Two Posts from the End

Life Got In the Way

While my daily blogging routine is set in stone now and I am absolutely unshakable in my devotion… my whole keeping tabs on the Blaugust event apparently wasn’t.  As a result I had managed to get massively behind in reading all of the blog posts and crediting them in my Google Drive spreadsheet.  I am not sure if I will be running this event again in the future, but if I do I will have to engineer something more manageable for keeping track of whether or not someone had posted during that day.  As the contest went on I stopped being quite so strict as to account for people posting in a different time zone than say their blog is configured.  I noticed a lot of double posts on one day, and then occasional lapses.  I finally reasoned this out to be someone posting after midnight, and quite frankly I didn’t feel like being that hardcore about the requirements.

Additionally I am making a executive decision and counting Wow In the Details among the grand prize contestants instead of as somehow a contestant with an asterisk.  They started one day late but have since double and triple posted several days to make up for it, and since they have not broken the posting pattern at all…  I just can’t in good faith hold them behind for starting a single day late.  Since I am being loose on the whole posting after midnight thing… I didn’t feel like I could hold her to somehow being excluded from the grand prizes for starting a single day late… when she has not dropped a day since.  In a future running of the contest I would hope to have some sort of self serve / honor system that allowed folks to tick off a post when they make it.  The Nook thing is great for having all of the posts in one place, but no better for tracking than anything else.

Two Posts From the End

At this point I see two distinct camps among the participants.  There is one group that has enjoyed the challenge and the motivation to post more.  Then there is another group that feels like they have committed to something but later wished they had not.  In any case at this point we have a long list of people “winning” the competition already by continuing to post daily.  I have to say how massively proud I am of you all, especially the folks who either started their blogs for Blaugust or came from the Newbie Blogger Initiative.  I originally intended this to be mostly a thing for Veteran bloggers, a way to inspire them to ratchet up their posting frequency and be willing to most more “off the cuff” topics.  What I did not expect was just how many participants we would have.  At last count I believe we have 52 total blogs that are competing in the contest and of those 29 are currently in the running for the spoils of victory.

If you see your name in the above list, then you should pat yourself on the back for making it this far.  If you don’t see your name in the list, you should still pat yourself on the back for participating.  It has been amazing to sit back and watch as this whole thing unfolded around me.  I never expected to gain the amount of traction that it has, nor did I expect quite so many people to be vying for the finish line.  I have met several new faces through this process, and I believe there has been a lot of time mingling among the various writers participating.  The challenge now is to take this momentum that we have here and keep it going through the rest of the year.  I am not suggesting that each of you adopt my schedule of daily blogging forever… but hopefully you’ve proved to yourself that you can do it.  If you can do daily posting, you can easily cut back to a every other day schedule.  It is up to you to figure out what exactly fits your time and desires, but I encourage you to find a schedule of some sort.

The Finish Line

Now for some final business details as we stare down at the finish line.  Firstly, if you are on this list make sure I have some form of contact information for you.  That means you either need to be following my twitter, my anook, my steam, or have arranged some other method for me to contact you.  On September 1st I will be rolling the dice to determine who wins all of the prizes I mentioned in the announcement post.  For sake of novelty, I plan on using actual dice 2D10 or percentage dice as they are often known.  As a programmer and a gamer I have learned not to trust random number generators.  My goal is to use a dice cup to remove my own influence from the rolls as well.  The most important thing however is that you check the spreadsheet to make sure I have given you full credit for all of your posts… especially if you are NOT on the above list but believe you should be.  Thanks to everyone who has participated in making this an interesting month.

Flourishing Communites

No Longer Mainstream

This morning I am struggling more than a bit to find a topic to write about.  I keep coming back to a conversation last night on teamspeak regarding our identification or lack thereof with the term “gamer”.  One of my friends talked about how he has slowly distanced himself from the title because it no longer really offered anything in way of meaning for him.  It no longer really clearly identified his interests.  I guess to some extent I am no longer a mainstream gamer either if you really think about it.  When there is a big show like E3 It is evident that I no longer care about the games that seem to get the most press like the Call of Duty or Battlefield franchises.  Granted there was a time where I was happy to throw money at both of these, but that time has passed.

Instead I tend to focus on the games that give me the most freedom to inhabit the worlds.  The narrative game play experience is still fun on occasion but the games I tend to play every night offer some way for me to inhabit them.  The top franchises seem to be mostly about fighting against other players, whereas I want to cooperate and collaborate with them in creating social environments.  The thing that keeps me tied to Final Fantasy XIV right now is just how vibrant and alive the community is, and how easy it has been to find the social strata I have craved.  It is something that has just been lacking from other games I have played in the last few years, and I am not really sure why exactly it is lacking.

Flourishing Communities

I wish I knew why that sense of community flourishes in some games but not others.  I think in part it is due to isolation from the more negative forces of the internet.  The games that have had some of the best environments, have also been games that I felt where under appreciated.  In Everquest II the Antonia Bayle server community is amazing, and has a thriving role-playing and community event presence.  Similarly in Lord of the Rings Online the Landroval community is equally amazing, and offers everything from casual concerts at the Prancing Pony to intricate community events.  In both cases these are games that are not pulling in the big attention and I think the end result causes a much more tight knit and insular community.  Similarly Final Fantasy XIV has been somewhat isolated from the mainstream and developed a community that flourishes around a love of the game.

