Category Archives: Personal

For The Glory Of The Empire

I got a huge nostalgia hit, recently, in the form of a fan video. One person spent over four years hand-animating a tribute to Star Wars, but not the side of Star Wars most people are familiar with. No, this short film chose to focus on the Empire, as seen through the lens of the classic flight simulator TIE Fighter.

If you haven’t seen it, take a few minutes and watch it below:

When I was a kid, I loved Star Wars (still do, to a certain extent). But I was also really in to video games. There are several Star Wars games that stand out to me: Droidworks, Episode I Racer (which I played to the point of wearing out my joystick). But none stood higher in my mind than TIE Fighter.

Somehow (I forget the details), my family ended up in possession of the X-Wing Collector’s Edition game, which included three different flight simulators: X-Wing, TIE Fighter, and the multiplayer-focused X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter: Flight School. In fact, I still have the discs.

Like any good Star Wars fan, I started playing with X-Wing, which took me through various scenarios from the films, including (of course) the Death Star trench run. But for me, TIE Fighter was always the better experience. The Empire had better technology, a wider reach, and I loved the mystique of being able to complete secret mission objectives to gain acceptance to the Emperor’s secret society. The thought of playing as “the bad guys” very rarely crossed my mind; I took great pleasure in shooting Rebel scum and Imperial defectors out of the sky with my increasingly-powerful ships and abilities. There’s nothing more satisfying than latching on to an A-Wing with your fighter’s tractor beams so the quick little bugger can’t escape and pumping wave after wave of proton torpedoes into its backside.

As mentioned above, I still have the original game discs. But the game is old enough (1998!) that it’s difficult to get running on modern computers. GOG recently re-released the game, however, tweaked and reformatted to run smoothly on new operating systems. But I had resisted the urge; after all, why buy the game again when I already (or still) had the CD-ROM?

Well, after an attempt at tweaking and optimizing, nostalgia got the better of me. That, and the $10 gift-card-cum-rebate burning a hole in my pocket. So in probably less time than it took my 1998 PC to boot up (maybe an exaggeration), I had downloaded and installed the best flight sim I had ever played.

It’s amazing how quick things started coming back to me. Sure, my skills are a bit rusty (yeah, that’s it, not the fact that my reflexes have dulled with age), but TIE Fighter scratches an itch in a way very few other space flight sims can. My fingers found the shortcut keys and commands with uncanny familiarity, and while I still remember some of the mission details, the experience is as amazing as ever.

So if you don’t hear from me for a while, it’s probably because I’ve taken to the stars, trekking across the galaxy for nostalgia and the glory of the Empire.

On The Road Again

This is the last part of my weekend misadventure I started recounting on Tuesday.  Parts 2 and 3 are here and here, respectively

So if you’ve been following this misadventure, you’re probably wondering what the issue with my car ended up being. Well, I couldn’t have told you to save my life. But the various people I talked to, including the CDOT employees that rescued us, thought it sounded like an alternator issue.

If that’s all it turned out to be, while I wouldn’t say I’d be happy, I’d at least be relieved. I mean, a new alternator is an easier fix than a whole new engine. And like most things, once a problem has a name, it’s easier to deal with.

The shop across the way was able to take my car, started looking into the issue. Long story short (ironic, I know), the alternator was fine. The belt, however, was not. Apparently the “thunk” I heard was a bolt breaking. I’m not sure if the bolt knocked the belt loose, or vice versa. But looking back, I think it was the belt. I had noticed some squealing earlier, like several weeks ago. But only when the mornings were cold and wet. I thought the problem might go away on its own, but of course it didn’t.

Once the problem was fixed, I was on the road shortly. I also had the mechanics throw in a new battery; turns out my 10-year-old car was still running on its original battery. And since I didn’t want to get stranded yet again, I traded money for peace of mind, like a real adult!

Hopefully I’ll learn something from this. Something like “Don’t wait to take care of weird automotive sounds” or “Ignoring problems doesn’t make them go away.” But in the end, everyone was fine, the dog was a trooper, I’m out a bit more money than I planned, and got to spend some time in hot water. Honestly, it could have been a lot worse.

Out Of The Woods?

This is a continuation of Tuesday’s story.  Part 2 is here.

