Caster's Corner - Livestreaming on Twitch

Monday, December 31, 2018

Last one for 2018! Grades & Goals! Vlog 2018-52

Last vlog for 2018! Can't believe I managed to do this every week for a year!

With that in mind, here are my final grades for my major 2018 initiatives, and my general plans for 2019.

Fitness - B
Content - C
Finances - D+

Going to do better next year!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Let's Play Wing Commander 1: McAuliffe Mission 3

I was going to miss flying with Paladin. He sure wasn't flashy, but you knew exactly where he was, and that he had your back. I hadn't realized how valuable that was back in the academy.

For what would be our last mission as a flight pair, the Colonel had us back on escort duty. Confed had a lot of heavy cargo coming in, both to fortify the system, and to resupply before our next jump. Not that the Cats were going to make it easy. They'd turned one of their best loose somewhere in system, and were putting up a massive fight.

Given that, I shouldn't have been surprised that we bumped into a four-ship of Krants halfway to the jump point. Paladin broke right to take the lead, and I burned in underneath to try and catch at least one of the big medium fighters from behind before its pilot could react. After that it just dissolved into a massive furball, fighters going every which way. Paladin drew a lot more than his fair share of fire, which allowed me to knock down most of the enemies.

That issue solved, we pressed on to the jump point. The Drayman transport jumped in right on schedule, and we started for home. That's when Bhurak and his two wingmen (wingcats?) jumped us. I knew Bhurak had me maneuvered, but he was still flying a Salthi. While Paladin rolled in on the wingmen, I went straight for Starkiller. Intel had said that the Kilrathi ace liked to launch his missiles at max range and then close for gun kills. I figured if I closed fast enough, I could negate his maneuvering advantage and bring my Scim's mass drivers to bear faster.

Against a heavier fighter, I would have been toast. As it was, I swear I saw one of Bhurak's rockets just pass my right wing, then I opened up with the mass drivers. Maybe the cat was used to people running from him. Maybe he just didn't expect a human to play chicken. I don't know. What I do know, is that I flew through an expanding glass cloud that used to be a Salthi, and the cat hadn't managed to knock my shields down.

After that it was an easy 2v2 cleanup of the remaining hostiles with Paladin. Then home to the Claw for a bit of R&R before the next jump.

Note: Success in this mission will send players to the Gimle System to fly Raptors. Failure will send players to the Brimstone System, still in Scimitars.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Uncommon Heroism

Via The Dreamy Dodo blog, I came across this picture of Cessna A-37s, Northrup F-5s, and a single odd Cessna L-19 aboard the deck of the USS Midway (CVA-41) on their way to Guam after the fall of Saigon in 1975.

Sing it with me now: "One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just isn't the same..."

How that Bird Dog (the L-19) got there is one hell of a story. As Saigon was falling, South Veitnam Air Force Major Buang-Ly loaded his wife and five children into the two seat observation aircraft and headed out to sea from the island of Con Son. He didn't really have a plan beyond "get out of here and hope to find an American ship."

What he finally found as an aircraft carrier loaded with other aircraft, that he was sure he could land on. What happened next was recorded from the flight deck of the Midway.

According to, Major Buang's several passes over the carrier, were attempts to drop notes signaling his intentions. The first couple blew away, and he finally resorted to stuffing his third note into his pistol and dropping that onto the deck. Note the look of relief on his wife's face when she exits the aircraft.

In the linked article, there's a bit of follow-up as well. Major Buang and his family eventually settled in Orlando. In 2014, at a small ceremony held during Sun 'n Fun, Major Buang and his extended family were presented a special aircraft model honoring his historic flight. Major Buang's aircraft itself now hangs in the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.

I may have to go through my old photos and see if that aircraft is in the background of any of my shots of pointy jets.

The Cessna L-19 (O-1) was derived from the Cessna 170, which is a four-seat, high-wing taildragger. The biggest difference in the militarized aircraft was the tandem seating arrangement for the pilot and observer, making the L-19 the largest two-seat aircraft Cessna ever built. Even so, that must have been a seriously tight squeeze for a family of seven.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas Christmas Music

Merry Christmas. I hope that you enjoy some time with family this Christmas, and remember who Christmas is all about. Please enjoy some of my favorite Christmas tunes, if you like.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Let's Play Wing Commander 1: McAuliffe Mission #2 - Destroyer Strike

Finally a chance to do something other than patrols or escorting fat, slow transports. McAuliffe was heating up, at least that's what the Colonel said, and he was sending strike pairs out to engage and neutralize possible threats that had popped up on radar.

