Eurocon – Extended Play

Firstly, I should point out once again that the Eurocon is held in the Netherlands so local time while we were there (I’m home now) was 1 hour ahead of UK time. My server is set to publish times based on the UK so while that last comment said it was 3am when ‘Flower’ kicked us out of the con room it was actually 4am and there were still around 15 of us talking in groups.

After that I chatted with Shuzon before sleeping, fellow Parrot and cage-mate for the weekend (poor him). Another interesting hour as he told me about how to make beer (though I still couldn’t do it). Shuzon is our ‘Brewer from Bavaria’ having studied it at university and then having his own ‘micro-brewery’ making mostly pilsner. Now days he is retraining to be a waiter. Now, at this point you may be thinking like me “how hard can it be to be a waiter?”. Well, it takes 3 years of training but you wont find him just pulling pints (erm, ok, based on previous photos from this Eurocon it’s clearly VERY hard for me to pull pints). His course covers a wide range of things from the back office paper work, food preparation, cooking the perfect meal at a customers table (flambee without burning the customers). It also covers the most difficult of all waiters tasks, correctly taking an order when 5 people order at once, speaking a language that for you is not your first, second or third language. So pretty much a degree then.

Anyway, back to the title. Remember the old arcade games where if you got so far you’d get “Extended Play”? Well, I had a plan. I was only at the Eurocon because of a sick parrot; Flubby. Now, it turns out flubby lives about 2 hours south of where the Con was held so by checking my driving times I worked out I could get to his house and still drive another 4 hours back to reach the ferry in time. The plan was set, I checked with the other parrots to make sure it wouldn’t likely be a problem to just turn up on his door step. Kculon was staying with Flubby after the con – he’s from America and combined Eurocon with part a European tour with his wife. Gath was driving KC to Flubby’s house on his way home. So with everyone agreed it would be good, the plan was set – “Operation Flubby”, or “let’s have a Parrot Con”, because Shuzon then decided he could change his route home if I could drop him off at the nearest station after our surprise visit. I thought I was being nice by visiting, on the drive down to Flubby’s house Shuzon casually mentioned that from Flubby’s house the train will take 4 hours longer but he wouldn’t get another chance to say hello for another year at least so it was worthwhile.

100-ec22-flubby-thumb-250x187.jpg

On arrival I made the mistake of trying to speak German. Not good. “Ich bin Kanga und ich haben dienen Meditzen”. I’m sure the grammar as well as the spelling is wrong – please fix it flubby like I get to fix your English spellings. Anyway, when he eventually realised it was kanga he appeared more than surprised enough to make it worthwhile. Especially since Gath and Kculon had been there for a while already and hadn’t let it slip that I was coming too. Meditzen referred to the Spitfire Beer I had brought for him (a small thank you for letting me go in his place while he was ill), along with a little book of funny adverts for the beer. Meeting flubby reminded me of that song “Isn’t it Ironic”, i forget who by. Not because meeting him was ironic but because of the words of the song that go “It’s like meeting the man of your dreams, then meeting his beautiful wife”, Flubby being only a voice to me in all the time I’ve known him and Suzanna, being his wife.

So, we had a mini parrot con, Kanga, Flubby, Kculon, Gath, Shuzon, Suzanna (Flubby’s wife), Arianne (Gath’s girlfriend), Pam (Kculon’s wife, apparently a mean guitar player so maybe we’ll have a parrot theme tune soon!), and Flubby’s children, Alexander and …. , sheesh, 28 hours later and I can’t remember, was it Felix?

This should really be my last post on the Eurocon so I’ll try to remember the other great moments and answer some earlier questions I wrote.

93-ec19-bombermission-thumb-250x156.jpg

Another good time we had; All of us flying together a big mission. All of us means over 30 players. We took B24 bombers from a field and flew a long mission to bomb a target on the far side of the map. Each bomber has 2 wingmen, so that was 90 or so bombers taking off and flying together. One of the problems of having so many players up together is that the computers have to work so much harder generating the graphics. I hear that Krod had a frame rate of 2 frames per second. Normally a monitor should display 60 frames per second! My PC will normally make 50 to 60 frames per second but you can see from the screenshot my rate dropped to 22FPS.

