dateline July 8, 2001
remember, remember the seventh of november
November 7, 2006
the dan brown code
July 21, 2005
to fserve and protect
March 17, 2005
kchung kchungggg
March 27, 2004
you keep using that word...
November 22, 2003
pedro pointed at the sky
October 17, 2003
you filthy pragmatists!
July 29, 2003
the life and times of Reginald the Orc
July 6, 2003
we ruin it twelve ways
June 14, 2003
the scrounging game
March 17, 2003
gotta green before code
November 18, 2002
spatch vs. ants
July 8, 2002
nobody leaves until there's at least 20% on the table
February 14, 2002
send in the clones
August 6, 2001
July 8, 2001
some title about Survivor here
May 3, 2001
choose your own damn sugar rush
April 24, 2001
cuckoo for cat chow
December 7, 2000
that's ah-sweep-eh
September 7, 2000
margarita bob, back in town
July 31, 2000
stupid cat tricks
July 17, 2000
eminently predictable
June 28, 2000
maggot-like dinosaur eggs, breakfast of champions
June 22, 2000
blank page
April 3, 2000
eiffel65, leave my head please
March 6, 2000
push(@mattress, $money)
February 11, 2000
pits and bieces
January 8, 2000
Bye Bye Bag
December 22, 1999
Seeing the Elephant
November 10, 1999
k-tel's K-12 hits
October 18, 1999
Me detruisant doucement avec sa chanson
September 10, 1999
Pointless snarky web rantings
September 2, 1999
Vending God memoirs
August 30, 1999
koo koo ka choo, Mrs. Andrews
July 21, 1999
History On Parade
June 17, 1999



The veterinarian started by giving me a highly amusing lecture about the John Hancock building in Boston. Beautiful building, poor design -- when first built, the plate glass windows popped out of their frames and kept crashing to the ground. So it is with cats. Well, not the plate glass windows bit, but the poor design part. In the cat carrier, Abbie and his poorly-designed urethra quietly sat and listened to these affronts on his physical makeup. It's because of him we're here at 8 in the morning.

The diagnosis is better than I feared -- just mineral buildup, not a full blockage -- and we're given a bunch of special diet catfood and a prescription for anti-spasmodics, which is incredibly hilarious if you know Abbie. During the car ride home Abbie displays his love of cars and cries and cries and cries, ending up completely overstimulated with his mouth hanging wide open. He just doesn't like car rides.

At the pharmacy, we are amused slightly by the antics of the fellow filling the prescription. First, he asks me if I have any allergies. I say sure do, but this is for a cat. The fellow checks his glasses, checks the prescription again -- guess the "Veterinary Clinic" at the top is hard to notice -- and then chuckles. "Abbie, " he says. "Abbie the cat." Yep. I bite my tongue so I don't follow up with "...has a posse" and I get the pills. The name on the pills is ABBIE FELINE NOYES. Well, buddy, looks like you just got yourself a middle name.

Surprisingly, He With A Brand New Middle Name takes the to special diet food quite easily, which relieves me greatly. Martha likes the food more, actually, which is fine since both cats can eat the food and not die or something. I notice Abbie's problem seems to be clearing up already, making the most of that poorly-designed bodily function, and we are ok.

Except for the pills.

Some cats just don't like to take pills.

Abbie is one of those cats.

I tried handing the pill to him outright and upfront -- he sniffed it, gave me a "You've got to be kidding me" look, and sauntered off. I tried hiding it in the diet food and he ate around the pill. I crushed up one and sprinkled it on the food, and that was just roundly ignored. I hid it in a piece of salmon, figuring it'd be too delicious to pass up. The greedy so-and-so actually separated a part with the pill in his mouth and spat it out and ate the rest of the salmon. This isn't a horse pill we're dealing with here, either -- it's approximately the size of a tiny red Sudafed pill, and I only had to give him one-half that a day. You'd think it'd be easy to get such a small thing into such a large cat (get your mind out of the gutter, you. It's a pill, not a goddamn suppository. I'd leave that to the professionals.)

