Old AIM emoticons in Pidgin

I’ve been using Pidgin (which was mentioned in the JesusH wipe and re-install Windows guide last year) for instant messaging. I had some problems recently connecting to my various IM accounts with it, so I upgraded to 2.4.3, which seems to have fixed those connection issues. I’ve never liked the Pidgin default emoticons so I found and installed Andrei Neculau’s Original Smileys, which allow Pidgin to use the original emoticon set for each client–in other words, I see Y!M emoticons when I’m talking to someone with a Yahoo! Messenger account. I see MSN emoticons when I’m talking to someone with an MSN account.

Yes, over the last few years I’ve really started to lean on emoticons in instant messaging. This is not something I’m proud of.

Anyway, I discovered upon invocation that the AIM emoticons had gotten animated, weird-looking, and ugly since I last saw them (for example, vs ). Apparently, a new version of AIM has been released since the last time I looked, and AOL has taken this opportunity to update their emoticons. That might look like progress to the kids, but it looks like crap to me.

I couldn’t find a convenient way to get the old AIM emoticons back. I ended up having to find the old ones at elouai.com. I downloaded them, cropped them up–the originals are way too padded–and made the backgrounds transparent. In case you like the old-school AIM icons better than the new ones and want to go to a little bit of trouble:

  1. install and activate Andrei Neculau’s Original Smileys.
  2. download this archive of the old AIM emoticons and unzip them inside the folder created by step 1. On my system the folder path is

    C:\Documents and Settings\dpease\Application Data\.purple\smileys\pidgin-original

    so I created

    C:\Documents and Settings\dpease\Application Data\.purple\smileys\pidgin-original\aim_old .

  3. open the theme file created by step 1. On my system this file is

    C:\Documents and Settings\dpease\Application Data\.purple\smileys\pidgin-original\theme .

  4. find the following text block in the themes file and select it:
    # AIM 6.5
    [AIM]
    ../pidgin-original/aim/smiling.gif				:)	:-)
    ../pidgin-original/aim/winking.gif				;)	;-)
    ../pidgin-original/aim/frowning.gif				:(	:-(
    ../pidgin-original/aim/stickingouttongue.gif	:-p	:-P
    ../pidgin-original/aim/surprised.gif			=-O
    ../pidgin-original/aim/kissing.gif				:-*
    ../pidgin-original/aim/yelling.gif				>:o
    ../pidgin-original/aim/ecstatic.gif				:D	:-D
    ../pidgin-original/aim/moneymouth.gif			:-$
    
    ../pidgin-original/aim/footinmouth.gif			:-!
    ../pidgin-original/aim/embarrassed.gif			:-[
    ../pidgin-original/aim/innocent.gif				O:-)
    ../pidgin-original/aim/undecided.gif			:-\\
    ../pidgin-original/aim/crying.gif				:'(
    ../pidgin-original/aim/lipsaresealed.gif		:-X
    ../pidgin-original/aim/cool.gif					8-)
    
  5. replace the text selected in the last step with the following text block:
    # AIM 6.5
    #[AIM]
    #../pidgin-original/aim/smiling.gif				:)	:-)
    #../pidgin-original/aim/winking.gif				;)	;-)
    #../pidgin-original/aim/frowning.gif				:(	:-(
    #../pidgin-original/aim/stickingouttongue.gif	:-p	:-P
    #../pidgin-original/aim/surprised.gif			=-O
    #../pidgin-original/aim/kissing.gif				:-*
    #../pidgin-original/aim/yelling.gif				>:o
    #../pidgin-original/aim/ecstatic.gif				:D	:-D
    #../pidgin-original/aim/moneymouth.gif			:-$
    #
    #../pidgin-original/aim/footinmouth.gif			:-!
    #../pidgin-original/aim/embarrassed.gif			:-[
    #../pidgin-original/aim/innocent.gif				O:-)
    #../pidgin-original/aim/undecided.gif			:-\\
    #../pidgin-original/aim/crying.gif				:'(
    #../pidgin-original/aim/lipsaresealed.gif		:-X
    #../pidgin-original/aim/cool.gif					8-)
    