It seemed like the guys in the bar earlier must have been part psychic, since we'd just been discussing the best way to take out an enemy capital ship. Maniac, of course, favored an agressive strategy of burning in, popping the cap ship, then dealing with the fighter escort. Iceman, and everyone with a brain, preferred to engage the escorts first, then deal with the big hostile once there wasn't anything left that could shoot us in the back.

 The flight of Dralthi we blundered into halfway to the nav point was just bad luck. Certainly for them, since Paladin and I made short work of them. At Nav 1, we rolled in against a bigger threat: two Krants escorting the Ralari destroyer we'd come to destroy.

I gave Paladin the lead and burned hard to come in under the trailer. On paper, the Scim and Krant woere pretty close matches. The Krant had slight edge in armor, I had a little more firepower. When the trailing fighter couldn't turn in fast enough to hang with me, firepower won. I went underneath him at full burner, then cut my drives and pitched around to put myself on his tail. One full burst from my Mass Drivers was all it took. That gave me time to help Paladin, who was struggling with the other fighter. The cat must have gotten target fixated as Paladin tried to extend and clear, allowing me to call Fox Two and put a heater up the Krant's tailpipe.

After that, the Ralari was just a matter of weathering the flak and unloading guns into the engines. Problem solved, and we were RTB with not too much worse than some paint scratches and half-empty missile racks.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Just a Five Minute Job - A Home Improvement Metaphor for Tech Debt

One of the most interesting panel discussions that I participated in during Agile + DevOps 2018 centered around Technical Debt and what we can do about it. We found ourselves using a metaphor of home improvement projects a few times - especially the idea that you don't always know how big the task is when you start. With that in mind, I'd like to present a short recap of a recent "five minute" easy home improvement fix I found myself in.

The Problem:My girls share a room which contains one of the air returns for the heater. The grate covering this duct was no longer staying in the wall. This had led to at least one feline excursion into the ductwork, and now required that a trashcan or other large object block the grate to keep the cats away.

The Estimate:
This isn't a difficult fix. All I needed to do was grab my drill, zip in a couple of drywall anchors, drive the screws back into the wall, and done. Five minutes. Max.

The Reality:
First off, the grate cover is the wrong size for the hole. What I really should have done was get a new cover, or enlarge the hole, but one of those things would require spending extra money, and the other would require measuring and cutting additional bits of drywall. Both were out of scope.

After grate removal. Can't expand the hole to the left because there's a wall stud there.
My first fix was exactly as specified in the estimate. That worked fine, right up until I realized that the screws were now too short to properly open the drywall anchors. Okay, I'll get some new screws.

Then the screw on the right drove the drywall anchor straight through the sheet of drywall and into the five inch gap in the wall that I didn't realize was there.

Feline help from Romana the Time Kitty did not decrease the task duration.

No problem, I can go grab a couple of 2x4 ends, trim them up, fill the gap between the walls, and drive a 3" wood screw in there.

Which I did. Total time, between trimming 2x4 scraps, swapping out screws, removing busted drywall anchors, and oh yes, removing a helpful cat: forty-five minutes. That's 9x longer than my original estimate.
Yeah, this drywall anchor isn't going to work. I don't know why the original grate was set up with that screw so close to the edge of the hole.

To bring this full circle, it's the same issue with technical debt. You don't know what you don't know. Even so, technical debt must be handled. If I'd known I needed to trim up some lumber to fill a gap, etc, my original estimate would have been a lot more realistic. As it is, sometimes you just have to pull a task off the board, set aside 10x whatever your time estimate is, and hope this task is actually what it seems. Ever time, the set of unknown unknowns in your infrastructure will (hopefully) decrease. Every time I dig into a fix in this house I learn a bit more about it, and shrink my list of unknowns a little more. Eventually I'll know this place as well as the builder. I hope.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Let's Play Valkyria Chronicles 4! Chapter 3 - Rangers In The Storm

More backstory! Well, sort of. What we have here is some light-hearted squad hijinks that turn silly, plus some mandatory anime silliness between Claude and Riley. Then combat. Lots of combat.

