Jan 032011
 

I saw a lot of people glad to be done with 2010. The general feeling seems to have been that 2010 was a less-than-satisfactory year. For my part, I’m inclined to disagree: in March, I got a new job at an awesome company working with awesome people on an awesome project; in July, my groomsmen took me to Atlantic City; in August, I got married and then went on my very first cruise; in October, Cody and I went as a very convincing Rose and the 10th Doctor for Halloween; in November, my parents finally came down to Maryland for Thanksgiving; December featured one of our best New Year’s Eve parties ever.

So, y’know, go 2010. May 2011 be as good or better.

To that end as is custom this time of year, I have a list of goals that I’m planning to work toward this year. They’re not “resolutions” and they’re not carved in stone; either notion is folly. But they’re things I care about and want to get better at, which I think carries more weight.

  • Devote some time each evening to writing or playing guitar. The main thing here is taking care of my “daily chores” in WoW, and then setting it aside while I spend some time doing either of the above activities. Once I’ve put some good effort in toward either, I’ll allow myself to go back to playing more WoW. I love my WoW hobby, but I can’t continue neglecting my others!
  • Get better about watching my diet again. I’ve slipped a bit since the wedding, which is probably entirely unsurprising to anyone who’s gotten married. I haven’t backslid irrevocably or anything drastic, but it’s noticeable enough to me that I want to do something about it. So, I plan to. Having a Droid will, I hope, make keeping track of my food intake a little easier.
  • Finish unpacking the house. This includes getting some additional furniture (bookshelves) and also tidying up the pantry shelves so that we can actually start making use of the damn thing.
  • Build the vacuform machine I’m always talking about. I intend to for Halloween to be very interesting this year.

That seems like an ambitious-enough list to start with.

Oct 082010
 

I had this whole plan for what to write about today that congealed as I drove to work. It vanished when I actually sat down to write it.

Yesterday marked Cody’s and my second month as a married couple. So far, so good! It seems a little silly to celebrate these milestones, given the four-closing-on-five years we’ve been together. The relationship is solid, we love each other just as much (if not more) now than we did when everything was exciting and new, we live together well, etc. It still feels like an achievement anyway. Marriage! It’s this big, important word that, for us, represented no functional change in our relationship toward one another that nevertheless bestowed a reaffirming, reinforcing strength that I didn’t even know could exist. I heartily approve.

I decided to bite the bullet and forgo worrying about writing a tailor-made web app for play-by-post Firefly-inspired Star Wars game I’ve been planning for a few months now. Instead, I went with MyBB and will adapt it as the need arises. I’ve used phpBB in the past, but it’s always felt a little clunkier than it ought to. MyBB is very smooth by comparison. This doesn’t obviate the need for a character creation web app, but it’s one less technical hurdle to starting the game than I had before. It’s been a long-standing desire of mine to play/run a Star Wars game that used an adapted version of the 7th Sea rule-set, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it pans out. Play-by-post is an odd fit for such a dynamic and fluid system, but one never knows until one actually tries.

November is bearing down on us, which poses two annoying problems. The first is that Cody and I are still at a loss about a concept for Halloween costumes this year. There isn’t enough time to do anything complex1 in the time we have—next year, for sure—but even within that constraint, it’s rough. The second problem is one of time management: NaNoWriMo is going to eat my time in November, which presents something of a blockage on both the aforementioned Star Wars game as well as the heavy WoW-playing fronts. Oh, to have just six more hours each day.

Hell, I’d settle for two.

  1. Like the various costumes I’d make with a vacuform table []

Little Steps

 Posted by at 00:04  No Responses »
Oct 062010
 

Cody got Dehydration tonight! On top of that, we’ll both be done with Netherwing rep grinding come tomorrow, so that’s one less annoying time sink to worry about. The plan is to hit Ignis the Furnace Master in Ulduar for tomorrow’s weekly raid quest, and then start in on ICC if people are up for it. If not, we may also be able to rope some guildies into helping us finish out our Glory of the Hero achievements. In another piece of good news, this post seems to suggest that the Red Proto-Drake reward may not go away when 4.0.1 drops after all. Still, I’d rather not risk it.

