27 April 2009


Hello, this is Catherine. I am currently away on vacation and plan
to be back in about a week, or not at all. Please drop a message or at
least say hi, I just hate it when I get a blank holo.

See you all later!

24 April 2009

A treasure

The look on his face, when he realized it was my first time... again.


22 April 2009

Au revoir l'Université

April 111, Sinq Laison
University of Caille, Campus Bourynes

Text shimmers in front of me.

I have read it and know what it means. Actually, I have been expecting it. But it's still hard to believe.

No way. Finally?

The words are simple.

Gallente Business - Entrepeneur Elite
Issued via: University of Caille

This certificate is the final step of the Caille University graduate program for Entrepreneur specialists. It certifies that the holder of the certificate...
The real meaning is not that simple. It means it is time to say goodbye.


Have you guys gotten this feeling that you follow a pre-established path? No, no, don't get me wrong, this is not Fate, she acts in ways so much subtler. This is standing in the forest, looking around you and seeing a worn path on the ground. It may be the twigs, the grass or a hole in the thicket. Someone has been here before. That's the way to go.

And what do you do? You follow the path.

Not because they force you to. Not because it's your greater destiny. Not even because of a reason. Just... because. Because you are lazy, because it's the easiest thing to do, because it's the next absentminded step after what you were doing before. Keep still when you were still or keep moving in the direction you were. It's not Fate but that lazy slob, Inertia.

That's the feeling.

So what if I have followed the worn path all my life. Go to school. Make friends at school. Move with family, make friends elsewhere. School is over, what's next? University. Stay put for the Master's Degree. Oh, excuse me if I yawn for a bit.

I was admitted into the University of Caille some six years ago, it has been two and a half since I became a capsuleer. I started, all bright eyed and excited about spaceflight. I remember wanting to move stuff from here to there and make a killing on the market. See, I have a life down planetside and the market fits nicely with... living.

I learned very quickly that pure social and market would not be enough, so I learned to make a killing in different ways -one needs to know how to look after oneself, you know. Then I went into the fast courier business -I am just so good at the running away part of fighting,- and learned how to go faster and faster. Then I found racing and eventually, I learned to fit and invent and build my own stuff. Then T2. You know the rest of the story.

That is how I followed the path.

As it turns out, I fell right in the middle of some of the best people you can meet in space; some of them my team, some of them adversaries, all of them my friends. I have learned from them, I am a better person because of them, and I hope they feel the same. I have learned little things: a smile goes a long way; always say hello and always say goodbye; it's about the people, not the spaceships.

All these things I have learned while walking down the path. I have made small decisions in the meantime, and enjoyed some stunning views while looking that way or the other.

In the end, what I am saying is... I am grateful for the path.

So here I stand, in the middle of the forest, with most decisions having been made for me long before I took the easy way forward. And you know what? Now that I have arrived, I look around and find that there is no path ahead, no path around. From now on, there are only choices.

It feels good.

So thank you, Dean Arele and CEO Hatiniestan, for giving us safe paths to walk along. Thanks everyone here, for helping us along the way. We have reached this point where, although we will never stop learning, we will make choices that are fully ours.

To those graduating today, I say goodbye, et bonne chance. From now on, you choose how to make a path ahead of you. You have reached the end of this one path, who knows which one you will open ahead of you?

And to those of you staying in UC, I can only say... fly safe, nuggets, until we meet again.

Graduation Ceremony
Elite Entrepeneur Programme
University of Caille, April 111



Path no more.

16 April 2009

A window wide open

They say eyes are the window to your soul. It's true. Without a word, eyes can say 'come hither,' 'go away' or a myriad of different things. Some say that the eyes of Amarrian-raised women are particularly expressive. Your eyes convey feeling and in doing so, subtly, other things as well.

Now if eyes are the window to your soul, then pod jacks must be the window to your mind. Without a word, these can command hundreds of people, have a ship jump endless distances across the void or turn on a pin. But all jacks, they are the same -cold and heartless. They convey Information. Thought.

Nature has been wise and kind to us over a million years. Eyes are truly windows, that look inside and outside; we can see things coming. We can shut our eyes in, well, the blink of an eye. Sometimes even without thinking we can avert our eyes, cover them, duck, curl up or ultimately stand up and defend them.