The whole thing ends on a really tough note though, as we finally get some backstory on what happened between Riley and Claude when they were kids. It's the first time the story gets dark for a little bit, but it's not the last.

Remember, this is a war story. Not everyone gets a happy ending. Not everyone started with a happy beginning either.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Around The Web - Resurrecting Leisure Suit Larry

How do you resurrect a raunchy sex-comedy adventure game icon of the '80s and '90s for 2018? I had kept wondering that before finally getting a review copy of Leisure Suit Larry: Wet Dreams Don't Dry.

A lot of the best dialog moments come from interacting with Lefty - the
long-time proprieter of Lefty's Bar, who's seen all the changes in the world
in the past 30 years.

The answer is, "very blandly."

Here's the thing: a Larry game set in 2018 should have been comedy gold. And with the right writing team willing to take some heat, I think it could have been. This is the Era of That's Not Funny, where men can be women if they feel like it, consent videos are a thing, and half of millennials think that just asking someone in the office out on a date is sexual harassment.

Or, to be fair, if the writers wanted to take this on from a left-wing, SJW angle, there's plenty of easy targets in incels, MGTOW, and pick-up artists to mock.

Unfortunately, what we got was a blandly competent adventure game with whatever bits of humor are unlikely to offend anyone. It still probably isn't enough to avoid some group or other getting offended.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Monday Vlogs - What Went Poorly in 2018? Vlog 2018-50

Retrospective Part 2. What went wrong this year?

1. Finances. Still treading water with debt.
2. Deadlines. Missed a lot more of those than I should have. I need to work on not over-committing myself.
3. Speaking of over-committing, I grossly underestimated how much of my spring and summer time would be consumed by kid sports and half-marathon training.

That's probably the big three. Part Three will talk about what steps I'm planning for 2019 to continue to build on success and improve on my failures.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Let's Play Wing Commander - McAuliffe System, Mission 1 - Don't Mine Me...

New system, new ship, new wingman. It was great to fly with Paladin on my wing, but to be honest, I could have done with the transfer into the Blue Devils. Nothing against the squadron itself, but like Iceman warned me, the Scimitar is a gun heavy slug. Oh well, the Colonel sets the squadrons, not me.

My first mission with Paladin was a simple four point patrol. We ran into some Dralthi at Nav 1 and made quick work of them. The Scim may not be artful, but against the flying bullseyes, burning in and dumping a full capacitator of mass driver shots is all the art you need.

The minefield at Nav 3 was another matter. I don't know Paladin managed to slice through that field the way he did, but I was dodging those damn magnetic mines the whole time, and praying my shields would hold up. At least I got to take my frustrations out on a wing of Salthi that were hanging around near Nav 4.

Paladin's a good wingman. You can always count on him to be right where he should be. He likes to let pilots learn by experience, and only intervene when he needs to. Part of me is surprised that he's not an academy IP, but having his experience embedded in the squadron is definitely a huge win for every one of us younger pilots who are willing to listen.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

He Can See Clearly Now..

It was bound to happen eventually. With five kids, the odds that at least one of them would inherit my wonky eye genetics were pretty close to 1-1. So when The Centurion (TC) noted that he couldn’t see the clock on the DVR from the couch, I had a pretty good idea of what was going on.

The face of a happy kid who can read a clock across a room again.
One visit to my eye-doc later, and we had a diagnosis: near-sighted, just like his Old Man. At least TC was happy about getting glasses. I got my first pair of external eyes around the same age, and don’t recall being nearly so sanguine, either at the time, or for a number of years after.

“But Aaron,” someone from the back asks, “what was your problem with corrective lenses? Didn’t you enjoy being able to see the details around you?”

X-15 Pilot photo via Wikipedia
 Well, yes, I did, and that part was very nice. However, let’s take a look at the picture above, shall we? Among the many things that these men have in common, note the distinct lack of any kind of corrective lenses on their faces. See, test pilots and fighter jocks didn’t wear glasses. And just like that, I passed through one of the first forks in a very long road that would put me where I am today.

