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5/28/98 Picture This...

I've been somewhat laid up over the past few days with a foot injury. On the upshot, it has given me a chance to work on this site. The first of the new pages is up, a photo gallery containing pictures of hot-air balloons, tigers, and other shots I have taken in past years. Click here to have a look...

5/19/98 Unpacking and Moving In

Well, here it is, the all new Brother Theodore web site. I've been tinkering for a number of days now, scanning images, trying alternate layouts, and all that sort of thing. One of the primary differences is of course the frames. This is sort of experimental, so let me know if this design works for you, or if you liked it more the old way.

5/11/98 Blah

I updated the Links section with some fantasy and armor links, but other than that, nothing major. Oh yeah, I did make a little alteration above, since my good buddy Meg thought I was taking a pot shot at  her (well, she pointed it out to me as a joke, but I went ahead and changed it anyway, aren't I nice?). Anyway, personal issues have kind of bogged me down, and I just haven't gotten the gumption to crank out the HTML (I'm not an HTML coder, but I play one on the Internet. Frontpage does all the real work here).

I'll try to find something interesting and exciting to put up here in the next couple of days.

5/07/98 Yet Another Good Article From Designer Dragon

Say what you will about Origin, and/or Ultima Online, but this guy Designer Dragon is really on the ball when it comes to role-playing and MUDs. I have clipped another article of his from Origin's Ultima Online website (Comments from the development team), since these articles occasionally disappear when the development team updates their page, and don't always keep them around. If you play MUDs, or any other RPG type game, this is really good reading. There are links to essays by some of the greats in MUDding, including a personality test from LegendMUD, so you can see what kind of player you are. Since the article is long, I put it on a separate page. Click here to go read the article(s).

5/07/98 Still Here...

In order to forestall moving this site over to Geocities, I have deleted a picture from my Jane's F15 review page, since no one has bothered to read it anyway. This gives me an additional 76Kb of space, which should last a couple of text updates here.

5/07/98 More Karyn Information

Many thanks to those of you that replied, confirming that Karyn's story is indeed true, but deep down, I was hoping it wasn't. Karyn played a MUD called LegendMUD. After the news of Karyn's loss, the creators put in a new room as mentioned below in Designer Dragon's article, I have clipped a piece from the LegendMUD site describing the room:

In Karyn's memory, LegendMUD has constructed a Garden of Remembrance outside of the Hall of Legends.
A tree has been "planted" with a plaque that reads,
"In Memory of Karyn, Whose kindness and companionship will always be missed."
All are welcome to visit as many have already.

The Garden of Remembrance

This ever-lit room exists in memory of the people that had brought light to the land of Legend and left us prematurely. The grass grows soft and green,the sky above seems always to be a perfect, endless blue. The memories of friendship and laughter and joy abound. A rose garden lies to the east and a quiet pond to the west. An imposing arch of trees leads out to the north.

A small tree is here, lovingly planted in memory of Karyn.
A brass plaque has been placed in front of the tree.
A bouquet of flowers, with a card from Fairfax is sitting in front of a small tree.
A circlet of red roses is sitting in front of a small tree
A flower basket is sitting in front of a small tree.
A green rose from Flagg is sitting in front of a small tree.
A bunch of wildflowers is sitting in front of a small tree.
A red rose from Sandra is sitting in front of a small tree.
A red rose from Zandy is sitting in front of a small tree.
A red rose, with a card from Bronwyn is sitting in front of a small tree.

There is a guestbook dedicated to Karyn on the LegendMUD site, which those that are particularly moved and saddened by her story may sign.

5/05/98 Stuff, and a Tale of Sorrow

This site may be moving in the very near future. I am down to less than 27Kb (less after today) of free space, and am considering moving this site over to Geocities, where I will be able to use up to an additional 5 megabytes of space for a site that very few, if any visit (ya gotta just love the internet, its so chock full of wasted space). If you have experience with Geocities (good or bad), I'd like to hear about it.

