Friday, December 31, 2021

2021: Running to Standing Still

It's the end of the year, and I've been wondering exactly what happened to me, gaming wise, these past 12 months. 

Whiplash is one way of putting it. 

In case you ever wondered what
Card's robe from Evelyn looked like...

I started the year as part of a raiding team that was dipping its toes into Naxxramas, and ended it as a raid leader in two raids (three, if the Classic raid gets off the ground). I began the year feeling a bit like the odd person out, survived a bout of depression and the stress of speed leveling TBC Classic, got heart failure along the way, and ended it.... feeling a bit like the odd person out.

The year began with me dialing back my login time on my main but not really desiring to play much other than some lowbies with my oldest, and ended with me spending as little time as possible on my main and leveling a Horde alt instead.

Neve definitely has opinions about
things. And she's not afraid to declare
what she wants. (If someone catches
her eye, they'd better look out.)

It's just that who the main was changed.

Hey, Bright Eyes.
You have caused me no end of
conflicting emotions; not on purpose,
but just because of what had to be done.
I still like you, though.

 

***

It could be worse, I suppose.

I was talking with my questing buddy last night, and one of the guilds that her friends had moved to had blown up*, and those friends had ended up taking their mains to other servers. Considering that the guild in question was a mainstay of the Myzrael server scene, this upset me to no end. I realize that things happen --and my questing buddy said as much-- but I still recall the friends I'd made in Classic who just simply vanished without any notice and wish that things weren't like that. 

My questing buddy admitted that if she'd not joined our raid team, she'd likely have unsubscribed by now. And were it not for her, I'd have likely either quit before Briganaa even got to Outland (much less L70) or I'd have faction changed and just started over with Neve.

***

To be fair, I didn't realize just how much of an impact I made on things until I wasn't there.

Oh, this isn't some self serving bullshit where I can stroke my ego and say "hey, I was the best Loot Master ever" (I'm not) or "I'm too important to the raid's DPS to be missed" (again, I'm not).** But it was made plain to me when I spent the week in the hospital by the people who reached out to me when they discovered why I wasn't at that Monday's raid. Or the people who reached out to me to wish me Merry Christmas in game. 

When I talk to people in game who are feeling down and they need some cheering up, I typically say that "they matter". But this past month, people have been telling me that instead, and I don't quite know what to say. Other than "Thank you."

***

But this year has been so eventful it's almost surreal to realize that I'm pretty much back where I started when 2021 began, only with a different main. Still have lots of conflicting feels, and I still have me wondering where I fit in overall.

People do have my back, however, and I'm eternally grateful for it.



*Internal drama caused by raiding, and to be perfectly honest bad management as well.

**In fact, you could make the argument that trying to keep all the irons in the fire on Enhanced Spec --Swing Timers + Totem Timers + Totem Twisting + Shock Twisting-- that unless your gear is top notch it's a royal pain in the ass to keep going. By comparison, Mage rotations are MUCH simpler and do MUCH more damage.


Wednesday, December 29, 2021

No King Rules Forever

MadSeasonShow, the YouTube content creator, gave us a Holiday present on the 24th when he dropped a 2 hour epic on the history of World of Warcraft:


I put it on while I was sorting medical bills --and the affiliated insurance results-- and it kept me entertained throughout the long arduous process.*

It does have WoW's Greatest Hits, such as Leeroy Jenkins, the infamous Memorial Service on a PvP server, the "You think you do but you don't" and "Do you not have phones?" comments, as well as the sordid events of this year. I realize that his videos aren't for everybody, but Pandora's Box is really worth a watch. 

If there's a theme to the video, it's how Blizz turned away from the community in favor of short term convenience and monetary gains, and that once gone Blizz couldn't get it back.

Still, definitely worth a listen or watch (your choice).



*So far, so good. I believe the saying is "it could have been much worse" as far as bills went.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

When Life Gives you Malt...

We are presently hip deep in the holiday season, with Christmas and Hanukkah past, Kwanzaa just starting up, and the New Years less than a week away.

I hope the gifts you received (and gave) were all what were hoped for. Sometimes my own gift giving knocks it out of the park*, and other times it's, well, kind of meh. 

But by far the best gift I received this year came a month ago, when I was given a second chance at life. And for everybody who helped give me that gift, I don't intend to squander it.

I am still the same person I was, however. I can't look at these commercials for European river cruises or vacations abroad without thinking they are the height of extravagance. Sure, I'd love to travel, but money (and medical issues) restrict me from doing so. As does my Midwestern upbringing in not drawing attention to myself; and let's be honest about travel: the farther away from home you go, the more likely you draw that attention to yourself by merely being there. Your accent and mannerisms will draw the eye as you do not fit in.

It may be funny, but also cringe
inducing for Midwesterners with
neighbors who think Gatlinburg is exotic.


So, my life changing goals are a bit less exotic and more along the lines of "let's work on the house a bit more and get things done that you said you were going to get done all those years ago". Or perhaps revisit a hobby because of my now incessant need to know just what is going into my body when I eat or drink something:

Cardwyn: "Oh no..."
Me: "Oh yes. And you're still a figment
of my imagination."
Cardwyn: "We'll see about that."


Sorry, I'm not a hophead, and I can't stand IPAs**. But I do like other beers, so I'm going to return to a hobby I abandoned a couple of years before I took up MMOs and start homebrewing again. I don't intend to go bananas, but I do intend to brew about 3-4 batches a year. I can drink beer and wine, but I have to strictly monitor my intake. And with homebrewing, I can control exactly how many carbs are in my beer.

I've already reviewed my 20+ year old equipment and replaced most of the food grade plastic with new material from Northern Brewer --the glass and metal stuff is still in good shape-- and I've already got a basic recipe obtained, so I think shortly after New Year's I'll hold my first brewing session since what, 2005 or 2006? Probably 2006.

If I can't visit Great Britain, at least I can brew an English Bitter and drink that. 

Hmm.... I wonder if someone had created a homebrew version of Shindigger Stout....



*For the unfamiliar, some baseball slang referencing a home run. The equivalent in futbol of kicking a goal from the midfield.

**India Pale Ales.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Some Monday Updates

Well....

The first Classic Throwback raid was a bust. 

