LucasCast Episode 14 now available

Our latest podcast on gaming is now available here (clicky)! Please feel free to leave comments here or in this thread (clicky).

CRASH! Part 2

If you’ve been along for the blog ride, you’ve already seen CRASH! Part 1, in which I described the Great Computer Crash. It was not pretty. It involved a virus taking out my winload.exe file, which pretty much means that unless you fix it, you now have a very expensive paperweight.

Well, after discovering that the recovery disk (that HP made me make because it wanted to save maybe 18 cents by not supplying one) did not work, I checked out the HP site for support. I hoped they would have an easy fix. Yes, I know that was probably a delusional thought, but one can always hope. After searching the site for some time, it appeared my only option was to buy a recovery disk at $10 (plus shipping and handling), because a missing winload.exe file now constituted a ‘problem’, and HP will sell the disk to you if you ‘have a problem’. I could also wait 7-10 business days for it to get delivered because I hate paying overnight charges. Well, that was entirely too long for this gaming Geeky Mom. I can be patient, but I’m not into suffering internet withdrawal.

Now, I could use the desktop, but that would involve kicking hubby off of his Oblivion game or the Terry Goodkind forum, neither of which he really wants. Sweet husband that he is, he would do it if he had to, but I didn’t want him to suffer withdrawal, too. The laptop was very considerate in the timing of its crash, and it broke down while Jimbo was at work so that I could use the desktop to look up possible solutions. How’s that for geeky–sitting at a desktop with the laptop on my lap at the same time.

Of course, fixing it meant going to the Lucasforums’ General Tech Discussion forum, which is a far more debonair-geek name than “Help Desk.” I figured if anyone would know how to solve this problem, it would be Trusty Friends stingerhs, Astrotoy7, ChAiNz.2da, or any of the other LF computer gurus. While waiting for their replies, I googled “winload.exe problem and my recovery disk won’t work”. Up popped an HP page on just how to solve the problem. Apparently, this page is so cleverly disguised that HP’s own search engine can’t find it. Maybe they should use Google.

So, how to fix the problem on my computer? Hit F11. That’s it. One stupid key stroke.

It gave me the option to back up my files. I chose that and drove over to Best Buy to pick up a portable external hard drive. I discovered an 80 Gb hard drive costs about the same as a 4 Gb flash drive. Apparently, the 4Gb on the flash drive are gold-plated or something to make it that expensive. Well, I got home, plugged it in, and saved the files to the external hard drive. I F11’d the viruses into oblivion as I reformatted the drive.

Then all I had left was to reload the saved files. Did that work? I’ll give you two choices, and the answer is not yes….

1337 pwnxorz IM SPK!

Being the wife of a military Reserve soldier, I thought I’d had my share of acronyms. We’re routinely treated to such literary gems as “The Sgt. will bring the DD-214 to HQ on the QT before going on his CONUS R&R” and “1LT will est. an LZ at 0700.”

Medicine is even better. I get to write interesting things like “Disp: 5 ml. Sig: ii gtt OS QID PRN”, which is to say “Dispense: 5 milliliters, and signa: 2 guttae in the oculus sinister quater in die pro re nata.” Apparently, someone in a flash of great brilliance (and a sick sense of humor) decided to use Latin abbreviations in prescriptions, because, as we all know, medicine is made even more comprehensible by using a dead language to describe it. In case you’re wondering, (and who wouldn’t be?) it means “give the patient a 5 milliliter bottle of the medicine with the instructions to put 2 drops into the left eye 4 times a day as needed.”

Now, I’ve been on a few forums, mostly medical but some for my Renaissance re-enactment group (membership in which earned me at least 6 points on the Geek test). We speak pretty much all English there, though occasionally a little Latin and Greek leaks out in the medical terms. So, when I joined Lucasforums, of course I thought they’d speak English there, too. Silly me. There was not only one, but two, count them, two, geeky languages I now had to learn.