The people that tow us back to Glenwood Springs are really nice, letting us bring the dog into the back of the cab, where we finally start to warm back up. We find a hotel, drop the car off, and start trying to wind down and crash for the night.

Of course, nothing in this saga so far has been simple. It is Saturday night, and even upon brief research (much as I’d rather just deal with it all in the morning), not a single auto shop is open on Sunday.

Further research in the morning (I didn’t sleep very well, as you might imagine) confirms this. So I suddenly find myself in sudden possession of a bunch of free time I can do nothing about. And while I have personal days to burn at work, this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. Neither did my brother: work concerns for Monday prompt him to catch a shuttle all the way down to the airport, and then a taxi to his car.

I try not to brood too much. I walk around Glenwood Springs a lot; it’s cute, but not that big a town. Eventually I convince myself to partake of the local hot water for a couple hours. It does seem to help me relax.

I pass my time mostly sitting on the bed with the dog, watching Doctor Who. I find a few auto shops that look promising, including the local Subaru dealership. But most promising is the fact that there’s a maintenance shop right across the parking lot from the hotel I got my car towed to. I would love to not have to have my car towed again (to say nothing of paying dealership prices for parts and labor), so I vow to check with them as soon as they open the next day; maybe they can push the car across the street if they need to.


This is a continuation of yesterday‘s post.

I am not a mechanically inclined individual. Sit me at a computer, and I’ll get in there and tinker, getting it to do what I want the majority of the time. But cars? Definitely not where I put my skill points. So when my car died in the middle of nowhere, I was at a complete loss as to my options.

It turns out, luckily, that CDOT staffs the mountain tunnels, and we were only on the side of the road for a few minutes before someone came to check on us. I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier to see my tax dollars at work. In short order they had us towed off the highway (complimentary, even!) and into an emergency truck turnoff a few miles down the road.

It was about this time, as I started making phone calls, that I realized how low on battery my phone was.

So not only are we stranded in the middle of nowhere, but now the sun is starting to set and both our phones are starting to die. One of the family members I’ve been updating on our situation gives me the idea, and I finally do what I should have done in the first place: call the 24-hour roadside assistance number from my insurance provider.

I swear, I got the slowest, least engaged technician possible.

So there I am, with a smartphone that’s almost dead, and the guy on the other end of the line is taking forever to read off his script and find out where I am so he can dispatch a tow truck. Seriously, no sense of urgency at all. Admittedly, I wasn’t feeling very charitable at this point, but even so. Eventually he agrees to dispatch another tow truck, but insists on need a final destination before he can finalize things. Standard procedure, probably, but put yourself in my shoes: it’s cold, both phones in your group are almost dead, you have no idea where you are, and some minimum-wage call center jockey in a nice, bright, warm cubicle is insisting you tell him where you want to go. When he’s the one with access to a computer and maps and all that jazz.

Well, eventually I get him to find a hotel in Glenwood Springs, and he finally dispatches the truck. Which is of course late. At this point, my phone has been at 1% battery for what seems like several hours. I’ve given them my brother’s phone number as a backup, but that’s also in the red. I’m worrying that both phones will die, leaving us completely stranded in the mountains in winter. I decide to crawl into the backseat to keep the dog company.

Eventually, the tow truck does arrive, and things start looking up.

Dead In The Water

So I had quite the adventure this weekend. Last Friday, my brother, my dog, and I drove to Grand Junction to visit my mom and her husband. It was a fun trip, and largely uneventful. Until the drive home, that is, when my car decided to die.

Now, my car is about 10 years old, and has over 134,000 miles on it. It’s no spring chicken, but Subarus seem to do well even at high mileages. And like a lot of people, I’ll readily admit that I could be more diligent with maintenance. I tend not to think about these things until they become a big issue (and they inevitably do; you’d think I’d learn sooner or later).

Anyway, we were driving back Saturday afternoon, and were outside Glenwood Springs when I heard a loud THUNK. I was a little concerned, but didn’t think much of it at the time. I figured I had tossed up a piece of debris on the road, or a large chunk of ice had finally worked itself loose. Well, shortly after that I noticed the steering wheel started to feel a bit stiff: the power steering had gone out. This gave me more pause, since steering is just after breaking on the list of “Things That Need To Work.”

