My Weather Station

I wanted to get myself a treat, so when I was in my local Longs Drug Store (sells way more than drugs) I ran across an inexpensive portable weather station.  The weather station consists of two parts: a wireless thermometer that you leave outside, and an inside unit.  The inside unit displays inside and outside temperature, the date and time, and min and max temperature.  There is a backlight and an alarm feature, which I don’t use.  The inside and outside pieces can be separated by a maximum of 100 feet, 30.48 meters.

Weather Station

Weather Station

 Here is a picture of the weather station.  As you can see, the inside and outside pieces don’t register exactly the same temperature.

I put the outside device outside, near my door, hidden by one of the containers of my container garden.  The outside device will run a little warm because it’s next to a wall, protected from the elements.  I get no end of pleasure looking at the inside and outside temperative!


You might wonder – why do I bother?  I can open my door and see what the weather feels like.  I’m in and out all the time.  I know that, but I love looking at something that reinforces my addiction to the wonderful and magical weather where I live, the San Franciscso Bay area (not SF itself), northern coastal California.  The temperature doesn’t vary all that much, which makes it so  comfortable.  I love seeing how it cools down at night, even during the warm season.   The weather station doesn’t report humidity, but if it did, I’d see that the humidity is generally low.  I love California.

amarez – mszv

Knee Surgery – I love my Cane!

I had knee surgery on Thursday, October 16.  I thought it was arthroscopic knee surgery, but it turns out that the arthroscopic part was for diagnosis, and the rest was regular surgery, darn it!  I’m not into medical terms, or medicine in general, so my translation of “arthroscopic” means “you heal faster”.   OK – just to be thorough – here’s a link, from medline plus –   I got squicked out just by reading the article!

I’m in the process of getting better.   Even though it was “regular” surgery, this is not expected to be a long drawn out kind of recovery.  Two things I really like are the following: artificial ice and my cane.

Artificial Ice.  I decided to ice my knee myself, instead of renting the “keep it cool” medical device you plug in.  The big breakthrough –  the blue stuff you put in a cooler, when you are going on a picnic.  At Walgreens I bought an artificial ice pack designed just for knees.  The freezer part has the liguid suspended in little globes on a sturdy piece of plastic.  Even after you freeze it, the sheet is bendable.  It comes with a velcro cloth pack.  You stuff the sheet of artificial ice into the cloth pack and attach it to your knee with the attached velcro strap.  The “ice” pack is easy to use and really swell.

I like my cane even better.  I got my cane at Walgreens, the same place I got the artificial ice for my knee.   I’d give you the brand name of the cane, but I took off all the tags.  My cane is a marvel of design – light aluminum,  adjustable, sturdy tip, padded handle, a strap, and it’s a pretty bronze color.  It’s so well designed that it fits over a door knob or the back of a chair, without falling off.  This is not the type of cane that you see on television shows like House, a cane just for pretty – this is a cane you can use.   I’m going to keep my cane in case I ever need knee surgery again.

Here’s a picture of my cane.  I shot it from the door of my place.  My cane is resting against the railing of the second floor walkway. 

My Cane

My Cane




I love my cane!









amarez – mszv

The buildings were sold – the best hi-tech company in the world

A friend of mine called me up the other day and told me that this was his last day in one of the original buildings of our former company.  The buildings were sold.  He was moving into another building, the next day.

It’s a common story – big hi-tech company is bought by another big hi-tech company.  Some of the technology remains, but the company is no more. The industry doesn’t stay the same. The landscape, the network, the mesh, the world, it changes.

I know that. People say “change is good”, as if it were a mantra, or a talisman, or a truth they want to believe.  In reality, change is change.  Some of it is good – some not so good.  It’s just change.

If you ask me, this big hi-tech company was the best hi-tech company in the world.  We had thrilling products.  It was a wonderful place to work.  We knew each other well.  We had a history.  We had a culture.  Don’t get me wrong – it was a real place, with real people.  Good things happened, but terrible things happened too.  That’s how real places are, with real people. 

If you never worked for a great company, then you can’t understand this.  I told people at my new place (an educational institution) the story of the buildings being sold. They tried to understand, but I don’t think they did.  Now, if I would have said – “well, what if our great educational institution was gone, after over one hundred years of existence –  would you tell me that change is good?”   “No”, they would tell me – “that’s different!”.

It’s not different.  The world changes, but that doesn’t invalidate what we had. I wish there would have been a way for the best hi-tech company in the world to continue, all by itself, successfully, happily, creatively, with me there too – but that didn’t happen.

