Archive for the “Cub Report” Category

Things have taken a surprising turn.

When he left me, he was but a learner, but now he is the master.

I spend my free time puttering around World of Warcraft. My son has mostly abandoned WoW for the (sometimes) greener fields of Minecraft.

He has a routine. He watches some videos about Minecraft on Youtube (I set him up with his own age-gated Google account), then he plays some Minecraft. He watches mod reviews, then asks me to install ones that intrigue him. He sees maps explored, then has me download them so he can Parkour.

I didn’t know what Parkour was before Minecraft. Now I do. We live, we learn. In my day, we called it jumping. And in a game, we called them jumping puzzles. Sometimes we glided, and called it Spyro. Whatever.

It is what he does for fun. He studies Minecraft, he tests builds, he watches reviews and laughs at some of the truly amazing music video spoofs and fan-made animated Minecraft movies. He’s made working redstone lighthouses and imitation Japanese fortresses with incredible detail work.

I’m going to tell this story two ways. Tonight, I’ll post the story, and tomorrow I’ll post directions (with screenshots) on how to get to the exact same place in the seed so if you felt like it you can go visit these places, explore, enjoy the scenery too. Minecraft is like that, you can share.  

The Cub has been playing Minecraft version 1.6.4 with the Forge loader and a few of his favorite mods, including TooManyItems and Flans Mod.

The game itself is updated to 1.7.4, but the wonder of their new system is, if you want to run a mod that was stable with one particular game version… you can run the game at that version. No problem at all. It’s brilliant. Eternal backward compatibility with old mods and maps.

He plays 1.6.4 with mods, but only in single player worlds, and on maps I download for him (or he makes himself). No multiplayer.

I have never allowed the Cub to do multiplayer in Minecraft. We’ve done some LAN games together, but I’ve never let him go out into the wild jungle of Minecraft servers, and his friends at school apparently aren’t savvy enough to share server IPs with each other in 5th grade.

He’s been perfectly fine with it, never asked to. He understands our objection to the language of, well, your average Microsoft Live user.

Last weekend, all that changed.

One of the things we gave him for Christmas was a book about Minecraft from Amazon that got pretty good reviews, The Ultimate Player’s Guide to Minecraft by Stephen O’Brien

We were operating under the principle that anything worth doing was worth obsessing over. He’s already got the Youtube and game down, why not add books? This way we can sneak in some reading practice by giving him something he WANTS to read. This is what being a parent does to you; makes you think of ways to trick your kids into learning whether they like it or not.

We were right. Of all the presents he received for Christmas, he loves that book. The book, and his plush Creeper, which he has named Creepy and carries with him everywhere in the house. He loves that damn thing. You’ll be walking around the corner, and hear “Sppshhhh…. BAM!”

Anyway, the book.

The book is current up to the most recent game version, and in the back goes into pretty good detail about multiplayer options . The book gives suggestions on server communities, where to find them (like Planetminecraft), how to make sure you can log in safely, and even referenced a server with mini-games aimed at kids, The Hive (at eu.hivemc.com).

Hmmm. Perhaps, just maybe, with my constant supervision in the room with him, I can unleash the beast onto an unsuspecting world.

Off he goes into the world of multiplayer servers, and a Spleefing champion is born.

For those of you poor souls that don’t know what Spleef is, it’s a game of player versus player combat.

The catch is, you never directly hurt the other players. Instead, you’re playing on a snowy field… and the snow is a thin layer one brick thick, suspended in the air over lava. You are armed… with a shovel. You try and dig the snow out from under your opponent’s feet so they drop down into the lava and die, while they’re trying to do the same to you. Much running, super scurry, call the troops out in a hurry.

This is a gameplay type evolved by players from a game with destructive terrain. Destructive terrain can be a gameplay mode all on it’s own. THIS NEEDS TO BE A THING, DAMNIT.

So, he’s playing multiplayer Minecraft, I’m in the office with him, what the hell. I’ll fire up Minecraft, update it and go for a spin in vanilla 1.7.4, no mods, just mess around in Survival with it set to Easy.

For those interested for later, I created a new world in Vanilla 1.7.4, without mods, set to Creative/Easy, with chest enabled, cheats enabled, and default world type on seed -5263306753596067336

If you’ve never played Minecraft, that means nothing to you. If you do play, then armed with that data you can perfectly duplicate, to the very last brick, the entire world I am playing in as it was in it’s pristine state.

I started walking around, ooh look over there, pretty stones, ooh, what’s that, a river? I saw a nice rocky mound in the distance, and headed that way.

The Cub sees that I’m in Minecraft, and immediately abandons his multiplayer gaming to come coach me.

I am now the old man with the VCR, while the young boy tries to teach me how to program it. How did this happen?

He calmly pointed out that I could kill the cows for meat, but I’d need to build a furnace to cook them into the more nutritious steak.

He reminded me that the sheep I found would give me wool, and three wool with three wood would give me a bed, and I could reset my spawn point to wherever I put my bed.

