The Biggest Challenge

The one thing I find more difficult than winning Go is mustering up the courage to play other people online.  It’s really silly, but there’s something I find intimidating about these complete strangers.  Even when playing against some of the people I’ve met through reddit, I feel like I’m wasting their time when we play.  Therefore, I find myself playing one game and quitting for the evening, when I should be starting up another game and getting much needed practice.

My official OGS ranking is still 25kyu, with 4 wins and 12 losses.  I currently have 3 correspondence games going, which allow for a long period of time between plays.  One of these games may get 2-3 moves in an entire day.  I need to play more real-time games, but those are more difficult to do during the day when I may get called away from the computer at any time.

The lack of playing is the number one thing keeping me from improving at Go.

 

Also, I made a Go board!
9x9 Goban

Ayukawa no Go

As you may have heard, there is a new mobile phone game taking the world by storm called Pokemon Go.  You can’t go on the internet without seeing somebody talking about it, and you can’t go outside without seeing a group of people wandering like zombies staring at their phones trying to catch these virtual vermin.  This post has very little to do with that game.

As a joke, a user on reddit posted a picture of a Go game board with Pikachu painted on it.  Normally I’d roll my eyes or chuckle, hit the appropriate upvote/downvote button and move on.  This time however, I was reminded of how I had “Learn to play Go” on my list of things to get around to some day.  I decided it was time.

For the uninitiated (ie the majority whose faces go blank once I point out it has nothing to do with Pokemon), Go is a board game of Chinese origin, over 2000 years old.  The game’s objective is to surround more area of the board than your opponent.

Go only has two basic rules:

  1. Every stone on the board must have one “liberty”, or be connected to a group of stones that has at least one such liberty.  A liberty is an open adjacent space (up, down, left right).
  2. Players are not allowed to make a move that returns the game to the previous position.  This rule, called “ko” prevents an infinite loop of moves.

Don’t let these two simple rules fool you.  At a quick glance, Go looks very much like Othello or Reversi, but is actually one of the most complex games in existence, with more possibilities than there are atoms in the known visible universe.

A decent-quality Go board seems to be fairly expensive, and I don’t have anybody local to play against.  Fortunately the web is has vast resources available.  There are multiple sites where you can play Go online against other people (I personally like OGS myself), and thousands of sites detailing strategies and providing puzzles to work through to better yourself.  I found the Go/Weiqi/Baduk subreddit to be populated with a number of great people who have helped me immensely since I’ve started playing.

Go seems to be a game of proverbs.  One that I’ve heard a dozen times is “Lose your first 50 games as quickly as possible.”  Beginners lose a lot, and a good amount of time is spent putting stones down with no real idea of what you’re doing, and seeing what happens.  Many of my first games ended with me having 0 points, which I saw as frustrating and discouraging until I had it pointed out to me that it simply doesn’t matter.  What matters is that I learned from my many mistakes, and can apply what I’ve learned to my future matches.

After a particularly bad game where my opponent called me a child and told me to grow up because the game timed out (I’m a relatively slow player and not entirely too familiar with the OGS interface yet), I posted a rant on /r/baduk wondering if I should just give up.  I got a great amount of support, some tips, and several offers to play with me and help me review the games afterwards to see what I can do better.  As a result, I’ve decided to stick with the game, and plan on trying to play at least a couple matches a day.

Going forward, my intention is to post to this blog to kinda chronicle my learning the game.  I’m interested in being able to look back and see if and where I’ve progressed, and just maybe somebody will read it and gain an interest in the game themselves.  I could always use a couple more people to play against.

 

If you do play Go and are interested in a match, I play on OGS as Ayukawa.

I’m doing science, and I’m still alive!

I’m still here, and I have a couple different entries in the works, both IRC and FFXI related.

Of course, I’ve been distracted between video games (StarCraft II & Diablo III), trying to re-read The Wheel of Time, and getting caught up with everything going on in Marvel Comics since the whole Avengers vs. X-Men thing.

