Tuesday, January 31, 2012

20 Days of WoW Blogging: Day 6 - My desk is awful

My desk is almost permanently messy. I considered cleaning it up before taking the pictures for this post, but I felt that would be disingenuous. I do periodically set out to clean the thing, but that is rare. I think I'm going to do so after I finish writing this post.

My desk is in our 'guest bedroom'. It is called that because to the left of my desk there is a bed that nobody has ever slept on. I also have a comfy black office chair. In the corner (not pictured) are several board games. Also in the room, the cats' litter box, which often provides wonderful odors. Since my office (guest bedroom) is somewhat out of the way, I don't spend as much time in here as I might otherwise.
This is the main portion of my desk. On it you will see several items including
  • my monitor stacked upon some statistics books,
  • a coin jar,
  • an empty glass with an empty bag of baked Lays in it,
  • my wallet,
  • a pair of tweezers,
  • trash,
  • lots of stray papers,
  • a hand towel,
  • scissors,
  • plush microbes,
  • and Legos.
On this, the other portion of my desk you will find
  • more math books,
  • two ceramic things with  assorted items in them,
  • bongos for DK Jungle Beat (best game ever!),
  • more math books,
  • LotR Pez dispensers,
  • more paper,
  • a cat bed with the tag still on it,
  • a lava lamp,
  • a clock radio,
  • Proto Man
  • a printer that isn't configured with a Star Wars poster that needs to be hung on top of it
  • and more trash.
This is gross, I need to fix this. The really sad thing is that it was much worse a couple days ago.

Note: I didn't actually end up cleaning this mess after I wrote this post. Shame.

Monday, January 30, 2012

20 Days of WoW Blogging: Day 5 - My Favorite Items

"I picked it up in Stranglethorn Vale"

Transmogrification is a popular new feature in World of Warcraft that let's players make their equipment look like other equipment. I'm interested in a different kind of transmogrification, the kind that Calvin would enjoy. I absolutely LOVE items that turn your character from one form into another. If it's possible for me to obtain one of these items, I absolutely go for it.

The Murloc Costume
The Murloc Costume is an item that was given out to those who attended BlizzCon 2007. As such, it has been one of my favorite items for a very long time. The costume wears off if you get into combat, but it's good for all out-of-combat functions, as best as I can tell. You can even wear it while mounted. It's bind on account, and I've transferred it across a couple characters. I'm currently attaching it to a new character so that I can bring it over to a new server. Cross-realm mail couldn't come faster, if you ask me. It lasts 1 hour and has no cooldown. Some animations, such as mining aren't supported.

There is a quest chain in the Borean Tundra which gives you a similar item. However, it only works within the questing area.
Dartol's Rod of Transformation 
My favorite little furbolg suit. Dartol's Rod of Transformation item turns you into a furbolg for 3 minutes and has a 1 minute cooldown. It was part of an Alliance quest chain in Ashenvale, and you would lose the item if you completed the chain. However, many players like myself stopped partway through the quest chain in order to keep this item. It, unlike the Murloc Costume, doesn't disappear if you enter combat. It does, however, disappear if you take damage. Furthermore, you don't have access to many animations while running around as a furbolg, but you do have attack animations. This item is actually no longer in the game; it was removed with the quest that gave it. They did not remove it from players who still had it pre-Cataclysm. There is a new item, the Stave of Fur and Claw, that is exactly the same except it has a 1-hour cooldown and can be obtained from the Timbermaw Hold faction at exalted. 

Frenzyheart Brew
Puppy men! The Frenzyheart Brew is available to those who achieve revered status with the Frenzyheart tribe in Scholozar Basin. Not many people have this wonderful item because they spent their time trying to get a proto-drake from the Oracle tribe. Like the Reins of the Green Proto-Drake, it is a random drop from an item that is purchasable at revered status. Unlike the proto-drake, this has a much higher (~23%) drop rate from the item it comes from (as opposed to 5%). In recent times, the ripening duration for these items has been reduced to 3 days to make them easier to farm from. The buff from the Frenzyheart Brew lasts 5 minutes. It doesn't break from combat, but does break if you mount. Combine it with the Curious Wolvar Pup from Northrend children's week for an adorable combination.