I’d like to think that my general antipathy towards eyewear helped me deal with TC better. He doesn’t (as far as I know) harbor fighter pilot ambitions, not that it matters for recruitment standards these days anyway, but he does enjoy playing sports, and I had to assure him that he’ll still be able to do that. To my pleasant surprise, he’s also been called “Four-Eyes” a whole lot less than I did back in the ‘80s. Score one for the kids of today, I guess.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Lets Play Valkyria Chronicles 4 - Interlude: Origin Story

This game gets surprisingly deep sometimes. Squad E's origin story goes to some interesting places, and Claude is shown taking a very mature approach (mostly) to learning how to lead his new team.

Obviously Squad E has had some discipline issues, but Raz is going to improve as the story goes on. What happened to Kai though?

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Around the Web - A Fallout 76 Review

Over at Marooners' Rock, my collegue Alex took on the task of reviewing Fallout 76.

Image via Marooners' Rock and Bethesda.

Despite the multitude of arguably offensive flaws, I am having a really good time with Fallout 76. Although, I must admit that I am a member of the game’s super specific target audience. Built on the framework established by Fallout 4, which was built on surprisingly old Creation Engine, Fallout 76 feels more like an ambitious mod or expansion than a new game. That aside, the setting of West Virginia, being able to traverse the Wasteland with friends, an abundance of new creatures to fight, and lots of items to collect keeps me coming back for more.

 Fallout 76 is a multiplayer survival title that focuses on a much smaller pool of players on a server rather than the framerate crashing masses found in an MMO. Imagine Fallout 4 with the ability for others to run around as well. When it works (we’ll get to the downsides shortly) playing Fallout with a group is pretty awesome. Firefights are easier to manage with more people and exploring with others can be extremely engaging. West Virginia is captured fairly well, focusing on the general outline than actual realism. This means that certain areas of the map have been shifted a bit and for those familiar with the state it can get a bit confusing. Either way, it is incredible to come upon the capitol building in Charleston or walk the remnants of the Morgantown Airport.

I'm glad Alex is having fun. The thing is, I'm a huge Fallout series fan too, but his negatives for Fallout 76 pretty well cover why I haven't bought the game yet. Pure and simple, I don't want a multiplayer Fallout game. Or maybe I might (actually, I'd love a true Fallout MMORPG), but I just don't want this multiplayer game. Certainly not in the state it's currently in. Maybe sometime next year, once Bethesda has worked all the bugs out, released their DLC, and decided to do their inevitable Game of the Year version, I'll pick it up. Until then, this is the first, and hopefully only, Fallout game where I'm content to just watch from the sidelines.

Monday, December 10, 2018

What Went Right in 2018? Vlog 2018-49

The end of another year always puts me in a retrospective mood. This year, since my finances and schedule are already largely locked in for December, that mood started a little earlier. I'm going to take the next few Vlogs to do a bit of a retrospective on 2018, focusing on what went well, what went wrong, and what I need to improve for next year.

  1. Fitness: I ran my first half-marathon this year, and am definitely in the best shape that I've been in since my late teens.
  2. Productivity: The Bullet Journal method absolutely revolutionized my productivity this year. After a rocky January, things really started to come together where my content output was concerned.
  3. Streaming: I finally made Affiliate! Now to make my first dollar...
Of course, it wasn't all blinding success. Next week I'll take a look at what went wrong this year.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Let's Play Wing Commander 1 - Enyo Mission 2 - Babysitting Duty

(Note: since mission recaps are kind of boring, and I've had this head-canon for something like twenty-five years, I'm going to start writing these as fiction from the POV of Bill "Maverick" Loridan.)

The Drayman transport was just painfully slow. I wanted him to go faster, or at least give me a reason to do barrel rolls around the ship, but Spirit probably wouldn't have approved of that. Still, the little Hornet felt like she was practically begging to be wrung out proper-like. It was almost a relief when we finally ran into a pair of Salthi light fighters lurking near the first nav point.

"Spirit, fight's on. You take the trailer, I'll get the leader." A double-click on the comm was all I needed in return. Unlike some of the other folks on the Claw, Spirit wasn't especially talkative during missions. Still, she was a good pilot, and burned ahead, aiming at the trailing enemy fighter. I throttled up to engage the lead fighter, who made a serious mistake in turning to engage Spirit as she burned past him.

