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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Happy Family Times

Some of you may know I'm divorced, and as a byproduct of that, I have children that live out of state.  One of my ex wives (OK no one said I was perfect) chooses to live in the middle of a remote area, so no matter what, I have kids that I can't see all the time.  Here's the rub;

I get to visit my kids (or more accurately, they get to visit me) three times a year; Spring Break, Summer Vacation, and Christmas.  This year, the world's germ population has decided to fuck with my kids and family's enjoyment of the season.  

A quick recap;

I pick my kids up Wednesday night, drive until late, get a hotel room.  Thursday, up early, drive most of the day to get back to where I live.  I own a small car, so I rent a decent sized car for their visit, which costs about $500 for the 2 weeks, all things considered.  Well worth it, but just an aside.  We arrive home in the comfortable car on Thursday, and my youngest is sick.  He's got a persistent cough, and it doesn't seem to be getting better.  We give him some robitussin before bed and hope for the best.

Friday, my oldest wakes up feeling bad.  He's coughing and sneezing, and just feeling pretty much under the weather.  In other words, flu symptoms.  He spends the day feeling miserable and sleeps part of it away.

Saturday, and it's our first full day together as a family, as Branyanu doesn’t have to work that day.  The oldest and the youngest are both still presenting symptoms.  My middle child, the only daughter, is starting to have some symptoms too.  We decide to lay low and not strike out too far.  It's Christmas eve so we quietly enjoy some time together.

Christmas, we open presents and head up to the grandparent's for a family celebration.  All three kids have symptoms by now, so even at the event, we try to keep it mellow.  We have a good time, but by the end of the nights celebration, we're all tired and the kids are not 100% by far. About 1AM, I start feeling like I may want to toss my cookies.  

I debate it with myself until about 6AM, when the "no" side loses, and the "yes" side takes over.  I'm sick for about two hours, then I go to sleep.  Monday is a total loss to me, and poor Branyanu has to play Florence Nightingale for the day as we are all in full-blown symptoms now.

Tuesday and Wednesday consist of us trying to get better, taking various meds and drinking tons of juices and fluids.  Finally, we're hoping that Thursday is going to be the day we can go to the mall, get the family photo done, and enjoy each other's company without being sick.  As I wake up this morning, Branyanu is trying to stealthily sneak out of bed to be sick.  

I hate this flu.

Maybe tomorrow we will all be able to get out and about.  :/

Friday, December 9, 2005

Don't Be That Guy (Reposted by Request)

I don't want to go off on a rant here, but...

Don't be that guy.

What do I mean by that? Well in this case, I mean don't be that guy on an airplane.

Still, "Paul," you say, "what are you trying to say to us?" Well here it is; I fly. A lot. Did you go to work today? Then I probably had a flight. I fly an average of 6 segments a week. A segment (also called a "leg" or a "cycle") is a take off and a successful landing. Just to add a little more explanation, many pilots define a successful landing as "any landing that you walk away from." A high standard, indeed. The fewest segments I have flown in any week recently was 3. I'm seriously considering asking my company to give me what they spend on airfare as a salary, and I'll find a way to fly on what they pay me. See? Always looking for the win/win.

Flying as much as I do, a person tends to develop some pet peeves. OK, so you know me and you know that I am a waking ball of pet peeves. Live with it. People who can't deal with it peeve me.

On every flight, the airline will budget about 20-30 minutes to clean, stock, and fuel the plane, 20-30 minutes to board, and about 10-15 minutes do debark at the destination. This is all dead time. Non-revenue time. Airlines hate this. I don't blame them. If I paid $127 jillion dollars for a piece of equipment, I'd want to keep it busy too. Hell, the digital photo mini labs that many of our customers use cost less than a quarter of a million dollars, and I want to beat the holy hell out of folks that use it as an expensive spare desk. But I digress...

Let's go over the life cycle of an airline flight and let me teach you how not to be that guy. That guy who annoys the living stuff out of me.

