Thursday, June 30, 2011

Authenticator Changes, Part II

Remember those changes Blizzard made to the authenticator system?  Remember when I wondered how long it would take my kids to figure out they didn't need my authenticator to log in anymore?

Well, it happened.

When I went home for lunch, I went to my computer to download something, which is not part of my normal lunchtime routine.  There on the screen was a Horde character waiting for an absent daughter to return.  As I had just activated play schedules for the girls' accounts, there was only one conclusion:  this was my account.

To say I wasn't happy with them would be an understatement.  After lecturing them on the fact they weren't supposed to be playing games before 2:00, anyway, I reminded them they weren't supposed to be logging on to my account at all.  And then I went to the Parental Controls on my account and made a play schedule, so they simply could not log in while I was gone.

In the unlikely event I try to log on during the daytime (i.e., I'm so incredibly sick that I simply cannot sit in my solitary office at work and must be at home, in which case I'd probably be sleeping, anyway . . .) I can always log back in to Parental Controls and change them.  But at least this way I KNOW those kids are not logged in to my account.  (Shame on them . . .)

Oh, perhaps I should mention my husband's reaction to hearing about the new authenticator changes. With a somewhat bemused smile, he said, "So now the hackers just have to know how to fake your IP address to access your account."

Really makes you feel secure, doesn't it?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Trash, Glorious Trash

Although I had heard there was a lot of trash when you walk into Firelands, I wasn't quite prepared for the vast field of trash which greeted my view.  (And we thought BoT should be called "Bastion of Trash" . . .)

We spent almost the entire night on trash.

I'm not kidding.  We cleared trash to a certain point, progressing farther and farther into the fiery field, when Shannox finally spawned.  Then we cleared a little more trash to make some room for fighting the boss.  We got munched by the boss a couple of times.  Then we decided we didn't like our spot, but as we moved back to a spot we decided we liked better, closer to the entrance, we realized the trash was going to respawn.

Great.  Good time to take a break.

After the break, we cleared the trash (again) by the entrance.  There were a few, um, exciting pulls, when someone or another was knocked back or just wandered too close to another trash group.  But finally we were ready to seriously take on the boss.

After some discussion and plotting, we did manage to have some decent attempts on the boss.  The tanks figured out how to handle the stacks, which is definitely progress, so the night actually did end on a positive note.

The discouraging thing is knowing when we get in there tonight, we will have to face . . . the trash.  Again.

Considering I died about 7 times on the trash before we even faced the boss, you can guess my level of excitement and anticipation.  (I have really got to figure out why I was getting killed so often.  I wasn't pre-HoTing the tanks.  I wasn't on the top of the healing meters when they were reported to me, as Recount was out of order, so I couldn't look myself.  Why me?  Was it because I commented to the healers in healer chat that this place looked like a place where healing aggro might be a problem?  The very instance was trying to prove me right while having a laugh at my expense? /sigh)

On the bright side, a lot of people raised their reputation with Avengers of Hyjal to Friendly and picked up their new cloaks.  Also on the bright side, we now know a decent amount about what to do and not to do with the trash.  And I think four leatherworking patterns, including the leather hands, dropped and were picked up by our designated leatherworker.  (And a few purple pieces of gear dropped.)

The biggest bright sides of all:  my addons worked, and we had minimal lag problems!  I can't remember the last time a major patch came out and my important addons were all update-ready and operational immediately.  It was quite refreshing to focus on beating our heads against the trash and boss instead of beating our heads against addons and disconnects.  Yay!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Champion Chicken Made 85

This is actually a little late, as she made 85 a couple of weeks ago, I think.

She didn't even make a big deal about it.  I came home from work one day, saw her playing, and noticed she was 85.  When I congratulated her, she just smiled at me and went back to her adventures.

Her dad sat down and helped her tweak her Beastmastery spec, and the other day, I went with her to unlock the door so we could two-man the first boss of Karazhan.  (I know, not hard, but it was fun.  The cat tanked.)  No mount, which was our objective, but maybe next time.

