Category: Sci/Tech

My dirty little secret is about to go public

Have I got your attention now? Okay, here goes.

My son got me into online gaming nine or ten years ago with, specifically, EverQuest, aka EverCrack by addicted fans. Even if you’re not into gaming, you’ve probably heard of it. Anyway, it was something we could do “together” when he was away at school (or whatever he was doing back then). A couple of his friends, who used to come over to the house a lot, also played.

Son is a major geek* (to me that’s a term of endearment and utmost respect for superior intelligence and techie accomplishment) and used to play Dungeons and Dragons back when it was a sort of board game (no, it’s not an evil, corrupting, criminality-inducing activity, any more than, say, Monopoly, but that’s another post). When personal computers took over the world, online games quickly followed, especially those derived from D&D.

Hmm, I have digressed. Sorry. So he got me into EverQuest. What fun! Making up a character, choosing her looks, abilities, skills. Exploring new fantasy worlds full of knights, dragons, monsters, and enemy races; adventuring with other people; completing quests and being rewarded for your accomplishments; becoming friends with other people in-game, etc. Why should the kids have all the fun?

I’ve been playing similar games ever since. The ones I like are referred to as MMORPGs — Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games. (“Massively multiplayer” translates to hundreds of thousands of people playing simultaneously around the world.) And tomorrow the newest one, Warhammer, starts public downloads of its open beta version. Sometime in the next few weeks, open beta will begin (over 800,000 have already signed up), and on September 18 the game goes live.

My dirty little secret, of course, is that I’m a female retiree and the majority of players in these games are young men. Luckily for me, a lot of middle-agers play too, and we eventually find each other (the teenagers can be particularly obnoxious sometimes). Lots of married couples play, and I’ve even found one or two other seniors playing. I’ve made several friends that I’ve played with for five or six years, through several different games, without ever meeting any of them in real life (I have a rule about that, but that, too, is another post).

There is such a predominance of male players in these games that most players, when they meet a female character, assume the person playing that character is male. And usually they’d be right. It always amazes me that so many guys choose to play female characters (I’ve tried playing male characters and I just can’t get into it. I can’t identify at all with a male character). My son explained that the female characters are more likely to be given weapons, supplies, etc. by other players. Another reason I’ve heard is that because the in-game camera angles have you looking at your character’s back most of the time, a lot of guys would rather spend their time looking at a female backside!

It’s always amusing to begin a new game and have most of the other players assume I’m a young man. I usually try very hard not to reveal my age. If I can play well enough to be accepted by others, then eventually I might fess up. That’s the beauty of these games, of course — you go to another place and become whoever or whatever you want to be. I’ll never forget the first friend I made in Dark Age of Camelot (DAoC). We’d played together for weeks before we confessed our ages; he was 17. I was stunned, and so was he. The age preconceptions cut both ways.

There you have it. I’m a gamer. Warhammer open beta begins soon. If I suddenly become scarce around here, you’ll probably find me huddled over my big computer in a darkened study, exploring some weird fantasy world as a high elf, or a black orc, or maybe a squig herder.


*I once asked him what was the difference between a geek and a nerd. He said a geek was a nerd who could get a date.


© 2008 Some rights reserved.

ID spoofers continue to harass consumers

Capital One is Caller ID spoofers are playing games again, and a brief Google search reveals I’m only one of hundreds, maybe thousands, involved.

A woman claiming to be from Capital One Bank called here last night. Her voice was so heavily accented (Indian?) that we had difficulty understanding each other. It sounded like she was saying I owed them $170 or some such amount. I told her I hadn’t used my card since last fall, when they jacked up my interest rate for no reason. Then I asked her what the charge was for, in case I’d forgotten some purchase. She couldn’t give me a name. Then she said something about a charge for balance payment insurance. I told her I’ve never bought such a thing. I never really did understand what she was after, so I just told her if I owed any money, send me a statement.

After I hung up, I got online and checked my Capital One account. Sure enough, $0 balance. I don’t know if it was a scam of some kind, or really Capital One, but either way, I don’t conduct financial affairs with strangers on the phone.

She was calling from 1-800-955-6600, a Cap One number. Google it, and you’ll find people are in an uproar all over the country about calls from this number. And from what they’re saying, I could be in for a long series of harassing phone calls.

I have my own imaginary take on Capital One, and it’s not at all flattering to them. Bad management, caught with their fingers in the cookie jar when the economy started to tank, and trying to save themselves by jacking up the interest rates on all their customers. The really sad thing is the spoofers, posing as Capital One, might actually succeed in bullying some people into sending them money. It’s a despicable thing to do, and way too hard to track them down and punish them.

Note, 6/21/2008: Got four more calls yesterday, and another this morning at 8 a.m. Called Capital One and confirmed they are not the ones making the calls. So it does appear that there is some ID spoofing going on.

© 2008 Some rights reserved.

High-altitude Colo. webcam up and running again

Most readers probably won’t care, but my favorite high-altitude (11,600 ft.) webcam, TundraCam, is back in operation.

The TundraCam is fully controllable, with zoom and pan functions, and has a spectacular view of the Rocky Mountain high country west of Boulder, Colorado. It is located at a research station on Niwot Ridge and can be reached only via hiking trails. Fully exposed to the worst weather the high country can whip up, the camera may sometimes be frozen in place or knocked completely offline. When this happens during the winter, it can be several months before anyone can get to it for repairs. (I seem to have problems getting this cam to work with IE, but it usually works with Firefox.)

Personally, I enjoy using the camera to admire the view, check the weather, watch the sunset (never up early enough to catch the sunrise), and see the lights of Denver and Boulder at night. I’ve even watched hikers coming and going.

It appears TundraCam has been repositioned a bit from last fall, so I’ll be spending some time getting reoriented. Meantime, welcome back, TundraCam!

© 2008 Some rights reserved.

ET doesn’t live here … but his friend Jeff Peckman does

Peckman's "alien" peeks in over lower edge of window
Peckman's "alien" peeks over windowsill

DENVER, CO — Be it known that the wonderful city of Denver does not, and in the foreseeable future does not expect to, harbor any extraterrestrials. Yes, we do have aliens here, but not the 4-foot-tall gray type. ET and his posse have yet to be spotted in Denver.

Nevertheless, one Denver resident, Jeff Peckman, has proposed the formation of an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission in Denver, just in case. He appeared before city officials earlier this month to explain his proposal and to the credit (or discredit) of the city, he was not laughed out of the building.

Peckman claims to have a never-before-seen video of a Roswell-type alien. The video was shown to media representatives today in Denver, but only one still shot was released. The picture shows Peckman’s “alien” peering in over a windowsill. Reporters were told the video could not be shown publicly because it may become part of an upcoming documentary.

Peckman is sponsoring a petition drive to get his proposal on the November ballot. It’s sad that this sort of initiative can actually make it onto a ballot, but that’s the way things are done here in “Colorful Colorado.” Sadder still is the thought that it might actually get passed into law, and taxpayers’ dollars will have to fund it.

© 2008 Some rights reserved.