The plane that will be used for our flight lands and begins to taxi to the gate. Once it arrives, the passengers on there need to get out, the cleaning crew needs to get on, along with the new crew, the plane has to be fueled and baggage has to be offloaded and the new bags stowed. Those procedures are all staggered over a period of less than an hour, as long as stuff doesn't go wrong. I won't even go into what will happen any more if it freaking rains or if there is a mechanical delay (which, btw, is almost always blamed on the lavatory. Either those things are notoriously undependable, or I call bullshit. They just don't want to tell you that one of the engine bolts fell off, because they are afraid you will cash in your ticket and let Greyhound "leave the driving to us," along with several of your new odiferous friends. But again I digress.) For the passengers, their role in all of this is painfully simple. In a perfect world, it might be described as follows;

* Check in
* Check your baggage unless it is considerably smaller than a German Shepherd. You are limited to 2 carry-on items, one must fit under the seat in front of you.
* Put all your metal things in a bucket, take off your shoes and go through security.
* Collect all your metal things.
* Proceed to your gate well before scheduled departure.
* Sit until your boarding group is called (if you haven't flown in a while, the airlines board in groups, windows in the back to aisle in the front. Actually, this makes a lot of sense. It really cuts down on climbing over people.
* When called, get up, get in line, have your ticket ready, give it to the agent, and proceed to the plane.
* Find your seat, stow your baggage, and get out of the aisle, so that others may pass. Hint: The big numbers are at the back of the shiny tube. The small numbers are on the seats you can't afford.
* When they ask you to stow your tray table, turn off your cell phone, and return your seat back to it's upright position, just freaking do it. You aren't any more important than the rest of us. I've never heard anyone on their cell perform a successful brain transplant over the phone. If you aren't doing that, you don't need to be on the phone after we push back.

Not that hard, right? And I even put a couple extra rules in there. Here's where the system breaks down;

If you are in boarding group 7, you don't need to be standing in front of the gate while they call group 1 to board. We're all getting there at relatively the same time, at least we can do it on schedule if your bon-bon eating butt isn't blocking not only the gate, but the walkway in the terminal. We're all going to get there at the same time. Help me make my connecting flight and make sure that time is on schedule.

You don't need to bring any of the following on the plane with you; Your backpack if it's the size of a VW bus. You don't need any baggage that is that big either. You don't need to bring anything that you can't easily carry. If you have to sling it over your shoulder, you either need to put your baggage on a diet or look into the Charles Atlas thing from the bubble gum. Seriously, what is it, like 100 feet? It's not an dang 3 day hike across the Yosemite high meadows. When you carry your bag that way, you bounce it off every person's melon that you pass. This is especially true of the backpack. The next person that does this to me is going to look like a Mr. Backpack (picture Mr. Potato Head and you have the right idea.) I'm 6'7, so part of the problem I acknowledge is how high I stick up above the seat. In my mind, this makes me infinitely easier to spot. Still, some numbskull with a backpack will inevitably turn around to talk to his/her girlfriend about what band they want to see at the Austin City Limits Music Festival and smack me straight in the grille with whatever dang rock collection they have in there. Be forewarned. This will no longer be tolerated.

If you are in the 4th row, and you were wearing a jacket (which is another subject. Nancy, you don't need a coat when it gets below 70. I don't even pack a coat unless the high is going to be less than 40. Get over it. If we are gonna have this global warming ice age they keep promising us, I guess at least I can take solace in knowing it's going to kill you,) let everyone else by you BEFORE you neatly fold your coat and place it in the overhead. First, that real estate up there is freaking gold. If you are going to put it up there, make sure it's on top of your bag. Second, you don't need to do it while the other 127 people in the aisle and on the jetway wait. Hold it in your lap, and when everyone is on, stand up and put it in the overhead. See? That didn't delay departure. Cool, huh? Don't be that guy.

Repeatedly trying to fit your bag in the overhead when it is clearly too large is a cry for help. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result every time is one clinical definition of insanity. And not the cool rock-star kind, either.