I started listening to The Instance podcast yesterday and continued today. It’s the first “talk show” I’ve actually deliberately listened to, and it’s quite enjoyable thus far. I mentioned it to Curt1 today and it turns out that he has a fairly significant history with the guys that host the show. Ah, connections. They’ve namedropped 38, Curt, and Copernicus a few times already in the two episodes I’ve listened to. This industry really is small.

Though I’m enjoying listening to The Instance, I already miss Dresden, Murphy, and the gang. James Marsters did a brilliant job bringing all of those characters to life, and I think a large chunk of my enjoyment came from listening not just to the story, but to his presentation of the story. The next book is due out in March and it feels so far away, even though it’ll probably be here in no time.

On a completely unrelated topic, the water department was supposed to come today to install a water meter that they could query remotely, since we don’t have a landline. I have no idea if they actually did it, though. The meter attached to the water line might look different from the last time I checked on it…or I might just not be remembering clearly. Ultimately, I’ll have to call them tomorrow to confirm.

  1. Yes, Curt Schilling. []

Zombies everywhere!

 Posted by at 11:38  No Responses »
Oct 042010
 

For as much as I enjoy playing WoW, I enjoy it on a whole different level when I’m playing with Cody. We spent the bulk of our time this weekend grinding out the rep outlined in the last post. We’re still working on both Netherwing and Cenarion Expedition, but the end is within sight on both of those. The only roadblock now1 is money, and that will come soon enough.

We had another smooth Sartharion run for the weekly last night. Having done the raid once before, my confidence in tackling it this time was substantially higher and I dove in fearlessly. Even when we prematurely pulled a pat2, I had no worries about picking them up and holding them while DPS burned them down. Even when we prematurely pulled one of the sub-bosses while fighting a pat, I wasn’t worried; just reacted. Definitely more comfortable in my role than I was a few weeks ago.

We also managed to convince some of our guildmates to stick around and do some achievement-oriented runs with us in both the Oculus and Culling of Stratholme. Cody and I finished our Ruby and Emerald Void achievements, having already obtained our Amber Void one. That leaves me to get Experienced Drake Rider, and then I can consider myself done with Oculus. Culling of Stratholme presented us with an opportunity to try and get Zombiefest…which we did! The strategy is a little weird, but in order to kill the requisite number of zombies, you need to kite3 the second boss into a building, allowing any killed zombies time to respawn. Once you kill that boss, they stop respawning in the front section. Once you down the boss, you proceed through the building until you’re out the other side. Now the fun begins. You go back to the first area and kite all of the zombies—around 85—all the way back through the town, through the building, and to the other side where there are more zombies. Then you AOE4 the crap out of them until they drop. 100 zombies in one minute.

Part of the urgency for doing these dungeon achievements is getting Glory of the Hero, which rewards the Red Proto-Drake. Scuttlebutt and rumor suggests that this reward, if not the achievement, will go away when the next patch drops. We were worried that the patch might drop tomorrow5, but it seems that the patch won’t hit until next week, giving us a little breathing room. It’d be very sad to miss out on such a cool-looking mount.

Speaking of patches, Cataclysm‘s release date has been set: December 7th, Azeroth changes.

  1. For me, anyway. Cody is an auction house maven and is absolutely rolling in it. []
  2. Short for “patrol,” which refers to some mobs that are wandering around on a preset path. []
  3. Kiting refers to pulling aggro on a target, and then leading it to another location []
  4. Area-of-effect; an attack that does damage in a radius rather than just to a single target []
  5. Blizzard always patches on Tuesday []

Mount Up

 Posted by at 16:44  No Responses »
Oct 012010
 

As it stands right now, Jakosta has 51 mounts. Cody and I are gunning for the Mountain o’ Mounts achievement, which itself rewards a mount for obtaining. The road from 51 to 100 is largely a matter of rep-grinding and spending “money” (be it gold, badges, honor points, or whatever else). Then there are the remaining few that have to be obtained through RNG1.

Why do this? With a few exceptions2, a variety of mounts doesn’t afford you any material benefit. They’re vanity rewards, offering little more than a wider selection of things to look at while you flit from place to place, and dubious bragging rights. The honest answer is…because accumulating stuff is fun, even if it’s virtual stuff.

