Well, it’s certainly been a while, hasn’t it? Am I even talking to anyone anymore? My statistics page says 182 days without an update, which means half of a year. :( Terribly sorry. I’ve obviously been busy because when I’m busy, I don’t update. But I can’t really explain most of my time away. My Bidding website certainly takes a lot of credit for my virtual disappearance. It brings in actual money for me each month, so that is where my priority is for now. I’m also creating a new website, CFI-Wiki that will hopefully mature over time and pick up the slack when the bidding website becomes obsolete (new bidding system in the works at the company). Also thinking about a similar program that checks our paysheets. Though the other sites have been using the excuse of “making money” to keep me away from DarkMercury, I like reading through my history and large gaps like this one disappoint me a lot.
So happy new year, and what’s happening with me since Quakecon? Well Alison and I celebrated our first anniversary in October with a trip to Washington DC. We went to DC a few times when we started dating to see the pandas at the zoo. Traveled in our usual style this time though. Flew into DCA and took the subway to the Grand Hyatt downtown. The hotel sits right on top of the Metro Center subway station, making travel across the city pretty easy. Well our hotel experience was not the best, but we were getting by at the employee rate, so I will not complain too much. Worth the price, I guess. We spent a lot of time at the Smithsonian museums, and some at the monuments. I guess there is a Martin Luther King Jr memorial that we missed. They were also digging up the Reflection Pool, which was a bummer. But the Smithsonian is always amazing and I could spend the entirety of any DC trip there. Someday we will get to Puerto Vallarta, I swear! Also, I don’t know why my camera turns into absolute garbage as soon as the sun starts to set.
Christmas was pretty quiet. We spent it in Texas by ourselves. I think we both ended up with the flu. I missed a lot of work because of it and got invited to the chief pilot’s office, but what can you do. I’m almost a year in now on the Embraer 145 aircraft. I noticed I haven’t really made any real post about it. Maybe I will soon, but the ERJ is a good but boring plane. It runs more consistently, which is nice. I get home on time more often. But there aren’t many good stories. It hasn’t tried to kill me a single time, which is good but helps contribute to my lack of posts.
American has declared bankruptcy, which is stopping the upgrades to captain. I was pretty close, actually. Besides getting to be the big boss of the airplane and getting to fly it the way I want to, it comes with quite a pay raise that I want. A few months of captain time looks better on the resume than years and years of FO time. When people ask me what’s going to happen with the bankruptcy, I don’t have much to tell them. They are negotiating with the mainline unions right now. What comes of that will affect whether Eagle grows or shrinks. I’ve spent too much time at Eagle to give up my seniority by leaving, so I’m just going to stay put and see what happens. I don’t think the airline will shrink to the point where I get furloughed or anything. Eagle could end up growing to take over some mainline flying, or we could start competing with other regionals for American flying and shrink. Until the mainline negotiations finish, I just don’t know yet. I’m guessing that, like other legacy carriers, the unions will be stripped of their pay and pensions. This makes the whole pilot gig less appealing in the long run and will hurt the industry. I tell people I’m not afraid of losing my job, I’m afraid of losing my career.
In the beginning of this year, both Alison and I have gotten new cars. It was awesome having her car paid off, but it was starting to get up there in years, and I didn’t want to have her break down when I was away on a trip, so we looked into a new car for her. She wanted a Hyundai Santa Fe, so we found a good used one and traded in the VW Rabbit, plus some cash and got a low payment. I still need to get a picture of her with it.
On Friday, we went down to the VW dealership to look at a new Jetta for me. I’ve been going through cars pretty quickly in the last few years, but I really hope this is the one that sticks for a while. I have good feelings about it. I had a 2010 Jetta Limited Edition, and just traded it for a similar 2010 Jetta Wolfsburg Edition (WE). Over time, the 2.5 engine and the transmission on the old Jetta was starting to bother me. When I accelerated, the engine sounded kind of raspy, and it seemed to run at high RPM. Was it trying to force me to drive slower for more MPG? The actual car itself was very nice. While Alison was looking for her car, we saw a Salsa Red Jetta Wolfsburg in the VW lot. My cars have always been black or silver, but I was very impressed with the color(s). That particular one was an automatic, but I started to casually look at other Wolfsburgs.
A 6-Speed in the right price range finally turned up, looking very cool in the same red color, tinted windows, the rear spoiler lip, and tan interior. The WE has the better, turbocharged engine and it is quite an improvement over the old one. The features of the new car are pretty much the same as my last Jetta. It has the same dashboard and radio, although bluetooth audio finally works! So it’s really an upgrade of style and engine. I wrote in the last Jetta post that part of growing up was realizing your priorities and not necessarily needed the fastest car on the road. So I must be growing younger again, haha. That’s still true though. Alison’s Rabbit had a 2.5 engine with the 5 speed, and I loved that setup, even though it was 20HP less than the Jetta. Had the gearing been set up the same, I would have been happy. But I was just not enjoying the Jetta’s engine the same way as the Rabbit and I couldn’t see myself owning it until it died. Well I really like the new car, just hope that the previous owners were nice to it and it will last a long time.