Too many people said "hey, great idea, but I can't attend this week," and that lack of signups killed off the BWL run.

So, I'm going to give it a try in January.

***

In other news, the holidays are almost here, and that means Winter festivals galore in MMO space.

I still am somewhat ambivalent about those, but I have to acknowledge that a festival or celebration around the time of the Winter Solstice has been around in our (real) history for thousands of years, so we pretty much expect one when we participate in something akin to an MMO or RPG. 

I still enjoy this.


And yes, the Elf reference still makes me chuckle.

***

Finally, the gang is all here.

My youngest arrived back home just before midnight on Saturday, straight from Chicago and a music convention* there, so now the entire family is back together. Just in time for me to get a cold.

Oh yay.

I've finally turned the corner today, but it still sucked to have to isolate myself for a couple of days.

But hey, we're all back together --until the UofL bowl game, that is-- and I'm going to enjoy this time with all seven of us.

Seven?

Yeah, seven. Because we now have two extra family members:

Amazingly enough, they stood
still for this photo.

Say hello to Athena and Artemis. My oldest adopted them late last Summer, and I am now a guinea pig grandpa. I've gotten used to this concept, and after my hospital stay the three of us now compete for the same leafy greens that are stored in the fridge.

I guess that makes me part guinea pig at this point.





*Her major is Music Therapy, and she is also a member of the University of Louisville Marching Cards. So we have two mini-Reds who have been part of a university marching band as well as wind ensembles and chamber orchestras. Yes, I'm a proud papa.


Thursday, December 9, 2021

Fun is a Relative Thing

Next week, I'm going to flip the script.

I'm going to take my raid back into the Classic past and our first Throwback Friday Classic raid.

Instead of running Karazhan every Friday of the month --and struggling to keep the same number of tanks/healers-- every third Friday I'm going to run a Classic raid instead. The poll on the channel currently shows Blackwing Lair leading the vote, which means we'll need a few tanks with a fire resist set*, but given that Naxx was originally leading the poll I'm fine with that.

Still, this will be a new (old?) experience for me. 

I mean, I know what BWL is like. (The goblin packs alone make that obvious, you know.) But still, this will be a major endeavor, because I'll likely be leading a raid with a significant number of non-guildies for the first time. If our forays into Naxx for Atiesh completion is our guide, non-guildies will come out of the woodwork for a chance to go back to BWL and pick up various and sundry gear for RP purposes. And for the chance to get Neltharion's Tear, too.

So this will be my maiden voyage into 'herding 40 cats'. Ought to be fun, I suppose.




*Still need one, as far as I know. I can't assume we'll just overcome it by sheer force of will. Or idiocy.


Thursday, December 2, 2021

A Follow-up

Um, wow.

I've been very humbled the past week.

People I haven't spoken to in years have reached out to me, checking in, and that's just people I know via Facebook. My gamer friends have outdone my FB friends, and for that I'm extremely grateful.

When I logged in last Friday for the weekly Karazhan run --yes, I felt well enough to handle that-- I got (virtually) jumped by a couple of guildies who gave me a stern talking to about how I need to take care of myself because there are a lot of people who love and care about me. The rest of the Monday raid lead team echoed those sentiments before and after our progression raid*, and random people on the server that I knew colloquially checked in as well.

To all of you who reached out, thank you. Your good wishes and prayers and even tough love are all welcome. I will behave, I promise. (I have continued to lose weight even after having left the hospital, so that's proof that I'm doing something right.)

Again, thank you for everything. I have the best friends. (Even those who lurk.)

Mr. Red agrees.




*Hey, we made it to Tempest Keep and one-shot Void Reaver! We also didn't wipe on trash, which is very much a thing in TK, and we also got some good experience on A'lar.


Saturday, November 27, 2021

Let's Play "Where's Red?"

I don't talk too terribly much about my personal stuff.

There was the post about my dealing with depression, and there's the occasional post about family and friends, but I don't talk too much about my stuff. It's not the point of the blog.

However, there are some things I ought to talk about, because there are people who deserve to know.

***

Back in July, I developed a cough.

It began with some old mildewy magazines that my mom had dropped off, thinking I'd want them, but given that the cough seemed to come directly from that I quickly bagged up the magazines and tossed them in the garage. End of the problem, right?

The thing was, the cough wouldn't go away.

At the same time, I noticed that I was getting more and more tired from walking and whatnot.Trips to the grocery store became more of a labor than before. I cursed that damn cough and wished that the dry thing would go away, or at least loosen up and let whatever junk I was convinced was in my lungs out so I could get on with life. Things finally came to a head when I found it difficult to walk more than 100 yards without stopping for a break. My wife had finally had enough and read me the riot act: you're going to the doctor.

So I set up an appointment with urgent care and a physical with my doctor.

I went to urgent care, described my symptoms, and the attending physician said I had likely had an asthmatic attack. To let the lungs heal, she said, she prescribed a steroid and an inhaler in case I needed it.

I took the steroid diligently, and it seemed to help, but my legs swelled up like a blimp. By the time I visited my doctor for the physical, I mentioned the swelling and that the steroid seemed to be working except for that. In the midst of all of the poking and prodding and blood tests, he decided to switch to a steroid inhaler to focus the medication. 

***

A couple of days later I got a response about my bloodwork and other items: I was onset T2 diabetic; I had high cholesterol, and I had high blood pressure.

Get back to the office for a consultation, he said. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

So I scheduled an appointment and waited.

However, my exhaustion had returned --if it had ever really been away-- and the inhaler steroid didn't seem to work much.

On the day of my appointment, I was so exhausted that I could barely walk inside the building without taking a break. And the doc noticed.

"I was going to talk about diabetes, but we should talk about the obvious: why are you out of breath?"

A chest x-ray revealed the culprit: a shadow over the bottom of my right lung, indicating a large amount of fluid buildup in the lung.

***

 I was sent immediately to the emergency room of one of the local hospitals, with my doc calling ahead of time to let them know I was coming. 

"Guess where we're going?" I told my wife when I got home from the doctor's office.

I then realized that I was not going to make the raid that night.

Quickly jotting a few notes on Discord and then for work, we then split for the hospital.

