had the celebration. Maria’s family and friends gathered to remember all the good that she had done in life. School, work and her love of dance. Part of the celebration was a dance, everyone joined in. I was by far the most reluctant in the room. Dancing was so much what I associated with Maria that it was just painful to even try.

After approximately forever, the celebration was finally over. After I was allowed to fly home since Helen was positive that I was able to care for myself again. That bare, empty place that I was sharing with my family such a short time ago.

It was nearing the new moon, the nights were barely lit. I decided to take the opportunity to visit Celia’s new home.

First I went around my place; putting a few of her toys, a few clothes, a little food and some coins into a small bag. I didn’t want to take a lot on the first time. Just a few things that should help Celia and her new family.

I flew out of the city before the sun was too low on the horizon. I wanted to arrive before the sunlight had faded completely. I would have to be more careful that I wasn’t spotted by a groundling. But the hope that I might see Celia, even from a distance, was too strong to ignore.

For the last bit of the journey, I was soaring barely above the canopy. I stopped when I had a reasonably clear view of the little building that Celia had been taken into. My journey was rewarded, the woman I had seen before was sitting outside with a baby on her lap. Little Celia looked to be doing well, though at this distance, it was hard to be sure.

As the sunlight faded, the villagers all went into various buildings. When all was quiet outside, I flew down and left my little bag by the door to Celia’s new home.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Users - gahhhhhh

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Category : Other Feedback 
Text of other feedback : How can I have a login name and Password to access a research paper 
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ummm, no. Because you've left absolutely no details that would make it possible to fill this request.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Tex Murphy - may return

Once upon a time, there was a quirky set of games about Tex Murphy

  • Under a Killing Moon
  • The Pandora Directive
  • Overseer
Tex was a detective in the film noir ages - but the games were based in the future. Lots of humor, action, etc.

Chris Brown wants to bring Tex back - and he's trying to raise the funds via kickstarter.
I'm hoping he gets the money to produce the game. I'll back it.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Fallen Part 2

(disclaimer - reposting this - originally on tumblr.)

Things actually went well that night and for some time thereafter. We did end up being partners for dance competitions. As you’d expect, the first few times we were eliminated pretty quickly, but within a couple of months, we were regularly making it to the final cut and sometimes won second or third place. Never quite first though, it takes quite a lot of effort to get the first prize.

At some point, Maria moved in with me. We agreed that her having a separate place made no sense after we starting spending more nights together then apart.

“Lucifer? I have something to tell you.”

“Yes, Maria?”

“I’m pregnant. I’m going to have your baby.” She watched me closely for reactions.

“But, but, you’re a cloudling, I’m a sunling. You know we aren’t supposed to breed.” The people of the city come in three types; the skylings - a light blue hue, the cloudlings - a silvery grey and the most common type in the city, and finally the sunlings - golden in tone like the sun. While all can live and work together, breeding is restricted by old laws to within your own type.

Maria was determined to have that baby, even if the law was against it. She refused to say who the father was to anyone who asked.

Our friends and family did speculate about it, since we’d been living together for months. But since Maria wasn’t talking, they didn’t push. The only one who knew the entire truth was Maria’s dame. The two of them secluded themselves in a small apartment at the edge of the city during the final two months, our story was that Maria wasn’t well and had to stay in bed for most of the time.

While I waited, I threw myself into the club scene with Mic at my side. I waged my body in The Cage. I’d dance with anyone willing to fly with me. I tried desperately not to think about Maria and the baby to be. I was lucky that none of the idiot things I did during these months caused me any permanent damage.

Finally one day, a brief note arrived. “Maria named her daughter Celia. They are both well and should be with you soon.” The note contained a picture of a tiny baby cloudling - a miniature of her lovely mother.

It was just as well that Celia was a cloudling. If a baby is born that isn’t of the same type as their mother, that baby is taken away to be left somewhere outside the city. There are no punishments for the parents, removal of the child is considered to be quite enough.

Celia, our own little piece of heaven, was such a delight. She was as lovely a baby as anyone could wish for.

Not a change of life I ever expected but she won my heart over very quickly.

We fussed over her, played with her, kept her as happy as anyone could wish. And she’d reward us with the biggest sweetest smile. She was perfect in every way; fingers, toes, her little wing nubs.


By the time Celia turned one, we were starting to be concerned. At 18 months, we had a very serious concern. Finally when Celia turned two, it was time to take her to the healers. Maria tried every delaying tactic in the books but not one of them helped.

“Sweetheart, we must. You know that we have to take her.” I told Maria.

“Luc, we both know that her wings aren’t developing. They haven’t grown at all since her birth.” Maria’s voice was intense with her worry.

