Category Archives: In Person

Kitten Time

My wife has been looking at kittens for a few weeks now.  It is the season and the local Humane Society has pictures posted up on their web site.  Then my daughter got in on the act, and the deal was pretty much sealed when she started texting me pictures of a kitten in her lap at Petco up the street.  And so we have a new member of our household.

Miles at home with us

His name is Miles.  For the moment.  Names are a contentious issue.  He came with the name Barry, which my wife was for but my daughter was against.  Miles came up after much back and forth.  It might stick, or he might end up as Milo.  We’ll see.

He is a dozen weeks old, is full of energy, and has a purr like a mini two-stroke engine that he revs up the moment we’re in the room with him.  He is all over my wife’s home office.

Now it is just a matter of getting Miles introduced to Rigby, our current cat.  Rigby is still young-ish, coming up on four years of age, and has been missing having a playmate around.  He knows something new is up and has posted himself outside the office door for long stretches to see what is up.

Rigby watching the door intently

We did have a test encounter earlier.  Rigby was in the office doorway and Miles jumped out, arched his back, hissed, and hopped/bounced in that posture straight at Rigby, who retreated in the face of the aggressive fuzz ball.  We’ll have to work on that.

Oscar at Peace

After we moved into the old house… our first real, single family detached dwelling in the mold of the suburban American dream… and had settled in a bit, it became time to get a cat.  We had a cat at our old condo, a charmer named Woody, but he had passed and we decided not to think about another cat until we had settled down in a new home.  Getting there took a while, but once we had ourselves established in the autumn of 2000, we went looking for a cat.

Two cats actually.  The thought was that a pair would be happier.  And so one weekend we picked Felix from a rescue shelter.  He was an adult can of unknown age who had been living in the parking lot of the IBM facility on Cottle Rd. in San Jose.  When that was closed, the woman who had been feeding him collected him up and brought him in to find him a real home.  He was happy and friendly and liked people and warmed right up to me, so he came home with us the day we met him.

The next weekend we went searching for a companion.  Since I had chosen Felix… or maybe he chose me… my wife was looking for a cat for herself.  After some searching we came across a black kitten with a white tummy, white paws, and a little diamond shaped white spot on his forehead.  He wasn’t a tiny kitten, but about five months old.  My wife thought he was adorable and so we brought him home.

Earliest known picture of Oscar

Earliest known picture of Oscar, hiding under our bed

He came with the name Dylan, but we changed that to Oscar, to match Felix as the “Odd Couple” of cats, and it turned out to be quite the fitting name.

When we brought him home we followed what we had been told and set Oscar up in the guest room with the door shut to keep the two cats apart until they grew used to each other.  That lasted for about 30 minutes.  They were almost immediately on either side of the door sniffing and meowing and obviously anxious to see who was on the other side.  There were no hostile signs, so we said, “What the hell” and opened the door and the two became immediate buddies.

Felix sharing his catnip pillow with Oscar

Felix sharing his catnip pillow with Oscar

But while the two of them were pals for life, they had very different personalities.  Felix had to be around whoever was over to visit, greeting every guest, and was always happy to sit in anybody’s lap.  He was the good cat, gregarious and happy and always in the thick of things.

Oscar, on the other hand, was quite reserved.  He loved Felix and my wife, but held himself aloof from the rest of the world.  I joked that it took him five years to get used to me, but it was about the truth.  He wouldn’t go out of his way to find me, but would seek out my wife day and night to be close to her, preferably in her lap.

Felix would be in the thick of thing and Oscar would be peeking around the corner or sneaking around the periphery of any event, keen to know what was going on but not willing to go out there with all those strangers.  He was also always getting into everything.  While Felix was content with things as they were, Oscar had to know what was under, behind, over, and around anything in the house.  He could be quite the wiener, and his nickname quickly became Oscar Meyer.

And then my daughter showed up and there was a whole new world of adventure for Oscar Meyer.  There was some combination of new stuff and a little human that was constantly around my wife and who, no doubt smelled a bit of her, that made my daughter and all of her stuff of immediate interest to him.  I don’t think my daughter had been home for more than 10 minutes before he appeared at her bassinet to see what we had brought home.

What do we have here?

What do we have here?

Of course, he immediately tried to get into the bassinet with her and curl up.  She was nice and warm and that was a trait he loved in people.  We had to keep a close eye on him and even had to get a mesh “kitty tent” to go over my daughter’s crib to keep him out once she started sleeping there.  But her stuff was his stuff as far as he was concerned and looking back at the pictures he was around her and my wife a lot.

Life with Oscar and Felix was good.  They were pals and Felix, who would welcome anybody in our house, took up the slack with visitors as Oscar remained wary of strangers and really only liked my wife and daughter for years.  I remained under suspicion.

Of course, when it came time to go to the vet, I was the one who had to stuff the kitties in their boxes.  Felix would go easy, but Oscar… who could somehow sense I was coming for him even if left no evidence about… would run and hide under the bed the moment I glanced his way.  I recall once having to take the mattress and box spring off the bed to get at him.  Still, once in a while he would show up and hang out with me.

Hey, is that Age of Kings you’re playing?