We arrived at the hospital* and I could barely check-in due to being out of breath. In what had to be the quickest I've ever seen an administration move, they got me processed and back into a room where I was inspected by a nurse and a doctor.

It was then that I was informed I had heart failure.

***

Heart failure? That's the stuff that my Grandmother dealt with; it was an old person's disease. But here I was, set up with IVs and being pumped up with diuretics to make me pee out the fluid buildup in my lung and legs. There was even talk of the docs cutting a hole in my back so they could pass a tube through it and drain the fluid from the lung that way, but they decided to take a wait and see approach.

This was my life this
past week.

 

I was kept overnight while I kept filling liter bottles, and sometime overnight I was transferred to the cardiac unit. An echo cardiogram was scheduled --the equivalent of an ultrasound for the heart-- and it was only some hours later that the results were shared with me as I was being wheeled up to my "new" room in the cardiac floor: my heart was pumping blood at roughly half the volume it should be. Because of that, I was to undergo a procedure to determine where the problem lay with my heart: the docs would examine my arteries for blockages, and based on that determine if I needed a stent, bypass surgery, or something else. The procedure would be the next day, and I'd have to fast after midnight to get ready.

***

I hate fasting.

Especially when my mouth is dry and I want desperately to drink some water. 

But I figured that I could handle it if the fast is from Midnight to morning.

Well....

I was told in the morning that my procedure was scheduled for 4 PM, so the nurse snuck me a half a cup of water along with my pills for the morning. Additionally, since I had about 8+ hours of waiting around, I might as well get some more diuretics in me to get the fluid out of me.

(You can see what's coming, can't you?)

A few minutes after I took the diuretics and I while I was talking with the nurse, there was a knock at the door. "We're here to take you to your procedure!" the cheerful looking attendant said as she stepped inside.

"Uh...." I said.

"Well...." the nurse added.

"What about the diuretics?" I asked. "I just took some about 10 minutes ago."

"That won't be a problem," the attendant replied. "If we have to, we'll help you out."

I quickly found out that "help you out" means pulling the cart I was on to a stop, letting me hop off, and run into the closest bathroom to take a leak.

The next several hours passed in a bit of a blur, because the drugs they put me under knocked me silly. I recall having to do weird maneuver so I could pee, and surprising my wife when I asked what would happen if I overflowed the bottle, but outside of that not much. When I finally woke up I was told it was the best of all worlds: my arteries were fine, and no stents or open heart surgery was required. I only needed drugs to strengthen my heart. Well, and I needed to get diabetes and high blood pressure under control, too.

Crisis averted. (Sort of.)

***

That left the excess liquid stuck in my body.

By Wednesday, I'd peed out about 9 liters of fluid, and I still had swollen calves and feet. The doctors held me back until I could get enough liquid out for me to finally lose the swelling down there, and so I spent an extra day at the hospital, getting used to the diabetic lifestyle and propping my feet high up enough that fluid flowed out of my legs.

(Free hint: if you're under diuretics, set a timer if you're propping your feet up. Otherwise, it might be too late for you when you try to make it to the bathroom. Yes, I did make it. Barely.)

***

I was released on Thursday, still very much alive and also very humbled by my experience. This entire thing had crept up on me over the course of several months, and were it not for my wife --and the medical staff-- I'd have likely been in much worse shape. And I don't know what would have happened then.

When I left the hospital and waited for
my wife to bring the car around, the mascot
of the Cincinnati Reds, Mr. Red, invited
me to take a seat.

What I do know, however, is that I have people who have my back. 

I kept this whole episode quiet on Facebook, because I don't use FB much these days, but it kind of blew up on our guild's Discord. And on my wife's FB post.

So THAT is where I've been the past week.



*That trip included witnessing a hit-and-run accident, so my wife dropped me off and returned to the accident as a witness. Always fun around here.


Friday, November 19, 2021

A Short Addendum

I didn't get a chance to pull out any LOTRO screenshots because they're on the old PC, but I got on this afternoon and dicovered two things: the band on Gladden-US still plays at 5 PM EST on Fridays, and damn, I've missed them.


Nice!!


Thursday, November 18, 2021

What I Did on my Fall Vacation

Once in a while I get the urge to post some pics that I screenshot here and there. Not because of any real reason, but just because.

And I do get around:

From isometric RPGs:

Tyranny from Obsidian Studios.
A bit of a cult classic.

To Old Time wargames:

A blast from the past: Medieval: Total War.

To other MMOs:

 

Ah, it's always a good day on Balmorra
when I pull the Old Man out of the garage.
 

Neverwinter. I swear, I login after a long
absence and I find myself surrounded by Dragonborn.

And under the heading of "WTF?"
There's this going on in Star Trek Online.


I can tell you that having seen people cosplaying as Next Gen Starfleet at a Star Trek convention (circa early-90s), those Starfleet outfits are very unforgiving in terms of fit. But if you've the fit and figure for it, the uniforms flatter your form to no end. 

***

Of course, the game of choice these days is WoW Classic, and that's where most of my screenshots lie....

A beautiful shot of the moon while
I was crossing The Barrens.



And just because the statue is of a Kaldorei
doesn't mean that Neve wasn't inspired by it.


And if you noticed, Neve finally got enough
gold to afford a mount. So, she paid a visit to
Eversong Forest to check out some striders.


Before that, this was Neve's life.


Well, when she wasn't playing messenger
for Sylvanas to Thrall.


And it's not like Brig has been suffering from a lack of use, as you can tell here:

Dancing bears providing our pre-Tidewalker
entertainment.

And she does have some snarky commentary:

Brig: "If you're a blacksmith, I am Mickey Mouse!!!"


And surprise surprise, Illidan's Kryptonite
is hidden away by Akama.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Another Thankless Task

I guess it was on the periphery of my vision, but Wilhelm jogged my memory that Blizz is creating a WoW Community Council to try to improve the game.

 

They're pretty serious putting this out,
but not so serious that they had Thrall or Jaina announce it.

 

Well, good luck with that. It would be nice to join the council, because I'm definitely not in the raider camp even though I raid, but I seriously don't have the time to do so.

But hey, I see they need transmog enthusiasts, so I would love to nominate Kamalia of Kamalia et Alia for that position!!


