Saturday, April 04, 2009


Oh dear, am such a hypocrite at times. Have been blaming lack of lengthy posts on limited battery power when in actual fact it's more to do with laziness and lack of motivation than anything else. Any whinging about other travellers with better, more expensive, more modern rigs than I – is more than likely motivated by pure envy, rather than any deep-seated concern for the pristine wilderness .. heh.

Have also been whinging about those pesky little generators of late buuuut, it's been a bit cloudy for the past couple of days (no rain yet, but hoping) so had to have a bittuva chat with one of the neighbours to see if I could beg, borrow or hire his generator for the day to see if I can recharge some of the batteries aboard this bus – especially the main 80Amp/hour “ship's” battery. Tell yah what, it takes many hours/days of full sunlight to top that one up again – especially since the solar panel only out-puts 2.3 Amps per hour under ideal conditions. Bit like trying fill an 80 gallon tank with buckets full of raindrops – two gallons per hour, provided it's actually raining. Lord only knows what sort of current the computer (and its ancillary inverters and converters actually DRAWS). Even when I operate the computer during the day – and the solar array is out-putting the full 2.3 Amps – can only do that for about four hours before the inverter starts its high pitched wail “'elp! Runnin' low on grunt!”.

Happily, 'Orrible 'Onda is now putt-putt-puttering away just outside my window. Ah, well. The other thing that struck me as “anomalous” last night; was me happily working away at a very “Hi-tech” $2000 laptop, trolling the interwebs using a very “Hi-tech” USB wireless modem ---- by candlelight! Oh, well.

Can, however, sit here today and write this into Open-Office without watching the little green “battery” icon on the laptop rapidly diminish into “empty” - or – on several occasions when have been in the middle of something terribly important (like the computer “Game” “Rome-total war”) and the laptop suddenly decides to “hibernate” without warning. Very frustrating when one is in the middle of trying to “govern” a dozen or so “provinces”, 15 or so “cities” - as well as fight off the hordes of barbarians when they come unexpectedly knocking at the city gates with ram's head battering poles... heh.

Would, actually, recommend the “Game” to any (sensible) teen who aspires to become an upper level politician of some sort (and by 'sensible', I mean not one who prefers the blood guts gore shooty shooty-bang-bang all over in one hour all dead sort of computer games).

The ultimate aim is to become the overall “Emperor” of, well, the Roman Empire. It's a sort of amalgamation of the board game “Diplomacy”1 and the later versions of “Age of Empires”. Yep, it does give me “diplomats” who I can send across country to a city that I want to .. um, “expand into” (anyone for lebensraum?). Second step after sending a “spy” into the city to find out what sort of “garrison” it contains – the “diplomat” then very politely asks them to “hand over yer city or we'll come and break yer bloody walls down. Our army is bigger'n yours .. Nyah!”. The reply (computer generated, of course) is generally a very polite “Piss orf!!” Oh dear, think I, will just have to do it the hard way – siege! All this is happening while am trying to “build” cities into some sort of viable economic entity so that I can afford an army (or four). Generally involves raising the “taxes” a notch or two – with the result that “citizens” tend to indulge in a little “civil revolt” which has to be dealt with somehow without mass slaughter (hey - no citizens, no taxes). Yer, it all sounds a bit puerile and “boys own” but it really IS quite complex, and has been keeping what's left of my mind reasonably active for quite a few hours (days? Weeks?)

The whole thing begins in Italy (or what we now regard as “Italy”) circa 300 BCE and am only up to about 100 BCE. (game can be saved and re-started at the point left). Be interesting to see what happens, later, when the “year” clock changes to “CE” .. heh.

The “visuals”, while not exactly Hi-Fi 3D, are sufficient, and really quite funny in their own way. Can sort of “fly” around the provinces and battle-fields in a sort of “helicopter” view. If I leave a “unit” of soldiers idle on the battlefield, can zoom in and there they are scratching their nose, or bum, or squatting down chatting among themselves and O, whoever programmed the “game” was clever enough to allow units to get “winded” or “exhausted”, so have to keep an eye on them; especially the units of Cavalry who refuse to “charge” when “exhausted” and tend to “amble” when “winded”. Also, some units have a tendency to “flee” when they think the odds are too great, which is sort of frustrating when things get tight. Used to happen more frequently in the early “years” when all I had were “armed peasants” - not so much now there are massed ranks of well armed, armoured, and trained “Praetorian Guards” and squadrons of “Heavy Cavalry”, but even they turn tail and flee the battlefield on occasion. I don't send a “Roman General” into the field very often – even though he has a button to yell “OY come back, Cowards. Stand yer ground!” ; “Captains” don't have that “special ability” – preferring to have “armies” led by a senior “Captain” as I keep running out of “City Governors” (who become “Generals”, in the field)(they die, unpredictably .. of old age, plague, or the occasional assassination) and “cities” get a bit “restive” when there's no “Guv'na” in residence. I have to wait until the computer decides to “announce” a “noble” birth, then wait for a “coming of age” - or more frequently a “marriage”. Usually to one of the “Senior Captains” of the Army. One way to get “promoted” to the “nobility” apparently - and Hey, I guess some things never change.

