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Sky dock

The wind ruffled Sean’s hair as he bent over the deck.  The rough stone in his hands ground against the deck, raising a lather.  The blood slowly lifted from the wood, turning the water pink.  Sean tried to distract himself with the scenery floating by 500 feet below.  There was nothing wrong with the blood itself, fellow crewmen had been shot and stabbed by falling splinters at every battle from Manassas to Atlanta.  But there had always been a pressing duty, something to pull his attention, or at the very least a person of a body where the blood had clearly come from.  This blood, without any clear source, made him think of the textile mill he had worked in after his father died, of the day when he’d been told to remove a woman’s arm from where it was trapped in the workings.  He had been the only one small enough to get into the machine where it had gotten caught.  It had taken more than an hour to wash the sticky blood from all the gears.  Finally, he sluiced away the soapy pink water and the thoughts of his childhood.

When the deck was clean, Sean walked to where Edmond was standing by the rail.  Edmond was inspecting the four cannon mounts spaced along the deck.  The advanced mounts provided powered elevation and windage adjustment for two guns per side, but all presently stood empty.  The union had taken all four guns before they set the bomb in the engine room.  The spaces where the guns used to be (before they were “appropriated”) had been helpful for climbing aboard the night before, but now there were hundreds of feet between the deck and the leafy green world below; the openings were a terror even for those with little fear of heights. Edmond had looped some rope across the opening and was making it fast against the rail.

“Head down below and see what we can eat for lunch if you please?”  Edmond asked as he finished the makeshift rope rail for the first gun port.

Sean didn’t need to be asked twice: “Aye aye sir!”  He grinned as he entered the spacious kitchen.  Ten feet long, and fourteen feet wide, it had a large range and oven, a table for 14, and even an ice box.  The union might have taken the guns, but they had left the state of the art kitchen fully stocked.  Mold had ruined some of the carrots and onions, but he was able to find apples, potatoes, and salt beef.  Sean recalled how his mother had him prepare their own potatoes when they lived on the farm in Ireland as he washed and chopped them.

Edmond descended the stairs as the potatoes came out of the oven.  Sean looked apologetic as he explained that the only meat aboard was salt beef, but Edmond simply smiled and sat down.  The two men joined hands in prayer as the food steamed on the table.  Sean said grace while Edmond sat silently. Quakers were technically protestants, but Sean had never been a perfect Catholic himself, so he didn’t mind.

The hot potato wedges and sweet apple ones disapeared in a moment, so it was over the salt beef that they discussed the state of the ship.  It was about five hours till dusk, and Edmond was hoping to finish replacing the planks and handrails with bullets buried in them before dark.

When their tin plates had been scraped clean, Sean and Edmond gathered tools and lumber from the forehold and set to shaping pieces to fit.  It was when all the pieces had been trimmed and routered and the two were sanding them smooth that Sean spoke.

“Well, a few more days of work, and she’ll look almost good!  No more contraband in the hold, no more discomforting stains on the deck, and in a minute: fixed rails.”

Edmond laughed uncomfortably.  “Better to put ourselves to work than lay about the whole way back.  But fixing her up doesn’t make her ours.  When we land we’ll have to figure out what to do about the legal problem.”

“We could just-”

“Sean, I’m not going to sell the ship without papers proving that we own it.  The captain may still be alive!”

“We didn’t steal it from him. It was supposed to be destroyed.”

“And I imagine that is what will happen wen we turn it in.”

“Sir- how can we turn this beautiful ship over to be destroyed?  The previous owner may have been a criminal, but we aren’t!”  Sean made note of the beauty of the craft, but left out the related fact that it would sell for more than the two of them had made during the course of the war.

Edmond looked from Sean to the deck at his feet, and then to the gap in the rail.  He ran his good hand over the replacement piece.  The other turned slowly round and round, almost absent mindedly.   “Nail this in place, we’re done here.”



I’m going to start this with what I liked about this class.  I loved the groundbreaking nature of the class, I loved being introduced to new ways of viewing the internet, I loved my digital story, I loved doing the audio files (the story with sounds but no words, the interview, and the morse code project I did on my own), I loved the zombie Video modernselkie and I put together.  I got pretty nostalgic doing the screen cast of my hometown.  All of these projects asked me to be creative but were not overwhelming.  They taught me things (I could not have done any of them on my own before this class).  As far as the tools go… Audacity was excellent!  It was easy to use and easy to learn, free, and relatively intuitive.  The website tools and wordpress worked fine.  I enjoyed learning to take photos, and I thought I did well on the photo assignments we had early on in the blog.  I may have gotten a few tips from a certain someone, as well as the use of photoshop, but that just helped me learn more.  To a large extent, my photo skills prior to the class were of the point and shoot variety, I had little experience setting up and editing shots.