So I guess my pondering is, do these communities thrive because the mainstream gamer has shunned them?  I’ve literally seen some of my more mainstream friends turn their noses up visibly when I have mentioned I was playing Everquest 2, or Lord of the Rings Online…  and I am sure the same would be the case with Final Fantasy XIV.  In the case Final Fantasy XIV there is still a lot of bad blood out there surrounding the failure that was 1.0.  In the case of the others, I think it is mostly because they were “not WoW”.  I am beginning to be of the opinion that playing a second or third tier MMO is the best experience, pending you find a server that still has a thriving and active population.  The people that have stuck around there, do so for various reasons… but it often means that the community is well established and stable… and with a little effort welcoming to new comers.

Gamer Lacks Meaning

Now to drift back to the original discussion from last night about whether or not gamer is a meaningful term.  There was a time where that term meant something, a shared experience that became immediately relatable.   Now gaming in general has become so fragmented that just because someone self identifies as a gamer, doesn’t meant at all that you have any shared experiences.  I ran into this Wednesday at the funeral with my cousins.  There were four of us nephews… of us at one time or another have self identified as gamers.  However as we started to talk about them two of them immediately started talking about their latest call of duty exploits, and another pair of us started talking role playing games.  So when the term gaming was summoned it meant two vastly different things.  I still find myself unwilling to fully abandon the title of Gamer, even though most of the images that currently evokes no longer really represent me.

Maybe I have shifted my focus in the way my friend Tam has shifted to “Game Designer”.  Maybe the fact that I am now a “Game Blogger” better denotes my interest in gaming and my point of view on it all.  Even “MMO Gamer” probably does a far better job of representing my interests than “Gamer” does.  I think some of the discussion is about whether or not labels are important at all, and I think they are mostly.  Labels, especially one ones someone self identifies with are a kind of social shorthand.  It is like a sketch of the person that they want the world to see them as, and is meaningful in trying to align interests but not much more than that.  Once you get to know someone you learn their hopes, fears and aspirations… the labels stop being meaningful at all.  Prior to that however they act as a way to grease the wheels of interaction.  The problem with this however is that gamer is coming to represent something I do not support and do not want to be part of.  I would love to think that I could reform the title and bring it back to something just, pure and true…  but I think we have long crossed the point of no return and are now seeing the last death throes of “Gamer”.

The Family I Know

Of Large Families

I grew up Catholic which also means I come from a long line of extremely large families.  My Grandfather was one of five children, and each of them for the most part had five or six children of their own.  My mother for example is one of six siblings, and my “aunt” that just passed away is one of five.  The end result is that the get-togethers on that side of the family where relatively massive.  As a child I was completely comfortable with the way that “mom” and “dad” worked and “grandma” and “grandpa” but most of the other relationships just baffled me.  As a result pretty much any adult female that was not either my mother or my grandmother ended up being my “Aunt”.  No one decided to correct me so it stuck.

My Aunt Marilyn while technically my first cousin once removed, was an Aunt in every since of the word that actually mattered.  She was this quiet presence in everything that happened in my life from the occasional little league game, to getting my eagle scout and to countless band concerts.  She had a way of showing up at exactly the right moment.  She also had this magical way of knowing exactly what was hip and trendy and whatever us kids might be into at the time.  This morning I woke up to an alarm clock that she got me when I was 12 or 13, and every time I wake up to it I think of her.  It was little things like that, something that she knew I would need but I didn’t even realize myself that just baffle me.

The Family I Know

At the Rosary on Tuesday night I got up to talk about my Aunt which is something I had wished I had been able to do at my Grandmothers funeral recently.  I had regretted not saying something then, so I figured I shouldn’t pass the occasion now.  In many ways this is the family I knew the most growing up and as a result they feel most like home.  As kids my mother and my aunt Margaret Ann decided that me and my second cousins would be closer than that.  As a result they tried to create as many opportunities for us to get together and play.  Growing up I spent huge swaths of time either at their house or them in my hometown.  When my wife and I decided to elope, it was my cousin that I called upon to stand up for me on the spur of the moment.

As we have all gotten busier we have drifted apart but seeing them yesterday was an extremely good thing.  We exchanged the most current cell phones and promised to make plans to get together, and I sincerely hope we will.  My generation is just going to have to start putting out the effort to make occasions to get together just like my parents generation did.  As each of these members of the previous generation passes on what is going with them is more than their life.  What is leaving is the glue that held us together.  We will have to step in to make sure that bond doesn’t break.  Each of us has reached a point in our lives where we are more or less stable, so it is time to start trying to see each other more often.

Down the Rabbit Hole

ffxiv 2014-08-27 15-13-35-284 When I finally got home and put out a few fires, I was able to log into Final Fantasy XIV and check out the festival that started today.  It seemed fitting that while I had been remembering family, the game had been having an in game remembrance event called the rising.  For those that do not realize it, “A Realm Reborn” or FFXIV 2.0 is both literally and figuratively rising from the ashes of the previous game.  When 1.0 came to a close they destroyed the world with the dread comet Dalmund and the arrival of the Primal Bahamut.  The Rising event commemorates the rising of the world out of the ashes of the previous one.  There is a single relatively short quest,  that comes long with an extremely charming bit of storyline.  Completing the quest gets the players a “Huzzah” emote that at least as a warrior causes me to jump up high into the air with my axe held aloft.

My focus over the last few days has been on getting my White Mage to thirty four so I can cast stoneskin.  The problem is I have noticed I am sorely lacking another ability that comes from Thaumaturge.  There was a point last night when I was healing a dungeon that I simply could not cast fast enough to save the tank who had moved out of range of my healing.  If I had swiftcast which is a Thaumaturge cross class ability I likely could have saved him.  Seeing the need for it I opted to start working on my Thaumaturge to at least get him to level 26.  This is the way that everything seems to go in Final Fantasy XIV.  In order to be truly efficient in one thing, you need a whole bunch of other things leveled as well.  For the moment my goals are gearing the Bard through the hunt quests, and then working on Thaumaturge to 26 so I can continue onwards with my White Mage to the level cap.