If you drag your wheeled case onto the plane, and it catches on every set as you go by, see the rule above.

Like I said earlier, for those of you that haven't met me, I'm really tall. Freakishly so. Airplanes were not made for me. There are three exceptions to this rule. Sadly, exception #1 is out of my price range. First Class provides ample legroom for my long legs, as well as a good amount of seat for my ample beam (if you don't know what beam is, look it up. It's nautical.) The second exception is not my favorite. The bulkhead seat. No seat in front of you is nice. Not having a seat in front of you to put your computer under is not nice. Option #3 is what I call poor man's first class. It's the exit rows over the wings. They are not too far back in the tube (it's noisy back there, and it's annoying. I'll get to that in a minute.) Here's where I get annoyed; If you can cross your legs comfortably, have been a swimsuit model, are so skinny that you could have shared a seat, or so short that you think Glip is a giant, then you need to stay out of my effing exit row! For crissake, you just don't need the space. I don't trust you to get the 50-lb. door off in case of emergency, either. God help you if you come between me and my exit in that event.

If the seatbelt sign is on, and the flight crew asks you to stay In your seat, then do it. I don't need us hitting a wind shear or getting in the vortex of a larger plane up ahead and having your bony ass fly through the cabin and injure me. Once again, God help you... Besides, I told you to go before we left.

I'm a large guy. I carry a bunch of heavy stuff. If I can get through the aisle without rubbing my ass on you, you can do the same for me. 'nuf said.

If the Flight Attendants are in the row doing the beverage service, please wait patiently until they are done for your potty break. I don't need them smacking me in the elbow with that damn thing again.

OK, I know I'm wide. Please give me half the armrest. I don't want to put my arm on it, I just don't want to hold my arm in front of me through the whole flight so that you can use both of the armrests to read the paper, cross your legs, and to act indignant should I accidentally touch you. Please, get over yourself. This goes double if you are a guy and you are reading Us, People, or any of that other celebrity drivel. Read Popular Science or PC magazine or something and I may let you live, otherwise, you deserve to die.

Leave your damn shoes on. Seriously. WTF?

If you are smaller than me (and if you are reading this, you almost certainly are,) and you are sitting in the row in front of me, for the love of all that is holy, please don't recline. If you do, and your recliner doesn't seem to work, that is because I'm not in an exit row and when I sat down, my legs were wedged against the back of your seat. Repeatedly throwing your weight back against the seat back after I have yelped OW! will not lead to your seat reclining. You may get the sensation of an ejection seat however. If you are sitting in your seat cross-legged, and you still try to recline, I can't be held accountable for my actions.

Unless it is a service animal, leave your dog at home.

Don't ring the flight attendant call button during takeoff to ask for a pillow.

If your seat is in the rear of the plane, don't use the overhead in the front. See, that makes me use the overhead in the back for mine, and makes you an asshat. Self-importance rankles me.

And finally, one for the FAA. If someone doesn't know how to fasten the seatbelt, or to lift up on the metal buckle to release it, it's time for a Darwin Award for them anyway. Seriously, let the family tree branch end there.


Some of this is clearly the airlines fault, since they let people get away with larger and larger bags. They are loathe to correct people though, as the easily insulted may take their valuable business elsewhere.

On a positive note, I went Platinum on American today. Double miles for me! Free Upgrades! Now if there was only a way to choose your seatmates, then I would be a happy guy. At least until the next rant.

Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Thursday, December 8, 2005

Welcome to Grouchy Gamer

I need an outlet. You see, I could post on my usual spots, like the Official Vanguard Forum, or I could post on my fan site, VanguardCrafters.com. Of course, since the fansite is an affiliate site, I need to be on my official behavior. Well, most of the time. Still, I find myself wanting to rant, or to make a point where it might not be acceptable to post on one of the more "official" sites.

Enter Blogger.

I've resisted the whole blog phenomenon so far, mostly because I thought "who the hell would be interested in what I have to say, and what makes these egomaniacs thing anyone is intersted in what they are saying?" More and more, I'm finding myself surfing and perusing blogs though, as a way of getting real, instead of "official," information. Some of it is horse shit, of course. Some of the blogs have some really thoughtful and insightful content.