It was the last mistake that Kilrathi would ever make.  The moment he turned his back to me, my lasers cut through his shields and armor. I turned my attention to the second fighter just in time to see Spirit snap a perfect Dumbfire shot that caught the other Salthi amidship.

The second encounter was almost anti-climatic by comparison.  The pair of flying bullseyes waiting for us at the jump point never stood a chance. The Dralthi is a piece of junk that looks like it combines poor visibility, lousy armor, and light armament into a package fit only for target practice. I'm glad they're on the enemy's side, not ours.

 The post-mission debrief was pretty normal. Colonel Halcyon congratulated us on getting the transport safely away, and on getting ourselves back safely. Probably the biggest news was that I was being transferred out of the Killer Bees to go fly the Scimitar. Not sure how I feel about that just yet.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

2019 And Beyond - Plans for the Caster Clan

I briefly mentioned in Monday's Vlog that my Twitch Channel (see also, the thing at the top of the blog) crossed two exciting milestones recently. First, the channel finally met Twitch's qualifications for Affiliate, meaning that I can start making a little bit of money off the channel by accepting Bits and monthly subscriptions! Second, Mini-Me has decided to hold down a regular Sunday afternoon streaming slot with his own show!

The thing is, none of this was really my plan when I started streaming in early 2015. At the time, my goal was to create an additional where I could promote th things I was writing, and maybe generate a little side income.

What my vision for the channel has become is to make it a place where people can be encouraged to chase their dreams. Where I hope seeing an average guy do slightly crazy things like run marathons, lift weights, bake, and learn motorcycle restoration inspires people to get off their butts and try something new. Along the way it’s turning into a big family channel, because there’s no way I can exclude my kids from these endeavors.

Cruise at 175mph, 510lbs useful load with full fuel, 4+ hour endurance... That'd put a lot more places within reach
without having to deal with TSA! (official phot from Van's Aircraft)

Since Adventure Girl also wants her own show, it seems like a name change for the channel is in order. It's not the Shadowcaster show anymore, it's all about the Caster Clan, since this is turning into some sort of crazy family streaming team.

That's both exciting and terrifying for me. Truthfully, some days I think it would probably be best for the kids if we turned Amish, and raised them up without any TV or Internet at all. Unfortunately, that genie's pretty well out of the bottle, and not going back in. The next best thing seems to be if the kids want to create content, then let it happen in an arena that I can exercise at least some moderation and control over. My hope is that the kids will learn some valuable lessons about interacting with people, having a professional attitude, and time management. Maintaining a broadcast schedule is tough, and so is dealing with people, especially the occasional troll.

Who knows, maybe this will all take off, and in a couple of years, I'll be a partnered streamer broadcasting family adventures as we assemble an RV-14, Waiex-B, or Kitfox S7 Super Sport in our garage!

It's better than planning on winning a MegaMillions jackpot, at the very least.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Let's Play Valkyria Chronicles 4 - Chapter 2: Tanks? You're Welcome!

We've got all our units introduced, so now we can get down to the meat of the game. This chapter starts off by introducing the Headquarters Camp, where players will spend most of their time in between missions managing and training personel, upgrading weapons, and shifting around equipment.

But all that menu stuff is boring. It's necessary from a gameplay standpoint, but to watch? SKIP! So I do.

The battle is interesting for being split into two parts. Sneaking around in the fog is interesting, especially when you're not sure whether you're going to find a wooden dummy, or a heavy tank that's going to eat your lunch. Moving fast is the key to an A rank, and I managed to do that on the first go.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Around The Web - Backlog Burndown #29 - The Last Mission

An old game isn't really complete for me until I write about it. That's why my most recent Backlog Burndown column featured my (probably) final thoughts on Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance.

I have a lot of mixed emotions about this series. Finishing it was exciting, because it meant I could move on to my massive Wing Commander playthrough. But it's also bittersweet, because I know there aren't any more X-Wing games, even though with seven additional movies and three long-running TV shows to work with, there really should be by now.