Felix, older and having lived a harder life in his youth, passed away just about eight years ago.  Oscar though, he was in his prime at that time.  He was king of the house and soon had to rule over two new kittens.  The coming of Fred and Trixie worked out well, and the three of them became pals, with the two younger cats cuddling up with Oscar.

Black and white fur at rest

With three cats, everybody in the house had one.  Oscar remained ever my wife’s cat, while Fred would sleep with our daughter, and Trixie would hang out with me… though she would cuddle up on my wife in bed.  She knew where the warmth was.

Fred and Trixie were not with us long however.  They both suffered from a congenital issue that cut both of their lives short, feline aortic thromboembolism.  Fred went a year before Trixie, and in the interim she had to have a new cat to call her own, so Rigby joined us as a kitten.

Not being black and white, the new tabby kitten wasn’t welcomed very warmly.  It took a while for Trixie and Oscar to accept Rigby, but eventually they did.

Trixie, Rigby, and Oscar together on the tower

By this point Oscar was slowing down.  He was still king of the house, and held court on the couch where he would welcome any guest and sit in their lap… so long as it was warm… but he was more interested in sunny spots and treats than running around and playing.  Then Trixie passed and it was just Oscar and Rigby.

Those two were not pals.  When Rigby was young he wanted to play when Oscar wanted to sleep.  Later when Rigby came into his adult size, he stated testing Oscar over who was really the boss.  There were the occasional fights, but mostly it was the kitty equivalent of “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you!”

Oscar trying to pretend Rigby isn’t there

They could be cuddly at times, but their rivalry was never far from the surface.

 

And Oscar was getting older and slowing down even more so.  The vet told me a couple of times that 12 to 15 years is a good life span for a healthy cat.  Oscar hit 16 last year and was closing in on 17 this year, but time was telling on him.  His hips were bothering him, so we got him a heating pad to sleep on during the day.  He had gone deaf at some point, which meant that an already vocal cat had no real way to gauge his volume. He then got a bad ear infection about 18 months back that took a long stretch to go away with antibiotics, a respiratory infection late last year that sapped his strength before it was over, and then this past January an episode that looked like another ear infection (head tilt, problem with balance) but which the vet thought was an issue with his brain; not a stroke but some sort of episode.  His blood pressure was very high and in addition to his other symptoms he was blind in one eye.

I started writing this post after that day at the vet because he looked to be done, even crawling under our bed to be some place dark, something past cats I have owned have done that indicates their time has come.

Then he bounced back a bit.  The “maybe this will help” medicine the vet gave us seemed to actually help.  He got up on the bed with us the next day.  His balance improved, he could get around the house on his own, and he started eating again.  He wasn’t eating much though and he was far from his old self.  We made him as comfortable as we could and offered up food he really liked just to get him to eat more.  Even Rigby (mostly) stopped being a pain to Oscar and would groom him.

But it was borrowed time.  Oscar was eating less and less and was losing weight.  Even for an older cat who slept a lot already, a lot of his time was spent asleep.  And then when I got home from work Wednesday I found him in the middle of the floor of office.  My wife said he had used the litter box, but then just stopped in the carpet there and wouldn’t move.  She had food and water close to him, but he was just sitting there.  I found a cat bed he would occasionally deign to sleep in, put it down next to him, then placed him in it.  He curled up there and slept.  He did not move until the next morning when he was trying to walk to our bedroom.  I picked him up and put him on the bed in the dark room and he curled up again and stayed there.

I was working from home yesterday and my daughter was home sick from school, so we kept an eye on Oscar, but things did not look good.  There was no interest in food or water.  I let my daughter take him out in the back yard where it was warm (72 degrees) and sunny to see if that would stimulate him.  Oscar has never been outside and has shown no desire to ever leave the house.  But as a cat any new environment is of interest to him. He explored a bit, but could barely go a dozen steps before having to lay down and rest for a bit.

Out in the grass

While he was out there with my daughter I called the vet and made an appointment for one last check before the end.  We all went to the vet and cried a lot  as we said good bye.  He is at peace and suffers no more, but we are still sad today and miss him.

The end of an era.  We always grow attached to our pets, but after 16 years the bond is very strong and the parting all the more difficult.  Oscar had been with us since before my wife was even pregnant with our daughter, and we used to joke, when my daughter wanted a sibling, that he was her older brother.

It is even difficult to choose pictures to post of him.  We got our first digital camera as a gift just before we got Felix and Oscar and he has been a kitty of the digital camera and then the iPhone age.  There are literally hundreds of pictures of him to choose from.  But I think my favorites are from the early days, when he and Felix roamed our house and were such pals, and when Oscar just had to get into everything, so I will add a few more of those to the end of this already over-long post.

EVE Vegas – Like Finds Like and Other Things

Back from EVE Vegas and I am still tired.  And, since it was Halloween on Monday I flew back home just in time for more things going on.  No rest for the weary.  I heard that CCP chose the weekend because they thought it would be a good date for a party, but I am not sure anybody has problems finding a party on Halloween.  But I was there.

Various bits of EVE Vegas

Various bits of EVE Vegas 2016

Lots of interesting things were announced or talked about during the event.  My favorite tidbit of data involved how many citadels there were in New Eden.  The count, as of the art presentation (which also gave us the new explosions video) on Sunday, was:

  • Astrahus – 6,690 with 90 more coming online
  • Fortizar – 747 with another 30 in progress
  • Keepstar – 14 in space

That is a lot of citadels deployed in New Eden.

