Life Priorities Over Contesting

The best laid plans…isn’t there a say about that? Heading into Friday I was thrilled to have Saturday off to participate in the first big contest of 2012, the ARRL RTTY Round up. I had hoped to put in a full 24 hour effort, unfortunately I was not able to get Sunday off from work, so my 24 hour effort was suddenly cut in half and the contest was still a day away.

The one thing nice about contesting in the world of amateur radio is, if you miss one this weekend, there is one next weekend. Sure, it might not be the same mode and RTTY is a favorite mode of mine considering all the hardware issues I have recently had, coupled with the fact the insurance claim took most of 2011 away from me and I would have felt too guilty to spend time in a contest when I had remodeling to finish.

While radio is a hobby of mine, family and friends take priority. That was the reason I spent only 46 minutes at the start of the RTTY contest participating. All but about 5 minutes was spent on 10M before moving to 15M right before I shut the radio off and hung out with a friend in need for the day. Thankfully it was wild card weekend in the NFL and we sat around drinking beer, eating pizza (or potato leek soup in my case) watching football, with a spattering of discussion over his situation.

Not sure if our time together was beneficial to him or not, I hope it was. I know there have been times in my life where I needed a friend and thankfully my buddy went above and beyond to spend time with me and discuss my situation, for that I was very thankful to know I have friends like that in my life. Sometimes just being there for others allows you to escape the current situation and just have a bit of a break from life before you must think about situation at hand. Maybe a Saturday together with pizza, beer and football was a well needed break for him.

Contesting seems to be very tough for me with a 6 year old son, my wife’s work schedule and the fact that I don’t have weekend off, when most all of the contests run. I do wish I would have been more involved in contesting when I was first licensed (1995) or even earlier when I didn’t have so many responsibilities to fulfill. While it’s not a problem, you don’t look at what you missed out on, but what is coming up. Thankfully that is a long list that runs the rest of 2012 and every subsequent year.

With any luck my schedule and priorities will allow me to participate in the winter sessions of the North American QSO Party. The CW contest is January 14, while the SSB contest is a week later on January 21. Just like last year I was not able to participate in either contest, but only have 2010 numbers to go off. With any luck I will be able to put in a full effort for both contests, but we will see what happens.

I guess this one of those instances, where you cherish the family and friends you have, forgo contesting and be thankfully for the people around you. Sometimes it might seem difficult to set aside but contesting won’t go away. The last thing you want in your life is for family and friends to do the same.

4th of July, 2011

Probably one of the more enjoyable 4th of July days I have in many years…well dating back to the early 2000 when it was spent ferrying friends to Laughlin, Nevada for a 3-day celebration. But that is in the past and today was quite enjoyable and relaxing. Sure, I had to work until 2pm, but festivities were just kicking off by the time we arrived at our friends house just down the road.

My son, Zoom (aka Zachary) was all excited to get in the pool. While he has still not officially rolled in swimming lessons, I decided to give him a few of my own. I grew up with a pool and had lessons, so I feel as if I am still a strong swimmer. Just two days ago he was in the pool and it was all we could do to get him off the steps. Today was a completely different story. We could not get him out of the pool, as he was floating around in the shallow end, just touching the pool floor with his toes. It was great to see the jubilation in his eyes and cries of happiness.

Aside from that, we spent the afternoon with our friends who are only about 5 minutes down the road. As expected they had family over, but their family KNOWS how to cook. We ate very well, as is typical and drank more than our fare share of alcohol. I only made one Michelada, but continued to down Corona until the sun went down.

Not sure why…but my wife and her friend (the hostess) and her mother and aunt sat in front of the DVD player watching X-Men. Not why this trilogy suddenly because an interest, but they were enjoying themselves, as was I. Who was I to complain?

The food, as I eluded to earlier was outstanding. Dips and appetizers, salads and side dishes to go along with the main course of pork riblettes and turkey burgers. I chowed down on two burgers and countless ribs. It was a great rub that was applied to the ribs. Maybe a bit salty, but still very tasty!

Hopefully all my friends through out the US had a wonderful (and safe) 4th of July. Still glad to have gotten off work early enough to enjoy time with family and friends and celebrate what the 4th of July stands for.

Face Reality

Read an editorial in a recent edition of FATE! magazine regarding social networking. I’ll admit I was not “in” with the whole Facebook revolution that seems to have swept the Internet in the past few years. I was more about maintaining my little piece of the sanity through my web site, something I have done since 1999.

