Sky Dome Program

From: Nick Brooke (100270.337@compuserve.com)
Date: Wed 15 Jan 1997 - 13:34:07 EET


____________________
Donald Wachenschwanz writes:

> I thot I read somewhere that someone has a program that shows the
> Gloranthan sky dome and star positions for each day of the Gloranthan
> year? Does this really exist somewhere out there? Where could I find
> it? (No, I really do have a life, it's just nice to escape from it
> occasionally).

Yep, it's true. It exists. I wrote it. You read about it in "Starry
Wisdom", most likely. The program runs on a PC under Windows, isn't *quite*
finished, is unlikely ever to be finished, and hasn't been made available
to the world at large, until now.

The full story (a cautionary tale):

A couple of years ago I spent some time learning to program in Visual Basic
(a simple Windows programming language) in order to reproduce the movements
of the Sky Dome. This was a voluntary and spontaneous move by me: nobody
asked me to do it; I just thought it might help with Greg's then-current
work on Dara Happan Astronomy, and also that it'd be nice to see how the
movements described in "Elder Secrets" would look through the changing
hours and seasons, slow-moving planets against the spinning stars.

It was kinda exciting to do this. In the process of extracting information
to define the parameters of the model, Greg and I agreed on several
niggling points re: the motions of the Sky Dome and the Planets, the
variable length of nights, the apparent course of Lightfore across the
constellations, some errors in "Elder Secrets", etc. There were some of
those great creative moments we all enjoy, and some wonderful discoveries
and coincidences. It was fun, while it lasted.

Unfortunately, my project hit a block when I visited Chaosium in January
1995 and learned that, although he'd been offering me what *looked* like
feedback (including some "minor" suggestions which would have reversed the
motions of the Dome!) for a few months, Greg hadn't actually got around to
loading up the program and giving it a spin for himself, to see what it was
that we were talking about.

That was a mite demoralising, and I lost interest in finishing the program
off. After all, there were plenty of other things I could be doing with my
time that were more productive and satisfying. Just like Donald, I really
do have a life: it was around this time I met Julie, my fiancee, who has
(in the nicest possible way) reduced the amount of time I can spend farting

around on my computer to nobody's real benefit.

Nowadays, I don't think any Sky Dome program could ever be a 100% accurate
reflection of what Greg thinks the Gloranthan night sky actually looks
like. He can write anything he likes (e.g. the Southpath has an apparently
irregular and random but in fact regular, recurring and predictable course
which produces significant planetary conjunctions relating to known
historical events), but this is way beyond my ability to program, and
indeed beyond his own ability to define. And Greg is just too damn'
capricious and unpredictable: you can spend hours working out how to
present something *exactly* as it's just been described, only to have that
version chucked out with the next "rethink".

Also, trying to "get it right" opens the door to nigglers and schoolboy
theorists, all lobbying for their own weird views of how the finished
result ought to look, arguing for grandiose or trivial changes with
absolutely no regard for what's in print, for common sense, or for the
limits of my programming ability and interest.

(Besides, we all know that if I got it 100% right, it'd be gregged in a
week's time anyway. Why not settle for 80%, and ignore the predictable
howls, squeaks and moans?)

It's very frustrating to work under those circumstances, and I've decided
not to do so any more. After all, this is my *hobby* - if I want
aggravation in my life, that's what my day job's for. Nobody is paying me

to put up with this shit. (If anyone would *like* to pay me to put up with
this shit, my email address is in the header to this post). I've decided
that in future, when the fun goes out of a project, so will I.

My program is probably over 80% complete. It runs a bit clunkily (screen
update can take a few seconds, even on a fast computer, so scrolling
through the hours of the night isn't as smooth as I'd like it to be), and
there's some stuff I *know* is wrong but can't be bothered to change (e.g.
Southpath is a constant, no difference between "odd" and "even" years'
planetary motion, etc.). Also, the new edition of "Glorious ReAscent" has

come out since I wrote the program, and I don't intend to do anything to
update my model to match its changed Star Lore (if I started, this would be
a never-ending project). All that being said, it's quite a pretty piece of
software, and I do feel rather proud of it.

Given the recent mention in "Starry Wisdom #1", and interest expressed at
RQ-Cons and Convulsions past, I have decided to make my "Gloranthan
Ephemeris" freely available to the whole world: as soon as I get it up
there, you'll be able to download it (errors and all) from my homepage as

freeware. If I took any money for this, I'd feel obliged to debug and
correct and update and improve and complete it; be warned that I have no
intention of doing any of this. I'll simply say, "The Gloranthan sky might
look something like this: I hope you enjoy looking at it: don't bother me
with questions."

My homepage is located at:

        <http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/Nick_Brooke/>

There's a slight technical hitch with the server today, but I plan to put
the program up there as soon as possible. I do hope some of you will
download it and try it out. I am seriously uninterested in any technical
suggestions or criticisms relating to it, and have absolutely no intention
of changing any part of the "Ephemeris". If you want to discuss its virtues
and flaws, please do so on the Glorantha Daily (remembering as you write
that everyone here knows the program is inaccurate, incomplete, and not
debugged), and *not* in private email, which will be treated as junk.

==== Great Sayings of Glorantha, no. 94:
Nick "Never work with children, animals,
==== shamans, tricksters or Arkati."

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