And so, the madness begins…

With days remaining before Little Annoying Sister ties the knot, the intensity levels have gone up a few gears — the rest of my family arrived this evening from their two-day roadtrip from Durban.  So, from now until just after Christmas, there’ll be four people crammed into my two-bedroom flat.  In fact, at the moment it’s five, because one of my aunts from Australia is down for the Joyous and Special Occasion specifically.

I’ll just leave this image here to illustrate what my living quarters are like:

Yes, I’m feeling /that/ claustrophobic…

Thankfully, the dive-bombing kamikaze pilot has been evicted, so that’s one less thing to worry about.

That being said, so long as I’m left alone on Tuesday and Thursday evenings (when my raid team of Extremely Crazy People act as cannon fodder for the bosses in Mogu’shan Vaults and Heart of Fear), I should be able to survive.  In fact, we’re likely to be taking a break from raiding anyway (because of people going away on holiday) — which reminds me, I actually need to bring this up with the rest of my raid team tomorrow night…  (Yes, I’m a slacking raid leader, sue me.)

I’m still around!

I haven’t posted anything lately.  Here’s why:

  • The intensity at work went up several notches.
  • Getting my World of Warcraft raid team sorted with the new expansion — in fact, getting the guild as a whole sorted.
  • Helping Little Annoying Sister out with final wedding preparations (the big day is early next month).
  • The big one: I’m moving out of my current flat at the end of the year.    Goodbye Rondebosch (and all your drunk students), hello West Coast!

And a few minor reasons as well that I can’t think of right now.

So now you have it.

Overcoming challenges, the virtual way

Currently, my World of Warcraft raid team is taking on Yor’sahj the Unsleeping on heroic (read: insanely difficult) difficulty.  Now, I understand that many of you don’t play World of Warcraft, so I’ll explain the boss encounter briefly: every now and then, he summons four differently coloured slimes on the edge of the room that slowly creep towards him, and that give him some rather potent abilities when they reach him.  Only one can be killed (the rest become immune), which means that, as raid leader, the encounter is a test of my leadership abilities — I need to see which slimes have spawned, direct the rest of the raid to kill the one which I believe will result in certain death, and then give the raid the correct strategy for surviving the effects of the other three.

In my case, I have a unique problem: the fact that I’m pretty much totally colourblind.  I’ve found my own unique ways of dealing with this over the years, the main example being traffic lights.  I determine what to do based on position: top light tells me to stop, bottom light tells me to go, middle light tells me I’d better stop sometime soon (although any self-respecting South African driver will tell you that it really means “go faster”, particularly the ones on the other side of the Vaal River).  Of course, this is a lot harder at night; however, I’ve worked out that the “green” light is considerably brighter than the other two (I’m also extremely light sensitive, which in this specific case is actually a Good Thing).

However, the Yor’sahj fight, when we first attempted it (on normal mode) presented a unique challenge for me — the game tells me which combination of slimes has spawned, but then I need to run over to it and start whacking it hard, which is a bit difficult when you’re uncertain if you’ve run over to the right one.  An example would be when Yor’sahj spawns the purple and blue slimes, with purple being the kill target.  Those two slimes spawn next to each other, and I’ve often called out “kill purple” and then run over to blue instead.  And don’t get me started on the case when Yor’sahj sadistically decides to spawn red, green and yellow (it’s the traffic light thing again).

My solution: the other nine pairs of eyes.  The rest of the team knows full well that I really struggle with this, and so help me find my way to the correct slime that I had just called out.  I may be the one directing the strategy, but at the end of the day, we’re a team working together towards our end goal (that next boss kill on heroic difficulty).  My condition provides a unique challenge for this encounter, but working together, we’re able to compensate for that.

This actually touches on another interesting point.  People say that computer gaming is childish, breeds violence, and so forth; that World of Warcraft is an addiction as bad as illegal drugs… at least, those are the opinions that mass media would like us to have.  And yet, while I jump into the game to escape from reality for a while, there are plenty of real-world skills if one only takes the time to dig a little deeper.  Leading the raid allows me to refine my organisational, leadership and diplomatic skills, while raiding itself is a great way to learn how to work as a team (which is pretty much essential in the workplace in this day and age).  It’s through this teamwork that I’m able to overcome elements that impede me as an individual.

