Oh right, I should exist every so often…

landmarkhouseHmmm…  I said I’d come back when the weather cooled down mid-September, right?  So here I am!

Wait, it’s mid-October instead?  I really need to clean out the filters on my time machine, don’t I?

A bunch has happened since I last regularly wrote.  I’ve been sick a bunch, worked a bunch, slept a bunch.  I stopped playing the MMO I’d been playing just about daily for nearly two years, and am puttering around trying to find a proper replacement.  So far I’m settling into the closed beta of Landmark, an odd building-focused multiplayer game.  So far it doesn’t have much of an actual game to it, just wandering around gathering resources and then building things with them, but, well, I like doing that sort of thing.

Like that house in the image above.  I made that.  It’s still a work in progress, and I’ve not even started on furnishing it, but this was just a patch of sand when I started.

I’m still trying to decide what to do with this blog.  I’ve realized it drains my creativity just a bit, and it was causing more stress than I wanted to deal with.  I don’t think I’ll go back to the old format.  Which means either quitting this blog entirely (which I don’t want to do) or coming up with a new format.  And I still haven’t settled on an idea I like yet.

So it may be a little until I write again, and things may look very different here when I do, but then again, they may not!


Some Days you’re just Running on Empty

Photo #845: Empty TableLocation Taken: Skihist Provincial Park, British Columbia
Time Taken: June 2010

Alas, I am not returning from my hiatus with this post, I am merely making it official.

Quick explanation: the combination of summer heat, depression (caused by said heat), and lack of topics I wish to write on has caused me to stop writing. Technically, I could have continued putting up fluff posts and “I dunno what to write” posts, but I’ve written enough of those already, and don’t want to get burned out on blog writing entirely.

So, I’m taking a vacation from this. I’ll be back once the weather cools down into the 60’s on average, which, given the predictable climate here, should be the middle of next month. By then, I’ll no longer be plagued by heat issues, and hopefully I’ll find some more topics along the way.


Bear With Me for a Moment, Please

Photo #844: Bear With MeLocation Taken: Banff National Park, Alberta
Time Taken: June 2010

So sorry about the break.  I had to dig myself out of something.

Well, mostly I had a bit of burnout.  Apparently I can only think of, what, 840 topics before I run out of things to say.  But I’ve spent some lovely time recovering my energy and I’m ready to go again!  Hopefully I can think of new topics!

Alright, that’s enough for this post.  Back to playing Minecraft.  My recent re-addiction to it has absolutely nothing to do with the missing posts.  Nothing.  I swear.


Giant Hole! End of the World! Slowly Moving Ice!

Photo #843: Bright LightLocation Taken: Eastern British Columbia
Time Taken: June 2010

In today’s edition of “Headlines to run away from really quickly”, we have the fabulous “Giant Hole Appears at World’s End“! I do suggest checking out the video as well. It’s quite a massive hole, so deep all you can see is darkness, the edges charred black and looking like something burst out from below.

Doesn’t that seem like a title you’d see on a newspaper “casually” shown to the audience at the start of a disaster movie? Or perhaps a news broadcast. That video would fit right in.

Sadly, we’re not too likely to suddenly face an apocalypse. It’s far more likely to be one of the weird phenomena of permafrost country.

Permafrost is an odd being. It’s simple in theory, just ground that happens to hang out below freezing for most of its existence. This brings in all sorts of odd events, though, thanks to the times when it’s not frozen. Even areas that have the air below freezing have a thin layer of ground thawing when exposed to sunlight. This is the only thing that allows plants to grow in these cold areas, even if it’s just grass that never grows more than a few inches tall. If the ground never thaws enough for plants, well, it tends to either not have much dirt at all (since dirt is produced by plants) and/or is covered in snow and ice, and thus doesn’t count as permafrost any more.

So, what does this little bit of thawing do? Allows water to move around, of course! And where water moves, so does everything it can drag along. To top it off, when night falls and the area grows cold once more, the water freezes and expands. These are some of the simplest cycles of the world as we know it, writ large across a landscape without much holding the dirt in place.

This process repeating day after day, year after year, leads to some very peculiar landforms appearing. Lakes appear all over, small hills rise up, as water moving to the lowest spot again and again, then freezing and pushing the dirt away is repeated over and over. Water gets trapped on the surface, unable to work its way through the permanent layer of ice down below where the sun’s heat is never felt. Patterned ground appears, strange regular polygons and circles and stripes where larger stones get shoved around by the moving ice. In especially wet areas, ice cores push soil up as large chunks of ice under the ground stay frozen during the day, have water seep under them, and float upwards. This forms either low palsas where the ice flattens out into a lens or tall pingos where it is forced to grow upwards instead.

Another odd feature of permafrost territory is how rich they are in natural gas and fossil fuels. The same ice that traps the water on the surface traps gas underground, and the cold temperatures keep the plants from decomposing before they can get trapped underground by the moving ground and ice, where they start the slow conversion into coals and oils. This is why climate change scientists are so worried about the permafrost melting, as it would mean all that trapped carbon can get free again.

So, what does this all have to do with the disaster movie hole they found in northern Russia? Well, there’s a few leading theories for why this hole appeared. One is that it’s a collapsed pingo. The ice core melted away, the water drained, and the dirt on top fell in. This happens occasionally, and the hole looks a lot like a sinkhole, another water-carved feature. Another theory is that it was caused by an underground gas bubble exploding. The way it looks like the dirt around it was flung outwards and the charred appearance of the ground lend credence to this one. No one’s at all sure at this point, though. It was discovered only recently, by workers from local gas companies surveying the area by helicopter. And it’s remote enough it will take a week or so to get scientists and their equipment out there.

Oh, and that “World’s End” thing? That’s what the name of the Yamal Peninsula this hole is on literally translates as. Probably because it’s rough terrain right on the edge of the arctic ocean, but why should we let that stop any wild theories?!

Who knows, maybe once those scientists arrive, they’ll get eaten by the aliens from the crashed spaceship that REALLY created the hole!  And then the real fun starts!


Epics of the Mountainhome

Photo #842: MountainhomeLocation Taken: Banff National Park, Alberta
Time Taken: June 2010

I have been listening to a single song, over and over and over again, for hours. It’s Diggy Diggy Hole. Quite a marvelous song, don’t you think? Just the sort of thing to make you want to grab a pick and build a kingdom under a mountain.

It’s made by some of the most famous Minecraft Youtube stars, the Yogscast. If you have any interest in Let’s Play videos, or for that matter watching amusing people doing amazing things. They started out fairly simple, just trying to survive the night and have learned and played through many many long adventures. Like going to the moon.

There’s a song about that one as well, by the way.

Diggy Diggy Hole, though, started as a random comment in one of their earlier videos that became an icon for one of the players (who is a dwarf). They made a rougher version, really just a remix of that original comment, years ago. And now, they’ve expanded it into a marvelous tale of dwarven heroism.

Which is making me want to play a game. Not Minecraft, mind you, that’s too obvious. No, the new Diggy Diggy Hole reminds me of Dwarf Fortress, that classic ascii dwarf simulator. I have spent many an hour ordering dwarves to dig holes deep in the ground, fight goblins, drink plump helmet brew, die horribly and/or accidentally…

Oh look, the developer for that has just released a new version! It’s been two years! Sweet, now the whole world’s relationships are fully simulated, and your dwarves can climb trees! If you’ll excuse me, I have something to download. Let’s see if my fortress can last a full year before everyone dies horribly!