What did I not enjoy?  I didn’t like the readings at the beginning of the class, or the HTML coding for my website’s front page.  The readings were too long and they were often speculative or technical.  I had trouble getting the fireFTP to work, and so couldn’t do the HTML the regular way, and I was afraid to try the coding because I have never done that before.  Windows movie maker wasn’t the best ever, but it was what we had, and it was free, so… I wouldn’t worry about it.

My digital story was more challenging than I thought it would be, but it was incredibly fun.  It was its own world, had definite characters, and began to establish its own history.  I made it interactive, with the ARG-esque morse code.  I’m trying to figure out how to present it where it can get recognition, and I’m certainly going to keep working on it.

I think that to improve the class, we should have started our digital stories much sooner.  If I had had 12 weeks instead of 6 to write posts, I could have had a much better story.  I would suggest using the first week to talk about what the class is going to be like, go over examples of digital stories and the other projects folks’ll be working on, and getting folks to pay for domains.  In the second week, you could do some of the background reading you did this time, and get everyone to download word press onto their site.  That way, by the third week, students can begin their story outside of class, and start doing some picture taking as well.  This might require tweaking, as it speeds up the start of the class a lot, and might push out some of the assignments.

One of the difficulties with the class which I realized midway into my story was the lopsided nature of the work.  This isn’t a bad thing.  I am not saying that any one person worked harder than anyone else.  What I am trying to get at is this: I wrote enough during the class to make it writing intensive.  A WI credit would make a huge difference for me, as it would for a lot of folk.  Modernselkie worked really hard and produced a lot of art.  However, her photo blog certainly wasn’t writing intensive.  A video journal would be speaking intensive if you were talking to the computer for half an hour a week.  My blog was as far as you can get from speaking intensive.  I don’t really think this is a problem, and I don’t think that there is anything to be done about it, but I think it is worth mentioning.

I really liked this class.  It was an experiment, and it took a little while to find its sea legs.  When I was unsure about what I wanted to do for my story, and when I didn’t know what the class was going to be like, it was a bit daunting.  But in the end, I am very glad that I was in this class, and I hope to see it offered in the future.  I learned a lot that I didn’t know about how websites work (all the wordpress variety websites I visit look a lot less fancy now!).

Experiment results: Success!

Wordle: Lincoln's words

I’ve been thinking about Abraham Lincoln a lot.  Thats why when it came time to do a wordle, I decided to use his words.  Not too complex, I just used his first and second inaugural addresses, the Gettysburg address, and his last speech.  One of the difficult things about 1882 is the speed at which that world begins to differ from our own, and how far it goes in its differences.  Because I want it to feel very much like ours to start, and because I want it to feel realistic, I need to have a really good idea of Lincoln’s thoughts about what to do after the war.  Because I want it to go differently than it did, I need to take some liberties.  Either way, the speeches make for good reading.

Excelsior is (ever) up!

With this post, I’d like to talk a little bit about how I come up with each entry.  I’ve got a very scientific process, which just so happens to be identical to an unscientific, random, sounds O.K. to me process.

First, I start thinking about where the post needs to go.  In some cases, I have a definite goal in mind, as with Episode one, where I needed to introduce Edmond and Sean, I needed to establish that it was the civil war, and I needed to establish that Edmond had been wounded.  With this episode, I needed a reason for Edmond and Sean to take the Crusade.

So I worked this issue over in my mind, thinking of different ways that they could find the ship and acquire it and how that would show their respective characters.  First I thought that they could buy it, as blockade runner/smuggler’s ships could be confiscated by the union and sold.  This seemed plausible, if a little strange.  The problem was that it was boring.  Hero doesn’t escape concentration camp/ Death star/ villain’s laser beam installation by running to a used car dealer and haggling a bit.

I then thought that perhaps the ship might have looters on it, and that Edmond and Sean could convince/intimidate/pay them to help.  I also thought that perhaps the former Captain could have paid folks to guard his ship, and that Edmond and Sean could bribe them or something.

None of these situations properly fit the characters.  They didn’t tell the story I wanted to tell.  Then I got the idea of a bomb planted on the ship.  It is conceivable that the union would burn ships as they came through, and conceivable that one might fail.  The bomb would keep folks away from the ship, and give a chance for Edmond and Sean to show how awesome ships are (by being all ZOMG AWESOME SHIPPPP) and also show their character by either being wary or excited about the bomb.

So, once I’ve thought the story section through, I write it all out by hand on paper.  Paper lets me write over stuff, cross out old ideas, write synonyms next to each other, and most importantly it feels better to get my ideas out and to look over once I’m done.  When the first draft is done, I read it over, and then rewrite it completely.  Then I might show the drafts to an awesome lady who tells me the best aspects of both drafts.  Once that is done, I type up the entry online, show it to her again, fix any minor errors, and post it!

