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Megafest 7.1

Started: 2008-09-12 09:06:26

Submitted: 2008-09-12 10:33:49

Visibility: World-readable

This spring, I successfully petitioned the Megafest Planning Committee to hold Megafest 7.0 in Colorado so I could run the Bolder Boulder on Memorial Day. (I will concede that, in general, getting up early to run road races is almost entirely antithetical to the established norms of Megafesting.) In exchange for this out-of-order location, the Committee decided that the next two Megafests would be held in Lincoln. Heading towards Labor Day, I wasn't sure how much time I would be able to take off from my new job, having started just four weeks earlier. It turned out that I did in fact have enough vacation to take one day off. (I also had an employee-designated holiday, and while I was tempted to declare the new holiday of Megafesting Day, I decided instead to spend my free holiday two weeks later to fly to Washington and climb Mount Adams.)

Thursday, 28 August 2008

I left work early, departing a bit after 1500. I stopped for a few last-minute fortifications before arriving home, where Kiesa had already packed most of our stuff into Yoda. (We briefly considered driving the more-comfortable Motoko, complete with cruise control, but I punched the numbers and decided that driving Motoko would use 5.7 more gallons of gas, one way; at a reasonable estimate of $3.85/gallon, that would be $22.) I elected to leave Ziyal and her massive CRT at home; an additional benefit of my startup's implosion was getting my old Linux workstation (formerly known as Leonardo; I renamed it Hiro when I installed x86_64 Debian) and a highly-portable LCD monitor. The disadvantage was that I didn't have years of experience carting LCD monitors across the country; I didn't have any appropriately-sized boxes, so I wedged the monitor in the trunk in a position I judged unlikely to do terrible things to the screen.

Kiesa and I left Longmont a bit after my target departure time of 1600. She drove first; I opted for the second driving shift ending well past her bedtime. Our drive was uneventful. We stopped for supper at Taco Bell in North Platte but soon remembered that we were generally uninspired by this particular location on our last several Megafest trips. (We later learned that Anya's mother refuses to visit this particular location.) I took over driving, continuing east on I-80 through rural Nebraska. I spent most of the drive between 80 and 85 miles per hour and counted down the miles until we reached Lincoln. (The major flaw in the way I count miles to Lincoln is that I expect Lincoln to begin at milepost 400. It is true that milepost 400 is within sight of Lincoln, but Yanthor and Anya live on the far eastern end of town; our normal route is to drive several exits past Lincoln and backtrack.) We hit milepost 400 shortly after midnight, local time, and arrived at the Republic of Haven (Yanthor's name for his residence) shortly before 0030.

We found Yanthor, Anya, Humblik, and Nemo engaged in a game of Settlers of Catan or one of its myriad variants. They helped drag our stuff in and I claimed half of a table next to Yanthor's workstation along the east wall of the basement. I plugged Portico into the VGA cable connected to his large, flat-screen television and verified that I could in fact show my famous what-I-did-this-summer slide show on the screen. I hovered over the game until someone managed to win (probably Yanthor, though I don't remember for sure) and herded the Megafestors onto the futons in front of the TV for my slide show. Since the last time I showed the presentation when my family visited in early August, I added slides from my climb of Longs Peak a week prior.

Friday, 29 August 2008

After breakfast, Kiesa tied everyone down and convinced everyone to sign up for meals. With that out of the way, she and Anya went grocery shopping. I talked Nemo into playing Empire Builder. Several turns into the game, Yanthor returned from a game-acquisition run and asked to be dealt in. (He hypothesized that he might be able to profit by using our tracks rather than building his own, but he forgot that early-game track-building is almost always profitable and tends to form the core of one's late-game route network.) I ultimately won the game; Yanthor did manage to do fairly well despite starting a bit late.

Kiesa and I teamed up for a Japanese dinner. She over-cooked the stir fry and made an interesting dish involving stuffed fried tofu pouches. She stuffed the remaining tofu pouches with my left-over sushi rice to make inari. I made sushi again, following the recipe I used for Megafest 7.0. I discovered that shiitaki mushrooms added a compelling savory flavor to my maki rolls.

Yanthor acquired a shiny new large set of Settlers of Catan expansions, featuring five or six ways to extend the game in various small ways. Throughout the Megafest, we played "Fishermen of Catan", "The River", and the caravan scenario.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

At some point during the weekend, I pulled out Yanthor's copy of the television series Dilbert and watched the first several episodes. (I brought my own copy to the Megafest, but decided to watch Yanthor's copy so we didn't get our two copies too confused.)

Linknoid arrived in the afternoon, carrying his desktop gaming machine, and occupied a card table in the north-east corner of the basement. After supper, Yanthor pulled out Anya's notebook and presented all three acts of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. I watched the first act online when it was released but didn't get the opportunity to watch the second two acts. It seems obvious that Joss Whedon had way too much fun writing the Internet-only show.

I convinced Nemo to play another game of Empire Builder (which I referred to as a "civil engineering infrastructure game") and convinced Humblik and Yanthor to join us. We were in the middle of the game when Bitscape called from Montana. Yanthor put him on speakerphone, giving him a telepresence at the Megafest. He was filming the call from his end and convinced me to start filming the events in the basement so we could stitch the footage from the two cameras together into a split-screen adventure like "Yoda Christening" or "Give Two Idiots a Camcorder Each". (I eventually won this game as well, though Yanthor wasn't very far behind me. I made a couple of stupid mistakes in the last quarter of the game that delayed my win by several turns; I forgot to pick up the right commodity in San Francisco for delivery to Regina.