Earlier today, I was at the Ultima Online website. I came across this message, written by one of the game designers, and it struck a chord with me. While it was written to make players of Ultima Online think more about the 'game' that they play, I believe that it is valid for any role-playing 'game' that we engage in. I cannot say for certain whether it is true or not, as Discworld is the only MUD that I play, but I am going to venture that it is, and it is a sorrowful tale indeed. If you can confirm the tale, or know where I might find more information about it, I would deeply appreciate it. The entire text of the message, copied from Origin's Ultima Online website follows:

"I'd like to tell you a story about a tree.

This tree grows in a different virtual world than Ultima Online--one of the many text muds that exist on the Internet. It grows in a Garden of Remembrance, and the ground around it is littered with flowers and boxes of chocolates and pieces of paper with heartfelt poems written on them. And there is a plaque there as well--"In memory of Karyn," it reads.

The story I'd like to tell is the story of that plaque and that person, someone I never met.

Karyn first logged on to that virtual world quite some time ago. She was from Norway. She kept coming back, and brought friends with her--some of whom did not speak English very well, but for whom she served as an interpreter. She made friends. Eventually she ran a website all about that virtual world, and posted on that site pictures of herself, where all could see she had a lovely smile.

As her ties to the world grew, she started a guild. She called it the Norse Traders, and with a lot of hard work, she got it off the ground and developed it into one of the most popular and well-known guilds in the game. It was a merchants' guild that also adventured together, and pretty soon the folks involved had made good friendships.

In March of this year, some of those friends started to notice that they hadn't seen Karyn in a while. You know how it goes in the online world--people don't leave, they just fail to show up, usually, and you never know what happened to them. But in this case there was her website to go to. So people went looking for Karyn.

A day later the news filtered out across the bulletin boards, via emails, and eventually onto the welcome message when you first logged in: Karyn was dead. She had died in a head-on collision while test-driving a new car. And it had happened two months before, in January, and none of us had known.

Her parents knew that she had friends on the Internet--they didn't quite understand what she did online, or who those friends were, but they knew that there were people out there somewhere who might want to learn the news. It took them some time to find her webpage, and to learn how to put a message up. But they did it, and they attached news items about the car crash, in Norwegian.

The outpouring of grief on the virtual world was immediate. People who had not logged on in months heard about it from the game's email newsletter. A memorial service was organized. And eventually, a Garden of Remembrance was created, and a tree planted in Karyn's memory. Players made the pilgrimage to the garden in order to leave tokens of their grief. Code was changed so that items left in this manner became permanent parts of the world.

Throughout all the events, however, there ran a common thread. People could not get a handle on feeling grief for someone they had never actually met. They could not quite understand feeling a deep sense of loss over someone they "just played a game with." When describing their loss, they had to resort to "I once formed a party with her and we went into a dungeon." They couldn't quite express the feeling that a member of their community was gone.

And it was that sense--the Norse Traders had fallen apart since January, and now they knew why. Because Karyn, the person at the center of it, was not there. In a very real sense, they came to realize that the strange unease they had felt about hearing of her death with a two-month time lag might have originated in the fact that the loss to the community was actually felt when she stopped logging in--not when the news finally came.

In the end, that garden and that tree served not only as a memorial to a well-loved and much-missed person, but as a marker of a moment, a moment in which the players of an online game realized that they weren't "playing a game." That the social bonds that they felt within this "game" were Real.

There's a children's book, The Velveteen Rabbit, about a stuffed plush rabbit which desperately wishes to become Real. And in the end, the love of the little boy whose toy it is makes this come true.

In the end, the social bonds of the people in a virtual environment make it more than just a game. They make it Real. Sometimes it takes a moment of grief to make people realize it, and sometimes people just come to an awareness over time, but the fundamental fact remains: when we make a friend, hurt someone's feelings, suffer a loss, or accomplish something in an online world, it's real. It's not "just a game."