A lot of work is done haphazardly, with notes in my notebook for plans for future posts.  The disorganization fits my style, and allows me to be creative with my stories.  I listen to music while I write sometimes, and write during class sometimes.  Usually the thinking bit takes three days to a week, the writing two to three days, the editing an hour or so.  A lot of time elements of the story are being chewed over in the back of my mind.

That is how the magic happens!

Trapped is up!

So, with the schematic that went up last time, I wanted to include something else (something better!) for the next post.  I need to get a player for the media file, but there is a Morse code message behind the link in the story.  If you want the full story, you’ll have to translate it.  The short story is that Abraham Lincoln survived the assassination attempt.  This is going to mean some important things for the US, but we’ll have to see how much it will affect our characters.  You’ll notice in the story that I almost get our folks into a fight.  This is I must admit a temptation for me, as I am much better at writing fight sequences than conversation.  Thats why I want this story to have really well developed characters and such, is so that it wont feel as flat as some of the other things I’ve written.

Which is why the next post (on this blog) will be about plot, and how I write each piece.  I hope that you might find it interesting and useful to see how I come up with and refine my ideas.

Another important point is that as you can no doubt tell, this is a learning experience for me.  Both blogs look ok, but nothing as pretty as some other folk have got.  There are some things that I (hopefully) am good at, such as writing and story design, but there are other things that I’m not good at, such as putting all this in a good package online.  I’m trying to bridge the gap with some things, by putting the schematics and the telegram on the blog.  But its going to take a lot of spit and polish to make it all shine.  I hope the story is interesting enough to hold one’s attention while the other aspects improve.

Look for the next story post soon!


News Telegram

“Its over!” Sean burst into the sun room of the plantation, the whole of which had been converted into a hospital.  Edmond and a half a dozen other convalescents looked up from their breakfasts to tee the young officer waving a telegram over his head.

Edmond rose and poured Sean a cup of coffee so he could join in the round of toasts.  The telegram rapidly went from hand to hand, its simple message read and reread.

“How did it happen?  What were the terms?  When can we leave?”  Edmond asked as they sat at a small table.

“You know Captain, information I learn in the union telegraph office is secret.”

Edmond raised his eyebrows.

“Top secret.”  Sean smiled.

“How did it happen?” Edmond asked as he pushed sugar and cream toward the Lieutenant’s cup.  “What were the terms?” Edmond pushed pushed a plate of toast and jam to Sean’s side of the table.  “And…” Edmond pushed a plate of bacon across the linen tablecloth.  “When can we go home?”

“Well, sir, the answers are supposed to be secret, but I’m certain the former owner of this plantation was also supposed to give his hogs over to feed the army.”

Sean explained between mouthfuls that a month or more worth of news had come in when the telegraph lines were repaired.  The war had ended when Lee’s army had tried to flee Richmond, and Grant had chased him to Appomattox.  Lincoln had come out with a number of executive orders planning the reconstruction of the south, and congress had agreed to fund them.  Sean had been picking up speed, both in his telling and his eating, so by the time he got to the bacon:

“Troops’re in Virginia and th’ Carolinas, restoring order for construction crews and I heard that they-”

“Slow down Sean!  You’re not on a deadline.”  Edmond laughed as he carefully poured some milk with his new left hand.

“Actually sir, I am.  I’ve been given my discharge papers, the old staff at the telegraph office are expected to be replaced next week.  I thought that you and I might try to catch a train… and the last one out leaves at five.”  Sean looked slightly sheepish as he finished the rushed speech.

“I’ll gather my things.  Where is the train headed, Richmond? ”

“Most of the lines are cut, sir.  We can only get to Savannah or Charleston.”

“Neither of those is exactly a northern direction” Edmond laughed.  “But perhaps we can catch a ship from there.”

The two gathered their things and packed them into a stagecoach.  It was eleven by the time they left, and a long journey into the city proper.  If they could not catch the train, then they would have to find lodgings in the city.  The ticket counter was quiet, a lone teller was talking quietly to a couple of men at the edge of the counter.

“Good evening.  I would like to purchase two tickets to Charleston.”

“For the five o’ Clock?”  The teller asked, looking Edmond up and down.

“Indeed.  How much will tickets be?”

“Ten thousand dollars.”  His tone was flat and level.  It might have been a joke, he might have been about to smile and say that the train was not coming, or that the price was actually four dollars and fifty cents.  He might have, were it not for the sneer and the loaded revolver under the counter that was just touching his fingers.

Sean sucked in his breath to yell, but Edmond saw movement out of the corner of his eye and spoke first.

“Why do you give this offense sir?”  Edmond tried to sound calm.

“There are two ways for a Yankee to leave Atlanta.  One is ten thousand dollars, the other is painful and free.”