Right now, I’m running dailies for the Argent Tournament, the Hyldnir, Netherwing, the Sha’tari Skyguard, and pursuing the Mag’har quest line. The latter three are in pursuit of reputation-dependent mounts; the mounts cost gold, but you can’t buy them without an Exalted reputation. The Tournament dailies reward Champion Seals, which are then used in purchasing mounts. The Hyldnir daily is RNG from the quest reward. After that, it’ll be on to the PvP-based mounts, which are fairly uniform in price and fairly quick to obtain. The most expensive mount cost 50,000 honor points. It’s a trivial matter to get over 35,000 honor points through a single Wintergrasp victory coupled with turning in the weekly Wintergrasp quests. The remaining 15,000 points can be gleaned from repeating Wintergrasp or doing other battlegrounds.

Continue reading »

  1. Random Number Generation, or chance. Think of it like a die roll. You have some percent chance to see something drop on any given occurrence of a particular event, such as a mob dying. The game “rolls” this chance when the mob dies. What you get from the mob in loot is the result. []
  2. There are a handful of very difficult to obtain mounts that are faster than the “normal” epic mounts. “Normal” epic flying mounts afford a 280% speed increase over the character’s base running speed on the ground. “Extreme” epic flying mounts afford a 310% speed increase. []
Sep 272010
 

If you’ve been here long enough, or are the sort to read a blog’s entire archive when you stumble across it1, you may remember my this entry I posted about Halloween last year. The time is approaching once again, and once again both Cody and I are a bit at a loss for what to do. We have a fallback plan, but neither of us is very gung-ho about it and want something more interesting. I’m toying with the idea of trying to finish my Vader costume from several years ago, this time by first building a vacuforming table and constructing the various armor pieces out of plastic rather than placemats. The downside to this is that it leaves Cody in the lurch about a costume, since she has no interest in a Padmé costume2. The implications behind such a pairing are a little disconcerting, anyway.

I finally got caught up with House this weekend. I had forgotten how much I adore that show. Looking forward to tonight’s episode, especially on the heels of the last one, though I don’t know when I’ll actually watch it. Cody hasn’t caught up yet and I don’t want her to get spoiled about recent events. Olivia Wilde continues to be mind-breakingly gorgeous, but Cody is absolutely right when she points out that it’s particularly true in House. Outside of the context of the show, Olivia Wilde’s sculpted features can get a little too inhuman. Almost certainly a function of makeup.

September has been a very tough month, though not for any particular reason I can point to. Cody’s been feeling it too; the entire month has just felt frantic and busy beyond justification. You’d think that with the wedding behind us, things would have settled down. I think some of the insanity may stem from all the stuff we set aside for the wedding, or perhaps tuned-out while dealing with the wedding, which is now coming back with a vengeance. Even work has been nuts for the both of us, though. Not bad, just crazy busy. I’m hoping things will settle down a bit in October…so that the craziness of Halloween can take focus. Ugh.

Never rains, but it loves to pour.

  1. Guilty of doing that many times myself. []
  2. Can you blame her? []
Sep 222010
 

If there’s one thing I really dislike about WoW, it’s assembling a PUG for a raid. If there’s one more thing, it’s that PUG just not being up to tackling the raid at hand, leaving everyone feeling like they’ve wasted their time. This happened last night after Cody, Kt, Steve, and I did Wintergrasp, in anticipation of running VoA-25. It took a while to assemble the group, with the usual one-off people randomly dropping throughout the recruitment drive phase. Once we had our group together, we get rolling…only to have Toravon curb-stomp us. Turns out a lot of our ranged DPS folks didn’t know you’re supposed to attack the three swirling frost spheres that Toravon generates.

As a general rule, I never mind having new people along on a group endeavor like this. Everyone’s new at some point. What I do mind is people not thinking to ask, “Hey, is there anything special I should know about this?” Granted, WoW has built itself a culture where asking something like this often results in being the target of scorn and derision. That sucks in its own right. New people end up walking a fine line between either asking when they don’t know and getting mocked (or even excluded completely1) for never having done something before, and not asking and getting mocked and derided after the fact for performing badly. Still, one of these is guaranteed to cause the group to fail, and that’s the one that’s inexcusable to me.

Once the whole “kill the snowballs of death” thing had been explained, we tried again. This time, two of our healers died immediately, but we still managed to persist on for quite a while. We got Toravon to ~15% before all hell broke loose. My Taunt missed, which caused Frostbite to build up to 5 stacks on the main tank. I managed to get Toravon off him once Taunt came off cooldown, but it was too late, and he died. I wouldn’t last long against Toravon alone—the fight requires two tanks, after all—and predictably dropped not long after that.

