Friday, July 29, 2011

Shaking It Off

Last night was a tough raiding night, for me, anyway.

We were working on Alysrazor, an encounter for which I had been pretty excited.  But no matter how much I understood the very simple mechanic of the tornadoes, I kept dying.  (Before anyone asks, no, I wasn't keyboard-turning.  This also means I wasn't healing during the tornado phase, either--just trying to stay alive.)

Out of 25 people, I died the most. It was very discouraging.

It got to the point where if I had had any other healer at all to substitute in, I would have sat myself and gone and moped in a corner.

It got to the point where I started comparing this encounter in my head to Teron Gorefiend.

It got to the point where I wondered if I had any place playing this game anymore, or if I should just hang it up and walk away.

Alysrazor finally died.  And although I finished the encounter dead, as well, to tornadoes, there is nothing I can do to improve my tornado performance further until next week.  My fellow Druids did help me out with a small suggestion which made a big difference:  stick with the inner circles.  I hadn't realized the tornadoes were supposed to take the same amount of time going around the center, which would mean that the inner tornadoes move more slowly.  (Basic geometry.)  I thought they all had the same speed.  It was easier those last attempts, when I stuck with the inner circles, and I often found myself looking at my life bar in surprise after the tornado phase, wondering why I was at full health.  (The last time I died, I managed to try to go in between a couple of tornadoes.  Bad idea.)

One way or another, I need to shake off last night and move on.  Because the alternative would be to just quit.  And drat it all, when the day comes I leave the game, I want to do it on my terms, not because I slunk off in defeat.

Maybe my graphics card will come over the weekend, so I can get my computer fixed, and I won't have to use my husband's laptop anymore. Maybe I'll run a few heroics, so I can collect a few more anecdotes to try to relate in my sometimes amusing voice. Maybe I'll bake zucchini bread with some of the first zucchini from my garden. Maybe I'll knit. Perhaps I'll drag my husband out on a walk, in this beautiful monsoon season. Maybe I'll lose myself playing Enya on the piano. Maybe I'll start a blog on the adventures of homeschooling a mildly autistic teenager in preparation for the GED. (She took a practice GED math test yesterday and scored very well, but I'm not intending for her to really get her GED for two more years, as she just turned 15. Found a great on-line two-year program which preps not only for the GED, but also for college. Perfect.)  Maybe I'll get some badges and be able to pick up my new relic.  Maybe I'll study up on Ragnaros, because I have complete confidence Majordomo is going down next time we meet.

Next week is another chance to do it right.

First Tempest 25-man Alysrazor Kill

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Parenting Teenagers

I was making one of my increasingly infrequent forays to the World of Warcraft forums, when I happened upon a thread about allowing 15-16-yr-old players into a raiding guild.

In Tempest, it is rare indeed for us to accept a raider who hasn't finished high school.  We have our reasons.  We've had some bad experiences with kids who were very immature, kids who didn't have the commitment level we wanted, or kids who couldn't control their schedules.  Are there adults who fit these descriptions, as well?  Sure.  But the percentage of kids who have these issues is much higher than the percentage of adults who do.  It's a matter of the level of risk we're willing to take when recruiting someone.

I skimmed the thread with little real interest, because I've already read the reasons and rationale, until I hit this post
Also, I wouldn't count a 15-16 year old as a kid. Lastly, normally, i your 15 or 16, your parents should(keyword here) trust you enough to control your own schedules. This is just my two cents, so feel free to disagree with me. I welcome it.
Not going to comment on the spelling or grammatical errors.

I felt the blood rise to my face.  My first impression was that the writer was probably not far from 15-16, himself, or at least, had no teenagers of his own.  In other words, this person had no clue, no perspective at all, what it took to parent a teenager and how utterly immature and downright irresponsible and flighty teenagers could be.  Trust them to control their own schedules?  It's against everything parents are taught about how to keep their teens out of serious trouble with drugs, alcohol, pregnancy, on-line pornography, etc.  A caring parent pays close attention to their teen's whereabouts, asking what they will be doing, whom they will be with, when they will be back, and pulling the plug on any activity they deem too potentially dangerous or hazardous to the teen's health and well-being.

My just-turned-15-yr-old and almost-17-yr-old are both not ready for me to trust them completely with their schedules.  I've observed them.  I'd trust my 13-yr-old with her schedule before I'd trust these two, because she has, in the past, acted more responsibly.  (Even so, she still needs to be reminded to charge her cell phone.)

I felt as if this individual was judging me as a parent when he knows nothing about my children.  How dare he?

I thought about writing something to this person (not the above statements, obviously,) and decided it wasn't really relevant to the thread.  The comment was a sideline issue and had nothing to do with whether or not a guild should accept 15-16-yr-olds into its raid.

Now, that said, there may be 15-16-yr-olds who are mature and responsible enough to allow their caring, responsible parents to trust them with their schedules.  But since I've been a parent, I haven't met any.  My husband, who went so far as to graduate from high school when he was 15--a mark of precociousness and maturity by most standards--would be the first to tell you he was extremely immature and should have been sent to a military junior college, so he could finish growing up in a very strict environment.  (After getting himself into what could have been serious trouble, he did join the military at age 17, which he said was the best thing for him at that time and turned his life around.)