Iron Boot Flask
The Iron Boot Flask is obtainable from a vendor in the Storm Peaks for 20 Relics of Ulduar, which drop off of some mobs in the zone. Ten of the relics are used for a quest to open up the vendor, and the other ten actually buy the item. This item will turn you into an iron dwarf for 10 minutes and has a 1-hour cooldown. I'm not sure how this is affected by mounting but you can definitely fight while using it. There's even an achievement for beating the Iron Assembly fight in Ulduar while under it's affects! This form has all the dwarf animation, so it's a very robust transformation. With it's long duration, and combat viability, I love this one.

Gordok Ogre Suit
I don't have a picture of myself with this one :-(
This transformation is a very old one, like the furbolg suit, but it's not as old. The Gordok Ogre Suit is a crafted item that was introduced in the same patch as Dire Maul. The suit was used to complete the dungeon in a special way that gave you better loot. Doing such was called a Dire Maul tribute run. To craft the suit, you need a smattering of late classic WoW mats and an Ogre Tannin. The Ogre Tannin can be found in a basket within the Dire Maul North instance. There is an alternate means of crafting the suit from a quest inside the instance that only requires the tannin. 

Since this item is consumed when used and is unique it can be slightly inconvenient to acquire. You'd have to acquire one, then mail or give it to another character so that you can make another one. Getting to Dire Maul isn't exactly easy either. The upside is that this one is very unique and, as an ogre, you can dance and fight, but cannot mount. Since you have to spread this around your alts or friends, this makes a good item for everybody to get dressed up in. It lasts 10 minutes.

There are tons more item like these, ones that I have even, but these are my favorites. I lovely wowhead.com commenter has actually compiled a list of all such items if you want to find more of these wonderful, fun additions to the game.

Time for more questionable YouTube choices!

My Macros and Me: Useful macros for all classes

R Code
As a general rule, I don't like addons. I'll use them if they're particularly warranted, but otherwise I try to stay away from them. Generally, the only thing that I'll use will be recount (if I'm DPS), a bag addon that tracks items across my characters, and nothing else. For this very reason, I love macros. I like being able to modify my interface to make it cleaner, more powerful, and more intuitive. This is some of the macros that I use and how they can be modified to suit your needs.

The general purpose shift macro
/cast [mod:shift] Inner Will; Inner Fire

This macro will cast Inner Will if you're holding down shift and it will cast Inner Fire if you aren't holding down shift. This is, by far, one of the most useful macros there is. Inner Will and Inner Fire could easily replaced with any other two spells to achieve the same effect. I also have one of these for Power Word: Fortitude and Shadow Protection. My shaman has one for Astral Recall and his hearthstone. This macro is really good for just cutting down on bar space and combining similar things that can't be used simultaneously. It can also be expanded, such as

/cast [mod:shift] spell1; [mod:ctrl] spell2; [mod:alt] spell3; spell4

This macro would cast each spell if its corresponding modifier key was held down, and would cast spell4 if no modifier key was held down. These are also fun to put different mounts and pets on, so you don't have to go digging through your menus to find your favorites.
LaTeX code
Stance/Form Macros
/cast [stance:1] Enrage; [stance:3] Tiger's Fury; [stance:5] Nature's Swiftness; Hibernate

This macro will show something different depending upon which form the Druid is in. Stance 1 is bear, 2 is aquatic, 3 is car, 4 is travel, 5 is moonkin or tree of life form, and in this case Hibernate would be shown in caster form. This one is currently very useful for feral druids in PVP because they tend to do a large amount of form changing. This macro is really great for cutting down on how much bar space is taken up on your screen. Now, this macro won't work on your main bar, because that bar changes every time you change form. This one can also be used for warriors and death knights, although it's probably far less useful for them.

The Atonement Macro
/cast [@targettarget,harm] Smite; Smite

Every discipline priest who uses Atonement should have this macro. If I'm targeting a party member, then I will Smite their target. If I'm targeting and enemy, then I will Smite them. The macro would fail if a party member wasn't targeting and enemy. I use this macro so that I can keep my tank targeted but still use my Atonement healing. This way I don't have to change targets to switch from direct heals to Atonement heals. I actually have two of these, the other one has Holy Fire as the spell.
Java Code
Crowd Control
/cast [mod:shift, @mouseover] CCspell; CCspell

This macro will cast your crowd control spell at your mouseover target if you're holding down shift. If you aren't holding down shift, it will cast your crowd control at your regular target. The '/stopcasting' at the front will cause you to stop casting whatever spell you're already casting so you can crowd control faster, since it can be a time-sensitive action.