And this, also, should have been, could have been – a much longer essay dealing with Empires come and gone, Energy Efficiency, political machinations everywhere, marriages made for gain .. but OY, the 'Orrible 'Onda just ran out of petrol.

1 Am not sure whether anyone knows of – or has even “heard of” - the board game “Diplomacy”. Came out – er, must be 35 year ago, now - back in the days when PC's didn't exist. Wasn't very “popular”. One of my friends (yer, back in the days when I DID have friends) invited a group of us round to play – the “game” needs at least 6 players. We set it up at about mid-day one Saturday – and were halfway through it at 4AM the following day. Not surprised it didn't “take on”. The fold-out cardboard “playing field” was configured into the map of “Europe” pre 1914, which wasn't the “Nation States” that we know today. Most of it consisted of small “kingdoms”, “City States”, “Fiefdoms” and “Principalities”.

Each player chose a “country”. England, France, Austria, etc. The game was divided into two “periods” - the “Summer campaign” and the “Winter campaign”. Each country had “armies” and “fleets”. The “armies” were little red blocks of wood, The “fleets” blue – but not all were equal. “England”, of course, began with one army and two fleets. Some of the landlocked “countries” had three “armies” and no fleets. The only way one could “move” armies across water was by loading them onto a “fleet” for one turn (or more, depending on the distance). The “Summer” campaign consisted of a period of (mostly) individual planning – but this is where the “diplomacy” came into it. The “rules” were quite complex, so won't go into too much detail here, but generally it was difficult to “move” across neighbouring countries without the “permission” of the “owner” of that country – and it was almost impossible (at least in the early stages) to attack and take over another country without “alliances”. So, in the period between Summer and Winter campaigns one had to drag someone else off into a corner somewhere and “arrange” an alliance. THAT was when one found out who one's “true” friends were, since the “alliances” weren't exactly “binding” and one never really knew whether the “ally” - now knowing what they “thought” you had planned – hadn't snuck off and “arranged” something completely different with another “country”.

(Gee, sounds just like REAL LIFE .. heh).

Everyone would write down the “moves” for that section on a piece of paper, place them on the table, read them out, move the blocks – and see who had a tendency to do the “stab in the back” bit. Additional armies and fleets could be “raised” during the “winter”, but only if one had already attacked and “occupied” certain cities that allowed it.

Anyway, it wasn't what we called a “fun” board-game, so we packed it away and never opened the box again.


Caroline said...

So sounds very time consuming. Presume Caesar is immortal?

Davo said...

Caroline - the "concept" of Caesar - god, man, woman - is always "immortal" ,.. as long as human beings have minds to dream with.

BBC said...

Hey buddy, great to hear from you. Ah, Caesar and Cleopatra, loved them, they were screwed up gods but at least they thought they were gods.

Anyway, it sounds like more solar panels would help you, too bad they are still so expensive.

I'm not big on generators, they can be real gas hogs but I do have a very good 500 watt Honda.

It alone will run your laptop and internet and a few lights for two hours on two quarts of gas. Maybe charge up the batteries some also.

People always get generators that are overkill, you don't need a 3500 watt generator unless you want to run a washing machine or something like that.

I'm on the grid here because it is easy and cheap. But even if I wasn't I'm set up to run this place with that small generator and my one 55 watt solar panel, but could only have my desktop on for a few hours a day I suppose.

I've been making LED lights that run off of 12 volts, they use zilch for power, I can light my place up with my pickup battery and still start it four days later.

Maybe a week or two later, haven't tested that yet. Why don't you just start up your rig and let it's generator charge up the main battery?

It's a better charging system than any outside generator or battery charger. Hell, just take an easy hour drive around at 20 MPH and you've seen a little county and your battery is charged back up.

Take care pal, hugs. Billy

BBC said...

Inefficiency 101

No shit, LOL

BBC said...

In this country you can just plug a laptop into a 12 volt system and be done with it. Not sure how it works there though.

Davo said...

Yer, Billy B, I've never figured out why laptops aren't 12 volt. Mine's something weird like 9.5 volts. Must have some sort of arcane economic purpose .. heh. Can't really see why they can't incorporate a solar collector in the lid, either. Am, at the moment, trying to find a secondhand alternator and meccano set so I can cobble up some sort of wind generator, wouldn't need much output, but would run 24 hours per day.

Cleopatra? mmm. Haven't reached Egypt yet, am still trying to .. umm, "pacify" the area now known as Turkey .. heh.

sexy said...


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