In truth, I'm not sure Disney and EA quite know what to do with the Star Wars gaming franchise. Oh, there's been Star Wars: Battlefront II, which has evolved into a decent game in the year since it was released, and of course Star Wars: The Old Republic is still trucking along, but that's been it for a long while. Here's hoping that 2019 will at least see the release of Star Wars Jedi: The Fallen Order

Monday, December 3, 2018

Ten Years of Extra Life: Vlog 2018-48

Back in 2008, the very first Extra Life charity fundraiser raised a few thousand dollars as a bunch of gamers, decided to help a sick little girl and defy some media stereotypes at the same time.

Ten years later, we've raised over $40 million for sick and injured kids around the world. I haven't been in every 24-hour marathon over the past ten years, but I'm proud to say that I was there for the beginning, and have been able to return as an active participant for the past three years as well.

Anyone interested in donating to Extra Life can do so here.

One of my favorite things about the charity is that they're partnered with the Children's Miracle Network hospitals, meaning that money donated stays local, it doesn't go to some random location. I fundraise for my local hospital, Sanford Children's which is where my kids would go if they were ill.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Let's Play Wing Commander! Enyo Mission 1, Welcome to the Vega Sector

Welcome to Wing Commander and the Vega Sector! I may have mentioned just a few times before that this is one of my favorite games of all time. These first few missions I could almost do blindfolded. Almost.

Remember, this is a game that came out in 1990. The first two missions in Enyo are the closest thing to a tutorial that the game has. We start off with a basic three point patrol. There are a few flying bullseyes (Dralthi) at Nav 1, some asteroids Nav 2, and a few Salthi light fighters at Nav 3. Pretty basic stuff.

One of the things that made Wing Commander unique was wingmen with personality. Shotglass will tell you that Spirit is a good wingman. She may be a little more chatty than a wingman should be, but unlike some of the folks you'll fly with, she's really good about not shooting through you to hit an enemy target.

Back when Wing Commander originally came out, the game box came with these lovely blueprints for each of the four fighters that you flew. Very official looking, and very cool. I wish I knew where mine had gotten to over the years.

The Hornet too, is a fun little fighter. Definitely something I prefer over the Scimitar, but that's a commentary for some later missions. The Hornet is quick, maneuverable, and decently armed. I'm not fond of going up against anything tougher than a Krant in one, but both Gratha and Jalthi are doable if you're smart and aggressive.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

End of Season - 1,123

1,123. That's the total number of miles I put on my Harley this year. Give that it's snowing and below freezing here, I'm fairly certain that's going to be my final tally for the year, despite putting the old girl on a batter tender to keep her ready, just in case.
That mileage number doesn't include the miles I rode on demo fleet bikes, including my dream bike, but even so, I was still under 1,200 for the year.

That's definitely not one of my better tallies. I didn't get out and ride nearly as often as I would have liked this year, for a variety of reasons. Most of these reasons were good - rides conflicted with kid sports nights, family outings, or other things. Cutting down my commute, while great in general, also cost me around ten miles a day during riding season.

I didn't do an Iron Butt ride this year, and I didn't make any road trips up to Minneapolis or down to Kansas City. I didn't even ride down to Sioux City like I did last year.

It's not like the fun is gone, I just had an off year. I think the moral of the story is that if I want to get my miles up more next year, I need to plan more rides, not just trust that they'll just spontaneously "happen."

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Let's Play Valkyria Chronicles - Chapter 1 - Get Cinderella To The Ball!

As expected, Chapter 1 still has a lot of tutorial stuff going on. However, it does introduce Valkyria Chronicles 4's new unit type, the Grenadier.

I don't know why they didn't call this unit a Mortar carrier, or something similar, because "Grenadier" has traditionally been a term associated with team members or whole units focused on throwing grenades/carrying a grenade launcher/being heavy assaulters. None of these things are true of the VC4 Grenadiers. I refer to them as mortar units in-game most of the time. Scouts, Machine-gunners, and mechanics all carry grenades.

Regardless of the terminology issues, the Grenadier/Mortar unit is a really fun addition to the game. They unlock some great indirect fire strategies, and can help slow down enemy units with reactive fire during the enemy's turn.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Around The Web - Make Less, But Do More Meaningful Work?

Interesting article that I found by way of Alan Page's Tooth of the Weasel blog - 9 Out of 10 People Are Willing To Earn Less Money To Do More Meaningful Work.