White Mage Soul

The Best Intentions

Yesterday I read a post by Missy Mojo lamenting just how “un-fun” Blaugust has become for her.  I fear that there are a lot more people out there feeling the same.  I hear the same sort of lament in Kodra’s voice each night as he says he really needs to do his blog post.  The idea behind Blaugust was simple, to challenge people to do the same thing I do and write something, anything every day.  The thing is that the challenge grew legs of its own and sucked in a lot of newly minted bloggers along with the veterans.  I figured I might have five or so veteran bloggers take up the challenge as I did a year and a half ago.  The thing is I didn’t get there over night, and in fact had been blogging for around four years before I decided to post regularly.

This is probably the worst kind of event for someone new to the craft to start under, and we had huge participation by folks who started just for this even or started under the Newbie Blogger Initiative.  I promise my intention was not to grind people down with daily blogging, but instead to fill the gap that often happens in later summer for content.  In many ways it has worked better than I could have imagined, and tragedy in my own life has caused me to fall behind in the reading department.  My biggest fear is that this whole experiment will cause large lapses in content for the newer folks like Missy.  If you are doing this every day and not enjoying it, then it kinda defeats the point of blogging in the first place.  I give you complete permission to drop out of the contest with no hard feelings or lamentation.

White Mage Soul

ffxiv 2014-08-27 06-41-19-389 The primary goal of yesterday for me was to get my conjurer to 30 so that I could become a White Mage.  Since I already have a 50 tank, 50 ranged and 50 melee…  I felt like I needed some sort of max level healer at my disposal as well.  As far as healers go, I have enjoyed my time healing dungeons on the conjurer far more than I have enjoyed any healer in a long time.  The style just feels natural and I can usually land in a relaxing rhythm during each dungeon.  I figure the healing will get more complicated as I get more tools at my disposal but for the time being I am enjoying myself.  I had leveled Arcanist to 15 over the weekend in preparation for nearing 30 conjurer, since White Mage is a combination of the two.  I might return to leveling Arcanist at some point so I can become a scholar, but I feel no real pressing need to either.

The thing I found funny was that the level 30 Conjurer quest was far more difficult than the quest to actually become a white mage.  Even moreso I found it odd that in order to do my quest to get the unicorn mount I had to shift back to Conjurer as well.  In any case I finished both and am now an up and coming white mage ready to take on the world.  After coming home from the rosary last night I worked my way up to 32 so that hopefully someday tonight I can start running Brayflox for gear.  I have two pieces of the battlemage set but I would really like to get the rest of it, or at the very least the robe.  Additionally I would not mind seeing the white mage ring drop either.

Gearing the Warrior

ffxiv 2014-08-27 06-51-03-594 Since it is pretty certain that I will be needing my Warrior for when we start Binding Coil of Bahamut hopefully soonish, I opted to start rolling on Warrior gear in Syrcus tower.  Yesterday Tam and I decided to queue together for our weekly loot run.  Unlike other games you can run Syrcus as often as you like, but you can only take a single piece of loot from there each week.  The nice thing is this allows you to keep running it in the hopes of getting that one item you need.  Since most of the people  in there are after the item to craft their weathered weapon almost all of the gear rots, or at the very least it isn’t terribly contested.  The run started off really smoothly, and our group had a warrior tanking… which to some extent made my heart sink a little.  My goal going into the place was the pick up some warrior loot, but I brought my dragoon just as a backup in case something phenomenal dropped.

The first boss went extremely smoothly, and I was feeling like our tank was doing an amazing job.  On the first boss the warrior gauntlets dropped and moments afterwards the tank was asking for us to pass or roll so he could equip them.  We all did as asked and the moment he got the loot he dropped from the party.  This was the first time I had seen this happen, but apparently it is a frequent occurrence in Syrcus.  The awesome part though is that he was replaced by a really well geared Gladiator, and on the very next boss the Warrior chest piece dropped, allowing me to pick it up easily.  So that combined with picking up the soldiery tome ring takes my Warrior to 91 ilevel and more than ready for the Coil.

#FFXIV

Family but Not Family

Sleeping In

This mornings post is coming significantly late because yesterday was extremely draining.  I am not sure how much of it I said in previous posts but yesterday I went to the funeral of my Great Aunt in Oklahoma City.  Both my Mother and Father have their own medical issues to where if they were forced to drive it on their own they would have struggled seriously.  Right now my mother is going through some back problems, and my dad vision problems…  so I knew that I really needed to offer to drive.  They are the type that would not likely have come out and asked for it, but the moment I offered they latched onto the idea with both hands.  Multiple times during the day my mom said how grateful she was that I drove.  I hate driving, especially on longer trips, but I figured it was a thing I needed to do.

The draining aspect was that I felt like I was essentially parenting my parents.  My mothers hearing has been going through the years and the multiple hour trips to and from the city involved a lot of me yelling at the backseat so she could hear me.  Anytime my father and I would attempt to carry on a conversation she would mishear a snippet of it and start off on a tangent.  Which was fine but trying to jump like that all day long including when we were inches away from each other…  really can wear you down.  I am starting to wonder just how long it will be before we need to get her a hearing aide.  Her mother/my grandmother wore one for as long as I can remember, so I am sure that bad hearing is simply another ailment that runs in the family.  Since I seem to be a sponge for the bad ailments that both of my parents have… I will likely inherit that one as well.

