As a youngin’, I often get tired of hearing older people whine about the “good old days,” when even your enemies went out of their way to be nice to you, when you could get seven pounds of chocolate for a penny, and when your kids could play outside by themselves, even in the middle of the road or in the county jailhouse, without any danger of being bothered. It’s probably some rite of passage that youth have to go through. Probably, when I’m older, I’ll bother my kids about the “good old days,” when gas was only $4.00 a gallon.

I do not yet wish to join the small subset of elderly folk who only think backwards. However, there is one area of life that seems to have changed for the worse: gaming. Well, not the games, per se. It is the gamers who are at fault. See, it used to be in the (*sigh*) good old days that a game would be full of mind-bending puzzles coupled with a great story-line. Almost every non-arcade game had puzzles in it, and they required intellect, skill, and the ability to see things from different angles. Most importantly, they required imagination. In those days, one couldn’t necessarily see the old chest and its multi-faceted lock… a green-and-black monitor just couldn’t dish out enough resolution. But, in the mind, one could see it clearly, and one could come up with a viable solution to unlock the chest. Yes, sometimes it took hours or days. But that was the fun of it! These days, most games seem to be quick and easy. Diablo, Battlefield 1942, World of WarCraft… the “puzzles” in these games take, at most, a few hours to accomplish. True, they have other time-wasting perks, but the element of hard-thought is gone.

Not in shame I admit that I miss the old days. Give me Mystery House, Quest for Glory, Space Quest… I’ll give you every graphics-pumping no-brainer game we have today.

edits-
-Changed “lame-story-lined” to “no-brainer” as pointed out by Ed.

After a whirlwind trip to the Cameroon in Africa (details on another site), we returned home with spirits bounding high with reckless abandon. Thirty-six hours of airplanes and rented vans has the tendency to do that to a person. So, there we were, as happy as mantisis in an ant migration, when the hammer struck the anvil.

Lila

Lila

Our cat, Lila, was struck by a car this afternoon. We buried her not two hours after our arrival. Unlike most cats, she never hissed or clawed, even when children were pulling her fur. She obeyed when needed, meowed when spoken to, and accompanied us often as a bedroom pal. She was also the only animal I have ever entertained the thought of keeping when I move out in two years.

Farewell, Lila. You will be missed greatly.

This week marks the launch of yet another blog… this time, for our family mission trip to Cameroon.

I would go into a lengthy dissertation about preparing for the trip here, but I suppose that sort of thing is best done on the trip’s blog itself. So, without further ado, ready to visit Africa?

While killing time (precious time! O, Time that I Do Not Have!) yesterday, I noticed a small section of links at the bottom of my favorite search engine. One for advertising… a complete disappointment. One for developers… not currently useful, though I like knowing Microsoft already has such APIs out.

And then, “Hold the phone! Count to Ten! Kill the fatted calf!” A link designed for me (and you, possibly) – Webmasters. Although the interface is not quite as intuitive as Google’s Webmaster Tools, I’ll cut the big M some slack; they are still rather new to this whole “open and free with everyone” racket. It may not be quite as intuitive, but Live.com’s webmaster dashboard gets the job done. From it, a webmaster can finally (finally!) submit websites and sitemaps directly to the MSN search bot. No more nail-biting and early-morning stress wondering if Microsoft knows about all-important websites like daquell.com.

As per my earlier predictions sprinkled all over this blog, I continue to conclude that Microsoft is making a come-back. They are beginning to focus on the minutia. Look out, Mr. G. Mr. M is back in the game.

Don’t make fun of the big M, Mr. Yang.

After many long and trepidacious hours of coding, searching, hunting, and gathering, I offer now a replacement for the venerable but broken How To Be A Hero forums: Tome: of Sword and Dagger. Obviously, the user-base is rather small seeing as the site was just launched. However, I anticipate it growing to normal proportions soon.

Away, away!
The trumpets are calling!
Away, away!
The wheels of time rolling!
Away, away!
The war gongs are booming!
Away, away, away!

Lost in the forested hills in a clearing,
Lost in the bramble of all new and old,
Found all a’never but to those a’searching,
Questing Hall waits for adventurers bold.

Come, all ye weary. Come, see my cheer.
Eat of my food and get rest in my bed.
Come, though ye wander afar or a’near.
Your feet find a footstool, a pillow, your head.

Away, away!
The horses are neighing!
Away, away!
The armor is shining!
Away, away!
Yet come back ere morning!
Away, away, away!

Come, friend. Adventure with us from the Questing Hall of Tome: Sword and Dagger.

Tonight our dog started barking his warning bark. Not his angry bark, just his warning bark. That could mean that a leaf smacked the outside of the garage door, or it could mean that someone is skulking about on the driveway.

I’ve been downstairs twice, and outside once, trying to put an end to this. I need to sleep tonight. Two 3:00 AM mornings is all I’d like to handle, thank you.

