Monday, August 31, 2009

Notes on Migrating to RAID

This’ll be fun.  Over the weekend one of my colleagues and I were tasked with converting our software repository to RAID.  If you are not familiar with RAID and you’d like to read up on it.  Hold onto your geek badge and click here.  It stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks.

Lesson One: You can’t go from no RAID to RAID.  First, I thought, I’ll just install the second drive and tell the RAID controller to convert it (along with the first drive) to RAID 1.  I naively thought that the controller would simply mirror the old hard drive onto the new hard drive and voila, I’d be done.  No such luck.  I don’t know if there is a RAID controller out there capable of such magic, but you’d think there would be.  The RAID controller we were using said it had to erase the drives in order to create the set.

Lessons Two: A RAID set contains less information than the drive alone.  If you have an 80 gig hard drive and you format it, you can get about 75 gigs worth of usable space.  I assumed that if I imaged this drive, then I’d be able to directly restore the image onto a newly created RAID set.  Create an image, add the new 80 gig hard drive, tell the RAID controller to make a RAID 1 set (it removes all data when it does this – see Lesson One), then restore the image.

When trying to restore the image (after an hour of creating the image), we were told that the destination was too small.  Apparently RAID uses some overhead so that the usable space of a 2 80 gig RAID set is only about 74 gig (lost some available space).

We had to restore the image back to a single drive, use a partitioning program to shrink the partition from 75 gig to 70 gig, then create a new image of the (now 70 gig) partition.

Lesson Three: Some and perhaps all RAID controllers disable write caching.  RAID 1, in particular, is made for fault tolerance.  If one drive fails, you can continue to work.  If you have write caching turned on, you could easily get corruption on your RAID set if there is a power failure of some sort.  Disabling write caching makes this much less likely. 

When we got the new partition image and started the recovery, we were told it would take about 5 hours.  We went home and returned the next day.

I’m not sure how to overcome the lengthy image restore anomaly.  If there was a way to turn on write caching at the controller level that might have worked.  It’s also possible to setup the RAID set then disable one of the drives so that synchronization isn’t being performed during the restoration, but I’m not sure how safe or fast that would be.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dallas Entertainment

Last weekend I was trying to entertain a guest from my hometown area.  I was torn between going to downtown Dallas or downtown Fort Worth.

My serendipitous friend Durango recommended Grapevine, but in his email he mentioned something about scenery and lakes and moonlight walks on the beach.  It all sounded too icky.

My Wink friend was staying at a hotel very near downtown Dallas so that made the decision for me.  Dallas it would be.

As we were making our way to the downtown area (I always exit East Commerce), I was telling her that on Saturday evening, all the museums and stuff would be closed, but we could still see the Grassy Knoll, the  04GrassyKnollKennedy Memorial, the “Old Red” Courthouse and all that other good stuff.  We just wouldn’t be able to go  inside.  I don’t know if she spotted any of them  as we drove by.  I know we drove by them all.

Well, we were hungry so we parked near West End and immediately headed for Dick’s Last Resort.  I had been there once before and enjoyed it so I thought she might as well.  The food isn’t really all that wonderful, but the ambiance is very cool.  The wait staff tries to behave in an obviously mean, grumpy sarcastic fashion which makes me feel right at home.  We sat at a long bench table with about 6 others sitting on the other end.  One of the girls on the other end was sporting a big white baker’s cap made out of paper that said, “So easy a caveman could do me.”  Great fun.  They have pictures at the link above.

By the time we left there it was getting dark.  I’ve always been a fan of piano bars and I’ve been to Gator’s Croc & Roc  before so I thought it’d be good to go again.  It was tons of fun.  They have a whole slew of mixed drinks.  I had something called a “Lethal Weapon” that probably would have been better off staying in the mixer.  It was good, but deadly.  I guess the reason for it’s name.

The piano bar portion was a bit sparse on people.  I don’t think there were ever more than 20, but we were able to get more attention from the pianist so we made up for it.  One of the tables was occupied by a couple from Hobbs, New Mexico which is, ironically, within spitting distance of Wink.  Well, if you can spit about 70 miles.