I holed up in a handy cave midway towards that interesting rock mound just as night fell, and I used the time to mine up some coal for torches and got lucky with some iron. Ten minutes in and I’ve got plenty of wool from sheep, food from cows, wood sticks, coal, a handful of iron for some good picks… wow! Okay, this is a nice world.

My son sees I’m having fun and getting lots of materials, so he creates a brand new survival world. Suddenly, it’s a competition. Who can gather the most cobblestone, find the most diamonds, make the nicest house, etc.

I reach an interesting pyramid-shaped sand sculpture, I look over, and he’s already got a house. With fence and gate. A garden. He hoed a garden and planted carrots already, just wtf.

Fine, you know what? I’m gonna be a traveling man. Let’s see what lies over the next ridge.

Oh, another hill. And a river. And a desert.

My son, who is surreptitiously watching my every move, is instantly jealous.

“Sand biomes have the best chance of having a sand village!”

“Is that good?”

“Yes, you can trade with them!”

“Oh, okay, I’ll look for a village.”

I look over at his screen. He has raw data scrolling like the Matrix down the side, and is mining a tunnel down, lining it with torches. He reaches some goal as I watch, because he mutters to himself, “Okay, layer 11 on the Y coordinate, this has the best chance to find diamonds in a 16×16 chunk. Now to dig a tunnel along the X!”

Really? Really, dude?

Then I recall… holy shit, this was me with Bear Druid tanking for five years. I’m so proud! He’s gonna be a min/maxing geek just like his daddy.

Me? I got a stone pickax from the bonus chest. And some torches. Coal and wood, made a crafting table, made a furnace.

Let’s go look at that weird double-hill thingie. It’s like a patch of raw cobblestone in the middle of the desert, and I swear I can see a cave.

And what is that, just over the hump… is that a building?

13 - onthesandpile - adoublehill

Let’s go find out.

I come up on the top of the right-side hill, and what should I find but a village. A sand village!

begindaylight

Don’t try to duplicate this shot yourself in the plain game, I made a 20-block high tower on top of the left hill to get a nice view.

The Cub looks over, and he abandons his game to come look at my village. He has, by the way, acquired 10 diamonds in the short space of time it took me to walk over to the hill. Apparently, he knows how to find dat diamond.

I thought I was playing the game, but the Cub is now in full-on mentor mode.

“Look, you’re so lucky! They already have farms so you’ve got unlimited food, and there is water, and houses, and OOOH! A library! And you can trade with the villagers, and, and…”

“Breathe, Alex. Breathe.”

It is getting very dark, so I find myself a nice, cozy cottage to call my own, close the door… and realize I never made a bed, and don’t have any wood to make one. All I have are sticks.

Well, waiting out the night.

I watch as bad guys roam freely through the darkened village, but they never come close to endangering me.

beginnight

There are a few torches around the village, but evil spawns anywhere a shadow can be found, until they are vaporized like real vampires in the cleansing light of day. Zombies, skeletons and spiders are abundant.

Just as it’s starting to get light, the Cub says, “I hope your villagers are okay, the zombies will break down doors to get them at night.”

Wait, what?

I burst outside, just in time to see a pack of zombies entering a house.

I run around like crazy, taking on everything, but I get overwhelmed and die.

I didn’t have a bed, so I respawn where I started. Shit! All my stuff is back where I died. Double shit!!

I start running like a madman across the zone to get back and get my stuff.

I return to the village, only to find that of all the villagers, only two have survived the night.

Two.

I turn to my son, who says to me with great sadness, “They were fine until you came to the village. Your coming caused the monsters to spawn nearby. Now they’re all gone. They’re all gone.”

OMG.

Will they… will they, like, respawn?”

“No… no, it’s just those two. And when night falls again…”

Oh, HELL no.

No, kiss my butt, we are NOT playing Mexican Vampire Standoff with me losing the whole town to the blood suckers. This ain’t a John Carpenter flick, this is Groundhog Day!

I turn back the clock, copying the world as a fresh spawn. I am John Connor. I can fix this. I just have to go back there to the eighties one more time, stop Skynet’s plan.

This time, I stop at my little cave and burrow in like a tick. I carve out a sizeable chunk of cobblestones, hundreds of blocks. I chop down a forest for wood, I find me lots of coal. I prepare over several days, there in my little hidey-hole.

Then, when I felt fully prepared, I tore out of my burrow at the crack of dawn and beat feet across the rivers and the desert, following the landmarks as I remembered them, until there it was. The village, alive, vital, with the sand temple behind it full of treasure to plunder (according to the Cub, I ain’t been inside yet so I have no idea what is in there).

Immediately, I spring into action. Every second of daylight is precious.

I put Operation De-Maginot into effect. I start laying down a wall of cobblestone around the village.

I am going to build a wall two blocks high around the entire village. No villager gets eaten on MY watch, damnit! I can save them, I can go back in time and do it right!

I work like a beaver on crack to build my dam wall, and as I get within spitting distance of linking them together, darkness falls across the sands.

Two zombies rush me, but I quickly cut them down with my stone sword, link the wall together, and start running around inside putting torches EVERYWHERE. The monsters can spawn anywhere there is a shadow, and that means they are going to start spawning inside my wall!