Lest you think I’m being completely maudlin – I feel I need to say this – I’m not being maudlin, nor am I “stuck in the past”.  I’m working with good people (smart too!) on interesting things.  I’m making a difference. In everything I do in the work world, I try to bring some passion, a “you can make it better” vibe.  I believe in both technology and in our ability to make things better.  And I follow tech companies with interest, and yes, affection.  It’s a big world – there doesn’t have to be only one great hi-tech company in the whole world!

I’m ending this post with a tribute.

Today is Friday. Late Friday afternoon was a special time for us.  Here is what I did.  I brought up Google Maps, and I found the location of the original company buildings.  I switched to street view. I clicked on the map, modeling how I traversed the physical landscape of my company, at their headquarters in California.  I Google Map “drove” past the original buildings, and then I drove past the buildings in California where I used to work.  Then I opened a beer.


amarez – mszv

Guild Wars – Gargoyles – New Clothes

Someone asked me what I did the other night, after class, and I said – I fought gargoyles, in Guild Wars! 
I’m at the beginning of Guild Wars (online multiplayer game), the Prophesies compaign, the “presearing” world, before all the bad things happen.  The game designers make it easy for a new player, so that we can develop our skills.  When I traveled to the catacombs, all of the gargoyles did not attack me on sight.   A few of them noticed me – there was a big powerful one that was really mean!  For the other ones, I had to take the initiative.  I had to fight them –  I want the area cleared out and I need those gargoyle skulls. 

I got most of them – there’s only a couple of gargoyles left.  I watched one of them for a long time, and then I let him live. I have all the gargoyle skulls I need, and he seemed kind of lonely.  How much fun can it be, hanging around the catacombs, never venturing out to the surrounding lands?  That’s not much of a life.

My Elementalist Fights a Gargoyle

My Elementalist Fights a Gargoyle




Here I am, fighting a gargoyle.





Guild Wars - Gargoyle

Guild Wars - Gargoyle



I let this gargoyle live.






The world is bucolic, above ground, but there are some weird things going on.  I had to defend myself against the largest seed you are ever going to see!  Yes, a seed, as in a plant seed, but it turned into a weird killer thing.  What’s with this lovely world – unnatural magic, a thinning of the ozone later, what?

Elementalist Fighting a Seed

Elementalist Fighting a Seed




Here I am, fighting a very mutant “seed”!




 I really like my new armor.  Yes, that floaty skirt is “armor” — it protects me.  The outfit is still too skimpy for my tastes, but it’s a lot better than the short cheerleader skirt I got when I started out.  I like the top better too – I’m not spilling out of it, like I was with the other top.  I do need better boots and gloves.

Guild Wars - Elementalist - New Armor

Guild Wars - Elementalist - New Armor

My Elementalist in new armor – very nice.
amarez – mszv

Guild Wars – Myst Online Uru – letting go – connections

I’ve played Myst Online (Uru), an online multiplayer game, for forever, in game years.  I was in the 2003 beta. I’ve played Uru through three multiplayer phases, and its solo player phase.  I’ve been a forum moderator on two official forums.  I’ve became friends with someone who worked for the publisher.  I’ve corresponded with people on the developer side.  I have a history.  I know Uru. I’ve been a part of something.

I’ll play online multiplayer Uru again, when it comes back. Sometimes I don’t even know if I like Uru anymore, but I can’t stay away.  I’ll play Uru, but it won’t be an “exclusive” deal – another MMO calls.

I’ve been playing Guild Wars for two months.  I’ve never played an online RPG (MMO role playing game) – so I’m new, and I’m slow.  Many people play Guild Wars – though estimates vary since there are no subscription fees. Over 5 million units were sold, but there are no good figures on how many are playing.  It’s got experts, forums with many members, and people who have been playing since 2005.  Some of the players must have played in the Guild Wars beta, so they’ve been around even longer.

It’s interesting, going from one game where you have a history, to one where you have no history.  I love Guild Wars, and I’m playing Guild Wars for the right reason, because I love it.  Guild Wars is beautiful – a big world with a story and a lot to do.      It’s an online, multiplayer game, but you can play this multiplayer game by yourself, with others, or you can head up a small group of AI (artificial intelligence) characters, when you are on a quest.  What’s even better is that I, a new slow player who doesn’t play much – I’m in a guild! 

Here’s the story. You online players have heard this story before, but it’s new to me!

In Guild Wars, a guild is a group of people who make up a social network (reference Many MMORPGs have guilds; Uru has something equivalent, called a neighborhood.  In Guild wars, guild members get a special “channel” in game, where you can talk to your guild mates, via text chat.  The guild can purchase a guild hall, where you can hang out with members of your guild.  The Guild Hall is a private area open only to guild members and guests.  There are other goodies in the hall, but you get the general idea. “Hall” is something of misnomer, if you count the surrounding lands that make up your Guild hall. Our hall is beautiful. 