Then the group disintegrated. A good hour and a half or so wasted.

When Cataclysm comes out, the raid lockouts for 10- and 25-man raids will be shared. Loot will be the same between both raid sizes, with 25 simply dropping more. This is probably one of the things I’m most looking forward to. If there were no benefit to doing a 25-man raid over a 10-man, I would never do one again. Managing that many people results in too many assholes concentrated in one group and inevitably leads to failure. I much prefer the 10-man groups, which are much easier to assemble and tend to run much more smoothly.

  1. This is particularly stupid in the realm of things like ICC, where you’re required to post the achievement for having killed a boss to even go on the raid. How do new people break in? The raid runners don’t care. I’ve read up on every single ICC fight and probably know some of those fights better than multi-run veterans, but I’ve yet to step foot inside ICC. []

Into Eternity’s Eye

 Posted by at 12:42  No Responses »
Sep 212010
 

Continuing my streak of successful raids, Cody, Kt, and I tackled Malygos last night for the weekly raid quest.  We had previously done a guild run on Malygos for the weekly quest, but I was playing Deowyn at the time.  Deowyn, unfortunately, also had the key required to begin the fight against Malygos.  After about an hour of unsuccessfully attempting to find a group, Cody urged me to just start one, so I did.  We were fortunate enough to find a boomkin with the key and away we went.

Phases 1 and 2 went very smoothly, owing in no small part to the fact that they’re pretty easy to explain once you’ve gone through them once.  I don’t think our DPS team ever let an orb get near Malygos, which made the fight considerably shorter than it was the last time we did it.

And then Phase 3 rolled around.

For the uninitiated, the Malygos fight works in three stages, each increasing in complexity.  The first is essentially a straight-up tank-and-spank.  Malygos is tanked more or less in the middle of a platform suspended in space while DPS unloads on him.  Occasionally, a magical orb will spawn and head slowly towards him.  If it reaches him, he gets a buff.  As such, DPS should direct all firepower on the orb as soon as they can.  It helps tremendously to have a Death Knight who can pull the orb to him, which we did.

In phase two, which kicks off as soon as Malygos drops below 50% health, the dragon takes to the skies and the group needs to stay sheltered within anti-magic bubbles he occasionally drops.  While there, they need to take out several adds that spawn in.  A small handful of these adds can be fought in melee, but it’s mostly a ranged fight.  Once those adds are all dead, phase three begins with the platform shattering.

Fortunately, a bunch of drakes are there to catch you as you fall, and it is on their backs that you need to finish the fight.  Problem One: get within 30 yards of Malygos, and you get vaporized in short order.  Problem Two: if Malygos focuses on you and you don’t deploy Flame Shield, which requires “energy” that you may not have enough of at the moment you get hit, and you get vaporized in short order.  Problem Three: If the healers don’t stack their HOTs to the full 5 stacks and then blast out their AOE heal on a regular basis, you get vaporized in short order.  Seeing a trend?

We lost half of our raid in short order.  I switched from trying to attack Malygos to healing, since it looked like our healers had both died.  This managed to sustani the other four drakes enough to beat Malygos down.  And then I got caught in Malygos’s gaze without enough energy for Flame Shield. Fortunately, he was close enough to dead at that point that my own death wasn’t an impedance to finishing him off.

I continue to dislike that fight.

Tanking

 Posted by at 12:00  No Responses »
Sep 192010
 

Somewhere in the last week or so, my tanking confidence increased considerably. Some of that comes from suddenly going from 4-4.4k GS to breaking 5k. Some of it comes from a few small UI tweaks. Some of it comes from experience. Some of it comes from just manning up and doing it more. But there was a fundamental change at one point where I went from being self-conscious for the duration of a dungeon run, to being completely unconcerned about grouping with douchebag players. At some point, I decided that if anyone was being bothersome, they’d just go on /ignore and that’d be it. If they dropped group, oh well, DPS are a dime a dozen1. If the healer dropped, meh, we’ll get another. Armed with my newfound lack of regard for jerk-ass players, tanking became way more comfortable.

Then Steve suggested I be the main tank for the weekly raid boss, Sartharion. Eek. I had tanked dungeon bosses, sure, but I knew most of those fights through-and-through from having run the dungeons so many times with Deowyn. Even then, there were surprises in store for me as a tank that I never bothered to worry about when DPSing. And now, I was being asked to group with not 4 others but 9 others and successfully lead them through much tougher content that I was far less familiar with.