I get torches on the inside wall, torches on the loose sands, torches on walls and buildings and even on the well.

Then two spiders come OVER my wall and eat me.

Oh yeah… I never DID make that bed.

The Cub says, “If you go to sleep in a bed, nothing happens while you’re asleep.”

“So… if I made a bed and slept in it, monsters wouldn’t spawn and eat the villagers?”

“Nope.”

Sigh…

“Also, spiders can climb up walls.”

“I think I caught that, but thanks for clearing that up for me.”

“They can’t climb upside down, though.”

“You mean…”

“Put a one-block overhanging parapet along the top of your wall, and spiders won’t be able to climb over it to get at the village.”

“So then they’ll be safe?”

“Yep! But you need more torches too, you have to have the light of a torch within 7 squares to prevent monsters.”

Okay, I can see this is going to take some work.

Through the last three nights, he has coached me on making an enchanting table, how to make an anvil to repair really precious stuff once it’s enchanted so it doesn’t LOSE that enchant, how to harvest and plant vegetables in the gardens, how to make a bucket, capture water, and splash it on lava to make obsidian blocks.

He’s taught me a lot. And he’s jealous as heck, because this world has it all.

Plentiful coal, iron, emeralds, wood, a sand village, lava near water, lots of interesting biomes, not one but TWO sand temples to eventually plunder, a library, just… everything.

He spent an entire night trying to find sugarcane near water in his world, so he could build an enchanting table. You have to have a book to build the table, you need paper to build a book, and sugarcane to make paper.

My sand village came with a library. A quick swipe with an axe at one of the bookcases would have given me a book… if there wasn’t a pond 5 feet from the village with a bunch of sugarcane growing right there.

The greatest advice he gave me, though, came tonight.

I was miles down deep, hunting for diamond along Y 11, just as he directed. I had no idea where I was, how to ever get back home, and my bags were full of diamonds, redstone, iron, coal, emeralds. I had no room for anything more.

There was no way I was going to survive to make my way back. I’d already taken down a dark witch, multiple creepers and skeletons and survived a fast dunking in lava. My luck was going to run out, and I would appear, naked but alive at my bed in the village. All my loot, gone forever.

The Cub says, “Type in a /, then type gamerule keepInventory true, It’ll say your game rule was changed, and then when you die you’ll keep all your stuff. You do have cheats enabled for this world, right?

YES! Yes, I do!

About 5 minutes later, I tried to maneuver a creeper to fall into lava, fell in myself, it blew up, and I woke up in my bed.

WITH ALL MY STUFFS.

I was able to use all the coal I gathered to finish off stage one of the De-Maginot Line.

You’ve seen the before shots.

Now for the after.

begindaylight

Finaldaylight

beginnight

finalnight

Nobody is coming into MY village and eating MY citizens.

Not on my watch!

I hope you villagers like those houses, because you’re never leaving here again. Give thanks and welcome to your new Supreme Overlord, for I shall keep you safe from all harm, whether you want me to or not. I have claimed this village in the name of yankee imperialism, and I’ll keep you damn savages safe with my civilized ways. And my wall. And torches. Lots and lots of torches.

And my diamond sword with the level 7 enchant, Knockback 1 and Sharpness 2.

I call it my BOOMSWORD.

Seriously, if you don’t have one of these kids that learn everything about video games and teach you what to do, you gotta get one of these. This is great. It’s almost like I knew wtf I was doing!

Tomorrow, he’s promised to teach me how to make a concealed-switch automatic piston door for my gatehouse!

It just doesn’t get any better than this.

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I have merged accounts. The power has been unleashed!

It’s kinda funny how this all came about.

I was online the other day farming more endless ore in the quest to make Engineering pets and mounts.

As I character swapped to Farmville part IV: The Reapening, I was bitching about the character swapping to Tom.

See, I have access to two Engineers. Three soon, when my Warrior hits max. One is my Warlock, and is almost up to making another pet. Probably Pierre this time, since it’s about time I make one for myself.

Then there is Hailsword, my son’s Death Knight. He’s six days away from making me a Sky Golem.

Of course, then there is my Blacksmith, who is a few days away from making my Warrior a new 553 plate belt, and 6 days away from upgrading the two handed axe to a level 502.

Sigh. So many professions, so much farming…

I can tell you straight up, if I had to fly around Pandaland mining for all this ore, there is no way, NO WAY I would have such ambitious goals.

As it is, with my Hunter Alchemist farming Motes of Harmony to have extra cheap Living Steel Transmutes, and with extra procs, I can just about stay caught up with everyone’s needs. God bless that damn farm.

So I’m bitching to Tom about the sheer drudgery of character swapping to farm and farm some more, and then I have to log out of my Battle.net account, switch over to the one I set up for my son, log in and then do the crafting on his characters, and all that. Plus, the crafting seems to be going forever because first I make him all the pets and mounts, and then I can start making them for myself.

And then there is helping him tame new pets, level them, someday do the Celestial Tournament…

Tom says to me, “Well, why don’t you just move your son’s WoW account onto the same Battle.net account you’re on?”

Umm. What? The whole point is we play together. Like, online at the same time. So he has his Battle.net account, and I have mine.