Of course, I’m nothing if not adept at self-deception. It’s okay, I thought, I’ll just take it easy until we get back into Denver, and then I’ll take my car into the shop. Nothing to panic about.

Yeah, well…

Gradually, dash lights started popping up in odd combinations. First was the BRAKE and battery lights, blinking in unison. Then the ABS light. But I didn’t really become worried until the speedometer died.

You have no idea how creepy it is to be driving a car with a completely dead dashboard.

Well, the rest of the car soon followed the dash into oblivion. We coasted to a stop about 10 miles west of Gypsum, luckily in a place where there was enough shoulder that we could pull completely off the highway. But there was no denying it at this point: we were stranded.

Titles Are Hard

My writing seems to be slipping a lot lately, and I’m not sure what to do about that. I haven’t looked at the numbers, but I feel like I’ve been regularly missing at least one, if not as many as three posts a week. Is it because I’m busier than usual? Is the dog really taking up that much of my time? Or am I slowly but surely losing interest in writing?

I hope it’s not the latter. Because when I do finally sit down to do it, I really do enjoy blogging. Sure, I often open up the word processor with no idea what to say, but then I just start writing and come up with all sorts of neat stuff. I tend to go off on tangents, but I like to think I wouldn’t have ended up in that state of mind without the unrelated stuff before it.

I do feel bad posting whatever weekly variation on “I don’t know what to write today” happens to jump out of my fingers. It’s the sort of thing, to be honest, that I wouldn’t want to read from someone else, so why should I expect people to read it from me? As such, I’ve been trying to cut down on the number of those posts I write. Not outright skipping a post because I have nothing to say (hopefully), but shall we say, feeling less bad if I happen to run out of time one evening.

And I’ve been doing that a lot lately. I guess I just don’t have much in the way of interesting things happening to me that make for good blog posts. Such is the risk of writing about yourself, I guess. At the same time, I do still enjoy writing. And I’m worried that if I stopped to put this blog on hiatus I might not come back.

I think part of it is not so much the pressure to write every day, but to have something posted by noon. That self-imposed deadline, so I think, allows me to get my writing out at a time when a good number of people will see it (e.g., bumming around on Facebook during lunch). But far too often the time I have to write is when I get home from work myself. But then I have to eat dinner, put away groceries, or whatever else didn’t get done during the day. And I find it harder to think about something to write when, for lack of a better term, I get put on the spot.

I don’t know where I’m going with this post. I guess I’m just trying to sort out some ideas in my own head. Don’t worry, any of you still reading my words, this blog isn’t going anywhere in the near future.

Brief Thoughts

I haven’t been feeling the writing bug much lately, but that probably comes as no surprise. Work, combined with the dog, has me using enough mental energy that when I get home I don’t want to do much other than play video games.

So I’ve been working on that a lot. Mostly on not feeling bad about enjoying myself when “wasting” time on games, and I’ve actually been relatively successful recently. I’m slowly but surely working my way through my backlog, and doing so actually fills me with a sense of progress and accomplishment. After all, if I’m not gaming just to pass the time but to accomplish something, that seems to sit better with my overdeveloped conscience. And it’s not like I’m neglecting my other duties; I’m still walking the dog, doing my job, and making it to SCA practices.

That’s the other thing: I worry that if I “game too much” I won’t be a Productive Member of Society (whatever that means). But in reality, I already am a reasonably responsible adult. I have a full time job, I pay my share of the bills, and I generally do a good job taking care of myself and those close to me. So why should I worry about anything past that?

The funny thing, though, is that if I tell myself “stop worrying about how much you game,” I then start worrying about my inability to do that. So I end up just giving myself something else to worry about. So I’m not going to do that. I’m going to strive to just enjoy myself, passing my free time how I see fit. And if I miss the occasional blog post, I’m going to try not to sweat it too much.

We’ll see how that goes.

Opponents Are People, Too

I noticed something about my SCA fighting recently: I don’t seem to take into account the person I’m fighting.

During a pause in our bouts, my knight said something to the effect of me “knowing what shots he has,” which I interpreted in two ways. First, I should know what shots he’s able to throw from his usual guard position. Second, that I should know what kind of shots he personally uses. And that’s when I realized: I don’t really keep track of what other people do during their fights.

