The Leak

Preface: The following post is a personal diary/timeline of dealing with a leak in our apartment. I’m just posting it to remind myself why we need to move. Probably not of much interest to most!

Tuesday, January 30th 2024 — I notice the carpet in front of the utility room floor is damp. The utility room floor seems basically dry though. This happened a few days after a freak warm, very wet spell caused us to fire up the air conditioning in January and I came to the conclusion that that A/C condensation drain had backed up and spilled over, which has happened in the past. We used a carpet cleaner and some towels to pull up as much of the water as we could and directed a large fan at the wet spot. Figured that was the end of it.

Wednesday, Jan. 31st — In the morning the carpet had gotten more wet. So much for the A/C hypothesis. We contacted building maintenance. They came over quite promptly, looked around and decided they needed to call a plumber. The plumbers also arrived pretty quickly. They disconnected the hot water heater so they could move it and get behind it. After an hour or so they told us the leak was “in the slab” and they’d have to come back to fix it. The utility room floor is concrete and the water line runs up through the concrete, and the leak, they said, was below the surface of the concrete. This means they have to break up the concrete to get to the pipe to fix the leak. This is not good news. They leave. Then a water extraction team arrives, uses a super powerful vacuum to suck up the water, they pull up the edge of the carpet and stick the outflow of a large fan under it. These things are LOUD and basically the whole carpet starts billowing up which puzzles the heck out of Lola. They leave. We wait. Near the end of the day we contact maintenance who tells us they “have to get approval from corporate” to fix the leak due to the cost. What the hell? It isn’t an optional repair unless you’re going to condemn the apartment! Then they tell us the plumbers and someone called “Leak Finders” will be arriving the next day. So now we’re living with 2 fans running and basically have to shout to hear each other speak.

Carpet drying fan similar to the one our guys used. They lift an edge of the carpet and stick the outflow under it.

Thursday, Feb. 1st — Nothing happens except the carpet water extraction team comes back. This time they take the door of the utility room off its hinges, pull up more of the carpet and tack it down around the fan, creating a really efficient ‘tunnel’ to fight the flood. We tell the maintenance guys no one has come and they assure us the experts have been called and we should sit tight. Another night of extremely loud fans.

Friday, Feb 2nd — Carpet water extraction team comes yet again, expresses disbelief that the leak is still active. They’re like family by this point. “See ya guys, have a great weekend.” AGAIN we tell maintenance that nothing has happened and they express surprise that no one has been out, even though we’d told them, several times, that no one had. At almost 5 pm some dude rolls up to check out the leak. He wrecks the set up the water extraction team had made (not really his fault, he had to get in and out of the utility room) and tells us the leak is in the slab. Exactly the same thing we’d been told on Wednesday. He leaves. Nothing from maintenance, until I see the head guy walking towards his car to leave for the weekend so I collar him. He tells me they have had a meeting “with corporate” to advise them of the situation and are waiting to hear back. He assures me that he’s going to be in on Saturday and so is the person in the leasing office we’ve been working with, and we’ll get an update then. He also says that we will probably have to relocate while the work gets done. For how long? No idea? 2 days? 2 weeks? 2 months? Not a clue. Another night of loud fans.

Saturday, Feb 3rd — Nothing happens. We finally call the leasing office (the maintenance guy never showed, or if he did he got in and out without talking to us) and they ask if our carpet is wet. What the F? Our carpet is soaked and it has been wet since Tuesday. They act like this is a surprise. We say yes and they say they’ll get the water extraction emergency team out. At about 5 pm some dude shows up with a giant dehumidifier. This thing is big enough that it is on wheels and it has an outflow pipe that has to drain somewhere, so he sets it up outside the bathroom that is off the kitchen. It too is loud. The guy leaves. The water continues to spread. I think about what our electric bill is going to be this month. We’re trying to hold it back with towels and the carpet cleaner (which sucks up some of the water but not much). We start searching for a new apartment and find something that sounds good to both of us. We send off an email to learn more.

Sunday, Feb 4th — The water has spread to where you can no longer skirt around it. As you walk across our living room the carpet is wet enough that water squishes up between your toes, like some kind of urban swamp. I start packing our stuff up. We do our best to hold back the advance using the carpet cleaner but it’s like bailing out a boat with a teacup, while the boat is still leaking.

Monday, Feb 5th — Carpet team came. Different team from last week. Last week’s team was excellent. Today’s was useless. All they did was turn up the dehumidifier. At this point the water is about 50% across the living room floor. We’ve moved everything we can but we’re out of room (we have a lot of stuff). Then maintenance shows up with someone “to get a 2nd opinion” even though 2 different plumbing teams visited last week. They decide to go check the next door apartment (since sometimes their leaks seep under the walls into our apartment) and then melt away without offering any further insight. Next, two trucks from a place called Leak Locators roll up. They go in to the utility closet. One of them is a real leak whisperer. He turns off all the fans and listens. “I don’t hear anything”. Then THEY go next door. Everyone is stumped until they hook up an air tank to the water line and pressurize it, and I clearly hear gurgling coming from the utility closet. The culprit is a single 1/2″ cold water line that runs to the downstairs bathroom. Of course these guys aren’t here to actually FIX it, they just find it. So now we wait, again, for the plumbers to come and fix it. Everyone seems to think they can “Just cap that line off and run it above ground” meaning they won’t have to break up the concrete slab. Once again, the waiting begins… we still are flooded, though.