“Oh no”, he says, “You can both be logged into World of Warcraft at the same time on the same Battle.net account. You have to have two fully activated WoW accounts on the same Battle.net. I do it myself to swap Heirlooms back and forth.”

Umm.

Wait, so let me get this straight. If I had a second fully paid WoW account on my own Battle.net account, it could be logged in on one computer while I’m logged in on mine. AND I could mail Heirlooms to it?

“Yeah, anything that is ‘bind to account’ like Heirlooms, pandarian treasures, all the pets and mounts are shared…”

WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU SAY?!?!

How may years now, and there is always something new to be surprised with.

So I investigated. I emailed Blizzard support. And I asked flat out if I could move a WoW account from one of my Battle.net accounts to another.

I wasn’t worried about being suspected of selling or buying a WoW account. Both of them have had the same recurring billing info forever and a day. I just didn’t think they’d let me move an entire account.

And if they did, what would happen? The Cub has mounts I don’t have (like the Sky Golem) and I have many, many pets that he doesn’t, and mounts, and some of my pets I have three full ones of.

What would happen to the mounts? Would his get lost? Would MINE?

What about pets that he has, that I have three of? Would he get them in cages in his inventory or game mail, or would they just vanish?

Would his lower level pets replace my max level?

I got a reply back from Blizzard after two days.

I was told they certainly could move that account from one Battle.net account to another, no charge, no problems. I was provided a link to a three page PDF form I had to fill out, and I was told to attach a picture of my photo government-issued ID and the form to the ticket and they’d take care of it.

So I did that thing. Three pages, easily filled out, quick scan of my state driver’s license, attached them to the ticket, sent it in.

Less than 6 hours later, I went to login and the Blizzard Battle.net beta game interface had a new feature; a drop down box right over the “play” button that let me choose between my original account, and the newly named “WoW1″.

I logged into WoW1, and there was my son’s character list, just like normal.

I’ve been playing with this for two days now, and I have discovered some interesting things.

I have merged a World of Warcraft account that was played in it’s entirety on another Battle.net account.

Both of my WoW accounts now share mounts. Mounts he had, such as the Sky Golem, we both now have. Likewise, everything I had he now has access to. Perfect mount merge.

Achievements he earned I got credit for, like parts of the Explorer meta. And all the achievements and titles I had earned, he now has access to.

The pets… the pets didn’t go quite as I’d hoped, but about exactly as I expected.

It turns out, every single pet he had vanished in the merge. All of my pets, and the quantity of them, remain unchanged. He has my pets as his own, now, including the names I gave them.

Where we had both had max level Minfernals, we do not have two of them after the merge, just the one. His is gone into the Twisted Nether. Likewise any pet he had, regardless of level. They were not merged; they are simply gone.

Now, like I said, I had hoped I’d log in and find two Minfernals, you know, that kind of thing. But I anticipated that, worse case, his pets would vanish.

So just in case, before I sent off that ticket with the attachments… I caged every single pet in his list that I could, and mailed the cages to my Warlock. I figured worse case, all of his pets would be gone but he’d have mine, and we’d have his caged pets to mail to Cassie to see if she was missing any.

That was a lot of cages. Many, many cages.

Good thing, because if I hadn’t of done that, all those pets would have been lost too.

It makes me wonder… he had a trial account (the free to play to level 20) on that old Battle.net email. Did the pets all stay on that account, left behind? If we were to login to that free trial account, would all those pets still be there, patiently waiting to be played again?

I like to think so. Given that situation, I consider it a gift that he brought his Sky Golem with him. After all, I didn’t have it, and it would have been so much fun to have it just vanish silkily into the satin darkness.

Tested the logging in; yes, we can both log in at the same time, on our two different WoW accounts.

Drawback? We can’t BOTH be on Battle.tag chat for both transmit and receive. Someone could send something to me, and I won’t see it if he is also logged in, and vice versa. That is a big drawback, because there doesn’t seem to be any warning to someone that their messages aren’t getting through to me. After all, Alex can see them fine, he just ignores them.

Mailing Heirlooms back and forth between accounts does indeed work. All those Heirlooms I spent so much time earning and upgrading? All now have a use once again! Now the Cub can use them!

And then the biggest drawback of all hit me between the eyes.

After logging in and out for about 20 minutes, showing the Cub how it works, my account got locked.

Locked hard.

Why?

Changes in my logging habits.

Really? Something changed in how I’m logging in? You’re kidding! You don’t think it had anything to do with, oh, I dunno… adding a whole new second account I’m swapping between now, do you?

I was locked.

I was told to check my email to find out what to do. I mean, locked. Cannot access Battle.net or any Blizzard game in any way, period.

So, let’s see the email.

The email gave me a link to follow to begin the process of unlocking my account.

I had to provide my Battle.net email address, my first and last names, and enter in one of those CAPTCHA graphic codes.

I hate CAPTCHA codes, because the damn letters frequently blend into each other so I can’t make them out. I suppose I should be grateful English is my native language, so I can recognize mangled versions of the English alphabet.

So I enter that in, and I’m taken to another screen where I have two choices.