I'm not sure I agree with some of their conclusions. In particular they say that a majority of people would happily take a 20% pay cut to do more meaningful work. Maybe that's just me being the 1 in 10 individual.

However, it definitely dovetails with Todd Olson's All We Need Is Product Love talk that I heard at Agile + DevOps. Which I still need to fully unpack into its own blog post, because there's a lot of meat there.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Let's Talk About D.Tube - Monday Vlog 2018-47

I've been experimenting with a new video service called D.Tube. Considering my concerns about having all my videos in Google's questionable care, having a backup plan seems like a really good idea.

A lot of this came from my mistake upload that cost me a channel strike, but I've also been looking for a YouTube alternative since Vid.Me shut down earlier this year.

Unfortunately, while I like D.Tube and I think it's got promise, there are three major issues that I've run into which prevent them from truly being competitive with YouTube.

1. No upload scheduling.
2. Per the TOS, videos aren't necessarily permanent.
3.  Upload process is really buggy.

There are a number of things to like, however, such as the ability to take live screencaps of any portion of your video, and better payouts than YouTube for a small channel. At the moment, I would say that the best plan would be to look at D.Tube as a secondary channel that complements YouTube.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Let's Play Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance - B7M4 - Killing Another Death Star!

This is it! The big moment! Everything that's been building up, leading to this final run through the interior caverns of the Death Star II to blow this battlestation up and rain flaming chunks down on Endor, thus triggering the great Endor Holocaust.

Ehrm, this is supposed to be happy event, isn't it?

Anyway, the mission itself is pretty straight forward, unlike the tunnels that you'll be flying through. These tight, debris choked corridors are going to kill you. Again, and again, and again. Then, just when you think this will be the final run, they'll kill you a few more times for good measure.

Fortunately, you can at least blast most of the obstacles out of the way. That knowledge would have made my life a lot easier, if I'd realized it on the first series of attempts. Oh well. Good luck, and May the Force Be With You!

Also, happy Black Friday to all American shoppers out there! We'll be back next week with a brand new Flight Friday Let's Play series!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Let's Play Valkyria Chronicles 4 - Prologue

Last week ended my LP series for Ash of Gods: Redemption. While that was fun, now it's on to a game that I have excited about ever since it was announced for a Western release: Valkyria Chronicles 4!

Part squad level turn-based strategy, part anime cartoon, Valkyria Chronicles draws heavily on World War 2 history for its inspiration. The original game pitted a Gallia (standing in for Great Britain)
 analog against the military might of a continent spanning power (think Germany). "Darksens" stood in for Jews, and the story revolved around plucky Gallia's war retain their freedom.

Valkyria Chronicles 4 abstracts the war a lot more as it's based more in the battles on the Eastern Front. This time players step into the boots of Claude Wallace, commander of Ranger Squad F in the Federation army. They are part of a massive land strike force attempting to push through the heart of Imperial territory to take the capital before winter slows things to a crawl.

Anyone who remembers their WWII history can take a guess at how well that initial plan is going to go.

In this scenario, the good guys should win out in the end, but it's going to be a challenge getting there!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Around the Web - You Have Time For What You Prioritize

Early last week, Caleb put up an excellent post on the LoneWolf Distributors blog. While his column technically fell under the category of “Shooting Advice”, his words should bear weight for anyone who’s ever lamented the lack of time to get fit, learn a new software technique, or whatever.

“The problem with that statement is that you, I, and everyone who has ever said it does have the time to become good at something.”
This what what I made time for this year. I sacrificed a lot of game time, and a fair bit of good riding weather to hit the goal. The next goal is going to take even more work.

What Caleb didn’t say in his blog, was that the day before those words went live, he joined an extremely exclusive club when he became FAST Coin Holder #18. For those who don’t obsessively follow the shooting sports world, the FAST drill is a defensive shooting drill that involves drawing your pistol from a duty or concealment holster, and engaging a target seven yards away. The shooter first fires two shots to a 3x5 card, executes a slidelock reload, then finishes by firing four shots at an 8" plate. Earning a coin requires executing this drill twice, on demand, during one of Langdon Tactical’s classes, in five seconds or less.

