Fireplace

The soft footsteps echoed throughout the hall with a rhythm that indicated a relaxed pace, with a hint of eager purpose. As the echoes grew louder, the pace became very slightly brisker. Louder and louder the steps came, closer and closer, faster and faster. Suddenly they stopped. The echoes died slowly and reluctantly, fading into the unseen walls.

Slowly the knob on the heavy oak door slid to an inverted position. The door slid sliently on its huge brass hinges, opening half way.

His stature was surprising, his footsteps having betrayed his small frame. Yet, as he entered the small room it was as if the entire room bowed in deep respect. He quietly closed the door behind him; the deep brown of the oak came into contact with the cold concrete, briefly awakening the echoes in the hall. He then turned away from the door and sighed a deep, heavy sigh, emptying himself of all the pressures and stresses life had placed on him.

Cautiously he crossed the room, as if to maintain composure and thus keep the respect of the room. With each step the soft carpet bowed its thick fibers to his feet, cradling them as one would a small child.

Across the room he bent down and took up a small stick with a hint of white on one end. Dragging the thin peice of wood across the concrete he brought to life a brilliant point of light that showered the room in brilliant white. Leaning forward a bit he placed the small flame in the fireplace. Like an energetic child the flame excitedly grew and soon a brilliant fire was crackling and popping and hissing to an unknown tune.

Satisfied, he walked the small distance to the only peice of furniture in the room, a small, black leather chair. For a moment he admired the chair. Crafted by the finest leather craftsman in the region, the care taken to ensure quality showed. Each stitch was exquisitly and perfectly made. The dark stain of the cherry wood reflected the crimson carpet to produce a deep maroon that danced on the wall with the flicker of the fire.

Having completed the necessary appreciation of his chair, he turned slowly around and sat down as carefully as possible, as though he was not certain it would hold him. Softly he sank into the rich leather, creating a small swooof as he did so. The leather held him up with the care one uses when handling an infant. Placing his head back in the chair he closed his eyes and sighed another sigh, from deep within him. He opened his eyes again to watch his cares float gently into the fire and disappear up the chimney.

Content with his new state of mind, he turned his gaze to the window. He was stunned at what he saw. He had sat in this chair many nights before, but never had he seen anything like this. As he stared out the window he saw millions of thin white saphires falling from the dark night sky, reflecting the deep gray of the moon upon the snow covered hills below. As the saphires fell before the window they danced with delight at the flickering fireplace, brightening the snow outside the window with trillions of swirling, flowing sparks that appeared for hardly a moment before disappearing again into the gray from which they came.

Beyond the small hills lay the deep forest, now a blanket of silver in the distance. From behind the cover of the brush one was likely to catch the glimpse of glittering eyes as they peered out from the depths toward the sparks in the distance. In front of the forest hopped a small snow rabbit in search of shelter. He stopped momentarily to gaze at the gala of light before continuing on his way. A young doe walked slowly across the hill, returning to her home deep within the depths of the silver blanket.

Suddenly two eyes appeared right before the man. Startled he jumped to his feet and readied himself for the threat before him. Startled himself, the masked creature squealed and skittered across the silver hills toward the forest, writing his path in the snow as he went.

The man sighed and sat back into his chair, not quite as carefully as before. Considering the event that just took place he smiled to himself and chuckled. Soon his chuckle turned into a deep full laugh that enveloped the entire room and leaked out onto the hills outside the window. Still laughing, the man reached beneath his chair and removed his book, opened it to the page that was marked, and he began to read.

Web Hosting Nightmare

A little over a year ago (February 2000) I registered my own domain - whoark.org. Whoark is a magical word, and if you want you can read all about it. Having the liberty of running several linux boxen at work, I thought it would be cool to run the site on my own box. I could handle all the details and make any changes I would want without having to ask a tech for help or permission. The only problem I was worried about was how to handle the DNS. Then I found out that register.com provided me with the option of controlling my DNS info on their DNS servers. Excited, I quickly set up my site on my box at work. My friend, Kirk, ran the main site on a box of his, while my subdomain and mail was handled on my box. Everything worked, and everything was fun for a year...

Then on April 4, 2001 I was visited from two guys from IT letting me know that it was against policy to host any outside domain on the network. Truth is I sorta (okay, not sorta) knew this, but I had (and still have) about 0 traffic, so I figured it wouldn't be a big deal. They informed me I needed to immediately remove my domain from the network. So I went to register.com and pointed my site to my friend's box. Of course, the domain didn't work, but it didn't generate a not found error and it wasn't pointed to my box at work, so I wasn't violating policy. Immediately that afternoon I started looking for hosting places.