They didn’t say how many Keepstars were being deployed, but one went up in our own staging system last night.

Goons have a Keepstar

Goons have a Keepstar

Its deployment probably went unnoticed because our staging system has citadels the way Jita has station.

Anyway, lots of stuff at EVE Vegas that people are writing about.  You can find summaries over at The Nosy Gamer and at NevilleSmit.com (post 1, post 2, and post 3)

I have some thoughts of my own rattling around my head, especially about the bright future of ship skins in New Eden, but I am tired and there are kids outside looking for candy so I am going to save that for another day.

Instead I want to look at some minor bit of EVE Vegas that I find interesting, which is who I spent time talking with at the event.  The list, in no particular order:

There are probably a couple missing from that list, but since I generally can’t even remember what I had for breakfast by the time lunch rolls around most days, the fault is mine not yours.

Mark726 and I at the Chateau party

Mark726 and I at the Chateau party

So yes, there is a pretty clear pattern there.  That list is mostly people in EVE Online fan media whose work I had listened to or read before Vegas and who were, in most cases, at least somewhat aware of me and my blog.  (This blog, and not EVE Online Pictures, my official fan site blog, which nobody knows exists.)

Myself, Neville Smit, and Nosy (Note the unintentionally on point sign in the lower left)

Myself, Neville Smit, and Nosy (Note the unintentionally on point sign in the lower left)

And just to sort of round that theme out, I know Gabby through Twitter (she was literally the first person I spoke to at EVE Vegas last year) while Debes used to comment frequently on EVE posts here (until I went to null sec), so they really fit the pattern as well.

Which isn’t to say I didn’t talk to anybody else.  I spoke for just a bit with Robby Kasparic, who contributes to Imperium News and is in Reavers, and meant to get back to chat with him some more but never quite managed it.  For example, I also met DBRB, who is exceptionally pleasant in person, Lady Scarlet, and The Mittani at various points during the event.  But those were all in passing moments and as like as not I was forgotten pretty quickly.

Out of 800+ people at the event, that really wasn’t a lot of people.  I spoke to two CCP people during the whole thing; CCP Logibro, to give him a TNT pin to add to the collection he had on his badge lanyard, and CCP Guard, because I was on his team for the trivia quiz. (Hint: Always be on Mark726’s team for such events.  His team won while ours came in last with 9 points out of 40, though CCP Guard knew the answers when it came to questions about events in 2003.)

And part of that is because of me.  Manic Velocity gave a talk title “Scaling the Social Cliff of EVE Online” where he spoke about how it can be a problem for an introvert like himself to come to events like EVE Vegas and actually talk to strangers, which I would have loudly agreed with if I wasn’t too introverted for that.  It is nearly impossible for me to walk up to a group of strangers already talking and join in.  I’ll look away and walk past and hate me for being me while I look for somebody I know.

But another part is in my motivation in going to Vegas, which isn’t primarily to party or gamble or drink exotic alcoholic milkshakes, though I may indulge in that sort of thing.

Holsteins - That is a slice of pumpkin pie on the left milkshake

Holsteins – That is a slice of pumpkin pie on the left milkshake

And I certainly went to the Chateau party.

The DJ was pretty spot on picking music for the EVE Vegas crowd

The DJ was pretty spot on picking music for the EVE Vegas crowd

But I think my prime motivation in going to EVE Vegas was to talk about EVE Online with other players, and doubly so in the face of announcements that CCP puts out at these event.  And actually talking about the game, its people, and various related issues from running a stream to what makes a news site “work” for readers is difficult to do with more than a few people.  Even at the blogger lunch that Marcus Scarus threw together, where there was not a huge crowd, we broke into smaller groups at times to talk about different topics.

So talking to a lot of people wasn’t necessarily a key objective.  Talking to some of the “right” people was, and I think things turned out pretty well with the list of people above.  Thanks for spending time talking with me.

Also, a special shout out to Dirk MacGirk because conversation is enhanced when somebody hands you an awesome T-shirt.

The Open Comms Show T-Shirt, graphics by Rixx Javix

The Open Comms Show T-Shirt, graphics by Rixx Javix

So now to figure out how to get to Vegas again next year.

Also, in closing, there is one more odd aspect to all of this, which is what do you call people?  And how do you introduce yourself?  We all have our real name, our in-game name, and sometimes a different name under which we blog or stream.

When I met The Mittani we ran into him at the Cosmopolitan.  He introduced himself as “Alex” so I returned with, “John,” both our real life names.  But he came our way because I was standing with Noizy, whom he has met in the past, and started talking to him.  However, I still don’t know what Noizy’s real life name is and only vaguely recall his in-game name.  There isn’t any great message in all of that, just a glimpse at the oddity of our various identities.

Finally, I was told several times that there was one other person from TNT, my alliance, who attended EVE Vegas.  However, this always came up when I arrived and he had just left, so I never actually met him.  Ah well, maybe next year.

