Chewing my keyboard

Friday, April 22, 2005

Still Young, Free and Liberal

Apart from the obvious campaigning, I'm also helping with the final discussions, etc. for the release of Young, Free and Liberal: A Young Person's Guide to Liberal Democracy. My role has been mostly to pester contributors and my two co-editors, to draw the 'Liberty Belle' illustrations. I also wrote two of the sections! :D

After a consultation with the LDYS Chair (Chris) yesterday lunchtime, it appears we're going to have a formal launch a couple of weeks after the general election. I'm quite excited because the guide looks great and so many people have contributed vast quantities of time to it. We have 7 contributors, the 3 person editorial team, plus Chris who has done all the pagesetting for us. This excludes all the people who have input ideas, critiques, etc. at various stages. I feel really proud to have been involved in this project.

Since I'm really frustrated about some missing data then it's good I feel positive about something. I came home yesterday about 4:30pm practically shrieking with boredom and frustration after spending about a day and a half plotting a map of Greenland. If you don't understand how it takes a day and a half to do that, bear in mind that I had to go through 11000 points of coastline data working out how many segments there were and how big the segments were. Then I had to write this up into a file to tell the computer how to plot the coast. Then I had to write a short program to plot this and to overplot some data showing the coordinates of some photos. Then I overplotted millions of coordinates for some other data (laser scanner). Each of these laser files took about 3 minutes to load and made the map file so big it refused to load into Adobe for editing. I then had to write a further procedure to sample every 500th point so I only had 10s of thousands of laser points, not millions. I then had to reload all the files and replot them... I digress.

I was so irritated, I spent the evening 'virtual hiking' since I find it therapeutic. I probably could have gone canvassing but didn't want to end up beating someone over the head with my clipboard when they told me they were voting labour - I was that work-frustrated. My virtual hiking program is otherwise known as a computer game called The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. I believe it's supposed to be an RPG with quests and such-like but it's so open-ended that I just go hiking. It has an entire island and, provided the slopes aren't too steep, you can pretty much walk anywhere (and it all looks entirely different! There is genuinely a whole uniquely designed island, rather than just repetition of the same bit of slope/lake, etc.). The graphics are beautiful, the sounds are immersive and it has a proper night and day cycle. I have the impression if you follow the footpath then you would pass various bandits, etc. However, they don't look up or move from their designated position. Thus, if you use the map and head as the crow flies rather than using any of the footpaths then the only thing you meet is the occasional bit of unpleasant wildlife (which is significantly easier to kill).

My in-game 'trade' appears to be alchemist, amateur mage and opportunist thief. I collect various bits of vegetation whilst hiking (I've always thought that the real world should have little labels that pop up over your head telling you what the plant is that you're looking at - it'd save buying a book), and if I don't have sufficient money, I nick things when no one's looking and sell them (I don't do either of these things in real life, you understand). I can cast the occasional spell and I use the plants to prepare potions. I'm hoping to be able to find enough useful vegetation (rather than vegetation that goes badly together) after I've travelled through a few different regions to be able to create potions that I can sell. Although I'm sure it's not everyone's idea of an exciting game experience (collecting plants and spending hours walking in unpopulated valleys admiring the scenery), I think it's wonderful. It's the closest I've got to playing AD&D 'live' (on in my case, a scenario of Planescape with some people from the walking club last year). Personally, I think scary has to be 'realistically' scary (like you can imagine yourself in that situation) and I'm never going to be a spy or a member of the SAS, but being jumped by a multi-legged green thing with a big mouth at dusk whilst admiring toadstools after walking about for ages without seeing anything is kinda realistically scary. It's somewhat akin to the feeling you get when you're trying to put a Focus through a letterbox and there's lots of vegetation and you're expecting a dog to come at you any minute... but usually dogs aren't green, multi-legged and have sphincter-shaped mouths... and I don't have a bow and arrow when leafletting...

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