Wednesday, June 29, 2016

1200 down, only 1200 to go

It's kind of ironic to me that a game that has so many expansions --LOTRO-- has slowed to a grindy crawl for me.

I've finished Shadows of Angmar, and I've got the epic questline for the Mines of Moria, but I don't have the expansion purchased. And, I'm determined to handle this with Turbine Points, which means I have to grind deeds.

Lots and lots of deeds.

as the title of this post makes plain, I've got a loooong way to go before I can purchase the expac. And even then, I'll likely need to wait for a sale in the LOTRO Store for me to actually get enough Turbine Points to buy the thing.

Will it be worth it?

Everything I've read online has said that the Mines of Moria is fantastic, but that only goes so far with motivation when you're killing another 100 orcs.*


With LOTRO becoming a slog, I've returned to SWTOR for the time being.

In an amusing bit of topsy-turvy, just as I got heavily invested in the Shadows of Angmar ending, the mini-Reds went back to SWTOR and started playing that heavily.

Having created somewhere along the lines of about 16 toons across several servers, I know the SWTOR zones fairly well by now, and so I was amused by hearing them talk during lunch about what they're doing with the characters they've created. And the comparisons between World Chat on LOTRO and Zone Chat on SWTOR.

From my perspective, World Chat on LOTRO has declined a bit of late, with a few people on Gladden spamming WC with stuff for sale (at a grossly excessive price) and people following along behind them telling them to move it to Trade Chat. And then there's the Trump fans --and those who think Trump isn't going far enough-- and let's just say that I've not been enjoying LOTRO's World Chat much lately.

However, SWTOR's Zone Chats aren't exactly better, either. And to be honest, I'd really really hate to see what Trade Chat on WoW is like right now.

Seems that the coarsening of public debate has hit the MMO genre in a huge way this Summer. Not that things were great before this Summer, but I feel there has been a distinct drop-off in quality and behavior since both the 2016 US Presidential Election and the Brexit referendum kicked into high gear.

And if it's bad in MMO space, I hate to think of what it's like in Xbox Live, Playstation Plus, or in chat for MOBAs right now.


At times like this, I wouldn't blame people one bit for turning off World/Zone/Trade Chat and focusing almost completely on Guild Chat.

If you're surrounded by a bubble of friends, it can make all the difference between enjoying yourself and throwing your hands up in disgust. Sure, it's a bit of an echo chamber, but there are times when you want to seal yourself off from the rest of the nuthouse and just enjoy yourself.

Me, I go take a walk for some peace and quiet.**

Or maybe I should just go kill another 100 orcs or so.

*Per region. Or whatever the numbers are, but they're pretty high.

**Well, kind of. I busted my foot pretty badly a few weeks ago, and I proceeded to hobble along on a walking tour of a university an hour later. (Which was a big mistake.) The docs confirmed the foot isn't broken, but I was limping around in a boot for a few weeks.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

As Memes Go.....

I'm not exactly a great fan of memes.

The ones you find floating around Facebook and other social media outlets often tend to reduce a complex topic down to a few partially correct zingers. Or they misassign quotes* while passing them off as correct.

That said, there is a place for memes of the sort that are making the blogging rounds again, such as the Creative Blogger Award. They provide a means of peeling back the facade and revealing a bit about the blogger behind the site without forcing the blogger to shout "Look at MEEEEE!" any more than they have to.**

Before you smirk and say "what are blogs for, anyway, if not for expressing your narcissism?", consider that most of the bloggers I know aren't the classic extrovert personalities. They do all love something, whether it is gaming, writing, or something else, and they use blogging to share their love with the world in a (relatively) passive way.

Pewdiepie, we're not.

As much as I groaned about it when I received the Creative Blogger Award nomination from Ravanel Griffon of Ravalation last week, I didn't mind quite as much as I let on. It's not a series of Truth or Dare questions, or even Twenty Questions, but rather 5 facts about yourself.

That, I can do.


In no particular order, here are five facts about me that I'm pretty sure nobody in the blogosphere knows:

  • I once had a letter to Radio Austria International read on the air.

    I believe I may have mentioned once or twice that I do listen to shortwave radio, but my habits today aren't what they were back in the 90's and the 00's. Before the Web, I would get my international news from shortwave heavyweights such as the BBC World Service, Radio Deutche Welle, and Radio Nederland. Among the smaller players that beamed to North America, such as Radio Japan or Swiss Radio International, was Radio Austria International (or Radio Österreich International, ORF for short). Due to my work schedule, ORF's English Service was often the last program I'd listen to before bedtime, and they managed to pack in the news from Vienna as well as the program Report from Austria. One day, after listening to the news, I decided to send ORF a reception report as well as a comment on a story in the news --something I rarely did-- and a few weeks later I received a letter saying my letter was going to be read on the air. Sure enough, at the date specified, my letter was read on the air with a short comment from the presenter.

