April 16, 2005
I left the house this morning to run a couple of erands. After finishing those, I just felt like driving a little. It was a beautiful day; perfect weather for cruising in my convertible.
I decided to head down to Sky Park airfield in Bountiful. I knew that there was a flight school there that was well respected by flyers I have talked with in the past. I thought it would be nice to find out what the pricing of their services is.
Little did I know the adventure this decision would take me on.
While speaking with the girl in the office about the rates, she snagged a flyer who was heading out to spend a little time in the air. He spoke with me a little about how their operation worked and then invited me to go fly with him. He was just going to go up to the Ogden airport to practice a couple of landings and then come back. So, I went flying!
After we took off, we headed northwest, out over the eastern edge of Great Salt Lake. The plan was to practice an instrument approach first, then to perform a few touch-and-go maneuvers. The instrument approach went quite well so we made a couple of turns to line up on a different runway for the touch-and-go.
During the first landing, we just kept floating over the runway, but it finally touched down. Not to worry, it was only a couple of hundred feet longer than had been planned and that was because the wind had picked up a little stronger. We immediately retracted the flaps and applied full power, moving down the runway to return to the air.
As we left the ground we saw it...an F/A-18 Hornet on the ramp taking fuel. We decided to make the next landing a full stop and see if we could get a closer look at the fighter jet. We went around and landed on the same runway we had just left.
After taxiing to a stop and climbing down, we got a great look at the Hornet. My new friend decided to get a drink so we went inside looking for a soda machine. In the next room, I saw the unmistakable flight suit on a man sitting at a computer. I asked him, "I guess that's your ride out there?" He laughed and started talking with us a bit. "I'll be right out after I finish getting this weather info. If you like, I can give you a closer look at her." We did not hesitate in the least to accept his gracious offer.
We waited outside. When the fihter pilot came out he said, "Sorry guys, I just found out they're going to close the runway I need in Seattle in 90 minutes. I gotta scoot." We understood, of course. With some wellwishing and goodbyes, we headed back to our plane and mounted up.
We were in the air, circling around the northeast end of the Ogden airport when the F/A-18 started it's takeoff roll. It took less than a minute for us to completely lose sight of him.
We turned south towards Hill Air Force Base (which we passed over) on our way back to Sky Park.
Wow! I certainly did not plan on going flying when I woke up this morning and I definately never thought that I would be touching an F/A-18 today, either. What an adventure.
Posted by lamontp at 7:30 PM
April 14, 2005
WoW for All
The events of last night which brought her to this point are interesting. Here is the story.
After Cameron and I finished working through a couple of quests together, we said goodnight and I returned to the town of Goldshire to get the last of the Leatherworking training from the Journeyman Leatherworker there. Then, I went to Stormwind to become a Journeyman Leatherworker, myself. With this accomplished, I logged off and shut down the computer for the night.
When I entered our bedroom, my wife was sitting on the bed, reading. She asked me what I had done in the game tonight. I told her a little bit about the quests that we had gone on and about becoming a Journeyman Leatherworker. She said, "This game sounds like a lot of fun." I asked if she would like to try playing it.
A minute later, we were booting the computer up and she was logging into the system. I showed her how to start up the game, and how to create her first character (she decided on a Gnome Mage). When she entered the world, I showed her the basics of moving around, talking to Non-Player Characters (NPC) and a little about the combat system. She started working on the first couple of quests and was having fun.
Unfortunately, it was too late in the evening for me to remain awake any longer, so I went off to bed while she continued to learn the basics.
This morning, before I left for work, she arose from bed and told me that she wanted my help in figuring out the quest she was doing in the graveyard. "I don't know what that quest is," I said. You see, I have not created a Gnome character yet, and each race starts in a different place. Though there are similarities between each race's first quests, the details are different.
She also told me that while she had been playing the night before, she had run into these three monsters that were beating her up and then, suddenly, all her food was gone. I asked her, "So, you're saying some bullies stole your lunch money?" Without batting an eye or missing a beat she replied, "Yes. Where can I go to get my food back?" I smiled and told her about some of the food merchants she could find.
Then she said something amazing: "I can hardly believe that I have found another video game that I like to play. This game is lots of fun."
--Lamont R. Peterson
Posted by lamontp at 4:02 PM
Enlightenment Putty may just be what Santa is looking for. After all, toys like this Jack-in-the-Box are easy to make:
Posted by lamontp at 3:47 PM
My students teamed up to create this masterpiece of putty innovation:
Posted by lamontp at 11:48 AM
April 12, 2005
Putty House Elf
Students really do enjoy the Enlightenment Putty. In my class today, one created this likeness of Dobbey the House Elf.