One, I have to answer my account security question, OR…

I have to enter in the first 6 digits of any of my Blizzard game authentication keys that are actually on my account. And it has to be the first 6 digits of a key from a physical game, NOT a digitally purchased game. Like, the code from a store box bought game.

Oh, holy crap. OMIGOD.

So, what is the security question? I don’t remember setting that up.

“Who is your childhood hero.”

Wait, what? Really? I set that up nine years ago, and I expected myself to remember that? Shit, that’s exactly the kind of question whose answer changes from week to week. I look back and have no idea who I would have thought was my childhood hero.

What did I answer, Robert Heinlein? JRR Tolkein? Gandhi? Margaret Thatcher? Han Solo?

Think, think…

Shit, I have no idea.

I try Heinlein, it’s the most likely choice… no.

Casca?

No.

I know!

Remo Williams…

No.

Fine, go back, this is doomed.

The first six digits of an authentication code… of World of Warcraft, Starcraft II, any of their expansions…

Shit.

I have purchased three copies of World of Warcraft and all of the expansions over the years, one for me, one for Cassie, and one for the Cub. Since the Cub’s accounts are now on my Battle’net account, I’ve got a 66% chance of having that code, right?

Yeah, fuck no. Tried ‘em all, nope nope nope.

Okay, so what else might I have considered a childhood hero?

Maybe it was Robert A. Heinlein…

Shit. And I wouldn’t have picked Sten or Steven Brust, I didn’t get into them until I was in the Marines.

WAIT!

I only bought Starcraft II once, for my account! Alex has been playing it on my account, so if I have the disc, I have the code!

Search my desk… there it is, shiny and new as the day I bought it.

Hands shaking, I enter the code…

YES!!! I’m in! I’m in, thank you, thank you, I can play the game, I haven’t lost it all, and seriously what the fuck, another CAPTCHA?

I enter the CAPTCHA, choose a new password… and I have to enter another CAPTCHA.

No, I’m not kidding. THREE of them throughout this process.

But finally, I’m logged back in. Access is restored!

Okay, note to self. Don’t ever, ever get rid of my Starcraft II game disk case, or the code. Ever. Like, EVER.

Adrenaline is a bitch. Ten minutes later, ooh, feel the burn. Where were you when I was freaking the hell out?

You can have my World of Warcraft account when you pry my Starcraft II disc out of my cold, dead hands.

This will certainly bring much fun in the days ahead, but for now, I note that my son is delighted at the expanded options for mounts and pets. DELIGHTED.

He tells me, “Now we can send each other messages in pet names!”

Yes, you can indeed.

Whew. Scared the shit out of me.

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This is going to be an ongoing project. Expect updates as I go, and I’ll put a link on the website to it in case anyone ever wants to check back.

I was talking with my wife the other day, and the topic turned to Star Trek.

My son has never seen Star Trek.

I’m not talking about being aware of how Star Trek has permeated our culture, influenced our way of telling sequential stories, or spawned countless memes.

He doesn’t know it exists. Period.

Never heard of the original series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine or Enterprise, none of the movies.

He has an imagination untouched by the idea of boldly going where nobody had gone before.

No Vulcan nerve pinch. No “Live Long and Prosper”. No “KHAAAAAAAANNN!!!”

Star Wars has remained relevant through the generations. Say what you will of George Lucas, and now Disney, but it is a very visible and vital universe of new creations and stories that our youth enjoy every day. Plus, of course, endless Lego toys.

There have continued to be Star Wars movies, and those movies have had toys and cartoons targeted directly at the younger generations to keep them up to speed.

Star Trek, not so much.

The new Star Trek movies aren’t a good place to begin, because to fully invest in their story you need to have been there for all that came before. If you don’t, then you are left feeling like an outsider as all the cool kids share the in-jokes and secret handshakes around you. When old Spock appears, the experienced and knowledgeable people ooh and aah and get it immediately, while you go “Huh, so this is that Spock dude from the future? Okay, that’s cool, but is that going to be important? And why not take the actor from the movie and artificially age him so it looks more like him?”

Does it feel fun to be the one that doesn’t get the reference everyone else understands? I don’t think so.

So.

Project Star Trek: Generations is born.

My goal is simple. To take the core of greatness that is the Star Trek that I grew up with and present it to my son.

It is my duty to pass the important parts of our heritage on to my son. What he does with it after that is his business.

What makes this a project is, I have no intention of sitting him down in front of three full seasons of original Trek, then Next Gen, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, etc etc and so forth.

I am not a trekkie. I enjoyed it growing up, but then I enjoyed a lot of stuff growing up. It’s important to me that he groks the heart and the most significant or enduring stories, not that he has an encyclopedic knowledge of it.

If he decides he wants to see it all someday, if he gets hooked, that’s fine. But that’s not the project.

 

My intent is to cherry pick the very best and brightest episodes of the original series, and follow that up with the best of the movies starring the original cast.

Concerning the Next Generation, I think Next Gen might be fun to watch together when he gets older, I was overseas when most of it was released so I never saw much of it either. For now, Star Trek will mean Kirk, Spock and McCoy. That is what I intend to focus on. Time enough for him to see the Next Generation when he has some distance to make those original cast cameos seem special.