  • The letter suffered from water damage dating from
    the move into our current house, but here it is after some cleaning up.

    Sadly, Radio Austria International is now defunct, a victim of budget cuts and the changing methods of broadcasting news for nations worldwide.

  • I once had to type three lab reports in one night.

    This might not sound so bad until you realize that each lab report was 20 - 30 pages long. And that the only reason why I did it was because my save disk became corrupted, ruining my copies of my reports.

    I'm dating myself here, but I'd been using old word processor program WordStar to work on my lab reports, and saving the data on 5.25" floppy disks. (Kids, if don't know what 5.25" floppy disks are, Google it.) Anyway, I was working on cleaning up the reports before a presentation at my lab final exam when I tried saving, and I heard the familiar ka-chung of the floppy drive's gears screwing up. Sure enough, my data was corrupted.

    In a panic, I realized I had about seven hours to rewrite about 80 or so pages to turn in for a grade.

    To make a long story short, with a lot of effort, a lot of tea, and a lot of semi-insane muttering to myself, I finished the reports in time. And I even survived the presentation during the final, which I believe was due to my being so tired I really didn't care how I sounded, so I wasn't scared at all.
  • I am scared to death of needles.

    This isn't that much of a surprise, I suppose, since a lot of people don't like shots, but my personal reason why I could never do heroin centers around two specific incidents.

    The first one was a shot I received when I was 13 and I'd broken my collarbone at school. The needle that the doctor used to give me a shot of morphine prior to setting the bone was so large --about 0.25" diameter-- that I could see the hole at the end of the needle clearly. That terrified me, but because I was in such pain and was shoved down onto the table, I couldn't move as the glorified Morgul blade slowly moved in and punctured my shoulder.
    I feel for you, Frodo.

    The second incident happened when I was much older, and as part of a life insurance application a nurse was dispatched to my house to draw a blood sample. The process was supposed to be simple: draw some blood from a vein in my right arm. While the nurse prepped my arm, I looked away, gritted my teeth and waited for the needle. I felt the needle prick, and then a whole lot of extra, well, movement in my arm. "Does that hurt?" the nurse asked. I glanced over and saw her wiggling the needle in a wide arc while it was still puncturing my arm.

    "Uh....." I began, my brain not really registering what I was seeing.

    "Ah, dammit, I went right through your vein. I'm going to have to use the other arm." She yanked the needle out, put it away, and grabbed a new needle and my left arm.

    After she was finished, my wife said something to the effect of "If you weren't scared of needles before, you definitely are now!"

    Gee, thanks.

  • I once owned a car that had a hole in the floor.


    The car was a 70s era Plymouth that had more rust on the body than actual metal, and one day I realized the the place where I'd been putting my left foot while driving felt, well, breezy. I checked out the place after I parked, and sure enough there was a heel-sized hole in the floor, with rust flakes all around. All that kept my foot from plunging through the floor and striking the pavement was the carpeting.

    And for the record, I just kind of kept driving the car, but just made sure that I put my left foot someplace else.
  • When I was a teen, my D&D collection was thrown out to save me from the fires of Hell.

    Yes, I'm a refugee of the Satanic Panic that gripped the U.S. back in the 80s. In those days, many parents blamed societal ills affecting their kids on heavy metal music and D&D. This belief was whipped up by the story of James Dallas Egbert III, who allegedly vanished into the steam tunnels underneath Michigan State University in 1979. The reality is more than a bit mundane, but the ordeal and others such as Patty Pulliam's Bothered about Dungeons and Dragons organization pushed D&D into that "SATAN IS COMING FOR YOUR KIDS!!!" mini-hysteria that gripped a lot of parents of that era.

    My parents were no exception.

    I trace my own problems with it to the time my family visited some in-laws of my aunts, who happened to be very much in the Pat Robertson fan club.*** Robertson was one of many televangelists who rode the Satanic Panic bandwagon, constantly warning about Satan's minions trying to get their claws on the American youth.