Monday, November 8, 2021

Sleeping With the Enemy*

It would be nice to have some stability from time to time.

Oh, I'm not talking about personal stability, as I'm pretty sure things are going okay for the moment in real life, but rather in MMO life.

While the scenery may only change for the lead dog in a dogsled team (like I referenced a few posts ago), it would be nice if the raid composition was stable for a couple of weeks.

Our progression raid is a once per week raid, and that's by design from the beginning. Not everybody can commit to a progression raid multiple days per week, and to be honest a lot of our raid team is perfectly happy committing to only one day per week. Still, that doesn't make it easy when we have multiple people on the raid team wanting us to switch to a multiple day progression raid. 

Oh, and one of the people who either want us to go to two days or just stay with SSC, farming it week in and week out? She's one of the raid leads for the OTHER progression team that does raid twice a week.

So yeah, there's some conflict there. 

***

I was originally going to post this mid week last week, but ironically enough some of the conflict worked out in the end, as a few people split for 2 day progression raids from other guilds while the rest remained with our raid team.*8 While that means we have to acquire a few more people for our raid team, at least those who decided we weren't doing things fast enough (or whatever) have moved on and are no longer a drag on the raid team. Sure, several of them were really good raiders, but at this point I'd rather have stability than precision. I personally am happy we only raid progression once per week, because that gives me the time and space to back off when need be. And I suspect we'd lose even more people than we did just now if we really DID go to two nights per week of progression raiding.

But such is progression raiding life.

***

Still, I was disappointed when our raid's lead team felt pressure from the other raid's leadership about expanding our raid nights. If there was any reason for us to believe that our raid is perceived as the "second string" or the "farm team", it was then. And you know what? I don't care what they think. They're not downing Kael'Thas or Vashj, so it's not like they've left us in the dust. And the people on our team that aren't very good raiders? They've gradually fallen by the wayside, so we don't have issues like that.

We're good at what we do and we're moving at our pace.

***

The Friday night Karazhan run? Well, when the raid lead got back from vacation, she pulled me aside and let me know that she didn't want to keep that raid going. (Burnout, you know.) She said that if I wanted to keep it going, she was happy giving me the reins. I was flattered by her trust in me, and I accepted managing that Friday raid.

It wasn't a big deal, I figured, since we had two other Kara raids: one on Wednesday and one that hits only a few bosses (for BiS gear) on Saturday.

Well..... It looks like we hit a wall on our Kara runs. 

The Wednesday run decided to bow out first, and then the Saturday run bailed as well.*** So mine is suddenly the only Kara run that's running consistently. 

(No pressure. None at all.)

However, the other progression raid's lead team decided to throw a Kara run for yesterday (Sunday), which more than one person raised their eyebrows over. "I don't get it," one person whispered me the other day. "There were already 3 Kara raids, why not fill up one of them?"

"No idea," I replied, but to be fair I have my suspicions. After all, I'm on the "other" raid lead team, and am arguably based on experience the least likely to actually lead a raid. I also am managing this Kara raid very informally: if you need gear and it drops, roll MS/OS. No biggie. The other progression raid, however, uses Loot Council to distribute loot, so my laissez faire attitude would run headfirst into a "who needs/deserves it more" mentality. Finally, there isn't a Kara raid specifically from the "other" raid lead team, so making their own fits the bill.

I'm not sure if this was just a one-off, but we'll see. I get where people are burned out, and I understand where Friday doesn't work for everyone, but I suspect that there's some rivalry mentality at play as well. Which annoys me to no end.



*Yes, the song from Roger Hodgson of Supertramp's first solo album. I loved his solo debut, In the Eye of the Storm (1984), but what also sealed the deal for me was that he played almost all the instruments in the album. I knew Prince had done it, but Roger? No, that was news to me.

**Yes, the other raid lead team members who are on our raid (playing alts) left for other progression raids. We weren't surprised.

***The Saturday run seems to have revived as one person needs a BiS weapon out of Kara, and she's singlehandedly keeping it going. Once she gets that weapon, however, she'll likely kill that raid off.

EtA: fixed the exact timing on when I reference the "lead dog" quip.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

The Maelstrom is Churning

Well, that was fast.

Blizzard Delays Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2

Well, another reason why BlizzCon was cancelled, I suppose. There's nothing to announce. Oh, and more news on the Blizzard management front:

Jen Oneal is Stepping Down from Blizzard 

It's like watching a train wreck in slow motion. At this rate I could be a manager for Blizzard and have a longer shelf life.

This isn't a visualization of the state of
Blizzard. Honest.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Alas, BlizzCon...

Under the heading of "no surprise", Activision Blizzard announced the other day that there will be no BlizzCon in 2022.

The suits apparently need to spend time on how to reimagine BlizzCon and make it a more inclusive event, but aside from what the press release says I'd be mildly surprised if we ever see another BlizzCon again. Part of BlizzCon is a celebration of Blizzard's output, part of it is about Blizzard patting itself on the back, and part of it is for the fans of Blizzard's games. But when a massive misreading of the fanbase ("Do you not have phones?") or controversy (Google "Blitzchung and Hong Kong") are what is remembered from 2 of the last 3 BlizzCons, I find it hard to believe that Activision Blizzard is going to set themselves up for more (and well deserved) controversy with the ongoing lawsuits and corporate culture problems.

And to be fair, the company has a lot more problems than just "how do we make BlizzCon work?" If nothing else, the Activision side of things --or the corporate bean counters-- will likely try to kill off BlizzCon as "a waste of money". Because that's what they do.


Monday, October 25, 2021

Brig's Big Day*

People know the old joke about how in dog sledding the scenery only changes for the lead dog, right? The impression is that for the other dogs all they see is another dog's butt (plus tail), so only the lead dog sees where they're going.

And to be fair, that impression isn't a wrong one.

When you've got one job in a raid, it's easy to forget there's a lot of other work out there for people to handle. Likewise if you're just a cog in the raider machine, you can forget the "You had ONE job!" nature of being a "regular" raider.

But when the raid lead goes on vacation? Well, I suppose you can just stop the raid for a couple of weeks if it's not a progression raid, but a progression run doesn't simply go on hiatus for a couple of weeks. Or, if you're me, you simply don't stop running Kara for two weeks.

