Friday, June 30, 2017

Let's Play Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance - Battle 1, Mission 2 - Rescue Uncle Antan

Time to take care of some family business. It seems that your brother and sister have located the whereabouts of your Uncle Antan. Apparently the Rebel Alliance doesn't have any kind of strict policy on time off, because it's time to jump into the Otana and take care of business with the Viraxo.

Ignore the briefing suggestion to head straight for the platform, and take a bit of time to kill the Planetary Defense fighters. The Otana's turrets will make quick work of them, but you'll be a sitting duck on the platform if they're not all dead when you dock to have MK rescue your uncle.

After that it's just a matter of blowing up as much stuff as you're comfortable with, up to and including the Imperial reinforcements.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Fantasy Four Garage

CycleWorld asked "What four motorcycles would you put in your Dream Garage?" I might have given this a bit more thought than necessary while riding my jack-of-all-trades Sportster, but here goes.

The Daily Rider - 2017 Harley-Davidson CVO limited
Official Harley-Davidson photo

My Sportster is a great all-around bike, but if I had a garage for four, then all-around is out, and purpose built is in. The CVO Limited is a bike built to eat pavement miles by the hundreds, and do it in comfort and at speed. You get all the creature comforts, with performance to hang with a Camaro or Mustang. This would be my daily commuter, and my perfect choice for racking up Iron Butt tours.

The Sportbike - Ducati 998
I definitely want to try a sportbike. Maybe not own one, lest I acquire far too many "Performance Driving Certificates" from the local constabulary, but if it's my dream garage... I'll be honest though, the choice of this specific bike has to do with a single influential scene form the mediocre sequel to an great movie.

The Mountain Goat - Ural Gear Up
Photo credit IMZ Ural
 The "Perfect Year" is close to impossible in South Dakota. I'm not saying completely impossible, because I'm sure some hearty soul might do it, but when snow and ice show up, pretty much everything with two wheels goes into hibernation. Not the Ural. Built to handle Siberia, a South Dakota winter is nothing. Just throw on the two wheel drive, plug in your heated gear, and away you go!

The Classic - 1942 Harley-Davidson WLA
Photo via wikipedia
 No complicated reasoning here. I'd love to own a classic Harley, and I'd love to own a running piece of military history. This would be the bike for summer evening rides, for small town parades, for car shows and airshow displays. Ridden enough to keep in condition, and always forgiven for marking its spot in the garage.

The best thing about this list? All four of these could be reasonably acquired for under $100,000. A lot of money, sure, but far less than a super-car dream garage would run. Who knows, maybe someday this dream will be a reality.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Backlog Burndown 23 - Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter - Balance of Power

I haven't forgotten about the Backlog Burndown. However, things have been a bit hectic, what with summer schedules, and it's mostly going on hiatus until fall, when weather turns colder and darker.


 I must be getting older, because sitting inside playing video games on a sunny June day has a lot less appeal to me than going outside and riding my motorcycle somewhere, or taking my kids to a park.

Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter - Balance of Power, however, is a game that was part of my #ForceFriday streams. I finally finished it a couple months ago, and got around to publishing the Backlog Burndown column for it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Let's Play Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance Battle 1, Mission 1 - Convoy Attack

Finally, some real action. Granted this mission is as close to a Milk Run as you're going to get, but at least you're finally up against real opposition. Kill a few fighters, try to ID the convoy craft before the Y-Wings turn them into so much space dust, then annoy the Strike Cruiser until it either dies or runs away.

Monday, June 26, 2017

One Year In - Thoughts on My Sportster

Much like last week's gear review, a year of riding is also a good time to reflect a bit on my choice of steeds. After five thousand miles, I've kind of gotten a feel for what I like and don't like. Is it time to dump the starter bike for something else? Maybe a street bike or dual sport?
The day I picked her up.
The short answer is "No!" I won't be changing rides anytime soon, well, unless H-D announces the Milwaukee Eight engine coming to the Dyna chassis in 2018, that would change my mind right quick, but barring that, I'll be sticking with my Sporty for some time to come, possibly until Adventure Girl is old enough to have it passed on to her.

The thing is, when I picked out a bike, I wanted a good all around ride. Something that I could commute comfortably on, with room to pick up a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread on the way home if needed. I wanted something that would be able to handle an occasional road trip, let me ride two-up with my kids around town, and with enough power to put a smile on my face and pass traffic at South Dakota interstate speeds.

My Sporty does all of that. Sure, she's a little short-legged for long trips, but after a hundred miles or so, you kind of want to get off and stretch anyway. There are faster bikes, there are bikes that carve up corners better, but I'm not going to track days anyway, so those capabilities aren't very useful to me.

Now, there are a few things I plan on changing. The wind protection is a bit lacking for my six foot, one inch frame. My current solution proved itself out on my Iron Butt ride, however, it's definitely a function but ugly solution. I'd like to go to a batwing fairing, possibly over the winter.

Ugly, but effective. Like an A-10 Warthog.

It's a similar story for my handlebars, they're just a little too low and far away to be comfortable over distances. There's probably a set of mini-apes in my future.

Still, long distance comfort changes aside, the Sportster has proven a solid, reliable choice. Fuel economy is usually more than 10mpgs better than my Saturn, and maintenance has been limited to normal wear items.