Lately, she's been spending her time in-game doing lowbie quests, to see the stories, as well as trying to find every fire for the seasonal achievement.  (I introduced her to lists on Wowwiki so she would stop bugging me.  "Mom!  Where is the Horde fire in (insert zone here).")  I suspect she will end up being a Loremaster long before I can even think of it.  She's got the "staying power," once she has a goal.

This is the teenage daughter who I will be having officially evaluated for high-functioning autism in the next year. (The waiting list for the center is rather long. We have little doubt what the evaluation will turn up, as she has had classic symptoms her whole life.) We never pursued an official diagnosis when she was a child because we didn't want her to have an excuse for failure. And, after all, there wasn't a cure, and her school really wouldn't do anything differently than they were already doing, with the hints we gave them. But now that she's older, she might benefit from understanding more about herself and from being able to take advantage of accommodations in certain academic situations. (More time when she takes the GED, for example. Or some colleges have accommodations for students with these kinds of challenges.)

Good job, kiddo.  Way to triumph in the end.  I know you'll triumph in real life, too.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

As We Head Into the Next Level

Hooray!  It looks like Blizzard has decided to hold off on 4.2 until the 28th!  This is a good thing, as far as I am concerned.

As a raid, we're at a pretty good place.  We have solid tanks and healers, and we just recruited a few more dps.  This week saw the demise of Heroic Chimaeron, so we'll be heading into Firelands with not only a 3/12 Heroic 25 record, but a recent victory.  (Good morale booster!)

I am going to hazard a guess that our raid will take a break this week to prep for Firelands.  Raiding week after week takes its toll on people, especially when the summertime comes, and people have other things they want to do. It would be a great opportunity to let people have the chance to take advantage of the longer summer days and take their minds off the raid.  (Especially those in leadership positions, who tend to stress out more over bumps in the raiding road.)

This week is exceptionally busy for my family, as well.  I'm getting the last items into my garden (two more grapevines, and my husband still wants me to plant some green beans . . .), there was a swimming activity up at our county seat last night (wouldn't have affected raiding anyway), there's a seminar at the church tonight about identity theft (they're having an expert come and talk about it, and my daughter has volunteered to help with the child care), and my eldest daughter is having her tonsils out on Wednesday (2.5 hours away).  So a break wouldn't come amiss.

I've been starting to search for information on Firelands bosses and whatever else I'm going to have to do to maximize potential.  I combed through the list of Firelands loot and made a preliminary assessment, and I've got a reasonable stock of fish in my bank, ready for feasts.  (I think I have enough for about 100 feasts at the moment.  Fathom Eel is my limiting ingredient right now.)

Should be fun when we finally get there.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Authenticator Changes

It's a good thing I follow World of Matticus, because I had no idea Blizzard was changing the way the authenticator works.  It doesn't really disturb me because, after all, it is unlikely someone would be hacking my account from my very own IP address.  But I wish they would have given us a heads up.  Already one guild member encountered the change and was suspicious something had happened to his account.

There is a good thing about this:  if I disconnect in raid, I will not have to fumble around to turn on a little flashlight before I can log back on.  That is kind of handy.

There is a bad thing, though.  I wonder how long it will take for my kids to figure out they can log on to my account without my authenticator.  Because of a keylogger years ago, we store our passwords in a sneaky fashion on a file from which we can copy and paste.  Even though we have authenticators now, we still do this.  This means, of course, my daughters know where my password is, and the only thing which has kept the 8-yr-old off my account is the fact I keep my authenticator on my keyring, on my person . . .

Of course, the solution is simple:  move my password to a different file.  (And don't tell her where it is!!)

At least she's old enough now to not find enjoyment from flying my Druid way up above a city, changing her to another form, and watching her go *splat* . . .

Monday, June 13, 2011

I've Been Fishing . . . Again . . .

The other day, someone saw me playing my 49 paladin, Hikarinoko, and asked, "Did you stop leveling?"  He had been leveling a character about the same as Hikarinoko when she was in her 30's or so, but had since charged forth to reach 85.