Monday afternoon, everything shifted. First a team came to cut a hole in the sheetrock so they could dry out inside the walls, and to replace the carpet. Which seemed odd considering the leak was still leaking but whatevs. They needed me to move the entertainment center which was still all wired up, so I frantically started tearing out plugs and cables and moving stuff into the kitchen or far corners of the living room. I just about got that done when yet another plumbing team arrived, this one was here to actually fix the problem. But no one had told them exactly what the issue was. Fortunately I am nosy and had asked the earlier team what was going to have to happen, and I conveyed this info, best I could since I speak English and he spoke Spanish, to the head plumber dude. I tried to get the maintenance staff to come over and talk to these guys but they were AWOL. It took a few hours and a LOT of removed sheetrock but eventually, the leak was fixed! But this was not the end of the adventure. Now we need sheetrock replaced, carpets replaced and basically the apartment put to rights. But at least at this point things were no longer getting WORSE. The plumbers left but the carpet/sheetrock crew did not return, though to be fair it was pretty late in the day by that point. Monday night I spent both purging junk and trying to figure out how/where to move stuff to let them get at as much of the damaged carpet as they need to. Not sure if it’ll be possible.

Tuesday, Feb 6th — As we start the day, no leak, the carpet is semi-dry but disgusting. Inside the utility closet lots of sheetrock has been removed. Bright and early a team arrives to rectify the latter issue. Right behind them comes the plumber. But a different plumber. They are surprised to learn the leak is now fixed. Long story short, the plumbing team who’d showed up Monday is NOT the plumbing team maintenance had expected and now frankly I don’t know who they were! But the fix was inspected and deemed to be solid work so I don’t really care at this point. (I THINK they were affiliated with the sheetrock guys since they all seemed to know each other.)

Next step is the carpet. Management would like to replace the entire carpet but we have so much stuff and no room to put it that it isn’t really viable, so with our OK they’ve decided to patch it. The new carpet will not match the old but we’ll just live with that for now. We still expect to move soon and after we’re out they’ll no doubt replace the whole thing. Bad news is we’re not sure when the carpet repairs will happen and until they do we can’t really put things back to normal. In fact it looks like we’re going to have to move even more stuff for the patching and I’m not sure WHERE we’ll put stuff. We have TOO MUCH JUNK!

Anyway by about 3:00 pm the utility closet was patched and repainted & the door re-hung. Crew did a good job. Bad news was that the carpet guys wouldn’t be out until Thursday. I was hoping for Wednesday but we’ll manage another day of chaos. With no more work until Thursday I put the TV back and hook up the PS5 and put Lola’s bed back to its customary place in front of the TV (which she definitely appreciates) and we have a relatively normal evening.

Wednesday, Feb 7th — Things are feeling semi-normal. With the utility closet completed and the door back on the place was feeling a little less industrial. The only plan for the day was that a crew was going to come and take away the dehumidifier and I’ll be glad to see the end of that monstrosity. My plan for the day was to shuffle around more stuff to make it easier for the crew to patch the carpet, and once again disconnect the PS5 and the TV so we can move the entertainment center out of the way.

Picture of a giant dehumidifier in our living room
Lola included for scale…and because I didn’t want to bother her 🙂

Thursday, Feb 8th — We’d been assured this was the day that the carpet would be patched and we could start returning to normal. I woke up early and moved furniture, jamming everything into one big block on the side of the room and… waited. No one showed. After arguing with @partpurple [she is very much about trusting the process and assuming people will do what they said they would do, I am very much about checking in and nudging things along] about it, we finally contacted the leasing office to find out what was going on at about 11:30. They told us they’d call the company and let us know what was happening and then… more of nothing happening.

After lunch @partpurple went over and wouldn’t leave until she got an update. She was told the carpet team would definitely be there by 3 or to let them know. 3 came around, no team. She called them and was told “they’re just finishing up and they’ll be right over.” They never arrived, of course. We called, we went over. We were told over and over that they’ll be there soon, right up until 6 PM. Maintenance told me “We’re doing everything we can, we have one company we’re approved to use and we’re at their mercy.” I have no idea if this was true or not. End result though, no one showed and another day was lost.

Friday, Feb 9th — Today the story changes once again. Now we’re told the carpet company needs some kind of release form before they can do work in an occupied apartment. This is the first we’ve heard about this. The property manager has to sign it, but our property manager is out of work with a broken ankle so… once again we are screwed. Now this property is trying to get a sister property’s property manager to sign (they say — at this point I don’t believe a word coming out of their mouths because their story changes like the weather).

A few hours later we get notified that the mystery form is signed and in the hands of the carpet company so they’re willing to do the work. Now they were going to try to get the crew out and we should stand by for an update.