I did it, though. And what’s more, we didn’t suffer a single death. And what’s more than that, our off-tank was originally DPS and switched to tanking when we couldn’t find another one. I don’t think he was even adequately geared for tanking2. So, y’know, yay for successfully tanking my first raid.

Then on Thursday, just after Wintegrasp, Steve and Cody again urge me to try tanking a raid. This time, it wouldn’t be some chintzy Tier-7 raid boss. No, this time it’d be a full Tier-10 boss: Toravon. I would again be one of two tanks, this time taking the role of off-tank while a better-geared Paladin main-tanked. Once again, we breezed through with no deaths. Granted, the 10-man VoA is much easier than the 25-man version, but all the same. Two raids, two successful runs.

Confidence: boosted.

  1. Though good DPS, mind you, are decidedly not, and I’m always grateful when good DPS are around! []
  2. Which is to say, I suspect he was not raid defense capped []
Sep 182010
 

Part of my prolonged absence from the blog here (other than the obvious excuse of being lazy), is that one of the most momentous days in my life transpired recently. Cody and I got married!

Though things were frantic as hell from Thursday 8/5 through Saturday 8/7 (the day of the wedding), the ceremony went off without a hitch and was absolutely perfect. Cody’s bridesmaids and my groomsmen processed to the opening title of Star Trek: First Contact, while Cody and her father processed to Hyperspace (which features the Binary Sunset/Force theme) from The Empire Strikes Back.

Our parents each read one of our four readings, with my mom starting with the Declaration of Principles (of the Interstellar Alliance) from Babylon 5, my dad following with a slightly edited-down version of Scalzi’s 15 Years post, Cody’s dad with Taylor Mali’s Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog, and Cody’s mom finishing with Us Two by A.A. Milne.

I wrote my vows fairly early on, which highlighted two major things: that I could never adequately express in any volume of words the depth of my love for Cody, and that the duties of a husband were not unlike those of a starship. Cody’s vows were finalized the day of, and I had no idea what they would be like until she spoke them during the ceremony. They were heartbreakingly beautiful, while still containing a wonderful amount of humor (promising to heal me when I wasn’t feeling confident in my tanking, to smile and laugh even when I repeat my latest catch phrase for the 100th time, and similar). I definitely got choked up.

We recessed to “Wander My Friends” from Battlestar Galactica and kicked off the biggest party of our lives. The food was amazing, the place was amazing, our photographer was amazing, our wedding party (and our extended wedding party — I’m looking at you, Sarah, Lisa, and Sally!), our family and friends — all amazing. Evidently, Cody and I managed to make it through our first dance without me making us look like total fools. Becky gave an adorable speech, despite laryngitis, and Nick and Jeff followed with possibly the greatest best man speech in the history of best man speeches. No, I’m not kidding. It was epic.

The party lasted until we had to shut down around 11pm or so, and then we simply relocated to the hotel to continue the festivities. Eventually, that party wound down too. The next day, many of us reconvened at Cody’s family’s cabin on Lake Monomanoc. On the way home, Cody, Kt, Ron, and I developed the epic mythos of GRO-TON while passing through Groton, and its neighboring towns of Littleton and Acton (pronounced “Action”). We also had Fras and Jess over to play Rock Band the next day. All in all, a splendid time.

And then Cody and I went on our first cruise. How to describe a cruise to someone who’s never been on one before? It’s more than just being “on a boat” and going somewhere tropical (Bermuda, in our case). To me, as a sci-fi fan, it was a fantasy-indulging taste of what it might be like to be aboard a futuristic spaceship (one featuring artificial gravity, for instance…). It was also a taste of peace. When we weren’t sleeping or eating, Cody and I spent most of our time just sitting on our balcony, overlooking infinite blue, reading. We had no other concerns. Just be with each other, read a book, and look out on the water. Incredible.

We’ve already been stirring the waters (har har) amongst our friends and family to do an epic group cruise at some point. We’ve also talked about making cruising an annual thing. It was that good.

So, all in all, the wedding was a phenomenal success and without a doubt counts as the happiest day of my life1.

  1. Subject to revision on the birth of children, whenever we get around to it! []