Our guild is great.  Some of us play a lot, some of us play a little, and there is no pressure on how and when we play.  As far as I can tell, my guild operates on the principle that we all have busy lives, so we should play how and when it works for us. Not all guilds in all games are like that.  We are also in an alliance with other guilds, many of whom are former or current Uru players.  Our alliance has a shared chat channel (talk via text), and we can visit the guild halls of the guilds in our alliance.  We can also participate in alliance battles, but I don’t know how that works.  I’m a PvE (player versus environment) sort of player.  I engage in battle with opponents in my world (such as monsters), but I don’t fight other players.

And how did I get to be a member of my guild and my alliance – through Myst Online Uru. Uru players started playing other online games, both before and after Uru’s cancellation.   I was recruited by an Uru player (thanks C!) who noticed I was online in another game called “There”.  She visited me in There, We started talking, and then C. saw my post in an Uru forum which said that I was playing Guild Wars.  C recruited me to her guild. Aside from being a really nice person – she’s got a genuine talent for low key but effective PR!

Long time online players may think “what’s the big deal”, but Uru attracted players who had never played an online game.  Before Uru, many of us thought we could never play online multiplayer games. After Uru, many of us thought that we could only play Uru.  Then it happened – people recruited their online Uru friends and acquaintances to other games, and their friends brought in other friends, and our game world expanded.  I would have played Guild Wars without being magically asked to be in a guild, but it makes it extra wonderful to be in a Guild.  I didn’t have to look for a guild.  Thanks to C., I was invited to join a guild.

So – this moving on thing is weird. I’m playing Guild Wars for the right reasons, because I love it.  I’ve got no history in Guild Wars, unlike Uru.  I’ll never be a legacy person, or an expert. But, oddly enough, I have connections – a community of Uru players who went to Guild Wars, and I can be a member of their group.  I’m still playing by myself, but I also have a small group (a guild), and a big group (an alliance).  I like it.

Here’s a picture of my ritualist character, in our guild hall. “Ritualists channel other-worldly energies that summon allies from the void and employ mystic binding rituals that bend those allies to the Ritualist’s will.” (

Guild Wars - My Ritualist in my Guild Hall

Guild Wars - My Ritualist in our Guild Hall

mszv – amarez

Uru – the MMO

Uru is an online multiplayer game (MMO), developed by Cyan Worlds, the creators of Myst.  The game is set in present day.  You discover an ancient city, underground in the desert.  Via the concept of linking books (find a book, open it, click on the image) you are transported to other worlds, called ages.  Gameplay consists of exploring the worlds, solving puzzles to advance the story and unlock new worlds, and finding objects to wear or decorate you home.  When possible, you could also attend live “events”, simlar to an interactive play.
Ubisoft published the first online version in 2003.  Several months later the online version was cancelled. Uru was converted into a solo player game.  In 2004, the second multiplayer version of Uru was released, called Until Uru.  There was no new content from Cyan, but players could play the multiplayer version via privately run player owned servers.  There was a $15.00 (US dollars) one time charge if you bought the boxed version of the game.   In 2007, the free servers (Until Uru) were shut down and Gametap released a third multiplayer version of Uru (monthly fee) with new content.  In April 2008 version three was shut down. 


In July 2008, Cyan announced that they would self publish a multiplayer version, making this the fourth time a multiplayer version of Uru will be released! The initial release by Cyan will have no new Cyan content, but fans will be able to create their own content (with some restrictions).  Cyan will review player created content and add it to the game, for other players to enjoy.


Two good links

MMORPG Article


History of Uru – Wikipedia entry


Three screenshots

Uru - opening screenshot - the desert

Uru - opening screenshot - the desert


My first screenshot from the 2003 beta.  I start Uru.  I am in the desert in New Mexico.  What will I find?








Uru - Relto - my home

Uru - Relto - my home


My private age – Relto – my home in Uru .  This is a private age, though I can invite other players as guests.







Uru - Bevin - a neighborhood

Uru - Bevin - a neighborhood




 Bevin, a neighorhood in Uru.  This is a shared age, an age owned by more than one player.  The age can be open to all players, or private, which means that only the owners can access it.





Do I like Uru?  Yes – I do.  Would I recommend that you play Uru.   My answer – I don’t know.


I’ve been with Uru for…well…forever.  I was one of the first people admitted to the 2003 beta test.  I’m been a player, a supporter, a critic.  I’ve been a volunteer moderator for the official web forum, starting with the first publisher, Ubisoft, in 2003, then with Gametap and Cyan. (I don’t mod anymore – short answer – no time).  I’ve made friends.