A few hours after that, no update so we nagged them again. And were told the Supervisor (of the carpet company I guess?) ‘admitted they dropped the ball’ and were trying to expedite a crew to come out.

And FINALLY at about 1 pm, a truck rolls up and a couple guys come in to patch the carpet. They were done and gone well before 2 PM, so we spent like 3 days arguing to get guys to come do less than an hour’s worth of work.

What a debacle. But finally we were dealing with stuff we could control. We’d decided to get a new table for the entertainment center. It arrives near 5 pm and @partpurple spends the evening putting it together, finishing near midnight.

Saturday, Feb 10th — I get up early and start setting up the entertainment center again, a bit more thoughtfully than the hodgepodge we use to have. I did some basic cable management and opted to remove devices we hardly use. By about noon I’m done and from there things are more or less back to normal.

Sunday, Feb 11th — We rest, and on Monday things are basically back to normal.

Spending ALL the Money on VR

My birthday is next month and apparently I’m celebrating it early because I have been spending SO much money on myself and VR recently. And so far, no regrets.

I’m still doing my VR workouts 4 times a week, hitting all the goals I’ve set for myself and really working up a sweat and getting the heart rate up every time, so in some sense if I squint my eyes and tilt my head just right, this spending is going towards my health and personal well-being. Oh, the lengths we go to justify indulging ourselves!

Of course even that doesn’t justify the really big purchase. In a moment of will-power break down, I ordered the Playstation VR2. I knew after I ordered the prescription lens inserts for it, it was only a matter of time but I didn’t think I’d break down and go for it this soon. But a brief exchange with Bhagpuss got me thinking about how much more time I have when I’ll be fit and able enough to play games so… why keep putting it off? So I ordered it direct from Sony. A few hours later I had second thoughts and logged in to cancel the order but it has already shipped! It arrived next day and I made my peace with the purchase.

I don’t have a lot to say about it as my prescription lenses aren’t here yet (I assumed it’d take like a week for the thing to get here…the overnight delivery was quite a surprise). I had @partpurple 3D print me some lens protectors so I could wear my glasses without any danger of scratching the lenses, but the design isn’t great and they rubbed on my nose enough that it hurt. After one brief session, I decided to try to wait for the prescription lens inserts to arrive.

But new gear means new accessories, so I bought a hard case for it and ordered a ‘comfort strap‘ that a bunch of YouTubers recommended.

None of that means I’m done with the Quest 2 though. As my workouts got more enthusiastic I started having more issues with the visor sliding around and my view of the world going fuzzy as a result. I was using a 3rd party strap (the one that comes with the Quest is kind of crap, but on the plus side Meta designed the Quest 2 to accomodate 3rd party straps) but wanted something better. Today the “BOBOVR M2 Pro Battery Pack Head Strap” arrived and it is really nice. Very comfortable, doesn’t slide around and has an extra battery for if/when my sessions get longer than the Quest 2’s internal battery can handle. [I’ve kind of killed my battery’s health by leaving the Q2 plugged in on standby for like a year straight, so it only holds about an hour’s charge now.] Picture, courtesy of Amazon, at the top of the post.

And then there’s a lighting issue. Even with all our living room lights on, the Quest reports that it’s too dark for good tracking when I use it after dark. Usually I do my workouts early enough that it is still light out but if I want to start doing other VR stuff later in the evening I needed to solve that. So I ordered a couple of IR lights for the living room. The idea being the infrared light won’t bother my eyes but will make tracking better for the headsets. They haven’t arrived yet so how well they work remains to be seen.

So yeah, it has been an EXPENSIVE week thanks to VR. Fortunately my ‘play money’ fund was sufficient to accommodate all this as I’ve been pretty careful about spending for the last few years. Here’s hoping I stick with it after spending all this cash!

FFXIV: Satasha Solo

Well it took me a week but I finally got a chance to check out the new solo dungeon system in Final Fantasy XIV. It took me a while to get there both because work has been kind of brutal requiring me to put in hours every evening, and because I was just really taking my time while playing. It’s going to be a while before more dungeons get added to the system, so why hurry?

Anyway, this is going to be a super short post. For Satasha, the party was made up of generic NPCs. I’m not sure if that holds true later or not, but at this point in the game you’re not talking to the Scions (??) yet, other than having one show up in the middle of some early game Duties to help out. But you don’t really know them yet.

But even though I was fighting with, y’know “Eager Lancer” and “Optimistic Conjurer” or whatever, it worked well. We sailed through Satasha with no issues, and I saw parts of the dungeon I’ve never seen before since most groups go through it in the fastest and most efficient way possible. For the first time I was able to go slow enough to understand the layout and see what switches needed to be switched and so forth (though that is all really simple in Satasha — I seem to remember there being more choices in the old days).

Bonus side effect: Doing the dungeon with NPCs has been thinking more about doing it again with people now that I understand it better. Maybe even as a tank. We’ll see.