So I accepted the challenge of being raid lead and the sole leader for our Karazhan runs.

***

It has been.... interesting.

I mean, I know the fights**; we have 7-8 regulars on a week in and week out basis, and I still run my bookie routine for Opera. So the technicalities are down --with the exception of setting Master Looter, which for some reason I continue to screw up-- but it's the intangibles that I have issues with.

You know, making sure there's the right amount of chemistry in the raid, or me, Mister Nice Guy, having to be the bad guy and tell people they didn't make the raid because they signed up too late. Or they got bumped because we needed heals or a tank. 

My nervousness of being up front, leading, has evaporated. I know these people and they know me. They believe in me, and they actually freaking defer to me when a decision needs to be made. When the hell does THAT ever happen?

Anyhoo, it does happen, and I'm feeling better and better about this. I can be a raid leader. I can figure this out. I may not figure out everything about an individual raid, like BWL or Naxx, but I know enough that I can work my way through this. And given that nobody is going to ask me to run SSC anytime soon, I've got this.

***

Normally I'd be finished with this post, but I was on Neve the other day, having Hearthed back to Tarren Mill, and I was checking out gear when I got poked by my oldest about how Neve looked on screen. "You should screenshot this," she said. 

"Hmm?" I asked, closing my bags.

Then I noticed how the firelight caught in her staff and her clothing.

And those eyes. Light, the eyes.

It's like the Map Room in Uldaman:
the light has to be captured 'just so'....

Sometimes, the serendipity smacks you in the face with a clue by four.

 

 

*That was how the player who ran the raid logs called our first Kara run with me in charge.

**Except Netherspite, but I have plenty of regulars who know who to put in which beam, so I'm fine.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Forever in... well... you know****

A week or two ago, I was asked when I was going to get an alt to Outland. My response was that if I was going to get another toon to Outland, it was likely going to be a Horde toon. I'm not exactly sure why the people who asked were so surprised*, as I've not exactly been shy about Neve and Quintalan's existence. Maybe people just figured that I'd stay Alliance all the way or something.

But here I am, with Neve at L28, shuttling back and forth from between Ashenvale and Hillsbrad Foothills, and having a blast along the way.

One thing I have noticed, however, is that some of the Mage specific gear is similar to the Mage gear that Cardwyn accumulated, while other gear pieces are very different.

This particular robe, the Manaweave Robe, is familiar to any Alliance Mage who wore robes early in their career as part of Mage quests:

Don't get any funny ideas, Vor'el.

As you can tell, the Sindorei version of the Mage questline is quite similar to the Human one in that you get a Manaweave Robe, but the Forsaken version yields something quite different:

This is called the 'Lesser Spellfire Robe'.
I don't see anything "lesser" about them.

Does that robe look a bit familiar? Does knowing that the robe came from a Forsaken help? Well, for those who remember the Arathi Basin in-game map....


Theoretically, that's Jaina on the left.
No idea who the Forsaken on the right is,
but apparently Forsaken have a
real 'zombie rack' about them.


Yeah, that looks a helluva lot like the Forsaken Mage's robe.

And yes, I will grant anybody who noticed that yes, the Lesser Spellfire Robe looks a lot sexier than the Manaweave Robe.

Or even sexier than this "Social/RP" robe that drops in Silverpine Forest, the Dalaran Wizard's Robe:

Hmm... I think I need to get
Card over to Silverpine Forest.
Except that the Dalaran Wizards there
are all Green. Hmmm Neutral AH we go.....

But you know what? There's a quest around L27/L28 that has Neve shuttled over to Orgrimmar and talking to a Troll Mage there. I presumed that Neve was about to get the wand quest --after all, it was around that level that Cardwyn got her wand quest-- but it was a "go collect water from Xavian and we'll make a robe for you" quest. I figured that wasn't going to be too hard (it wasn't), and I ended up with this Nether-lace Robe:

Yes, Neve was in the Barrens
when I took that screenshot.
I miss Barrens Chat.

Oh yes, it's another sexy yet functional robe.

I think I see a trend here....

***

The ironic thing about this is that Neve has begun acquiring all of these RP-style robes as my opinions concerning these robes have begun changing. It's not that I've suddenly become a "cool dad" or "horndog dad" or something, but more that my kids' attitudes toward clothing has changed, and I've been dragged along for the ride.

For the longest time, the girls have worn t-shirts and jeans, and if they ever experimented with clothing it was out of my view. As Cardwyn's personality is a mix of my daughters', that kept Card's clothing choices kind of, well, blah. Function over form, I suppose. 

But they grew up, went away to college, and then when they came home for break, I started seeing items like this in the laundry:

Or a mesh version, but
this will do. From tobi.com.

Or crop tops, that would go like, well, this:


It's not like tobi.com is going
to see a sudden uptick in purchases,
but you get the idea.

Or underwear or bras that definitely did not fit the "functional" end of the spectrum. 

If the girls thought they were going to faze me much, they underestimated me. I just kind of shrugged and dealt with it. I mean, I went through a"fashion revolution" when I was at university, which was amusing because right after I graduated the "grunge look" came into style, and my entire flannel wardrobe from 1989 would have suddenly been hip were it not replaced by stuff that my female friends had pilfered from their brothers' and boyfriends' wardrobes.**

But still, I never walked around with the male equivalent of sexy shorts/underwear.....

From buzzfeed.com.

so your mileage may vary.

As you can see, the girls grew up and began to follow their own identity and make their own fashion choices. Which leads me back to Cardwyn.

It's one thing for me to say that Card's personality is a mix of the girls', but it's quite another to actually let that personality change over time. After all, Card was pretty sheltered growing up on a farm in Eastern Elwynn, and her parents had incentives to not attract attention to themselves either. But as time has gone on, she's been exposed to more and different cultures and ways of thinking. She's become an adult and has developed her own tastes. So while she still has a societal (and fashion) grounding in how she grew up, she's definitely expanded her horizons a bit. So.... while there are times when Card seems unrecognizable to me, such as wearing the Crystal Webbed Robe without a shirt underneath, I have to realize that my own children have moved on from their own starting points. What may look overly flirty and flaunt their assets in a way I'd never conceive of my wife doing***, it is only natural to them. 