Not that the hooligans who are meddling around will read this, but if you do, be ye warned: if anything on my family’s property is damaged, I will not stop hunting you until you repay it; if anyone in my family is hurt, I will not rest until you are begging for your life… if I even let you live.

Following close on the heels of the mysterious truck crash, another unsettling event has befallen our quiet neighborhood:

It’s late at night, and I hear a thumping coming from the corner of our house. I assume my sisters are taking the dog out. This close to midnight? The thumps continue… and then I hear my sisters talking downstairs. If it isn’t them, who is it? I decide to find out.

My dad and sisters are downstairs, looking out the windows. I grab a club and go outside, spooking them. They take off across the road into our neighbor’s yard (the same neighbors with the ditch). They refers to two teenage boys who apparently have never read any good books on burglarly or stealth… they are walking openly across our neighbor’s lawn wearing white shirts and tan shorts. They cross one lawn… two… three. I stand and watch them.

Suddenly, a voice calls out. “What are you kids doing!?” A neighbor has seen the hooligans. They take off down the road and turn a corner. The neighbor and I meet briefly in the road before he jumps into his car and gives chase. I stay behind to see if they loop back. In the meanwhile, I go into the house and get a Maglight and my sword.

Minutes pass, and the neighbor finally comes back. “They tore some fence posts down and laid them across the road,” he says. “I threw them into the ditch.” We bid each other goodnight. “Crazy kids…” I hear him mutter.

One more thing. Our other neighbor has teenage kids. Not ten minutes after this happened, a car pulled into their driveway. A man got out (whether teenager or not, I am not sure), crossed the lawn, and went inside. Coincidence? Maybe…

At any rate, I was up until 3:00 AM making sure they didn’t come back. With all the excitement going on around here, who needs sleep?

It is approximately 2:25… AM. My parents and I have just been awakened by loud, squealing tires and a sickening jolt of crunching metal and shattering glass.

Looking out the window, we see a single headlight shining up from our neighbor’s ditch. I believe it is a car; my parents say it used to be a motorcycle. Apparently, the driver must have incredible agility, because he was able to get out of that death-trap unscathed (but apparently not agile enough to turn a simple corner… but who can turn 90° going 90+ miles an hour?). He is currently hopping up and down. And–yes, another person (probably a friend who is throwing some drunken party that the vehicle-crasher was steaming to) is coming down the road. The headlight goes off, whether automatic or manual I do not know. The two people walk off together around a bend in the street and pass from sight.

My parents go back to bed. I’ve decided to stay up and watch if anything happens.

After a few minutes, a person comes running stealthily down the road from the direction that the two others walked. He looks around the truck, crawls to the cab, and appears to take something out of it. Beer, perhaps? Or something worse? He runs off back down the street.

EDIT—
3:02 AM – Nothing further has come to pass. I decide to lightly rest.

3:54 AM – Bright lights explode through my bedroom. They pulse in a blue hue, jolting me awake. I realize that I’m not alone… a tall figure is standing over me. “Get up!” It says. I, being still sleepy and not fully awake, tense.

“Who are you!?” I ask this in my coolest, dead-pan snarl. The figure takes an involuntary step backwards.

“I’m your sister!” I feel rather foolish, but with crazy drunken drivers riding around (and egging people’s houses… but that is for perhaps another post), one can never be too careful.

We look out my window to see a police car with the brightest blue, flashing lights parked by the wreck. A large lorry is hooked up to the crashed vehicle, trying to pull it out of the ditch. In the dark, all I can see is a metal frame. I had been right. This was no motorcycle. With a slow, grinding pull, the chains retract. The metal heap raises up, flipping solidly over. It was a pickup-truck, flipped entirely in the ditch. A friendly tree had caught it, preventing a roof cave-in. However, the front of the truck looks like a scrawled V, crunched from a pipe sticking out in the ditch. The windshield is shattered. After some maneuvering, the truck rests on the lorry. A policeman and the lorry-driver talk some; they are joined by a third random man who appears out of the dark. The police- and random-man get into the trooper car and follow the lorry off down the street.

EPILOGUE—
The next morning broke without too much flurry. That is, until I called our neighbors who own the ditch. They had slept solidly through the entire affair. The entire family (and visiting relatives) come trooping out to inspect the damage. I join them on their property and related my observations. The ditch is ground up, with deep tire tracks looping up out of them. Apparently, the driver lost control, skidded all across the road, flew into the ditch, and hit the concrete pipe going at least 45 miles an hour (personal estimation). Any ornaments on that side of the ditch are now destroyed, and dirt is thrown up around deep rivulets. The friendly tree has lost a limb, it seems. An electric box was missed by a mere six inches.

Who crashed? Why were they out speeding at 2:25? What will their parents do about it? Perhaps we will never know.

Apparently, that wasn’t the last of such nonsense.

This evening, my sister was home alone while we all went to church. She says that she was upstairs when she heard someone banging on the back door leading in from our porch. When she heard the noises, she called Mom…

…and that’s all that happened. Nobody has broken in–yet.