Midwestern Valocea

After a long absence, back to Valocea!

So recently, with things calming down after the tumultuous last few months, I’ve found my head back in Valocea again. Still working on the mapping, the planning, and of course, the transit.

One thing that I found myself thinking about a few days ago, is how far it’s come since its original inception. I started reflecting back on how this project came to be, and what kinds of decisions I’ve made (and what I’ve learned from it), and it’s kind of crazy how much it’s changed. The original concept, of course, wasn’t for a country at all, but a state that would be added to the existing US. The idea was to change the shape of the continent – specifically, the Pacific Northwest – to allow for enough extra land to accommodate a 51st state. Basically, it would have been something like this… Continue reading

Loss

Recently, my dad passed away. This was the endpoint of a series of events dating back to 2012, when the menengioma (essentially, cancer-less tumors) in his brain were first discovered, and – at the time – treated via surgery. We knew then that that wasn’t the end of it, as there was a strong possibility they could still return. They did in early 2014, and ultimately passed the point where surgery, radiation therapy, or any other medical treatment could do anything about them. He passed peacefully, in his sleep, with friends and family nearby, on July 20, 2014.

I’ll miss him, and the weeks leading up to his death were difficult on a number of levels. But for myself, I have made my peace with it; the best thing for me has been to get back to doing what I normally do, to living my life, to doing what makes me happy. I also feel this is what HE would want; he wouldn’t want people to make a big fuss over him and wouldn’t want to feel like he was disrupting others’ lives. And he was interested in some of what I had going on; he really liked all the Valocea stuff and associated general transit geekery, was always eager to listen to me talk about some idea for a story, and he read many of the posts on this blog (though the pony stuff was generally lost on him!). If I have one major personal regret about the timing of this, it’s that I wasn’t able to finish and publish anything substantial, creatively, before he died. I feel like he would want me to continue with these endeavors. So, aside from taking time to attend to tasks that need to be done in the wake of these events, that’s what I’ve done.

Not long after that, my cat Isaac, who’s been with me for about 12 years, also passed away (he was a little over a year old when I got him from the Feral Cat Foundation). I’ll miss him too, though similarly, his passing (which was also peaceful; he was put to sleep with me next to him at a really nice, caring cat clinic) was expected. He’d been getting progressively more frail over the course of several weeks, and near the end, stopped eating. And while I will miss having him around in some ways, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from over a decade of owning a cat, it’s this: I don’t want to own a cat. Or any other pet, really. It’s just not for me. When I got him, I had two other people very much in my life who were “cat people”. And on top of that, I’d usually had cats in the house when growing up. In the years since I got Isaac, things have changed; neither of those people are in my life to anywhere near the degree they once were. Once it was basically “just me and the cat” (and roommates I’ve had since who liked him well enough, but are definitely not “cat people”), I slowly realized that taking care of a cat is really not something I’m that keen on. I’m happy that I’ll never have to scoop a box again, that’s for sure, and this place will be easier to keep clean. But! I already had him and wasn’t going to not take good care of him because of this. Even after I realized this, he remained my responsibility, and I had resolved to give him the best, healthiest and happiest life I could, and I think I did a pretty good job.

I contemplated for some time on just what to do with this blog in relation to these events. Not a lot of people read this, but still, I wasn’t sure how to present it. Do I just not say anything about them at all, and simply get back to the usual stuff now that I actually have a bit of time again? Do I say something and then get back to the usual stuff? The latter is ultimately what I am basically doing, even though for a time I worried it would seem weird to talk about a family member and a pet passing away and then immediately go back to writing posts about Valocea or Friendship is Magic or video game music. But it’s been a few weeks now since these things happened, so I’ve had some distance, and on top of that, as I mentioned, getting back to my “normal” life has been nothing but helpful for me, so I’m going to apply that here as well.

I have good memories to hang onto of those who are no longer here, so having said farewell, I move on.

-Saito S

Recent relative quiet

Other than the huge Valocea transit history post (split into two blog posts), I haven’t done much here (and even that post was worked on for nearly a month). And I am really far behind on the pony ep reviews (though now that the season finale has aired, all I have to do to “catch up” is finish reviewing the remaining eps of season 4 before season 5 begins, which won’t exactly be overly difficult). The reason for this is simply that there has been WAY too much going on, from serious family issues to an office move at my work. So I plan to put up more whenever I can, it’s just that with everything going on, I don’t have as much time or energy as normal, so sometimes a lot of time goes by without me working on blog posts (or stories, which I’m trying to find more time for as well) very much.