There are tons of things that can be done with macros, and wowpedia is a great place to start learning how. Their Making a macro page really helped me.

All code in the images comes from projects that I've worked on. Now, enjoy this opening from a 90s show!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

20 Days of WoW Blogging: Day 4 - My Best WoW Memory

If you haven't watched that video above before, I definitely recommend it.

For this, the fourth post in the 20 days challenge, I'm supposed to talk about my best World of Warcraft memory. I've talked before about how I started raiding in Naxxramas with my old guild. That was my absolute favorite time in the game. I never had raided before because Wrath of the Lich King was my first real expansion. After I joined my guild at the time was when they really got started with Wrath raiding. They had done pug Obsidian Sanctum and Vault of Archavon before, but delving into Naxxramas was something new for them.

The first time I raided with Animus wasn't as a guildie. We (Sarah and I) had already met Imaownu and Beartank and after our lovely night of running heroics we were told that we should join them in raids sometime. One night I received a whisper asking if I wanted to join them on their weekly raids they did. I accepted and ran Sartharion and the Vault of Archavon my very first time (my first raids ever) with them. I had an absolute blast running the dungeons that I knew that I wanted to be in this guild.

Shortly thereafter, we joined Animus and were on their raids every week. She became a star healer and I was one of the best DPS (go go elemental shaman). Over the following months, we all worked together to clear out that raid. Downing bosses, getting gear, and having a good time was our goal, and it was achieved. We progressed more slowly than other guilds did, but I didn't care. Progress was still being made.

Grobbulus was our biggest challenge. Week after week we would throw ourselves at Grobbulus and only do slightly better than we had on previous attempts. That fight was such a coordination fight that everyone just had to be on the exact same page. After trying him a few times each week we would work on some other wing.

The Four Horsepersons gave us trouble also. Eventually we settled on a strategy where Sarah and I took care of the rear horepersons. The battle would start with me Heroism'ing the front group and then promply running to the back to attend to Lady Blaumeux. Since I was an elemental shaman, I could heal myself pretty well except for the part where we would trade sides because I had no instant cast spells. Eventually we worked it out that Sarah should use Beacon of Light on me and then as we are running past each other she would Holy Shock herself so I would get the residual heals.

Eventually we got the four wings down and proceeded to work on Sapphiron and Kel'Thuzad. Each boss gave us trouble but didn't take us more than a couple weeks at the most to take them both down. It was such an exciting time for me to be playing WoW. Progress was really being made and I was playing with a group of people who were fun to be with and could clear content.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

20 Days of WoW Blogging: Day 3 - My First Day Playing WoW

Back in spring of 2007, all my friends were playing World of Warcraft. They kept trying to get me to play, and I kept resisting. I didn't want to succumb to its seductive magic; I felt I had better things to do. I was eventually sent a free trial, and the rest, as they say, is history. They all played Horde and so I deciding to play an orc warlock, who I named Orclocke (because I'm awesome).

 I don't remember everything that happened on my first day playing WoW. It's not a distinct memory. I remember running around the orc starting area, doing warlocky things. A couple friends stood/sat around me and gave me tips about things I could/should do. I was playing solo so that I could get my bearings without relying on others' strength. I was so excited to get my first pet, the imp. Eventually I had to do that stupid level 10 Warlock quest to get my Voidwalker. For orcs, you had to go into this cave east of the entrance to Orgrimmar and kill some dudes. This quest was SO hard. I died at least 10 times while attempting it. I leveled up a few times from killing the mobs to try and get to the specific person that I needed to kill.

I hate that quest to this day.

With much effort, I got my voidwalker and I leveled up some more. The next zone that I went to was the Barrens, as that's where Hordies tend to do. My friends had all leveled up characters to play with me, and in our mid-teens we did Ragefire Chasm together. They taught me about aggro, that I should attack what the tank was attacking, and that if I get aggro I should run to the tank. We cleared the whole dungeon and a great time was had by all.