Not so with pod jacks.

Humankind is so clumsy. We do not have eyes on our back.


"What about that one?" I pointed to the backlace on display, changing the subject of conversation.

Amerique frowned and said "I'm not sure."

"Ooh, but I like it. Let's go inside."

It was actually one of the most beautiful I had seen. Simple, elegant, crystalline and sparkling.

"I am looking for a backlace?" I asked the woman behind the counter.

"To plug? Of course," she said, "would you like to see anything in particular?"

"I usually wear small and comfortable, but I'm looking for something more, ah, dressy?"

"I think I may have something to interest you." She showed me some sets and helped me choose three before directing me to the fitting room, "Please walk this way, let me call the adviser for you."

I followed her through the door, sat on the couch and relaxed.

"Hello, my name is Claire, how are we doing today?" a silver-haired  lady greeted me with a kind smile as she walked in. She introduced herself as my adviser, showing her credentials before engaging in easier talk. What a peculiar mix she was, serene and poised yet, at the same time, precise and professional. There was no hint of the artificial charm of social implants. How... genuine. What a nice surprise!

"Oh, this one is beautiful indeed. Is it for a special occasion?" she asked after she locked the door and prepared the sets for a fit. "What would you be wearing it with?"

I made myself comfortable while the couch was raising. "I was planning a black evening gown, I have this upcoming gala in a couple of weeks." I could feel the couch on the skin of my back, moving and leaving my jacks exposed.

"It does sound like a lovely combination, dear," she said, "diamonds do go well with formal, especially so with black. They also bring depth out. Let us start with this one."


Of course, what you wear over your jacks is important. Not just for the self-conscious but for anyone with a set on their spine.

Assuming you dress in something more than a basic straitjacket, you would want to choose something safe -safe as in, you definitely do not want people sticking stuff into your jacks. There is nothing between your pod interface and you -I mean, your jacks are you!- and, personally, I would not want people poking at my mind behind my back, plugging god-knows-what, probing into god knows which memories.

My mind, my thoughts, thankyouverymuch.

Sure, you say, security systems and stuff. But what good would your security system do about grubby fingers mistaking your jacks for an ashtray? About water and sand at the beach? About smog and dust in the city? How about lint? Imagine not being able to plug into your pod because of a candy wrapper -don't even mention chewing gum, just pod me now and wake me up!

Security systems, right.

Anyhow speaking of safe, you may want a closed high-collar shirt or a jacket that covers everything up to that top plug on the base of your neck. Caldari no-nonsense, traditional Achur or Amarrian no-skin-no-sin are your main options. That's safe. You could go designer, too.

But depending on your personality and lifestyle, you may want to dress differently. A gown with a low back, a v-neck, halter-top, any top that shows your back. Or summer on the planet, casual, a sundress, a swimsuit. Sports? Workout? I could go on. Even a trucker wants to wear his muscle shirt once in a while, non? Not many capsuleer truckers around, on second thought.

Some people keep the original socket-caps for planetside.

Me? Thank you, but I do not think you will find me wearing bright-yellow Ishukone plastic caps to a wedding.


As the third set of plugs clicked in place the couch announced with a beep that it would slide back into a position easier for me to stand up. Claire invoked again the mirror so I could see.

I looked at the full-body hologram, staring straight at my own back. Here... there. I made a twirling gesture with my hand and the holo dutifully obeyed, with the jewels sparkling on my back as the image turned.

"It looks gorgeous." Each plug was a little star-flower made of small clear, shiny translucent gems, arranged around a bigger one in the middle. Each one a different size, big enough to cover its socket and then some, all loosely strung by two shiny silver strands.

It looked great and I did feel great. "This one, I like this one."

"You look great with it, do you not?" She paused. "I could show you a matching necklace, if you would like to see."

She was good, a very good saleswoman.