Researchers have found that it isn't just parents' imagination that teenagers are missing something in the area of good judgement.  On the website for the Children's Hospital Boston, there is an article entitled "The Teenage Brain" which touches on this subject.
Although teens' brains are superior in some ways, they're distinctly immature in one key area. The last part of the brain to fully connect up—well past the teenage years—is the frontal lobe, which houses judgment, insight, dampening of emotions and impulse control. Since it isn't fully developed, there's a cognitive chasm between coming up with an idea and being able to decide if it's actually a good one. "This begins to explain why these smart little whippersnappers are so incredibly risk-taking and irrational," says Jensen. "These are people with very sharp brains, but they're not quite sure what to do with them."
In other words, perhaps parents are right NOT to trust their 15-16-yr-olds to control their own schedules.  (Boy, it sure would be easier on us if we could . . .)

Long ago, I read this saying: "How strict should parents be?  Like the supporting ropes on a young tree.  Every once in a while you loosen up on the rope, and one day you find out it can stand up by itself."  When I encountered it, I was 13 and reading a chapter about understanding one's parents, but the thought stuck with me.  My parents weren't strict because they didn't like me.  They were strict because they were trying to help me grow in the right direction.

Parents need to understand their individual children enough to know how much control they can give to the child and how much they need to retain. As the children demonstrate increased responsibility, the parents can allow them more freedom.  Sweeping generalizations about whether or not 15-16-yr-olds are mature enough to control their own schedules make no sense.

And since I know this, I will not permit such a sweeping generalization to feel like an accusation against myself and raise my blood pressure.  After all, I know better.

Now, if Tempest receives an application from an exceptionally mature 15-16-yr-old in a time zone such that the raids will not end up being so late it will cause consternation to the parents, it is possible he may be accepted into the raid.  But I'd feel better about it if we had a chat with the parents as part of the recruitment process.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Back From Vacation!

Yep, we're back.  Everything did get done before the vacation, as I said it would, despite my raiding that week, and we all had a good time.  Now I need a vacation after my vacation . . . . I feel like I got hit by a truck, and my sunburned shoulders are peeling . . .

At any rate, my husband is pretty sure now that the issue with  my computer is the video card and not a driver.  The computer has an on-board graphics capability, so I can word process and surf the Internet with the nice card removed, but it is completely insufficient for playing WoW.  (My auction toon was experiencing black flashes on low resolution in Ironforge.)  I was able to go 2-man some Burning Crusade content with my daughter (lots of black flashes), but when I tried to take my Druid out to Deepholm to go fishing, it completely and totally choked, giving me the blue screen of death, and restarting Windows.  (Something about being unable to refresh the screen.)  Twice.  That's when I decided it just didn't like Cataclysm content.

As my husband is kind enough to let me use his laptop for raiding, I wasn't about to insist he let me use it on non-raiding nights (and deny him the enjoyment of playing the computer game he downloaded recently).  So I snagged the girls' computer after they went to bed and did my fishing, while reading a free book on the Kindle reader of my smartphone.  (Bet you didn't know you could read and fish at the same time . . . Well, remember in Deepholm, fishing for Lavascale Catfish, you're not pursuing pools, and with maxed fishing, you don't have to click terribly quickly after it splashes.  Simple enough, if you've got the sound on.)

At this point, I'm sincerely hoping the problem is just the video card.  That's a reasonably simple fix.  If we get a new card and the problem is still there, it means we have to look at other things, which would be a bit more complicated.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Never Seen That Strat Before

Not all my Cataclysm Heroic adventures meet with wild success. Not too terribly long ago, I queued and was happy to see the loading screen for Lost City of Tol'vir, because, although that location was the place which consciously inspired "Chase the Tank," I actually like the instance.

Immediately upon zoning in, the tank said, "brb." After several minutes, we were starting to speculate on what was taking him so long, including my suggestion that he was making a smoothie. When he returned, we discovered I hadn't been far off--he had been making food, but it was enchiladas. (He had no idea what I meant when I asked him if he had red or green sauce on his enchiladas, which shows he was not from New Mexico. The state question here is "Red or Green?" Seriously, we have a state question.)

We worked our way to General Husam and started on the boss. For some insane reason, the boss decided to pick me every single time he was slamming someone with Bad Intentions. The warlock actually had to battle rez me when I was smashed into a pillar and landed right on a bomb which blew up. I had a very difficult time keeping both the tank up and myself, with all the damage I was taking.

Suddenly, in the middle of the boss fight, the tank left group. Immediately, we wiped, and the dps asked, "What did he do that for?"

"I think he decided I was fail," I replied.

We managed to get a new tank, who asked what had happened. We told him we really didn't know. The tank hadn't said anything and had left mid boss fight.

"Maybe he wanted to eat his enchiladas in peace," one of the dps remarked.

The new tank got on his mount and immediately headed toward the boss. I expected to see him dismount and attack the boss, but instead, he kept on running. He gathered up the trash pack on the other side and continued around the building, losing health as he went. As the dps and I watched in amazement, he reappeared on the other side of the building, dragging the boss and the trash packs with him.

This meant, of course, when he passed us, we all got killed.