 

 

The IRC Stories Part 7 – Infinitely Cooler

I was supposed to be able to pick Dria out of a crowd by the hat she was wearing.  I already knew what Dria looked like, as I had several pictures she’d managed to scan and send along, but the plan was that I would recognize her by her hat.  Nearly the entire train station had emptied out before I realized that she’d been standing not too far away from me the whole time.  She just wasn’t wearing a hat.

Aside from Alaranth who lived close enough to not really count, Dria was the first person I’d met from IRC.  She spent a week (or two, or three?  Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana) with me over the summer of 1997.  I can’t really remember why she decided to come visit, or how she even managed to pull it off, but I know we had a damn fine time.

I don’t remember how we became infinitely cooler than god, only that we were.  It certainly wasn’t the lame movies we watched, it would be a couple more years before she would introduce me to Clerks, Mallrats, and Chasing Amy.  It definitely didn’t have anything to do with my amazing direction-sense, seeing as I regularly would find myself asking “Uhm, where are we?” when we were out traveling my own city.  I doubt it was the numerous inside-jokes about Looney Tunes that we came up with, but there was just something that made us infinitely cool.

A great deal of time was spent abusing my CD burner, trading music back and forth in the pre-mp3 times.  I’m pretty sure there’s a box somewhere in an attic with cd-r copies of Alchemy by Leah Andreone and half a dozen artists I’d probably never have heard of otherwise.  Of course, we will forever agree to disagree on the Violent Femmes; I still haven’t heard a single song by them that I can stand for more than a couple seconds.

Near the end of her visit, we took a day trip up to Niagara Falls.  I’d never been there before myself and we thought it’d be fun to see.  I can vividly remember irritating the hell out of my parents with our loud and off-key obnoxious singing, and stopping at a Chinese restaurant on the way back where I thought they were serving canary, for some bizarre reason.  While I’ve never been horribly impressed with Niagara Falls (I can watch water fall in my shower) it was a memorable trip simply because it was with Dria.

A Tale of Two Kitties – Introduction

Final Fantasy is the one video game series that I’ve been a fan off throughout.  When I saw Final Fantasy XI Online, I was curious but reluctant.  While I’d spent a lot of time playing a certain text-based MUD, I had never played an MMORPG before.  I was living in Richmond, VA and had a fair bit of free time on my hands when I finally decided to purchase the game and see if it was any good.  My friend Rick tried to take it from my hand and replace it with a copy of EverQuest, but in the end Final Fantasy XI prevailed.

I planned to recreate my MajorMud character, a ranger named Locrean Mode.  I created an Elvaan Warrior, and picked my starting city to be San d’Oria, the Elvaan home city.  Armed with the notorious BradyGames guide, I set out on my adventure, wandering into the surrounding forests to slay (and more often be slain by) rabbits.

What struck me the most was the atmosphere of the game.  I’d never played anything as immersive before, and to this day I can still remember being in that forest with the Ronfaure music playing.  It was a complex game and I was completely unsure if I would ever completely understand all the details of it.

I played the game pretty steadily for a month or two, learning not only the game, but the MMORPG culture as well.  It would be a while before I could unlock the Ranger class, but I was pretty confident that I would level Ranger (and every other job) up to level 75.  By the time I reached level 21-22 however, I quickly grew bored with it.

Unlike Western RPGs, most Japanese games are based on grinding experience and levels.  Final Fantasy and even more so DragonQuest (aka Dragon Warrior) are examples of this.  Final Fantasy XI was also not friendly to solo play, forcing players to join together in groups of 6 to grind out this experience.  Depending on your job combination, it may or may not be easy to find one of these parties.

Warrior was not a popular primary job (it was mostly used as a sub-job), so I spent a lot of time sitting waiting for a party in Qufim Island, the level 20 area.  When I did get a party, it would usually end up disbanding shortly after or be so dysfunctional that it ended with a LOSS of experience rather than a game.  I got tired of sitting around being frustrated, and quit the game.