Indeed, this has been touched on by people far more qualified than I am.  Mark Chen, a self-professed gaming researcher who holds a doctorate in educational technology and learning sciences recently published his dissertation-turned-book Leet Noobs: The Life and Death of an Expert Player Group in World of Warcraft.  (The book is available on Amazon if you’re interested, but unless you’re familiar with psychology, it’s rather heavy reading.)  His experiences were from the Molten Core raid in the game’s earliest days (when the raid size was 40 players: definitely far more challenging from several points of view).  The following quote sums up my thoughts perfectly:

I would hesitate to call it “addiction” from the media effects standpoint: It is not a sinister, time-sinking, life-destroying activity. Instead, the knowledge is so much a part of me now… I long for it; it sustains me. It has become a part of who I am. My identity depends on this cultural knowing of what it feels like to be raiding in Molten Core. But rather than taking away from my life, it enriches my life…. Through gaming, I know nostalgia and melancholy, joy and triumph, success and failure, sadness and anger…. Gravitating towards these activities is only addiction in the sense that people are compelled to engage in the activities that define who they are…

We’re only getting Yor’sahj down to ~50% right now before someone makes a small mistake that wipes the raid (heroic difficulty is extremely unforgiving).  But that kill is coming, and it will be an especially sweet victory for me when we get him down.

Bringing FRAG LAN back from the dead

If you’re ever taken the time to read the crap on the About Me page, you’ll know that I co-founded the FRAG LAN back in 2007.  Sadly, since I left Durban, it appears that the event has slowly gone to the dogs (as evidenced by an article on Do Gaming).

Of course, I don’t want to see something that I started disappear like that, so I popped on to their forums (after a good deal of time and effort trying to remember what my password was!) to offer some advice.  I’m not sure how long the post will stay there though, so I’ve reproduced the contents below:

Right.

First off — long time, no see folks. To answer the most obvious question, yes, I’m still alive, Cape Town is treating me well, and Web Africa offering uncapped is definitely no longer “unsustainable” (lead developer on that project). 😉

Now that the pleasantries and formalities are out of the way, on to business.

I haven’t kept in touch with what’s been going on with the LAN since my move to the non-ANC province, but a recent article on Do Gaming pretty much told me the entire story: in the interceding years, the LAN has pretty much been run into the ground and currently has an extremely uncertain future. Now, I’m not here to bash anyone in particular (well, too much!), mainly to offer my own input and suggestions on how to get out of the hole that the LAN has dug itself.

I can pretty much sum up the below simply as follows: get the LAN back to its roots.

The LAN pretty much started out as a small 5-man event in my parents’ double-garage in 2007, and we decided to explore expanding it further. A few months later, it had outgrown both our imaginings, and the resources of those involved; that’s when James came onboard and took it further, and eventually took it over. The only problem was that James seemed to be far more interested in the bottom line than gamer satisfaction, and I guess you all know the rest. (Even I struggled working with him at times, although to be fair, my opinion on things was always taken into serious consideration.)

However, the great thing about those early days was the camaraderie that existed between the event organisers and attendees at the time. The early goal was simply to provide a social event for people to just go and enjoy themselves for the weekend, and we managed that really well. It was easy for us because there was nothing else at the time — UberLAN had recently shut up shop, and Vendetta started at roughly the same time (and went for a little while until James managed to sabotage that effort). From the sounds of things, that’s all but disappeared, with the organiser goals and attendee expectations being totally at odds. That needs to change.

I don’t buy the opinion that “LAN gaming is dying”; despite the always-online requirements of this day and age (which I don’t necessarily approve of, but that’s a different story), there are still times and places for us folk to pack up our PCs, head off somewhere for a weekend, and kill players with the gauntlet while holding the BFG (yes, I was on the receiving end!). But it needs to be done right. If you need an example to model yourselves off of, one need look no further than Organised Chaos in this part of the world — the primary objective there is for the attendees to have a great time, everything else is secondary. (I have contacts within OC management, so if you’d like me to facilitate any kind of knowledge sharing, I’d be happy to help.)