Backlaces -jack-links or back-brooches or spine studs or any name you would use- have found their place in the wardrobe. You find them in all shapes and sizes and materials; rustic beads, semi-precious, precious; diamond, pearls, emerald, morphite; wood, silicone, fake skin, low-profile trit; clear, opaque; on strands or loose. Men prefer sports teams links, clocks, dice, dorsal fins or creepy little eyes that follow you around. Pandemic Legion links have become very popular this year, peeking out over men's collars, probably because of the Tournament.

Of course most of what you see around are not really plugs. There is an entire legitimate industry of genuine back jewelry to make you look your best, whether you are a pod driver or not; sometimes just to make people look like capsuleers. Beautiful designs, only instead of plugging into your jacks these would -don't ask me how- stick to your back. But there, now even a trucker can get those from brands and a stores that need not pay the ransom fee for an 'Ishukone-approved' logo on the mounting. And they look almost the same. Almost.

If you ask me, I would go for clear gemstones. They don't look quite the same.


Claire was right, transparency did bring depth out.

She showed me how the release worked and how to wear them or will them off myself. Once done, we went back to the counter where I had my new backlace and necklace set for delivery.

Amerique had, in the meantime, fallen in love with something shiny at the opposite corner. She is such a sucker for bracelets and rings.

"Would there be anything else?" asked my newfound friend Claire, so very helpfully.

"Yes... earrings? Just like these but, do you have a crescent set of four for the left side, one for the right?"

"Why of course," she looked carefully at me and noted "you can also have your ear pierced here, as a courtesy."

I smiled back at her "Oh, thank you so much but that will not be necessary."

The customer is always right. She discreetly warned me with "a beautiful set of four..." remark, her eyes still looking with confusion at the two drop rings on my ears.

"Oh, these are not for me, but thanks again," I explained.

Technically, true. They were for my jump clone, but how would she know?


In the end, it is a matter of personal taste, and tastes differ. Whatever makes you feel safe and comfortable and good is right, clothing or plugs or both over your jacks.

That, or play ashtray. Why would anyone want to wear their wide open mind on their back?

Back wear restores that basic sense of security we lose with pod jacks; it helps us shut that window to our mind, when we want to. We were not born with pod jacks, it is not our fault we have to look for ways to keep them safe. And if it helps us look and feel great, all the better.

Because, remember, you do not have eyes on your back.

Not your own, anyway.


07 April 2009

Racing 101

January 110, ISGC Season 4
University of Caille, Campus Odotte
Racing 101

Lesson #12: Waypoint approach

The class murmured in the darkened auditorium as the holo of last race danced over the two of us down at the center.

"So the problem is getting close to the waypoint in a reasonably short time. As you see in replay, she overshot by fifteen clicks on the first pass, then seven on the way back, then four... how do you call that move, Quin?" Gina asked with a straight face.

"The yo-yo."

"Yes, the yo-yo," she almost smiled, "I wonder why. Would anyone please tell me why the yo-yo is bad?"

The Racing 101 course was unusual in the sense that we had a mixed class: half of the attendance were engineering, mostly guys from UC Astronautics, plus a smattering of our people from UC Business and those taking 101 as optional credit. The main tech lecture was done by Juvaan Vesper; if you don't know who Doctor Vesper is, good for you. For those of us who do, he's that guy everyone will step out of the way for, just to avoid getting caught forever in a conversation. Everybody calls him Lags. On the up side, you really learn to be a good listener with him.

Anyhow, he did the theory. Gina, Brax and I, we did the practical class as instructors. We had this great show going, where two of us would take Lags' lesson of the day and dissect it from two different angles. It took hours to prepare but it was a well worth it.

The class murmured, uneasy. Right then, some probably knew the answer but were not willing to raise their hand.

I took the open question. "Because not only you look silly but also technically, it sucks. I think it took me fifteen seconds to get to that waypoint after approach. Wasted time!" I looked back at Gina.

She took the cue, "If we could save Quin fifteen seconds on every waypoint, it adds up to three minutes over the race, so the challenge is to find ways to have the ship stay a click and a half from the can on the very first pass. Ideas, anyone?"

A hand went up timidly.

"Uh, what about turning off the microwarpdrive before hitting the can? You should go slow enough to be manageable."

Gina and I looked at each other. That question was definitely for me.