The first is instant message speak, or ‘IM Spk’ Now, mind you, IM spk to me means a bizarre combo of ‘intramuscular’ and ‘superficial punctate keratitis’. It’s pretty much impossible, since the cornea has no muscles. Since the person using IM spk at that point was a 13 year old kid whose goal in life was to make every headshot in Battlefront, I concluded that he must not be meaning it in the medical sense. After much research including, but not limited to, plugging “IM spk” into the Google search box, I learned it meant ‘instant message speak’. I also learned that, OMG, i d k how 2 IM my bff Jimbo 2 get DP nao. Frankly, I can type real words faster than I can say “i h8 IM spk”.

The second is 1337 5|>34|<, which, for those of you who have not pwned n00bs with more HS skillz than spent time earning As and Bs in Real School, means 'leet speak'. This one's even weirder. In fact, you know it's really geeky when it shows up in a Wikipedia article with a bunch of bizzare little symbols under orthography. You know you’ve reached ‘new language’ status when you have an entire alphabet posted in in a Wiki article. I’ve mastered some of it. I have 101 or LOL, (for laughing out loud), teh pwnage, n00bxorz, and OMG. There’re also the lovely ones STFU and WTF, which of course mean “Sort the Files Uselessly” and ‘Where to, Freddy?” My favorite is “!!111!!oneone!!11eleventy-one!!111!!!”, which is pretty much equivalent to “DUDE!!!”

I’m hoping that the language doesn’t change too much between now and the next few years when my kids hit the teen years. I already have to work hard enough keeping up with all the languages as it is without adding in teen-speak, too. 🙂

You Know You’ve Played Neverwinter Nights 2 a Little Too Long When….

Weird things happen when you play a computer game for awhile and then Skype with a Nemesis a little too late, like really strange dreams. This all started yesterday when I played Neverwinter Nights 2. In my current campaign, I’m playing a female Sun Elf wizard and my PC casts spells a lot–well, pretty much all the time. For those of you not familiar with the game, when you play some of the spellcasters in the game, you choose your spells from a large list to fill up slots in your ‘spellbook‘. You can change the spells in your spellbook as needed to adjust to the situation at hand. Once you fill up your slots, you then ‘rest’ to activate them. This means that you can pick a bunch of nasty fireball and lightning spells to take out all the bad guys. When they’re all dead, you trade the spell out for one to unlock all the locked treasure chests in the area if the rogue isn’t handy. Then you rest, unlock all the chests with your unlock spell (which, for some reason I can’t fathom, is called ‘Knock’ in the game instead of the more sensible ‘Unlock’), scoop up all the goodies, switch back to the killer spells, rest, and go on to the next area of monsters.

So, I spent a good while doing just that in order to get to Act 2 and meet up with Sand, who is hands-down my favorite NPC in this game. He has an acerbic wit, and the game developers gave him some of the best lines in the game. His quip when you encounter a red dragon in the fire giant mountains made the price of the game worth it alone. Anticipating more witty comments from him since I planned on keeping him in my party more this playthrough than my first, I played quite a bit yesterday to get to the point in the game where he joined my party.

Then I finally took a break from the game after dinner and Skyped with Trusty Nemesis Emperor Devon for awhile about the existence of God, debate styles (and my lack thereof), and general Lucasforums gossip, not necessarily in that order, but definitely far too late into the night. I finally went to bed and got about 6 hours’ sleep when Jimbo, husband-god that he is, brought me a cup of coffee. I was still in that twilight stage of sleep where you dream for awhile just before you wake up, and the coffee woke me up the rest of the way.

Me: Honey, you are a husband-god for bringing me coffee.
Hubby: Thank you. I like being called a god, you know. I didn’t want to wake you up too soon, though.
Me: That’s OK, I was having a really weird dream.

Hubby scooted me over on the bed a little to sit down next to me. Apparently he thought ‘weird’ meant ‘bad-dream-nigh-on-nightmare’ and was prepared to comfort me. He didn’t quite understand that in this case when I said weird, I meant ‘really, truly, it’s weird‘.