“What do you mean by that?”  His officer’s sword was in his pack, his revolver had been destroyed in the blast that took his arm and leg.  That left him barehanded against at least three.  Sean was a large man, and ready to fight, but Edmond could see the long shadows of the two men behind them.

“Walking , certainly Captain.”  The man grinned, showing his teeth.

Edmond heard the sound of an approaching train.


I hate to admit this.
Jim Groom is right.

I planned on telling a number of stories while following my walk to school from my house.  I couldn’t even get my ass off the front porch.  I wanted to find the places where I cracked my head open (not a typo, places), I wanted to visit school, to point out all the shitty stupid dumb houses they built over the field that we tried to build a tree house in.  I wanted to check out the dam, and the big letters in downtown.  Ok, so I didn’t want to do all this in the five minute video, but I thought I’d at least get to the spot where I threw the remains of a pear, and watched it decompose by checking on it every day (SCIENCE).

I didn’t get to any of that.  But I was reminded of it.  Maybe the intarwebs is good for more than just shooting noobs.

Oh, and in case you didn’t get the title.

Replacements is up!

The best laid plans of mice and men…  Replacements was supposed to be a short, easy post.  Well, don’t worry, I’m still technically on time, and I’m already hard at work on the next post.  Shout out to themodernselkie for helping me (a lot!) with the photoshopping on the image you see in the story.

I got a comment asking how the world in my story differs from ours.  To a large extent, it hasn’t differed, yet.  It isn’t until the civil war, mid-1800’s that differences start showing up.  The equipment our hero has just recieved should make it clear that technology is in some ways more advanced.  The main result of this is that many fewer people died in the civil war from disease.  The racially motivated hatred we saw in Fever Dreams shows that not everything was better.  But, by mentioning the prosthetic arm and leg, I’ve opened a whole new can of worms, a few things about them:

Firstly, Edmond is not Iron man. The prosthetic foot functions, for the purpose of the story, exactly like a foot.  The prosthetic arm and hand have some limitations, Edmond can straighten his arm, but it can not bend any further than a 70 degree angle or so, where a regular arm can get down to 30 degrees.  His wrist, as mentioned in the story, can not move up, down, left, right, or any combination thereof.  However, the one advantage is that his wrist can rotate continually, all the way around and back again.  Otherwise, his arm is like a regular arm, no superhuman strength or anything strange.

Secondly, please suspend your disbelief about parts of this.  While the arm works mechanically pretty well, the way he controls it is something I glaze over.  Apart from this spot, you shouldn’t have to suspend your disbelief much, so bear with me and enjoy the story.

The story is going to heat up even more!  To get the full effect for next time, you might want to brush up a little on your code!

Assignment for 3/16

I’m no Garrison Kiellor, but I hope this is fun to listen to!

Sheridan ex story v2

Fever dreams is up!

I started the story with Edmond being wounded in order that I could have this flashback sequence (aided by morphine use) follow it.  In this section we learn more about Edmond.  He seems to have served a while on airships in the war (held aloft by hot air), but he is also a Quaker.  While there have only been a few things that make it clear that this isn’t quite our history, there haven’t been any major changes yet.  There also haven’t been too many things to make it clear that this is a steampunk world.  With some of the exposition in the bag, we should be able to see more of the world next post.

But, about steampunk!  One of the things that I’ve been looking at doing in addition to this story is cosplaying (dressing up as) a character from this world.  I’m planning on doing that both for a realistic photo, and for a costume I can wear at the Steampunk world’s fair. In order to do the realistic one, I’m putting togeather a period outfit for Edmond shortly after the war, circa 1870.  At this point he’s got a bit more cowboy than soldier, but I’m still debating whether wool pants or blue jeans would be more suitable.  He’ll be wearing a flannel shirt and either a cowboy hat or a wool cap (everyone wore hats back then).  The coolest part of the outfit will be the colt single action army replica and the loop belts though!

The most important part of the costume will actually happen after the photo is taken.  The next post on the 1882 blog will be schematics/sketches of my character’s new arm and leg.  The steam powered prosthetics function (mostly) like the originals, and what I would like to do is photoshop in the arm design on the photo.  If anyone knows photoshop and would like to work with me on it, please let me know!

Plenty of folks are also interested in steampunk-ing nerf guns.  I’ve been looking at the above examples, and I’m going to try to do the same.  I’ve already modded mine a little bit, but I’ll be repainting them and putting gears and stuff on them as well!  I’ve got some advice as to which guns to get for what, because some of the action types lend themselves to Steampunk (the maverick from Nerf, and the Doubleshot, from buzz bee), others to Dieselpunk (The Vulcan from Nerf and the Tommy 20 from Buzz bee) and some to more of a cyberpunk time period (The CS 35 from Nerf, and the Clip blaster 10 from Buzz bee).

I try to keep my posts short and readable, so I’ll be talking about the nerf modification more as a companion to the schematic post coming up next.