There's enough power for me to throw it around a bit in sweeping highway on-ramps, and if I look a bit silly hanging half off a cruiser in the turn, well, I don't care, because I'm smiling and gunning the throttle the whole time! That's really the most important part. Every time I put my gear on, go outside, put the key in the ignition, flip the fuel injection switch and flick the start button, I get a big smile on my face. It doesn't matter whether I'm riding five miles, or five thousand, the moment I hear that "Doom, da-doom, da-doom, da-doom" sound booming from the tailpipe, I know I'm going to have a good time.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Let's Play Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance - Joining the Alliance, Mission #2

This is one of those fairly standard dogfighting missions. Starts off easy enough, with a 1v1, progresses to 4v1, then you start adding wingmen.

It can be a little glitchy at times, but basically just fly normal, and shoot anything hostile.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Sorry Tested - Testers are Makers Too!

The Tested channel on Youtube is a very cool channel run by former Mythbuster (yes, I know he's done a lot more than just Mythbusters, but that's what everyone knows him from) Adam Savage. This week, in celebration of National Week of Making, they've been running video essays from various makers.

Now these are very cool, and inspiring, but one of them kind of set me off a little. Here it is below.

Let me preface this by saying that what this woman is doing is fantastic. I'm glad that she loves coding, got into game design, and is encouraging more people to follow her path.

But, I have a huge issue with the idea that game testers, or testers in general, can't be makers. Now I'll admit, I'm a bit biased, what with being a tester for most of my career. But that's kind of the point. I'm a tester. I'm also a maker, specifically in the professional sense that she's talking about.

Okay, entry level game testing isn't much of a maker position. You're given a game, provided a series of test cases to execute, and if you have any decent amount of initiative, you'll soon be ad-hoc testing other areas when you have nothing assigned. However, anyone who can get past their first month in QA will quickly find that they're making things. It may just be bug reports at first. Then it moves into test cases, area test plans, and eventually test plans for an entire game!

Testers with coding aptitude often migrate to QA Engineering (like I did) where you're building entire small scale programs to solve problems encountered by other members of QA, and to automate some of the worst drudgework in testing. THAT'S MAKING!!!

One of the big tenets of the Maker community is having a curiosity for how things work. A lot of people talk about this manifesting for them in a fascination with taking things apart, and putting them back together again. Testers take things apart. We look for new ways to take things apart, new ways to combine things that developers haven't thought of yet, but that some user out there will.

Testers absolutely are makers, and I very much hope that this video doesn't discourage some brilliant future tester (who may go on from testing to be a fantastic game designer, programmer, artist, or any number of other paths for which QA provides an entry point) from going into the industry because "I guess testers are just consumer-grade controller monkeys."

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

One Year In - Riding Gear Review

After celebrating a year riding by accomplishing one of my long-term goals, I figure it's time to take a good look at my gear. I ride ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time) both for reasons of personal safety, and because I will require my kids to ride that way while they're under my roof, and I don't want to have any more "Do as I say, not as I do" arguments than I'm going to end up having anyway.

Let's start with my helmet.

Helmet: Harley-Davidson Branded HJC IS_MAX 2

Pretty much this one, only with the H-D logo on the forehead rather than HJC. It's not a super expensive helmet, but seems to work well. It's broken in to be pretty comfortable, enough so that I was perfectly fine having it perched on my head for all the riding I did for the Bun Burner 1500. The visor is pre-drilled for Pinlock, which is an absolute necessity for riding into the fall, and the integrated sun visor works well without interfering with my prescription glasses

I do wish the chin vents had a screen of some sort though. I've enjested a couple of bugs onto the inside of my visor that had to be dealt with by quickly flipping the visor up to clear them. Not my favorite kind of surprise!

Overall though, this helmet has been a good performer for me. It's reasonably quiet, and the modular design comes in handy when stuck in traffic or needing to take a drink of water on a long ride, without compromising my overall safety the way a half- or three-quarter helmet would. I should have bought it in white though. Black cooks my head in the summer

Jacket: Harley-Davidson FXRG Switchback Textile Riding Jacket

This thing is brilliant. Definitely my favorite bit of gear. It breaks down into four separate layers, with built in CE rated elbow and shoulder armor in the base mesh layer, plus a pocket for a back protector. I do wish the back protector came with the jacket, because it was a $65 extra item, and a bit of a squeeze to get into the pocket.

In the summer, the mesh layer gives pretty good protection, while allowing plenty of airflow to stay cool once you're moving. In the spring and fall, I gradually add/subtract layers as need. With the windshield on my motorcycle, this keeps me comfortable in 30 degree freeway riding, and becomes my winter coat when it's January and -15 degrees. When this jacket eventually fails, I'll buy another one. It's well worth the money.

Gloves: Alpinestars SP-2s
These are great summer gloves. Well vented, pre-curved for less hand fatigue on long rides, and I'm very confident in their protection level. My only issue is that ventilation gets severely excessive when the temperature drops below about 60 degrees. A good set of thermal liners helps, but I need to find another pair of gloves for approximately October - April.

Pants: Spidi Motorcycle Jeans & Strength & Tourmaster Pants
 My ride everywhere pants in the summer are Spidi Motorcycle Jeans. They're reinforced for better durability, and have CE rated armor in the knees and hips. They're well ventilated, but they get heavy when you're off the bike. Certainly better protection than just a regular pair of Wranglers, but not a lot of fun to wear when you're off the bike in the summer.

When colder weather hits, I throw a pair of overpants on. This makes commuting a lot easier, since I just keep my work pants on underneath rather than changing at work. They're also nice for freeway riding in cooler temperatures. I pull the hip and knee armor out of the overpants, leave them in my Spidi jeans, and am decently warm at high speeds.

Feet: Milwaukee Motorcycle Boots
They're boots. They do the job, they're reasonably durable, and they seem like they'll stay together pretty well. I really wish I'd bought a pair with a side zipper, which would have been much less of a pain in the ass put on and off all the time.