It took my brother six years to achieve this goal. There were a few bumps along the way that probably slowed his progress by a couple of years, but that’s almost beside the point. He had a goal, and he kept at it.

I doubt that I’ll ever earn a FAST coin of my own. That’s okay, my goals are different than my brother’s, though they may require similar time to achieve. But like Caleb says at the end:

“The moral of the story is simple: don’t tell yourself you don’t have time to accomplish the things you want. You do, but it’s up to you to decide if you’re willing to sacrifice that time for something else.”

Monday, November 19, 2018

Home Again, Home Again! Vlog 2018-46, Agile + DevOps East 2018 Wrap Up

I can usually count on Delta to get me home on time, with a minimum of fuss. I mean, there was that one incident, but when God answers your question "Should I move here?" with a line of thunderstorms stretching from Washington D.C to Atlanta, then you can't really hold it against Delta for not getting you to your connecting flight on time.

The Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld was probably the nicest hotel I've ever stayed in. Great service, excellent venue, I definitely recommend them. They put a lot of thought into the little things: the concierge handing you a cold bottle of water when you check in, and a rack of water and towels by the front door in the morning for runners being just a couple of examples. This isn't a paid endorsement or anything, by the way, I just really appreciated my stay there.

Like I said earlier, Delta did their usual solid job getting me home. Thanks to the well stocked IFE, I even finally got to watch Deadpool. Now I understand all the love for that movie. Time to rent Deadpool 2, I guess.

Happy early Thanksgiving to all my American readers!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

We Can't Be High-Functioning Alcoholics Forever - Agile+DevOps East Day 6 AAR

The final day of Agile + DevOps East 2018 dawned to something a little different. The Agile Leadership Summit was expressly designed to have a different feel than the main conference, with a pair of presentations in the morning followed up by brainstorming some ideas and solutions to issues that those of us in the Thursday night networking session had identified.

I had my doubts about my participation in this day. I’m not in a position at my company where I’m anything but an individual contributor, and for the most part that’s exactly what I’m comfortable with. No more, no less. What was I doing at a leadership summit anyway?

Anne Hungate’s presentation called Lead Yourself First erased my doubts straight away. This may have been one of the most important talks of the whole conference for me personally. One critical point: my company sent two people to this conference. That’s well less than 1% of our total workforce. We may be primarily IC’s in our jobs, but other members of our teams are now looking to us to show that we learned something over this week. The lessons that we’ve acquired shouldn’t just apply to us, we should be evangelizing them throughout our teams and finding ways to make everyone better because we attended this conference.

For the afternoon, I joined a group looking for solutions to Technical Debt. In talking to my fellow test engineers over the course of the week, one of the things that really stood out was practically all of us were struggling with technical debt and finding time to build the automation that our companies needed. By far the dominant solution among my fellow TEs was that we ignore it, get pulled into manual testing and dev tasks, and buy rounds of drinks while commiserating with our peers. Since most of us don’t actually want to spend the rest of our careers as high-functioning alcoholics, any ideas for fixing this problem are a good thing.
"Oh, you think you've got tech debt? Let me tell you a story..."
"You win bro. I've got this round. Dilly dilly."
Image via Holly's Cheat Day

We ended up with a very interesting, diverse group of individuals from the UK, Netherlands, and the US, representing the defense, banking, consulting, and insurance industries. Andrea Goulet joined our table to contribute her thoughts as well.

Did we solve the technical debt problem? Of course not. This isn’t something that going to be solved for all companies in a single afternoon at a technical conference. We did, however, come up with a few creative ideas that may help us push some solutions forward within our respective companies. One of the biggest points that we made over and over was that technical debt needs to be treated like a real-world maintenance problem: for example, you can ignore changing the oil in your car, but eventually that small, ignored bit of maintenance is going to lead to a big, expensive breakdown.

I ended the day with a visit to Disney Springs for a bit of shopping. Can’t go home to The Terror Team empty handed. After three years of cold, snowy winters, hearing Christmas music and seeing Christmas decorations while walking around a gigantic open-air mall wearing shorts and a t-shirt was fairly jarring. Eating a meal outside was nice, but I won’t feel like Christmas is actually a month and or so away until I’m back home glaring at the snow on my lawn.