Friday Bullet Points from Waikiki

  • Sunny and warm; February in Hawaii is about perfect summer weather
  • Umbrella drinks in plentiful supply
  • About as Vegas-like as Hawaii can get, in a good way
  • Lots of Japanese tourists wielding selfie sticks
  • Jellyfish warnings at the beach
  • Taxi fares all end up being about twice what people tell you they will be
  • Wife’s birthday planned for Farrell’s
  • No Super Bowl craziness to deal with
  • Headed to Pearl Harbor tomorrow
  • Will be arriving back home when everybody is finally leaving

Also, we can see Diamond Head from our hotel room.

Diamond Head in the evening light

And, having climed up to the peak of the crater rim, I can confirm that you can see our hotel room from the summit.

Addendum: Our rental car for a drive around the island, a mid-life crisis worthy bitchin’ yellow convertible Camaro.

My daughter asked me to "do donuts" in the car...

My daughter asked me to “do donuts” in the car…

 

Leaving EVE Vegas

If you follow my Twitter feed at all… and hell, it is there on the side bar down towards the bottom, so no excuse even if you don’t… you probably figured out that I went to EVE Vegas this past weekend.

EVE Vegas Baby!

EVE Vegas Baby!

My wife and I actually flew in Thursday afternoon to have a bit of time for ourselves in Vegas before events started to take their course.  And then, suddenly it was Sunday evening and I was in a cab to the airport and the whole thing was winding down.

So, in order to try and organize my thoughts, possibly for future posts, I am going to go over some highlights of the whole thing.  This is more stream of consciousness than any attempt at a strict summary of things.

Keynote

The EVE Vegas Keynote was the big reveal, the introduction to the upcoming features, some of which had been talked about before, like the upcoming structures, and some new ones, like the capital ship rework.  Both of those appeared to be slated for the Citadel expansion in the spring.

Coming Spring 2016

Coming Spring 2016

There were also some smaller items, coming sooner, such as the new ice mining frigate. the endurance, and new hit effects for ships.  For the latter, some shield hit effects were shown,  and they look really cool. (They start at about 50:30 in the keynote video on YouTube.)

There are also changes coming to the camera.  You will be able to move the camera with being focused on a ship or other in-space object and you’ll be able to focus on things more than 100km away.  There is also a first person mode in the works.

Then there were media and goodies.  CCP had stuff for sale at the convention and announced that some items would be available before Christmas through the site Think Geek.  There was a mention of Andrew Groen’s upcoming Empires of EVE book that so many of us pledged for in the Kickstarter way back when, and a new initiative between The Mittani.com media and the author Jeff Edwards to create a pilot’s view telling of the 2013 war in Fountain. (For those who need a reminder, I have my own timeline of the war.)

Then CCP Seagull finished up by thanking us all for coming, said she would see us at the pub crawl, waved, and walked off stage.  The audience then, almost as one, stood up to leave… at which point somebody came out to remind us that the EVE Valkyrie keynote was up next and we should all leave.  I stayed for that… though I cannot recall a single thing… but most people wandered off.  Sucks to be the poor relation.

Anyway, unlike Noizy, I came out of the keynote quite upbeat.  Yes, that was in part because nearly every game related item they spoke of involved null sec, though I would point out that capital ships are a thing in low and WH space, while citadels will be everywhere… except Thera… which is where Noizy lives, so I guess I can see his point of view.

Social

A mistake on my part was to arrive in Vegas without any plan to meet up with anybody.  Going to a convention where I know nobody personally and, thus, have little or no chance of actually recognizing anybody and being somebody who can find it difficult to approach and start speaking to strangers, especially if they are already in a group and talking… well, not an optimum scenario.

Still, I muddled through, largely thanks to my wife, who was a sales rep for years and is the type who makes lifelong friends in the line at the grocery store.  Of course, there were some false starts.

In line for badge pickup… because a couple hundred of us decided that we needed to pick up our badges right at 11am when registration opened… I resolved to speak to the people around me in line.  So I turned to the two guys behind me who were chatting and said that we were all obviously EVE players and asked what part of the game they played in.

And they said that no, they did not actually play EVE.  Their boss plays EVE and he had sent them down to collect his pass.  This is who I end up standing next to.

Though it wasn’t too bad.  They were game devs and they had both tried EVE at some point.  They worked on the game Gray Goo, which is available on Steam.  So we talked about video game industry stuff, the price of living in Vegas, and where to find alcohol cheaper than the cash bar that was setup near the registration desk.  My wife had them covered on that front. a conversation that spilled over to the people in front of us.

An extra shot is just $2.00 more, making them reasonably potent

An extra shot is just $2.00 more, making them reasonably potent

Soon several people had very large beverages in tow.

I did end up talking to some other people in line, including fellow Reaver Victor Fel.  But I was not particularly social.  I spent a lot of time at sessions and such sitting by myself.

Dinner Friends

I did however, manage to find some people to hang out with.  Thanks to the fact that Gabby uses an actual picture of herself for her Twitter profile, so I was able to spot her at breakfast in the PBR Rock Bar. (Which, by the way, serves the most excellent tater tots as a side with many of their breakfast items.  This was the only place we ate at twice.)  Later we caught up with her and some of her fellow corp mates from Signal Cartel, the people who run the EVE-Scout site that is so near and dear to the hearts of many space travelers.