After these and other attempts to give him the pill peacefully, it was decided to warn him that "I didn't want it to come to this, but I guess it has" and we started in on the Forcible Giving. Keep in mind that Abbie is a big cat. A big cat. And it's not all bulk; he's got some serious muscle goin on there. And if he doesn't want to do something and he puts his mind to it, he's gonna try his damndest to not do it. I realized this after the gouge in my leg and the scratch on my arm and a Very Angry Cat glaring down at me from atop the fridge

I also realized that with a cat of this caliber, it takes more than two hands to force him a pill. I needed both my hands to pry his jaws open, and then how was the pill going in there? Elfin magic? Jen (who is decidedly not an elf, and for that I'm forever glad) came over to visit and, in a true gesture of selflessness and charity, helps me with the pill-giving. I wrap him up in a towel and keep him firmly on the ground. I pry his jaws open and Jen tries to throw the pill in, like a zany version of Hungry Hungry Hippos. Only in Hungry Hungry Hippos, the hungry hungry hippo did not spit the marble back out as soon as it noticed it in its mouth. At least, not in the version of the game I had. Maybe yours was different.

We come to find out that Abbie, blessed with powerful snapping jaws, also has a whip-like tongue that can instantly and forcibly eject any foul substance that might be forced down his throat. (All this from a BIG FURRY BLONK OF A CAT.) No sooner can Jen toss the pill down than he lashes back and spits it out, hopefully somewhere where we either can't find it or find it covered in fur and decide it's not worth giving back to him. After 15 minutes of this (and the poor cat is crying at this point, and it's breaking my heart) Jen aims true, and we quickly clamp his jaws shut and I'm rubbing his throat to get him to swallow the damn thing, and we think the pill got in there and we let Abbie go and he's practically foaming at the mouth and he's frantically spitting out the foul taste everywhere. He spits on the floor, on my shoe, on a sock, on the K'Nex coaster plans, and I bet if he could figure out how to hock a loogie at me, he'd have done so. I come to the conclusion that this must be a real foul-tasting pill, and I don't want to upset the cat any more. He gets two more pills or so in the next few days, but that's it. Every time we fight, I'm the one who gives up the quickest. Next time we go to the vet's, he's getting drops.

The Three Newbie Deaths of Drolias Flamegut

I finally figured that heck, if I had free time like I know I have free time, I might as well check out one of them MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMORPGs or whatnot. So under the suggestion of my friend Greg, who spends approximately 28 hours a day on it, started in on EverQuest, the game devised by Verant solely as a charitable effort to keep geeks off the street (See? I'm already making digs at the company behind the game. A seasoned, established EQ player is me!) I started on Thursday (or was it Friday?) and my little newbie character is doing fine, thank you very much. But the thing that surprises me the most is the fact that I'm enjoying the damn game.

I had thought I wasn't going to really enjoy it, that I'd play for fun and then focus my attention on the Diablo 2 expansion. Aah, D2. Now there's a game I've spent entire weekends on. I think all my good characters have been purged, though, as I haven't spent a day on the game since, I think, April. I also heard they downplayed the barbarian class quite a bit in the expansion, and that was the character of mine ("Gnaaaaaaaaar" or something) that had made it the farthest. He was just about done with Act 4, too. Grumble.

Unfortunately, EQ is now another game I've spent entire weekends (or at least one weekend) on, though in a remarkable burst of foresight have placed strict limits on when I can fire up the ol' EQ client and play. For those thinking about picking up the role-playing pipe, take my advice and heed the rule yourself, which basically boils down to No Outstanding Obligations. Get everything you need to do in the day done first, such as

  • Work
  • Cleaning
  • Showering
  • Shopping
  • Paying bills
  • Acknowledging the presence of loved ones and pets
  • Going to the bathroom

Once everything you had to do is done, you can play and have fun and run around being a wizard or something. You'll be seen as someone who's being super responsible and successfully managing both everyday life and computer game playing -- but in reality, you'll be getting that boring crap out of the way to ENSURE CONSTANT, UNINTERRUPTED GAMEPLAY. Everybody wins!

Though unfortunately with this computer, 'uninterrupted' and 'gameplay' aren't used in the same sentence unless that sentence is "I would like uninterrupted gameplay and a pony." I have since learned after buying this fine product that it doesn't especially get along with the SoundBlaster Live! card, a problem that isn't helped by the fine people at Creative Labs when their stupid LiveWare!!!11 installation program gives me error messages like this when I try to install the latest version in an attempt to appease the EQ Tech Support Suggestions. The SBLive! is a greedy IRQ hog, and sometimes screws up the ol' Riva "At Least We're Not Voodoo" TNT2 video card when I'm playing in one EverQuest zone at one point in the EQ day. As the problem zone is the Butcherblok Mountains, my character's freakin home, and that the problem time of day is 'daytime', it makes things kinda hard. Sometimes the graphics display will fracture, showing me outlines of the polygons (and splines, I guess) over the textures, a condition I started calling the 'broken glass' effect. I can still play the game, though, albeit with a messed-up display, and only a reboot will solve the problem. Other times the game will lock right up, forcing that thar reboot. I've been rebooting quite a lot lately. And it seems this problem is well-known on the EverQuest sites I visited, but there's no cure unless you like sending dxdiag reports to the tech support team every five minutes in the false hope that they'll eventually notice the problem. Might as well copy and paste the code you get on a GPF, too.

Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

The first task of settling in on EverQuest was, appropriately enough, creating a character and a name and all that good stuff. As I've always been a big fan of hack and slash, I set out to (oh, by the way -- if you don't want to bother with any more of this RPG crap, feel free to visit another site now) -- so as I've always been a big fan of hack and slash, I set out to create a wily warrior who'd beef his strength and stamina, a hulking giant of muscle who'd be useful in groups to take on the enemies himself while his buddies hung around casting spells and attacking the monsters safely. A giant tank of a warrior. I ended up choosing a dwarf.

Well, they're good warriors! And they likes their weapons. I didn't realize the dwarfs are the most-maligned race on EverQuest, being called "dorf" and having insinuations cast upon them in the form of 'dwarf-tossing' and the like. It's just fun being 1/3 the size of most any other player, darn it.

After the character creation took place, the next big step was finding a name for this fearsome dwarven warrior. EverQuest has a strict policy concerning character names, a policy they outlined no less than three times for me in various forms. No rude, real, anachronistic or AOL-like names ("Joe the Dwarf", "LaserWolf" and "Windstorm221" just don't have that authentic ring of RPG goodness to them) and no names from any established work, which I guess is nice as it cuts down the number of Gandalfs and Shreks we'd have running around the place. Unfortunately in my hubris I tried to trick the ol' EQ name rejecting computer and watched, sadly, as my first choice of a name ("Grignr") was roundly rejected in elapsed Swiss time of 150 milliseconds, which I believe is an Olympic first. Later on I realized that the EQ name rejecting computer must put a lot of effort into rejecting one name, so in the time it took to reject my choice of a name, it let fall through the cracks (and into the game) other players such as Picachu, Booteelicious, IvanaHumpalott and the grand FINGERBANGME, whose glorious arrival in the game was heralded with a boisterous cry of "LOOK AT MY NAME PPL AND DO WHAT IT SAYS!!1"

So it goes.

I eventually turned to inanimate objects for inspiration, as I have in times past (and no, Abbie doesn't count.) Using the pharmaceutical bottles around my desk, I came up with Drolias, which if you notice closely is an anagram for Rolaids. (Greg, whose own character name tricked the EQ name rejecting computer so I afford him quite a bit of respect, mentioned that there's one fellow in his guild whose character names are weak American beer brands, but backwards. So I guess there's a precedent here, butI'm glad I chose a more admirable genre to work with.) When this dwarven character gets a title, whenever that happens, that title shall be Flamegut. Drolias Flamegut. See? Nice Tolkienesque ring to it, plus it has monumental personal significance for me as I go through about two bottles of antacid a day. A fine compromise, and kept me from having to hit the "Create A Random Fantasy Name That'll Have Absolutely No Meaning For You And You Probably Won't Be Able To Pronounce It Anyway" button.

Taking advantage of the fact that you can have up to 8 characters on one server, I took the other pharmaceuticals around me and created Pirinas the cleric and Quilyn the sleepy druid. They won't come into play until I've done a bit more with Drolias, since he's my main man. (Especially Pirinas, who's on another continent, and I want Drolias to see the world first.) And speaking of Drolias, he's a welcome way to find out the Wrong Way to do things on the game. In the first day of playing him, he suffered the Three Newbie Deaths, each one slightly more embarassing than the last.

Newbie Death the First: Water
I created Drolias and loaded up the game and within two minutes of my first foray into the world of EverQuest managed to drown the dwarf in a small stream. "Wow!" I exclaimed as the character died. "This certainly is an INCREDIBLY IMMERSIVE AMAZING ROLEPLAYING EXPERIENCE BEYOND THE LIMITS OF MY IMAGINATION!" It hardly was my fault, though -- the gamma correction in the game was way too low and as I tried finding that with the mouse, the arrow keys had manuevered Drolias into the water which I hadn't noticed, where he sank like a stone and I frantically scanned the manual, looking for the SWIM UP key. There is none. You merely point your character's head up and eventually they surface if they're moving forward. I didn't know that, and poor Drolias rolled around on the bottom of the stream and went "blub blub" until he ran out of air and drowned. In my frantic key-smashing I did find the key to take a screenshot, though, and I'd include it here if you could actually SEE something funny.