Family but Not Family

Something about this batch of the family that you have to understand is that even though we are only two hours apart…  I have not seen most of them in years.  The last time I saw any of them I believe was at my grandmothers funeral almost a decade ago.  I do not believe that any of them came up for my grandfathers funeral, which I guess makes sense as he was not related by blood to any of them.  So a few of them I have seen within the last decade, but the bulk of them I have not seen since I was five or six.  A couple of the people were recognizable from my memory banks, others were not at all.  One of them I only remembered as the person who bit me once at a family reunion at Great Grandpa Smiths house… and he has been dead for longer than I can remember.  Another one of the daughters wasn’t even alive back then, so I had never met her in any form.

This brand of the family seems to have a genetic disposition for girls…  my great aunt had two daughters, and then each had two daughters… then when you get to the grandchildren there were something like 25 daughters and 1 single boy.  But if you think about it…  my grandmother and great aunt came from a batch of four girls and a single boy, so maybe it is just a thing with the smith DNA favoring females.  My grandmother and great aunt talked every single day until my grandmother passed away, so there was an extremely tight bond there.  Most of my recollection of my great aunt and uncle was from them coming to my hometown to visit.  My grandparents were dairy farmers so they didn’t really go anywhere…  they could only go so far as they could get back home by milking time.  As a result people came to visit them… not the other way around, so large swaths of time passed between visitations.

It is weird to step into a room where everyone knows you, but you barely know them at all.  Maybe I just wasn’t listening as my grandmother tried to relate all of the details of their lives, and maybe it was just simpler because my grandma only actually had three grandchildren to talk about instead of a veritable army of them.  In any case it creates this whole situation where you know they are all related to you, but none of them really feel familiar like family should feel.  They all have really amazing families from the looks of it.  I went up to one of the girls husbands, and asked if his name was “Mike” because for some reason I knew that it was.  Finally we figured that that he manages a nearby QuikTrip store that I go to pretty often.  I would love to get to know them all better, but unfortunately the connective glue is gone.  With my grandma gone and great aunt gone… as sad as it sounds I doubt the family will get together again like this.  My generation just doesn’t seem to be as well connected to the past as the previous ones.

Another Weapon Down

ffxiv 2014-08-25 20-57-39-704 When I finally got home last night I decided to start working on my Bard relic weapon quest line.  As we have gotten people up to fighting level I spent a bit of time over the weekend barding it up.  There are just situations where double dragoons is not the best idea in the world, and I don’t necessarily mind playing at a bard, in fact for short periods of time I find it extremely relaxing.  Over the course of a series of dungeons run to catch Kodra up to being able to do high level roulette, I picked up enough upgrades to take my bard to ilevel 65.  The biggest problem was that I still had a less than optimal weapon, and that more than anything was limiting my damage output.  Since I was not feeling up to playing with the big kids last night, who unlocked the various zones needed to do elite roulette I decided to quietly plug away on the relic weapon.

Thankfully I had the foresight to get Warenwolf to bind my materia to the precursor weapon some time ago.  All I needed to do was start in on the quest chain proper.  The Dhorne Chimaera was as easy as they came, and within moments of queuing it popped and then about ten minutes later I had collected that first piece.  The next piece involved running Amdapor Keep, and I have to say this was probably the trickiest part of the night.  The queue took about 20 minutes, but when it finally popped the team that I ran it with went extremely smoothly… zero wipes and other than the tank pulling things a little differently than I was used to I had my rune in about thirty minutes time.  After some running about I was on the kill 24 mobs step, which took a little bit of time to do but with my healer Chocobo out it went pretty easily.

Next up was the Hydra in Halatali, and it died extremely quickly as well.  I think it might have died faster than the time it took me to queue for it.  Finally was the last three primal fights, and this would have gone quicker had I not queued for normal mode Ifrit first instead.  I guess I was more tired than I realized.  Both Hardmode Ifrit and Garuda died in a single attempt, and then Titan took about three before we managed to beat the boss.  I still have yet to get the whole rock bomb thing every single time.  Like there is one specific pattern that always gives me fits, but overall while it took all evening it was definitely a doable task to get my relic weapon quickly.  I hear there was a bit of a rollback last night due to the massive denial of service attack going on…  so here is hoping I log back in again this morning and have my relic.  Now I just need to finish collecting the bookrocks to be able to make it a Zenith weapon.

#FFXIV

Adventures with Sound

The Crab Boss

1319862686_realtek-1 Over the last several years every computer I have owned has had one thing in common.  The onboard sound card has been made by Realtek, and with each of them I have experienced various quirks.  Sometimes the mic output is too low, sometimes there is mechanical noise that I can never seem to filter out.  In all cases I have been annoyed to no end with dealing with them, but for the most parts too lazy to really change.  In part this is because I remember days when the only real option for a sound card was a Creative Soundblaster, and I’ve had my own series of issues with them.  Additionally I remember add-on soundcards rivaling at least a low end graphics card in overall expense to pick one up.

About six months ago my on board sound card decided to go flaky.  I made a mistake to decide to update my Realtek drivers when I was doing the same for my LAN drivers.  After installing the reference drivers I lost all use of the soundcard.  No sequence of uninstalling and reinstalling various community drivers, the reference drivers from realtek, or the ones posted on the MSI support page seemed to restore full functionality.  In the past I have used a USB headset before with decent success so I shopped around to find one that I found comfortable.  The end result was picking up the Logitech g430 headset, that comes in a rather fetching blue and black color palette.  The install was easy enough, but early on I noticed a few quirks with it, in that I had to plug it into one of the two USB 3.0 ports on my machine.  Once I figured out that this was what was happening, I resolved the issue and soldiered on.