 

In order to narrow the selection down, I have to decide what ‘the best’ means to me.

To me, what I loved best was the warmth and the camaraderie between Kirk, Spock and McCoy. That held the episodes together for me. Whatever craziness was going to happen, those three would be able to count on each other to succeed, no matter what.

But the best episodes were the ones that took a bold concept and made it fascinating, asking questions that lingered long after the episode was over.

I know the original tagline was “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

To me, the series served to boldly explore science fiction concepts that I didn’t see on TV before, concepts that made me think about normal things in new ways.

I don’t have a ‘maximum number of episodes’ that I want to get down to. But I do want each episode we watch to be a ‘must see’. If we start including episodes where there was ‘like this really cool 2 minute segment’ in it, then we would be watching every episode. Even “Spock’s Brain” has to have some cool bit in it somewhere, even if it lasted less time than the lifespan of a mayfly. No, I want to whittle this sucker down to ‘must watch’ core episodes only.

Here is the complete list of the original series episodes I have to cull from;

1 “The Man Trap” – the melancholy of the salt vampire is cool, and i do remember the episode, but no.
2 “Charlie X” – hell no, I remember thinking it was crap when I saw it, and I was younger than Alex.
3 “Where No Man Has Gone Before” – no. I remember it during syndication, and I always wondered “where did this almost-trek come from? And where’s Bones?”
4 “The Naked Time” – must watch, an inside look at the hidden personalities of the crew, but I can’t remember details other than it was very revealing and cool.
5 “The Enemy Within” – must watch, transporter malfunction and good kirk/bad kirk
6 “Mudd’s Women” – must watch. Harry Freaking Mudd. Or is it? There is another Mudd later that was very good.
7 “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” – no.
8 “Miri” – not sure
9 “Dagger of the Mind” – no, I remember this one well, and I never did care for it.
10 “The Corbomite Maneuver” – must watch, I still remember loving how the first encounter isn’t decided by who was strongest, but by who thought who was strongest. Bluff and counter bluff and how belief affects what you think you can get away with.
11 “The Menagerie, Part I” – no. My memories of this were of a horribly dry and boring snoozefest lacking in charm.
12 “The Menagerie, Part II” – no.
13 “The Conscience of the King” – must watch, strong acting between Spock and McCoy, and Shakespeare in space.
14 “Balance of Terror” – must watch due to being highly recommended (I don’t remember it, lol)
15 “Shore Leave” – must watch. I remember this one well, and it has inspired some of my more interesting RPG designs.
16 “The Galileo Seven” – hell no.
17 “The Squire of Gothos” – must watch. The Squire, powerful Spock moments, great fun from the god-being.
18 “Arena” – must watch OMG, GORN and how to make gunpowder to prove all we need is guns, dah de dah da da.
19 “Tomorrow Is Yesterday” – time travel and could be a good preparation for Star Trek IV, but I remember it as being dull.
20 “Court Martial” – god, I hated this episode.
21 “The Return of the Archons” – no.
22 “Space Seed” – must watch, and sets the stage for Wrath of Khan.
23 “A Taste of Armageddon” – possible, I remember this one, and it’s strong send up of the stupidity of war without objectives, for the sake of hate.
24 “This Side of Paradise” – an absolute must-watch, the episode where the enemy is being too damn happy, and Spock smiling and in love.
25 “The Devil in the Dark” – must watch. Silicon-based life forms, judging by appearance instead of by deeds, foul heart concealed by fair face. “I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer!”
26 “Errand of Mercy” – on the fence. first appearance of Klingons, but… I didn’t like this one as a kid, and the Klingons look like, not Klingons.
27 “The Alternative Factor” – hells no.
28 “The City on the Edge of Forever” – must watch, Harlan Ellison’s classic time travel piece and a powerful story that lingers.
29 “Operation: Annihilate!” – maybe, but not remembering anything special.
30 “Amok Time” – must watch, standing by your friends, not being ashamed of who you are, the price of repressing your feelings.
31 “Who Mourns for Adonais?” – I do not mourn for Adonais. Not even slightly.
32 “The Changeling” – nah. The all powerful probe from hell wasn’t that interesting.
33 “Mirror, Mirror” – must watch evil facial hair doppleganger twins! Parallel dimensions of fun! Oh, hell yes.
34 “The Apple” – nope
35 “The Doomsday Machine” – must watch.
36 “Catspaw”
37 “I, Mudd”
38 “Metamorphosis”
39 “Journey to Babel”
40 “Friday’s Child”
41 “The Deadly Years”
42 “Obsession”
43 “Wolf in the Fold”
44 “The Trouble With Tribbles” – oh come on, it’s awesome. Must watch.
45 “The Gamesters of Triskelion”
46 “A Piece of the Action”
47 “The Immunity Syndrome”
48 “A Private Little War”
49 “Return to Tomorrow”
50 “Patterns of Force”
51 “By Any Other Name”
52 “The Omega Glory”
53 “The Ultimate Computer”
54 “Bread and Circuses”
55 “Assignment: Earth”
56 “Spock’s Brain”
57 “The Enterprise Incident”
58 “The Paradise Syndrome”
59 “And the Children Shall Lead”
60 “Is There in Truth No Beauty?”
61 “Spectre of the Gun”
62 “Day of the Dove”
63 “For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”
64 “The Tholian Web”
65 “Plato’s Stepchildren”
66 “Wink of an Eye”
67 “The Empath”
68 “Elaan of Troyius”
69 “Whom Gods Destroy”
70 “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”
71 “The Mark of Gideon”
72 “That Which Survives”
73 “The Lights of Zetar”
74 “Requiem for Methuselah”
75 “The Way to Eden”
76 “The Cloud Minders”
77 “The Savage Curtain”
78 “All Our Yesterdays”
79 “Turnabout Intruder”