The calendar said they had a live band on the roof so we went upstairs.  No live band, but they had KARAOKE!  I’m a karaoke fool.  Fun was had by all.  Or at least by me.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A is for Musical Aquarians

I tried to make a list of some of my favorite Aquarians and I realized that there are far too many to do one per week.

So immediately after I began this fiasco I am already changing the game plan.

I’m sticking with the idea of alphabetizing by first name, but I’m allowing myself the luxury of combining more than one Aquarian in a single post.

Today for instance, we have Alice Cooper.  He was born on February 4, 1948.  He was born Vincent Damon Furnier.  I guess I could have saved him for the V’s, but would anyone really recognize that name?  He hit it big in 1971 in a band called Alice Cooper with the song, “I’m Eighteen”.  In 1975 he changed his name to the name of the band in typical Aquarian fashion.  You can read more about Alice Cooper here.  My favorite album by Alice Cooper?  “Flush the Fashion” with songs like, “Aspirin Damage” and “Nuclear Infected”.  When you find yourself shakin’ from the medication taken, oh yeah.

And not to be outdone by Alice, we also have Axl Rose.  Axl was born on February 6, 1962.  He was born William Bruce Rose, Jr.  In typical Aquarian nature, he changed his name to Axl Rose.  This might be only typical Aquarian nature for musicians  born under the sign.  I haven’t changed my name yet.    He was, and still is, the front man for Guns N’ Roses.  You can read more about him here.  “Appetite for Destruction” is by far my favorite GnR album.  It was released in 1987 which is the year I graduated high school.  I tried to convince my class of 20 to use “Welcome to the Jungle” as our class song, but I wasn’t nearly as creatively influential then as I am now.  Those silly kids opted for “Never Say Goodbye” by Bon Jovi.  It kind of made me nauseous, but I tried not to let it show.  You know where you are?  You’re in the Jungle Baby!  You’re gonna die.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Post Lasik

logo_texaseyeandlasercenter Lasik surgery is interesting. It wasn’t at all like I expected. You get a prescription for 2 Valiums. They tell you to bring the medication with you to the surgery, but not to take any.

When they take you in the pre-op, they ask if you’d like to take one or both of your pills. I opted to take one because Valium usually really makes me woozy and I was quite nervous.

One valium did the trick. I was mellow. They put some goop around the eye they are going to work on. They put about 5 different kinds of drops in. I don’t know what the drops were for and I didn’t ask. I was

Then, they make you wear the cap and booties of shame. I didn’t like the cap and booties of shame. It’s a good thing I took the pill.

You go out and sit in the little waiting area with 6 other people. 3 of the people are also equipped with the cap and booties of shame. The other 3 are there for support or to quietly snicker about the garments of shame.

I sat there and quietly watched some home improvement show on the 42 inch LCD screen. They were trying to redo this ladies kitchen in 2 days. They picked this god awful multi-colored paneling.

While I waited, the 3 people in the garments of shame went into the surgery room and emerged looking content. One of the guys went in and his support unit wanted to watch so they opened a window and this guy came around to give her a play by play. I really could have done without the play by play. You don’t like hearing things like, “now they’re making a flap on the top of the eye”.

It was my turn and I went into the room where this nice motherly type woman greeted me and offered me a seat on the end of a bed. I use the term bed loosely. I can’t really explain what it was. I could tell I was supposed to lie down on it. It’s like a brown leather gurney.

She spoke kind words and flooded my eye with numbing drops that ironically stung like hell.

Then I waited. And I waited. I decided that the doc must be taking a restroom break or something. I didn’t remember any of the 3 before me having to wait that long. There were two women standing behind me talking about where they were going for happy hour after the day was done. It’s like I wasn’t even there. I didn’t like that either.

Finally, the motherly figure came back and gave me some more numbing drops. She apologized that the doctor was taking longer than expected. Maybe it was something he ate.