Hubby: So tell me about this dream.
Me: Really, it was weird.
Hubby (soothingly): I understand, dear.
Me: Well, I dreamed I was in the bathroom, and I had to blow my nose. I had two spells–stoneskin and ‘blow-my-nose’, and I had to use the ‘blow-my-nose’ spell to, well, blow my nose.
Hubby: You had a spell to blow your nose?
Me: Yeah–isn’t that weird?

At this point, hubby, who has played Neverwinter Nights 2 and knows about the stoneskin spell and the general workings of the game, started howling laughing. Thank goodness he had sat down, because I don’t think he would have been able to stand laughing that hard. It was like he’d turned into a giant muscle spasm.

Me: So I blew my nose, and it was really gross. If my sinuses had been that bad, I really would have needed a spell to get all that stuff out.

Hubby continued laughing so hard he could hardly breathe.

Me: So I got all the stuff out. then I changed the spell out for a new one–don’t remember which one–and rested on my knee in the bathroom to activate the new spell.

Hubby was now lying on the bed twitching, past the point where he could make much more than squeaky sounds as he laughed.

Me: I’m not quite sure why ‘blow-my-nose’ was a level 4 spell. I mean, it was ranked right up there with stoneskin, for heaven’s sake. I think at the very most it should be level 0. I was also amused that I had the foresight to change that spell out and rest. Not sure which new spell I picked.

I finally had to stop talking and drink some coffee so Jimbo could recover.

Geeky Moms and Comics

There is some unwritten rule that Moms are not allowed to buy comics, unless they’re buying them For Their Kids or are ‘Serious Collectors’. It’s OK to buy comics until you get out of college, or maybe turn 25 or something, but definitely not after after age 29 and/or birthing children. I’m not sure what it is about comics that oozes immaturity. Granted, the writing isn’t Pulitzer-prize level, but they’re fun to read. What’s not to love about an Elfquest graphic novel or a Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic (aka KotOR) comic? I get more of the universes I love in a fun package.

Of course, this leads to some interesting conversations like this–on Skype chat, of course, because that’s appropriately geeky.

Me: I gotta run. The kids and I are going to Rockheads to pick up the latest KotOR comic.

Trusty Friend Rogue Nine: You are such a geek. 😀

The smiley, naturally, is very important to avoid misconstruing ‘geek’ as a pejorative. 🙂 Of course, Niner’s an admin at LucasForums and showed me how to Skype and set up my IRC in the first place. People who live online should not throw virtual stones. 😀

Anyway, I have to be one of the few moms who goes into the store to, get this, buy my own comics. I go to Rockheads about every 2 to 3 weeks or so to see if the latest issue of the KotOR comic is out yet or to browse the racks to see if there’s a new D&D adventure module or book.

There is a particular group of guys who are somewhere around late high school to college age who are usually there when I stop by. I almost wonder if they live there–the owner has a soda and snack machine, so all they need are some sleeping bags and they’re set for life. When you’re in college, you can live on banana Twinkies and Coke, you know. Real food isn’t required. They’re typically playing Warhammer or Magic, arguing over which Pokemon is better, painting miniatures, or running some wargame with said miniatures on one of the big tables set up for just that purpose.

I’ve been there often enough now that they’re starting to recognize me (although granted, I’m not exactly a forgettable character). After the kids and I leave with our purchases, I can just imagine their conversation goes like this:

1st guy: Dude! Check out that mom! She just bought a comic!

2nd guy: So? She’s got kids. They always get comics.

1st guy: No, man, the kids had their own. She’s holding a KotOR comic, you know, the newest one that just came in today. She’s getting it for herself!

2nd guy: You’re whacked. No moms read those things. It’s gotta be for the kids. Or maybe she’s a collector.