The Movies

“Star Trek – The Motion Picture” – I don’t want to include this. It’s a hard decision, because I loved the core concept – We sent a spaceship out there loaded with things to tell others who we are, and something finds it and follows it back to us that is beyond anything we ever dreamed of. But damnit all, it’s slow as hell, and I hated the uniforms. It was like they pretended time enver passed and the original cast was still in their twenties. The second movie brought that feeling of age and wisdom and experience that the first lacked. Just… brilliant story idea, but as cold in presentation as V’ger itself.
“Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan” – oh hell yes.
“Star Trek III – The Search for Spock” – yep, gotta have it, everyone gets a part to play.
“Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home” – well sure, save the whales, Spock swearing, transparent aluminum, mouse driven computers. The Enterprise in dock. Of course.
“Star Trek V – The Final Frontier” – I think I blocked this out, so I don’t know. I think I hated it, but it’s all a blur.
“Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country” – I remember thinking it was great when it was over, but damned if I can remember anything about it now.

Update 1: added link to the Wikipedia page for the original Star Trek episodes.
Update 2: I welcome your opinions and suggestions on which episodes should be included in the ‘absolutely must be included list’, but please, you must tell me why. And only one episode per comment, please. It will help me sort. I will continue to update episode titles above with comments and my decisions as we go.

Update 3: Added more episode decisions, influenced by comments from Tesh, Ted, Kamalia and Degei.

Update 4: okay, made it into Season 2 a little, made the first cull. Now to sleep on it. I can’t believe how many of these I remember from my childhood.

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For those who enjoy Minecraft, a new update went live today that added horses, rideable horses, with armor barding to the game. Also, other stuffs too, but yeah. Horses.

Over the weekend, my son and I investigated this whole ‘Minecraft multiplayer’ concept.

I took the time to setup a Hamachi LAN network tunnel between our two computers, and sort of kinda got it working with Minecraft. If I hosted the game, Alex’s computer could direct connect to it, but not the reverse.

It’s exactly that kind of thing that can make you throw up your hands in frustration if it weren’t for Google searches. A few minutes revealed that our issue was far from rare, and so, as with so many other Minecraft bugs, you shrug your shoulders and be grateful for what works.

It really is that good of a game.

As an aside, the reason this was an irritation was, the person who hosts the game and opens it up to a LAN can do this with any of their created worlds, and if Alex can’t open one of his uber-cool worlds for me to come explore and admire, it takes a lot of the point out of it. He likes to have me see his awesome creations.

Perhaps today’s content update will fix some of the issues. We’ll see.

Did I mention horses?

We created a survival world at random, and entered it together to see what it was like, playing together. Cooperative. VERY cooperative.

Except when I mighta punched him with a pickaxe.

Yeah, that was pretty much my weekend, right there.

I understand that you really can’t make an MMO in the Minecraft model. A world that every player could mold to their own will would be a battlefield of conflicting creative visions, and if it was a PvP world, then every camping asshat would be seeking to overwrite or destroy the creations of others.

That doesn’t prevent me from wishing that there was a way for a phased area to be set aside for each player, much as the farms are, to be our sandbox to shape as we will.

And to wish such a place, once it existed in game, could be set to allow specific invited guests to come visit.

Minecraft satisfies an urge that World of Warcraft does not; to play an active part in shaping the world around us, to set aside a place where everything is as we wish it, and to say, “This is my home. My actual home, my place of refuge, my fortress of solitude, my oasis of calm midst the chaos of a land eternally at war. Come, friend, take your ease and be welcome.”

In Minecraft, my son and I explored islands, built homes, and crafted defenses against the nocturnal stalkers that hunt the night.

We delved deep, and discovered many things. We crafted weapons and armor that were useful and wouldn’t be replaced by drops, and admired how we each looked. (We looked like 16 bit pixel-people. Wearing tinfoil. It was still cool.)

We fought spiders, skeletons armed with bows, ghouls and ender men that could teleport and who would attack if you dared look them in the eyes.

In creative mode, Alex made fountains of lava, and large structures involving levers, pistons, TNT and other stuff that, well… at the flip of a lever, it expanded, then exploded.

He seemed disappointed that it didn’t explode more.

In talking about our game afterwards, I was musing aloud how I wished the game had one additional thing; a way to hire guards to defend your home while you are away.