Not too long after the last dose of numbing drops the doc arrived, greeted me in a friendly manner and had me lay back in such a way that my head was held in place by the little concave shaped head piece at the top of the brown leather gurney bed. I like DrHu160x206 Dr. Hu. He makes me feel both confident and a bit irritated all at the same time.

This gurney is like a Lazy Susan. It spins. There are two big laser machines. Laying on my back and looking at the ceiling, one was to my left, the other to my right. Dr Hu unceremoniously aims my head under the one on my left. Oh yeah, he put some round apparatus around my eye to keep things open and still I guess.

Going into it, I was thinking that there might be too much room for personal error. Like what if I have to blink or sneeze or something during the procedure. I believe the round apparatus prevented much of these possibilities.

The machine on the left didn’t take long to do whatever it did. There was a countdown involved. I tried to pretend I was sitting in a space shuttle about to take off. It made me mostly blind. I could only assume that “the flap had been created”.

Then he rotated my prone head to the machine on the right. And he said something that struck horror into my over worked head. He said, “look at the orange blinking light”. I said, “I don’t know what light you are talking about. I can’t see anything.”

Then in his confident voice with the slightly irritating accent he said, “You may have to tilt your head a bit and look to the left”. I did as instructed and sure enough there was a big blurry orange blinking splotch. He said “Perfect” and the orange light immediately went away. I said, “I can’t see it any more. No, wait there it is.” I didn’t know if I was supposed to keep looking at it or not.

It was then I guess that the main procedure started. It smelled a bit like something was burning. I guess this is the laser reshaping the cornea. It’s a bit unnerving. I thought that if it lasted too much longer I might be sick.

Suddenly the big orange splotch turned into a little orange dot. There was joy in my scared heart. Some little tool approached my eye and moved stuff around that wasn’t natural. The little confident voice behind me said, “Perfect”.

To finish things off Dr Hu brought out what looked like a little paint brush and proceeded to “paint” my eye. I don’t know what this was, but I pretended he was using it to super glue my flap back in place.

When I was done, they led me to a post-op room where I was given instructions for the day. I was allowed to remove my garments of shame and given some goggles of shame that I was to wear the rest of the day and to wear while sleeping for the next week.

I went home, took my 2nd Valium and a 5 hour nap.

There was no discomfort. Things tend to be clear one minute and blurry the next, but mostly I am pretty happy with the results. I had to return on Saturday and was told that things will continue to get better, but it may take as long as 8 weeks.

If you want to get Lasik go to the Texas Eye and Laser Center. Tell them Gar sent you. And tell Dr Hu I said, “hey”. I’ve been going to the Texas Eye and Laser Center for about 10 years for my yearly retina checkup. This review was done in good humor. I really did think the things I said I thought, but no one knows what evil lurks in my head. There’s no way I’d go anywhere else.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lasik Today

 At about 2:30 today, I am having blade free corrective surgery on my right eye.  I am hoping to permanently ditch my glasses.

I am rather nervous about it at the moment.  This will be my last post until I can see again or learn to write a blog without the ability to see.

They are doing something called monovision because I need bifocals and I refuse to wear bifocals.

Basically, this means they are correcting my right eye, but leaving my left eye alone. 

My right eye will allow my brain to focus on things far away and my left eye will hopefully allow my brain to focus on things closer (so I can read my text messages without looking underneath my glasses).

I’ve been wearing glasses or contacts for 20 years.  Hopefully sometime later today or tomorrow I can tell you how it turned out.

They say that it’s possible my brain won’t be able to adjust and then they’ll have to correct the left eye as well.  At $1800 per eye, I’m kind of hoping not.

Leading up to today I have been putting some kind of antibiotic drops in my eye four times per day.  I also had to go to Walgreen and buy some preservative free artificial tears.  These tears are more expensive than you’d think.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Seven Signs that You Might Be On Your Way To Obesity

I saw this on Washington Post today so I thought I’d share it for my obesaphobic friend Durango.