The only thing my NPC friends didn’t do is shut down the grates in the final boss room. There’s a mechanic where 4 grates in the corners of the room start leaking water and if no one activates them, eventually Adds will spawn from them. My NPC chums ignored those grates, though to be fair most human players do as well since it tends to be faster/easier to just burn down the boss and semi-ignore the adds.

Oh and one thing I hadn’t been clear on: you can re-run the dungeons with an NPC party, too. I wasn’t sure if Square Enix was going to allow that or just let you do them once with NPCs in order to push the story forward. But nope, you can replay them with NPCs whenever you want, so that’s nice.

With only one run and my lack of experience, I can’t comment on whether the quality of loot was the same as running with human players. I can tell you I got to keep it all! 🙂

PC Gaming is Hard (For Me)

As I’m sure I’ve said many times on this blog, I have primarily been a console gamer for a number of years. That changed a bit lately with the launch of Amazon’s New World and my out-of-the-blue obsession with Black Desert Online (which I STILL haven’t blogged about, have I?) Suddenly I was back to sitting hunched over a desk, my face awash in the blue glow of a monitor, merrily pounding keys.

Was back. Now I’m not sure. I’m actually finding PC gaming difficult. In fact for the past few nights I’ve sat down to boot one of my two current obsessions, stared at the monitor, squirmed in my chair a bit, then I’ve gotten up and went to the couch and watched TV. I didn’t want to disrupt my gaming focus by starting a console game, but I just didn’t want to sit in that chair for another minute, either. It just made me feel mentally exhausted to be sitting there, plus there’s the little nagging tickle in my brain that maybe I should be doing some work instead, just to make the day job a little less stressful.

This is exactly how I got into console gaming in the first place. Once I started working from home full time I found that 8-9 hours at a PC was plenty and I didn’t really want to sit there for another few hours at night even if it was to play games. It’s weird because the same was true when I was going into the office, but somehow the change of location made it feel different. Plus I didn’t have all my work crap on my gaming PC. I don’t now either but I DO have Parsec and can connect to the work machine in an instant.

There’s a physical toll as well. I guess I really hyper-focus while at a PC and after a couple hours playing an MMO, when I finally get up there are so many pops and cracks in my back and neck that I sound like a string of firecrackers going off. My neck and shoulders get sore, though usually everything loosens up after a bit. No lasting damage done.

So I dunno what to do. All day while I’m working I think about how I want to play New World and BDO, but then when I CAN play I just want to be somewhere else. BDO is actually available on console but it seems to lag behind the PC version in a lot of ways, and of course New World is PC only. (Isn’t it strange that we can’t play New World via Amazon Luna?)

Maybe I just need to reserve PC gaming for the weekends, and stick to consoles games during the week. Not sure. Also not sure the point of this post but it’s been a week since my last post so figured I’d better find SOMETHING to talk about!

Life (and Work) Keeps Happening

Despite appearances, I have NOT thrown in the towel on blogging. I just have had a load of work-shaped and work-adjacent-shaped bricks fall on my head lately.

I have a bunch of work projects heating up which have had me working in the evenings, and I have agreed to join another developer in building out a portfolio site we can both use, and that is eating even more time. End result, very little free time for gaming or blogging.

Last Sunday I broke down and bought Tales of Arise for the PS5 which seems like it will be very good if I ever find time to play it. It certainly is a pretty game. New World is launching Tuesday (I think) and I have it pre-ordered though, again, not sure when I will play it. I did spend an hour on Thursday downloading EVE Online to play through their new New Player Experience which wound up being fairly underwhelming. This morning I played come Control on the PS5 before I nodded off on the couch because I haven’t been sleeping much.

There ya go, one paragraph to describe a week’s worth of gaming. 🙁

But I’m not dead yet, and neither is the blog. So this is just a heartbeat post!

A State of Decay 2 Story

I love stories. I always have. I love to read fiction, I love to watch TV, I REALLY love sitting around a dinner table or at a bar, trading stories with people (I have dim memories of doing this decades ago). And of course I love stories in games.

There are games that have a story baked in. Narrative-driven games, as I (and I think most people) call them. Then there are games with the kind of emergent gameplay that wind up telling a story through player interaction. I think I’m saying all that right; I’m no game developer.

Anyway to set up this story I have to tell you a little about State of Decay 2. It takes place in a zombie apocalypse. There is no official ‘fast travel’ (though I think you can cheese your way around that a bit). You have a group of survivors you play as, one at a time. Some zombies carry a ‘blood plague’ and when they hit you, you get a dose of the blood plague virus. Get enough of these and now you have the blood plague, which left uncured, turns you into a zombie. There is a literal timer that ticks down to zombification. There is permadeath and finally, your band of merry zombie slayers has a leader who (I presume) is more important than the rest of the group. If I sound a little iffy about some of these points it is because I’m still in my first game and I don’t know how everything works.

Whew. Let’s begin.

