Beautiful May

Rock art

No time of year is more beautiful than May. No joy is greater than the first May in a new house, watching the flowerbeds and wondering what’s going to turn out to be in them. So far I am not disappointed. It’s picture day!

Dandelions under the cherry tree

No flower is closer to my heart than the humble dandelion. Together with the tiny white daisies they sum up everything I love about May. The sunshine, the freshness, the cool nights and hot days, the beginning of a new year. The earth awakens, explosively.

Those chilly May nights that soon enough become warm. They tend to be starry and clear blue, and my camera is not at all sophisticated enough to properly capture those colours.

And speaking of colours. Turns out we have a large rhododendron patch and not two shrubs are the same colour. Every shade from bright white over hot pink to blood red is represented. My favourites are the small purples and the large crimsons.

They’re there, the small purples.

Out in front we have poppies. Gazillion of poppies. They’re large and bright red and contrast gorgeously with the bright blue scillas.

And of course there’s a corner for self-planted more or less wild flowers as well.

But the strangest flower of them all is the hairy lawnflower.

Random Pictures of Random Critters

First test of my new camera! Pilar looks unimpressed.
Desca and Dinah didn’t even notice.
So unimpressed.
Still need to find the exact right configuration for shooting animals in motion. Camera has trouble with the black pug! That’s Maja, sibling of our kittens, and the pugs Bertha and Bacon.
Feisty lil thing she is.
Again, not entirely satisfied with the blur on things in motion, such as little kitteh tails.
Fan. Boi.
Total fanboi.

Light in December

Cassie & Pilar. @2016 Signe Toa Sundahl Olsen

Come the darkness of winter and my inner strength wilts away in a mire of feeling unaccomplished and exhausted. Finding the light seems harder every year in those dark, cold months. I’ll be all right when the first snowdrops declare their rebellion on winter in March. Alas, we’re still in December.

It’s hard to stay warm outside this time of year. You can stay warm by walking around and doing things. That’s me already freezing my ass off right there because walking around is not an option. I spend less time just enjoying Pilar’s company while she does whatever she wants to do (it usually involves grazing).

The world always seems to go crazy in December. This year it’s even worse than usual, with the reality TV show that the Americans call politics, and the war in Syria, and heaven only knows what else. I try to keep up, but what I am seeing over and over is a steady and terrifying decline in the way we treat each other. It’s become the norm to attack people online if we don’t agree with them. You don’t need to provide facts to support your views. Just call the other guy a libtard, a trumpling, a fedora neckbeard, a feminazi (but probably not all four at once).

Whatever happened to cleaning up your own act before you get started on somebody else’s?

Why are global politics now resolved (or indeed, very much not resolved) on Twitter?

Why is racism and misogyny becoming more predominant instead of less? Didn’t we leave these outdated concepts behind in the ’70s and ’80s?

Why are people arguing over “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays” while the rest of the world burns?

It’s December. Rage against the dying light.

No Man’s Sky

At last! The game is released for the PC and I bully the husband into letting me buy it. It's not a cheap game.
At last! The game is released for the PC and I bully the husband into letting me buy it. It’s not a cheap game.

I’ve been waiting excitedly for this game since a friend told me about the first time, back in spring. Minecraft but in space, she called it. The original Minecraft appealed to me, with its ambling about and resource gathering, but I always was left with a feeling of now what? I’m not really hooked on building giant 3D pictures of real life or fantasy cities, that sort of thing. I just want to potter about. Well, guess what, that’s exactly what No Man’s Sky is about. Among other things.

The user interface for my startship which I traded a rather crappy trader to get.
The user interface for my starship which I traded a rather amateurish trader to get.

Pottering about and picking up everything that isn’t nailed down means you need inventory space. Guess what you don’t have a lot of at first? Yep. It proves an interesting challenge, deciding what to keep and what to throw away, while you hunt for the exclusive trading outposts and space stations where raw commodities can be turned into sweet, sweet cash.

What do I want cash for? Well, guess. Bigger ships with more inventory space. Also bigger shields and bigger guns. At some point I want my exosuit to be upgraded to let me survive on freezing cold ice balls or irradiated toxic waste balls. I want to carry so much loot that the space station director starts to drool when he spots my ship. And I want to have the guns and shields to defend it, because you know what sucks? Jumping in from hyperspace to land among a pirate fleet. You learn to fear that ‘hostile subspace scan detected’ chime. Space combat is very much a thing.

Geks are cute. Not all of the races are quite that easy going.
Geks are cute. Not all of the races are quite that easy going.

The first hour or so you play through some very simple situations to teach you how the game works. You wake up on a random planet, your ship in pieces. Go forth, brave one, and collect everything you need to repair it! And while you’re out there, could you please catalogue every life form, be it flora or fauna… And don’t forget, some of those life forms think you would make great dinner.