It was true. Our lovely daughter was growing well in every way except one. Her wings weren’t growing with the rest of her. “I know, Maria. She doesn’t even try to use her wings. I’ve never seen her move them when she needs extra balance.”

“I’ve asked my parents, my friends and Celia should definitely be trying to fly by now. She never does, she’s perfectly happy walking. Our baby is deformed.”

It was true. If Celia basically had no wings, then by all rights, she was deformed. It was a serious and life threatening deformity. “Maybe it’s something that the healers can fix. Or maybe she’s just a bit slow with the wing development but it will happen a little later.” I sighed. “But the healers will have to see her sometime. We can’t put it off forever.”

Maria ignored my warning. All too soon, we were summoned to appear before the healers with an armed escort to ensure we attended. At the age of two, all babies had to be assessed by the healers.

Two staff members took one look at Celia and gently took her from Maria. “What? Where are you taking my baby!”

“Don’t worry, it’s part of the routine. She needs to be weighed, measured. All normal,” a male healer tried to reassure Maria.

“I want to watch. Let me go back there.” Maria tried to push her way past the healer, he gently deflected her back.

I happened to catch one of the staff coming out and shaking their head. My heart fell in my chest. The healer we were talking to said, “There are some questions first. This is your first baby, right?”


“And how is she progressing? How often does she crawl, try to walk, try to fly?” the healer asked quietly.

Maria sobbed and I closed my eyes. “She’s always moving. She crawls from one end of a room to the other in no time flat. She can walk too, but it’s not as often.”

“And flying? Is she trying yet?”

Maria and I looked at each other. This was the critical question. Maria started off by nodding her head. “Well…”

The healer interrupted her. “The truth is that she’s never so much as twitched them, isn’t it?” Maria buried her face in her hands.

“We haven’t seen her try her wings yet,” I replied.

“I thought as much. It’s a rare deformity that your daughter has. It’s a bit more common when different types have a child together. That’s why we discourage pairings like yours.” He stared at me. “You are the father, yes?”

I nodded reluctantly. At this point, there really didn’t seem to be much point in trying to hide it. “Yes, I am.”

He closed the folder containing the papers he had been consulting. “Well, that’s it. You may go home now.”

“MY BABY!” shrieked Maria. “I won’t go without Celia. Where’s my baby?”

“We’re taking care of her. She won’t ever fly so we are going to prepare her for a new life.”

“New life?” I growled.

“She’ll never be suited to life in the city. We’ll be removing the wing stubs than placing her with the groundlings. It’s where she belongs.”

“No! She belongs with me. She belongs with us. Let us take her home. We can care for her.”

“Now, now, calm down. Have some water,” the healer handed Maria a small glass. She drank it in a single gulp.

I didn’t actually quite see what happened next. One moment, Maria was ranting at the healer at very close range and the next, she was falling to the floor, already asleep.

“Will you go quietly or do I dose you up as well?” he said.

“What happened to Maria? What’s happening to Celia?”

“I’ve given Maria a sleeping potion, mixed with the water. She’ll sleep tonight, tomorrow you can come back and take her home.” He shook his head. “As for Celia, you’ll never see her again. By now, she should be as wingless as any of the groundlings. She’s young. She’ll forget this city soon enough and be just like them.” He looked me in the eyes, “So, are you going to leave quietly? Or join Maria in an overnight stay.”

I laid a hand on Maria’s right wing. It was probably the first time she would have serious rest in the last month, she’d been so worried about Celia. Maria’s wings were so perfect, why couldn’t Celia have been like her mother in that respect?

I had a plan and the plan required that I be awake tonight. Possibly more nights as well. “I’ll go. You take care of my girls.”

The first part of the plan required some scouting around. I flew around the building, noting the two exits. One at ground level, one on the rooftop. I looked carefully around for somewhere I could stay that wouldn’t be too obvious and yet within sight of both exits if possible. I found a spot on a nearby temple that was ideal. It even roof decorations which would meant one object more or less after dark was likely to be unnoticed.

That took some time. The second part of the plan was much more straight forward. I flew to a small shop that I’d visited a few times with Maria.

“Hey, long time,” the chief stylist greeted me. He looked behind me. “Where’s Maria? Don’t tell me you’re getting a job?”

“Yeah, she finally talked me into it. Look, can I get black? A full body job?”

“Full body job? We don’t have much call for those. But sure. What secondary colour were you after?”

I knew he was going to ask and so I’d been thinking about it. My golden feathers would be too easy to spot at night and I was hoping to be doing some stealth flying. Previous visits meant I knew the style was to use two colours. I wanted the second that wouldn’t ruin the effect.