The first I stumbled upon was Liquid Web Hosting. LiquidWeb seemed to provide me with everything I needed (subdomains, lots 'o space, mail accounts, ftp, ssh, etc.) The only thing they didn't offer was IMAP mail, but I knew I could always forward to my box at work without violating any policy. So I signed up right away and waited eagerly for my account to be setup. By Sunday afternoon my account still wasn't setup and I was getting pretty anxious. So I filed a trouble ticket and was informed my account would be set up asap on Monday. I figured no big deal, and waited until Monday. Monday came and my account was activated, just like I was told. I happily and quickly updated register.com to point to my new dns servers and uploaded my site. I setup my subdomain and mail and got ready to have fun. SSH worked fine, and I was very happy. Then I think it was tuesday night, ssh stopped working. I could no longer access my site. I filed a trouble ticket and they said they were working on it. I didn't mind too much, but I was annoyed. So I went to make my site updates via blogger, the greatest web log utility in the world. I made the setting changes I needed to and went to publish my updates. "Generating files...transfering files...transfering files...transfering files... error getting input/output stream" Hmm. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what the problem was. I could connect to the box via every ftp client I could find, and I could use blogger to publish to other sites, so I couldn't figure out what was going on. Turns out I never did figure it out. But that wasn't the last straw...

SSH finally came back (at least that's what they told me). Turns out they updated to OpenSSH. Turns out for some reason my client (the official client) wouldn't work. Their response? "Try another client." Try another client! If you can't support the official client, what the freaking heck are you doing?!! Suffice it to say I prompty started looking for new service.

Finding another site proved difficult. I searched everywhere I could think. I hit google and slashdot each about a million times. But I couldn't find anything! Then finally I was reading a post at /. and I found a reference to Hurricane Electric. I went to their site to check them out, and they seemed very professional. The price was right, but I couldn't verify whether they offered subdomains or not. So I emailed their support and asked. They wrote back and said they did offer it as an additional $10 a subdomain, but there was a workaround if you didn't want to pay. Well, I figured right there that if they were willing to give me a workaround I was definitely interesting in being a customer! So I signed up, changed the DNS again, and followed their instructions for setting up my subdomain. After waiting a couple days for the DNS to change over, I found that my subdomain wasn't working. Everything but my subdomain worked fine. So I tried different configurations. Actually about 8 different configurations. The problem was that it took quite a wait to test each one because I could only make a change once a day. It took waiting until the system-wide update each day at 5am. After a week I just had to give up. I would like to say that HE was a great place, very professional, very helpful, very secure, and very knowledgable. Also, they're in the same building as MAE-WEST!!!! I was sad to have to leave, but my site wouldn't work. So I started searching yet again.

Finally this week I found Interserver. I found them by accident actually, but PTL I found them! They claimed to offer everything I needed (except IMAP of course, but I just don't care anymore and forwarding works fine). I signed up and check to see if I could SSH and Blogger in. And they worked! DNS took quite a while to change over (almost 60 hours) and my work was cacheing the old ip forever, but finally just before I left this afternoon it worked! So now, 21 days after the nightmare began, my site is up again. At this point I have no desire to ever change hosting companies again and I'm very frustrated at the hosting industry in general. But my site works, so I'm pleased with that. And kudos to Interserver! They're working great. Keep up the great work please! I don't have much hair left to lose after this fiasco!

Remote War Bots

Introduction

I'm a big fan of the classic Robot Wars as seen on PBS. For the last few months I've watched "Battle Bots" on Comedy Central. I have to tell you, I'm seriously depressed. Not only is Battle Bots atrocious, it acts like it's not. For the last couple months I've been thinking about an idea for a similar concept on a grander scale. I can my game Remote War Bots (RWB).

Location

RWB will be played in a remote area of the Nevada or New Mexico Desert (the final location has not yet been chosen). The RWB compound will consist of a piece of land two miles square (four square miles total area). The actual playing space will depend on the class of the robots participating. The playing space will range from 100 feet sqaure to the full 4 miles square.

Weight Classes

RWB will consist of five classes of bots:

Micro Class Max Empty Gross Weight: 1kg Mini Class Max Empty Gross Weight: 20kg Small Class Max Empty Gross Weight: 100kg Medium Class Max Empty Gross Weight: 1000kg Super Class Max Empty Gross Weight: None The Largest Empty Gross Weight specified for each class is the most that a bot may weight without power source or weapons attatched. In each class weapons may be any size and mass, but must be launched from a vehicle. Note that a launching platform is considered a building, and thus weapons may be launched from a platform but the platform's empty weight must be at or below the Max Empty Gross Weight. Terrain

The terrain on the playing field will consist of sand, gravel, rock, asphalt, water, mud and other various substances. The player should not assume a consistency in terrain from battle to battle. The playing area will always have a small river running down the middle of the playing area. The river will be at least 10 feet wide and at least 5 feet deep at its deepest point.

Bots

In RWB all bots are allowed and encouraged. Any type of transportation is allowed, provided it conforms to FAA regulations (if traveling above 3000' AGL). Every bot must be able to be controlled remotely.