Posted by lamontp at 5:18 PM
April 9, 2005
New Game: World of WarCraft
Both Dax and Cameron (of Guru Labs) have been playing Blizzard Entertainment's World of WarCraft since December (2004). Many days, when they both have been in the office, the rest of us would hear all about their exploits in the World of WarCraft from the night, or weekend, before.
Since the first Massively-Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (or MMORPG) came out, I have not had any interest in them. Why would I want to spend US$50 (or so) to purchase a game that requires me to be connected to their service in order to play? That might not be so bad, except that you have to maintain an account for a monthly subscription fee in order to connect to their service. "No, thank you," I have always said to this scheme...that is, until now.
World of WarCraft is just that compelling.
A longtime friend of mine was part of the beta test for World of WarCraft back in early-mid 2004, so I had the opportunity to see the game several months before it came out. That is when it started grabbing my interest.
One of the main reasons, for me at least, that World of WarCraft is better is that unlike other RPGs (Role-Play(ing) Games) the level up system does not award "attribute points" that you must then decide how best to distribute. Attributes do increase with each level and those attributes do affect the performance of your character, but they do not play a role in deciding whether or not you can equip an item. If you have the "skill" to use an item type, like swords, two-handed swords, maces, guns, bows, mail armor, leather armor, etc. and you meet the level requirement, you can equip and use the item.
Unlike most other MMORPGs, World of WarCraft does leave the decission to fight other player characters up to the "honor system," or in other words, you are not at the mercy of everyone else playing, if you do not want to be. You can engage in PvP (Player v. Player) combat if you choose.
There is also more than one way to gain XP (eXperience Points). Killing monsters is one and you will do a lot of that. But you also gain XP when completing quests. You can also gain levels by participating in PvP [Ed: This has changed. Now, PvP only contributes Honor Points which let you gain Ranks. See the WoW site PvP info page for more details].
The questing system is excellent. There are a wide variety of quests that are well thought out and put together. I have run into a couple of quests that I could not complete because of buggy NPCs (Non-Player Characters) who were "unwilling" to talk to me (and that was the goal at that point). Blizzard is working very hard to find and eradicate all such bugs. The in-game reporting system is very nice and (usually) makes it quite easy to report issues like these.
In addition to XP and levels, your character can learn up to two professions. Some of these professions are closely related (in pairs) and so would make sense to learn together. For example, Skinning & Leatherworking; Mining & either Blacksmithing or Engineering. As you gain skill (up to an ultimate maximum of 300 skill points) in your chosen professions, you can learn how to create more interesting, useful and valuable items.
There is a very complete economic system, including a server managed Auction House, where players can put items up for bid and shop for things they need or can use. Many players create items through the sills afforded by their professions and then sell them in the AH. There are many items in the game that can only be created by players.
In addition to the two primary professions, everyone can also learn all three of the secondary professions: Cooking, First-Aid & Fishing. Cooking allows you to create food items from raw ingredients extracted from monsters killed and/or purchased, some of which can give temporary benefits (known as buffs) when consumed.
Starting when your character reaches level 10, you will receive one Talent Point for each level (up to the current maximum of level 60). Talent Points can be distributed amongst three Talent Trees, which are specific to each character class. You can not earn enough talent points to completely research any one tree from top to bottom (at least, not until Blizzard moves the level cap up). The talents selected make your character more proficient in particular ares and allow you to customize that character's makeup.
As you go on quests in areas of the World of WarCraft, you will gain (or lose) Reputation. As your reputation improves, vendors (which are NPCs) will give you a discount on goods purchased from them.
On top of all that, for PvP there is an Honor System. If you kill people way lower than you in level, weather player characters or NPCs, you will increment your count of dishonorable kills. As honorable kills rack up, you will gain in Rank. As your rank rises, other areas of the game open up, which are only available to players with Rank.
As you can see, it is a very rich and well thought out system. It is very easy to play and yet you can highly customize your experience for the way you like to play. This is not limited merely to the selection of race and class of character, either. For these reasons, among others, I purchased World of WarCraft and truly enjoy playing it.
One word of caution, however: It can be addictive. This game does such a good job of engrossing you in it's many facets that one can quickly & easily lose track of time while playing. I would suggest that when you go out to buy World of WarCraft, you also pick up a small electronic timer or alarm clock to mount next to your monitor while playing and set it for a reasonable amount of time.
Posted by lamontp at 3:51 PM