Ultima Online was designed with a basic philosophy in mind: that we were providing an online world, one that could live and breathe and develop in new and unpredictable ways. We wanted to provide scope for players to develop online communities in a way that no other online world had done. It is amazing and gratifying to see some of the results today: volunteer police forces, roleplayer taverns, small-scale Olympics, and fledgling forms of government. And yes, sadly, a few places where funerals have been held, for in any community of this size, there will be losses.

The thing that we should never lose sight of is that we, by participating in this new sort of community, are breaking new ground that will undoubtedly prove important over the next decade, as the Internet acquires more significance in business, education, socializing, and other areas outside of gaming. The dilemmas that players of UO wrestle with every day in the form of how reputation should work, what to do about harassment, etc, are the key problems of virtual reality for the next several years. And we are only able to tackle them because you, the citizens of this virtual Britannia, are more than just players--you are a self-aware community that reaches beyond "game" and into the Real.

I am not going to let anyone tell me that the Garden of Remembrance isn't Real, or that the grief we all felt over Karyn's death was not Real. And I hope that UO players aren't going to let anyone tell them that their experiences within UO aren't Real either, that it's "just a game." It may be for some people, but we all know better, don't we? For Karyn's sake, and also for our own.

-Designer Dragon

This little essay is based on a speech given at the last Austin UO Players Lunch in March. "

I posted this story because it really hit home for me. How many people do we know from the games that we have played, that we have formed friendships (or more) with, people that live thousands of miles away, that we may never have met if it weren't for a 'game'? How many people that we may know only in the context of a game, have stopped logging in, and we have lost contact with?

While in one sense, we are playing just a 'game', in another we are doing much more than that. We have formed bonds of friendship that span the globe, bonds that make the distance more bridgeable, bonds that last beyond the confines of any 'game'. Anybody who chastises you about friends that you have made while MUDding, has probably never tried it themselves, and has no understanding that while we role-play, many of us play the role of ourselves, and as such, do much more than just hack and slash our way through mazes and forests and such.

It is a two-edged sword (no pun here), that while we form relationships that are much more involved than those that play Quake, or I76, for instance, a change in circumstance whether minor, or major (not enough money to pay ISP, change of job or school, less time for 'play', and sometimes even something more serious, such as hospitalization, or even death), may often leave us wondering what has happened to someone that we have become close to, even though it is a 'game' that we are playing. I know that I've been guilty of 'disappearing' too, from my favorite online game, Discworld (I recently came back after being gone for 6 months). Sometimes we don't give much thought to the fact that others out there may be wondering what happened to us. I would have been very upset if I had seen that someone I spent a lot of time with had met an such an unfortunate circumstance as Karyn did in the above story.

What is my point? I think that it is that you should be mindful of the 'game' that you play, and how you treat others that you play with. I know that there are some out there that play only to achieve godlike status, or to get every available point, and that is fine too, but if you are going to get involved with the other players, you should be aware that your actions affect other people (either for the good or bad), and sometimes those actions go further than the scope of a telnet session. I would hope that there are people that I 'game' with that actually care whether something were to happen to me in the real world, just as I would care if something (good or bad) were to happen to them.

4/30/98 - Multiplayer RPG games

Ok, for those of you that know (or don't), I like playing RPG's. I've been playing RPG stuff since the late '70's when D&D first hit the streets. Anyway, while there are a number of good single player RPG games out there (Fallout, most recently), there is something to be said for having real people to interact with, so I have put up a review/comparison of three of the online RPG games I play with any regularity. The comparison is here.

4/21/98 - Comdex/Windows World

Spent a good 5 hours at the trade show here in Chicago. Where the hell was everybody? I was really amazed that some of the biggest companies in the industry were nowhere to be found. Borland, Symantec, Lotus, HP, Adobe, Epson, Canon, US Robotics, Diamond, etc were completely missing from the show. This is a disturbing trend, as the last Comdex wasn't so hot either (although better than this year).