Adventures With Sound

g430-gaming-headset-images

For the most part these headphones were excellent and the Logitech drivers provided some really nice 7.1 surround sound emulation.  As far as communication went I seemed to be understood well, and transmitting both clearly and with plenty of volume.  It was during this time that we birthed the ideas of our podcast, and it was with this headset that I have been recording all of the episodes.  As I listened back to the recording however I noticed something that bothered me.  All of the other guests came through with much more full sound than my own voice.  My voice sounded very flat and tinny and no matter how much I fiddled with the settings did it seem to actually improve it.

After some research I found that this was pretty much a universal complaint with this particular headset and namely the usb soundcard that accompanies it.  It seems like it does a great job of output, but a pretty poor job of input, only allowing for 16 bit audio.  The result is the “flat” sound that I had noticed and that frustrated me.  The suggestion universally was to hook the headset to onboard audio for the microphone, and the usb for the 7.1 surround output.  This seemed like a hack at best, but no amount of fiddling with the drivers and settings managed to fix the problems I noticed.  This eventually lead me to start looking for other options, and as always that ended up with me searching Amazon.

Xonar Ping

P_500 For years I have had an unnatural love for all things Asus.  As a result I have owned a number of products and when I buy something I always tend to start with seeing what their product offering is.  A search of Amazon lead to what I expected, there to be a lot of Soundblaster options, but mixed in among them was a Asus Xonar sound card that had relatively good reviews.  The best part was it was cheap, currently $26.99.  I ordered one with my Amazon Prime membership, and it arrived on my doorstep Sunday morning.  I was shocked to find that something actually delivered on a Sunday, and it was not like I actually paid for overnight or anything of the sort.  Within a few minutes I had popped it in my case, and booted back up.  I grabbed the latest drivers from the Asus website and popped into a game… and the sound was amazing.  It was every bit as good as the Logitech software was capable of and then some.

Then I hopped on Teamspeak to hang out with my friends and test it there.  Immediately upon speaking I got “Is there a Helicopter in the background?”.  I recorded some test audio and sure enough there was a very noticeable mechanical disturbance in the background of my audio that seemed to get worse the longer I talked.  My heart sunk, and immediately I had flash backs of all of the fiddling I had done with both the Realtek and Logitech sound drivers to see if I could get something better than what I was.  I could get the sound to go away momentarily, but it always returned regardless of the settings.  Once again I took to the internet and found people complaining of this, and leaning towards that I would need to RMA the card and get a new one.

New Drivers New Hope

There in the middle of the stack I found a glimmer of hope.  There was a thread by a poster saying that he had all of the issues I was having, and ditching the Asus drivers fixed his problems.  I guess the Xonar drivers are notoriously bad, and that there is another group that has released a Unified Driver for the Xonar family.  I downloaded the drivers hoping that this would maybe fix my issues as well.  It took a series of reboots to uninstall the current driver and install this new unified driver.  I booted into a game and it sounded amazing just as before, and this time upon firing up Teamspeak, I was greeted with “the helicopter is gone!”.  This is the part of technology that I like the least, the wide variance in which drivers work best for which cards.

I realize that it has become tedious for companies to release a specific driver for a specific revision of a product, but I feel like the age of the universal driver for a “Family” of products has been riddled with this sort of issue.  Right now for example I am currently self locking myself to a specific version of the GeForce drivers, as I had all sorts of hell when I tried to update to the latest version.  In any case, I have recorded a few audio samples and am extremely pleased with the results, so here is hoping with future episodes of AggroChat there will be far less disparity between our voices as there was in previous episodes.  Hopefully the tinny flat audio is a thing of the past.

.

A Darker Doctor

AggroChat Episode 19

Last night we recorded the latest episode of AggroChat, and welcomed back Kodra from GenCon.  For the most part the AggroChat crew has had their heads firmly planted in Final Fantasy XIV and that much hasn’t changed.  Kodra regaled us with the tales of what he did with his time at the convention.  LARPs are one of those things I have always been interested in but never really participated in.  I did a little bit of a local World of Darkness LARP in High School, but it wasn’t really my scene.  As Kodra talks about the ones that happen at GenCon it feels far more like improvisational theater than gaming.  In any case it sounds awesome and if I ever make it to GenCon I will totally join in the fun with him.

Additionally we talk a little bit about MMO design and theory and how Final Fantasy XIV has made tweaks to the game in order to support the community aspect.  So far it is working because that is the overwhelming thing that I am enjoying the most from our time playing.  We also talk a bit about Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition and our upcoming campaign.  There has been some talk about maybe streaming it, but I somehow doubt that is actually going to happen.  Rae talks at length about her awesome character concept, and I talk a bit about the Grudgebearer Cleric I will be playing as well.  This weeks episode had a very non-video gaming feel to it, and it was pretty enjoyable.