Several months later, my friend Hailey (whom had started around the time I did but continued to play after I quit) talked me into coming back.  Based on the job mechanics I had learned, I decided to create a new character.  I thought this new character would be more versatile than the warrior I had played before, and I was interested in tinkering with the magic system.  I also decided against playing another Elvaan since I thought they were fairly ugly and poor magic users.  I narrowed my decision down to a Hume, the game’s basic human race, or a Mithra which is a race of catgirl warriors, with similar stats to Hume.

Thus was born Ellenzar, the Mithra Red Mage.

The IRC Stories Part 6 – Resident Idiots

Some parts of this chapter may be considered Not Safe For Work, children, senior citizens, or hair. You have been warned.

One of the first and most persistant pains in the ass to ever join #tf was a guy using the nickname Abraham71. While we’ve been host to a good number of idiots, assholes, and sociopaths over the years, Abraham71 holds the distinction of being the first to become legend.

In addition to talking, IRC supported actions. In reality, it was simply text formatted differently, but it was done to imply that the person was doing something rather than saying it. A typical action would appear in a manner similar to:

* Ayukawa kicks ChanServ into orbit.

Abraham71’s claim to fame is that he would join the channel (often under a different nickname, such as Rebecca17 or Erin779) and chat for a couple minutes before going quiet. Then, just as everybody forgot he was there, he would switch his nickname back to Abraham71 and begin his claim to fame.

* Abraham71 jumps up on the table and cums in everybody’s hair.

Naturally, he would be banned from the channel immediately. What made Abraham71 so special is that he would always come back. For over ten years, he would always come back. I was constantly banning him from #teenflirt (and all of DALnet once I was made an IRCop) and he would just find ways around it. He may go a few days, weeks, or even a couple years without coming in and giving everyone a shower, but it was always understood that he would return.

Shortly after Seattlebabe changed her nickname to SonicBabe, another fellow joined the channel who took an immediate and almost obsessive liking to her. For some bizarre reason which I’ll chalk up to capricious youth, she liked him back. Nobody remembers what his original nickname was, but it quickly got changed to… SonicDude.

Historically, the word “douchebag” has been used as an insult since around 1954, but did not become popular until the 2000s. As a result, I did not have an accurate way of describing SonicDude back when he was present in the channel.

In addition to his obnoxious claim that him and SonicBabe were lovers (they would never meet in person), SonicDude had a tendency to be an ass to everybody else. He regularly would start arguments with the others, relying on obscure references and flawed logic to appear smarter than whomever he was talking to. He was especially a pain in the ass to Charmz, Asraia, and myself.

Eventually to nobody’s real shock, SonicBabe tired of him as well. The irony is that he would come to me on multiple occasions years later, and whine to me about how he missed his long lost love.

While he didn’t make his first appearances until we had changed from #tf to #centralcafe, one of the more recent long-term idiots was a fellow named JakeDCC. Jake’s claim to fame was his obsession with me and my being an IRCop. Jake would join #centralcafe and go off to pester other channels. Flooding, DDoSing, or advertising my channel. As a result, #cc would be joined by dozens of pissed-off users thinking I sent him.

I would ban JakeDCC from the channel. I would ban him from the network. Like Abraham71, he would continue to come back. He often joined IRCop hangouts like #operhelp and claim that he was my friend or a relative, and that I sent him to get an O:Line. He never seemed to think to change his nickname to something that did NOT include Jake however, and almost always used JakeDCC or JolietJake as his nick.

Eventually, Jake would go on to irritate a good number of IRCops on the network, becoming one of the most well-known idiots to grace my channels with his presence.