About the only booth that I was actually impressed with was that of Play Inc, makers of the famous Snappy, and the not yet so famous Trinity. If you are at all interested in video production in any way shape or form, this little blue box is going to shake up the video production world. The Trinity ($5,000) does real time effects on par with professional setups costing $200,000+. If I had the extra cash laying about, I'd snap one right up. For those of you who know the PBS show Computer Chronicles, they were producing the show live with 3 cameras, a single Pentium 200 box, and one Trinity. Reportedly, Fox Sports bought a single $120,000+ digital video effects (DVE) system, and after seeing the Trinity at the show, said that it was as good or better than that system, and put in a purchase order for 20 Trinity systems.

The best part of the show (I missed it), was yesterday, when our beloved Billy the Kid was demo-ing the wonderful USB features of Win 98, and it crashed deader than roadkill. How much you want to bet that there are some programmers in MS headquarters who won't be getting their yearly bonuses. This does bring up and interesting problem, in that, since '98 is due to ship in June, the CD's are most likely being pressed right now, which means that the CD that you buy on the shelf will most likely have the same USB bug that sent ol Bill's system crashing to a flaming oblivion. The running joke is that Bill had to wait on hold at the MS support number for 7 hours.

4/03/98 - Dodging SAMs and that sort of thing.

I just bought the game Jane's F15 today, and *wow* does it rock! Flight modeling seems superb, although there are a few bugs in the game that should be hopefully fixed soon. Let me tell you, with a fast pc, a 3D accelerator and a good flight stick/throttle combo, you won't leave your seat for days. I can't describe how awesome it is when you're flying low into Iraq at night, and all of a sudden the sky begins filling up with AA fire, and your warning horn starts going off as an SA-13 locks onto you.You can read the review here.

I passed by M1 Tank Platoon 2 on the store shelf, as from what I've read it still has a lot of bugs that need fixing, but the screen shots really mighty good. You can find more info and a discussion board for M1 and other armor sims at PCME.

3/10/98 - The Life of a Hopeless Technophile

I’ve been the happy owner of a Pentium Pro 200 for quite some time, and a relatively happy Diamond Monster 3D owner for not quite as long. On Feb. 20th, Creative Labs released their new 3D Blaster, based on the Voodoo2 chipset. Diamond (whom I’ve been happy with so far) has been playing some nasty tricks, trying to keep people from buying a Creative Labs card. I won’t chronicle these cheesy tactics here, lets just say that I now have a pretty low opinion of Diamond.

I kept telling myself, "I don’t need it, I’ve already got a Voodoo." As the weeks have passed, however, I’ve been seeing more and more information on the new Voodoo2, and decided, "What the hell, you only live once" (unless you believe in re-incarnation), so I went out and bought one. Incidentally, I had *no* problem finding one on 2/27/98 at the local electronics stores (I bought mine at Best Buy), so if you hear that they are hard to get your hands on, do a little checking around, and if you pre-ordered one from Comp-USA or Electronics Boutique and are still waiting, what can I say, except that maybe you’ve learned something and won’t do the pre-order thing again.

Before installing the new object of my affection, I decided I should benchmark my system first. Forget any benchmarking programs you might see out there, they suck. The best benchmark you can find is one that uses real world applications, and one of the best real world applications out there to test the limits of the CPU, FPU and graphics card is Quake 2 (and its really fun to play). So, without further delay, the results of my benchmarks are listed on the next page. Go there...

Just as an FYI, I keep seeing people posting that they are afraid to buy a Creative Labs board because they heard that the boards are overheating, or as I saw yesterday, "burning up." There is no heat problem with Creative's Voodoo2. Let me repeat that one for those folks out there who still don't understand this, THERE IS NO HEAT PROBLEM. I 've got 3 E-IDE hard drives, a Fast-Wide (or is it Fast-HOT) Barracuda SCSI drive, and a few other additional heat producing components, and after days of continuous running, I can't pinpoint any heat related problem like Diamond claims. Either their 'oven' test is running at 350 degrees, they had a defective couple of boards, or Diamond is lying through their teeth (I lean towards the last one), but since Diamond will not tell us exactly what and how they tested, and has made no attempt to back up their claims, we don't know. Regardless, I challenge Diamond to provide us with proof of this overheating problem, verifiable by a non biased testing facility.

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