And the same is with Cardwyn (or Neve or Az). Although to be fair, Az has always had a more open take on fashion and what is "acceptable" than Card ever has. And Neve... Well, she's not nothing to lose. She's confident, snarky, and glib in a way that the original Neve never was, but that's also a reflection of how my playing MMOs have changed in the 11+ years since I started her. Mage wise, Neve is very much the Yang to Cardwyn's Ying. Maybe there's a story there, how they met, because if Card ever made it to Outland, the possibility was there that two Mages of a different faction would join the same Outland faction (Scryers).

***

Now, about Briganaa...

She's kind of a tough nut to crack. 

Before anybody says "hey, she's your toon, dress her as you see fit!" I recognize that I'm probably agonizing over nothing. But for me, I want Brig's personality to be distinct from my other toons. 

At one point, while Brig was leveling in the mid-L60s, she was wearing some leg gear that I could only describe as Daisy Dukes. They were so short that I wondered why on earth Blizz still had her tail coming out a hole cut in the back of the shorts. Wouldn't it be easier, I reasoned, if Blizz just converted it to a skirt and not worried about the tail hole?

When I showed the (lack of) clothing to my questing buddy, she quipped, "So how does it feel?" We'd already had some amusement with the fact that Brig --as a Draenei-- was so tall that Humans were barely at an eyeball level to her breasts. But this felt different.

"I don't know," I replied. I don't really know what Brig would think about it.

"How come?"

"I think that's because I don't know what Draenei --in general-- would think about [those shorts]. Brig has her own personality, but I don't really know what that is yet."

And I still don't. 

I've seen enough Draenei NPCs interacting that I know they're not of a monolithic hive mind or something, but they've also been under siege for so long that sort of creeps into your head and affects everything you see. And, I must admit, I've seen some of the NPCs out in the field act occasionally flirty or sexy, but I know enough that they also have a sort of Pollyanna-ish attitude about them. You know, the sort of thing where if Brig ever came to the farm and greeted Card and her family with a "Good health, long life!!" Card would turn to the closest person to her and say "Is she for real?" And that presence, combined with that dance of theirs, and you'd be left wondering if the Draenei even understand what sort of vibes they appear to give off to the other races.

Those are the sort of contradictions that I have to work through before I can truly understand Brig better.

Because of that, fashion and Brig are kind of a black box right now. But one thing is certain, if you go to the Naga camp west of SSC and north of the Horde base, you'll see the female Naga wearing some sort of oversized leather dress. I took one look at that and thought "THIS. This is the sort of thing that Brig would wear when she wasn't fighting: low key, stylish, and practical." That Briganaa is both a Skinner and Leather Worker would make it a perfect fit for her as well. 

When you ask if you can have one, they
get all mad at you. Believe me, I've tried.

***

Oh, one last thing. This is something I've been working on for a while, and I don't know when the entire thing will see the light of day, so I figured why not and post a little bit.

As is usually the case, this is a work in progress, so it still needs editing and blah blah blah.  To set the scene, this is when Cardwyn finally reached Stormwind and is about to deliver her mother's warning to SI:7. The message is hidden, strapped to her arm and covered by the sleeve of her robes.

I picked up my pace and walked through the unmarked door.

Inside, desks were laid out in an orderly fashion with mounds of paperwork atop each, while people of all Alliance races read, marked up, and set aside one sheet of paper after another. If I didn't know any better, it looked to all the world like some large mercantile operation, organizing trading from far away locales such as Auberdine and Everlook. Portraits decorated the walls, with the occasional landscape mixed in for added flavor. Two adjoining rooms contained more desks and people, although there were primarily physical items atop each desk. On more than one desk I recognized vials similar to the ones the nameless Kaldorei used, and made a mental note to keep my distance.

I approached the desk closest to the door where a man sat, writing away. Judging by the paper he kept referencing, he was translating something.

"If you're looking for the Mage Quarter," he said in a bored tone without looking up, "you made a wrong turn. Go back through over the canal and head west, not east."

"I'm in the right place, sir," I replied. "I'm to deliver a message to the Vintner from Alice Gray."

He stopped writing, the hand with the pen hovering over the parchment. "And I'm to believe you about this?"

Mom had prepped me for this possibility. "Day or night," I recited, "rain or shine, Alice Gray always delivers the harvest to the Vintner."

All activity in the room came to a screeching halt.

I could feel eyes on me; only a fool wouldn't feel them now, but I kept my focus on the man before me. He carefully set his pen aside and looked up.

And promptly fell over in his chair.

"Light!" he exclaimed as he picked himself off the ground. "How is..."

I heard the main door close quietly behind me. If Mom were wrong, my day was about to get a lot worse. Out of the corner of my eye I saw an auburn haired woman whisper something to a coworker and run up the stairs in the rear.

The man managed to recover his wits in record time. "Well, if you've a message for the Vintner, then let's have it," he said after brushing off his clothing.

"I'm to deliver it personally, sir," I replied, certain that the man could hear my heart pounding in my chest.

The man cleared his throat. "Yes, well then. You see, the Vintner is a busy man, and if you intend to deliver it personally, you might have to wait a while."

"I can wait." If he thought I'd risk Mom's wrath by not following her instructions to the letter, he was in for a surprise.

"Yes, of course." The man returned to his chair and picked up his pen.

Dad's training came back to me. Never take your eyes off of an enemy, he admonished during a particularly hard practice session. They will try to distract you to gain an advantage. Don't let them. Keep your focus on them at all times.

As I stood there, waiting, the man tried returning to his work without success. "Begging your pardon, ma'am," he said after several failed attempts at writing, "but can you please sit down? I have this work to finish before the end of the day."

"I'm comfortable standing," I replied, "but I'll step back."

"No need," another voice interrupted. "I'm here."

A man dressed in black came down the stairs and approached me, followed by the auburn haired woman. His own hair was a shade lighter auburn color, with a matching mustache and goatee. What struck me the most, however, were his eyes: the color of a sun drenched pond, they were focused on me with an intensity I'd seen before only from Mom.

The man at the desk scrambled to stand at attention. "Sir," he began. "There's a--"

"--message for me from Alice Gray," the man in black finished. "I'll take it from here, Jasper."

"Yes, sir," the man saluted and returned to his desk.