The IRC Stories Part 5 – mIRC Cop

I don’t remember how I got there, but in addition to #tf I spent a lot of time in a channel called #dragonrealm.  At the time, #dragonrealm was DALnet’s official help channel, and a hangout for the IRC Operators.  Just as an Op was to a channel, an IRCop had control over the entire network.  So naturally, I had a new goal.

My Internet Service Provider at the time was a company based out of East Syracuse, NY called Dreamscape.  When I saw that there was a server called dreamscape.ny.us.dal.net, I got curious and started talking to the admin of that server, a girl named Alaranth.  As it turned out, Alaranth was indeed an employee of my ISP, and hosted the server there.

In November or December, I met Alaranth in person.  She was working at a Dreamscape kiosk at a nearby mall, and I visited her there.  She was, of course, connected to IRC via a console-based client (which I still can barely operate myself) and pointed out to the rest of #dragonrealm that “Ayuk is here.”  Fortunately, that name didn’t stick.

After a few months of my relentlessly annoying her, Alaranth sent me a msg saying “o:*ayukawa@*.dreamscape.com:<pass>:ayukawa:0:100” and to fill in the <pass> part of it.  She was offering me an o:line, making me an IRCop.  I was a “local” IRCop of course, meaning I had no power over anything on other servers, and I had to go through quite a bit of rather boring training sessions while I was still considered to be a trial.

A few long weeks later I was upgraded to a global operator.  Some idiot was harassing Charmz pretty well, and kept jumping to other servers where I couldn’t remove him.  Alaranth updated my o:line on the spot, and I took care of him a little more permanently.

I happily spent my time as an IRCop on dreamscape for quite some time, but as with any community, there is drama.  Alaranth’s boyfriend HoopyCat ran another server on the network, nether.dal.net.  For reasons I do not know, his server was delinked from the network.  Shortly afterward, he got into some fight with dalvenjah (DALnet’s founder) and jumped onto dreamscape.  dalvenjah responded by delinking dreamscape on the spot.

I ended up connecting to opus.dal.net, a server ran by white_dragon, that I had a backup o:line on.  Hoopy did the same, but I remember white_dragon spoke up and said “dal, if you delink us, we are NOT coming back”.  I myself got vocal in the discussion, and was responded to with a quote that I still have people asking me about 16 years later, “Ayukawa, fuck you and the penis you rode in on.”

dreamscape.dal.net never came back.  Alaranth and HoopyCat moved on to Undernet, and white_dragon made me a full oper on opus.dal.net.  When opus delinked due to lack of support from its hosting ISP, I moved to barovia.dal.net.  I would remain on barovia.dal.net for quite some time, until my abrupt banishment from the network.

The IRC Stories Part 4 – Charmed

One of the billions of images out on the internet is a picture of a dog sitting in front of a computer, with the caption “On the internet, nobody knows that you’re a dog.”  While there aren’t (I’m assuming) many canines browsing the web, it’s very true that you really don’t know much about the people you’re talking to, other than what they tell you about themselves.

Charmz was a fifteen year old girl from the midwest who quickly became popular in the channel.  In addition to being quite outgoing, she was a very pretty girl who had several scanned photos of herself.  This was pretty big news back then, as scanners weren’t common, and digital cameras were even less so.  Even before she sent me any of the pictures, Charmz and I became good friends, and I found most of my time on IRC divided between her and Asraia.

It was probably a month or two after Charmz had joined #teenflirt that Ficka sent me a concerned private message.  The “Real Name” field that showed up when he performed a /whois on her responded with “Nathan”.  Additionally in his opinion, the several pictures that she’d sent out were of different (but similar looking girls) based on their completely different hairstyles and hair colors.  Naturally, Ficka thought Charmz was a guy, and I believed him.

In a moment of sheer brilliance, I immediately confronted Charmz with these facts and my vast experience of all things internet.  I don’t remember the details of what was said, but I do know the resulting fight was epic.  Her story was that “Nathan” was her brother, and she used his computer.  She dyed her hair whenever she felt like, and sometimes wore glasses although she hated it.

It was a phone call that settled it in the end.  A short conversation proved that Charmz was indeed a girl, and I was pretty stupid.  Miraculously, we managed to stay friends through all of it.  Even today, she likes to remind me from time to time of how I used to think she was a guy.

Charmz and I would continue to talk on the phone quite a bit, resulting in the both of us growing closer, and my almost being murdered on a couple occasions when my father received the phone bill.  She would become my best friend, though it would be another two years before we’d meet in person.

As busy and chaotic at times as our lives have gotten, Charmz (who would go on to use the names PassiveLove and finally Synnovea) and I have stayed close.  It’s been a couple of years since we’ve been able to meet up in person, but we continue to talk to each other when we can.  It’s pretty amazing to consider such friendships being developed and maintained by two people who live hundreds of miles apart.

The IRC Stories Part 3 – The First Wave

Over the years, my IRC channel has seen a constant stream of people come and go.  Some people would stay for a few minutes and disappear forever, and some people practically lived there for years.  Even the regular users, the hardcore users who you would expect to be there forever would disappear from time to time.  Sometimes they would come back a month or a year later, and sometimes they were gone for good.

#teenflirt grew very quickly to start with, mostly because DALnet was still fairly young and didn’t really enforce policies against spamming at the time.  We would join #teen, #teens, and a dozen other teenager-oriented channels and spam some stupid crap trying to get people to join our channel.  I’d say a good eight out of every ten people that joined did so just to tell us to piss off before leaving.  Some however, stayed.

Asraia – As I’ve already mentioned, Asraia was one of the original founding members of the channel.  We spent a fair bit of time playing around in the channel, while also talking privately and becoming good friends.  She taught me about ska, we talked about dragons, and became penpals.   She mailed me several tapes of bands she thought I would like, as well as a few pictures.  This may very well be the root cause of my love for redheads.  For personal reasons, her stay on IRC was only for a year or two, but we kept in touch for a very long time before life just got too busy.

Nova – Nova was the other member of #teenflirt when it was founded.  I think he was probably one of the more level-headed people to come in.  If you give a dozen teenagers anonymity and a way to communicate, there will be drama.  Nova was one of the few people who I can’t remember ever getting caught up in some nonsense fight the channel hosted.

Ficka – Ficka was one of the first people to join the channel after it was founded.  He also holds the distinction of being the first person from IRC that I spoke on the telephone with.  The subject of that conversation however, I have completely forgotten.  He was a very steady member of the channel for several years, and I actually heard he’s made recent appearances in the channel (although I was not present at the time).

Sonicbabe – Originally using the nickname Seattlebabe but switching shortly afterward, Sonicbabe joined #teenflirt to flirt (imagine that).    She was my first internet girlfriend for a very short time until the arrival of the notorious Sonicdude, which is a story for another time.  Sonicbabe made occasional but short-lived appearances over the years until around 2004 when we were actually roommates for a bit.

Jim007 – Of all of the members of the channel, I think Jim007 spent the most time in it, aside from myself.  He j0ined very shortly after the channel was founded, and stayed until the late ’00s.  He was a programmer-type and we worked on a couple little script projects here and there together.  My understanding is that some people from the channel still talk to him from time to time, although I don’t think I’ve spoken with him since IRC.

Dria – There are a lot of stories about Dria that will be coming up.  She was one of the very first people from IRC that I met in person, and was (and still is) an absolute sweetheart.  Trying to write about some of our misadventures in this little paragraph  wouldn’t do them justice, so I won’t go into any detail here.  I don’t talk to Dria as much as I should, or would like to, but she was certainly part of the inspiration behind this series of blog posts.

lilmoore – One of the surprising things about #teenflirt is that it wasn’t the sausage-fest you would expect a bunch of teenagers on the internet to be.  Lilmoore (nickname capitalized here for grammar’s sake) was another of the super flirty girls who joined the channel early on.  She worked with animals a lot if I remember correctly, and was also one of (if not the first) person in the channel to get married.  After disappearing for a couple of years, she came back but didn’t really fit in too well with the new climate of the channel so her return was pretty short-lived.