Rather than go on the pub crawl, which was sold out in addition to likely being beyond my ability to handle, my wife and I joined Signal Cartel for a bit of Las Vegas exploration.  We were headed to Lotus of Siam, a place alleged to be the best Thai restaurant in the US.  I am not sure who says this, but that was the story and we were willing to run with it.

There were nine of us with a vague idea as to were the place might be at the cab stand.  But we figured how could a Vegas cab drive NOT know where the best Thai restaurant is.

We ended up split across three cabs.  The guy at the cab stand knew where we were headed and gave the driver the cross streets to head to, but before we got to the street in front of the hotel, the driver had lost all of that and was asking where we were going.

Pro tip: Short term memory is a very important trait for a cab driver.

We told him what the guy at the cab stand said and he started off in what we assumed to be the right direction, burning down the road in that little cab like he had an extremely lucrative fare to pick up after he dropped us off.  At one point, when he was weaving in and out of lanes and thrashing that poor little motor for a bit more speed, my wife dryly asked what sort of race car he was driving.  The driver, bereft of both short term memory and a sense of irony explained that it was a Scion xB and a very reliable car.

We did manage to arrive at the destination, though not before the drive had to pull out his Android phone, get Google maps running, and have my wife say the name of the restaurant so that he could get directions again.  I was a bit worried, as from the street side the place looked like it might be abandoned.  But the parking lot side of the building showed it to be open for business.  Gabby paid for the cab and, though I bought her a beer, I still owe her some money from that ride.  Next Vegas?

Of course, with nine of us showing up on a Friday night, there was something of a wait.  Fortunately they had a huge bar area… large enough that one might wonder which that wasn’t a dining area… where we were able to push some tables together and sit around and talk for a bit.  In a stroke of luck, Johnny Splunk brought along his wife Jamie who, like my wife, doesn’t play EVE, so they were able to have a non-video game conversation at one end of the table while the rest of us recounted tales of internet spaceships.

Eventually we were dragged from our reverie and had some dinner.  It was decent Thai food, but no better than the Thai place I go to near our house, so it seems like there is a very fine line separating “best” and “runner up” in the whole Thai restaurant category.

Sitting at Dinner

Sitting at Dinner

I like this picture because due to the way we present ourselves and my own short term memory issues (I could never be a cab driver or a waiter, I forgot stuff in two seconds) this is the only common baseline I have for everybody’s name.  I know some of their real names, I know some of their in-game names, for those who blog I know their blogger handles, but Twitter is the only place where I can identify almost everybody.

Anyway, a great time was had and a few of us decided to walk over to the Las Vegas monorail for the trip back to the hotel.  This involved a stretch through a pretty sketchy neighborhood… and, as always, everything in Vegas seems closer than it actually is… but we arrived safely and took a ride on the rail.

The Party

The party at the Chateau club at the Paris Hotel was quite a thing.  We were running late but felt we had best eat BEFORE starting in on the drinking.  As there were no snacks or hors d’oeuvres at the party, just free alcohol, that turned out to be a good plan.  My wife and I hung out with the Signal Cartel team for a bit and then circulated some.

EVE Vegas Party Time

EVE Vegas Party Time

We ended up talking to some smaller groups of people around the edge of the party.  The stratification seemed to be large groups of null sec players clumped about and smaller packs of low sec and wormhole pilots a bit further out.  I am sure this says something about the social structure of EVE Online.

We sat with a couple of low sec pilots from Edmonton for a bit, and my wife got to show her hockey chops as the Oilers now have Todd McClellan as their coach after he was cut by our local team, the Sharks.  We also hung out for a bit with a Provi bloc pilot who, when he found out I was in TNT, wanted to know where the hell we went during the Provi invasion.  He lives in one of the constellation that TNT was supposed to attack, but then we got called back to defend UMI-KK against MOA.

We also saw this guy

We also saw this guy

We stayed past the 11pm mark, at which point the EVE players got pushed over into a roped off section of the club to keep us away from the high rollers.  I suspect we did not stay long enough for such high rollers to show up however, as I didn’t see anybody ordering thousand dollar magnums of champagne from the menus they laid out.

Eventually we decided to call it a night, at which point we were faced with the trial of getting out of the club.  There are stairs, but that is an emergency exit only.  You have to line up for an elevator… and then walk a ways to line up for another elevator… before you are back in the casino.  This may have been the only club I have ever seen that had a line as long to get out as to get in.

EVE Valkyrie

During a lull I spotted a short line for the demo and queued up for a try.

I was happy to find that the VR headset would fit on my own fat head, something that is more of a problem than you might think.  When the game came up I immediately started moving my head around to test the whole VR aspect, which prompted the person from CCP to ask if things were okay.

Fortunately I was given a pretty good briefing on the controls.  How missiles work was explained correctly, which I gather from talking to some other people, was not always the case, so I was able to blow some stuff up.  The Gatling gun was more problematic.  I *think* I hit some things with it, but aiming was odd.

Mostly I was just impressed with being in the VR space environment and seeing the big ships.  I could see CCP giving their new first person camera view a VR option.  But I didn’t walk away dying to get a VR headset.  15 year old me would have had to be dragged away from the game, but current me is a bit more jaded.  At least I didn’t feel any motion sickness.