You may remember earlier I pondered over the power usage and data rate to the internet for so many players is one small room, or large room in this case. -bijl-, one of the organisers enlightened me just before I left. The internet connection was a regular ADSL line, 3mb down, 512kb up. To me that’s impressive! 40 players were using that 512kb up for Teamspeak (a radio channel we can all talk to each other over), the game connections, any other uploading/downloading, everything. Consider that UK ADSL providers suggest their connections are suitable for ‘up to 5 PC’s’ in an office, and we had 40 doing very internet intensive stuff. It shows to me how well the games are written to transfer all the information they need over such a small line.

Onto power. The reason the event was limited to 40 players is they did some calculations on how many watts are used by a PC, monitor and worked out that the safe maximum was 40 – even though the hotel had more rooms, it didn’t have any more power points that could handle more load. I asked how many power points they had us all connected to via extension leads. The answer. 3. 40 PC’s, 40 screens, 1 local server , 1 huge network switch, 1 not so huge network switch, 1 ADSL router, that’s at least 80 devices not counting some joysticks that need power, the projector, the fridges (for the drinks of course), all running off 3 connections to the hotel power. Don’t try this at home folks!

96-ec20-hotel-thumb-250x187.jpg

The hotel was actually a converted monastry from what I could work out. The rooms were small but did have a shower and toilet. The monastry bit comes from some black and white pictures in one coridor showing photos of monks in front of the building, and statue of jesus on the cross in the courtyard. The food was very good, a selection of foods provided for dinner and no one went hungry.

98-ec21-hotelgarden-thumb-250x187.jpg

We weren’t the only ones in the hotel. There were a group of singers practicing in a nearby room as well as several large families. It looked like a great base for a family holiday, the large garden was full of climbing frames and slides and there was also a large field. Next year (if I get to go) I’ll take some bats and balls for a game of rounders.

102-ec23-spotthedif-thumb-250x187.jpg

This time last week I didn’t know I’d be going to the Eurocon. The first Eurocon photo was taken on a ferry. Book, Coffee, Laptop. Let’s play spot the difference with a return photo; Book, Coffee, Laptop, ahh, I can see the difference, an original Eurocon 2008 ‘Dead Parrot Con’ ID badge :-).

Eurocon – The Duel Championship

Phew!

The Dual is an event everyone took part in. 2 pilots working together against another 2 pilots. A warbirds fight to the death using the same aircraft, same level, same fuel. My partner, Dhyran.

The rules (as they started): Same Plane, Same Altitude, Same Fuel: No firing until after the “merge”, which is where the two aircraft pass each other straight and level. Then you can turn, pull up, push down, roll, whatever you like. Fight until someone hits the ground.

OK, so that was a good start, Dhyran won last year’s event with Flubby. Seeing as I replaced Flubby at short notice it was only natural we should set out to win.