These days it seems everyone is making friends on Facebook, “tweeting” about taking a dump, whatever you are doing “in the heat of the moment” or posting ridiculous videos of themselves on You Tube. It’s usually a nobody wanting to be recognized as a somebody.

I have good friends on Facebook I keep in touch with or have reconnect with. But the fact of being ridiculed based on what you say or post by others is asinine. It has happened twice this week. In two instances I posted something and got quite negative responses from “friends” regarding my comment.

Does this really bother me? Nope, not in the least, but you can’t say much of anything that matters without drawing criticism. Usually I don’t ever bring up politics or religion when on Facebook, regardless of which side you come down on or who you are affiliated with. That really makes no difference to me. Nor do I judge my “friends” based on either of these.

Yet there are some who do want to judge and they go ahead and do so. This makes me rather hesitant at times to post what I really want to say. So when the best thing to say is left unsaid, I end up saying on my web site. That way I don’t offend any “friends” and keep the Ying and Yang in perfect harmony and balance.

Friends of Terror

It is still hard to believe there is a group of dedicated individuals who have the desire and make the effort to keep Urban Terror alive. The fact we still have a very strong and dedicated community is a contributing factor to the longevity and success of the game.

I have been fortunate over those years to meet (yes, face to face) with many individuals on different levels as it relates to Urban Terror, from the invite to Quakecon in 2000 and 2001, to LAN parties in NoCal, SoCal and Colorado Springs and an appearance on TechTV (when it was around). There have been closed door, sit down meetings with Activision and id Software, which was more of a “wow factor” for me at the time since we did not know where we wanted to take Urban Terror.

If I knew then, what I know now, Frozen Sand (at the time, Silicon Ice Development) could be mentioned being on par with Splash Damage. Those guys had their shit together! They also had an amazing group of talented individuals. Not saying our development team hasn’t, because we have had over the years many contribute to the game.

Meeting gamers, executives, sponsors and personalities alike have been some of the best memories I have had. I mention this because I was able to meet Lt1 (aka Rob Bergman) last night, as he flew into NoCal for some training. Now, it’s not often that an opportunity arises, which will have gamers come in contact with each other, let alone team members. Remember, outside of meeting INVIS, BladeKiller and RabidCow I have not met the other talent on our team. But we have all worked together for nearly 4 years (if memory serves me correct).

It’s always interesting to put an alias to face, face to a voice and a voice to the online persona. I flashback to Quakecon 2001 when I was employed by TsN and our station was covering the event. I wanted to meet WarWitch, who at the time covered RtCW and was just an amazing announcer, complete with an entire online persona. With his voice, I expected something other than I got. Here stands a short, maybe 5′-5″ guy with a dark ponytail. Really blew my mental image of him, but nonetheless a great person and top class shoutcaster!

LAN parties are always interesting, especially when they were Urban Terror specific. Now I attended a weekly LAN in SoCal and Urban Terror was still rather new, but when our group made the transition to Quake III Arena, we played it every weekend. I did attend the .223 LAN in NoCal in 2003, which was also the first time I met Hottlipz face to face (little did I know we would marry a year later), along with many gamers from .223 and some other local Urban Terror players.

A few larger LANs featured Urban Terror and I was fortunate enough to attend those as well. Once in Los Angeles, where I was on hand to award the winner a custom Urban Terror case that was specially designed and constructed in Australia. I was also fortunate enough to attend EverLAN in Colorado Springs a few years, once when they did use an older version of Urban Terror.

Again, it is the people who make the game. I could sit here and rattle off a list of people who I have met and known over the years. I would love to have the time to go on a world tour just for Urban Terror. I know it sounds silly (Oh, remind me to talk about my East Coast trip!), but I think it would be a great time! I am sure there are enough gamers worldwide, I could shack up with, drink beer with and game with that could easily fill one month of travel.

The itinerary would include a trip south to Los Angeles and a stop by the GGL offices, where Epileptic Gaming transmits from, because djWheat is still Inside the Game. From there it would be on to Phoenix, Arizona to hook with Blankz, also of iTG. You can blame him for getting me involved in shoutcasting, thus the reason I can’t say Euro names correctly. I would fly to Colorado and check in with Spellbinder, because he has been a long time friend. This would be a coordinated trip to stop in Mesquite, Texas for Quakecon and countless people I know at that event including: Evil John, Tapper, Precious Death, the guys at id Software, especially Robert and of course, just to keep the list short Splash Damage.

The East Coast swing would include a stop to visit with Ghozt, AGBD and Fragging Newby. Hopefully we could find MFDoom, yes the now married Doomy and Capt. Porno. I went shooting with these guys and hung out with them years ago and it was one of the most memorable trips. Especially when you don’t know dick about some guy who goes by ‘A Giant Black Dude.’ Maybe a quick stop over in Florida to kick the shit out of BasiLisK.

The European tour would start with a stop in Portugal, why? Because I still feel they are the best community of gamers going for Urban Terror (yeah flame me, then fuck off, it’s my website and my opinion). From there it would be on to England to see Dick Dastardly and his flatmate, Qster and lord know who else we would find in and around the UK.

A trip would not be complete with traversing he frozen tundra of Sweden, Denmark and Finland (sorry Norway!). Definitely stop by House Valhalla! Many in the Danes and Swedes on the list who have been supporters for many years. A tour of the Rhine, well, Germany to meet Warbird (aka Wolfseye), since he has become a good friend.

An intersting stop would be Slovania, because of SLOfaca, Blaz especially and many of his countrymen have been wonderful to cover and talk to over the years. The Netherlands would mark one of the final stops, to meet “Whoa Keeley” or woekele. I need to forgive my lack of knowledge, but I would want to hook up with J0E and Preat of FROServers.com. Then again I would hope J0E is not nekked getting into the shower.

I could go on and on about the names, faces and places. But it would be an endless cycle. It has been many years and gamers come and go, but it is interesting to note how many names return to Urban Terror saying something like, “this is the only game I come back to play.” Hopefully this sort of comment is typical through out the community. It has been one helluva ride over the years and hopefully there is more in store for our community and us, as a development team.

Parting shot, I must apologize for not mentioning dokta8, Sam Hinton, one of the original coders. He was a big influence on me, a great friend and the one who got me involved.

“Yo Big Country!”

Ever happen across that friend you fell out of touch with years ago? That exact thing happened to me while at work yesterday. I ran into my former roommate and co-worker, Jeff, or as we called him when we worked together, “Big Country.” Why? Dude is like 6-3 or so and pretty thick, so he acquired that nickname while working as a baggage handler. Since then, it has stuck. He and I, along my other buddy Greg all started at the airlines together in 1995. Since that time we have sort of gone our separate ways so to speak.

Jeff and I were both pilots with great expectations to be hired together and fly, as commercial pilots for the airlines. We moved in together back in 1996 (maybe 1997) while living in Torrance, California (just south of LAX). For the most part we were inseparable, always hanging out together, with friends, flying, drinking, basically having a hell of a good time.It was his (now) wife who introduced me to a (now) ex-girlfriend years ago. She was a teacher, as was Jeff’s wife and they lived together in Riverside, while Jeff and I were, as previously mentioned in Torrance. It goes without saying Jeff and I spent many days and nights our in Riverside, living it up, drinking and reciting lines from Top Gun while near inebriated.

It was 1998 when I got a wild hair up my ass to take a transfer to Chicago (butt ass cold there!) basically leaving Jeff high and dry, not able to keep the apartment we rented on Amie Ave. After moving out and beginning in Chicago, I fell out of touch with him. I knew he was dedicating himself to his flying career (unlike I did) in order to achieve he goal. I knew this transfer would end any chance at being a commercial airline pilot. I decided to take that chance as I had earned my FAA Flight Dispatch License and was going to pursue another line of work in the aviation industry.

After that I believe I saw him once, about 4 years ago while still working in Los Angeles. My buddy Greg (while still employed at the airlines) drove me over to say hello to Jeff who had a short layover in LAX, near where my office was on the airport. Seeing him in his uniform really made me think I fucked up by leaving him as a roommate and moving to Chicago.

It was late last year that Jeff happened to hear my voice on a frequency we use to communicate with airplanes. He said, “Is Steve Toumi there?” I immediately jumped on the frequency, we exchanged pleasantries and went about our jobs as if we didn’t miss a beat.

Then today, when walking back from Peet’s Coffee & Tea I see this guy from about 50 feet away and my mind said, “Big Country!” As I got closer I called out his name. We shook hands and hugged (not fag like fools) in greeting and swapped career, family and children stories for about 30 minutes.

There are just some people who make an impression, Jeff was one of those individuals. I am so glad I got to see and talk to him yesterday. Hopefully he and I, along with our wives and sons can get together sometime in the future.