I can't promise you that mine will. I can promise you that if you read this, I'll be straight with you. If I can. I'm still, as a fan site operator, bound by NDA, and I can't spill beans here that I can't spill elsewhere. What I can do is give you opinions and pass along interesting rumors and things I've heard.

I hope you find it useful.

Ouch! My Community Hurts

I'll start with a disclaimer. The author of this article is not young. As a matter of fact, I'm old. I'm one of the 5 or 6 oldest gamers I've met. If you have ever been in the gaming store, and there is a soccer mom there with her little rugrat buying a game, and she asks you; "You getting these for your kids?" Then you feel me. No, I'm getting these for me. Thanks for playing, now move along. Sorry it's been since childhood that YOU have done anything fun or intellectually stimulating. Now, don't you have some oranges to cut into little slices?

That aside...

I'm noticing that more and more of the posts one community boards are just garbage. No one is talking about what game is great or how to get to this encounter. No one seems to care which guild is full of assholes or where the best place to get more information.

Instead, here are some of the subjects that have been broached; Bush is an idiot (Bush went to an Ivy League School. He may not be inspired or a great communicator but he's no idiot.), homosexuality, drugs, hate for the middle class, hate for the upper class, hate for the lower class, suicide, race, and a few others I'd rather not revisit. These aren't high-level intellectual discussions, but flame-fests and baiting of people with sensibilities.

It's one thing when it happens on the forums. Everyone who has been around the internet any period of time understands that a certain portion of the of the population exists only to make themselves feel superior by "cleverly" berating or cutting down everything that they can't understand or that they irrationally hate. This element has always existed on the FPS boards, and trolling the MMO boards on the fringes. With the second generation of MMOs started to ship, some of this element started to migrate to them.

Jump forward, and it's 2003. Sigil is announcing their new MMO. Hundreds of eager fans are waiting for what's next from the old EQ creative team. The Official Vanguard Forums (OVF) are filled with people discussing what they like and didn't like about different games, playing "wouldn't it be cool if...", and suggesting features or ideas for the upcoming MMO. It seemed so far off, and yet so tangible. The creative team regularly engages the public. This went on for quite a while. Like anything else, over time the forums have changed. Talk to most of the fansite operators or long-time posters and they will tell you that they don't spend much time on the OVF any more.

I guess what I'm asking is why does it have to be this way? Why do the boards start off with the fans and end up with the bans? Why do they start off constructive or excited, and end up like the SWG forums did after launch or the World of Warcraft forums? Why does a community seem to degenerate the larger it gets? Why is it that any person who represents the company eventually gets crucified as a schill for the company (they were doing their job) or lionized as a champion of the people (they weren't.)

As a developer, I'd stop chasing the community about 6 months before launch. When I say chasing, I don't mean trying to attract, but trying to satisfy and answer every question. Just from a cost standpoint, it's ridiculous to put an ever-increasing number of moderators after the task of keeping the noise down so you can recognize the needles in the haystacks.

One of the things that I have noticed is that a lot of the people are there just for the sport of it. I won't name names, because I won't give them that one thing they seem to crave; recognition. Some are malcontents who can't be satisfied. More and more of them are people who come to the boards with a sense of entitlement. They deserve to be catered to because they spent X dollars a month, dammit, and they are gonna bitch and bellyache and wail until they get it.

But I miss the old community. I miss the fun, constructive, interesting conversations with the whole community involved. Sure, I still get that on vanguardcrafters.com, but that is a much smaller group. It's obviously by design that Sigil has decided to basically shut down the OVF for comments after the launch of the game. They don't want to have to deal with the nonsense, and the diminishing returns for trying to filter the good from the noise.

I'm thankful for the time we had as a new community. I'm hopeful for the community of Vanguard post-launch. For now, I'm disappointed that there can't be a decent level of discourse overall.