    While I was at the in-laws place, my brother and I were both separately brought before what I'd call a tribunal of my mom, the in-laws, and my aunt. And we were grilled over D&D for about 5 minutes. I don't recall anything particularly strange about it, but that afternoon it was declared in a family meeting that D&D was now forbidden as tools of the Devil, and the stuff was all collected and thrown out.

    Yes, this was from an actual Jack Chick comic called Dark
    Dungeons. And this was one of the milder forms of anti-D&D propaganda.
    From Geek and Sundry's How D&D Writers Fought the Satanic Panic of the 1980s

    No protests could sway them. Not even the obvious parallels with role playing games and acting helped, because my parents believed**** that acting, playing a role, is fine, but role playing is something else.

    Perhaps more than anything else, those years in the wilderness as far as RPGs are concerned shaped my viewpoint on what RPGs are and how they are played, as well as my views on how religion and power can be misused when people are afraid of something new.

    I had to wait until later --college-- before I really was able to embrace RPGs once more, and I've never looked back.

At this point, I'm supposed to nominate people for this award, but no fear to my reading list, I don't intend to do so. Many of them were nominated already, so there's no reason to re-nominate them. And besides, all good memes have to come to an end anyway.

*Or worse, simply make them up. John Oliver had a great piece on this.

**Admittedly, a running blog is one of the worst things for someone who is a) shy, b) an introvert or c) both to work on.

***If you don't know who Pat Robertson is, count yourself lucky. He's a televangelist who loves to appear during disasters --natural or man-made-- and claim that it is God's wrath that brought about the tragedy. If you Google "Pat Robertson nutty statements" you'll get an idea of what I mean.

****And they still believe it. They also think Harry Potter and the Rick Riordan books lure kids into Satanism, and I've chosen to ignore their disapproval when they see my kids reading Science Fiction and Fantasy novels. The irony is that my parents were the ones who got me into SF&F in the first place with television shows such as Lost in Space and Star Trek, and books such as Lord of the Rings and The Sword of Shannara.

EtA: Added a few links that I'd missed.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Ancient History Unearthed

For the past month, I've noticed something odd about page views here to PC: there's a lot of page views for really old posts.

The first time it started up, I figured that it was due to some search engines winding their way through the blog, but now I have to wonder who is reading some of these articles from 2010. It's not like they were any great masterpieces of writing --trust me, I cringe whenever I read them and realize that was my voice back then-- but I have to wonder what is causing the interest.

It still is likely bot related, so I won't lose too much sleep over it, but it still does make me wonder.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Short Funny

Oh, this made me laugh. Considering this has been a long week at work, I needed that.

Don't it just figure?
All I know is that the FB site "Almost Nerdy" shared this. If someone knows who created it, please let me know so I can attribute that to them.

For the record, I did look for "Summoning Stone" as a website, but no dice. There's way too many references to the Hearthstone card "Summoning Stone" to make it a worthwhile search.

EtA: There's a Twitter Feed called SummoningStone, and that's likely where this came from.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

For Orlando

From a vigil held in Bangkok, Thailand, for the victims of the Orlando shooting.
From Photographer: Dario Pignatelli, Getty Image

Friday, June 10, 2016

Friday Musings

Yeah, it's a gloomy kind of day today --both outside, where it's rainy, and inside at work-- so my mind has turned to more whimsical musings.

  • Do Elves ever get seasonal allergies? When I see the Night Elf pic below, all I can think of is that in September and October, I'd be miserable.

From, based on a Blizzard artwork.

  • Unlike their common counterparts in fiction, the dwarves in Terry Brooks' Shannara series are scared as hell of being underground. (It was mentioned heavily in the very first book about how the Dwarves had to deal with all sorts of things underground during the years that they "became" Dwarves that it left a scar on their collective psyche.) Why don't you see that sort of thing more often in Fantasy fiction?
  • The Star Trek Next Generation Federation jumpsuit is one of those outfits that flatters most forms, so why did Cryptic Studios feel the need to sex up their loading screens and whatnot? There's absolutely no need, and I can tell you from having been to Star Trek conventions before that a well done ST:TNG jumpsuit does VERY well all by itself without having to unzip or sexy up anything. To quote George Takei: "Oh mmyyy....."
I'm not posting the pic from A New Dawn, as it likely shows
someone from the alternate ST "Imperial" universe. (From

  • I realize that for the sake of continuity that Governor Saresh had to disappear from Taris' questlines on SWTOR, but I still miss her. Even though my Smuggler was unable to successfully flirt with her. (Hey, it fit that the Old Man would find an older woman like Saresh attractive.)
    Yeah yeah yeah. I've heard that one before, Saresh.