Ultimate – Ultimate (aka TrineX years later) was the channel’s resident pervert.  This isn’t to say we weren’t all perverted at the time (again, think a bunch of teenagers with little supervision), but he had a directness to him that certainly put him over the top.  He only spent a couple of years in the channel here and there (there was a falling out involving another channel named #jealousy, but I don’t remember the details of it unfortunately), but he was the one who came up with the idea of a real-life gathering called /-fter Zer0.  He was long gone by then, but in 2001, /-fter Zer0 became a reality.

There was one other regular member who joined the channel at this time.  She would become one of my absolute closest friends, still to this day.  There is no way I could begin her story in a single paragraph, so I’m going to save it for my next entry in this blog.

In the next chapter of my story, I’ll write about how I met Charmz.

The Beginning of an Era

I was fifteen when I figured out how to use IRC.  I spent a bit of time lurking, not really joining any one channel for a long period of time.  All of the conversations I had with people were one-time chats, and very few of them were particularly memorable.  Once I figured out how to properly use the /LIST command without getting flooded off the network, I started browsing channels.

This may come as a shock to people who haven’t used the internet for a full day yet, but even back then, there was a LOT of porn.  The first several THOUSAND channels were dedicated to it.  Name a fetish and there was (is) probably a dozen channels dedicated to swapping pics of it.  In retrospect, it wasn’t exactly the safest experience for a fifteen year old kid.

Being the type of person who would never even be curious about such filth (yeah, right) I scrolled past all the porn channels, and started looking for channels related to interests of mine.  Eventually I found my way to #teen and #teens.

Take a moment to picture Myspace and Facebook, and consider how teenagers tend to act on such sites.  Now take away their ability to post from anywhere in the world, share pictures, or click a “like” button.  You’d be left with something very similar to #teen and #teens.  Dozens of kids who most likely would never meet in person, chatting about pointless topics, trying to catalogue everybody else’s A/S/L (Age/Sex/Location… More on that later), and spamming their own channels to get people to join.

The larger teen channels had too much noise, so I browsed for something a bit smaller.  I don’t remember why, but eventually I joined a small channel with 3 members, named #teenflirt.  Within moments of joining the channel, some idiot took over.

A takeover is when a user gets operator status “Ops” in a channel they shouldn’t normally have such access to.  Most commonly they remove everybody else’s Ops, and do whatever they want fromt his point on.  This user in particular set the topic of the channel (a message that everybody sees upon joining) to “JOIN #TEENZ4SATAN”, and left the channel.

Without at least one person having Ops, channels are fairly useless.  Nobody can remove troublesome users, change the topic, or really do much of anything.  The only way to get Ops in an unregistered channel is to completely empty it and rejoin.  The first person to join an empty channel will be granted Ops.

The other users and I decided we’d all leave the channel and rejoin.  It wouldn’t really be too hard to coordinate as there were only the three of us.  By luck of the draw, I was the first one to join, and I was granted Ops, which I gave to the other to users.

DALnet was one of the first IRC networks to implement a system called “Services”.  Services is a program that sits on IRC much like a user, but has full control over all channels and nicknames on the network.  With Services, a user could register their nickname and channel, ensuring that they would always belong to them.  I had registered the nickname Ayukawa a few days prior, and would now register my first channel.

A few minutes later, I sent the command to DALnet’s ChanServ, and registered myself as the founder of #teenflirt.  I would now be granted Ops in the channel whenever I joined, regardless of who was in it at the time.  The channel was ours, and we introduced ourselves to each other at last.  One of the users was a guy named Nova who would become a regular member of the channel for a very long time.  The other would soon be one of my closest friends, a girl from the midwest named Asraia.