  1. If you choose the larger plate when offered two plate sizes, you might be obese.  Experts agree that 98.6% of “obese” people will choose the larger plate.  Apparently it fools their pudgy eyes into thinking they are not eating as much.
  2. When you go to a buffet, if you choose a table that faces the buffet of fat inducing calories then you might be headed down the path of obesity.  Experts agree that 41.7% of obese people will eat in such a way that they can face their next conquests.  Next time I find myself sitting across from such a person I might be a little nervous.
  3. If you try to eat efficiently then you might be headed down the glorious path of rapid obesity.  When offered a fork or chop sticks at a Chinese buffet, experts say that 91.3% of obese people will opt for the fork for quicker shoveling.  I wonder why they didn’t offer spoons.
  4. If you make sure your plate is perfectly clean (after you finish with it), then you are probably in trouble.  I blame this on growing up with the “don’t you know kids are starving in Africa” guilt trip.  I’ve recently learned that when I’m full it’s okay to leave a bit behind.  It also gives the obese person that might be sitting across from me something to stare at (see Item 2).
  5. If you don’t chew then you might be obese or headed that way.  Experts agree that lean people chew their food almost 15 times before swallowing.  Obese people?  Not even 12.  I’m going to open up a buffet with blenders at the table.  The only buffet where chewing is not necessary.
  6. If you immediately head for the buffet line when you enter the diner, then you likely aren’t headed down the path of a maintainable weight.  I think you can go back to Item 2 again.  Obese people grab their plates without looking first because they know they can plan the next trip while shoveling their first helping.  It seems skinny people like making a few laps around the buffet before deciding what to eat. 
  7. If you skip breakfast you are 450% more likely to be obese.  I’ve recently started skipping breakfast.  This is not a good sign.

Abraham Lincoln

My first Aquarian legend is Abraham Lincoln. He was born February 12, 1809 and was the 16th President of the USA.

I could re-word and post the entire contents of the fine Wikipedia write-up, but I’ll just let you go read it directly here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Anna Nalick

I’m not a big fan of American Idol.  It produces good singers, but it rarely produces anyone that can write music.  I suppose you need to have performers to perform  music that someone else writes.  Where would Beethoven have been if no one would perform his music?

The problem with the way American Idol works is that the Beethovens of the world write the music, but the American Idols get all the glory.  If you look at the latest Carrie Underwood album, for example, it puts her down as a co-author on four of the tracks.  On her first albums, she is given partial credit on one track.  I suspect that her writing credit consists of her saying things like, “Can we put ‘train’ there instead of ‘locomotive’?  Locomotive is a hard word to sing.  A train is a locomotive isn’t is?”

It’s refreshing to see artists like Anna Nalick.  I’ve heard her music for a while.  It’s not exactly my style of music, but it’s good stuff.  She came into my random Pandora shuffle today and I enjoyed it enough to go look her up.  She’s got some good lyrics.  And all songs are written and performed by Anna Nalick.

New Blog to Test

Ralphsky_sepiaI’ve decided it’s time to add a new blog to follow (or try to follow).  I’ve been reading his comments on The Whited Sepulchre’s Blog for a while now.  Dr Ralph runs into  a room full of rabid Libertarians and expresses a different point of view.  It’s a very scary job.

His last few postings have been about Les Paul’s passing.  I like learning when I read.  Every time I read my blog I learn how difficult it is for me to clearly express myself with the written word.  See how that works.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Aquarius-art Set your calendars folks.  Every week I’m going to bring to you my favorite Aquarians.  I’m thinking I’ll go in a kind of desk_calendar_1alphabetical order although some letters will have more than one and I’ll leave out some.  In order to protect the innocent, I’ll probably alphabetize by first name.

And remember, favorite doesn’t mean I like them the most.  It may simply be that they are entertaining.  I’ll probably have to give a few details with each entry.  There might be some very evil Aquarians.  I’ll have to do a bit of research along the way.

Oh yeah, it also doesn’t matter if they are living or dead.

I think it’ll be fun.  And we’ll all be sooo happy.  It all starts on Thursday!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Health Care Is Not Simple

naked_economics.large I just got through reading an economics book. It’s given me insight into how all things dealing with money (or trade for goods) works.