"And you, Young Mage," the man in black added, "please follow me."
 
I followed the man up the stairs while the woman fell in behind me. At the top of the steps we turned right and headed into a relatively unassuming room. There were a few paintings on the walls, a large map of Azeroth spread out on a table, and a desk with several chairs.

And one small green man.

If there was a way to stuff more teeth into one crazed grin, I don't think it'd been invented yet. He was shorter than a Dwarf, and far more intimidating than a Gnome. He had pointy ears that stuck out from his head, but unlike the long slender ears of the Elven kindreds his were stout and thick, like the difference between a skinning knife and a throwing one. His eyes dripped malice, yet when he saw me he let out a howling laugh. "Was that Jasper I heard down there, Boss?" he guffawed. "I'd have given a lot to see the look on his face when he got a load of her!"

"Jasper needs to work on being less excitable," the man replied, "although I suppose he can be excused this time."

He nodded to the woman behind me. "Thanks for the alert, Sloan."

"You're welcome, Sir," she replied and turned to me. "It's an honor to meet you, Young Mage."

"Same to you," I replied, wondering what she was talking about. I hadn't done anything noteworthy.

After Sloan shut the door, the man motioned me into a seat. "Well, Renzik," he asked the green man, "What do you think?"

"If it were up to me, Boss, I'd say that some people, such as Jasper, need to do a bit more facial recognition training. Oh, at first and even second glance she's a ringer, but close ain't gonna win ya some gold at the Mirage."

The man nodded, scratching his goatee. "I guess it was inevitable that you'd come here, Cardwyn Songshine," he said at last.

Somehow, I was not surprised he knew my name. "You're the Vintner, I presume?"

"Yes I am. I'm Mathias Shaw, and this is Renzik, my lieutenant."

I think I was supposed to be impressed, but in some weird way my lack of knowledge made me bolder than I ordinarily would have. "Then this is for you," I replied, using a flick of the wrist to dislodge the letter from the leather device hidden on my arm. The letter fell neatly into my hand and I held it out to Mathias.

Mathias took the letter and turned it over a few times. "Renzik," he finally said, "I'm going to need some privacy. This is a personal matter."



*My questing buddy wasn't, for example, when I mentioned it. She knew of my fondness for Neve and Q.

**A whole lot of American Eagle was going on in my wardrobe.

***Dear, if you're reading this, go for it. Go ahead and blow my mind, I'm ready. (I think.)

****Yes, I shamelessly stole from a Gap jeans commercial. The commercial features Neil Diamond wearing Gap jeans, goofing around on a green screen. Finally he says, "Forever in, well, you know..." referencing his song Forever in Blue Jeans.

EtA: Added the explanation for the title.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

The Odd One Out -- The Forsaken

As you can probably guess by the title, Neve has left the security blanket of the Ghostlands and has struck out on her own. And in the case of "closer is better", that means Hillsbrad and Tarren Mill.

Along the way, she dropped in to say hello to ex-Queldorei and current leader of the Forsaken, Sylvanas Windrunner. She'd found the locket that belonged to Sylvanas, you see, and the Forsaken leader in the Ghostlands saw an opportunity to butter up Sylvanas as well as introduce the Banshee Queen to the Sindorei Mage who'd been doing a lot of the heavy lifting in the Ghostlands. Because all politics is local, I suppose.

And this exchange is why I felt that Blizz
missed a huge opportunity at the end of Wrath
to take Sylvanas in a different direction.

Poor Ambassador Sunsorrow is left to pick up the pieces from an --in retrospect-- "bad idea".

Still, compared to their Queen, let's say that the Forsaken don't exactly radiate goodness and light.

I used to think that the Forsaken had kind of a bad rap, with the behavior of the Apothecaries taking up most of the 'evil' in the room. Well, I finally got a chance to view Tarren Mill again these many years later, and while the Apothecaries are the worst of the bunch the Forsaken in general are firmly planted in the Evil end of the Good-Evil spectrum. 

Which makes me wonder anew: who the hell thought that throwing the Forsaken in with the rest of the Horde was a good idea? 

Being largely misunderstood is one thing, and there's the occasional quest that stands out in that regard, but my distaste of the Forsaken isn't off the mark at all. The rest of the Horde --in varying ways-- espouse Honor first and foremost. But to the Forsaken, Honor is a weakness to be exploited. Well, everything another race loves is a weakness to be exploited. 

I mean, there's a reason why the iconic Horde Rogue is that of a Forsaken, and it's not a happy-go-lucky character ready to bust a few heads, drink some ale, and charm/bed people along the way.

Errol Flynn and Merry Men they ain't.*
From basementrejects.com.


The Forsaken delight in gloom and doom, killing the living and dancing on their graves. 

So why are Thrall, Cairne, and Vol'jin hanging out with these people?

I could make a better argument for splitting Humans into two separate groups, one for the Horde side (Jaina and Theramore), and one for the Alliance side (Stormwind), than just sticking a "non-human" race predisposed to kill everything alive on the Horde side. And if you want to even out the factions, just make gnomes a neutral party. As far as TBC goes, having the Sindorei join the faction the survivors of Lordaeron (Jaina's faction) were part of, in the Horde, makes more sense. To the Sindorei, Stormwind was "waaay down there", not part of the humans that originally formed an alliance with the Queldorei. In MMO terms, it's just like SWTOR's original factions: Humans, Zabraks, and Twileks could be part of either Republic or Sith Empire.

***

But nevertheless, the Forsaken are here, and I have to deal with them. So I'll hold my nose and survive throughout Hillsbrad, and then at earliest opportunity I'll leave the Forsaken and their Victor Von Frankenstein complexes behind.

Whatever.



*When I was a kid, cable television didn't exist for most of the country. So when I was sick, I was plopped out on the couch in the living room --away from my brother who got the bedroom to himself-- and watched local television. And for some reason, the Errol Flynn version of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) was always on. It's my generation's Princess Bride or A Christmas Story. So when I visit the Ohio Renaissance Festival, I'm always struck by the people who also loved that movie and cosplay as Merry Men or others of the Plantagenet era of England.

Friday, October 1, 2021

A Dozen Years In...

...and I'm still here.