We probably should have seen it coming and run out the exit.  But I think I can safely say the dps were all as I was, jaws hanging open, puzzling in our minds what exactly the tank was trying to accomplish.

It is not often I meet with someone who is simply a jerk, but I think this tank met the criteria. I addressed him, thanking him for his unusual new insights into boss strategy, and left the group, putting his name on my Ignore list.

At least he didn't waste too much of my time before showing his true colors.

I requeued in short order.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Technical Difficulties, Part II

All indicators point to a video card problem of some kind.

Last night, I did raid, but it was on my husband's laptop, hooked into my peripherals.  As I used the monitor all last night, I know the problem is not the monitor . . . (By the way, many thanks to Beru for her Power Aura exports.  I would never have finished configuring the addons on my husband's computer in time if I had had to make those from scratch.)

My husband says he thinks it's actually a driver problem, not a hardware problem, so he says he's not done messing with it.

Although he doesn't entirely approve of my raiding the week before we leave on vacation ("How will everything get done?"  "Don't worry, Honey, it will . . .") he is very sweet to let me use his laptop.  ("When I saw your face after I made the suggestion, how could I refuse?")

It's a good thing, because after watching how slowly things happen on my daughters' computer, I'm not sure that option would have worked out anywhere close to anyone's satisfaction.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Technical Difficulties

My computer has been very reliable since I got it . . . when was it . . . two years ago?  It came as a package, including the computer, monitor, keyboard and mouse, which my husband picked up as a surprise while at a large box store.  He replaced the video card and the power supply (the latter swiped from my other computer), and handing off the keyboard and mouse to the kids, in favor of my more spiffy supplies, I was good to go.

Until yesterday evening, that is.

The raid was slow to get started, as several of our healers either had family commitments or computer issues (or *ahem* wanted to read a book . . . you know who you are . . .)  We talked a moonkin into healing and took a jaunt over to Baradin Hold.  Afterward, we started on Firelands trash.  It all seemed like a fairly normal raid night.

Then my computer screen went blank.

I stared at it in shock, wondering what was going on.  I powered off the monitor, then powered it back on, and I saw a message that Windows was restarting.  Oh, ok.  Very odd.  Not terribly comforting, but ok.

Windows' problem solver suggested I needed to update my video drivers.  Ok, I thought, I'll do that after raid.  I logged back on.

And a couple of trash  mobs later, my monitor went blank again.  This time, it refused to acknowledge any signal.  My computer was still on, and I knew some signals were coming out of it, because my keyboard was still lit, and the screen on it was still displaying who was talking on Vent.

I called to my husband.  He checked the VGA cable and wondered if we should try connecting it with an HDMI cable (which took a little effort to find.)  But no luck.  Changing the connection didn't help.

So we hard-rebooted the computer.  (I texted the GM to let him know what was going on.)

The display came back off.  Instead of filling the whole screen, it left about an inch of black space around it.  Willing to deal with a smaller display for a while if necessary, I logged back into WoW.

This time, I found that the raid had, predictably, brought in a healer who had finally shown up and booted me out of the raid group.  (Probably so my character would leave Firelands.)  I traveled from Stormwind to the Firelands and hovered outside the instance.  And . . . . my screen went blank again.  Another hard reboot was required.  (More texting . . .)

My husband did some more work to my computer, cleaning up some stuff, updating drivers to both the monitor and the video card, etc.  He managed to work with the settings to allow the display to fill the entire screen.  (Although for some insane reason, my desktop icons were all out of order.)

I told him I'd mess with it and log onto an alt just to test the arrangement.  This time, the screen went blank before I hit the loading screen after login.

We decided it might be a WoW problem.  He suggested I open WoW in a window, instead of full screen.

"But how can I do that unless I can actually log into WoW first?"  I asked him.

He replied, "There are always ways.  Take a look around and see what you can find."

Accordingly, I started searching, but my search yielded nothing useful.  The only way I could see of opening WoW in a windowed mode required me to actually be in WoW to start.  I started perusing the forums, seeing if other people were having an error similar to mine, but nothing was showing up.  (And, in fact, a lot of very frustrated people were showing up, getting no answers to their problems, so I wondered exactly how helpful the Technical Support forums would actually be . . .)

And suddenly my screen went blank.

That shot that theory.

It was rather late in the evening by that point, so my husband decided to finish up his movie (or, rather, the first half, as it is a four-hour movie), and deal with my computer the next day.  So we sat down and enjoyed once more dramatic footage of Col. Chamberlain and the 20th Maine charging with fixed bayonets down Little Round Top.  (Although it's not actually filmed on Little Round Top, as there is a paved road right there, and the filmmakers couldn't do it well.  It's also extremely rocky.  My favorite part is Ellis twirling down the hill . . . back when officers had to lead from the front.  I could talk about this movie forever, actually, as well as the book upon which it is based, The Killer Angels.  If you haven't read it or watched the movie, you have no concept what a pivotal moment this was in the battle and, therefore, in the entire Civil War.)  Good way to end a very frustrating evening.