I’ve decided to take what I’ve learned and many of the theories I’ve hypothesized and post them here for the whole world to see. Or at least the 1 or 2 people that stumble upon my meager blog from time to time.

In my simplified world of healthcare there are 102 people classified in 4 ways:

  1. The first type of person is the Doctor. There are 2.
  2. The second type of person is the one that makes less than 5 dollars a day. It’s possible this person makes nothing per day. There are 20 of these. They are the poor.
  3. The third type of person makes more money than they know what to do with. If you want to put a hypothetical number to the dollar amount we’ll call it 100+ per day. There are 20 of these.
  4. The last type of person working class or middle class whatever you want to call them. They make up the majority. In this example 60.

Now, for the situations.

Doctor Decides How Much To Charge:

Doctor 1 emerges and says, “I’m the best thing available. I’ve got the best education and access to the best facilities. I charge $50 for initial visit and diagnosis. And I have an easy to read malady rate table. Common Cold is $20.”

Doctor 2 emerges and says, “I may not have scored in the top 2% of my class, but I’ve got the best people skills. All estimates are free. We’ll treat all colds for $10 and the special this week is buy one get one at lesser or equal value for free.”

Obviously most people are going to go to Doctor 2. Doctor 2 will be very busy and Doctor 1 will have more time to care for his wealthier clients.

Obviously the system is slightly flawed because not everyone will have access to the same health care. The wealthier people could theoretically get more personal and better care.

20 people will get little to know care. 20 people will get the best care and 60 people will shop around for health care. The poor suffer. The rich and the doctors are very happy. The middle class are probably better off.

Healthcare is free:

People are calling the doctor all the time. Every morning, 20 people wake up with the sniffles. Since healthcare is free, they call the doctor. I don’t know who pays his salary. It doesn’t matter. There is no way free healthcare is going to work.

No matter how much money you make, you’re going to have to wait on the doctor because there are not enough doctors to go around when it’s all free.

To combat this you could make it easier to become a doctor but then the quality of healthcare will decline. Doctor’s salaries will decline making the best and brightest folks choose professions as auto mechanics.

Even if a doctor had the best intentions, eventually after the 900th call about bad allergies, they will become numb to the calls and quit watching for the occasional severe malady.

Everyone (all 100 of us) will get the same health care. The rich suffer and the doctors suffer the most.

Invent Insurance:

Now we have this idea of health insurance. It costs $10 per day. However, the Insurance companies have to make their money so they aren’t going to insure someone for $10 per day when said person is pre-disposed to heart attacks.

At $10 per day you’ve already ruled out the poorest people so there are 20 people already unable to get insurance. Of the 60 middle class people some are struggling because depending on where you are at $10 per day could be a significant bite into your paycheck.

Insurance isn’t going to pay the doctors what they ask. They’ll force the doctors to become part of their network. Obviously the doctors will strive to become part of the network else they’ll be stuck working on the 20 rich people who don’t get sick that much anyway.

So now people are paying Insurance and the doctors. They have to pay the salaries of all the employees and the Insurance Company (as well as the huge CEO salaries) and they have to pay enough to cover salaries at the doctor’s office.

The poor get no health care. So there are 20 with no means for health care. The doctors are happy and the insurance companies are happy. The rich are always happy except when it’s free.

Let The Government Take Care of Us

We’ve decided to let Uncle Sam take care of us. He’s raising taxes so that everyone has access to health care. Now the poor are getting free health care, the middle class and the rich are paying 10% of their salaries for health care. Most people are paying well over the $10 per day for their government health care because they have to make up for the folks that aren’t paying at all.

You’re back to the health care is free idea. Or nearly free. How else could you promise to provide health care for everyone when some make no money?

Everyone’s got insurance. The poor are happy. I don’t see how anyone else would be appreciative of this plan. The government would have to pull off a miracle of economic engineering which has not happened since… Well, has not happened.