Greg laughed at me when I told him of this and said I should've run the tutorial first, as apparently the VERY FIRST THING it teaches you is how not to drown. Unfortunately, for some reason, the copy of EverQuest I bought (legally bought, mind you, at a national chain of software stores) contained no tutorial, even though it was mentioned in the included manual. So I guess the game is my tutorial. No problem, though, because the nice thing about newbie death is that it's expected and you're not hit so hard in the early levels. Retrieving Drolias' corpse was not only easy but also rather pointless, as all he had on him was newbie gear and apparently you get that again automatically if you die as a lowlevel character.

Newbie Death the Second: A Mistaken Encounter With An NPC
The second death handed to Drolias was also a common newbie mistake, and it's all because of the game's UI. You start out with the "a" key mapped to "Auto-Attack", meaning if you turn Auto-Attack on (simply by hitting "a") and you're focusing on someone, you'll try to hit them. Players are exempt from that, fortunately, except under a few player-versus-player circumstances, but NPCs will smack you around if you try to attack them. And all the NPCs in towns are of a much higher level than the newbies, so you're pretty much dead in one shot. Unfortunately, the game doesn't make it very hard to mistakenly attack an NPC if you're not careful from the beginning.

One of the first people Drolias met in the city of Kaladim (after he had dried himself off and regained consciousness and found his corpse, I guess) was a nice elf who wanted him to deliver mail to the city of Kelethin. To get the NPCs to speak, you click on them (focusing on them -- they're now your 'target') and press 'H' for hail. So that's what I did, and the NPC said:

"Hail Drolias! Blah blah blah bard's guild blah blah are you [interested] in delivering [mail]?"

My careful scanning of the manual had told me that things NPCs say in square brackets are keywords, and by repeating the keywords back to the NPC you further the conversation. A rather standard convention of role-playing games sometimes, and a much more welcome way of doing things than providing the user with a menu of scripted responses.

So I decided to shoot off the 'mail' keyword to see what the elf would say, but forgot to hit "enter" first. You have to hit enter first in order to, well, SAY something. I forgot. Duh. I typed M on its own, which did nothing, and then A on its own, which, well, you can see what just happened. "Oops."

Fortunately the elf NPC seemingly forgot all about the transgression because he didn't bother attacking again when Drolias v3.0 returned no less than two minutes later, looking for his corpse. And the two of them have gotten along famously since, like the people who start off the movie fighting but end up friends at the end. And I've since remapped 'auto-attack' to some key combination I'd never hit by accident.

Newbie Death the Third: No Thinking
At last, Drolias got himself outfitted and figured out the proper way to treat NPCs of higher levels and also how to stay out of the water unless he really wanted to swim. (He also learned to fish, which is another story for another time.) He was now ready to head out into the wilds of the Butcherblok Mountains and get lost and eventually slay himself some beasties. And slay he did! He got very good at whipping the goblin whelps and bashing the bats and slashing up the skeletons. The skeletons were especially easy to beat, and he started quite a collection of bone chips from the skeleton corpses, which are incredibly helpful in several ways. As his level progressed he noticed he was beating them up with almost no fight left on their part. Hooray! he said, and forged out further into the mountains.

Then he saw some skeletons just sitting around a building, and, well, seeing that they were JUST skeletons, he rushed headlong for the attack. It was only after the defending skeletons kept stunning and paralyzing him so he couldn't defend against getting the snot punched out of him did he use the 'consider' command on 'em and found there was no possible way in hell he could've beaten them on his own. In fact, the consider report said "What would you like your tombstone to say?"


Just a case of no foresight, and a careful reminder to all of you to always consider a creature when you see it. Otherwise it might be a long hike back through the woods that crash your computer constantly to get your corpse.

That's about all the stupid things Drolias has done, with the exception of wandering into a huge-scale goblin camp and not being able to run back out. But we forget such things in favor of the nifty stuff that happens in the game, like learning to fish. The dwarf just loves to fish! Don't ask me. If he's got an idle moment and he sees a body of water, cast goes the line and whirr goes the reel. And by fishing he saves money and has something nice to eat. He's even fished in the underground mines while waiting for giant rats to show up. It's an odd life, but somebody's got to live it. Now, if you'll excuse me, the sun has yet to set and I intend on seeing two forms of daylight while playing the game tonight...

Take care, and don't eat anything you shouldn't.