* * *

So our leader Mary was trying to take out an infestation far, far from home base. She and one of her minions had driven across the map in an SUV. Things went badly. The pair were swarmed by blood plague zombies. Mary called for a retreat and they ran, but in the confusion they’d forgotten where they parked. A running battle ensued. Mary was soon out of ammo for her sidearm. Then her baseball bat broke. All she had left was 3 crossbow bolts. The crossbow was a slow weapon. Perfect for sniping but not much use in a running battle.

They finally made it to the car, but by then both had the blood plague. Their only hope was getting back to base as soon as possible. And just to add to the fun, it was getting dark.

Mary jumped behind the wheel and took off, driving as quickly as she dared. She came around a bend and tried to squeeze the SUV between a wrecked truck and a guardrail and BAM, they didn’t make it. The SUV wedged itself in. Mary tried to back away but the wheels just started spinning. The SUV engine was drawing zombies.

Their luck had not completely run out, though, as nearby was a van that looked like it might start. They abandoned the SUV and ran for the van, fighting a few zombies and taking a few more wounds. Mary was slowing down, but they reached the van. It started, but only just. It was nearly out of gas.

They drove on into the night, Mary being much more cautious now. She was trying to conserve fuel but base camp was still a long way away when the van sputtered a final time and coasted to a stop, the tank dry.

Back on foot, they stumbled through the night. Mary used her final crossbow bolts to clear a path. When those ran out they had to rely on stealth. She was on death’s door, not just from the plague but from the many wounds she’d received. It was a long, frightening walk, but they finally stumbled into camp where other survivors immediately helped them to the infirmary to get the plague treated and wounds attended to.

They survived to fight another day.

* * *

It might not read that well, honestly, but playing through this was such a tense and enjoyable experience. In game mechanic terms, we tried to take out a Blood Heart which drew in a ton of zombies. She was taking too much damage so we ran, but I didn’t have time to open the map to see where I had parked. Mary really did run out of ammo and her melee weapon did break. She ran out of healing items and her HP was blinking red at maybe 5% full. It was just a sliver of health.

The SUV did jam tight between a wreck and a guardrail which might be a bug. When I got the van I tried to push the SUV free but the ‘wreck’ was part of the terrain: completely immobile. Vehicles have Hit Points and the van, too, was almost at zero. I actually had a repair kit, so we took time to repair it and found it was almost out of gas. We didn’t make it back. Working vehicles are fairly rare in SOD2 and we didn’t come across another one.

The rest was pretty much as described. At low health your character starts to limp and hobble along. It was really dark out and I could see the glowing eyes of zombies all around us. It took a LONG time to walk back since we had to crouch and sneak around swarms of zombies, but the “Blood Plague” timer is more generous than I realized and truthfully it had only ticked down to maybe 50% by the time we got back to base.

The biggest loss was the SUV, but we do have a couple of trucks. I’m not sure what would have happened if Base Leader Mary had died.

All in all, it was really fun. I’m a terrible blogger so I didn’t take any screenshots… I was too intent on not dying!

My Brain is Rotting

I’m a web developer. I know that because it is my job title.

I don’t really develop anything anymore though.

Back when I got into this business I did all kinds of things. I had the keys to our Solaris servers. My palm print was registered at the data center so I could access the cage, which I did frequently. Sometimes I’d have to drive over there at 2 AM to address an issue, and it was just me. I knew what to do.

At the time we were running Vignette Storyserver which used Tcl as a scripting language. Tcl! I dunno that I could still write a script in Tcl. Or Perl for that matter, which is a lot less weird than Tcl.

I wasn’t part of the IT department but I worked very closely with them. I was kind of honorary IT.

I was removed from that gig when they hired a new exec who wanted a clean slate. I mean that wasn’t the reason they gave but it was what happened. The exec hired people they had worked with at their last company. The powers that be decided to move to a Java Server Pages platform. While everyone was being trained in that, I was assigned to maintain the old site and its Tcl scripts. Then once the switch over was made I was laid off because I didn’t know the JSP platform (the name of it escapes me… Documentum maybe?) that they’d prevented me from being trained on. Yeah, that’s fair.

My next gig, we were using Expression Engine, which is written in PHP with a proprietary templating language that was very PHP-esque. We didn’t have a data center, we had an ISP who did most of the maintenance on the servers. I still took care of a VPS server we had for odds and ends, and I did some stuff on Amazon EC2 instances. I spent a lot of time writing scripts to talk to API endpoints and stuff. It was a step down from the first gig in terms of tech but it still was a job I was constantly learning stuff at.

Enter a new exec who determined that we should ditch Expression Engine and put all the sites on WordPress because, y’know, he had a nephew that used wordpress or something. (Everyone knows WordPress so I won’t explain it.) Through my whole career I’ve been at the mercy of executives who come in, make decisions based on bad or no data, then usually leave when they fail at their job. But their decisions stick around.

Anyway so I started making custom WordPress themes. Every brand got exactly what they wanted because we weren’t using an off-the-shelf theme. We were secure because we weren’t using dozens of plugins that are constantly being probed for defects. (Security through obscurity!) It was definitely a less rewarding job but I guess learning WordPress had some value.