When I was laid off in 2003 (company merger, layoffs, you know the story, working again, all is good), Uru kept me going during unhappy times.  I’ve never considered myself to be what we call an “avid” fan – though if you look at how long I’ve been in Uru, and my involvement in the community, I’m much more of a fan than I think I am!  Uru has been a constant in my life since 2003.   I know the game world – it’s a part of me.  I’ve lived there.  There were times when I would not logon for weeks, but I would always come back.  I have the solo player version of Uru,; it’s beautiful, but I miss the multiplayer version.  I will play MMO URU when it comes back


I’ve also been a critic.  Uru is beautiful and sometimes it’s wonderful, but it’s also flawed.  I won’t go into the flaws here (maybe a later post), but think about it.  There is enough interest to resurrect Uru three times (four if you count Until Uru), but then the game was cancelled, several times.  Something is going on.


Will you like it?  I don’t know.  I don’t think those of us who have been with Uru forever are the best judges of whether other people will like it.  We aren’t objective.  Uru is our history, our community, our home.  I recommend that you read up, and perhaps, give it a try.  Uru (called MORE) is going to be very reasonably priced – about $25.00 (US) for a 6 month subscription – payable via Paypal, so it will be available around the world.  Here’s a link to the official site, including the online forum.




 amarez – mszv

My Avatar

At the Airport – road warrior or pack mule?

I have always wanted to be one of those plucky, purposeful “road warrior” type travelers.  For those of you who don’t recognize the term, “road warrior” refers to a particular type of business traveler – one who travels a lot, mostly on planes, knows what to carry, and makes the best use of technology.  

I take a lot of technology stuff with me, but I’m not a quick or elegant traveler, one who knows where everything is, someone who can whip out that laptop at the last minute, and then quickly put it away.  

Here is the story from my last airport venture, a couple of days ago.

1. Troll the gates (past security) looking for a working electrical outlet.  We all do this.  Airports are slow to recognize that we’d be a lot happier if we could just plug in.

 2. Find what looks like a working electrical outlet, on the floor, next to a window.  Sit on the floor (ick), pull out laptop from the rolling backpack – only have to dislodge two packets of stuff in my bag. Pull out cord.   Snake the power cord on the floor, and plug into the outlet and the laptop. Fire up laptop, resting it awkwardly on my knees.  Discover that the outlet is not working, and it’s so sunny (back to a window) that I cannot see the screen anyway.  Pack up and move on.

3. Find what looks like another working outlet –  the floor, but close to a row of real seats.  Pull out laptop, power cord, headphones and mouse – 3 cases, counting laptop case.  Rolling backpack tips over but I right it.  Plug in power cord.  Perch laptop on knees.   Rest laptop on seat next to me, plug in headphones (no need to turn off speaker), wireless mouse (not a big fan of the track pad), and power cord.  Fire up laptop.

4.  Little tricky using the mouse.  It works better if I mouse over myself, oddly enough – not enough room on the seat for the mouse and the laptop. Use a combo of touch screen and mouse to access laptop. 

5.  Look for a free working wireless connection.  If I was a real road warrior, my company would pay for airport wireless access.  Find a couple of wireless networks, but you have to pay for all of them – not my thing.

6.  Pull out my Smartphone – Motorola Q – admittedly “last year’s” model (Windows Mobile 5), but I like it a lot.  The pricey data plan I pay for is going to get some use.  I have to find a place to rest my Smartphone, as I have to connect it to a USB port with its cable.  The connection software works well, and I’ve memorized the sequence of what you hook up first – very road warrior of me!  I’m online. I download email, also check out a game web forum.  Not all that “road warrior” of me, but hey, it’s my time.

7.  Cool thing to try – might as well see if Guild Wars, an online multiplayer game, will play on the laptop using my Smartphone data plan.  My network is not 3G, so it’s faster than dialup, but slower than broadband DSL.  Surprise – Guild Wars plays great!  I’m a little too distracted for actual playing, so I move around a bit in Guild Wars, and then close the program.

8.  Shut everything down, pack everything up in their cases, push everything back in rolling backpack (have to rearrange) and move on.

I do feel like a road warrior when I do the data thing on my cell phone. I get great reception at the airport, and my Smartphone has a full, though small keyboard.  Reading email and accessing the web is oddly fun. 

Here’s a picture for you – a plane (one of my flights from a couple of years ago) in the air.  You can see all the lovely blue out the window. A digital camera (better than my Smartphone camera) is another thing I bring with me.

View from a plane

View from a plane

All for now,

amarez – mszv