Cosplay

My wife made an Interbus Jacket for me, which is the official Reavers jacket.

Jacketpals unite

Jacketpals unite

It was crafted from the finest materials the Minmatar Republic could provide… which is to say that it was done up largely with duct tape.  Not quite my in-game avatar come to life, but what can you do?

Wilhelm Arcturus in game

Wilhelm Arcturus in game

However, Reavers were not heavily represented at EVE Vegas, so far as I could tell.  I ran into Viktor Fel, but that was about it.  And not many people outside of Reavers know that we wear this jacket, so I while I got a few compliments, though the comment “We don’t see many Interbus Cosplayers” probably sums up the average reaction.

I was a bit nervous about wearing the jacket.  There is a pretty large impulse to not draw attention in my psyche.  But for the most part people didn’t seem to notice.  When it wouldn’t fit in the luggage for home, I just wore it through the rest of the last day, in the cab, and through both Las Vegas and San Jose airports.  Nobody looked twice.

Still, I did get my moment in this sun, a pose with Maximilian Singularity VI.

Looking into a bright future...

Looking into a bright future…

And, having dressed up as such, I then HAD to buy the Interbus luggage tag that they had for sale.

That yellow matches my duct tape!

That yellow matches my duct tape!

The only other cosplay I can recall seeing was this guy.

Chicken guy

Chicken guy

I had to explain to my wife what a chicken had to do with EVE, though honestly I was stumped for a bit until he let his Fweddit flag fly.  I hear they are recruiting, if you want some fun in Cloud Ring.

Vegas Itself

Las Vegas feels like a very appropriate place to hold an EVE Online convention.  For practical reasons alone it is pretty reasonable.  It is setup for these sorts of events.  It has many distractions.  It has a large and pretty well run airport that handles direct flights from a lot of locations.  People can get there, stay there, and find things to do.

But for all the lights and excitement, it can be as hard of an environment as New Eden.  If you forget for a moment that the place exists to separate you from your money, it will quickly remind you.  I ordered a Jack & Coke and a Vodka Cranberry for myself and my wife at the Heart Bar down in the casino and would have done a spit-take if I had had a drink in my mouth when the bartender laid out the drinks and said it would be $23.50 for the pair.  Plus a tip, you know.

Over at Bellagio I got two scoops of mint chip ice cream and goggled a bit when that came up as $7.50.  That seemed extreme until I ordered a single scoop from a place across the street and it rang up as $6.25.  The Bellagio serving had about four times as much ice cream and seemed like a deal after the other place! (Also, it was very good ice cream.)

And let’s talk about cigarette smoke.  It is always bizarro world odd going to Vegas from California.  It is a short flight, but we’ve been in the process of banning smoking for 30 years.  I don’t think people have been allowed to smoke indoors for the last 20.  So to be in a place where smoking is fine in most every public venue is strange… and painful.  Smoke in the eyes, smoke in your face, the burn in the back of your throat from being around it for a while.  That was why I was buying ice cream, to sooth my throat.

Then there is the reality of Vegas, which includes a lot of people working there… look at all those people in the casino… who are likely priced out of the glamour of the whole thing and live off the strip in a place that was essentially carved out of a desert.

I think Vegas was best summed up by a scene that took place outside of Planet Hollywood on our first day.  A person working for tips… and they are all over the strip… dressed up in a somewhat worn and dirty Hello Kitty costume accosting a pair of tourists who had taken a picture with her (or him, who knows) but hadn’t left a tip.  It was like a Sanrio version of Goodfellas, with Hello Kitty ready to get all, “Fuck you, pay me!”  Put Joe Pesci in that suit and let the camera roll.

Other Bits

I am sure I am forgetting half a hundred other things, but a few items that spring to mind that I want to call out.

Andrew Groen’s presentation about his book The Empires of EVE.  He has a great voice and stage presence and now I want to back the Kickstarter for him reading the audio book version.  He only had 30 minutes on stage, but could have kept us all interested for two hours if he had been given the time.  Really cannot wait for that book to arrive.

CCP Quant’s presentation and the return of the EVE economic newsletter, coming again in November.  Numbers!  We love numbers!

Max Singularity’s NASA session.  The man is passionate about far more than New Eden and gave a moving presentation.

The Broadcast 4 Reps video.  Help your fellow capsuleers when they need it.

A lot of being able to sit down and talk about the game with other EVE Online players.  Noizy and I sat at a table in a quiet area between sessions to talk about the CCP Quant presentation which itself sprawled into other topics.  As interesting as the presentations were and as much fun as the party was, I want more of that.

I’ll mention Signal Cartel again! It was great to meet you guys.  Mynxee was back in the original EVE Blog Pack with her old Life in Low Sec blog back in the day.

And, finally, I have to give a huge shout out to my wife who pretty much made the trip possible.

My wife and I at the party

My wife and I at the party

She put up with the internet spaceship stuff, and still managed to have fun… enough fun that she was already talking about next year.

Now to get back to playing video games.  The irony of such a convention is that I was away from games for four days.