A Darker Doctor

mpc-hc 2014-08-24 09-59-28-843 Yesterday was the day the world was introduced to the new Peter Capaldi Doctor Who.  So as the world was enthralled by the BBC airing of the show and subsequent BBC America rebroadcast… where was I?  Well I spent my afternoon shopping with my wife and then my evening recording AggroChat.  With all of the weight loss my wife has gone through, she pretty much is in dire straights on trying to find a new wardrobe for the school year.  I figured it was far more important to help her find that, than to sit at home and catch Doctor Who as it was originally broadcast.  As a result I have just finished watching the show this morning, and I have to say so far I am very pleased.  I don’t want to go into any spoilers really, because hopefully you are going to watch it yourself.

mpc-hc 2014-08-24 09-55-54-107 First off I have to say I am of mixed opinion on the new Doctor Who intro theme.  You can listen to it here as someone has uploaded it to youtube already.  It just feels over produced to me… and extremely “muddy” if that makes sense.  I can tell that they went went back to the fourth doctor theme and sampled it heavily…. and that aspect I like, but all of the modern crap that they seem to have layered on top of it is frustrating.  I would love to see them just make a nice clean Doctor Who opening theme without all of the auditory graffiti.  I am sure over time I will get used to it, but right now it is just grating on my nerves.  As far as the show itself the production quality was impeccable as always.  I always like the episode that happens right after a regeneration because you get to watch the doctor in his most vulnerable state, when he isn’t quite sure of this new body.

With Capaldi it feels like gone is the zany doctor that flails about, and a different form of “Mad Man” has replaced it.  I am liking the darker take on the doctor so far, and I am also liking the fact that the series is distancing itself from “companion as love interest”.  I am sure to some of the more modern fans this will be a point of frustration, but to someone who has watched a lot of Doctor Who over the years, I prefer the days when the companion was just that… a travelling companion for the adventure.  I think the franchise will be in solid hands for awhile now, and I would love to see Capaldi have a run to rival Tom Baker.  I am tired of the Doctor changing quite as often as he has been, especially since we have long retconned the original storyline of a limited number of regenerations.  Overall I enjoyed it, but I look forward to seeing more episodes to really set my opinion of it in stone.

Return of Ultima Weapon

ffxiv 2014-08-23 22-25-22-628 While waiting on the audio to render last night for AggroChat I got pulled into an 8 man raid with the rest of my Final Fantasy XIV guild on Cactuar.  One of the quests that was added to the game post launch in Mor Dhona takes unlocks the Hard Mode version of the Ultima Weapon primal encounter.  I won’t go into any of the details surrounding the Ultima Weapon itself because spoilers… but in theory we had heard that everything about the Hard Mode of the encounter is significantly harder than the first few turns of the Bahamats Coil raid.  After last night I am guessing that was in fact the case.  This fight is absolutely insane, but I am pleased to say after three tries we managed to down it and clear it from all of our quest logs.  I returned to my role as a tank, and since at this point I somehow managed to pass Ashgar in gear I ended up starting off the fight and playing the role of Soak of a lot of the bombs that happen during the fight.

What makes the fight so cool is that it is the first tank swap encounter that I have run into here in Final Fantasy XIV.  This is a common mechanic in World of Warcraft now as a way of keeping both tanks engaged in the fight, and they seem to do it very well here as well.  Now the swaps have to be timed carefully, but since Ash and I have worked together on many occasions this ended up fine.  Essentially you have to hit provoke which raises your threat to 1+the highest targets threat, and then start spamming your highest aggro ability to make sure you gain a decent lead.  Basically during the swap I would hit provoke and then spam butchers block a few times to make sure I had a nice lead.  At this point the target would peel away from Ashgar easily and I would be in control again for another three stacks of the debuff.

Now the coolest aspect of the fight is that we didn’t even realize there were weapons to be gotten.  I feel like this fight is worth more than an ilevel 80 item…  but in any cases it was one hell of a fun encounter to be done with guildies.  As hard as it was, I could totally see myself doing it again because this felt like a true challenge.  It required each of us to do something to add to the fight.  Towards the end of the fight we had to have a few DPS sacrifice themselves to make sure all of the bombs got blocked, and then we slowed dps allowing the healers to catch up and ressurect them.  It was awesome seeing each person fully engaged in what had to be done.  I am so proud of my guildies for accomplishing this, and now I have no doubt at all that we will do fine making progress in the Coil.

#DoctorWho #AggroChat #FFXIV

Fears Verified

Death Visits

It is shaping up to be a bad week.  I realize at this point it is Saturday and the week is technically over, but bear with me.  Thursday I got a text from my father telling me that my Aunt Inez had passed away.  Technically she is a Great Aunt and the sister of my Grandmother that passed away close to a decade ago now.  So given her age it is not terribly shocking news, but I feel horrible that she lived roughly two hours away… and I have not seen her since my Grandmothers funeral.  At the least I think she attended the funeral, but that day was such a blur that I can’t really be certain.  I know she was not at my Grandfathers funeral a few years ago, because she wasn’t well enough to travel.  I don’t know the details of when the service will be, but I was figuring I likely should make the trip.

That was at least until last night I got a call from my mother.  Another Aunt has been in and out of the hospital more times than I can count over the last few years.  I say Aunt but again that is a bit of a misnomer since she is technically my second cousin…  but she treated me like a nephew pretty much all of my life and I was too young to realize that my cousins and I did not have the same relationship to her.  She has been in final stage renal failure for quite some time and having to take eight hour dialysis pretty much every other day.  In fact when my Grandmother on my moms side passed away earlier this year, I had thought my Aunt would go before her.  Last night on the phone my mother said that she had been given a terminal diagnosis and was being transferred to hospice.  Yesterday they stopped dialysis which gives her a prognosis of two to four days at the most.