When I got close to my 20s it was time to move on to another zone. My roommate suggested that I go to Ashenvale next, but that I had to be careful because the monsters were much stronger, more aggressive, and I could be attacked by the Alliance there.

I was fucking terrified of going to Ashenvale. Despite the fact that I had died a million times already in that stupid cave east of Orgrimmar, I was terrified of going into Ashenvale. You might know that there are two entrances to Ashenvale from the south. There's the main entrance that follows the road. There are the orc guards there and everything. There's also that hole in that wooden defensive structure that Alliance characters can use to get through if they need to go the Barrens, also. Well, being terrified as I was, I decided to go through that hole, because it seemed more secretive. I guess I thought that if I took the road I'd get ambushed or something. I slowly inched my way into the zone, constantly looking around for threats of Alliance or aggressive monsters. I eventually got so scared that I turned around and left the zone.

I eventually returned to Ashenvale and leveled up to my late 20s before growing tired of it and rerolling a tauren shaman.

Friday, January 27, 2012

20 Days of WoW Blogging: Day 2 - Why I Made a Blog

I don't actually remember what caused me to start a blog. I had a livejournal back in late high school and in college, although I kinda want to forget about it. I hardly used it, and the stuff there wasn't substantive. I also didn't participate in any of the communities, so that's probably why I didn't use it very much. I started using twitter back when Sarah and I lived in our apartment and I started to blog at some point during that time as well.

Part of the reason that I started the blog is that I have this problem. I call it 'getting stuck inside my head'. Other people might call it 'normal'. If you've read a fair number of my entries (for any value of 'fair' > 1), they cover a wide range of topics. An idea will stick in my head and it is almost impossible to get out. I have an analytically-oriented mind that obsessively tears things apart and collates the information. I factor the numbers on mile marker signs when driving!

So I started this blog as a type of thought dump. I needed somewhere to expel these things that my mind get's far too obsessed with. Over two hundred posts later I'd say that I may have succeeded in that capacity. For my World of Warcraft posts, I think I tend to cover things that just aren't typically addressed in what I normally see going around. But we'll probably get to that later.

I suppose the final reason that I started to blog was because I've never really been a writer. I always preferred analytical courses in school as opposed to reading and writing oriented courses. I figured that blogging would help me develop better writing skill. I didn't want to just work on my grammar, I wanted to work on my ability to convey ideas with the written word.

Blogging wasn't ever really about getting famous, although I definitely welcome any and all readers. I've heard several times that if you start a blog strictly to get followers and be popular, you'll probably not succeed at it. You have to have an internal motivation to keep you going. All the bloggers I follow really seem to have that. I like to think that I do.
I miss you, Sons of Hodir dailies

Thursday, January 26, 2012

20 Days of WoW Blogging: Day 1 - Introduction

Best friends go to Northrend
Hello, my name is Henry. I'm a 25 year old statistician and I play World of Warcraft on the Zangarmarsh Cenarion Circle realm on the Alliance side. I've been playing WoW since summer-ish of 2007, but I've taken a few breaks here and there. My first character to reach the level cap was a draenei shaman. I leveled it with my (now) fiancée, who played a paladin.

When we reached the level cap, we kinda stopped playing. We were too afraid to try and get into the dungeons, so we played around on other characters for a while. Shortly before patch 3.0 we transferred to the server of some local friends and joined their guild. We were among the first to reach level 80 after Wrath came out and grew tired of waiting for everyone else to level. It was then that talk of our guild getting absorbed into a larger guild began.

This was all back before the dungeon finder existed. So we had to find dungeon groups in trade chat and then FLY there (crazy, I know). One fine day we grouped with a prot warrior named Imaownu and a moonkin (I think) druid named Beartank. They were both really good players and we made an excellent group together. As things were back then with good groups, we ran six or so dungeons together. Instead of being absorbed into this larger guild, we decided to join Imaownu and Beartank's guild.

After our first Naxx clear
We raided with Animus all throughout Naxxramas and the first week of Ulduar. We got Flame Leviathan down the first night we tried the raid. But 'real life' got in the way of us raiding because she had just finished college and we were going to move in together. Shortly after that our guild leader was shipped off to Afghanistan and things fell apart.