Then that company got purchased by a much larger company. The new company ran everything on WordPress, which was good as far as it being an easy transition. But this company has an IT Department that is completely divorced from the web team. They’ve erected a major wall between anything that can be called a server and the rest of the company, and that includes me. Now I do none of the server work I used to do. I no longer have access to manage DNS, which I used to do. They seem to have a fear of APIs, so that work is gone.

As for WordPress, they are replacing our custom themes with a standard theme across all their sites. A consultant is building it. I won’t go too far down this rabbit hole, but the point being now I’m not even going to be building WordPress themes. Lately most of my days are spent doing help desk level tasks like resetting passwords, unblocking access, setting up redirects. Stuff, honestly, an intern could do.

It’s clear I need to find a new job, but I also feel like I’ve waited too long. I think about updating my resume and what I do now does not justify my salary, frankly. And I haven’t USED my high-value skills for so long that they’ve atrophied while at the same time going out of date. So I don’t REMEMBER how to do all the things I used to do, but if I could remember then those skills would be kind of dated, anyway.

I feel stuck. I feel like my brain is rotting away. When I get laid off (and it is pretty clear the current company is making a concerted effort to no longer need developers on its payroll…they already have a 3rd party on contract with ‘resources’ in India and the Philippines who I’m sure are MUCH cheaper than me) I don’t think I’ll be very marketable, between my age and my atrophied skill set.

The only hope I can think of is to find A Project. Something I’m excited to build and that I could build in a technology I don’t know. Something like the project Scopique is working on to learn React, or like Tipa’s Python project to import an old blog into Github.

I just can’t think of anything. And really I don’t WANT to do anything, but I feel like I HAVE to do something. I really wish I wanted to. I remember being super excited about web development and learning new things. I put in so much overtime on that old Tcl site not because it was asked of me but because I was pumped about it.

But now I kind of just want to sit around and play video games once the work day is done. And I’m not really sure how to fix that. Like how do you make yourself get excited for something?

Maybe I can be a greeter at Walmart for my next job.

The one thing that has occurred to me is to find some non-profit that is a) working for a cause I believe in and b) looking for volunteers to help them with some technology project. But I’m not really sure how to do that.

Blaugust 2021 – Fini

Here it is, the last post of Blaugust 2021. I made it. Whew! While I originally didn’t plan to post every day and at the 1/3rd point I decided to cut back I never really did. For better or for worse. Technically I think I wrote 32 posts since if I remember right I double-posted once.

So what did I discover? Well most importantly I learned that I can still generate a blog post every day if I really want to. Unlike so many of my projects, I didn’t abandon this one. I also discovered some really nice blogs and really nice people and I intend to keep reading these people in the future.

There were some disappointments along the way. While I tried my best to amplify other Blaugust participants by retweeting stuff with the #blaugust2021 hashtag on Twitter, I found there were only a handful of us doing that. Seemed like a missed opportunity. (There were a few people who retweeted almost every post and I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart!) In some cases I Followed Blaugust participants just so I’d be aware of their blog post announcements and could retweet them, but often they didn’t follow me back. Maybe other bloggers just don’t see Twitter as an important audience building tool? Or maybe they just thought it was more important to curate their timeline than to promote people they didn’t really know (which is fair, particularly if they’re trying to build a Following that they can monetize). Either way, that was a bit of a bummer. I mean, it isn’t like promoting each other is in the rules of Blaugust but it was still a little disappointing.

In the run-up to the event I was excited about joining the Discord community, but I only lasted a week or two in there. As with just about every Discord I join, it felt like a clique of people that I wasn’t a part of. (This is just where my brain goes in any kind of crowd, IRL or online, so not a knock on the community, just a hang-up I have about new groups of people.) I dutifully posted content in the “Share Your Content” for a while, but I saw almost no traffic from that and none of my posts seemed of interest to the other Discord users. There are certainly helpful people in the Discord and if you ask a question you will get answers. So it serves a function, but for socializing and talking about writing it was a bust for me. Additionally the most helpful people in the Discord seem equally helpful on their blogs or in Twitter, and since I’m already at those places, making a special trip to Discord seemed like a poor use of my time. (I should note that I am not a Discord user and the Blaugust Discord was the only Discord that I was using.)

In general the broader community aspect of Blaugust was pretty much a bust for me, but then I’ve always struggled to find my tribe. On the other hand, I feel like I’ve joined a micro-community of bloggers who I really resonate with, and that is a huge win.

All that said, I am ready to announce the Dragonchasers 2021 Blaugust Mentor of the Year Award as chosen by ME!:

Aywren from Spot of Mummery!
*confetti cannons go off*
Aywren posted a lot of great advice over the month and her advice was always clear without being simplistic. A marvelous gift.

Honourable Mentions:
Bhagpuss at Inventory Full
Naithin at Time To Loot

So, About The Future…

One of the reasons I did Blaugust was to decide if it was time to shut down the blog. I went something like 8 or 9 months without a post. Is it worth paying for the domain and hosting?