As at peace as I thought I would be with this… it turns out I really am not.  In fact my mother called my cell phone at 7 am this morning…. and I am scared to death to return it.  My wife and I had planned to come visit her today, since we couldn’t go together last night.  My fear is that I am going to pick up the phone and call my mother back and find out that she passed in the night.  I have a complex mix of feelings about how exactly I am with this possible event.  So long as I don’t call her back, it is like it hasn’t happened yet…  and for all I know it might not have.  There is part of me that thinks it is a blessing, because she has not had any semblance of a qualitative life in the last six years or so.  The single solitary joy she had was mealtime, and if that is the happiest you are all day long…  then it tells me life is pretty horrible.  Another part of me deeply mourns the fun and interesting aunt that she was for most of my life, and that she hasn’t been able to be for the last decade.  I know that once I finish my blog post, I will call my mother back and whatever it is that has happened will not longer be sitting out in a buffer somewhere… but will be very real.  This mornings post I guess is a way of psyching myself up to receive the news.

Fears Verified

I did not actually make it through my post this morning before receiving another call from my mother.  It was in fact what I had feared, that my aunt passed away over night.  She drifted off to sleep and never woke up and passed early this morning around 2 am.  I guess they had known about this for longer than they had told me.  She found out sometime on Wednesday, and at that point her and my mother went into planning mode, planning all of the elements of her funeral.  Apparently she also threw all of her renal diet measures out the window and ate the things she had been craving.  The one that I found the oddest was the fact that apparently she had been craving a snickers bar.  So much so that she asked my mother to go out and get her one right then.  By some quirk of fate my mother had purchased a snickers bar that morning and it was sitting there in her purse just waiting for the request.

My aunt was one of people that when she made up her mind she did it whatever it was.  If she decided she wanted to go to a craft show, she would show up at the house early that morning and say “get in the car, we are going to a craft show”.  More often than not my mother would tag along for whatever adventure it was that they were off to, be it going to a movie or going on a road trip.  When I was younger there were many weekends she would decide that we were going off together to visit my cousins, and me and my Aunt would go off on an adventure where I am sure I would talk her ear off about whatever thing I happened to be into at the time.  It turns out that when she realized there was no getting better, she set her mind to planning on her passing.  It sounded like during the day yesterday she had set all of her affairs in order, making sure my mother had transferred enough to her own account to pay for the funeral.  After that it seems like she decided she was done with everything that needed to be done and simply drifted off peacefully.

Just Dance

ffxiv 2014-08-22 09-29-47-430 As not to end this mornings post on a somber note, I thought I would mention something that warms my heart.  Final Fantasy XIV is a very charming game, and as such it seems to attract a certain type of gamer that is more than willing to stop and smell the roses.  When I go idle I am notorious for starting up one of the many dances that I have been collecting in game.  Often times when I return to the keyboard I will be joined by one or more people who have decided to take up dancing beside me.  This happens as an almost nightly ritual in the housing ward our guild has a plot in.  I will go down to the market board, and while checking out what has been posted I will start up a dance.  Before I know it Naine one of the neighbors will have joined me, and on occasion others will as well.  The community is weird like that, and I am growing to love it.

The above screenshot is of me and a new friend going through our little dance ritual while waiting on something to spawn.  I feel like if you stop to dance with a Lalafell, you are destined to become instant friends.  So the next time you happen upon someone dancing in whatever game you happen to be playing… take a moment to join in.  It is moments like this that make the virtual world seem so much closer than just an assemblage of pixels.  On a side note I am extremely happy to see so many friends either renewing their accounts or starting new ones to come hang out on Cactuar with us all.  I am really hoping this will be a game I set down roots in for a long while.  We are already involved in a bunch of different active link shells and it feels like we have connections far deeper than just our immediate circle of friends.  I have not felt that way in any game since the early days of Warcraft, and I have to say it feels really awesome.

Cannot be Tamed Questionnaire: Part Three

Wrapping it Up

Over the last few days I have been answering a Gaming Questionnaire, and with a little luck this morning I should be wrapping that up.  You can check out part one and two and see what the earlier answers were, or you can check out the original survey here.  Without further stalling… here goes the answering of the final leg of this survey.  Be Warned…  this leg of the journey is going to include several spoilers… so

SPOILER WARNING!

14. Most memorable moment in a game:

82404-legend-of-zelda-a-link-to-the-past I alluded to this in one of my answers yesterday, but the most memorable moment for me while playing a game was in a Link to the Past.  I can’t explain this fully without spoilers, so if you have not played The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past I highly suggest you do that and maybe skip this answer for the time being.  In the game you spend a lot of time running around collecting all of the objects you are used to from a Zelda game all in the attempt of rescuing Zelda from the dark wizard Aghanim.  After collecting the Master Sword, the pinnacle of the original game you journey to the tower in Hyrule Castle where the Dark Wizard resides and do battle with him.  Up until this point I totally thought I was moments away from beating the game, and a little disappointed at just how short the experience was.

When the finally defeat the wizard, and I remember the battle being rather challenging at the time, you expect to collect your rewards and move on after beating the game.  Nope!  You are warped into the Dark World and you set upon a different quest.  I remember my jaw almost hitting the floor as I realized “there is a whole other world!”  This was the very first time I game had done this to me, set up the starter world / real world bait and switch so successfully.  In those moments this one game forever changed the way I looked at game in general.  So when I played Rage for example… I was totally expecting a bait and switch that unlocked the real game, but alas it was just a really short storyline.

15. Scariest moment in a game:

kithicor_forest_atlas Crossing Kithicor at night will I think forever be the scariest thing I can think of in any game.  For those who are not familiar with it, in the original Everquest there was a zone that sat between the West Commonlands and Rivervale called Kithicor Forest.  Both Rivervale and the Commonlands were starter zones and during the day Kithicor was a nice level 15 hunting zone.  However at night it changed completely and was filled with tons of level 50 undead creatures that spawned moments after dark and stayed up until the daylight hours.  Everquest was an old school game and the only way to move around was to do so by foot.  There were a number of druid and wizard ports but those required finding a person of that class, and more often than not it was more trouble than actually running there would have been.