Event 1: Dhyran & Kanga versus Kculon & Zonix – It’s a >>>PARROT<<< fight folks! Bearing in mind we had just beaten KC and Zonix in our practice sessions we were pretty confident. Plane selected was the KI43, a Japanese fighter Luck was on my side, they both went for Dhyran! While they followed his 6 o'clock I got to come in and kill one and after lots of circling between the 3 of us I got to kill the other too. Alle ist gut! We're through to round two. Event 2: Dhyran & Kanga versus Fo-ski & PJK - It's a "Trainer" fight folks! Well, all except for me. Dhyran had convieniently forgotten to tell me they were past Warbirds Trainers which is perhaps just as well. The second round had the Spitfire 1a. I quite like this plane though if you try any negative G manoeuvres the engine stops. I got some shots on one of them after turning from the merge. Then it was hard work as I remember. Dhyran killed the other one shortly after. A minute or so later Dhyran was close behind the remaining player and he crashed into the ground during his avoiding turns. Dhyran hadn't got a shot off and I got the kill credit - it was the player I hit earlier. So, two rounds, we both survived and I even managed to get three out of four of the credits. Alle is gut! We're through to the semi-finals. Event 3: Semi-finals: Dhyran & Kanga versus Tomkin & Unguis - Parrots versus our old friends the Greenwings OK, this had us a little nervous. Unguis is still a CM and we know he is a very good pilot. Tomkin doesn't fly so often so we felt we had the advantage there. So, we used the same tactics but I found myself being followed by someone. Suddenly, Dhyran died. Collision! No kill message on the buffer but he lost his wing as he passed by the enemy. Someone was behind me firing. I lost an aileron - meaning I could no longer roll as fast as they could. Things were not looking good. The person behind me kept firing, but my turns meant they kept missing. Things were looking good, I figured they must be low on ammunition. Then, no more firing. I took my chance to turn towards the second. And earlier pass I fired for just pure luck and he hadn't been so active since. It turns out I had shot off his elevator, the fact he was still flying was a miracle. So I followed him and shot him down properly. It was Tomkin. So, unguis was behind me but not firing, the noise from the room made it clear he was out of ammo. The question was, could I get behind him. Not easy, he was very good at following. I climbed then cut the throttle he got close, I turned, got behind a little for seconds but then he was behind again. I climbed, kept the throttle full, he expected me to cut it so was falling back, then just before stall I roll and dive behind. Again I get shots off but no kill. This went on for 20 minutes! It became a race for fuel. I thought that as he needed fuel to fly, perhaps I could land, wait then go up and get him later. Not a fair fight, even if it wasn't against the rules, so I pressed on. Just before my fuel ran out I turned off my engine. He and the whole room saw my engine stopped and assumed I ran out of fuel. I hadn't, three litres left to let him pass, turn it on and make one last pass. I still missed! The Eurocon management had come to a decision. Never, in the history of Eurocon had a fight lasted so long. We would go head to head to decide the win. First, we needed a break! So, back again after a rest. Same plane, just 3% fuel so we didn't fight all night. We dived, we climbed, we turned. Neither appeared to have the advantage though it felt to me Unquis always did. Then, I ran out of fuel! That was it, they had decided to end it there, Ung shot me as I glided earthwards. Phew! It was over, Unguis won and I could at last relax. The final was won by two other players, Unguis accidentally put too much fuel in his P40B which didn't help. In defeat he was gracious as I would expect having known his name for years (and his voice over TeamSpeak for a shorter time). Krod, from South Africa originally but currently working in the UK, and Netfly were the winners. For them, lots of prizes (Champagne, Mobile hard disks, software and other things). I also gave them each a bottle of prized "Spitfire" Ale.

91-ec18-barmankanga-thumb-250x326.jpg

Next some beer. I’d like to say it was the stress of fighting that meant I performed so badly in the beer pulling steaks. In reality, I’m just not barman material. That’s not white beer, that’s white beer foam. I guess I won’t apply for any bar work in the near future.

89-ec17-parrots-thumb-250x187.jpg

Halb has to leave tonight. He has to go to work tomorrow. Therefore we had the official parrots photo for our web site, along with the official autographed flag. This flag was created by KC last year and signed by every parrot at last years con. Now, it’s been signed by those of us here this time too. You might just about see my squiggle above the parrot.

I finished this post about 2am local time, it’s great to talk to people face to face <S>

Eurocon – yesterday, or today, or i forget already

81-ec12-ungspit-thumb-250x187.jpg

Let’s start with lastnight. I gave out a few presents to my fellow parrots. Also Unguis (seen here in the photo) and Lapwin, who both helped lots with the EMC (unguis still does). The present? A bottle of spitfire beer from the brewery in my home town of Faversham. Everyone likes the bottles so much many remain untouched, waiting to travel home to live on a mantelpiece. Clearly ung wanted a taste first 🙂

83-ec14-busforuschildren-thumb-250x187.jpg

This morning was visit to the Museum time. The transport provided was a little unexpected, especially for our two American parrots who used to go to school in a bus just like this. It belongs to the museum and they used it to collect us as we were a large group.

85-ec15-museum-thumb-250x187.jpg

The museum (Wings to Liberation, in a town called “Best”) itself was impressive. It began as a collection of Market Garden related memorabilia and has grown to include several other things. They’ve been doing lots of work recently on the exhibits and made a very nice job converting the old vehicle garages of the site. I’ve always felt a museum is better with a guided tour and Jac, our guide and museum volunteer, certainly delivered the information. They also had several aircraft displays and the recovered remains (steel framing) of a glider that landed nearby and was excavated nearby.