But I’m not giving up on any of it!

-Saito S

Valocea Project – history of public transit during the late 20th and early 21st centuries (part 2)

Below is part 2 of the history of public transport in Valocea. Find part 1 here. This half of the post contains a few links at various points to pages detailing some of the transit vehicles mentioned (and in one case, detailing a referenced train station). These links serve to give the reader a slightly better visual concept of what is being discussed. At some point in the (hopefully near) future, I’ll be putting together a post which focuses on vehicles and stations, describing them much more extensively and featuring a large number of links to images and information pages (basically, this future post will do for transit vehicles and stations what the Lennvale post did for that city). Continue reading

Valocea Project – history of public transit during the late 20th and early 21st centuries (part 1)

Following on from this post, in which I described what the character of Lennvale as a city is, we now turn our attention to Valocea’s public transit. This post (which is presented in two parts, because it’s REALLY long) details out the history of Valocea’s ground mass transit from the 1960s to the present. It gives an overview of the general nature of transit during each decade, focusing on significant developments, though it generally does not go into great detail about each specific era (which would require many posts of this size). As mentioned above, this is quite long – mainly I just wanted to get all of this information written down somewhere so it wouldn’t all just be vague notions in my head. Of course, I figured I might as well post it here, too, despite how huge it is, so without further ado, here we go…

Continue reading

BABSConLogo500 modded

One day of BABSCon = crazy fun

BABSCon!

I’d never been to a fan con on this scale – I’ve been to conventions, but for things like computer tech, not entertainment fandom, and I’ve been to fandom gatherings, but with like… 30 people. Not hundreds or however many people were there.

We had to go with the Saturday-only pass, rather than going for the full 3-day pass, to save money (not only in terms of the cost of registration itself, but also to avoid being around the temptation of all the cool stuff that would be available to buy at the con for too long!). So, we got up early and made sure we were at SFO before 10AM. The Hyatt Regency runs a shuttle that goes between the airport and the hotel. So, here it is 9:45 or so and we’re on the shuttle. There’s a writer’s panel at 10. So, we may not catch the beginning of it, but if we get there soon, we can see most of it, right?

Con lesson #1: waiting in line to get your badge and get in will take forever, even if you per-registered. It was nearly 11 by the time we were through that line. Oh well.

So we started looking around. You couldn’t look anywhere without seeing someone in costume, or at least wearing a pony shirt (which we both were, so hey). Saw a pretty sweet VinylTastic guy early on.

We spent some time in the vendor room, looking at all the stuff we might buy, and of course, the $400-$800 plushies that we could in no way hope to buy. Sigh.

Not that they are overpriced. High-quality fan-made plushies are worth the amount of money being asked for them (I mean seriously, look at this), but that doesn’t change that fact that it’s way more than I can afford, at least at this point in my life. Still, we talked with a few of the vendors that were there about fandom and plushies and other stuff, and just had a good time.

Before long, we dashed (ha ha ha) off to get in line for the VA panel. This was the thing we wanted to make sure we got to attend, more than anything else. The line was quite long, but fortunately, we didn’t have to wait a huge amount of time before they opened up the gigantic room they were using for the panel (which, as I understand it, had been four rooms for most of the day, was converted via movable wall pieces to one big room for the panel, then changed back again) and in we went. And it was a blast! Before they brought in the guests of honor, the awesome video linked at the top of this post was played on the screens that had been set up at the front of the room. It was both weird and awesome to see these people whose voices we’ve heard, on this show that we love, in person. Even from far away, it was still pretty cool. The VAs were relaxed and easygoing, and there was an especially great moment when the announcer dared anyone “to call her sunbutt” when Nicole Oliver was making her entrance, and naturally, some guy yelled out “SUNBUTT!” as she sat down, to which Nicole replied, in a voice that wasn’t quite her Celestia voice but sort of close, “I see you, and we will talk later.” Right after someone else in the audience shouted “To the moon!” The whole sequence brought the house down.

Also, this was the first time that ALL of the mane 6 VAs, not to mention other notables such as Celestia, Spike, Babs, various stallions (over 9000 of them, to be precise), and of course Big Mac (oh excuse me, I mean PRINCESS Big Mac), were all together on one panel. Tabitha St. Germain couldn’t be there in person and had to “attend” via Skype, which was unfortunate because I think sometimes she couldn’t hear what question-askers or other panelists were saying very well (and she couldn’t see anyone, either). Still, a milestone and a really fun panel!