On the computer front, my awesome 8800GT video card finally died after almost 4 years. I bought an overclocked 560Ti to replace it, and Left 4 Dead 2 looks awesome at 2560x1600 res. Both cards are made by evga and hopefully this one will last just as long. I’d like to further replace the cpu/ram/motherboard before Quakecon time, but I’ll save that for a summer project.
I sold my iPad1 to get some cash for the iPad3, which is coming out soon. I think I’ll dedicate a separate post for that. I also spent $25 and bought two G3 iMacs. The graphite one is pretty decent and I’m going to keep that one. The indigo one is slower, and scratched up so I’m trying to pawn that off on craigslist and make $20 back. I remember middle school when the iMac first came out, and I didn’t like it. I was very anti-Mac back then. However, it did what it set out to do and changed the industry. It was able to win me over eventually, so it is an impressive machine. For $25 (potentially $5), it’s a cool piece of history. It even runs OSX 10.4 Tiger pretty well. You can browse the internet, do email, run some pretty recent software, etc. Not bad for a 15 year old computer.
Hopefully it won’t take me 6 months to do the next one.
Quakecon 2011 started off the same way they all do, with Tim and his friends arriving at my house on Tuesday. I was lucky again this year to get the time off work. Since the Quakecon dates are rarely announced in time, I had guessed the wrong weekend to apply my vacation time. We had a smaller group this year, almost the same people as last year. Tim, Adam, March, Steve, Matt, Joe and Jo all came down. Normally, they arrive early to help volunteer for setup. This year though, a vacation was needed and everyone just used the time to relax and have a good minilan (the LAN before the LAN). They do enough volunteering throughout the event, and it was good to finally see them. Usually, between their staying at the hotel and their volunteering, it would feel like I never saw them.
We were feeling a little skittish about the convention this year, after network outages turned Quakecon into IRC’con last year. This year the Quakecon website was hacked and there was very little information available. It seemed like no one really cared about Quakecon anymore and the magic was dying.
Overall though, I think we were mostly happy with Quakecon 2011. If you’ve ever been to one then you know what it is like. Depending on what breaks that year, they are all pretty much the same. The network was much more stable this year, due mainly to a routed network instead of switches. AT&T sponsored internet was a very welcome addition. But there was a flaw in the network this year. Using routers instead of switches meant that searching for LAN games wouldn’t work. To get into a game, you had to manually type in an IP Address, which is a pain to look up. Lacking an official solution to the problem, I personally started keeping track of LAN Games and sharing the info over a twitter account and the IRC room. It was a detriment to the LAN overall, in my opinion, but not a huge one. My efforts seemed mostly futile as there just weren’t enough people following the twitter accounts and joining IRC. Over time, we just started playing games online, since the speed was good enough. In the end, it didn’t really matter if you were playing with strangers in the room or strangers on the internet.
I played mostly QuakeLive of course, and did decent. The most fun, however, were the Left 4 Dead 2 versus matches we played. There were 8 of us, which is the perfect number for a L4D2 vs match, and of us only 3 really play the game. Dead Air had just been released, so we played a lot of that. It was pretty fun to stumble around as noobs.
The vendors area was borderline empty. There was a Dell/Alienware setup, and some Rage. I think a Silverstone booth sold some headsets. I can’t remember the other ones and frankly I didn’t spend much time there. Ventrillo again tried to give away a car and again I didn’t care. Joe wasted a lot of his time standing around the QuickDraw stage trying to win a chance to play a game and maybe win some money. Some money that they probably won’t pay anyways. I stopped fighting over the prizes a long time ago. I never win and why waste the time.
With Jo’s prompting, I went to more panels this year. They had one which was an interview with some of the key id software employees which was cool. John Carmack is a smart guy and it was interesting. What was less interesting was the PC Perspective event. Year after year we go hoping to win big prizes but as always, nothing. I can’t remember anything actually presented there except Nvidia was there and I can’t remember what they were on about. Nvidia Douche   returned this year with a speaking role. I noticed that every picture I took of him always comes out the same. However, March, Jo and I made it interesting by (joining the crowd in) yelling crude things at them. They couldn’t hear us but it was funny to those around. What was terribly depressing was an actual fight that erupted over a PC case given out as a prize. They wrestled and twisted and fell over each other and we all watched in horror. Sad to watch people’s morality absolutely dissolve at the hint of material gain.
Though it was better than last year, we haven’t decided if we are going back next year. There was an idea floating around of renting a place to set up a big minilan and just have the week to ourselves. Maybe over time it will turn into our own convention. Either way, as long as we keep getting together once a year that’s enough for me.
Since the last post way back in May, my computer hasn’t changed much. Back then I added the Razer Mamba mouse and Megaloden Headset.
The mamba has been amazing, like spectacularly good for a wireless mouse. Its only problem is battery life. I’ll often leave it on and leave for a 4 day trip at work and come back to find it dead. It’s not a huge deal since it can easily become a wired mouse by plugging it in. My only real disappointment is that as soon as I bought it they came out with a new mamba, all stealth-apple style. I don’t think the new one is vastly different though, it has some fancy lights. I will try to resist the temptation to buy another one.