Maybe it’s because I don’t tend to think much when I’m fighting, but I don’t really tend to account for my opponent’s abilities or habits. I go out there, do my thing, and hopefully come out ahead. But I’ve been fighting long enough you’d think I’d have started making a mental Rolodex of the various people I fight, because I’m pretty sure they’re doing it for me.

And maybe I do do that to a certain extent. After all, I’m at least aware of someone’s relative skill level, or how hard they tend to hit, or if they’re left handed. But the idiosyncrasies of their personal styles? I don’t really think about that much. At least, not consciously.

So I found myself with an interesting proposition: maybe in my quest to not think too much while fighting I’ve become too mentally disengaged. Maybe if I take the time to do a bit of research and planning I can get over some of those last few hurdles. After all, I’ve been fighting long enough that I’m sure I do some of this on an unconscious level. Maybe it’s time to start thinking a bit more while I fight.

Not Much Going On

I don’t really have much to say today. Work is going well, morning is still coming early, and the dog seems to be progressing in his training nicely. Overall, a pretty uneventful day.

But I feel the need to write anyway, mostly just to keep myself in the habit. I’ve been lax in my writing discipline lately, but there’s no denying that my situation has changed since I started this blog. I now have a much more intellectually taxing job, which doesn’t leave me with the surplus cognitive drive that Costco did. I’m working more regular, typical hours (thank FSM), but that means I don’t have huge chunks of free time every afternoon. I have to eke out what I can from my all-too-finite nights and weekends, a portion of which I must also (happily) donate to my girlfriend, pets, friends, and family.

So while I’m not ready to put this blog on hiatus (I’m worried that if I stopped, I’d never start back up), maybe I have to relax my expectations a little bit. When I first started writing, I had this idea that I would use my little corner of the Internet to expound on Great Things™, and that people would flock to hear my glorious philosophizing. And while that hasn’t been the case, I like to think that at least a handful of people still stop by regularly. Sure, it probably helps that this are set up to post directly to Facebook and Tumblr, but I can’t complain.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. This post started out as a thinly-veiled “I don’t know what to write,” and then diverged briefly into various musings. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t know what this blog is supposed to be any more, but at the same time I don’t want to stop. So I guess you get to skim through my disjointed ramblings, if you’re interested.

Well, I Think It’s Progress

Ewok seems to be doing better, for the most part. Whether that’s because he’s finally getting a sense of his place in the pecking order or because he’s too exhausted to act out, I can’t tell. “Submissive” and “tired” look fairly similar from my point of view.

We’ve started him on the basic tricks, things like “come,” “sit,” “lie down,” and “stay.” That last one is still a bit iffy, but it is coming along. Luckily we can motivate him with basic kibble, so we don’t really have to worry about him getting too many treats; the simple fact that we’re giving it to him often seems to be enough. He’ll come over for the occasional pet, but for the most part he just lies there and sleeps. I guess the mile-plus walks we’ve been taking him on seem to be doing their job.

But while he’s doing better with us, he seems to be doing a little worse with others. He’s actually gotten a bit nippy and growly with some of our coworkers, even ones he was fairly okay with last week. Maybe he’s too tired? Maybe he’s latched onto us as “his people” and doesn’t like intruders? Maybe it’s nothing and we’re just grasping at straws? I don’t know.

I do know that I’m almost certainly over-analyzing things, but I can’t help myself. It’s what I do. Since we’re no longer sure how he’ll react, we’ve been keeping him relatively isolated; avoiding other dogs while on walks, keeping him leashed and close to us while at work, et cetera. I’ve staggered the days I take him in so that he doesn’t have to encounter the dog he had isues with, but even the other, more naturally-submissive dog seems to avoid him. We’ll probably have to do a reintroduction once Ewok’s a little better mannered.

We’ve got our first training session on Thursday, so hopefully he gets along alright with his other classmates. I think part of my anxiety is from basic lack of knowledge: I know I don’t know, so I’m worried about Doing Something Wrong. But I’m hopeful that whatever issues we’re having we can work through, and Ewok will be able to be a productive member of our social circle.