1st guy: I’m telling you, she was really checking it out while they were waiting to check out, dude. I mean, she was actually reading it.

2nd guy: Man, if she’s that geeky, her kids are doomed.

Wait til they find out that we play D&D as a family to help the kids improve their math skills.

The Accidental Novel

Honest, I never intended to write an entire novel. I certainly never intended to write an entire novel about a character in a video game. It was just supposed to be a 30-ish page little story about Jolee Bindo training a Padawan, and it kind of went a little nuts from there.

The Adventures of Jolee Bindo sprang to life one night when I got a sudden picture of Jolee grousing about having to train a stupid apprentice Jedi who insisted on using a lightsaber and blaster at the same time. I’d posted about the intelligence of wielding a lightsaber and a gun and using both at the same time in a LucasForums thread. Should you be unconvinced of the wisdom (or lack thereof) of such a thing, try waving a broomstick around while shooting a water pistol at a picture of Nancy Pelosi or George Bush (your choice) nailed to a tree. It doesn’t work very well, no matter how motivated you are to make a bulls eye.

Anyway, I posted another reply in that thread and included a little vignette on the trusty LucasForums of Jolee that I’d just written on the spur of the moment, thinking that if the image made me chuckle, others hopefully might also be amused. Well, they were. If Trusty Friend RedHawke knew he’d end up creating a monster by putting a laughing smiley in his reply, however, he might not have been so quick with that complimentary post. 😀

Thus inspired by the fact that someone might find a Jolee story entertaining, I started writing ‘a little story’, thinking I might be able to make something fun in the fanfic section. Fanfics, for those of you who do not share my Geekiness, is fan-made fiction. There’s an entire forum devoted to fanfics (fanfiction.net), and for those of you who love the Knights of the Old Republic games as much as I do and run out of fics to read on LucasForums, there’s another forum just for Kotor fanfics called Kotor Fan Media. Imagine–entire forums devoted to fanfics about a Star Wars game. Here was not one, or two, but an entire flock of tech-silver sheep creating stories for this game, and I was right at home.

I finally willed up the courage to create a thread for my little story. I had no small amount of angst at posting my writing for a bunch of strangers to read and comment on. You don’t know what ‘intimidating’ means until you post a story and hope no one rips it to shreds. However, Jolee grabbed me by the throat and was quite insistent on having his story told. I _had_ to write it–the words and pictures came out whether I wanted to or not. In fact, I was rather consumed by the whole process for close to five months, which reminded me a bit of college courses, except they’re a good month shorter. I think I was married to the laptop for that whole time, and Jimbo probably would have wondered where his wife had disappeared to had it not been for me muttering in frustration when I got writer’s block.

To be honest, I thought the whole story would be 20 or 30 pages, maybe 40 tops. I’d never written anything longer than 23 pages prior to that, and that was my senior seminar paper in college. That was _supposed_ to be a long project. It didn’t take me long to work through a series of vignettes and then decide, “Hey, Jolee’s a Jedi, and so are the other main characters. I should send them on a quest!” Quests being something that all good Jedi should do regularly, particularly if it improves the LucasArts bottom line and/or the entertainment of other Star Wars fans. Before long, I’d gotten to 50 pages, and made the stunning realization–I was nowhere remotely close to being finished with the story. This was rather frightening, daunting, and exciting all at the same time. I soldiered on, buoyed by the comments by Trusty LF Friends Emperor Devon, Char Ell, Hallucination, Pazaak Princess, Pottsie, Renegade Puma, JediMaster12, and a long list of others. By the time I finished the story, I’d ended up writing some 200 pages and close to 100,000 words–an honest-to-God novel. About Star Wars. About a Star Wars game. About a character in a Star Wars game. It was all very geeky and wonderful at the same time.