There is no fix for health care. They keep saying we are spending too much money on health care. I’d say that’s because we are paying for these huge insurance conglomerates and the huge salaries of their executives.

There are some diseases that require maintenance. Diabetes is the biggest example I can think of. Without drugs and regular doctor visits, you can’t expect to stay healthy.

  • Insurance guarantees you can keep your regular visits if you have a job or can afford to pay your monthly insurance premiums and your co-pays.
  • Free health care or government run health care means you can keep your regularly scheduled visits but at a lesser quality of service. You’ll have to work harder at staying healthy and probably spend a lot more time waiting in line.
  • Doctor’s Decide means you decide too. However, if you lose your job or can’t afford the doctor’s visits or drugs for some reason, you may be in trouble. Not even doctors can manage the price of major health malfunctions.

There is no easy solution. Do I think health care needs fixing? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Do I trust the Obama administration to do the right thing? No, no, a thousand times no. I don’t know what the right thing is. Do you?

If Obama would go through government spending line by line and get rid of the pork, then I’d change my mind on this. He said he would do that before he got elected and he’s made a few meager stabs. I’m waiting for him to hit meat and start digging. Thus far, it seems he’s been adding to the fat with a good healthy does of bailout blubber.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Windows Live Writer

writer Today I experiment with a new blog writing tool.

I’m not going to write too much for fear of what’s going to happen when I hit the post button.

As I type I’ll tell you about the pro’s and the con’s. I can already tell you it’s much easier to insert pictures than with my other editor.

When I installed it, it asked me which publisher I was using and then it said that it was downloading screen layouts. I assume to integrate nicely into whatever my blog looks like.

  1. It allows me to easily add numbered lists.
  2. Like this one.
  • If I don’t like numbers, I can also do bullets.
  • Like these

It says it will do tables. Let’s see what that does here is a table of two presidents and their birthdays. Try and match them up.

Barack Obama

August 19, 1946

William Clinton

August 4, 1961

I’ve never put tables in a blog before. Let me create a link and see what it looks like. Here’s a link to my old President’s astrological chart.

I’m kind of worried what the font is going to look like.

What if I want to insert a video.

That’s it for my testing. I have no idea what this is going to look like. It may destroy everything.

When I tried to publish it, it said I was forbidden.

I found a guy that said I have to create a “Windows Live Writer” folder in Picasa. I didn’t even know I was using Picasa. It seems like Windows Live Writer would allow me to choose my destination image folder…

Curious what'll happen if I try to edit it from within Google. We'll see if this looks outta place.

Too Many Bags, Too Many Planes, Too Many Cities

Airlines recently adopted a one bag policy. You get one bag that is 50 pounds or less. Any more than that and you must pay extra. 50 bucks a bag if memory serves.

Luckily, for us, this policy was not in place when we made our last trip to Germany. I posted about my bag nightmare both here and here.

I also promised pictures which I forgot about until now. Here's our little car in Fulda Germany with all of its luggage.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I believe it's time to present to you what I believe will be the last installment of my latest trip to Germany. My wife's grandparents live in Falkenberg. Oma (or Omi) and Opa (or Opi) she calls them.
It was to be the relaxing portion of my trip. Whenever we visit them they always put the Texas flag on their flag pole. This time they put their state flag underneath. It's the state of Brandenburg if I remember correctly. I also had to explain to them that the red goes on bottom. They had it upside down when I arrived and I didn't need any help so they fixed it.

Sec. 3100.053. ORIENTATION ON FLAGPOLE OR FLAGSTAFF. If the state flag is displayed on a flagpole or flagstaff, the white stripe should be at the top of the flag, except as a signal of dire distress in an instance of extreme danger to life or property.

They have a very nice house. It's one of my favorite houses that I've ever been to. In this trip my wife signed some papers giving ownership of the house to her. I don't know what to think of it. Obviously part of the agreement was that her grandparents will continue to live at and maintain the property. It's complicated.