How great it would be, I mused, if we could build our giant fortresses with the moats of flaming lava and pens of cute animals, and then hire nearby villagers to come and patrol our walls, defend our gates, protect our strongholds while we are away on our adventures.

My son says, “Yeah, I wish I could walk up to a villager, point my sword at him and tell him, serve me or die!”

True story.

And thus, another evil genius is born.

Now I finally understand what Minecraft is.

It’s the Evil Overlord Starter Set.

Now, they just need the minion content update and we’re all good, right?

So you know what we need to have happen now.

We need the Evil Overlord mod, so you can set up your volcano lair with the bond villain death traps, the sharks with frackin’ laser beams in their frackin’ heads, the minions with the different uniform options (identity concealing helmets or non-concealing helmets), all the bells and whistles.

If you’re going to encourage and promote the world-conquering fantasies of  our children, let’s help them aspire to true greatness, shall we?

Volcano lairs. Gotta have a volcano lair. All I’m saying.

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Welcome to another fun filled edition of the Cub Report!

In this episode, we find out what happens when I give the Cub my old computer.

A short while ago, the Cub’s computer took a data dump, and left us scrambling to come up with a replacement.

We ended up getting me a new computer, and passing my old one on to him, leaving us both with an upgrade.

The only thing I had to do to get the computer set up for him was to install the backed up Minecraft game/world saves for him.

So, hey, Portal is on the desktop, he played that a bit. And it had World of Warcraft, of course. And I installed a painting program for him to get his art on.

Over the weekend, he was bored, and asked me what this other icon on the desktop was. Starcraft II? What’s that?

More importantly, can he play it?

Sure. Why not? He’s ten, he can give it a shot.

I explained to him that it wasn’t a World of Warcraft style of game, instead it was like a science-fiction version of Warcraft III, which I let him play a bit a year or more ago.

“You make a base, fortify it, build armies and go out to smash other bases.”

Okay, cool. He’s excited, he wants to try it.

I set him up with a fresh start in Campaign mode, and let him at it.

He did a few missions in campaign mode, but he didn’t really care for it.

“Is there any way I can just do a battle? I build a base and the bad guys build a base and we fight?”

Why yes… yes there is.

I showed him how to set up a match against the AI, the different variables, how to browse Blizzard maps, what team AI was and all of that.

Then I let him go to it again.

He got his butt handed to him by the enemy in his first match. He was kind of upset.

So I told him that if he’d like, I’d replay the battle, and show him some of the things I do to defend my base, build resources and kick butt.

“Sure!”

I sat down, he had Terran set up against Terran on a 1v1 map, and I showed him how you can set up your SCVs to harvest minerals and gas, build more SCVs to farm faster, send an SCV down to another nearby mineral site to start a second command center and bring in more resources, and have a couple SCVs off on their own building missile launchers, barracks and bunkers with Marines around the perimeter.

I showed him how to group armies with Ctrl+#s, I introduced him to the concept of avenues of approach, and how to upgrade weapons and armor and perform research.

I showed him how some forces can only attack ground targets, some can only attack air, some reveal the surrounding area, and some units can attack both types.

Then I built a force of 5 Battlecruisers and turned the keys of the kingdom over to him.

He likes Battlecruisers.

He played several more AI matches over the weekend after that. He tried some of the 2v2 maps, with an AI on his team and two AI opponents, and also one match with two AI buddies on his team with one lone little AI victim.

Does everyone do that at some point? Set up a completely one sided and horribly unfair situation where the poor bad guy is just screwed right out of the gate? It’s not fun to actually play, but it seems like a rite of passage for an RTS game, gives you plenty of time to build up impregnable defenses, a ridiculously large and overpowered army, and then have the AI bad guy die because your two AI allies lost no time in zerg rushing him?

Anyway. He had a lot of fun.

He loves the battlecruiser, he likes the looks of the Thor but I don’t think he’s built them much. So far he seems to go for dominance of the skies rather than open-field tank battles.

He likes the Viking, he asked me if I knew that the Viking was a flying gunship that can land and transform into mecha. Very cool. Also, there are medic ships!

I came in on him last night, he was whooping it up, I wanted to see what trouble he was up to.

He’d started a 1v3 battle, with 3 Terrans against his one Zerg force.

When I popped my head in, he was grouping zerglings into armies. Lots and lots and lots of armies. And giggling.

“I’m going to send THIS army to scout the enemy camp, and THIS army to attack his weak point, and THIS army to cover the way to the enemy base so I’m not surprised, and THIS army to defend my ramp here, and THIS army….”

Um, yeah.

Okay, so, note to self. Do NOT buy a second copy of Starcraft II. I can just see getting my butt zerg-rushed from thirteen different armies while still trying to finish building my first barracks.

Also, those giant things that Zerg can make that look like dinosaurs? Why can they burrow? He was building them, burrowing them and giggling.

Why? Why make something that massive a sneak attack? “La la la, walking along the trail, all is quiet, HOLY CRAP INSTANT MUTANT RHINOS ARGGGHHHH!”

My son likes the Zerg more than the Space Marines?

That’s just wrong, man.

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