When we came back, the guild wasn't what it used to be. She and I leveled a bear druid/mage combo and I also leveled a priest. We left the game again from boredom and when we came back the guild was apparently running in pretty full steam. They had even done ToC. We powered up our druid and paladin and started in on ICC (post nerf) with the guild. As a guild we got through Rotface and Festergut. We were casual, as you might expect.

When Cataclysm came out all manner of leveling and dungeon running occurred. But the rest of the guild wasn't quite up to speed. They didn't run dungeons as diligently as they could have and the difficulty of the dungeons caused some of them to refuse to use the dungeon finder. Because raiding was so hard we were only able to down a couple bosses in BWD after 4.1 came out. We never really got Halfus.

Out of frustration, she and I both quit playing the game again. It's only been recently that we've come back to the game, and we don't play nearly as much as we used to. We've both transferred over to Cenarion Circle and are working on getting our characters into good, working order.

From me, you can expect blogging about all sorts of topics. I'm hoping that this blogging challenge will reignite my love for playing World of Warcraft and of blogging about it, too. I'm really excited to see where this goes.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Graduate Assistants' Office

Graduate school was a very weird time for me. I wasn't really sure if it was what I wanted to be doing, but I didn't really have anywhere else to go. So to grad school I went. I started by going for the Applied Mathematics program but after the first year I changed to Statistics and have not one regretted the decision even once. It was a happy time because I was with Sarah, but also not because I was separated from all my other friends. My friends in college were all either a year ahead of me or a year behind me. My two best high school friends that were in my grade went to different, far away schools. My college didn't have a grad school, so I went elsewhere.

The Door
If you didn't know what it was, you would think it was a closet. A single door between two side hallways that came off of the main hallway, you'd might never consider it as being anything of importance. The door contained no markers to indicate its belonging to the graduate students and no window so that you may peer at its contents. Once inside the locked door, you'd find a narrow, somewhat long room containing eight desks along it's long walls, a whiteboard on the wall facing the hallway, two high, narrow windows on the exterior wall, and shelves of mathematics texts from a time long past. There was also a filing cabinet, a refrigerator that was long overdue for a cleaning, and a single phone.

On each desk was a computer. These computers were the leftovers, the ones cast aside when professors or classrooms received upgrades. Their installations, programs, 'speed', and peripherals varied widely. There were 'good' computers and 'bad' computers, with the designation as to which was which changing as time went on. They were shit to the point of not being usable.

The room was so narrow that if the chairs weren't pushed in to the desks you couldn't traverse it. I surmise it was once a server closet that was re-purposed when the computer science department changed floors when they separated from the mathematics department.

As a graduate assistant who taught classes, I was supposed to keep office hours. I did for a while. After realizing that even if I specifically asked someone to come see me during my office hours they wouldn't come I stopped keeping them. Nobody ever complained about my absence.

Other people used the office, of course, so it was never lonely. Yet these were people I hardly knew at all, and scarcely associated with. We were on polite terms at the best. Most of them hailed from foreign countries, and their English, while serviceable, was flawed. They clung to each other, strangers in a strange land, which made me the outcast.

That single room was like a distillation of much that I felt while I was there. It was a place, with things, but being of incredibly little worth. I hated being there and felt like I didn't belong. Really, I shouldn't have been there. I should have been somewhere better, but due to my own inaction (my greatest flaw) I was there. In retrospect, though, I'm glad I was where I was. It seems unlikely I would still be with Sarah had I not gone there.

Fun fact: part of the reason that I decided to change to statistics was because of a response Ghostcrawler had to a hunter forum thread. He talked about the analysis they did when balancing classes. It really struck me. I'm very thankful for that thread to this day. Also, Vi Hart is super cool. Watch this:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I don't want to tank or Getting back into WoW

I want to tank. Tanking is my most preferred role in a group. If you'll pardon my bragging, I think I'm a fantastic tank. And yet, as I stated above, I don't want to tank. When I tank, I get fully wrapped up in what's going on. I keep an eye of everything that's going on. It's my element. I put the weight of the group on my shoulders and carry them as best as I can, so everything goes as smoothly as possible for them.

Yet I'm not playing my tank right now. I transferred my priest over to Cenarion Circle to play there. I've done 2 dungeon finder groups since I got there: one just myself and one with my fiancée. It's been horrible not tanking. I've seen all the mistakes that tanks can make in a group. I've seen running into a boss before the healer has mana, running in when the healer is far out of range, running in before the dungeon finder has given us a replacement DPS, ignoring boss mechanics with fatal consequences, failure to mark targets, skipping pats/groups only to be bitten by it later, failure to drag a pull away from a pat's path, failure to call for CC, and I suspect a lack of defensive cooldown usage. This was in Zul'Aman and Grim Batol, not even the new dungeons.

"I can't go back man. Go on without me."
It's been hell for me. I feel powerless from the healer position, like I don't have enough control over the group. I can't shore up their weaknesses. As the tank, I can direct the DPS, assist healers by taking less damage, and control the position of the pull. As a healer it's much more difficult for me to do those things.

But I don't want to go back to tanking. There have been several times in my life where I've played WoW too much. I don't want to go back to those times. I'm afraid that if I go back into tanking I'll fall back into my old pattern: playing too much, working too hard to help others, and neglecting my personal life and the things I have to do in it.

The last time I really played WoW I was running dungeons (the Troll ones had just come out), trying to help guildies get through the new dungeons, researching raid tactics, trying to dissect what could be impairing others' performance in raids, coming up with things I could do to make things smoother, worrying about raid scheduling, and being frustrated when literally zero bosses would go down. I can't go back to doing that, and I'm afraid that if I go back to tanking I'll be tempted to do that kind of stuff again, worrying about things that aren't my own.

I would love to go back to my tank. But I need to know that I can do that from a place of control. The frustration from not tanking will help keep me from playing too much. Although it may be a source of new frustration.

Shadowform makes for really great screenshots, doesn't it? SimCity 3000's music was great too. I absolutely love it. It's on my list with Starcraft's Terran themes for "Most Nostalgia Inducing PC Game Music." Enjoy Some!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Don't read this, it's boring and stupid.

Oh, so you actually came in. Well, here it is.

Have you ever wondered why the two parties are split so evenly? In America we have the Democratic and the Republican parties and they are so evenly balanced. It seems bizarre almost that it should work out to be so close. There's a good reason it does, we want it to be.

There are a couple things in place that ensure that the two parties stay balanced.

The Middle of the Road
Despite what it may seem like, they are a very significant number of people whose political beliefs are a mixed bag of things from both 'Democratic' and 'Republican' beliefs. There are plenty of people who are fiscally liberal and morally conservative, people who are fiscally conservative and morally liberal, or so many other things.

These people are the key group in what keeps the parties balanced.

Parties don't like to be losing
Nobody likes to be the inferior party. So when a party finds itself to be the losing party, they adjust their stance on issues to reclaim people they lost and gain new followers they never had. They find an issue that they're really losing people on and swap their stance on it. It's very easy to do. Since a party is comprised of it's elected officials (or campaigning individuals), they just swap their stances over the course of an election season and the zeitgeist that comes out the other side is the new party stance. TADA!

This is what we call progress.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Of Crendors and Whores

This is my 200th blog post. I'd say that it's atypical of the types of thing that I'd normally post, but that doesn't make me less proud of posting it. I had a couple of choices with what to pick for my 200th post: this, the mathematics of party representation, a retrospective. I'm glad I get to do this one. Yes, I know that video has nothing to do with this, but the videos I post almost never do.

Yesterday Crendor (@wowcrendor) made a tweet to the effect of "Tip to girls: if you dress like a whore, you'll get treated like one. #commonsense" The original tweet has been deleted, but that's the message. This sparked a big twitter controversy wherein many people didn't get what was wrong with it.

The sexism that runs through our culture these days isn't the same sexism that there used to be. We aren't dealing with Mad Men'esque type sexism here, it's far more subtle. Thoughts and tweets like his and the subsequent ones he used to defend himself place the responsibility for the actions of others on the victim. It's saying that guy's can't be held accountable for their actions so if you're treated poorly it's because you baited them.

And you know what, people make mistakes like this all the time because they don't even realize that what they're saying is wrong. You could ask someone "Do you feel men and women are equals and should be treated as such?" and damn near everybody will say yes and damn near all of them aren't lying. The problem is that they don't realize that the things that they say don't actually follow through with that belief.

Here's why it's all wrong.