February 13, 1998

Lucky 13

A very satisfying day, all in all. Surprisingly so and neatly so.

Bryant was a real sweetie after the previous evening's stuff, and so he sent me to the conference by car and got me there in just plenty of time. I started in a rather obscure OOP Architecture class that I just didn't get anything out of for the first five minutes, and it was more of a sales pitch for OOP than anything else, so I changed to Eckel's The C++ STL Made Simple, which was a little bit simplistic for me, but very solid in covering many of the templates and how they can be used as a collective. It was enjoyable.

The second session was on multithreading in C++ and Java, though only about 5% of the people there were there to hear about the Java part. The cool thing was simply learning that Java had a lot of the multithreading issues worked out in the base objects of all classes. The not so cool part was realizing that while someone in Synario had written some new stuff in a multi-threaded application, they hadn't known enough C++ to be completely safe in their calling structure. That there were at least two steps of more security that should have been taken. Oops.

Luckily, it's stuff that I can fix.

It was really good knowing that rather than being completely blind to the consequences of the actions that were taken.

The third session was really, really keen, on Darwinian Design by the same people that had done the tax software study, and had a few things to say about expert users, novice users, and the life cycles of entire species of software that's really changed how I look at the industry, how I want to design and what I want to do with Synario and at how the opportunities look for us. They actually look a whole lot better than they used to. The consultants are called User Interface Engineering, and they really have their act together.

What was really funny and amusing was that at the end the speaker said that marketing had said, "Hey, it's a conference, maybe we should give out t-shirts!" But they gave him only three. They also gave him a few books, and so they lotteried off the books and t-shirts, and at the very end of the drawing, one of the other women engineers in there was complaining that they should give one to a woman, which I half-snarled at. Don't do me any favors simply because of my sex, thank you... and they picked my name.


I read Web Site Usability: A Designer's Guide and learned a lot about what makes a web site usable for information lookup. It was clear and concise and very solidly delineated to look at a specific set of data. Real, experimental data on the ability for users to look for a specific types of data that resided on Web sites, and really delineate what it is that users do when they are faced with a web page and told that there is a particular piece of information on that site and that they're supposed to be able to find it. The results are actually non-intuitive, helpful, and detailed enough for a good feel for how they got the information. Some of it was just a bit simplistic to my taste, and the actual sites that were tested were only nine in number. But they did have a fairly significant number of people they fed through the tests on a rotating basis. What was very keen was the bits and pieces of general usability that I hadn't had before.

On that lovely note, I hopped up to the pickup area and got picked-up by Bryant and we drove out to San Ramon for DunDraCon 22.

DunDraCon is a yearly event for me, has been for nearly a decade, now and it's something that I've always loved, and sometimes been more stingy about my energy and time than I was this year. It was marvelous to have been through the Conference and after all the time I've been asleep and down and out from my leg, I'd *had* enough rest before the two Cons to be up when I got there.

As Carl put it to Bryant, "You have not sufficiently worn out the Liralen!" as I burbled and bounced and laughed and had fun. It was good.

The three of us sat down and tried to figure out which game to get into and all three of us tried to get into a Ranmaesque anime style game, with lots of wild martial arts and lots of anime characters. It started with a tournament that we were all in, as students of our school against the students of the rival school, which were played by two players that were part of the normal campaign that the GM had once run. They played the characters they'd always played.

It was an interesting game in some ways. The other players did do a lot to show the depth of the campaign world, but there were a lot of times that the game would suddenly halt as they reminisced about such-and-so a character, or guess at the actual character behind a cameo appearance, or talk about the history of the game for a bit. It slowed things down a lot...

We got through the tournament, with Bryant's character, Kaori, and my character, Aki winning the senior and junior competitions. Then a lady in ninja clothing suddenly appeared, Bang!, in a cloud of smoke and then a lightening bolt split four ways and four really nasty spiders appeared! Aiiieee... they were really fast, but squishable, and we squished one or two when another four appeared, and the woman got replaced with a really big version of the other spiders. Then it got just a bit ugly. But we managed to finish them off just barely as our masters watched our technique, and we learned from them that they were all the minions of some demon lord.

Afterwards, they told us to go to our school's temple to get a number of bindings that would take care of the demon lord. So we took the train back to the city that our school was in and after going into this tunnel we came out in a really, really weird land. It turned out to be the spirit land of the dead, and as we got closer to the temple we encountered spirit animals that said that a place in the forest had really, really bad things there, and that they had all fled. We also ran into the ancestor of one of our rival school's members, who gave us the information that in order for the spirits to have their vengeance on the demon lord, that the elements had to be brought into alignment.

When we actually got to the temple, entered the place where we'd been pointed to, the temple's basement had three pillars in it, one of fire, one of the rushing of air, one of a column of streaming water, and in the center had been a mound of earth. The demon lord's element was earth, and so it was now nothing more than a pit with small spiders appearing out of it. There was the shadow of a dagger's hilt in each of the pillars, but when we reached for them, they disappeared and the next pillar would suddenly show an extra sword for just a second. The fire pillar did a lot of damage when one reached in, the air column sucked people into it and blew them up and down at very high velocity.

By this time, it was about 2am. It is, sometimes, an error to give players a puzzle at 2am in an eight hour game. It took us a while, and it was finally a player that had played with the group and the GM a while who thought a bit, and when the big bruiser reached into the fire pillar, had Kaori grab after the two that appeared in the water column and get sucked into the water, and then his archer grabbed when the three sword appeared in his column of air and he got sucked into that column.

The bruiser and one of the guys from the rival school leaped to the rescue of Bryant's char, and then we all anchored and pulled out the archer from the column of air. When he tumbled out he had all three daggers. Whew.

We also realize, at about this time that there's a spirit sigil on the door that we entered by and that one of the guys from the rival school has a spirit sword. So we figure, given that it's our school, which is a fairly direct action type school, that the ritual is likely just stabbing the demon lord all at the same time with the four blades.

So we follow the direction of the scared animals and realize we're headed to the Temple of the Weeping Daughters, where we find the demon lord guarded by our rival school's missing students! Big brawl here, with much blood and damage, but we get through, if not intact at least most of us are still standing. Then the four of us try to stab the lord simultaneously. Everyone hits other than Kaori. One of the kids from the rival school sacrifices himself, pretty much getting a hole blown in him, to distract the lord so we can try again, and she misses again; but the others do so well that we make up for it.

That's when everything blows up.

Including the oddness of the world we're in and we end up back in reality, where we get medical help for the guy that was nearly completely blown away, and Kaori apologizes handsomely for the end.

It was about 4am by then. So I went to my room, took a hot bath and then fell deeply asleep.

© 1998 by Liralen Li.

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