In 2009, PC launched on September 29th with a post by my now absentee partner, Souldat/Deftig, entitled Kicking Things Off.

Little did I know that the "Hey, would you like to create a blog together?" would turn into 1000 posts (!) and ~462000 views? That sounds like a lot until you realize that you have to divide it by month, and then it becomes a slightly less impressive ~3200 views and almost 7 posts a month. Then, when you consider the "contribution" that bots play in those view numbers, and....

Bah. I'll still have a beer. Twelve years is twelve years.

In those early years, Souldat wanted us to promote the blog as a potential watering hole for WoW fans. I was on board with that idea except that, well, there wasn't a lot of content for us to promote. So we wrote. And wrote. 

And wrote.

We expanded to three contributors twice, but both didn't last very long. And I'm not very proud about being more vocal about one or two posts that one of the two wrote, either. But in the end, both moved on to other things, while Soul and I kept on going.

At about the point where I felt we were going to reach a critical mass in terms of eyeballs and commentary, our primary source of links, Righteous Orbs, closed up shop. Then The Pink Pigtail Inn. And WoW Insider stopped promoting blogs and blog posts. I guess we could have moved into using that newfangled Twitter to promote the blog, but I was never very fond of a platform where anything you say is right there in the public square to an extent that Usenet or blogging itself never was. And given my tendency to mouth off from time to time, I could get in some real trouble on Twitter. But despite the lack of direct promotion, we continued on.

Even Soul's declining contribution didn't stop me from just keeping with a (semi) regular schedule of posting 1-2 times a week.

By the time the WoW side of promotions was fading fast, I had already been experimenting with other MMOs, and I soon expanded my posts to include my adventures there. I also included pencil and paper gaming (such as D&D) and board games, aiming to broaden our gaming goals. 

***

While I still do pay lip service to our 'About Parallel Context', this blog has effectively become my own for over a half dozen years now. And until this past week, I haven't really acknowledged it. So this week there have been a few small changes here and there that allow me to bow to reality. 

Such as finally moving Soul to the "Past Contributors" section.

Or changing the title graphic to something a bit (?) more timely. I'll have to work on keeping that current, I guess.

I always wanted something like Rades did, with a gif of various scenes, but I'd have to pay for a gif builder, as I wanted a longer time between scenes than what the 'free' gif creators had. Or use a random pic selector, like what Ravanel Griffon did for Ravalation.* 

That aside, I'll continue to make some tweaks to the blog as I become more comfortable in acknowledging that I'm basically the only contributor left. So like the time I got an entire dorm room to myself my junior year of college, I'll put up a map of Middle-earth, my Dark Side of the Moon poster, and this one: 

My oldest has my poster now.

Okay, now it's time for some tunes:

 

And yes, I hit two birds with one stone by selecting Yes' Roundabout along with the Jojo's endings. There's a great interview that Rick Beato had of Yes' Jon Anderson, and one of the things Rick asked was Jon's opinion of the usage of Roundabout for Jojo's Bizarre Adventure. Jon loved the use of Roundabout in the anime, because it allowed a new generation to get to know Yes' music.


This version of Tank! is from a local con back in 2018. That sax band lead in front? The one with the red tie? He also played in Ohio Wesleyan University's Park Avenue Jazz Ensemble concerts.

 

 

And you can't have a set of tunes without dipping into David Arkenstone's vast catalog. My wife and I saw him live at a Winter Solstice concert back in the late 90s, and his band was simply amazing. Twenty years on, he still looks really good.



*Damn, I miss her blog posts. Rav, if you're reading this stop in and say hi.

EtA: Corrected some grammar.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

The After Hours Pick-Me-Up


Diana Prince: What is the matter with you??!!
Steve Trevor: This is no man's land, Diana! It means no man can cross it, alright? This battalion has been here for nearly a year and they've barely gained an inch. All right? Because on the other side there are a bunch of Germans pointing machine guns at every square inch of this place. This is not something you can cross. It's not possible.
Diana Prince: So... what? So we do nothing?
Steve Trevor: No, we are doing something! We are! We just... we can't save everyone in this war. This is not what we came here to do.
Diana Prince: No. But it's what I'm going to do.
--From: Wonder Woman (2017)

You know, things aren't all that bad.

Seriously.

We all get wrapped up in our problems and miss out when something actually good comes along. Or when someone turns a bad situation into a good one.

Such as what happened when a guild composed of some in-game friends began imploding.

My questing buddy had her Bear tank in that guild, and when she realized what was going on she sprang into action. 

I'm pretty sure that this is the look my
questing buddy had on her face that day.
(From: Wonder Woman)

She contacted two of her guildies and talked them into looking at our Monday raid team. In a case of pure serendipity, we had precisely the openings that they were looking for: Healer and Hunter. I was called upon to act as intermediary --because that's what friends who happen to be on Raid Lead Teams do-- and put the two of them in touch with our recruiter. Several conversations (and a week of raiding) later, and both are now official members of our Monday Raid Team.

***

Autumn may be a 'back to school' season here in the US, but it's also time for (American) Football. 

And because our team raids on Monday nights, the comparisons to Monday Night Football are pretty obvious. So, before each raid starts, I've taken to playing the intro for Monday Night Football. Mainly to just pump myself up a bit, since I'm not gonna play the theme where everybody can hear it.


And, if I'm in a slightly wackier state of mind, I play this Monday Night Football intro from 2004. You see, our local NFL team, the Bengals, were nicknamed the Bungles for their sheer ineptitude through the 1990s, and because of how poorly they played they were not on the roster for Monday Night Football for 12 years.* In honor of their return to the MNF lineup in 2004, the broadcaster ABC got comedic actor Leslie Nielsen to perform in the intro:


***

But I think that I've gotten too stressed out about how things are working out right now. There are plenty of friends who need a pick-me-up, and while commiserating isn't a bad thing per se --I do plenty of that already-- an actual pick-me-up isn't a bad thing.

So consider this post a virtual Happy Hour. I'll even buy the first round of drinks.



*It's known as The Lost Decade in Cincinnati sports. The Bengals sucked, our Major League Baseball team the Cincinnati Reds sucked, the University of Cincinnati had 'good' basketball teams but never when it mattered in the NCAA Tournament, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera....