Overlanders: Going home

>> Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Our newsletter, still reporting from Ukraine :)

Sitting back, enjoying some Zhifchik now. (That?s a kind of pop here, more like a carbonated apple cider with Echinacea added. As much as I love the Ruby-red Squirt that I can apparently only find in Ames, Iowa, I like this stuff that much more. But of course, they don?t sell it anywhere in the States, even at Russian grocery stores)

I took Leilani out for a quick (one-hour) stroll this morning, ?round past the circus and back. I found a couple of interesting things I thought I?d write about? At the market, of which much can be written alone, there are these little old ladies that sit around with insulated boxes (read: coolers, but for hot foods) selling piroshki out of them. These are like hot, stuffed sandwiches, usually fried, sometimes baked. They contain either meat, potatoes, or cabbage and they?re actually incredibly tasty. Many people buy them, as you can tell seeing everyone walking around with one. What?s especially interesting is that they cost about 16 cents a piece. Add that to a glass of kvas (a non-alcoholic malt beverage) for about 18 cents, and you?ve got a pretty-filling meal for less than 50 cents. Take that, McDonalds!

They do have McDonald?s in all the major cities here, by the way. But except for the fact that the menus are all phonetically spelled out in Cyrillic writing, it?s pretty much the same stuff that makes you sick 10 minutes after eating it as we have in the US.

Jumping back to Yalta, in our vacation-within-a-vacation a while ago, I just wanted to mention that we did get to see the Swallow?s Nest (Google it if you don?t know what it is), but we only got to see it from a distance. Had I looked in any tourist book, I would have found out that it?s no longer available as a tourist destination; apparently sometime in the 70?s some Italian woman purchased it and turned it into a very expensive Italian restaurant, since it needed repairs and the country didn?t have enough money for it. Oh well, maybe next time (in about ten years from now?) we?ll make some reservations and try it out.


There?s a verse in Proverbs that goes something like, ?Don?t start building a wall if you don?t have the money to finish it.? Ukraine seems to have skipped over that verse. Construction methods or style in Ukraine is just wrong, I think. There?s some roadwork that?s going on near our friend Natasha?s house. When we first arrived in Ukraine, they?d dug two holes; one off the side of the road, and one in the middle of it. There weren?t any workers to be seen, nor were there for a couple of weeks thereafter. After we got back from the Crimea, I did see some machinery out there every other day or so. They dug another hole, I think, and called it quits for a while. Then they came back and expanded the first hole. Now it?s sitting there again, several holes in the road with piles of dirt sitting next to them, and people do their best to get around it all. Elena told me it?s because they don?t have the money to finish it ? whatever ?it? is, of course, because I can?t really tell what they think they?re doing.

At least living in Ukraine teaches you to be on your toes, because you don?t know when someone?s going to start a project like that, or when they?re going to finish, either. Just last night (the 7th) ?they? shut the water off for our building. No warning, no information about it, just foop! No water, have fun. Fortunately, it just came on as I started writing this, at 10am this morning (so we all rushed about washing, flushing, filling, and boiling.). Living over here is like camping out and you discover that your campsite has running water so you get all psyched up about it, but then you realize it doesn?t work after all.

These aren?t just isolated incidents, either. Here?s another example: When we first arrived in Ukraine, we tried calling a friend of ours, Inna, at her workplace since she doesn?t have a home phone. (She has a mobile phone, but if you call one from a landline, you get an extra bill sent to the landline.) At first, we were able to get through to some kind of general secretary, at least someone who was in charge of answering the telephone. We asked to be transferred to Inna, and the secretary said she?d do so, however we only wound up on eternal hold. Later (and by this we mean pretty much EVERY single day thereafter) when we tried, no one answered the phone at all. Personally, I just do NOT get it. If you?ve got a job, DO your job, make the customer happy, and keep your job. That?s usually how it goes. Here, it?s more like: you?ve got a job, so forget everything else.

Maybe it?s because living conditions are just that good over here. I notice they still do have incredibly long lines for things still, here ? it?s just that the lines have moved. Where once, I have heard, they waited in line for toilet paper, now they wait in line at the ATM. And I?m not talking about the small, maximum of 5-minute wait that we have over here. It?s more like a constant line of 20-50 people who have almost all crammed themselves into your personal space (particularly that personal space at an ATM that is universally understood in America, in which if someone stands it feels like they?re watching your bank transactions).

We went into a toy store to buy a present, yesterday. I stayed outside with the stroller while Elena and Inna (whom we ran into entirely by accident!) went inside. I?d never seen hardly a single person go into this toy store every time I walked past it, but for some reason at this time, I watched as (I counted) 20 people filed in almost without stop. This is a store about the size of a bedroom, already filled up with toys on the walls and floor. I tell you, it?s just unexpected chaos over here, everywhere you go.

I don?t feel it?s right to complain in such detail for so long about Ukraine, though; I mean, there are a lot of things that are good about the country, too. When you do find friendly people, they?ll go out of their way for you, to the end. Life does not ?rush by? even half as fast as it feels like it does in America. Television, cars, and commercialism in general just aren?t as much a core part of your life here as they are, there. It?s easy to be a neighbor here, just because everyone is out there, walking around.

Monday: This is interesting: First, I already knew that everyone had to have at least one passport. After talking with Elena I learned that people in Ukraine also must have a place of residence actually listed in this passport. I suppose it makes sense, since they?re required to carry these documents around anyway, but without that residence listed, they can?t get a job, go to the bathroom, request a house call (doctors still make house calls over here!) or what not. (Okay, I?m kidding about the bathroom part, if you hadn?t figured that out)

Tuesday: Remember how I said the handicap-friendliness of Ukraine is a little lacking? We were walking around the market today and I saw a store that I need to mention. We saw it earlier but I forgot to say anything then. It has three steps leading up to the door, which makes it non-accessible, although that really doesn?t matter because the roads, sidewalk and market are full with enough curbs and potholes to make navigation via wheelchair impossible to begin with. But at the top of the stairs? A handicap-access button for the door.

Absolutely. Hilarious.

Wednesday: Well, I start my trip home tonight, while Elena and the baby have decided to stay on for a few more weeks. Talk to you all again later, State-side!


Overlanders: Strollers and Clerks

>> Tuesday, October 04, 2005

We bought a combination stroller/tricycle for Leia?s birthday on the 30th. Not quite sure if they have them in the States, but I wouldn?t be surprised to find one; they?re pretty nifty. Of course, I like most any kind of toy/furniture/etc that has a dual purpose. It?s like a tricycle with safety bars and a parental-control handlebar, so at first the child just rides along as if it were a stroller. Later as she grows up, you can take the footguard/seatbelt/parent control off and it becomes a regular tricycle. Oh, and there?s also a fold-under bar so that you can turn it into a stationary rocker; another cool feature. There seems to be a wide variety of these kind of toys here in Ukraine. Either that, or we?re just under the effects of that ?you just bought something so you see it everywhere? feeling. They make them with many different themes; dogs, cats, teddy bears, and so forth. We bought what we felt was the best-quality one (there were some incredibly shaky-looking ones out there) that happened to have a cow theme. It has a battery-powered cow riding on the handlebars that, when you push it?s hoof, it sings a little ditty to the tune of ?Aloeutte?:

If all the raindrops were lemon drops and gum drops, oh what a rain that would be. Standing outside with my mouth open wide: Ah ah ahah ah ahah ah ahah If all the raindrops were lemon drops and gum drops, oh what a rain that would be.

It?s awesome how much Leilani enjoys this little cow. She does the infant-full-body-shake dance every single time it plays, and she even hums along with it sometimes. On the downside, it?s probably one of the more addicting little tunes you could ever imagine. You remember how it felt when you?d catch yourself singing the ?Barney? theme song (most everyone?s come across that at some point)? A few hours later when you?re still running it through your head, this song feels like that, too!

This little toy gave us another perspective into Ukrainian commerce again. In America we really take for granted just how courteous we are to one another, even though there are many times I?m sure it doesn?t feel that way. We looked through several stores while comparison shopping and decided to buy it at one store where we thought this particular one was cheapest. While looking through all the stores, I got the feeling that the clerks weren?t there to actually help us ? they?re there to make sure you don?t steal anything and/or the kids don?t play with/break/mess up the toys on display.

When it came time to buy, we asked if it came boxed up and with instructions, and the clerks argued with us, telling us that they don?t have room to store boxes (I think that?s what they said) and that we needed neither box nor instruction book. Eventually they found some instructions from another floor model (because, as they explained, there apparently is no storage; all their toys are out for purchase), so we paid for it at the register. They didn?t give us a receipt, and when we asked for one, they argued with us, again telling us that we didn?t need a receipt. The argument went something like, ?Why would you want to return it? You don?t need a receipt.?

Well, we stepped out of the store with it, turned around, and returned it. It just felt bad shopping with them, so they didn?t deserve our money. We found it at another store for about 5 dollars cheaper, where it came with a receipt and 3-month warranty. That felt normal. The clerks were much more friendly and helpful. It?s good to find at least some of that here.

One quick update from a few hours ago: We were riding in a "Marshutka" which is like a taxi except it's cheaper, more like a bus, and usually a lot more crowded (Dear Europe: Deodorant does not cost very much!). We were about to get off when Elena asked if the driver would be stopping also a short distance ahead, to which he said he would. So, Elena called me back on, I got back on and shut the door. For some unfathomable, crazy reason, the driver then decided that he wasn't going anywhere because I shut the door. He just parked the bus and told us we weren't going anywhere because of that. !?!?!?!? Maybe he thought I shut it too hard, or decided that I should have to pay again because I stepped off and back on, but whatever. Way to rack up points for your country's reputation, taximan.


Overlanders: Ukrainian Bakeries

>> Saturday, October 01, 2005

Russian/Ukrainian baked goods: Something of a mystery to me. You go into a bakery over here (By the way, this is also a very loose phrase here; ?going into a bakery? since for the most part a bakery consists of a couple of shelves here and there amongst other edibles, or any other goods for that matter, be it raw meat or whatnot. I will try to touch on that subject at a later time) and view the offering of cakes, pastries, and et cetera. They ALL look absolutely delicious, but looks can be very, very deceiving. Some very cakes appear moist and flavorful, but when you actually bite into them you find that they are as hard as biscotti and not quite as tasty. Even the frosting is hard and brittle. And it?s not because the cake has been sitting out for too long, either, (although I have no way of truly testing that theory) because I?ve tasted freshly-finished cakes that are nothing but crunchy shells. It baffles me.

On the other hand, you can find some here that are just ?get in my belly? scrumptious. Leilani?s cake last night was, for the most part, one of those. It was a basic, round, yellow-type cake with a center layer and frosting, with some kind of nuts on the outside edges. I could do away with the nuts, since they didn?t seem to taste much at all. The cake itself was standard (with the exception of the very bottom layer, which strangely enough tasted like FISH. I just didn?t eat that part from then on), but the filling and top frosting were the parts that I couldn?t get enough of. It was some kind of caramel-like frosting/filling made from sweetened/condensed milk and just makes you drool like Homer Simpson to think about it. MMMMmmmagllglglllllll.

And of course there is always the amazingly-common, ultimately-tantalizing wafer cookie that I mentioned before. It is inexplicable why in America there is nothing even relatively close to how excellent a cookie they have over here. In fact, the wafer-cookie offering presented in America verges on a level that can only be described as insulting when compared to that of Ukraine. In America the wafer cookies are like paste-filled cardboard, whereas here they are butter-cream chocolate- or vanilla- filled heavenly bars of supreme temptation. Can you have only a bite? Definitely not? Is one cookie enough? Hardly. If faced with a stack of these cookies, the only way to win the game is not to play.



It was Leia's first birthday yesterday :) The Tkachenko family came over for dinner last night; Elena and Grandma made a great chicken-basted-with-wine dinner and then we gave her the presents that Tkachenkos brought over. (We're still going to get her this tricycle/stroller we found, we were just shopping around for best prices/quality, etc since both can vary greatly over here) Leia enjoys all the gifts a lot; mostly musical-type instruments including one really, really, really LOUD toy piano that interestingly doesn't have an off switch! We then put her in front of the cake with her single candle lit, but she didn't really figure out what to do with it, even with coaching and two lightings. But she was probably just tired; she wasn't entirely interested in the cake for that matter, either.

Jumping back a few days to Feodosia, I wanted to touch on the dinners they had there in the pansionat. They don't give you too much food like they *always* do in America, which is a good thing because sometimes they pick a great menu while other times it leaves a bit to be desired. A couple of times the protein-of-choice for the dinner was either fish or liver. If I've witnessed enough good examples over here, I suppose that most Ukrainians enjoy that, but I could pass easily on both, pretty much every time. Liver is, I think most will agree, definitely an acquired taste. As I?ve found that my tastes change as the years go by, I?ll give everything a try once, but it still failed the test for me. (And they snuck it in a second day, too; the next day they made these meatball-things, but they ground up the liver & filled the meatballs with them. Herghk!)

Fish, on the other hand, is often (especially in restaurants) a much safer bet. But in Ukraine I?ve come to find that fish comes in only two varieties: Cold (meaning either dried & salted or preserved) and FISHY, or hot with all bones included. They just like picking out the bones every single time, and the way the fish is cut often tends to shatter the bones so you?re left with even tinier little pieces to pick out. Yay. (See, maybe I?m spoiled, but I prefer to do all my food preparation BEFORE the food comes to the table).

But enough complaining; there was a lot of good stuff on the menu, too, some things of which you just can?t prepare properly when not cooked in large batches (like this strange milk-soup/ pudding-like thing. I forget the name of it, but I could have just filled up only on it?) It?s kind of like the rice-pudding dessert at Bombay bistro (or insert your favorite Indian restaurant name)



>> Thursday, September 29, 2005

It?s been an unexpected week since last I wrote; I say unexpected because I didn?t really plan ahead regarding lack of communication while we went on our vacation-within-a-vacation. Regardless, we?re back (to Krivoy Rog) again and can finally send letters out. I took some notes for the first couple of days while we went out, so I?ll back up a bit.

Last ? Thursday, I think, we took an overnight train to Feodosia, which is located on the far-Eastern edge of the Crimea. It?s a kind of relax-me town, where a lot of people go just to sit in the sun & swim. The train ride out there was possibly the absolute worst I?ve ever been on, but it?s all relative as my bad experience had to do with the fact that I was riding out the worst headache I?d ever had and already used up the few ibuprofen we?d brought with. We left at 5:40pm and arrived at 9:30am, and hadn?t quite finished adjusting to the time zone, either (which reminds me that we forgot to get some herbal remedy for jetlag from my brother before we left?). So, we all spent the night waking up every couple of hours, Leilani included.

Other than that, and of course the general discomfort of riding on a train (I don?t think I?ve ever actually traveled on any kind of ?luxury? train), it went pretty well. The train passes close by the sea right toward the end, which gave a nice view. A large difference was immediately noticeable regarding the atmosphere, upon exiting the train. Much more in Feodosia is green, and one of the first things I noticed was a group of people doing some gardening on one of the public ways. In Krivoy Rog, the most I usually see there is just an old woman here or there sweeping the walk. But I don?t suppose it?s really fair to compare the two cities outright; one is a vacation-town while the other is essentially a mining town.

We hauled our bags around while we considered our options; Lena wanted to find a ?pensionat? which is kind of like a hotel but with a meal plan. In Feodosia they?re almost all located a stone?s throw from the beach. We actually didn?t have to go far at all, but we wound up taking a taxi to the one Lena had in mind, just because we weren?t familiar with the area to begin with. (Later we found ourselves back at the train station after only about a 30-minute walk (30-minute walks are NOTHING in Ukraine, mind you. Our average daily walk in Feodosia was 2-3 hours, I think.)) After we checked in and unpacked our bags, we headed down to the beach, just to take a look around.

It?s not what most people in America would expect, mind you. Yes, there?s a big huge ?ocean? (It?s the Black Sea in this instance) and there are a lot of waves. There?s sand ? but not on the beach, actually. Once you?re IN the water, it?s nice sand out as far as you can touch, but the beach itself is comprised entirely of rocks, like river rocks, polished and round. That was a bit of a surprise to me, but not too hard to adjust to. All the hotels/pensionats have their own section of the shoreline fenced off (with barbed wire tops! Whoo!) and they?ve fashioned wooden pallets for people to lay on. Once you get used to that (and the fact that everyone wears Speedos/bikinis no matter what over here...) it?s pretty normal.

After we glanced at the beach (and dangled Leia?s toes in, since she absolutely had to), we walked down the shoreline some more where there was a kind-of boardwalk (but all cement; they use only cement for building stuff in Ukraine.) lined with some souvenir shops. There was a lot of nifty stuff to buy, surrounded by a lot of cheap junk. Isn?t that the way it is everywhere? There was a lot of different things than those we found four years ago in Truskavyets, so there was a nice variety at least.

On the way back to the hotel we saw some good old-fashioned police violence. We?re not sure what the incident was, but we saw some guy running away from an old lady while she was yelling for the police. I?d give you dime-to-donut odds that the guy was drunk, since this happened pretty much RIGHT NEXT to a patrolling police car. A very short chase ensued, however I also think the guy could easily have run away. For some reason, I think he got stuck on a fence near the train tracks, he turned around and put his hands up, walking back to the cop chasing him. Out of the blue the cop gives the guy a karate kick to what I hope was just his gut. He was a little far away, but he didn?t fall down on the ground so that?s where I assume his foot landed. After a little more confusion was cleared up which involved the old lady running over and bashing him on the head a bit, they dragged him off to the cop car and the show was over. If we?d have gotten it on video, I?m sure it would have made the ?world?s dumbest criminals?.

I?ve got more to say about the trip, but it?ll come later. I?ve got to send this off & get to sleep already. Good night!



>> Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Letter time again! Looks like rain outside, and the baby is taking a nap, so I might as well write up a report, even though it?s technically only been a couple of hours since I actually sent that last letter. We?ve got to wait until tomorrow before we can actually pay the ISP for another months? usage here, so Natasha let us send from her account ? thanks, Natasha :) So, I sent the last letter out but have not checked email, as the connection wasn?t quite feeling up to it.

Like I said, it looks like rain, and hopefully it really will. It was again particularly warm today, and like I described before ? dusty. We were walking around town this afternoon with Natasha, and picked up some books and learning toys for Leilani. She?s not ready for them yet, but since we?re only here once in a great while we have to plan ahead. We?re trying to teach her English and Russian at the same time, and so far it?s working well; she responds equally to both languages and answers in both, too. A couple of days ago she was non-stop with the ?what?s this?? and pointing at everything.

Time just flew by this afternoon, too. I think most of it went to the walk, as of course one has to walk everywhere here ? a good thing, really, as it keeps you more fit. Which is also important because it?s all too easy to eat more waffle-cookies here than you initially intend to. If you ever get to Ukraine, you just have to try these things; there?s absolutely nothing like them in the States ? even the imported waffle cookies that you can buy at Russian grocery stores. They?re just not the same. (My family has requested that we bring back as many as possible.)

This next part continues the next day: No, it didn?t rain, and it feels worse because of it. But no matter, we had a lot of things to get done ? business-type stuff, no need to bore you with it ? and we did. Still haven?t found out about going to the Crimea, although we?ve looked at some maps and Elena has a place in mind to go first.


Going to Ukraine

>> Sunday, September 18, 2005

Hello from Ukraine! We made it successfully here, with only minor hiccups, the worst of which was that we weren?t able to buy a train ticket from Kiev to Krivoy Rog. We got to the airport and found out from talking to other people that all the tickets were already bought up; it being the weekend, most of the students in Kiev were heading home already.

So, after calling around to see what our options were, our friends the Tkachenkos graciously made the trip up to Kiev in their car to pick us up; that?s a long haul and we?re grateful for the help ? thank you, Sergei and Elena!

Leilani was an absolute rock star during pretty much the whole trip. I was personally most worried that she?d have trouble with the pressure in her ears, since I remember a horrible time when I was young where I fell asleep midair and woke up on the ground with the most killer headache from the pressure change. But not our girl! She slept and ate through most of the trip, including the time when Sergei was driving us. That was pretty nice as we were able to watch both of the in-flight movies (Monster-in-Law (okay) and Mr. & Mrs. Smith (better than I thought though I still wouldn?t have gone to see it in the theatre had I known more of the plot). When she was awake, she didn?t cry very much, though we probably helped that by keeping her busy, walking her up & down the aisles, and so forth.

It?s good to be here again, although there are certainly things we gloss over in our memory. Actually, we?d never paid much attention to the handicapped-access before since we didn?t use it, but now that we?ve got the stroller here ? wow. There?s really very little in the way of being handicapped-friendly here; the ramps at the train station, for example, are either cobblestone or a nice, slippery 45-degree angle! Seriously.

In Amsterdam, we ran into a mother of three who was also on the way to Ukraine and helped her out as much as we could; her husband was still at home in the states, so looking after three young children by oneself is enough to bear, but she had more luggage than it was imaginable to take on a trip, and she looked terribly worn out just getting as far as she had. She seemed like a nice person, so we helped her move her luggage around a bit. My dad (having worked for the airlines) will probably not believe it, but she probably had 9 or 10 carry-on pieces and probably 6 or 7 enormous check-ins (not counting the two-baby stroller, car seat, and baby-backpack, of course!). She eventually made it all the way there, but I don?t know how she got as far as she did, by herself.

And we finally made it ?home? to grandma?s apartment, looking much as we left it although with a bit more dust; for some reason it seems much more dusty here in Krivoy Rog. Maybe it?s the Fall, but everyone says it?s the metallurgical combine. We found the laptop and (obviously) have it working with no difficulty, although I?m typing this letter offline, as we need to reconnect the provider before we can send.

We took a little walk with Leilani around the neighborhood, and it?s good to have the heavy-duty stroller with us, considering we?ll be here that long. There are many more stores since we left, but everything was still pretty much in the same place we left it. We happened by our friend Natasha?s house and found her outside, so we stopped to chat for a little while. It was so good to see her again; we?d really missed her. But as it was getting dark out and Leia was getting cranky, we agreed to get together tomorrow to continue talking. Sadly, we?re not going to get as much time to see her since she?s going to be leaving in two weeks to go to Sweden. We?re ALSO not going to be able to stop to see her sister, Ira because she?s living in Kiev right now and we probably won?t have time to stop before we fly back. :(

We?re still trying to figure out how/where to go to the Crimea? we?ll have more to say on that as it unfolds, hopefully for the best.



>> Thursday, September 15, 2005

SeaPack was probably my very best thing I made for the UT2004 era. I saw a lot of cool stuff made by other people, some forgotten, that I thought would all really work well together. In this day and engine, water was a new thing - there weren't a whole lot of games that really let you play around with it.  But some people had made working boats and vehicles and weapons that really screamed for special maps - so that's what this is.  Look through the details below and, if it still works, give it a try.  It probably does.


Info way older than 2018:
HIS THREAD has the latest information.

This is hopefully the start of something bigger in the future. After tinkering around with Vynum's fixes of Monarch's UT2004Navy (Annnd digging into a few other vehicles... I'll come back here & write credits for everything...), I created a non-U4E version of my SterlingFlood board and filled it up with aquatic vehicles.

It was a lot of fun! So, with relative ease, I flooded Torlan (aka the Most Modded Map EVAH) and put the Navy in there - ALSO a lot of fun.

This is a BETA release and I expect at some point to release an update hopefully without having to rename the files; please expect that.

SeaPack Way early beta version! Contains: non-U4E SterlingSea map, and the flooded version of Torlan.

Note: This zip file does not include the following mods, which you will need to support it:

SinkPack2004, Annihilation Arsenal, and UT2005Navy
(UT2005NAVY requires UT2004Navy*, which requires AirpowerIII)

This is a BETA release and I expect at some point to release an update hopefully without having to rename the files; please expect that.

SeaPack Way early beta version! Contains: non-U4E SterlingSea map, and the flooded version of Torlan.

Note: This zip file does not include the following mods, which you will need to support it:

SinkPack2004, Annihilation Arsenal, and UT2005Navy
(UT2005NAVY requires UT2004Navy*, which requires AirpowerIII)

At some point, I would like to release more "SeaPack" boards supporting the Navy and the other aquatic vehicles out there. (Would anyone be interested in helping out?) I'm going on vacation tomorrow, and when I get back, I'm looking into helping Xyx & Shinzon with something. I should then help out U4E with something ELSE.... But after that, or at the same time, I can start moving slowly on this again.

Whoops - I forgot that Monarch doesn't have the DL up for that (UT2004Navy) any more... Since he said he didn't mind if I created stuff with it...

SeaPatch for March (a) - Contains a flooded RedPlanet and ArcticStronghold. RedPlanet has some YoJoe vehicles in it, however I noticed that in at least one test, my FPS dropped to OMG levels when the KillerWhale came into view... Gotta go tell Scot_G about that.

SeaPatch for March (b) - Contains a deeper IslandHop, an updated VCTF-NavalCombat, and a tweak for the wbNavy.u -- basically lets you enter the ManOWar if a bot is in control, so you can kick it out.

Oh, and I compiled EVERYTHING that's needed into one RAR file... but it's currently about 150 meg. :P  So, I need to do some cleaning, I think, before I can post that.


First newsletter post

>> Wednesday, September 14, 2005

This is going to be a major first test of my new "newsletter" system going out to family, friends, and aquaintances... So hopefully you remember me - there are a lot of old email addresses that I haven't used in a while entered into the database.

So what's news? My wife Elena and I have been living in South Saint
Paul, Minnesota for three and a half years, ever since she arrived here from Ukraine. It's been nice and peaceful here, but we're soon going to be moving to Woodbury, having bought a new townhome there that's larger and more up-to-date (We've found more than enough oddities with the electrical and general repairs that the previous owners of our current house put in...) Our direct family (Thank you guys) helped out SO MUCH in polishing this current place up that it sold in an amazing 5 days of being on the market. We'll be in limbo for a little while, since our new home won't actually be ready until approximately Nov. 30th (+/- 2wks).

So do please update your records! Email addresses and telephone numbers are going to stay the same. If you don't have our telephone number, just respond to this and ask. (Or, change that: just respond to this so that I know you're alive!)

During that limbo, we're actually going to be using some of that time, plus some vacation, to head back to Ukraine so that "pra-babushka" can see her great granddaughter. (News flash: If you didn't know, we've got a nearly-one-year-old daughter named Leilani who is just absolutely wonderful, perfect, beautiful, (assume that the adjectives go on and on
here).) We're actually leaving in two days, so things have been horribly hectic for a while now. Assuming this emailer works, I'll actually be able to keep EVERYONE updated as we go.

It's too late at night to continue; this has taken quite a while to set up!
God bless,
Daniel, Elena, and Leilani Overlander



>> Sunday, April 10, 2005

Name: DM-OldManMountain

This map is well-completed I am releasing a beta download so if you test it PLEASE COMMENT even if it's just an "all-okay - release it!" kind of comment. I've heard back from the U4E team and they're not going to include it in the next default U4E pack, so I'm going ahead with all three varieties of this board.

Those varieties being: Unreal4Ever, LawDogs, and standard UT2004. I created this originally with U4E in mind because I had the idea of massive boulders falling all around the players, and they players could pick them up with the Gravgun (IAM) and whip them at each other. On pen & paper, I designed it with CTF in mind, and went so far as to mirror the board, but it turned out the boulders didn't like the mirroring, so I just kept the original half before mirroring and turned it into a Deathmatch.