I explained, "I would say that's good, in theory, but MWDs are tricky; you can't just turn them off, you have to wait until they cycle out."

Gina Ducasse, ship designer, architect and artist, would come up with the craziest ideas to fit and fly. She is this smart, serene girl whose eye will twinkle at the mention of tinkering with something and making it better.

She's our Geek Fairy.

"A MWD has a cycle time of 10 seconds," Gina continued my idea, "so I would say it is a matter of luck, rather than skill to do it that way." She had turned to the desk meanwhile and was fiddling with the holo, which was then cycling repetition after repetition of waypoint approaches turning off the MWD: overshoot, overshoot, right on mark, overshoot, overshoot, short, overshoot... I think they got the idea.

"Yah, so don't do that, ever, or we'll flunk you!" Some laughter in the class.

Another hand went up "What about using a cloaking device?"

Gina beat me to answer that one. "As a braking device? It would have the same problem. Cloak or no cloak, you would wait on your luck until MWD cycles off."

"We tried that," I added, "and found that can't brake that way when you are overtaking someone close, or navigating close to asteroids, or in a gas cloud, or close to anything..."

"... so think of it, do you really want your brakes disabled if you are two clicks from anything?" my friend mused.

"But hey, please keep those ideas coming. We would like to be creative here, there is no such thing as a stupid idea!"

Gina rolled her eyes, smiling. She actually knew how many stupid ideas we had tried during the season and exactly how stupid they had been. But that was our strength, the secret weapon of Scuderia Caille: being creative. We would take ideas dismissed by others as silly, ineffective or hopeless, turn those onto their heads and into cool racing moves. Sometimes, winning moves.

"For example," she said, "how about bumping the can itself?"


She explained "You are flying a frigate with hundreds of shield points, so you approach the can at top speed..."

"... you close your eyes..." I interjected, to some more laughter.

"... and just don't brake. It's a kinetic hit, your shields can take it and... you stop right on spot!"

The holo obliged, showing different takes of the bump-brake: good approach, good approach, good approach. You could hear the oooohs and ahhhhs in the crowd.

"Of course people said it was stupid before we started doing it, but we showed them how it works and then we won Season 3. We don't bump cans anymore because of the risk of crew injuries, by the way."

OK, so it was sort of stupid. But it was a winning move while it lasted.

Three hands went up. I pointed to the one with the Lumi hairdo.

"So in the end, what is the best way to approach the can?"

"The best we have found so far is manual approach. As soon as you drop from warp you set a 500 metres orbit on the waypoint and then turn MWD on. When you are at your braking distance -which varies from ship to ship- you slow down to 1 km/s and, if timed right, you will just slide into orbit while the rest of the racers," Gina paused, "yo-yo around you."

"For example in an interceptor coming in at 9 per second, you brake at 25 clicks; if doing 13 per second, you brake at 60."

"But what if you do not have 60km? What if you landed closer to the can?"

"Then you may need to use your judgement. You can always go slower than full speed..."

The class was starting to flow...

Gina asked "now, what would be the optimal orbit for waypoint approach?"

"And remember, after-race tickets for good stuff we can use," I offered.

Fifty hands went up in the air.

06 April 2009

A Night out of Town

It was not a good week -couple of weeks- planetside. I missed someone's very important event, we can't go to this big party in October, also made a couple of stupid mistakes that I thought may just get me kicked out of UC. And it's crunch time, just a couple of weeks more till I earn my degree. I was sort of feeling like a fool.

Please call me April - April Fool. Nice to meet you.

But, you know, you can't just twirl a spaceship forever. Maybe I needed to get away from the world, put my mind as far away from possible from anything. Go crazy, have fun for just a while with nothing to worry about. Check out some new place, meet the locals, whatever. Do something different.

So when Kay suggested that we could go exploring, it sounded just like the thing. Away. Far away crazy new place, different. No market, no local, no acquaintances, no rules, no standings...

'The Wormhole'

Girls' night out! Loads of fun, we should do this more often :)

We're The Green Team.

Sleepers looked pissed.
I think we woke them up.

What do you mean no market? We'll take your loot instead :P
(Can't believe I just wrote that)

Out of the looking glass