My starting planet looked like a dark brown Swiss cheese and I kept getting lost trying to walk around holes and mountains. As it turns out, my little space self and his magnetic boots are actually pretty good at running up almost vertical surfaces, and a jetpack upgrade really made things easier. It all felt very overwhelming at first, but the controls are surprisingly intuitive. After an hour or two, I wasn’t even thinking about what I was doing anymore, and I’m not very good at this sort of thing. I still run face first into walls in War of Worldcraft, for Pete’s sake.

lynne-prime-2
This planet is lovely. Nice weather, lazy sentinels, great loot — I should have stayed.

Once I was ready to leave my initial star system I had a stroke of great luck; I ran into a trader who sold me a decent newbie ship at a remarkably low price (those of you who play will agree with me that four hundred thousand units is very, very cheap). Then I jumped into what turned out to be a gorgeous star system with a beautiful red planet. I named it the Aeson system, after a friend whose roleplaying character has a fondness for scarlet.

Lynne Prime, as I named it, had lovely weather, a pleasant range of temperatures, no particular toxicity or radiation, and lots of rare minerals. It had a beautiful colour range, red grass, green trees and cobalt blue shades of minerals. Interaction with offworlder aliens was scarce, granted, but it was a short hop to the system’s space station to sell my loot. The local space pirate gang only caught me once.

lynne-prime-3
I wasn’t joking about the lots of loot.

When at last I felt like taking on new challenges and perhaps meet exciting new aliens with exciting new technology, my luck ran out. I hyper jumped from system to system, and flew from planet to planet, without finding a rock to put my feet down on. I jumped right into a stellar battle. I landed on planets so cold that I froze almost solid before managing to close the door to my ship again. Planets with acid rain so intense that my exosuit caved like plywood. Planets where the sentinels were so aggressive that —

Did I forget the sentinels? Well, those are the robotic overseers of the universe and they don’t much like change. Blast a few rocks to pieces to get at their valuable minerals, sure enough, these little robotic pests turn up. Fortunately, they’re not very smart. If you’re already done when they get there, they’ll usually just fly around and be confused. Or, if you’re on a high security world, they’ll attack you without the slightest provocation. I thought it a tad ironic when I had to take out four sentinels after they tried to kill me because I killed a dog-lizard-thing that tried to eat me. That’s taking wildlife preservation a little too far.

After many attempts, finally found a world that didn't try to kill me.
After many attempts, I finally found a world that didn’t try to kill me.

Planets and moons are generated following a complicated formula that guarantees that their ecosystems make some kind of sense while not two are alike. My second lucky shot got dubbed Arizona Prime because it reminds me of pictures from there. Also, I like the word Prime.

This world gets a little chilly at night, some minus 50 degrees Celsius or so, but my exosuit can handle it and fuel is in ample supply. Day temperatures range around 20 degrees and the views are quite something. There’s no radiation and no toxins, and most of the wildlife is quite friendly (except the unicorn dogs, I shoot those little bastards on sight).

Though the storms were a tad heavy handed.
Though the storms were a tad heavy handed.

Extreme environments can be handled with upgrading your exosuit and in many cases, by seeking shelter. This can be a literal shelter at an alien outpost (you’ll want to search around those for new technology anyway), or hopping into a cave to get out of storms. Arizona Prime is unfortunately prone to some really, really violent dust storms.

Always know where your nearest shelter is.
Always know where your nearest shelter is.

So what do I love about No Man’s Sky? The pottering about, searching everything, poking everything with my multitool, learning alien languages one word at a time, trying to speculate in trading goods (markets fluctuate from system to system), the grand over-all quest to get to the core of the galaxy (I think, it’s a tad unclear), the beautiful vistas, the smooth and elegant user interface… I like all the options. There are countless things you can do in the game, and my choosing to be a peaceful merchant and explorer doesn’t mean that you can’t be a vicious space pirate.

But stay off Lynne Prime. That’s the world I plan to retire to.

Early Morning Bliss

We had the great fortune of finding a new trout lake not too far from where we live. Stenvad Put & Take is gorgeous, particularly at 5 am on a summer morning before the heat begins to take.

morning

The golden light coming up as the sun struggled to get over the horizon. The myriads of tadpoles disturbing the mirror blank surface of the lake. The birds singing their little throats out in the woods. The babbling of the brook that feeds the lake. Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous.

The trout of Stenvad are fierce fighters. They proved that on our first visit about a month ago, where Alvin and I each managed to land one. They’re muscular fish, spending their time hunting rather than waiting for trout pellets. In a put & take lake, this is a pretty big deal. The water is clean, full of wildlife, and the fish are healthy.

perch

The morning’s sole catch was this beautiful perch but that’s all right. When push comes to shove, I don’t go fishing to put food on the table. I go because I love the outdoors experience and the ambience. It’s one of the few outdoors activities I can take part in, in spite of my walking handicap. One fish, no fish, or a gazillion fish, it doesn’t matter.