Truth be told, I'm not in a hurry.  If the play starts to feel like "work", I stop.  If I'm enjoying the odd quest here and there, I keep going.  But the moment I look at a quest and think, "I just don't want to do this," or "/sigh . . . boring . . ." I log off Hikarinoko and go do something else.  This usually takes an hour or less.

So on non-raiding nights, I'm finding more pleasure lately in logging on to one of my fishing characters and restocking my fish feast ingredients.  (I'm sure there are people in the guild who will be thinking, "Glad someone wants to do it.")

I've had a decent amount of Netflix enjoyment in the process, in bits and pieces.  Here is a sampling of my chosen fishing accompaniments:

Miss Marple:  I loved it back in the heyday of A&E productions (frequently in conjunction with the BBC).  In addition to being great productions, the Miss Marple stories also inspire me to knit.  (Can't do that while fishing or herbing, however . . .)

Murder She Wrote:  Absolutely no surprise here to longer-term readers of this blog.  But, hey, considering the series ran from 1984-1996, it had to have something going for it.

Columbo:  A seminar teacher once told me that a lot of lessons can be learned from the way Columbo talks with people during his investigations.  He asks questions.  He makes small observations without stating his conclusions (causing the person to think and wonder exactly what it is he is thinking . . .)  Maybe someday I'll learn to start asking "one more thing" . . .

Babylon 5:  Wow, not a mystery program!  The pilot for this series came out in my first year of marriage, and my husband and I watched the whole series, from beginning to end.  We loved it.  I recently introduced my daughters to this series, and when my eldest heard I'd been watching while fishing, she shrieked, "You've been watching 'Babylon 5' without me?!"  ("No problem, kiddo.  We can watch it again while I knit.")

From what I read about Firelands, there should be some more interesting things to accomplish on non-raiding nights once it comes out.  All the more reason to stock up on fish now.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

You Will Show the Proper Respect!

Many of you will have echoes in your head of a particular speech cadence when you read this title.  You'll see a dark platform in Black Temple, and a boss dressed in armor with bits of brilliant blue.

And if you're like me, you still have a residual knot in the pit of your stomach . . .

Teron Gorefiend had already been killed by Tempest when I transferred to Gorgonnash, but the encounter could by no means be considered farm content by that point.  The raid leaders posted up information about the fight, including a link to an online flash simulator to teach people how to deal with being a ghost.

Remember that?  At regular intervals throughout the fight, the boss would mark one player with the Shadow of Death.  The marked player had to move to the opposite end of the platform and wait for . . . inevitable death.  Yep.  You were going to die and become a ghost.  And when you did, four Shadowy Constructs spawned around you.  And only you (or another ghost who was very efficient and had already killed his own constructs) could kill them.

Talk about pressure.

Here I was, a brand-new Restoration Druid dressed mostly in battleground gear with a few pieces I'd picked up off-spec while being a fail tank, who had never, ever stepped foot in Black Temple (ok, except for the time my friend made me solemnly promise I wasn't going to steal their lockout and took me on a tour up through the Mother Sharaz room, just so I could see the place) with great fear in my heart that I was going to totally let down the raid and be forever condemned in the WoW universe, trying to catch up on boss strats.

It wasn't a good situation.

I had worked on the simulator, as required by the raid leader.  (/wave to my old raid leader, who knows I put him on ignore as soon as he stepped down, but who is cool now.)  But those annoying constructs kept eluding my efforts to kill them on the simulator, no matter how many times I tried and beat my head against my keyboard.

I was desperate.  The only thing left to do was pray that Teron Gorefiend wouldn't pick me.

I know that God loves us and answers prayers.  But He doesn't necessarily answer all of them in the affirmative.  If I'd prayed for the ability to master the encounter, He might have acquiesced, but I'm not sure how much he puts His hand into influencing random number generators.

At any rate, when we were finally facing Teron Gorefiend and the time came for the first person to be marked with the Shadow of Death, Teron Gorefiend chose me.

The first time most people in the raid heard my voice over Vent, I was crying out in desperation and agony, "Noooo!"

I failed miserably.

We wiped.  I had to come to grips with the fact that, yes, I had let the raid down.  But somehow, I didn't find myself forever condemned in the WoW universe.  (Except in the eyes of the raid leader's mod, which whispered exactly how much of a failure you were when you died . . .)  We picked ourselves up, and we faced the boss again.

I don't remember how many attempts it took to kill him that night, but it took a few.  I discovered I wasn't the only one who had difficulty with constructs.  And I discovered that by and large, people were reasonably kind and forgiving, as long as the player was really trying their best.

Over time, I did finally master the simulator, succeeding with consistency.  I was never comfortable with the idea of being the first one marked with the Shadow of Death, but if I was the third or fourth, and had the reasonable hope of one of the more skilled players being around to help out as a ghost if I ran into trouble, I could face the situation with a larger measure of calm.

But somehow, even though I now remember that encounter with a certain amount of colorful nostalgia, I'm glad I don't have to face Teron Gorefiend again as a level 70.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Reading Directions Revisited

It has been almost a year since I wrote about guild applicants' seeming inability to read the directions before applying.  This is still a source of frustration.

I'm not really surprised at this.  Human nature in general doesn't change just because another year has passed, and applicants to Tempest most likely do not peruse my year-old blog entries before applying, so I can't say they've been warned.

Recently, we had an applicant who obviously had not read the directions.  In fact, he had missed the ending of the application form, never mind the indicator to show us he had read the "Must Read Before Applying" sticky.

I was in a good mood, so I figured I'd help him out.

I told him it looked like he had missed the end of the application and asked him if he had read the sticky, along with asking for clarification on a point where his answer had been nebulous.  His response completely ignored my first two points.  His application was not fixed, and no indicators were given.

I reminded him of those first two points.

He stated he had read the sticky and asked if he'd missed something.

I told him he had.

He finally fixed his application to include the ending portion he had previously missed.  He then proceeded to copy/paste the points in the sticky and respond to each one.  I wanted to /facepalm.

I responded with a statement thanking him for finishing his application and taking so much time to unnecessarily respond to each of the points in the sticky.  (The sticky specifically says applicants do NOT need to include it in their application . . .)  I also gave him the biggest, broadest hint I have given anyone without actually saying, "There is a key word here":  I told him I wanted to know he had read the sticky to. the. bitter. end.

I'm not sure what half of his next response meant, because it was written in language I am not in the habit of using, but it certainly did not show he had read the sticky to. the. bitter. end.

By this time, I was seriously wondering about his capability to notice details or follow directions at all.

I'm probably making too much of this.  Then again, our sticky does say that failure to read it in its entirety will result in an automatic denial of the application.

Maybe I should go do something else for a while, instead of staring at his application, thinking he must be genetically programmed against recognizing hints.  Hmmmm, I could dig in my refrigerator, find the apples which are starting to get a little too old to just cut and eat, and make an "apple pie" . . .

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Years Later, It's Still Good

Today, while waiting for things in the oven, I browsed lazily around YouTube and rediscovered a classic piece of WoW machinima.

It's the story, set to "Here Without You", of a human man and woman who one day, were killed by an Undead.  The man awakens as an Undead and sets out to destroy the warlock who killed himself and his true love.

The story is simple enough:  love, death, revenge.  But what is remarkable about this story is how it is told.

This video was made back before the currently available character creation tools.  Basically, everything in this video had to be "filmed" in-game by the people making the movie, then put together with video editing software.  It required three game accounts, and it required two of the characters to be progressed enough to have decent gear.  (I.e., it wasn't something someone could have just decided to do on a weekend without prior preparation.)

The camera angles used in the filming, as well as the transitions, are absolutely brilliant.  The use of sepia tone to indicate the flashback portions is an effective device.  The scene sequence draws in the viewer, bit by bit, through emotionally charged images.  By the time the final duel is fought, the viewer is so caught up in the story being told that the unavoidable targeting indicators on the opponent simply do not matter.

This video is an example of the kind of thing I would want to put together if I ever got serious about trying to develop the skills and talents to create machinima.  True, machinima has progressed past this point, where creators can put together things in their videos which would never been found together in-game, as well as dress their characters in clothing they didn't have to earn.  But I admire the storytelling shown in this video, as well as appreciate the planning and editing skill required, while the creators worked with minimal tools.

Sometimes the simplest things are the best, in the end.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fish Feasts, Cauldrons, and the Perfect Cup of Hot Chocolate

Sometimes, there are serious benefits to guild achievements and ranks.

Tempest has had the policy for a while now that during progression runs, food and flasks were provided by the guild.  In Wrath, feasts were generally provided by volunteers who considered their efforts a donation to the guild.  Flasks, however, were a little more difficult to come by.  In addition, it was cumbersome to pass out flasks to everyone at the start of progression content.

In Cataclysm, this has become somewhat easier.

With the fishing guild achievement, we managed to earn the Seafood Magnifique recipe, about which I've already written.  I fish for feasts to bring to raids, but other people may donate fish to the cause.  The volunteer basis seems to work out for this.

With the guild leveling, we managed to require fewer cauldrons, and the cauldron flasks last longer, which caused much rejoicing in my heart when it happened.  It caused so much general rejoicing that the guild decided to drop cauldrons not only for progression raids, but for all raids.  To accomplish this, we've asked people to donate flasks to the guild bank which are then used for cauldrons.  Our raid leader usually drops them, but sometimes I drop ones I've gathered for and made myself, which is my contribution.  :)

I've heard arguments against guilds supplying food and flasks for raiders.  Some say that supplying these things for raiders fosters attitudes of dependance and demanding.  I can understand this, having heard people ask for these things, even before it became standard to supply them normally, rather than bringing a personal supply, just in case a feast wasn't dropped or flasks weren't provided.  But in the case of our cauldrons, it's something a bit different.  Instead of the guild buying all the materials for the cauldrons, it's sort of a sharing system with mutual benefit.  If everyone contributes to the cauldrons, then each individual person is required to provide fewer flasks overall, as the cauldrons magically add a few and they are required to flask less frequently.  Win-win.

So what does the perfect cup of hot chocolate have to do with this?  Absolutely nothing at all, unless you are interested in the Starfire Espresso recipe in-game, which ends up being hot chocolate. (Look at the ingredients.) But in case you are interested in the recipe of the homemade hot chocolate I was drinking as I started this entry, here it is:

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

1 cup Nido whole powdered milk (If you're lucky enough to find it.  It's not made for the American market, so I usually find it in the Hispanic foods section.  If you can't find it, non-fat dry milk should work, but it won't taste as good.)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup baking cocoa
2 Tablespoons chocolate chips, chopped very fine.  (I use one of those chopper gizmos, but a good food processor or blender may work.  My old blender didn't . . . Some brands of chocolate chips don't chop as well as others.  Nestle seems to work reasonably well.)

Mix the mix together and put in a container with a lid.  (Mine is actually an old Nido container, lol . . .)  You might want to make a double or triple batch at a time, to save yourself the mess later of chopping more chocolate chips.

When you're ready to make hot chocolate, put about 6 ounces of water in a mug, and heat for about 1:20 in the microwave.  Put in about three heaping tablespoons of mix (more or less to taste--you'll figure it out), and stir.  Put the mug back in the microwave for 15-20 seconds, and you're done!  If you want it more frothy, take a smallish wisk and with the wisk end in the mug, roll the handle rapidly between your hands to spin the wisk.  Hot chocolate will be hot at the start, so be careful.  (You'd think it would be obvious, with the name "hot chocolate", but you'd be surprised how many people think it should be "warm chocolate" when it's first made.  Seriously, though, if you're trying to melt fine bits of chocolate chip, you need more heat than that packaged instant hot cocoa stuff needs.)

If you happen to have a hot chocolate maker, such as the one my family has, you can toss all the ingredients in there without chopping the chocolate chips, and the heat generated by the appliance will be enough to take care of it all.  That's how I make hot chocolate for the entire family (and have for several years now . . . I'm dreading the day it finally dies, because I know I won't be able to get another one for $15).  The above recipe is enough to make up a full pot, with 4 cups of water.

Yes, it's even good in the summertime, especially when it's time for raid break.