Control

All operators will be housed in a control bunker. Repeaters will be allowed and stations will be set up to place your tower outside the playing area. If your tower must reside within the playing area, it is fair game for desctruction. Repeater towers positioned outside the playing area are not allowed to be destroyed by the enemy purposefully. The judges will determine what is purposeful destruction and what is not. Should a repeater tower be destroyed outside the playing area and the incident be ruled an accident, the play will be suspended until the player can repair or replace his tower. If he cannot do so within 1 hour, the bots will be removed from the playing area and the area will be prepared for the next teams. Play will resume once the tower has been replaced. If the player cannot replace his tower, he must resign and his opponent will be ruled the victor. Power will be provided for control apparati (100 Amps). Repeater towers are limited to 500 watts power output. Direction broadcasting exceptions may be made if the player can demonstrate to judges convincingly that the broadcast truely is directional and the broadcast hardware must be adjusted so as not to cause interference to nearby radio operations (i.e. Government, Aircraft). Other modes of communication are allowed (and encouraged!). However, all communications gear must be inspected by judges to ensure it will not be used as an offensive weapon by the player. The control bunker will be located at a different location depending on the class. Visuals will be provided to the contoller via overhead derigible, long range cameras mounted on surrounding hills, and tower cams mounted around the perimeter of the playing field. The controller is strongly encouraged to provide himself with robots that broadcast their location so that he may have a more accurate understanding of the location of his bots. Within the control bunker the players will not be allowed to see one another or one another's equipment.

Weapons

The advantage of RWB over other bot war games is the lax restrictions on weapons. The only restrictions on weapons are:

No nuclear weapons (due to the US's agreement to adhere to a test ban treaty). The yield of a warhead cannot be so large that it could likely cause injury to the controllers. Rest assured that the controllers will be far enough away that should you be able to injure them your bots will have to be destroyed in the process. No organism (biological) weapons Toxic Chemicals must not be radioactive. Large spread chemical weapons (i.e. "crop dusting" your opponent with hydrochloric acid) will be allowed at the judges discretion. Although we admire your creativity, we can't keep moving to a new site after every battle, and most bots don't do well driving on a sea of acid. =) Unique forms of weapons are allowed and encouraged.

Gameplay

Gameplay will begin with each player positioning his bots at the designated starting locations on his side of the playing area. Play will commence at the judges signal. Play will continue until the first of the following is reached:

A 1 hour time limit, after which a 10 minute sudden death round will occur. Complete Immobilization of the enemies bots. Should the one hour time limit be reached, a sudden death round of 10 minutes will be played during which the boundries of the playing area will be reduced to the next smallest weight class (in the case of the micro class play will finish on one side of the river). Complete immobilization occurs only when a bot is incapable of operating in an upright position. Turning a bot upside down does not count as killing it. It must not be able to operate in any significant way when uprighted. Should all the enemies bots be turned upside down the player will have a five minute period during which he may attempt to immobilize the bots. Shoudld he fail to immobilize his enemies bots, each player may right his upside down bots and play will continue. Should the time limit be reached or each side expire it's weapons, a judge's decision will be made as to the winner. Winner's will be judged on a 100 point system. 5 judges will destribute 20 points to both players. 5 each in the areas of strategy, grace, aggressivness, and intelligent control. The winner will move on up the bracket, the loser down. A final winner will be found in each category, and the prize awarded (a prize has not yet been chosen, but suggestions have been money, a hummer, a ballistic missile, and a jet).

More Than a Left Brain

If you want to know the definition of "Left-brained" you would need only to examine my life. My habits, my actions, and my mannerisms all point to my powerful left-brainededness (Dave would be proud of me for making up a new word).

If you don't know what I mean basically my personality has thus far been (accurately) characterized as one of a perfectionist, an analyzer, anti-emotion, impersonal (at least to some degree), and mathematical. You might compare a left-brained person with a right-brained person using the analogy of shapes. A left-brained person would be a square, while a right-brained person would be a circle. Everything in my life is usually black or white, right or wrong. There is not much room for grey.

More recently I've begun to hang around people who are more right-brained than I. It turns out this is a very good thing. I believe that God has really shown me how both right and left brain, black and white and grey, intellect and emotion can and do work together to make this world what it is.

I've seen the world become a much more vibrant a bright place to live. My general outlook is more positive, and I see beauty in things I didn't before. The example I can best use is probably that of music. I've come to see just how music takes the precise detail of a note and combines it with others in a creative, (usually) emotional way to create a beautiful melody, peaceful harmony, and moving performance. There really is more out there than I was seeing.

Certainly I'm not going to base major decisions in my life on emotion. I will still be a black and white guy for the most part. I still see the details in everything. I usually miss the larger picture because I'm stuck on the details. I don't usually just appreciate that something is, I want to know how it works. But I will try to look beyond the details to the grander view. To step back and look at the forest. I think that I will appreciate life more because of it.

Next time you're trying to figure out how to make your microwave into a local-area wireless network hub, take some time and check out a sunset. And if you usually catch that sunset, spend some time at the library and find out why the sunset looks so beautiful. You'll be a better person because of it.