In terms of popularity, it clearly is not. My traffic doubled in August, which sounds great but again, I hadn’t posted in a long time so traffic was very very low. Doubling from 2 to 4 is a lot less impressive than doubling from 2 million to 4 million, after all. Specifically I had like 1000 page views for the entire month of August and 240 of those page views was for a post from last year. Basically 31 days of Blaugust posts barely caused a bump in traffic. Eliminate that article from last year and Blaugust added 250 page views over the entire month.

My take-away is that posting daily doesn’t help me generate traffic, and let’s be real, this blog is 19 years old. If it hasn’t found an audience yet, it never will. My choice of topics or my writing style doesn’t resonate with many. I remember a time when I thought Dragonchasers would become a side hustle. I was going to build it up and then get sponsors or ads or whatever. That dream was 99% dead already, but Blaugust drove the final nail into its coffin. I don’t have what it takes to write a blog that generates revenue. I’m just not focused enough.

And y’know what? That’s kind of a relief in a way. Last time my hosting plan came up for renewal I bought a 2-year plan and I still have a year or so left on it. So for now the blog will stay around but it’ll be MY blog and I’ll write for me and assume no one will ever read it. Maybe I’ll just share stories of my (completely ordinary) life or something. Who knows?

Blaugust is done. It’s not something I imagine I would do again. I’m glad I did it just because it got me back to writing, and getting people to blog is the whole point of Blaugust so it definitely worked. That said, if someone were to ask me about getting started or back into blogging, I’d say rather than waiting for Blaugust just pick a day and start writing. Make a schedule and try to stick to it, but avoid going for a daily post schedule. Give yourself at least one day off a week, and probably at least two. Maybe 3 or 4. Depends on how much free time you have. If you work full time and have a family, I feel like 3 posts/week is PLENTY. You need to reserve some time to do the things you’ll eventually blog about!

Weekend Recap for August 30th

We are slowly, slowly creeping up on October and the start of cooler weather. I desperately miss living in a place where September means crisp Autumn days, but here in the middle of North Carolina the best you can ask of September is to please cool it (ha!) with the 90F+ temperatures. Sadly, September doesn’t always listen. This weekend the heat index was over 100F and today is supposed to be even hotter. Lola and I had a tough weekend with the heat just unbearable and her so torn between “I really want to go outside and explore” and “I am a dark colored dog melting in the blazing sunshine, help me cool off.”

With the obligatory griping finished, let’s get started.

Movie Night — This week we watched Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf, an animated Witcher movie on Netflix. This was a prequel of sorts that focused on Vesemir’s story before Geralt came into the picture. (Vesemir is Geralt’s older friend and mentor, in case you’re not up on all the lore.) I love the Witcher IP even if I’m not as thrilled with the games as most seem to be, and I really enjoyed Nightmare of the Wolf. I have questions but I won’t ask them here because spoilers (the movie just came out last week). I was worried @partpurple wouldn’t like it as much, but she enjoyed it quite a bit as well.

Family TV — We usually watch something during our lunch break and lately we’ve been doing a re-watch of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I don’t think either of us has ever gone back and watched the series in the order it aired. It’s been fun with lots of “Oh I’d forgotten about this!” moments. We just crossed into Season 2 which seems a lot better than Season 1, at least based on the first couple of episodes. Evening viewing has been Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I’d watched a couple of seasons of this solo, but @partpurple hadn’t see it at all. After we’d enjoyed The Bad Batch we decided to go back and catch up and we’ve been glad we did. We’re watching them in chronological order which is a bit of a hassle but makes the storylines much more cohesive than I remember them from my first viewing. Oh, and What If…? and Star Trek: The Lower Decks continue to delight every week.

Reading — I’ve started book 7 of The Saxon Stories, The Pagan Lord. Uhtred’s temper has gotten him into hot water with the King and the Christian church, so he is once again on the move. Uhtred is in his 50s in this book, and there are 13 books in the series and I’m really curious to see what kinds of exploits he gets into as he grows even older. I read somewhere that The Last Kingdom Netflix series (based on these books) is ending in part because they couldn’t figure out a good way to show Uhtred as an old man when the actor who plays him is, of course, still quite young.

Gaming — I mentioned yesterday that I’d started A Plague Tale: Innocence and I got HOOKED so that’s where I spent most of my gaming time this weekend; I finished it last night. It’s supposed to be a fairly short game but it still took me almost a week to play through it. I might do a post on it. It was one of those games with a strong narrative that gets kind of ruined by a difficulty spike at the end. I don’t know why game devs do this in story-based games. They get you hooked, you’re having fun playing and enjoying the story and then “Oh, you want to know how it all ends? Well we’ve got some trick final boss fights you have to figure out first.” I very nearly walked away from it, and I’m talking about the last 5% of the game. I went from “This is a 5 star game!” to “Would hesitate to recommend” based on the gameplay changes at the very end.

That irritation may fade with time. I loved the setting, loved the characters and the voice acting and thought the story was pretty good. There were some changes I’d make besides the ending. In particular on console at least, the game uses a ‘weapon wheel’ UI, and many of my deaths came when I was fumbling with the wheel and an enemy closed a gap and killed me. Your character basically only takes 1 hit to kill. In a game like this where combat isn’t really the main point, I think having things slow down while you use the weapon wheel would serve the audience better.