Late in the night, before giving into sleep, I fixed the final nagging details on my sister's wedding website. I had a minor font issue involving different style sheets for text inside paragraph tags and text outside paragraph tags, which took a bit too long to uncover in my sleep-deprived state, but I finally managed to figure it out after looking at the page in four browsers. (I prefer Seamonkey; I also tested in native Firefox 3 and fired up my Windows XP virtual machine to run IE 7 and Safari. Google Chrome hadn't yet been released, or I would have tried the site in that browser as well. I did check the site in Chrome once it was released early the following week.) I made the beta version live, fulfilling my promise of free web design.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

When Festing gave way to Megafesting and most of us got day jobs that involved writing code, the focus shifted away from epic projects toward movies and gaming. I did manage to write a bit of code at the Megafest; one of my expected uses for Hiro is as my backup server. While at Morphlix I figured out how to detect hot-plug events in Perl and do useful things; I adapted that code to automatically synchronize the backup on a removable hard drive when it was inserted.

Ten years ago, I began my freshman year at Union College, where I met all of the Festors present except for Kiesa. In celebration of the auspicious anniversary, I convinced Yanthor and Linknoid to play Starcraft. (It is worth pointing out that I didn't actually play Starcraft until the Year of the Commune a year later.) None of us had Starcraft installed on our computers, though we all own a license somewhere or another. Yanthor provided media and I installed Starcraft on my Windows XP virtual machine. I had to fight with the screen resolution to get it to work properly at the correct aspect ratio, but I eventually got it to work in full-screen mode on my external LCD. We played several multi-player games versus various combinations of AI opponents and often wished for features we knew and loved from our more recent real-time strategy obsession, Kohan: Ahriman's Gift. None of us remembered what we were doing. I played Protoss, Yanthor played Zerg, and Linknoid played Terran. Our AI opponents rushed one of us early; we finally managed to do well as three humans and one AI against three AIs. I felt dreadfully out of practice; I couldn't remember the Protoss build order or the counters to dangerous opposition strategies. (It didn't help that we played Broodwar, while almost all of my experience was with original Starcraft.) Linknoid declared himself done after a few games, but I talked Yanthor into a pair of one-on-one deathmatches. In the first game, he Lurker-rushed my base while I was working on an intermediate tech tree and economy. In the second game, I built Templars to try to counter his generic Zerg massed units and plenty of photon cannons to protect my buildings and units from cloaked Lurkers. He expanded more aggressively than I did and ultimately overwhelmed my defenses.

After supper, we considered what evening entertainment to undertake. Most of us had had enough of table games, so we considered movies. While Yanthor, Anya, and Kiesa sat on the futons in front of the TV, I went through the movies I brought, which included the "final cut" of Blade Runner. This generated the most enthuasism, so we watched the movie. I hadn't yet seen the "final cut"; I didn't actually notice much different from the "director's cut"; the visuals were spectacular, though they would have been better in HD rather than on an up-scaled DVD. Kiesa dropped out to go to bed not long after we started; only Yanthor and I finished watching the movie. After finishing, we talked about the movie and life in general before wandering around and watching the end of the climatic battle on the roof again.

It's too bad she won't live -- but then again, who does?

Signalman showed up briefly around midnight and Yanthor put in The Princess Bride. I barely kept my eyes open through the movie and went to bed immediately after it finished.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Hermes: "Labor Day? That phony-baloney holiday crammed down our throats by fat-cat union gangsters?"
Fry: "That's the one."
Hermes: "Hot damn. A day off!"

Our final day of Megafesting culminated in a pair of back-to-back games of Settlers of Catan with various new expansions. We started with "The River"; when Yanthor cut me off from expanding in any direction I gave up and refused to continue playing. The other players proceeded to ignore my turns and played amongst themselves. I returned to the second game, the caravan scenario, which featured complicated rules for voting where caravans would go that often required forming coalitions of players who could convince each other to agree on a single course of action. I ultimately won the game, thanks to a fortuitous resource I stole from Yanthor that let me upgrade to a city and get the last victory point I needed.

Kiesa and I departed in the middle of the afternoon four our seven-hour drive back home. Kiesa took the first driving shift again. We stopped so I could grab a sandwich at Subway in North Platte, then continued down the Interstate so I could eat while Kiesa drove, then stopped at Dairy Queen in Ogalla for Kiesa's supper and my dessert. I drove the second shift, which culminated in an epic thunderstorm after dark that peaked as I merged onto I-25 north and subsided by the time we reached home.

Having rejected DOS, we're paranoid about anything that isn't
"user-friendly," that requires some adjustment on our part and a
commitment to meet the technology halfway. It's as if Henry Ford rigged
a bridle and set of leather reins to his Model T instead of a steering
wheel and clutch, and to this day we were still driving our cars the way
a 19th century groomsman would handle a horse and buggy.
- Jonathon Keats, "'You Send Me' by Patricia T. O'Conner & Stewart
Kellerman", Salon.com