I’m off to write up some comments on some other people’s fanfics that got entered in a little contest. Feel free to come join the rest of us tech-silver sheep. 🙂

A few things I’ve learned on a forum

I thought I was relatively tech-savvy prior to joining Lucasforums. After all, I knew my RAM from my ROM, had learned some Basic and Fortran in high school, knew how to update a sound card, and was on a three-person team that revised a 75 page policy manual entirely through email. I had figured out how to get the wireless going on all our home computers and had even got some games going on a laptop with only a 32Mb video card, which I learned later was something of a minor miracle.

Well, this all came about as a result of a search for a fix to a very simple problem: how to put rancor scent into the pile of bones in the PC game “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.” This is a seriously cool game, and considering I had not played much in the way of video games since my Atari days, mainly because we didn’t have the money during the college years to spend on a console or a decent PC, I thought (in 2005) that this had to be one of the greatest looking games I’d seen, not to mention Jolee Bindo’s dialog is hilarious. In the game, though, the only way to get through this one particular section is to put rancor scent into the pile of bones along with a grenade in order to make a tasty (and explosive) treat for said rancor, which looks a lot like a giant brown drooling Godzilla minus the scales for those of you who missed Return of the Jedi. Throughout the entire game, anytime you open a storage chest, you click ‘take item’, and the storage chest gladly complies, offering you items like healing kits, stimulants to boost your speed and stamina, Jedi robes, and the occasional Baragwin Assault Rifle. There is also a ‘give item’ button to press, but who wants to give up a Baragwin Assault Rifle? I mean, those things do some serious damage.

The single solitary time that you ever are required to utilize this ‘give item’ button is to ‘give’ the rancor scent and a grenade or two to the pile of bones. Why you can’t just drop them there and run like the wind, I don’t know, but that’s how the devs made the game. Needless to say, if you haven’t played a video game in several years, this is not immediately obvious. I got stuck trying to figure this out, and was not yet familiar with the concept of game walkthroughs (how much walkthrough do you need to destroy Asteroids or pop balloons in Circus Atari, after all?). However, Google and I are on a first name basis in the search department, so I googled Kotor and ‘rancor scent’. Up popped a thread in the Kotor section of Lucasforums. Here were a bunch of people who geeked out about Star Wars as much (if not more) as me, and I was right at home. So I signed up, read the rules (a novel concept, I know), and lurked a bit to figure out who was who and what was what.

I quickly discovered that an entire gaming language had developed in my sabbatical from playing games. I was hit with LOL, FTW, pwn, 1337, emo, “11one!!one!111eleventy-one!!111″and the ever-popular WTF, which was obvious even to this n00b. Mind you, Jimbo’s in the military reserves, so we are no strangers to speaking in acronyms. Thank God for urbandictionary.com. Without that, I’d have looked like a complete idiot rather than merely totally n00by. I have actually managed to learn to say “Orlando Bloom is teh hawt, and I lurv Jimbo”. IM speak is right out, though. I can type the words normally faster than I can think of the IM codes and intentionally misspell things. So, don’t ask me to IM speak, plzkthx.

There was also the concept of three levels of moderators, with varying degrees of God-like powers over The Editing and Deleting of Posts and Banning of Members. Up until this point, I’d only seen a moderator or two on e-lists, and they didn’t have to do anything except tell people maybe once a year or two that the conversation was getting a little too heated and to play nice. Of course, they weren’t moderating a bunch of post-pubescent teens, either, so maybe the lists didn’t need as much watching.

One thing I learned was not to post when under the influence of medications. My first post in LF was momentously awful–I had had knee surgery earlier that week and was taking Vicodin. I discovered that week that writing anything while taking Vicodin is A Bad Idea, but I was bored to death, so what can I say? I’d go and delete it now, but Trusty Friend Niner would probably undelete it just to torture me. 😀

I’ve also learned how to make a mod for a game, make my own custom avatars and signatures, find a nemesis, moderate the forum (I’ll never know what possessed them to think they should turn me loose with demi-god powers, but they did), and how to use GIMP, among many other things. Not bad for a Star Wars gaming site. 🙂