And then the questions line was crashed by a certain rookie FIM writer. The whole thing was great all around.

After the panel, we went right over to the line for VA autographs. And that… didn’t go so well.

Con lesson #2: the line for autographs will be just as long or longer than the one for the more popular panels. If the signings start at 1:45, and you get in line at 1:30… not gonna work so well.

Despite going right from the panel to the autograph line, we were way out near the BACK of this gigantic line that wound down hallways and around corners and then finally outside, and barely managed to move thirty feet in about an hour. Once that hour was up, we threw in the towel and resolved to learn the lesson about planning and picking what you want to do for future cons. To be fair to us, from what I heard from both staff and friends who have attended cons in the past, this was sort of a snafu. The staff seemed to know that it could have been handled a bit better. I also learned that not only was it the first pony con in the Bay Area, it was also the first major con for a sizable number of the staff, and that the attendance was higher than expected. Given those factors, the con overall was actually pretty solid. The oddity with the autographs did seem to be a result of poor planning (which can in turn be attributed to the lack of experience at running these kinds of things), and they seemed to realize that, so hopefully they can iron out those issues going forward.

Later on, we were sort of vindicated too – as I was walking back toward the vendor room at one point (a little before 4PM), I saw that the line (while it had moved significantly and was now entirely indoors) still had a lot of people in it. Right as I walked by, the staff were telling them that the signing event was over because the VAs simply couldn’t stay any longer. Given where our place in the line had been, we certainly would have been one of those who didn’t make it in, so we were glad we’d bailed rather than stand in line all the way till 4 and then get nothing out of it anyway. Felt bad for the people who did just that! But I guess that kind of thing happens at cons sometimes…

After giving up on the signings, we stopped in the (rather awesome looking) atrium seating area of the hotel to eat lunch. And then, with some time to kill before the other panel we really wanted to see (the director panel), we headed back to both the vendor room and “Artist’s Alley.” And then the buying began.

Con lesson #3: you will spend more than you planned. Period. No exceptions, no compromises, do not pass Go, do not collect $200 (just the opposite, in fact).

I brought $100 in cash with me, thinking that I would limit myself to just spending that much while at the actual con. Ha. Ha! As it turned out, many of the artisans displaying their work took plastic, after all. Which was great for me, but bad for my wallet. In the end, I spent just over $200 total. We went back and forth between the two rooms – we must have passed through each like eight times, and kept going “man we really shouldn’t spend any more… oh look at this!” *buys*

Still, I can’t say I really regret having spent the money – it’s a lot but not a back-breaking amount, and all this stuff is just so freakin cool! The bulk of what I got consisted of several really gorgeous art prints. I also picked up a couple beadwork pieces, as well as the book and map for this “Ponyfinder/Everglow” campaign setting for the Pathfinder RPG. I don’t even really play tabletop RPGs anymore, but this “it’s not actually Equestria (to avoid the wrath of Hasbro), but then, it kind of is” setting was just a really fun idea. Plus I’m a map geek and this one is gorgeous! Finally, there was this con-exclusive plush of the absolutely adorable BABSCon mascot, Golden Gates.

As we left the vendor room at one point, we found that a bunch of people were gathered in the hallway, singing (and dancing to in some cases) Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing on Rainbows. This was easily the most hilarious “fandom” moment I’ve ever personally witnessed or been a part of, not just for ponies but any fandom.

The director’s panel was a lot of fun. Jayson Thiessen and “Big” Jim Miller had a lot to say about the creative process and how ideas get bounced around and refined. Along with some hilarious stories revolving around “Pinkie Pride” and what it was like to meet and work with Weird Al, whom Jayson has always been a big fan of, as it turned out. A lot of joking around during this panel, it was really relaxed and fun, and of course informative! I’m sure that videos of this and the VA panel (and most of the other big events) will be uploaded to Youtube before too long, if they haven’t been already, so anyone who wasn’t there will have a chance to see what went on.