The Test Drive

I stood there on the edge of the dealership lot, on the sidewalk, but just barely.  My eye had been caught by a 1969 Buick Skylark convertible.  It was the GS 400 trim level and was white with red interior.  It sat there and beckoned me as I walked by and I was drawn to it.  It looked something like this:

A Skylark Convertible

A Skylark Convertible

However, that picture doesn’t really capture the moment as it was back then.  It was a bright, sunny and warm California day, the car was fully detailed and every surface gleamed.  We were in that dead period for US made convertibles, so this car, with a powerful motor and an open top on a perfect day for such things, was an object of desire.  I wanted it.

As I sat there, likely drooling on the body work as I ran my hand lightly over the synthetic leather-ish seat material, a salesman wandered over and began to engage me in conversation.  He must have been good because I didn’t run away immediately or make the sign of the cross and shout, “Just looking! Back! Back! I am JUST LOOKING!” as I tend to in such situations.

As I recall, he was quite willing to talk about the object of my desire for a little while, and so we went for a bit.  It was a weekday afternoon, so things were slow I imagine.  I certainly do not recall anybody else on the lot clamoring for his attention.

Eventually we started talking about other cars and he said he had another one that he wanted me to see.  I had nothing else to do, so I followed him, wondering what other treasures the lot might hold.

However, he wasn’t really interested in looking at cool cars and shooting the breeze.  He wanted to sell me a car and, having sized me up from our conversation, brought me over to the used end of the lot where he showed me a 1976 Plymouth Arrow GS.

In this very shade, though not this shiny

In this very shade, though not this shiny

This was, I must admit, a lot closer to my potential price range.  It was a popular car for a bit, being heavily advertised with the Me and My Arrow track from the Harry Nilsson’s album The Point! back in the day.   The salesman was quite keen to demonstrate the vehicle to me, insisting that we go for a test drive.  Being somewhat shy, I let him lead on and got in the passenger seat.  He started it up and drove off the lot and up the street a ways, then pulled over, undid his seat belt, and said we should switch seats.

Slowly I got out of the car and walked around to the driver’s side, slid in, adjusted the seat a bit, and buckled up.  The salesman was busy telling me how he had to drive the car off the lot for “insurance reasons” but I could take it from here.

This is the point in the story where I need to stop and tell you I was 13 years old at the time.  It was the summer between 7th and 8th grade and I was standing in front of the Century Chrysler Plymouth dealership there on Stevens Creek Blvd. because that is where the old 23/24 line bus stop was located.

But rather than getting on the bus and heading to… I don’t recall… probably to the San Antonio Hobby Show up in Mountain View… where ever I was going, I was now sitting in the driver’s seat of an automobile on Kiely Blvd. with the engine running and an adult in the seat next to me waiting for me to put it in gear.

What the hell! Let’s go!

Actually, the whole scenario wasn’t all that bad.  If I put my daughter in the same situation today, as she is the same age I was back then, she would be lost enough for it to be obvious she shouldn’t be driving.

But I had spent many a summer on my grandfather’s farm out in the central valley of California.  I had been driving farm equipment of one type or another since I was six.  The thing about being tall when you are a kid, and I was tall as a kid, is that adults frequently… and mistakenly… estimate age, maturity, ability, and general assumed knowledge of the world based solely on your height.

In hindsight, my grandfather, who didn’t stand all that much taller than me by the time I was 13, just had me do things that he estimated were appropriate for my height as much as anything.  I was the first grandchild, so everything to do with me was pretty much experimental anyway.  Boundaries that corralled my cousins later on had not yet be drawn.  Plus, when you’re out on the farm and you have to drive out to help repair a piece of broken equipment or top up the tank of a pickup that ran out gas, and there is just the two of you, both of you have to drive back.  Practicality dictates.

So, technically, I could drive.  I had certainly driven vehicles more complicated than this Plymouth.  It was even automatic transmission, so why not?

I don’t recall if I put my signal on or looked over my shoulder before I pulled out onto the road, but I got there.  As we reached Saratoga Avenue the salesman told me to turn right.  I went through the channelized right and onto Saratoga where he again indicated I should take a right, only this next right was the on ramp to Interstate 280.  I was a little rough making that corner, not having bothered to slow down, causing the salesman to grab the overhead handle.  There was no real danger, I just hadn’t gauged the corner quite right.

We went down the on ramp and onto the freeway and I brought the car up to and then past the speed limit, the engine roaring to the extent that the little four cylinder could.  He then indicated I should take the next off ramp, which would put us along Lawrence Expressway and then to turn back towards the dealership up Stevens Creek Blvd. again.

I took the corner onto Stevens Creek a bit too fast, but otherwise kept it between the lines and managed to pull up into the dealership lot and park the car with some degree of accuracy.  I am sure the salesman had seen worse.  The route was something like this, with the X marking where I took over driving and the red pin where the dealership lay.  Oak Tree Mazda is right next door and only on the map because I used it as the start point and then made the route go via Interstate 280.

Map copyright Google Maps and all that

Map copyright Google Maps and all that

Google puts the whole route at just shy of three miles.  Great fun and likely the highlight of my summer on reflection.  I have actually driven that same test drive route on several occasions when shopping for a car on that stretch of Stevens Creek, and I think about this day every single time.