The theme is a rocky mountainside that pits the players against each other in the middle of an avalanche. This, to my knowledge, has never been done before in UT2004, and would not be possible without DaJMasta's "GoodKarma" (Kudos, DaJMasta!) It's great fun and can scare the willies out of you when the boulders land a little too close for comfort!

You've got to see it to believe it.

Download: HERE

By the way, how'd you do this?

In case you're curious, here's how this effect works. It's pretty simple, but a pain in the butt to set up. First of all, there are about 30 NetKarmaActors (NKAs) waiting "off-camera" in some tunnels that exit into the sky, behind a zoneportal so you can't see where they're coming from.

These NKAs fall into the board, and the ground has been planned from the beginning to allow for only a few rocks to collect here and there. Otherwise they all roll perfectly down the mountainside, back into the return tunnels where they begin the board. Below the clouds they fall into at the bottom of the board you'll find some very plain PhysicsVolumes that change the gravity so that the rocks "fall upward" to wind up at the top of the mountain again. Easy recycling!

Now comes the tedious bit. While the rocks constanty falling is certainly pretty, by themselves there are no effects that make it believeable. SO, approximately every "ten feet" on the ground, I've placed a collection of four actors: A class-based trigger (based on NKAs), a ScriptedTrigger, an Emitter, and a ViewShaker. The class-based trigger activates the ScriptedTrigger which then makes the booming sound of the boulder hitting the ground AND activates the emitter and viewshaker. The emitter sends baby rocks into the air which have impactsounds attached, and the ViewShaker, if you're close to the impact, rocks your world of course.

Then there's just the repetitive manner of duplicate this grouping across the ground, and changing the tags on each of them accordingly :P  Viola! You have your very convincing avalanche!



>> Friday, March 25, 2005

Looks like I have a final version available, now, after fixing a few things that I received a good number of comments on. I also took the time to update some staticmeshes, add some collision hulls, etc. I will post some pix when I can, but the Winkyboy download is now available!

This map is an original work by me, based on the old platformer games in the style of Ghosts and Goblins, which is one of my favorites. (To that end, I really think a UT mod for those games would be fantastic to play.) The guillotines, demon towers, and gravestone models in here are directly inspired, and then I have to thank Epic for the default rock and tree models.

I read a comment by Angel_Mapper once that said something to the effect of "Trim makes the map". This is so true. I put grass and fence trim around all the edges of the platforms on this map and it really brings things to life - so much more than just plain BSP ground can provide.

Download Available: HERE

Previous Screenshots below:



>> Monday, March 21, 2005

This map has been created for the Unreal4Ever Mapping contest. This is an exciting map because the board changes significantly as you play. All the players start out on opposite sides of the double basin sink, and the water level is at about 8% full - but the faucet is ON and filling it up!

After about 5 minutes of flooding, the water does shut itself off, opening the surface of the "ocean" to travel by boat or hovercraft - but watch out for falling apples! After a little more time, the fruit basket that hangs above the sink breaks and dumps its content, creating floating islands (and cover to hide behind) when you're crossing that open sea.

There are all sorts of weapons and pickups hidden all around the board, and it is a large board, so be prepared for a good bit of exploration to learn the lay of the land. And while a large board does imply a larger playercount, don't despair thinking that you're going to have a hard time finding targets; with the implementation of the U4E weapons, especially the IAM (gravity gun, for pole-vaulting yourself -- learn this technique!) you'll be flying from one end of the board to the other in a matter of moments. And even if you can't master such special travel techniques, there are vehicles-a-plenty on this board, even though you have to wait a bit to get the Mantas and boats which float on the surface of the water.

Cheers! And remember, if you like what you see, let me know!


MapRaider Please rate here

Don't forget that you need Unreal4Ever installed -- Get it from their homepage. I recommend using the ZIP file, myself (and follow the instructions on their included HTM help file)


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