A section of the museum was dedicated to the Highland Division of the British Army. They landed nearby and the collection of their presence has grown to include information about all their activities during the war. That got me thinking, I know very little about my Granddad Mitchell’s war. I had to text my uncle to find out which regiment he was in. He was in the Highland Infantry so perhaps he came through here. One things for sure, I’ll be asking questions about his history when I return home.

Another thing that surprised me was the reaction of people to the Nuremberg trial pictures. Immediately saying they should all have been hanged for their war crimes. I don’t know much about the trials, the people, or their crimes to comment specifically, but it did make me ponder. So I had the following conversation with Dhyran:

Me: “You wanted to join the Air Force didn’t you?”
Dhy: “Yes, as a pilot”
Me: “So, say you got in, flew for a few years, became squadron commander, then base commander, then a senior commander and eventually became responsible for the whole Luftwaffe.”
Dhy: “Ok…”
Me: “and say this was just before Hitler came to power in Germany. You’d have to follow orders right? That’s a key part of military discipline. So at what point, and which person in the military, is in the position to say no?

Dhyran couldn’t answer that any easier than I can.

Our guide also made a comment at another point in the tour that Germany suffered from it’s lack of 4 engined bomber. There were plans to develop one in the 1930’s but the officer in charge died suddenly and no one carried on his belief in the need. From an allied point of view, that was fortunate. Essentially we benefited because their military failed in that area. Should he have continued his work, would he have been tried for developing the technology used in the war? I guess I’m saying war is a terrible thing and nothing will ever repair the damage it does. Apportioning blame may make us feel better but it changes nothing of history.

87-ec16-FPO-thumb-250x187.jpg

OK, onto some brighter things now. An old Eurocon tradition is to taste the “FPO”, short for Flak Panzer Oil, a drink (allegedly) made by Kossu from Finland. I’ve wanted to taste it for years last night I got my first taste, and my second… Want to know what it taste’s like? Get yourself a place on the next Eurocon <S>

Eurocon – great times with more to come

The end of my first 24 hours here approaches. It’s been great (even the FPO was nice, more on that later) and I just checked tomorrows programme:

Saturday 17 May
08:15 – till 09:30: Breakfast. (If there are any survivors left from Friday) Tongue
09.30 – Depart to the “Wings of Liberation” museum
10.15 – Arrival at the museum.
10.30 – We have a full guided tour (approx 2 hours) including 4 guides, so we go in 4 groups.
12.30 – Lunch at the museum.
13:00 – Depart with the bus to Moergestel for the Euro-Laser Zap’athon 2008, laser gaming event (All versus NINJA) Grin
13.45 – Arrival and play the laser game event. 2x 1 hour (max. 24 lasers)
16:00 – Depart back to the hotel
18:00 – Dinner in the hotel is served
19:00 – 2 vs 2 write up.
20:00 – WarBirds 2 vs 2 duel / This classic is still here and can’t be missed on this special edition of the Eurocon. The pilots battle for the trophy, the honour and a very nice price! iEN sponsors free accounts again for everyone. Your CM for tonight will be the honorable Unguis, <S> Cool
After the winners ceremony we will also announce the pilot who can carry the famous title of “the EuroPilot Of The Year” for 2008.

Museum, Laser game, then the 2 vs 2 duels. It’s going to be a GREAT day!
<All>, and goodnight

(<S> = salute)

Eurocon – international culture at it's best…

A little break from talking and playing gives me time to post a few more photos and explanations.

67-ec5-ppe-thumb-250x187.jpg

We can start with what sort of Personal Protection Equipment is necessary to play a computer game. In other countries it appears players take their safety more seriously than I ever have. Here Unguis (Germany) demonstrates his safety headgear and goggles.

69-ec6-noppe-thumb-250x187.jpg

However, it appears rules in Ninja’s homeland (Monaco) aren’t so stringent. Here we can see his PC is looking rather naked missing it’s entire outer case. Notice how the plastic carrier bag is neatly covering the DVD player by the monitor. The hard drive resting on a purpose angled cardboard box lid. OK, serious explanations now, Ninja flew to the con from Monaco and in previous years had to pay a heavy surcharge for the weight of the PC. So, his solution is to take only the essential parts of the PC which is why there is no case. The monitor was loaned for the con by one of the local competitors. Don’t try this at home folks, I’m told last year static electric destroyed his motherboard.