So yus! We had a lot of fun, and learned a lot about “how to con”, for lack of a better phrase. No doubt we’d be better able to parse our time and be realistic about what we can and can’t make when we attend one of these again. As for that, I don’t know if I’ll ever make it out to any of the cons that are in other areas of the country (which would depend on being able to afford the hotel and travel expenses on top of the con and merch), but by most accounts, this first BABSCon has been a success, and when they do this again next year (it’s already been announced!), I’m there!

-Saito S

BABSCon ahoy!

So, tomorrow, my roommate and I will be attending this, and it will be pretty much my first fan con ever. I never did make it to any Trek conventions, despite my longtime fandom of that franchise. Thought about asking for Friday off work and springing for a 3-day pass, but we really just can’t afford to do that (not to mention that there will surely be some stuff there we’ll want to buy, and by limiting ourselves to only one day, we’ll limit our exposure to said stuff!).

I’m anticipating a fun kind of chaos, hopefully an entertaining VA panel, maybe some autographs, lots of cosplay, and general pony insanity. I’ll try to get some pictures. Should be an exciting day!

-Saito S

Tonight, WE MOON

For anyone who is still up and lives in the appropriate area: go see the crazy cool eclipse! Unfortunately, I’m prevented from getting a decent look at the moon itself by cloud cover at the moment, but there is still a bit of time before the eclipse is due to end, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to see it at some point!

So come on clouds, move over! Best Princess is displeased!

 

(title shamelessly stolen from Equestria Daily)

-Saito S

Valocea Project – sources of inspiration and the character of a city

Throughout the entirety of this project’s existence, I’ve been a frequent lurker and… not-always-so-frequent poster in a thread over at the Canadian Public Transit Discussion Board, which by the way is a pretty cool site and an invaluable resource (especially the wiki) for anyone who wants to know more about North American public transportation. The thread in question, called “Anyone create their own transit system?” and being about exactly what you’d think based on the title, has been around a lot longer than I’ve been posting there (I first posted in it during December of 2012), and is in fact what originally sparked the idea of the whole Valocea thing in the first place. As I detail out in my history post, the idea of creating a fictional transit system had a lot of appeal, but of course, I needed somewhere to put it, so I started thinking up a city, which needed to exist somewhere in the real world, so I made up a US state, and then finally I realized that for my fictional place to be part of the US meant there’d be way too many constraints on it. Thus, the country of Valocea was born, and the project expanded far beyond what I thought it would originally be. Not that this is a bad thing; I’ve enjoyed all the time I’ve spent on it and intend to follow through with the idea of creating the entire country, not just one city and a transit system, in as much detail as I can muster.

That said, with all the mapping and figuring I was doing for the nation as a whole, the original concept – developing one city (Lennvale) and focusing on transit aspects – have received relatively little attention. Recently, that’s begun to change, as I’ve picked up a “Modern City” add-on for CC3 and begun planning out how I’ll map the city of Lennvale using that. And, at the same time, I’ve been putting together notes on just what rolling stock is used by V-Net, the country’s national rail operator. Continue reading

Finally, a new Valocea map!

So! I had put off posting this until I finished making some changes that I wanted to make. Since those now HAVE been made, here we are.

April 2014 main-lighter contours

It’s really starting to look much more like a real map!

I’m pretty happy with how this map is looking as I continue to work on it. A rundown of the major changes:

  • ALL twenty-four regions now have names! Really happy to have that aspect finished up. You might also notice there’s been a change. I wasn’t really happy with “Blaise” (which was the name of the small region with the purple border to the west of Pascale) as a region name – just didn’t sound right, somehow. So, I went back to doing some name researching, and came up with “Villeneuve”, which roughly means “dweller in a new settlement” in French.
  • The border between West Portal and Issa has changed a bit (it now follows a river, rather than being one of the “arbitrary political line” type borders), partly so that it wouldn’t look EXACTLY the same as the border Issa shares with Desjardins, to the east (same angle, same length). The reason they looked the same in the first place is because technically, they were the same object – since Issa was created recently and “inserted” into the existing landmass, the border that previously existed between WP and DJ was simply duplicated and placed on either side of Issa. The other reason for the change was to alter Issa’s size – it was gargantuan before, the biggest region by far. I decided I didn’t want it to be quite so huge, and I think West Portal now looks better, too.
  • Anshala, West Portal’s largest city and the second largest in Valocea after Lennvale, has been moved east a bit, to a location that I feel makes a bit more sense for its status as the western gateway city into Valocea.
  • There are more cities, and for the first time, visible rail lines! Now, you might be wondering why several of these new cities are unnamed and why that set of rail lines running between Brighton and Kunari are the only lines on the map so far. That’s all for a story I’m working on that takes place in Valocea. I wanted to know exactly where this train goes when a character takes it, so I planned it out and added it to the map, but – while I knew where I wanted various cities to be along the route – I haven’t been able to come up with names for all of them yet. Oran, East Portal’s largest city, is the final stop in Valocea for eastbound LVX (Lennvale-Vancouver Express) trains heading to Vancouver, British Columbia (or the first Valocean stop for westbound trains). This city is considered to be the eastern equivalent of Anshala as the country’s other main “gateway”, though with a different feel, since any vehicles of international origin (whether carrying freight or passengers) entering Anshala are either ships or planes, whereas Oran receives the road and rail lines that lead from Vancouver into East Portal, and has no nearby international airport and no major port (the river and lake near the city are not navigable by container or cruise ships).
  • Speaking of unnamed cities: there’s another one in the Villeneuve region – this is Valocea’s capital. The main reason I haven’t been able to come up with a name for it is because I’m still trying to decide if it should be a city that was meant to be the capital during its creation, and thus would probably have a name that is significant to Valocean history in some way (i.e. Washington DC), or if it was just a city with a name like any other that was later chosen to be the capital (i.e. Ottawa).
  • The three major real-life cities whose locations are visible on the map (Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver) are called out with names and icons.
  • There is a 200 km scale bar in the upper left area; this is something I really should have added a while ago! There is also a legend there showing some info about different city symbols and their meaning – it’s a bit half-assed but gets the job done, haha. Eventually I’ll add a nicer looking one in a proper separated box, but that’s not super high on the priority list for the moment.
  • The Pascale Sea now has a name label. This is the name for the body of water that runs through most of Valocea’s center, though of course several individual bays and side inlets and whatnot along the way ultimately have their own names as well. It was named for a significant figure in Valocea’s history (as was the Pascale Region).
  • The La Marche region has undergone a rather dramatic change to its coastline with the addition of a deep inland bay. This bay connects to the river and lake system in the region’s western half, allowing ships to pass through to get from Valocea to the west coast of Canada or the US without having to go all the way around La Marche’s southern tip (similarly, the river and lake system that begins just southeast of Lennvale and goes through Rhuna, meeting the ocean again south of that one huge lake, is also wide and deep enough for container ships to easily pass through it. Thus, a route that entails coming in from the west, traveling through the channel and stopping in the Lennvale area, then continuing on to Portland, Seattle, or Vancouver, is probably a fairly common shipping route). These waterways are all naturally occurring, not man-made canals, though some instances of human intervention (i.e. dredging, installation of locks, etc) at a few points along said waterways has probably occurred to keep them navigable.
  • The peninsula that Lennvale is on has also been changed, with a more interesting coastline and additional islands, as well as text labels for Sounto Sound and Sounto Bay, though you’ll have to zoom in to really see any of that (in fact, none of that really shows up well even when the image is viewed at full res, but oh well. That level of detail will be more visible and important when I do regional maps, anyway).
  • More rivers and mountain/hill contours throughout.
  • I also played around with the effects for the colored regional borders in CC3, trying to improve the look of the rendered map, and I think my efforts paid off. They are both more distinct than before, and also smaller, lining the edge of each region only (rather than being a sort of “haze” of semi-transparent color hanging over a large portion of the region). They look MUCH better this way. The mountain contours I’m less sure about – I tweaked the effect settings to make them stand out a bit more, but it might be too much. On this style of map, they are not supposed to be a distinctly visible, well-defined feature (as a city icon would be), but are meant to be a bit more indistinct, just there in the background behind everything else giving you a general idea of where the hills and mountainous areas are. So I may make some changes back in the other direction later.

There are also some really big changes to this map I have planned, mostly relating to re-drawing the landmasses to make them look more natural and realistic, but I’m going to wait on some of those for now – they will take a lot of time and energy, and there is a new version of CC3 that is supposed to be coming out hopefully within a few months and will sport a lot of improvements. Since it’s entirely likely that the new version will make those big changes much easier to implement, I’m going to wait on them for now, at least until I know with more certainty when the upgrade will be out. One of the changes that has been discussed is that rendering will be made easier, with the possibility for higher resolutions and more anti-aliasing for the exported images. Can’t wait for that!

-Saito S