They have a wonderful backyard with fountains and lights and fruit trees and gardens and wasps. Pictures are worth a thousand words.
Anyway, I love the house. The only thing I don't like about it is it has no Internet. I believe that can be remedied. You get to have some beautiful sunsets and you get to have some beautiful women sitting out front.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

EVE Online

I've been remiss in my blogging duties mainly due to another game addiction. I frequently encounter these rabid addictions and I don't really fully understand how it happens.

EVE Online is not exciting. It's kind of pretty and it's science fiction. It's categorized as an MMORPG (Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Game)because you are paying the part of a space ship pilot in an interstellar setting with thousands of other players.

I can't really put a finger on why I'm hooked and that in itself may be part of the beauty of it. EVE Online is an older game. I believe it was released in 2003 or 2004. The closest thing I can compare it to is the old BBS (Bulletin Board Service for you youngsters) games back before the Internet was mainstream. Where you'd login once a day and perform a series of actions to carry out until the next time you logged in.

Since it's on the Internet and you have a permanent connection along with 30k other players or so, it's a bit more real time, but it's got a similar feel. There seems to be a lot more strategy than your standard MMO's.

Without looking up the "standard" description on the Internet, I'll just spew forth some of the things I did when I started playing in a salesman type fashion.

I started out looking up the descriptions of the various inhabitants of the solar system and found one that I'd like to "be". I chose the Minmatar.

I went into a character generation screen where I could change my portrait. I picked a guy with sparse and spiked blond hair with 3 or 4 little metal spike implants poking out vertically from his forehead. Then I gave him a name "Zulutaz" and entered the game.

I started out in a nice little tutorial. I was a little disappointed that I had to read a lot. I just stopped playing Age of Conan where they talk to you.

The tutorial got me started on skill training, outfitting my ship and doing missions. In Eve Online, each ship has slots for powered equipment (low, medium and high). Weapons and mining equipment require special bays. Some ships have more bays than others. The rookie ship for the tutorial is just enough to get you started.

Now, I've been playing for about a week and I've gone though maybe 40 missions. I can mine minerals from asteroids and read blueprints. I can give blueprints to a factory at a base along with various minerals I've mined and refined and they'll build equipment for me to use or sell. I've been in fights in the vacuum of space with my 125mm Guns, my Missile Launchers, my Rocket Launchers, my Carbines, my Shield Boosters, etc.

I've warped to stargates and gated to other solar systems where I saw the best market deal for a new ship. I've purchased new ships, I've sold old ships, and I've even had the manufacturing facilities manufacture a ship for me with my blueprints and materials.

If I had to compare it to the most popular MMO in the world right now, I'd have to say it's interface is nice and I didn't see any issues with it. It takes more intelligence to play than WOW (World of Warcraft), but it has the same attention to detail and things are fairly intuitive. The violence is not there. EVE is obviously sci-fi instead of fantasy. There are no level "dings". There are no cute little battlegrounds. It's much more of a strategy game.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Hanover to Ronneburg

Ronneburg is where my mother-in-law lives. Leipzig is the closest city that you might recognize.

The following photos and descriptions were taken in and around Ronneburg. Just because I always call it Ronneburg doesn't mean it always is. I can't remember all the names of the little German villages.

My mother-in-law also lives on the 5th story of an apartment. Thus, my packing nightmares were to continue. In my last installment I'll try and give some photo documentation of our luggage nightmare.

The first thing planned for us when we arrived was to drive to a nearby town and go go-kart racing followed by a round of mini-golf. I don't believe I've ever done the go-kart thing before. I remember enjoying bumper cars at Six Flags Over Texas back when that park was still enjoyable. Go-kart racing is a workout. I wasn't sure what to expect, but to walk away sore and sweaty was completely unexpected. It was also fun though. My wife took pictures. She was having a bit of trouble with the camera and the intense speed. That's me with the black helmet and the blue jean jacket. I was stylin.

Mini-golf was a bit more lackadaisical. Any time I do this kind of thing I go into it with good intentions and by the 9th hole, I'm just trying to stay focused enough not to sleepwalk. It was a pretty course though.