The next step is for my husband to swipe the girls' monitor, which was mine and fairly new before I got this computer, and see if the same error is repeated.  I know we've got a spare monitor lying around somewhere they can use if it ends up working out all right.  If the same error is repeated . . . well, I don't know the answer and will have to rely on my husband's expertise.  (As I've been doing throughout this entire episode.)

And if worst comes to worst . . . oh, boy, I hope we don't have to start replacing parts . . . because, as you know, we live in a rural area, so we can't just go hit Best Buy or something and pretty much have to order everything over the Internet.  (And this being a week with two of my healers completely out, it's a very bad week for me to be out, too.)  On the bright side, we're heading on vacation next week, so at least the parts would have time to travel from whatever warehouse to our home before I would be scheduled to return, anyway.  (Or we could possibly pick them up at our destination.)

I wonder if my daughters' computer has enough juice to keep up with Firelands, if I go ahead and install Vuhdo on it.  Very iffy . . . I hope it won't come to that.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

More Heroic Adventures!

And the fun continues!  Despite the insistence by raiders much more serious than I am that everyone should be running Troll Heroics to cap Valor each week, I am still sticking with the regular Cataclysm Heroics.  If my guild downs a few Firelands bosses, I can with little trouble reach the cap in this fashion. (By the way, thank you, Kurn, for pointing out I really don't have to do the dailies in Hyjal if I don't want to do them.  I realized there is limited benefit to me at this point in time, so . . . I'm not going to do them unless I just feel like it that day.  No big hurry.)

Truthfully, however, this week I did not cap my Valor points.  One more boss in raid, and it would have been simple.  In addition, I took an evening off of Heroics to celebrate my wedding anniversary by sitting down with my husband to watch Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in "Charade".  (When you live in the sticks, sometimes your celebration options are limited.)

Chasing the Tank Again, or Not

The other day, I queued and found myself in an Heroic Shadowfang Keep (much to the surprise of my 13-yr-old, who didn't know level 85 characters could run Shadowfang Keep.)  The warrior tank had two of his dps guildies along for the ride, the odd dps out being a DK.  As the warrior had his "Defender" title, I was confident this run would be reasonably simple.

Sure enough, we easily moved from the start through the first boss, without even blinking.  (Talk about chasing the tank . . . chain-pulling like crazy.)  He proceeded to the courtyard and pulled a group back into the room where the rest of us waited, as we expected him to do.

Then he did something we did not expect.  Unlike every other tank of my acquaintance, he did not return to the courtyard and pull another group back into the room.  I think I was the first person in the room, including his guildies, to realize he was down in the courtyard, fighting a group, and about to die.

We ran into the courtyard, but it was too late to save him or us.  As I wisped back to the entrance, I typed out, "Would have been nice if you had said you were going to stay in there."

He figuratively stuck his nose in the air, and saying, "Yea, and it would have been nice if you had been paying attention," he promptly left group with his guildies.

Good riddance.

I talked a bit with the DK, who agreed that the tank was unreasonable (I confess to calling him an idiot), as it was a perfectly normal expectation he would pull a second pack into the room.  (The DK actually contended that every other tank would LoS pull a second pack, but I can't speak for every tank, only the ones I've met.)  We decided to go ahead and refill the group.

To my surprise, our next tank ended up being this DK, which was actually a much better arrangement than the previous one.  Not only did he keep an eye on my mana, he managed to hold aggro so well I could completely pre-HoT him before a pull without worrying about pulling an add on me.  (Which has been almost unheard of in these Heroics lately.)

We breezed through the instance, and before we disbanded, I made sure to tell the tank how refreshing it was to be able to pre-HoT without worrying about pulling aggro.  It made him happy.

Shortcut to Valor

The next Heroic I entered was an Heroic Throne of the Tides.  (Remember how I hate that one?)  As the loading screen disappeared, I found myself with the tank, staring at Lady Naz'jar.

That spoke volumes.

As the dps reached our position, the kitty Druid exclaimed, "Yay, Druid healz!"  I had to wonder what exactly had happened their previous attempt(s) . . . but up to the challenge, I twirled my wrists a couple of times to loosen them and prepared for the pull.

Whatever had happened before, it must not have happened this time, because we managed to get the boss down in short order.  (Sure, there was a bit of tricky healing, but it all ended well.)  We continued on to Commander Ulthok and watched him fall.  The kitty commented that none of his other groups had ever gotten this far.  (Poor kitty.)

Then the tank surprised me.  We took the transporter back, but instead of turning right, down that nightmarish hallway of strange packs and mobs which make you fly in the air before pounding you into the dirt, he turned left, facing the gauntlet and the final boss.

It hadn't even occurred to me that you could skip the Stonespeaker and Mindbender encounter.  I'd never before been in a group which did.  After a little research, I find this is probably more amazing than not, as apparently a lot of people skip that boss now.  (Wow, new surprises all the time . . .)

I was so relieved by the situation that I didn't mind all the mad healing for the gauntlet.  It was a lot easier than the other hallway.

We one-shotted Ozumat, and went on our way.  Start to finish, less than a half an hour, no wipes, and 70 Valor.  Now that is efficient.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Wedding Anniversary

Yesterday, my husband and I have been married for 19 years.  In today's day and age, having a 19-yr-old marriage is an accomplishment, one which at 8 years, we weren't sure we were going to achieve.  (I often tell people it took us 9 years to decide we really wanted to be married.)

But after 19 years, we have five daughters ranging from almost 17 to just turned 8.  We've lived in four states and over a dozen houses or apartments.  (Including some accommodations which were definitely unconventional . . . ever lived in a drop-in truck camper and a 12x20 shed?  With three small children?  In the rural desert?  With a husband who is traveling for work and so is only home every couple of weeks or so?  At least I had Internet access, or I would have gone absolutely bonkers.)  And although we may have thought life was getting a little too exciting for us at times (oh, boy . . .), at least we have never been bored.

Some years ago, on a forum, a young person posted a list of things one should do before getting married.  They were all self-centered ideas, wholly inadequate to prepare someone for marriage, ranging from enjoying leaving your underwear lying around the bathroom to permitting yourself rude behavior in your solitude.  It occurred to me at the time that while the list was most likely written as a joke, too many people do not take marriage seriously.  So I wrote up a response:

8 Things You Should Have Done Before Getting Married

1. Lived on your own for a while. It's important to know you can take care of yourself before having to take care of another person.

2. Learned the fine art of conversation. If you expect to be with your spouse for years on end, you want to make sure you are still as fascinating twenty years and four kids from now.

3. Volunteered in some sort of community service. Marriage is a giving proposition. Develop those skills early.

4. Pursued a dream, no matter how small. It will enrich your life forever.

5. Apologized to those guys you dropped flat as a pancake. You'll be able to live with yourself better and won't have those actions haunting you years later in your conscience.

6. Watched the sun rise or set in silent solitude. It is important to know you can live with your own thoughts before having to deal with another person's psychological quirks.

7. Kept your eyes wide open on your proposed spouse before marriage, and resolved to keep them half-closed after marriage. You're going to have to live with some imperfections. Just make sure beforehand those imperfections are ones you can live with for a good, long time.

8. Spoken with someone who has been married for 50 years, to learn the real secrets and priorities of a good marriage. Sometimes the newest ideas are not always the best ideas.

Blogging Anniversary

And in another couple days, it will mark two years from the time I first posted on this blog.

So far, not including this one, I have published 158 posts.  (Written quite a few more, but wisely did not publish many of them.)  Only 30 were written in the first year.  Only 10 were written in the first six months.  Like the geek that I am, I graphed it all out in increments of 3 months and was pleasantly surprised to find a steadily increasing curve, after the first nine months, which were strictly linear, interval to interval.  (I'm pretty sure that the curve will cease increasing after a while.  There are only so many blog posts I can create in a three-month interval without starting to repeat myself or sound trite.  Then again, if I did repeat myself  or revisit a topic I've already covered, the newer readers probably wouldn't know the difference, anyway . . .)

People from 43 countries have viewed my blog.  Remember my fascination with this?  They may have found it by tripping over their own feet and left as quickly as it took them to hit the "Back" button, but they came.  I think some came only to make sure their websites advertising information about on-line colleges or golf swings showed up on my statistic list of traffic sources, hoping for me to follow the links back.  Some people actually searched for this blog, while others found it when searching for hints on electric guitar restoration or hokey pokey videos.  (I've linked the posts I think managed to be searched out by those terms.)  Whatever the reason, they found it, and thus added to my country collection.

In closing, I include my country list, which I have carefully kept over the course of . . . whenever it was Blogspot implemented the Statistics feature . . . about a year?

Antigua and Barbuda  (That's how it showed up on the stats.)
Saudi Arabia
South Korea
Sri Lanka
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom

Friday, July 8, 2011

Wow, I Like It!

Yesterday, I took a trip to Wow Insider and read their Breakfast Topic.  The title read, "What have you tried in WoW that you never thought you'd enjoy?"  It got me thinking.  But, rather than give them a free two-paragraph blurb buried in their comment section, I decided to write about it here, instead.

For me, the answer which immediately springs to mind is "Battlegrounds".

"Growing up" in Vanilla WoW on a PVP server with an active Horde population determined to kill any Alliance which wandered into view, I had a tainted view of PVP.  To me, that was all PVP was:  the constant effort to kill other players for sport.

It reminded me of the hour-long foray my husband and I had made ages and ages ago in Dark Age of Camelot, when they first opened up a PVP server on which anyone could attack anyone, regardless of faction.  (And steal some of your cash.)  We realized quickly this kind of playstyle was not for us and returned to our normal server for the duration of our time in DAOC.

True, I had tried a couple of times to enter the DAOC faction vs. faction battleground areas, but when I had taken the time to go, nothing had been happening.  I mean nothing.  The few other players in my faction stood around, reinforced the doors to our keep (I had raised my woodworking), and twiddled our thumbs until I got bored and left.

So whenever someone mentioned PVP in any form in WoW, I got a bad taste in my mouth.

But you'd be surprised what people will do for money, or to save money.

When my Druid reached level 60, I immediately spec'd her into Restoration, only because Innervate was the end talent in the tree and one I felt was just too cool to pass up.  I had no real intentions to do instances or raiding.  In fact, I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to do, and realized if I was going to play at all, I needed a goal.  I decided I wanted my epic ground mount.

I had worked hard to get my first 100 gold for my regular speed ground mount at level 40 by fishing, but I knew if I tried to fish my way to 1000 gold for my epic mount, it would take years.  (Remember, the value of gold was much greater in those days.  Not only were the mounts more expensive, but there was less currency floating around the economy, so prices on the Auction House were lower.  For a non-raider, 1000 gold was a lot of money.)

That's when I learned that one of the rewards for gaining PVP rank was an epic mount for less than 100 gold.  The real cost:  time in the Battlegrounds.

The PVP ranking system was actually based more on time than on any skill a person might have.  Each week, on each server, by faction, players gained or lost rank by the number of honor points they had racked up the previous week.  Players gained honor points whenever you helped someone in a kill, as well, so a healer could gain honor by tossing a heal on someone actually beating on an enemy player.

The ranking was not done strictly by the raw amount of honor.  Someone couldn't just come out of nowhere and gain the highest rank by a dedicated week of PVP, and a player couldn't be dropped from rank 10 to rank 1 in a single week.  There was a progression by which people would gain or lose rank once they reached it, depending on their PVP action that week.  Of course, the higher a player was in rank, the more that player would have to play to maintain that rank or gain the next.

At certain levels, rewards were available.  As you gained in rank, armor was made available for purchase, and at rank 11, the epic riding mount became available.

Although I had never had a desire to set foot in a Battleground, and although I had avoided all forms of PVP to that point, that Rank 11 epic riding cat became my goal.

With the support of my family, I took a deep breath and started on the path, determined that, no matter what, I would pay my dues.  I learned pretty quickly not to worry about dying in a Battleground, because I would not lose points.  I also learned to stick with a group whenever possible, because as a healer, that was the way I gained my honor the most quickly.  (Tab-targeting and spamming HoTs on anyone in the area taking damage made for a lot of assists in kills.  I didn't know what addons were at that point in my play.)  As Battlegrounds were restricted to a single server at the time, people started recognizing me and enjoyed having me around, as I was a healer who actually *gasp* healed, and I was happy to be appreciated.

As I learned more about the various games, I found I was actually having fun.  With the exception of Warsong Gulch, which I avoided like the Plague after my first few runs, it was a thrill.  I learned something of the strategy required for Arathi Basin and Alterac Valley.  I discovered the sideline quests which could be done in epic AV battles to give one's team an edge (which nobody ever does anymore, because Blizzard made them irrelevant).  And, because I was not terribly concerned about dying or even horribly worried about winning, I could enjoy the dance of the battle with little to no pressure, knowing that as long as I kept healing people in the thick of it all, I was gaining honor and getting closer to my goal.

That's not to say I never got competitive.  If the Alterac Valley was at a stalemate, I would join the other stealthers to go capture unguarded towers or kill wolves in Horde territory for the skins needed to make bridles for ram riders.  A trick I learned later on, after the honor system was changed, was to stealth into the Horde encampment, sneak up to a tower, cap the flag, and hide in various locations which will not be disclosed in this blog to wait for the Horde to come cap it back.  As soon as they got bored and left, I'd cap it again.  If they started guarding the tower, I'd cap the graveyard to get them out of it.  And if they started guarding both, I'd sit tight and eat a snack until they got bored and left.  It usually ended up keeping four or five people out of the main battle, because they were too busy running around looking for me.  I felt very powerful, in a sneaky, annoying sort of way.

I got that cat.  And even though a few weeks later, it was made available to anyone who came up with enough Battleground marks (a new implementation), I still ride it.  It represents weeks (*ahem* months) of fun and hard work, a hurdle crossed, and a goal reached.  Because, you see, those people who got the cat with marks still had to pay 1000 gold, to learn the 150-level riding skill, which was implemented at that time.  If you look at my cat, you will see it has a riding skill requirement of 75, which was Blizzard's way of not completely trivializing the reward for those who had earned it the hard way.

I don't run Battlegrounds much anymore, but when I do, I usually choose Arathi Basin.  And even now, I get a thrill in the middle of the action, as I use my healing skills to prop up other players in the face of Horde attackers who think they can just roll over us.  I can't help but giggle in delight when a dps player and myself manage to somehow defend a flag against a slightly larger force of attackers and figuratively high-five each other as we sit to catch our breath.  It's also great fun to use a wider array of my Druidic skills than I usually use while raiding.

And I would never have learned how much fun Battlegrounds are if I hadn't been short of money.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Two Bosses In Two Days

Technically, if you count the BH boss, three.

We might be a week late, but Tempest stepped it up and killed some Firelands bosses.

Tuesday evening, fresh on the heels of a couple of 10-man Shannox kills the previous weekend, the official 25-man raid downed the hunter and his pesky puppies.

Excited not to have all that trash on the plains anymore, we headed across the valley toward the lair of the giant Red Widow, Beth'tilac.  By the end of raid, the death of the boss was in our minds as a definite possibility, and we returned on Wednesday with every expectation of smashing this spider in short order.

But it took a little longer than we had anticipated.

At the last minute, our Discipline Priest posted on the forum that he would be unable to attend raid Wednesday evening.  As he and one of our Holy Paladins had been the healers on top of the web, healing our DK tank, it meant we needed to change our arrangements a little.  We sent one of our skilled Resto Shamans up with the pally, the DK tank, and five dps.  Then we pulled the boss.

The tank on the web died.

This happened several times.  The more we analyzed it, the more we realized exactly how much we were missing that Discipline Priest.  Over several attempts, we changed things up here and there, reducing the number of dps on the web, so as not to spread out the healers' efforts, switching a healer at one point because one of the healers wasn't sure his allergies weren't affecting his healing, etc.  But the tank still died.  (And the replacement healer handed the reins back to the original one.)

Finally the raid leader asked me if we should put a third healer up on the web.  As all the strategies I had read indicated three healers would be serious overkill (i.e., if you need three healers on the web, something is definitely wrong), and as we only had six healers to begin with (so leaving only three healers on the ground could be an issue), I resisted that idea, despite it being suggested more than once.

With a little more thought, we decided perhaps things would work out better if the DK tanked on the ground and our bear tank went up on the web.

Suffice it to say that it worked.  It didn't work on the first try, but we started making it into phase two more consistently and, finally, in a very sloppy kill, the spider lay dead on the ground.  The only people still alive were the two tanks and a rogue.

But it was a kill!

We took a peek at Alysrazor--just enough to be excited and energized for the next evening.  (Seriously, who wouldn't like that boss entrance?  And this whole place, with the Druid-y connections, is thrilling for this long-term Druid.  Since the "bad guys" are corrupted Druids, it sort of makes me feel like I have a responsibility as a Druid to clean up the situation . . . Druids take care of their own.)

Two out of seven.  We're on our way!  Grats to the Tempest raiders!

Postscript:  By the way, we're recruiting healers.  Our roster has been depleted by a banning (no idea why--he didn't even log on for 25 days until Tuesday) and people deciding they wanted pvp instead of pve.  We could really use a good priest and another Resto Druid, but we'll consider any class except Resto Shaman, as we already have three.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Rats, Part III

Finally!  The gal who had rats was a little busy for the last month and a half or so, which isn't surprising, given that a forest fire was threatening their home.  (Evacuations, etc.)  But on July 4th, I happened to be passing the desert museum where she works, so I thought I'd drop in and see what could be done.

What luck!  She was there.  Even more lucky, she had rats available at home.  They had been intending to feed the snakes that day, but her husband had been called out on an EMT call and had had to postpone.  So she told us when they went to feed the snakes the following day, she would have her son pick out two cute females for us.

Today my daughter and I went by the museum again to pick up her rats.  They were snuggled together, one black, and one white.  "They look like yin and yang!" my daughter exclaimed. 

So Yin and Yang they have become, even though they are both female.  For the next couple of days, we're keeping them in a smaller container, placed next to the larger habitat, so Daisy can get used to their smells and so they can get used to Daisy's.  Then we'll start to introduce them and go from there.

But for now, the girls are completely enchanted just watching the two new little rat friends peek out at them from the bedding in their container.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Heroic Adventures

Running Cataclysm Heroics as a slightly overgeared healer is a lot more fun than running them as a healer geared to the level of the instances.  Even so, I find my adventures.  The main reasons are because many of the other players are undergeared, or else they think they can take more risks, because the healer is overgeared.

Chasing the Tank

The other day, for instance, I found myself in an Heroic Lost City of Tol'vir.  No problem, I thought.  This is a fun instance.  As we went on, I think the tank realized I could manage things pretty well, because he started chain-pulling the trash.  Tanks, no matter how well-geared your healer is, if she has to keep tossing out heals because you or the dps are not as well-geared, sooner or later, she is going to need to replenish her mana.  I found myself dropping on the ground to drink for the four seconds or so I could get away with until the tank absolutely needed another heal.  I commented in Druid chat (in short bursts, because that was all I could manage while casting), "This tank needs a hearty rendition of 'Chase the Tank.'"

After the run, I made a macro inviting tanks to listen to the song, specifying the YouTube URL.  I doubt I will ever actually click it, but it gave me a sense of satisfaction.

Unwelcome Moonfire

Another fun run was a Blackrock Caverns.  As soon as I saw the graphic, I thought, "Oh, this will be easy.  I can heal this one with my eyes closed."  It's a good thing I kept my eyes open.  I found myself in a group with a tank (pally--for some reason, I've had a lot of pally tanks), an Enhance shammy, and two moonkins.  I was quite surprised until I realized both moonkins were from the same guild and probably queued together.  (Lot o' orange on my Vuhdo.)

Everything started out fine.  The tank seemed to know what he was doing, more or less, in pulling the trash in increments.  When the first boss entered the room, the pally paused to wait for him to pat back out, so as not to pull the other group waiting on the other side of the room.  But apparently one moonkin decided he was bored and didn't want to wait.

I watched in amazement as a Moonfire hit the boss, and both the boss and the trash pack immediately beside him charged in our direction.  I wanted to punch a moonkin, but I didn't know which one had tossed the moonfire.  In the mayhem, while the tank feverishly worked to pick up the adds, I managed to die.  A moonkin tossed me a BR, but now I was in the gimped position of having to keep everyone alive through the boss and the extra group with just the mana from my innervate and a quick Mysterious Potion.  I hearkened back to my undergeared days and practiced focused triage healing, keeping the tank up and everyone else at about half health or so, with heavy use of Nourish.  I think I lost a moonkin in the process, if I recall correctly, but we made it through the encounter.  It wasn't the last time one of the moonkins decided he wanted to pull . . . I wasn't disappointed to see the last of them after the instance was complete and I got my 70 Valor.

