SOTA: China Grade Benchmark (W6/NC-221)

Continuing my road trip around the southern part of the San Francisco Bay area, I headed along CA route 236 to 37.196014, -122.194314, where China Grade Road cuts across on both sides. As mentioned in another post, you don’t want to follow the green “China Grade Road” sign that points downhill, but rather take road in the other direction, upwards. When I was there, there as a sign for a scout camp on that side.

The activation zone is broad because the road runs along a ridge. There are plenty of places to pull over and set up. No need for a pole here, because there are plenty of tall trees. I set up with both the end-fed dipole and a loop antenna. The end-fed worked head and shoulders above the loop in terms of hearing and being heard, but the loop did give me a chance to work a handful of stations on other bands, including the first contacts from this peak on 15m.

Having bagged my contacts within a half hour of pulling over, I was soon back in the car and headed for Ben Lommond (W6/NC-178).

SOTA: Sierra Morena (W6/NC-209)

As in previous years, after attending a medical conference that runs Thursday to Saturday, I had Sunday mostly free for SOTA. In previous years, I have focused on working sites within the range of public transportation (Mount Davidson, Richardson East Benchmark, Chabot 2 Benchmark, and, taking ferries into account, Angel Island). This year, I thought it would be fun to rent a car and try to activate multiple peaks: W6/NC-209, W6/NC-221, W6/NC-178, W6/NC-265, and W6/NC-191. I figured this route would involve about 5-6 hours of driving and arranged it so that the longest drive would be on the way back to San Francisco, anticipating that this would be in the dark since it’s winter. The car rental office opened at 08:00 and sunset was around 17:30, so that gave me what I thought was a reasonable window to accomplish these activation. First stop: Sierra Morena.

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SOTA: Montana de Taco (EA8/TF-017)

I didn’t make it up this mountain, but I’m posting about it to let people know why it has never been activated.

In laying out the itinerary for this vacation, I considered that I’d have one day for SOTA. Consequently, I looked at what I thought would be peaks that could be rapidly activated: one cluster in the northeast (TF-008, TF-011, and TF-013) and the other towards northwest (TF-007 and TF-017). I did not consider some of the larger peaks due to time and, in the case of El Teide, the need for reservations long in advance of travel.

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SOTA: Cruz de Gala (EA8/TF-007)

The operating site at the end of the road.

Over the Christmas and New Year holidays, my family rented an airbnb house in Icod de los Viños, a rural town along the northern coast of Tenerife in the Canary Islands. During that week, I reacquainted myself with driving a manual transmission car on steep, narrow roads that wind around the island’s volcanic peaks.

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SOTA: Hoher Lindkogel (OE/NO-123)

The same day that I activated Hollenstein (OE/NO-149), I activated this peak, also within a short drive of Vienna (about 50km). The site indicated as “Hoher Lindkogel” on GoogleMap does not agree with the coordinates on the SOTA site. On GoogleMap, it would be better to aim for the Schultzhaus Eisernes Tor, a hill top tower nearer to the actual site and to park at the location designated “Parkplatz – Fussweb zum Eisernen Tor”, which is to the side of Rohrbach road, and just south of a large quarry.

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SOTA: Hollenstein (OE/NO-149)

Sign with a scary looking squirrel: You are not alone in nature. For ecological reasons we ask you. not to drive this route. Illegal driving compels us to a suit of property felony (as rendered by Google Translate).
You are not alone!

I rented a car and visited two sites on my last trip to Austria on November 4th: Hollenstein and Hoher Lindkogel. The weather was still reasonably warm at the time, and neither site had snow. I started with the Hollenstein site, which appears on aerial photographs to be right next to a road and not far from a  hill-top restaurant. However, these are restricted forest roads, so while the road provides convenient access, prepare to park near the base and hike up. The day I went, the road was also in heavy use by other hikers, bicyclers and horse riders.

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IFComp2017: All Games Considered

I played through all of the entries in this year’s IFcomp during the first month, so it’s been at least a couple weeks since the last game. I’d like to share a few thoughts about some of the entries now that the dust has settled and I can look back on them as a whole.

In general, I am happy to stick with my initial ratings, even for those games that I played early in the competition, as my scale is based on several years of IFcomp. I do think that my scale will need some weighting next year to put the average game closer to midscale, though.

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IFcomp 2017: Extended taxonomy

This year’s crop of games is large enough to be divided up into any number of categories by subject, e.g., RPGs, sci-fi, murder mysteries, or structurally, e.g., parser-based, limited-parser, hypertext, CYOA, etc. I’d like to propose a number of new and entirely arbitrary categories based on this year’s submissions. Please let me know in comments if I’ve gotten any of these wrong or missed some.

Games…

…mentioning cheese in some capacity (including in the context of Macaroni and Cheese): Eat Me, What Once Was, Absence of Law, Run Of The Place, Nightbound, A Castle of Thread, The Skinny One, The Castle of Vourtram.

….involving conversation with birds: 10 pm, Harbinger, Eat Me, Alice Aforethought, The Dragon Will Tell Your Future Now, Goodbye Cruel Squirrel, The Adventure of Esleralda and Ruby on the Magical Island, The Wand, What Once Was, A Castle of Thread, and kind of, The Owl Consults.

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IFcomp 2017: Preliminary Scores

I just posted my 79th review for this IFcomp, which means that I’ve now commented on every entry. I tried to get through them quickly to provide feedback early enough in the competition to be useful to both authors and players.

I’ve sorted every game according to my scoring rubric, which may or may not reflect how other people feel about these games. But first, I wanted to flag the about 15% of games that I awarded a “Je ne sais quoi” point. Probably the best way to define that undefinable point is to say that there is something in these works that I wish I could capture when I’m writing IF:

* Absence of Law
* Eat Me
* Guttersnipe
* Harmonia
* Sea Monkey
* The Owl Consults
* Unit 322
* The Very Old Witch
* Charlie The Robot
* One Way Out
* Swigian
* VR Gambler

I tend to score these games highly, but other games with good writing and high production quality have scored higher than some of these, even without the JNSQ tacked on to their score.

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Review – What Once Was

This Quest game is spread out in four dimensions. It is set on a university campus, and the protagonist is an OWUPSOABD (over worked, underpaid, stressed-out graduate student), who discovers that his mentor is missing and suspects that it has something to do with their experimental time travel project.

For those that haven’t played, I have some advice to offer: first, check out the help command. The response is short, but note that this game includes the verb “use”. Most of the time, the game is looking for a more specific verb and when a non-standard verb is required, it is usually clear from context or suggested in the wording of a prompt, but if nothing else seems to work, the game might be looking for “use”.

I was stuck for quite a while at one point because I forgot about “use” — the walkthrough is more conceptual than procedural, so it doesn’t help with specific phrasing. I only managed to keep going by watching Lynnea play through that part of the game on her twitch stream.

The other piece of advice: wear physical protection from the puns in this game. I prefer sharp wit, but puns are almost by definition bludgeoning.

There are a lot of puzzles in this game and many are people-centric, i.e., they revolve around finding the right person to help with a specific item and then figuring out what motivates that person or what you need to give that person to get the job done.

If I recall correctly every NPC encountered has some relevance to the game, so it behooves players to examine everyone they come across and to take in their surroundings. Talking to NPCs is also helpful in some situations, but only if you nail the topic exactly. Otherwise, responses will be unhelpfully generic or you will just be ignored.

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

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