I do think that Doug has the right idea; he’s trying to focus on becoming more gamer-centric while weeding out the seedier elements and getting the event back to what it should be. Thing is, he is going to need your help — if you guys want LAN gaming in Durban to survive, it’s up to the entire Durban gaming community to seize the initiative and get things back to where they should be. It’s going to be a long and hard process, but if everyone pulls in, it’s definitely possible.

Over to you guys.

Carpe Diem.

UPDATE: I’ve had a few folks contact me for clarification about the Vendetta sabotage part.  My only response was to point them in the direction of the embrace, extend and extinguish Wikipedia article.

Vivid imaginings

It goes without saying that most of us geeks tend to have rather vivid imaginations.  I fell into that category — would spend my youth reading various fantasy novels (in my Grade 7 year, we had The Hobbit as a set work: I finished the book in one evening of solid reading, and then kept on re-reading it through the rest of the year).  These days, I still read books of that genre (I recently discovered around R600 of old Exclusive Books gift vouchers lying around, and promptly went out and got as many of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books as the vouchers would let me), as well as having a sort of addiction to role playing games (explaining the occasional board game evening of Arkham Horror, as well as the fact that I’m an avid World of Warcraft gamer — and more recently, Diablo III).

That said  I’ve always been a Calvin & Hobbes fan as well.  It’s something that I’ve always been able to relate to, for two main reasons: one is that I shared his vivid imagination growing up, the other being that I was just as naughty as he was.  (None of those have changed, by the way!).

Anyway, last night, I stumbled across the following image.  The artist depicts an adult Calvin, understanding the importance and value of having an imagination growing up.  If in the future I have kids, I can imagine myself in the image as well.

Calvin as a dad...

I don’t know who the artist is, by the way.  If you know, or if the artist is you, please get in touch!

(Footnote: George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books forms the basis from where the current Game of Thrones TV series was derived.  If you enjoy the show, but haven’t read the books, you’re doing yourself a great disservice.)

Life

This was printed out and stuck on the wall of the people I spent New Year’s Eve with — reproducing it here because I think it’s that good.  Admittedly, I don’t remember much else of that evening…

Life is not about finding the right person, but creating the right relationship.
It’s not about how we care in the beginning, but how much we grow and nourish one another in a relationship.
Some people always throw stones in your path.  It depends on what you do with them — build a wall or a bridge?
Remember you are the architect of your life.  Search a beautiful heart, not a beautiful face, because beautiful things won’t last forever, but a golden heart does and will prosper you and add value to yourself.
It’s not important to hold all the good cards in life.  But it’s important how well you play the cards which you hold.  Often when we lose all hope and think this is the end; it’s just a bend, not the end.  Have faith, keep faith and see what will happen to you.
One of the basic differences between God and man is: God gives, gives, gives and forgives; but man gets, gets, gets, and forgets.
Be thankful.
It’s the least you can do.

In other news — yes, I know I’ve been slacking with updates.  I’ll fill you lot in with what’s been happening in my life lately, soon.

Look, Igor – IT’S ALIVE!

(Oh noes!)

Yes people, I’m still alive, still posted on this very badly neglected blog.

Quite a lot has been happening in my life over the last few months.  Most of the people who read this already know all the details, but for those who don’t – as of July, I have bid a not so fond farewell to Durban’s stifling humidity, and instead settled for the cold, wet and windy Cape (well, at least that’s what the weather is generally like at this time of year). I’m now working as a software developer for Web Africa – in other words, I am making your interwebs a better place. One line of code at a time. It’s great, and I’ve really learned a lot in the short time that I’ve already been there (most notably, how badly I suck at foosball). That being said, I do miss the people I left behind back in Durban, although whether they miss me or not is definitely up for debate… 😉

There’s so much that I’ve already gotten up to here that I could possibly fit into this blog post before I fall asleep at the keyboard (again!), but to sum things up a bit:

  • I was without a car for the first two months and had to rely on Metrorail to get me around the place. It didn’t take me very long to make a rather interesting observation: the automated voice that does the automated announcements at Cape Town station sounds exactly like GlaDOS from Portal. The way that she/it says “Metrorail apologises for the inconvenience” whenever a train was delayed has maliciousness all over it.
  • After two months, I managed to procure myself my own transportation – a Toyota Auris. It’s the one with the F1-syle gearbox, which left DJT all confused the time when I had to lift him somewhere.
  • Seriously, whoever designed Koeberg Interchange should be publicly hanged from one of the bridges. For the non-Capetonians, look on Google Maps for the N1/M5 interchange and you’ll have a rough idea of what I mean; for the Capetonians, you’ll know exactly what I mean. 😛
  • Cooling tower implosions are AWESOME!
  • People in Rondebosch, being of the student variety, generally can’t drive. The local Kauai had a student put his/her/its/blobs car through their front window last weekend!
  • Being without a piano/keyboard is seriously Not Cool! (Problem is that they’re hideously expensive.)
  • Visiting Monty for his 21st was awesome, though I doubt Monty will remember the morning after in the same light… 😉
  • Having Monty then come down, take you out and force you to socialise with the opposite sex was definitely a new experience, although I don’t believe I’m the type to just randomly pick people up, and I’m not sure I’d like to be that type either.
  • Someone PLEASE fix up Domestic Arrivals at Cape Town International Airport – compared with the rest of the airport, it’s absolutely hideous!
  • Taking a nice drive along the Cape mountain passes is nothing short of amazing; it just makes one realise what a beautiful part of the world this is.
  • All Web Africa developers are crazy, and none is more crazier than others.

I also have something more pressing on my mind right now, but that will have to wait for another time when I’m slightly less sleepy…

Why we hate lusers

Right, bit of backstory here – we developed a whole website and database solution for this one big client of ours (name not revealed to protect the guilty). We are obligated to offer support for these guys, and I’m responsible for that (apart from the usual dev work that I do).

So, they decide to open a new branch – well, the guy who manages the new branch experiences an error on the website (error on our side, turns out that some of the code didn’t take new branches into account), so he calls me for help.

It turns out that this chap is not too bright…

Luser: “I’ve found an error on the website… (yadda yadda)”.
Me: “OK… can you know exactly what you did to cause the error?” [When fixing bugs, it helps if you can reproduce them, you see…]

Turns out, he doesn’t understand what I’m asking for, so I decide to take a simpler approach…

Me: “OK, this may help – next time you get the error, can you take a screenshot of your browser window showing the error, and mail it to me?”.
Luser: “What’s a screenshot?”
Me: *facepalm*

So, I search Google for a screenie-making tutorial, and mail him the first link that comes up, telling him that that’s how you take a screenshot, and that he should mail the screenshot to me when he’s taken it. The reply comes through two days later – the screenshot was of the guy’s Outlook window…

It took me several more days encountering similar stupidity to get the information I needed to find and fix the bug…

Zumatello, Part 2

IOL has published this story:

The prankster who defaced ANC president Jacob Zuma’s poster and placed it on a pedestrian bridge near Virginia Airport, Durban, will be fined or face jail time if caught, the IEC said on Thursday

Clearly inspired by an e-mail that has been doing the rounds for the past month, someone added a mask to the poster and scrawled the word “Zumatello” alongside Zuma’s image.

The poster was then placed on the pedestrian bridge over the southbound carriageway of the M4.

The reference to Zumatello, for the uninitiated, comes from the cartoon series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles which featured four turtles whose names Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and Donatello were borrowed from Renaissance era artists.

The Independent Electoral Commission says there is nothing funny about defacing any election posters.

Tension between rival parties was highlighted when a similar election poster of Jacob Zuma was defaced in Umlazi recently.

The ANC in KZN called on police to investigate, but no formal charges had been laid.

Just two months after that incident two men were arrested for plastering their business adverts on an ANC poster in Johannesburg’s city centre.

The men were taken to the Johannesburg Central Police Station and charged with contravening the Electoral Act, which makes it illegal to conceal or remove any voting or electoral material.

The charges included malicious damage to property and contravening the Electoral Act.

IEC spokesperson, Mawethu Mosery, who had not seen the poster in question said: “Misrepresentation of campaign posters is a matter that deeply concerns us.

“We will not tolerate such behaviour.”

Mosery went on to say that if it was concluded that another party was responsible for the defacing, the party would have to pay a fine of about R200 000.

However, if it was carried out by an individual with no political ties, there would be no option of a fine and the offender would face up to two year’s imprisonment.

Seriously – don’t people know what a sense of humour is any more?