Drowning Beneath the Sea

Yesterday, I found myself in Throne of the Tides.  My 14-yr-old heard me groan upon seeing the loading graphic, and when she asked me what was wrong, I told her, "I hate this one."

This run ended up being interesting for a couple of reasons.  The tank was playing his pally alt, when he is used to playing his bear main, so he kept forgetting he was undergeared.  And the mage, who happened to be a guildie of the tank, kept standing in stuff.  I spent so much time keeping the mage alive sometimes that I almost made a conscious decision to let him die.  (Lost him a few times, but you can't always keep alive a squishy mage who thinks he can stand in poison.)

We did manage to make it through, but it took a few wipes (lost track of the number--at least half a dozen) and a LOT of mana.  On the gauntlet with the water elementals, it was absolutely crazy trying to keep the tank alive (we did wipe there once because he forgot he couldn't just gather them all up and be fine in his present gear) as well as trying to keep myself alive from everything I managed to pull via healing aggro.  I almost died on the attempt we were successful, but the tank remembered he had Lay on Hands and used it.  I made sure to tell him afterward it was a well-timed move.

At least nobody lost their temper, bailed out, kicked anyone, etc.  We finished the instance with the same people who started it.  (With the exception of the rogue who was afk at the start, but I don't count him.  He never really started the instance.)

Honestly, in these situations, I really don't get too upset or agitated.  They amuse me, and they challenge me, but they don't raise my blood pressure.  Maybe it's because I know I don't really have anything to prove in these instances.  If I succeed, people will take it for granted, because I'm overgeared.  If I make a mistake and we wipe, they will most likely not blame me, anyway, because I'm overgeared.

It's all fun and games, and I haven't yet been denied a chance for Valor.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

There's a First For Everything

With the sudden need for Valor points, I found myself running heroic randoms again . . . the first time since I managed to become raid-ready in Cataclysm.  But, as I had only managed to fight Jin'do in the Troll Heroics, I decided it wasn't worth the trouble to try running them at all, when I could run a familiar and lower-level Cataclysm heroic, instead.  Fewer Valor points, true, but a lot less stress.

After one night of this, I started wondering if maybe, just maybe, I wanted to try to run a Troll Heroic.  Break out of my shell.  Try something adventurous and new.  Take a risk.  Something.

Saturday evening, I finally got the nerve to try for a random Troll Heroic instance.  I researched the abilities of the bosses, so I knew what I needed to do and not do, and I even made little notes on a piece of paper with keywords, so I would remember my research.

I looked at my 13-yr-old daughter and asked, "Am I brave enough to do this?"  She nodded and said, "Yes, Mom, you're brave enough."

I smiled at her and queued, just at her bedtime.  /waves bye to 13-yr-old.

Seven minutes later, I was in Zul'Gurub with a pally tank, a mage, a rogue, and a hunter.

Troll instances make me just about as lost as Kharazhan, but I knew as long as I stuck with the tank, I'd be fine.  And things were going well.  I figured out there was something about cauldrons pretty quickly (hey, it wasn't in the stuff I read about the place), and we were making good progress.

We might have wiped on the first boss, but a well-timed Battle Rez saved the situation.  As a matter of fact, we weren't actually wiping at all, and I was having some fun.

We weren't wiping until Jin'do, that is.

I remembered about standing in the bubble in phase 1, and I remembered about standing beneath the chains in phase 2.  So I did these, and easily got killed by the adds.  We wiped.

The mage hollered at the hunter to stop dpsing the boss in phase 2 and get the adds off the healer.  (To be honest, this mage was rather a know-it-all pain, but you meet those every so often.)

Tried again.  Wiped again.  Dratted adds.  Mage hollered at the hunter again.  Tried again.  Wiped again.  Mage was beside himself.  "Someone else is going to have to help dps chains!"

The hunter and the rogue left.  An elemental shaman and another rogue joined the group.

This time, the shaman was to keep adds off me and the rogue was to help with chains.  Tried again.  It was easier to heal this attempt, somehow.  It seemed like it was going to work.  I even somehow managed to return to chains when I was about to be charged, after dancing around nasty stuff and trying to avoid adds.  But we wiped again.  The mage hollered at the rogue to stop dpsing the big guy and help with the chains.

And suddenly, I found I was no longer part of the group.

My jaw dropped.

Never before have I been kicked from a group.  Never.  I couldn't believe what I was seeing, even as I was being teleported out of the instance.  An hour and a half, and I was denied the opportunity for Valor.  It was ripped away from me, after all my efforts to prepare and perform well.

I shared this amazement with a healer guildie in Druid chat, and his response was, "That's why I don't heal Troll Heroic randoms anymore."

I think I am no longer brave enough.  Those Cataclysm Heroics will do the trick, for as much time as I have to run heroics, anyway.

/rips up notes on Troll Heroic research