Also after the Great Controller Debate of ’21 I wanted to play a FPS on the Xbox to see if I could understand the complaints about that controller. Since I’ve been wanting to finish Far Cry New Dawn anyway, I went with that. Weirdly I’m still able to pull off long-range head shots using a cobbled together pistol even with the Xbox controller. Huh. 🙂 I can’t say I’d blanket recommend Far Cry New Dawn; the tone is borderline offensive (depending on what character you are hanging with) and the pacing is strange. It can be hard to get from Point A to Point B just because so many random/semi-random events are constantly spawning. Those encounters are FUN mind you, but after a while they get in the way of you progressing through the story. I once again hope that Far Cry 6 is a bit more serious in tone.

Influenced by Tipa and Bhagpuss, I installed DC Universe Online and woke up a long dormant character. I keep trying to play this game on the consoles and it just looks so incredibly bad I can’t stick with it. On PC though, while it certainly looks dated, it is much better. I didn’t play for too long but did have fun and I’ve left it installed to revisit as time permits.

As for the two MMOs I’m currently subscribed to (FFXIV and ESO on Playstation) I of course didn’t log into either all weekend. Typical me.

Next weekend is a holiday for many of us in the US. I get 3.5 days off. Office closes at 1 PM on Friday, then Monday off. I’m REALLY looking forward to the extra time off, but for now it’s time to slog through one more stupidly hot work week. We can do this!

Game Trailers and Other Terminology

After almost every big gaming press event there’s some discussion of the trailers that are shown. Among other topics, we question how much we actually learned about the game from the trailer. Scopique and I touched on this topic very briefly in the comments to yesterday’s post but I thought it might be fun to unpack things a bit.

In ye olden tymes, game trailers were, well, short videos that showed a game being played. Everyone understood what a game trailer was. Over time though, as graphics improved and budgets swelled, a lot of games started having elaborate CGI intros or cut-scenes. From there it was a short skip to showing CGI as the trailer. I get why devs did that; the CGI could be finished way before gameplay was complete and ready to show.

I get why they did it, but I (and other gamers) weren’t so thrilled. We watched trailers to see how a game played, and these CGI trailers told us nothing. I did (and do) find them enjoyable just as little micro-stories but they do absolutely nothing to inform me as to whether or not this is a game I’d like to play.

Rather than walk back from showing CGI trailers, the marketing teams just made up a new name. “Today we have the world reveal trailer for Game X!” the announcement will say. World reveal can mean anything. Sometimes they say “Tonight is the cinematic trailer for Game X!” This tells us that a CGI movie is coming up but no gameplay. At least with this term we know what to expect. But what we gamers are really listening for is “We have the GAMEPLAY trailer for Game X!” Ah, OK that’s the good stuff. That’s what I need to actually inform me about a game.

Thinking about this led me to chuckle to myself about another loaded word: Exclusive. Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo used to throw ‘exclusive’ around willy-nilly. Sometimes it meant actually exclusive to the platform making the announcement, but usually not. Eventually to protect themselves (consumers started calling them out), the marketing teams forked this one too.

So now when S/M/N says a game is Exclusive to P/X/S (Playstation/Xbox/Switch) it generally actually means it will only be out on that platform. True exclusives are pretty rare these days and mostly come from 1st part studios from S/M/N.

The first forked exclusive term is Timed Exclusive. This means a game is coming out on one console first, then it’ll follow on others and on PC after 6 months or a year (or some other period of time). I don’t think marketers love this term. I feel like if you were talking to them IRL they’d kind of say “Timed” under their breath and then shout the “Exclusive!” part.

A lot of games will come out both on PC and a console. These curiously get tagged as “Console Exclusives.” Microsoft has a lot of these because Microsoft is more interested in selling games than hardware, but Console Exclusives are fairly common on all three platforms. I realize this terms sounds like the opposite of what it means. Console Exclusives come out on PC? It sounds better when you stick the console name in front: Xbox Console Exclusive. The intent is to say “This game is exclusive to the Xbox Console and won’t be out on other consoles and we’re just going to ignore that the PC exists, OK?”

You could combine those too. Maybe you have a Timed Console Exclusive. This means the game comes out on one console and PC on Day 1, then on other consoles at some later date. But again, that “Timed” word is in there and we do not want!

Thus was born “Console Launch Exclusive” which really means pretty much the same thing as Timed Console Exclusive. It means a game will launch on one console before it launches on other consoles. And again, we’ll pretend PC gaming isn’t a thing.

Those are the terms I can think of, but if you have others drop them in the comments.

It all just seems so silly. Did I really have to spend 5 paragraphs defining ‘exclusive’? Also, maybe I’m projecting but do gamers really want exclusive games? I guess maybe some do. I see stories about fans getting all pissed off when Sony games launch on PC, for example. I don’t get it. I want every game to take full advantage of a platform’s abilities but beyond that, put your game out everywhere so everyone can enjoy it.