So there we stood, the salesman and I, his hand on the hood of the car.  We were now into what I recall as the difficult bit.

As you might have guessed, he wasn’t just taking people out for joy rides for the fun of it.  He wanted me to buy the car.  He was just three years early on that front.  When I was 16 and had spent two summers working at the family business to save up money and had a fast food job during the school year to keep an automobile in tires, gasoline, and repair… and actually had a driver’s license… this would have been a very good car for me.

I even thought about this very car when it came time to buy one of my own.  Unsurprisingly, it was long gone from the dealer’s lot by then.  Trust me, I checked.  The optimism of youth.

But at that point in time, with no job, a weekly allowance of $2, and lacking any official state sanction to operate a motor vehicle on the public roads, the whole idea… no matter how much I might have wanted the car… was pretty much off the table.

But how to communicate that?

I was already keenly aware of the unlawfulness of what I had just done.  I was not about to blurt out my actual age and lack of a driver’s license.  I figured trouble lay that direction and could see them calling my parents at a minimum and maybe the police if they were well and truly enraged.

But I couldn’t just up and run away, though the temptation struck me.  While I lacked any sort of polished manners, not an uncommon situation for 13 year old boys, I had a sense of what being completely rude was, and turning on my heel and walking off after being offered a test drive seemed to fall into that territory.

So I adopted an attitude of non-committal interest in all the salesman had to say.  Yes, the car seemed to be a good deal, if not explicitly for me.  I appreciated that he had some room to work with on the price if I was a serious buyer.  I acknowledged that the detailing they offered to do on the vehicle and the extended warranty were generous, as far as it went.  I just never said, “I ain’t buying the car” and I never hit a point where I felt I could exit the scene gracefully.

This went on for a while as the salesman pointed out that I clearly liked the vehicle, that the price was one of great reasonableness for a car of such value and efficiency, and offering to sweeten the deal in this way or that as time dragged on.

As an adult I have never been able to hold this much sway over a car salesman as I did as a scared and embarrassed 13 year old boy.  I could have set my price, had I been in the market and all those other details.

Eventually he decided that he needed help to pull me over the threshold and get me to buy the car.  I was clearly interested, as I was still standing there on the lot with him next to the car.

So he went to get his manager.

In hindsight the couple of minutes I was standing there alone next to the car was my opportunity to escape.  I could have bolted around the back of the lot and come up around behind the Meridian Quad to hide in the Time Zone arcade where I would later see Space Invaders for the first time.  I would have been free.

Instead I waited, not wanting to be rude.  And so I was standing there as the sales manager came out.

He was a salesman of the old school.  He was loud and brash and literally used the phrase, “What do I have to do to get you to drive off the lot in this car today?”

He wasn’t going to put up with my non-committal nonsense.  He wanted an answer… the right answer… and he wanted it now.  And when I kept veering away from the direction he wanted to go, he got angry… or decided that playing angry was the right move.

That was actually a liberating moment.

I have much more trouble saying no to people who are being reasonable than people who are not.  And somebody who starts yelling at me… well my Catalan heritage has a tendency to surge to the forefront and I will go from very inoffensive and deferential to yelling back twice as loud in a flash.  It can be very much a light switch mood change.

I didn’t quite go there, but my temper flashed and it gave me the courage to storm out of there like I was offended and wasn’t going to take that shit from anyone.  And so I was free.  To this day I hope that the salesman felt that his manager came out and screwed up his sale.

I don’t recall what I did for the rest of the afternoon.  I am pretty sure I didn’t go back to the bus stop around front.

I was also unsure who I could tell about this.  Who could I trust to not tell, because I still feared that some trouble might follow, and more importantly, who would even believe me.  So I kept it to myself for quite a while, but every once in a while I drag out this anecdote when sitting around swapping tales of misspent youth.

Meanwhile, time has moved forward, as it tends to do.

Century Chrysler Plymouth on the corner of Stevens Creek and Kiely has long since folded up shop.  The location is now the home of Stevens Creek Toyota.  The VTA 23/24 bus line has since been re-routed .  When it came time for me to buy a car three years later, I did end up with a Plymouth.  However it was a 1974 Plymouth Duster, with the 225 Slant Six motor and a three speed shifter on the floor, a ride probably better suited the abuses a young driver can inflict on a car.  It came into contact with a number of large objects over the years I drove it… a tree, some garbage cans, a mountain, the side of a house, a concrete bridge abutment, Barbara Avenue, and two considerably less solid Japanese cars… though one of the latter hit me first.  It was also the vehicle I used back when we played U-Boat, a topic I wrote about previously.

Some of the U-Boat crew in 1982

The Duster, second from the left, me sprawled on the hood

And in late 1986, when the old Duster finally stopped running and could not be revived… it literally quit on me as I was driving to work and the mechanic could not get the motor running again… I bought my first new car, a 1987 model year Mazda 626 Coupe, the last year for that generation, and a great car that I might still be driving today if some guy in a Honda Civic hadn’t plowed into it as it sat at a red light.  A tale for another time.  I purchased it from Oak Tree Mazda, which is right next door to where the events of this story began.  I even went on the same route when I test drove the 626, though the salesman at Oak Tree Mazda wanted to see my driver’s license first.

Probably a wise plan, all things considered.