I don't know who told our gracious hosts that I have an acute case of claustrophobia, but the next day they took us to an old mining cave that's been commercialized. It's called the Saalfelder Feengrotten which translates to Saalfeld Fairy Grottoes. I wasn't really sure what to expect. The only caverns I've ever been to are the Carlsbad Caverns and they are huge. This was a bit of a struggle.

The next day I got my first pedicure. I'm thinking this might be a bi-monthly thing. My feet are quite ticklish, but by the time it was all said and done I was very pleased with my soft toesies. Upon initial contact I was thinking it might be worse than the caves as far as having to be brave. As with the cave though, I was glad that I pushed forward.

After the pedicure we went to a mall. I noticed something at this mall that I truly believe all malls should have. I called it a place for the guys. A bar right in the middle of the mall. It was good for me because I could sit there and drink real good beer and watch people all day long. It was good for my wife because after a few drinks I wasn't as irritated that she was buying her 900th pair of shoes.

I also got to see my first German prison before we left. No, I didn't get to see the inside. Although I did have a mean German bar manager once tell me that he would show me what the inside of a German prison looks like. To this day, I've not seen one.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Künzell to Hanover

After spending two days in Fulda, we drove two and a half hours to Hanover. The above picture was taken at a small pub in Fulda.

I had never been to Hanover before so this might actually be a treat. If it weren't for having to pack and unpack four suitcases every two days and lug them up and down stairs and pack them in the car it would have been a real treat.

My wife's best friend and her best friend's boyfriend live in Hanover. Their apartment was conveniently located on the 4th floor. I can only assume that this is a way for the travel gods to curse me for bringing four 50 pound suitcases.

Hanover is a cool place. It has lots of history. In German cities, the town hall is ironically called the Rathaus. For some reason, I find this particularly humorous. Like most German cities, it has bicycle lanes on most all the roads and people walking and riding more than they are driving.

We toured the Rathaus in Hanover. There was a tour that took you up to the top tower in the center and you could see out in all directions over the entire city. In the center of the main room in the Rathaus were four models of the various stages of Hanover construction and/or deconstruction. The first one shows Hanover as a castle or keep complete with a moat (of sorts). Then there is one of it as a developing city. There is a sad one of it after World War II. It was prime bombing target for allied bombing runs. Finally, there is a current model. It looks to be built up better than before. I wonder how much money the allies who bombed it invested in its rebuilding. I took pictures, but they aren't very good. I'll put them here anyway (in order).

We went to a cool bar in Hanover. Outside of the bar was a Bier Bike. It was just about the coolest thing I've ever not been able to do. Not for lack of wanting to mind you. It's basically a shack with a tap for tapping beer and a steering wheel for driving. I assume that you have a driver and a bartender. There are 5 seats on each side with bicycle pedals that seem to drive an axle underneath. The back has a bench for 3 or 4 lazy people. I assume that they had to make the bench for the Americans.

Anyway, on to the bar.

The bar had all you can eat wings and all you can eat ribs. But, the best things about it was the beer. They brewed all their own beer in house and it was some good stuff. I was especially fond of the dark beer that they had. As a surprise our hosts ordered a "drinking game". I don't know what it was called, but it looked scary. 11 little glasses of beer paired with 11 little glasses of some kind of corn alcohol. The idea is to pick up both glasses and drink the beer whilst emptying the little shot glass into the beer glass. It's a lot of fun. I'm still looking for a place in Dallas that has a similar setup.I also uploaded a video for a video example of the drinking process as shown by the expert.

But, the most entertaining part of the bar that night was the duck that drank too much. It's a story in pictures. You probably won't find it as funny as I did. But I've got a wicked keen sense of humor.
We also went to a lake in Hanover. I walked too long in sandals and made my feet sore. My feet don't like sandals. The kid with the chocolate ice cream was cool. The sunset on the lake was pretty.

At some point my wife tried valiantly to cause me bodily harm even though I was wearing the shirt she makes me wear.
From Hanover we were destined for Ronneburg. Another two to three hour drive.