    # Old-school AIM, cause newer AIM sucks
    # 2008-07-28, DMP
    [AIM]
    ../pidgin-original/aim_old/happy10.gif				:)	:-)
    ../pidgin-original/aim_old/wink10.gif				;)	;-)
    ../pidgin-original/aim_old/sad10.gif				:(	:-(
    ../pidgin-original/aim_old/tongueout10.gif	:-p	:-P
    ../pidgin-original/aim_old/shocked10.gif			=-O
    ../pidgin-original/aim_old/redlips10.gif				:-*
    ../pidgin-original/aim_old/angry10.gif				>:o
    ../pidgin-original/aim_old/biggrin10.gif				:D	:-D
    ../pidgin-original/aim_old/indifferent10.gif			:-$
    
    ../pidgin-original/aim_old/footinmouth10.gif			:-!
    ../pidgin-original/aim_old/embarrassed10.gif			:-[
    ../pidgin-original/aim_old/angel10.gif				O:-)
    ../pidgin-original/aim_old/confused10.gif			:-\\
    ../pidgin-original/aim_old/crying10.gif				:'(
    ../pidgin-original/aim_old/nospeak10.gif		:-X
    ../pidgin-original/aim_old/cool10.gif					8-)
    
  6. Save the file. Your AIM emoticons should now be the old-school versions in Pidgin.
  7. Profit!

My Second (and probably last) Skydive

After a great first experience, I decided to skydive again today. Jeff and I arrived about 4 PM and I informed the lady that I wanted to do the AFF level 2 jump. During this jump, I am again jumping with two instructors. This time, I would be focusing on turns and forward movement. After a brief review with my instructor, I boarded the plane, excited and eager to execute a perfect landing this time.

The plane ride went off without a hitch, I performed my exit perfectly, did my circle of awareness, my practice handle touches, 90 degree turns both left and right, and moved forwards, before waving off and deploying my parachute. I arched, counted to five, and performed my canopy control checks. I was feeling pretty good about the skydive, how I was more confident and had successfully fulfilled my mental checklist. However, this time the winds were very strong and it was harder for me to maneuver my parachute. I also noticed that I was descending at a faster rate than last time, and that I was way off course from where I was supposed to be. And despite my reminder to my instructor about how my radio was out of batteries last time, I had problems with my radio again. Sometimes I could hear little static noises, but no actual audio came through it. I was on my own yet again.

Because I was so off course, I was really worried about the landing. How was I going to manage to get myself to the landing field when I was descending so quickly? I tried my best to make it to the landing area and was trying to find a clear spot to land. The winds were not being particularly friendly towards me today though, as I thought I was about to land on dirt, but at the last minute, a gust of wind steered me towards the right, and I ran into the parked plane. Yep, you read that right. I. HIT. THE. PLANE. My feet hit it first, then my body ricocheted off of it, forcing my face to hit the plane as well, before falling and landing on my back. I started to get up right away, and saw people running towards me. A couple people yelled at me to lay back down and not to move. I saw Jeff’s worried countenance and was trying to reassure him I was all right.

They unhooked my gear, and the medical staff came to look at me. They asked me all these questions, what did I hit, how do I feel, can I see, hear, etc. I told them I was feeling fine, albeit a little banged up. They helped me up, and escorted me to a bench where they performed more checks on me, in which I passed. My faculties seemed to all be there, but they warned me to stay cognizant if anything changes and go see a doctor.

I had a semi-busted lip from when my face hit the plane, and some blood in my nose (it’s a good thing that I have a flat asian nose because it would’ve been broken for sure), but otherwise was fine. As I was walking back to the parachute packing area so that I could get my jump evaluated by the instructor, some concerned people asked me if I was okay. I smiled at them, “I’m all right.” My pride was hurt more than my physical body. The one thing I had wanted to work on was my landing, and it was the one thing I had totally screwed up. Royally. In front of scores of people, I had rammed into a plane. How embarrassing is that?

As I was waiting to hear what my instructor had to say and write in my logbook, I was contemplating just leaving. Do I really want to hear that I had failed my second jump? Obviously running into a plane means I suck at skydiving. To my astonishment, he cleared me for level 3! His written comment for next time is “Hit plane! Needs extensive canopy control brief before next jump.” Ha ha, I don’t think there will be a next time. I do not want to ever put Jeff in that position again. As much as I have enjoyed it and as exhilarating as it’s been, my brief foray into a skydiving career has officially ended today.