71-ec7-bigpc-thumb-250x187.jpg

Of course, if you travel by car then there’s not much of a limit to what you can take. This behemoth has a control panel just for the cooling fans. That wouldn’t even fit on my desk at home.

73-ec8-laptop-thumb-250x187.jpg

Whereas this beautiful set up is fellow >>>PARROT<<< "Halb", An american living in Amsterdam in the day time he travels the world as a professional film cameraman shooting commercials and movies any time any where. His Mac laptop runs bootcamp to run all the PC games, and the screen is simply a huge apple TFT. Two things to note on this photo, firstly the black edge of the screens is where he's pulling a tight high G force turn and is starting to black out. Second, behind the screen of his laptop you can see a little grey box? That's my PC from home, tiny little thing that at 2 years old can't be upgraded any more and will be on my next years wish list. Oh, thirdly, that little box on top of Halb's screen is not a webcam, it's a TrackIR sensor. More on that another time though.

75-ec9-earlymemories-thumb-250x187.jpg

I’m not the only one posting pictures around the internet. There is a forum for all the players and interested parties and already several photos have been posted there complete with humorous captions.

77-ec10-fullcon-thumb-250x187.jpg

Being the afternoon, it appears most players have recovered from the night before and surfaced to play, chat, drink more beer… actually most people seem to have been taking it easy so far.

79-ec11-lapwin-thumb-250x187.jpg

Final shot of the posting goes along the line of 1st ROF squadron players. First in the row is Lapwin, one of the 8 who organise the event. I’m guessing he’s the one who came up with the “Dead Parrot” logo for this years event, which all we >>>PARROTS<<< felt was quite a compliment. We just turn up and play after all, they do all the hard work. Now for a little writing. It's not been non stop playing games. In fact, I've played less than I expected, only about 4 flights so far. The rest of the time has been talking to people. It's strange to put faces to voices I've heard for years now but never met. Baubai was completely different to what I expected (imagined overweight aging German, found very fit late middle age german). It's funny how you make judgements from a voice alone. Better than all the gaming has been a short discussion with Livius (german). We were talking of how great it is that we can all be friends, 60 odd years after our countries were fighting a horrific war. I told how in my Granddads life story he wrote of coming off the boat onto the Normandy beaches and his first sight was “the headless Canadian officer”. Livius then told me of his Dad’s similar story. Driving as a passenger in a lorry they were targeted by a sniper. His driver was shot clean through the head and the bullet passed over Livius fathers head by a truly small measurement. He didn’t hear the shot, only becoming aware of the drivers death as they began to veer off the road. He also told me of his personal experience of visiting the Imperial War Museum in London as a teenager and how it differed (for the better) when he visited it 15 or so years later. I keep praying that this new age of easy communication will bring countries closer together. I still hope that all wars will end soon, and that my grandchildren (should I be blessed) get to enjoy friendship with nationals of Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and every other country where British national relations are less than ideal. I hope this, yet I also hope for the safety of the British servicemen and women who have to do the difficult job required today, as Livius father and my grandfather did 65 years ago.

EuroCon – Dead Parrots?

65-ec4-logo.jpg

There are 14 Parrots at this year’s Eurocon. Perhaps they are trying to tell us something with this years logo design 🙂

I’ve also learnt some new German words, everyone say in a German accent – “hangover” (not me, yet, but at least I know I’ll be able to communicate my pain in more than one language)

Eurocon – The arrival

62-ec1-greetings-thumb-250x187.jpg

I made it safely! The drive from Calais to… erm, wherever we are (TomTom did it’s job) took 3 hours so I pulled into the car park at 02:15 local time. Surprisingly there were still a few people up (perhaps just as well or I would never have found my room and had to sleep in the car). Those that hadn’t succumbed to tiredness or Alcohol are (from left to right):

  1. Orelle (>>>PARROTS<<<) - From Spain
  2. Lbollin (>>>PARROTS<<<( - From Spain
  3. Ragge ( 1st ROF ) – From (Sweden)
  4. Unguis (Greenwings) – From Germany
  5. Zonix (>>>PARROTS<<<) - From Germany
64-ec3-conroom-thumb-250x187.jpg

On to the “Con Room” itself, and this photo may be a little scary on the “number of trailing cables” scale, and very scary on the carbon footprint scale. If I remain sober enough, I promise to have a stab at working out just how much power is consumed when everyone is playing.

OK, time to fire up a flight sim and see how stable the internet connection here is….

EuroCon I'm going I'm going!

60-ec0-boat-thumb-250x187.jpg

This is not something I expected to be writing last week. It’s not even something I expected to write two days ago but life moves in mysterious ways, so here I am, Laptop, Book, Coffee, sitting on the SeaFrance Rodin Dover Calais Ferry, writing for my blog offline because I don’t have internet access. Well, I do if I use my phone but that’s much slower to write in, expensive and it’s easier to save and post later when I return to civilisation.

So, What’s Eurocon and Why am I going?
Eurocon is a big meeting of like minded players of flight sims. Predominantly Warbirds, and for our squadron (>>>PARROTS<<<) at least, AcesHigh2. It's held at a place in the Netherlands (that's about all I can say for now, I'm trusting TomTom SatNav to guide me safely for an old map hand like myself that's not a comfortable thing to do but needs must and all). like minded players is essentially middle aged men from all over the world, you'll meet them later if you're not bored of reading already. At the meeting we will play on the flight sim (fairly normal, we do that from home), make friendly conversation visit an aviation museum learn some things drink a little.... Why am I going? Firstly, it looks like fun. However, I wasn't planning to go and hadn't booked a ticket. Wednesday morning all our >>>PARROTS<<< squadron got a message that one of our members was ill (Flubby perhaps it was bird flu?) and he could not take his already paid for place. If one of us would like to take it, all we had to do was get to the hotel. Did you know it's only 3 hours from Calais? The big question was whether I'd get permission from my wife Rhonda. I asked Wednesday night when I got home and the answer was no. However, 11am Thursday morning she changed her mind (Perhaps that very large bar of Galaxy chocolate left in the fridge had something to do with it). So, Here I am, sitting on a ferry, Home PC loaded in the car, laptop rolling from side to side as I try to type, sailing away from the white cliffs of Dover. Grown men, playing flight sims sound strange? Perhaps, but stranger still is the international nature of my group of friends within the >>>PARROTS<<<. We may all fly a World War 2 style flight sim, trying to shoot each other out of the virtual skies, but we are all children of the modern age. We all detest war, we are all grateful we are not going to war ourselves. We all appreciate the sacrifice of our forefathers in the wars of our past. 'Strange' is that it's quite likely My grandfather was fighting my friends grandfathers while retreating to Dunkirk and landing landing on the Normandie beaches. Yes, every other >>>PARROT<<< comes from a country Britain has been at war with, yet fortunately now we are friends. Germany, France, USA, Argentina, Spain, Italy, are all represented by my friends. Anyway, for the rest of the crossing I'll enjoy my book (review to be posted after a dozen others I haven't got round to posting) and look forward to posting more about EuroCon, with pictures, from the EuroCon itself.

Hero lost, hero found

One of my childhood heroes died last week.

I’ll always remember how he taught me to ski, lessons so memorable I remember them over 20 years later.
I’ll always remember how he was the one who picked me up and carried me over 100m down the ski slope when I fell and broke my wrist as a 10 year old (I still have the scar where the bone came through)
I’ll always remember how he could keep us, we children, entertained with games and tricks using nothing more than a tin tray with a little water, or simpler still just our fingers. I still play those games with my children.
I’ll always remember the barbeque with chicory wood chippings smoking the meat.
I’ll always remember an impromptu game of rounders in the park behind his house.

At his funeral, I found he wasn’t just my hero.

Over 200 people crammed in to celebrate his life and share how Bob had influenced their lives. There were a dozen readings, every one filled with how he’d inspired that person, and often their friends, to achieve a myriad of different things.
I never knew he’d introduced a city teenager to canoeing, who later canoed for England
I never knew he’d inspired so many in Skiing, working at a national level to develop the sport when I only knew him as the instructor at my local dry slope.
I never knew he’d inspired not only the children at the local rugby club, but the parents too.
I never knew… so many more things that I learnt about Bob yesterday.