  • Yesterday I pulled out my old copy of The Tolkien Scrapbook (now called A Tolkien Treasury) and perused the articles inside. The article The Evolution of Tolkien Fandom by Philip Helms reminded me how I really really wanted to run my own fanzine back in the day, using mimeograph to put everything together. But I never a) had the money for a mimeograph machine, and b) never really had the oomph to start and keep running a fanzine all by myself.

    And now the Tolkien fanzines at least are either mostly gone or have evolved into real scholarly works, and I'm not that into the History of Middle Earth series. Blogging is about as much of a "fanzine" mentality as I can handle.
A copy of Orcrist #3, circa 1969/1970, published
by the University of Wisconsin Tolkien Society.

  • I've been tossing around the idea of splurging on a used Xbox 360 so I (and the mini-Reds) could play the Mass Effect trilogy (among other titles) without having to buy multiple copies of the game for the PC. I'd consider a 360 over the current gen consoles because the multiple disk games (such as ME2 and 3) aren't quite ready for backwards compatibility with the XBone, and the PS4 is now going to release yet another version of the PS4, and I don't want to get on that treadmill. Besides, I'm more likely to find a used 360 (or even a PS3) at garage sales than the current gen consoles, anyway.
As if I don't have enough things to do.

  • The Boss has the day off, and is over watching Muhammad Ali's funeral procession on television (thank you, Chromecast). And the news just broke a short time ago that another sports legend, Canada's Gordie Howe, passed away. The fact that it is raining outside is somehow appropriate.

EtA: Fixed some grammatical issues.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Greatest Has Fallen

The year 2016 continues to be hell on icons.

Some people remember him as that D-Con Fogger pitchman.

Others remember him from Saturday cartoons.

Others remember him from the movie starring Will Smith, or the When We Were Kings documentary.

Others still remember him from his moment in the sun at the 1996 Olympics, his body shaking violently from Parkinson's, as he held aloft the Olypmic torch.

Some still remember him as Cassius Clay, the young man who won the Light Heavyweight Boxing gold medal in the 1960 Olympics.

But for those who saw him fight in the ring, he was always Muhammad Ali, The Greatest.

And if you didn't think he was The Greatest, he would tell you he was. And use poetry to back it up. Yeah, and his fists, too.

Ali knocking down Sonny Liston in 1965.
From The Guardian.

But Ali finally succumbed to a respiratory ailment overnight, and died at the age of 74. I'm certain that Parkinson's disease, that he battled for over thirty years, helped do him in.


Back when boxing was found on national television --without the need for pay per view-- Muhammad Ali conquered the media. As the undisputed Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Ali was more than just a celebrity. He had a quick and sharp mind, using it to recite his own poetry and to comment on all sorts of things. Oh, and to also get into the heads of his opponents.

He was past his prime when I was a kid, and my first memories of him were that of a poster child for staying on longer than he should have. Thankfully, time has erased those last years of his boxing career, focusing instead on his finest moments in the ring. And his humanitarian efforts.

Muhammad Ali was one of those larger than life personalities that you simply never forget.

Rest in peace, Ali.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Did Somebody Call for a Hammer?

In case you lived under a rock the past week --or didn't know anything about Activision Blizzard-- you'd know that Overwatch was released into the wild.

And now they've begun throwing the ban hammer around.

According to The Daily Dot, Blizzard has banned roughly 1500 accounts out of China as part of their attempt to stay ahead in the cheating arms race.

While others are applauding the swift action to keep people from cheating on the game, I'm skeptical whether they can keep up the pace with cheaters without devoting a lot of resources to constantly monitoring the situation.

Judging by my experiences with a certain MMO from Blizzard, I'm not exactly sure that they'll be able to keep up over the long haul. I'm sure I'm not the only one, but I'd frequently report toons with racist/sexist names or people who behaved badly in the game. But as time went on, I began to realize that the reporting did little good: when a person with a overtly racist toon name is L76 and playing in a battleground, that means that either nobody reported them or that the admins didn't bother dealing with the issue. And with people who leveled in the days before the instant L90 (or whatever it is now), they couldn't avoid people even if they tried.* And for that person to be playing in BGs....

I am glad that Blizz is starting off strong, but they now have to commit to follow through for the long run. And judging by at least one of their other properties, I'm not so sure that commitment will be there.

*And if anyone knows about that, it's me. I'd play at odd hours, serverwise, and even if you leveled simply by node farming or killing monsters out in the field you will still run into other people from time to time.