Oh, and unfortunately I didn’t get a video this time so you’re not going to be able to view my craptulacular landing. And I’m doing fine now, but I have a feeling I’m going to be super sore come tomorrow morning…

Social Security Again

Everyone knows Social Security is busted. Heck, we said it years ago, and nobody accuses us of being deep thinkers. Someday in the not-so-distant future the entire system will collapse on itself and run out of money. Presidential hopeful John McCain does a nice job testifying to the problem.

Last week, McCain told observers at a town-hall meeting in Portsmouth, Ohio, “Americans have got to understand that we are paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers … and that’s a disgrace.”

You know what might help? If people of age who reported $$millions of income last year voluntarily eschewed Social Security benefits. I mean, even for a politician, that’s amazing to me–that this guy can’t do without the 0.3% of his marriage’s reported income that Social Security issues him, while he talks out the other side of his mouth about how disgraceful the system is.

You’re not helping by cashing those checks, Senator, and if you tell me you need the money I’m going to laugh at you. What a dick move.

Bioshock: Pre-review

Having finished all the Orange Box I cared to play–I tried Team Fortress 2, and it seemed cool, but I was just getting my ass beaten all over the place by my online opponents and I don’t really have the desire to play through that to get to the point where I can actually do something useful in the game–I installed Bioshock last Friday.

I couldn’t get the sound to work. Turns out Bioshock has a problem with sound in Windows Vista. The advice 2KGames gave me had to do with RealTek onboard sound, which I don’t have. After screwing with Vista’s “compatibility modes” for a while I found the solution was to run the game with DirectX 9. If you have to do the same thing, be sure to add the -nointro switch to your shortcut (e.g.

"C:\Program Files\2K Games\BioShock\Builds\Release\Bioshock.exe" -dx9 -nointro

so you don’t have to look at a half-minute of lame unskippable branding before the game starts.)

I’ve only played the game for an hour or so so far. My initial thoughts are that I’m not having as good a time as I did with Half-Life 2 and that the Pipe Dream-style “hacking” of vending machines and turrents is kind of fun but really ridiculous.

Jury Duty

I served on my first jury a couple of weeks ago. Apparently I’m a bit more respectable than I used to be–showing up at the courthouse in something other than cutoffs and sandals and having gotten a haircut in the last few months might have been a factor there.

While I was walking back to the court from the parking lot after lunch on the first day, I passed a young mother on a bench holding her infant daughter. I pay a lot more attention to babies than I used to so I noticed her bouncing the kid on her knee and thought the whole scene cute. As I walked by I heard mom start talking to the baby in that singsong cutesie voice that people always use when they say stuff like “are you a good booooy? do you want to go to the paaaaark?” to babies.

“Mommy’s going to get a restraining order against dadddddy
So he can’t hurt her anymore”

My First Skydiving Adventure

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On June 29th, 2008 at 9 AM, I found myself walking past the port-a-potties, up the stairs, and inside the registration office of Skydive San Diego. “I have a reservation for the AFF course.” I told the smiley woman behind the counter. She motioned for me to start filling out some forms. Inside the green packet were pages upon pages with little boxes for me to initial and lines for me to sign. Essentially each statement reiterated how dangerous the sport of skydiving was, that no insurance would cover me if something were to happen to me, and that in the event of injury or death regardless of gross negligence on my part or the instructor’s, I waived the right to sue. Just in case I wasn’t reading closely enough, the TV screens parroted the warnings. When I finished signing my life away, I handed the packet back to the woman, and paid the $339 so that I could start my skydiving adventure.

The Accelerated Free Fall training course had only two other takers that Sunday morning. Chris and Hannah were a couple of British newlyweds on their honeymoon. They had just finished a scuba diving jaunt, done Vegas, and wanted to get in a few skydives before jetting off to New York to finish their tour of the states. Both Chris and Hannah were in the British military. Chris had completed 20+ jumps and was on his way to obtaining his A license, but needed a refresher course since it had been 11 months since his last jump. Hannah had completed several static line jumps in the past, but today would be her first skydive. And then there was me, an innocuous looking Asian woman, a 7th grade life science teacher without any skydiving experience whatsoever, who possessed a minor fear of heights (my apologies to those who have witnessed my histrionic fits on the Freefall ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain), who decided as a lark, that it would be fun to jettison herself a couple miles from a perfectly good plane to celebrate being done with her masters’ program.

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