The Megaloden headset is alright. It’s bulky and takes up a lot of room in my suitcase when I took it to DasLAN. I don’t like the fabric ear covers, compared to my Bose Triports, but the Bose has no microphone. The mic is alright when I’m at home in a quiet environment, but was almost worthless in the noisy environment of Quakecon. I’ll probably keep them because the market for them is pretty small.
My only big PC news is that, after 9 years, I’ve finally bought a new case for my computer. Since high school, I’ve rocked an old school Lian-Li PC-60 or something. I have pretty high standards for my computers, it turns out. I wanted a silver case to go along with the Apple Cinema Displays which narrowed me down to about 5% of the total case market. Go ahead and try to buy a nice looking silver case, I dare you. You can’t do it anymore. Your computer these days must be black, which is funny because in the past everything was beige and you could never find any black. We kinda went past the goal of customization and ended up back where we started. Anyways, I considered buying a dead Apple PowerMac G5 and gutting and modding it to make a PC from it. Not only extremely troublesome, it would limit me to one DVD drive and wouldn’t be very upgradable.
The bar by which I’ve always measured PC cases has been the Maximum PC “Dream Machine” for 2002. The case is a Cooler Master ATC-110, which went out of production soon after. I’ve occasionally searched for one, usually to never find one, or find one in bad condition. However, I recently came across one on ebay in basically flawless condition and so I pulled the trigger and bought it. I’m pretty excited to get it. It’s almost a full tower, so it’ll be larger than my current computer, but it doesn’t actually go to LAN Parties anymore. I have my Macbook Pro for that now, so I don’t have to worry about traveling with it much. I like the way the door covers the drives, and I have plenty of USB ports on my keyboard and monitors so I don’t need them on the case. Hopefully I can put up some images when I get the computer built. It’ll be fun to rebuild the computer, I never get to do that anymore it seems.
I considered buying an i7 setup to make it like a whole new computer, but the Core 2 Duo is still fine. Maybe next year for Quakecon (or whatever we end up doing).
It’s been a long time since I’ve been really into gaming. I’ve kept up with Quake 3/Live a little bit, but mostly I’ve been working on PHP programming and other stuff. Left 4 Dead 2 has changed that however, bringing me back into the world of PC gaming. I was never someone who was into the whole zombie apocalypse thing, but I do like this game a lot. Besides having a pretty fun mix of zombies, weapons, and adventures, what I like about this game is the teamwork. There are only a few campaigns, but trying to get through them with different people with different skills is challenging, and brings something new to gaming for me. I’ve always been the solo warrior of Q3 before this. I’ve been playing L4D2 with some random people online. When you find a good teammate online you friend them through Steam and can invite them to play with you again later. When you have good teammates you can ramp up the difficulty and have some fun. Here’s a gameplay video where I make some good appearances:
Since getting back into PC gaming, I’ve picked up a Razer Mamba mouse, which I love! I never thought I would like a wireless mouse on my gaming machine, but this is something else. I also got a Razer Megalodon headset, which is less impressive but still nice. Longer reviews of one or both may come soon.
In Quakecon News, QC is coming sooner than we expect! It’s may already and that means about 3 months to get good at Quake again. If people are interested, I’d like to start a QL night or something where we play some DM/CA/TDM together to prepare. Let me know! My Pre-Quakecon LAN will actually have some thought put into it this year. Can’t wait to see everyone.
As I was making my Friends 3.0 page, where I have my friends' blog entries as if they were posted on my site, I came across some limitations of Magpie RSS. The software is very good at making a big array out of an RSS feed, but it can't handle some of the newer web standards like RSS 2.0 and Atom 1.0. When I started to add a lot of personal feeds to the friends page, magpierss's limitations became more apparent.
As much as I searched, I couldn't find a real solution other than completely rewriting my friends page based on other RSS parser like Simple RSS. Luckily, I came across a hack of Magpie on Google, and I wish I could remember where it came from so I could give credit. The page wasn't even available anymore, but Google had cached it, and I managed to copy it. I had to do a lot of editing to remove the HTML formatting, but it does what it promises, and gives magpieRSS the RSS 2.0 and Atom 1.0 support it so desparately needs these days.
That's not the only thing special about this hacked together MagpieRSS file though. It seems Wordpress sites have broken most Magpie RSS feeds with it's "media:content" tag. For some reason, when MagpieRSS parses this tag, its "content:encoded" tag changes simply to a big letter "A". It through me for a loop for a while, and not seeing a good fix online, I simply edited the Magpie parser to ignore "media:content". This fixes the content:encoded issue, which I think is more important than some media file anyways.
The last edit of the MagpieRSS deals with categories. Many feeds list assigned categories with by having each one in a tag, like:
MagpieRSS will simply append the category array value each time so you end up with "SportsBaseball". My version appends a '@@@@' at the end of each category, so the array value will be "Sports@@@@Baseball@@@@". From there you can use the php function 'explode' to separate each category from the string.
Hopefully, someone out there will find this useful.