In Everquest there was a concept called “running the zone line”.  Since this was an early game a lot of the zones were big squares, and by quirk of the spawning and pathing code the zonelines were generally relatively safe places, though later on they purposefully made some of them dangerous.  There were many a time that I would zone into Kithicor just as it was getting dark and praying I could make it across the zone before attracting unwanted attention.  In all the times I ran Kithicor, I never actually aggro’d any of the high level undead, but this did not stop me from living in fear of them.  It felt like I was constantly moments away from a horrible and grizzly death.

16. Most heart-wrenching moment in a game:

This one took me a little bit to think about it, but the more that I did the more I was certain there was one exact moment that I had to talk about.  Well written stories have a way of taking a character that you start out disliking and maybe even hating a little bit… and turning them into something you have come to love.  Mass Effect 2 was my first foray into that game series and as such I have a deep love for many of the characters that were introduced in that game.  One of them that turned from someone I disliked to someone I came to adore was Mordin Solus.  I went ahead and linked the moment for those who have not played the series or plan on playing the series.  Essentially through the story line you find out that he was responsible for the genetic disease that caused the Krogan to become sterile.

In Mass Effect 3 he sets out to undo what he had done and is sabotaged by his people and namely the STG the secret group that he was originally a part of.  I replayed this section of the game over and over to see if there was a way I could stop this from happening, but as far as I know there simply isn’t.  In order to distribute the cure to the Krogan, Mordin realizes he has to die.  “Someone else might have gotten it wrong” is his only explanation.  I just finished watching the video I am embedding, and man…  I still get choked up watching him sacrificing himself in his usual logical manner.  It is an absolute sucker punch directly to the feels.  Thank you Mass Effect for being able to do this several times during the course of the game.  I still think if you turned Mass Effect into a television series, it would be amazing.

17. What are your favorite websites/blogs about games?

This one thankfully is a rather short answer.  If it is in my blogroll I read it regularly, and suggest you also read it.  My blogroll has gotten so large that I had to implement a database driven system that shows like 20 random blogs at a time, especially since I have a habit of showcasing specific groups of blogs like the Newbie Blogger initiative classes or Blaugust.

18. What’s the last game you finished?

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-24-29-89 The last game I finished was Divinity: Dragon Commander and you can check out my Steampowered Sunday feature on it here.  I had previously beaten Divinity II and loved every moment of it, so in preparation for the release of Divinity: Original Sin I started playing a ton of games by Larian Studios.  If you have not played any of their games I highly suggest you check them out.  Divine Divinity and Beyond Divinity are the only two I have not played yet, but I hear they are both excellent Diablo style games in spite of the fact that they have horrible names.  They have this odd habit of not making games in the same genre twice.  Dragon Commander for example is this strange Civilization/RTS hybrid, Divinity II is a Skyrim-esc game, Divine/Beyond are Diablo style games and Original Sin is a hard core PC RPG in the style of Baldur’s Gate.  It is a really interesting company, and they make some awesome games.

19. What future releases are you most excited about?

Destiny Beta_20140719082406 The only game on the horizon that I am really excited for is Destiny.  The reason why I got a Playstation 4 was in huge part because of this game.  We had a ton of fun playing it as a group in beta, and I look forward to doing so again when it releases in September.  Really interesting FPS with role-playing game elements and at the same time built around a really good shooter engine.  The game was gorgeous and the game play extremely enjoyable.  You can check out my some of my initial thoughts here.  My only frustration is that those playing on Microsoft consoles and those playing on Sony consoles will be on separate servers.  We have Microsoft to blame for this one, because they place some odd restrictions on the manufacturers.  With FFXIV for example it is on PC and Sony consoles… and all of the players play on the same server.

20. Do you identify as a gamer?

In spite of all of the negativity surrounding the term, I definitely identify myself as a gamer.  It is just a part of what makes up me as a person, but it is a very important one.  I feel like if we stop using the term gamer, it will become yet in another line of slurs hurled towards people.  We need  gamers out there doing good and elevating the title to something more than just a basement dwelling misogynistic man-child.  I try my damnedest to leave every gaming community I am part of better for my presence there.  I try really hard to remain a mostly positive voice, and lead through my actions.  So yes, I identify myself as a gamer and it is because I have hope that the term can be something more than derogatory.

21. Why do you play video games?

I guess I have always played video games for as long as I can remember, so at this point there was no single moment that got me into gaming.  I am a gamer in all senses of the word… I love video games, board games, pen and paper, even puzzles and the occasional word game.  More importantly with video games it allows me to do things I cannot do in real life.  I cannot fight back an alien invasion hell bent on the extinction of humanity, nor can I crawl through a dungeon and slay a dragon.  Gaming lets me live out lives that I simply could not through any other medium.  Sure you can read about someone else’s story in a novel, but gaming lets me make my own stories in vivid three dimensional glory.

All Done!

I did in fact manage to wrap things up today.  Look forward to a real post from me tomorrow!

Cannot Be Tamed Questionnaire: Part Two

Resuming the Survey

Yesterday I really did not make it terribly far into the survey before I simply ran out of time.  If you want to check out the first part see my previous post.  I will be picking up where I left off this morning and hopefully getting significantly further.  There are a number of awesome responses to all of the questions floating about so I highly suggest you check out the other Blaugust folks as well.  If you want to see the original survey you can still see it here.

7. Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.

guild_wars_2-wide I am going to have to say Guild Wars 2 here.  I have given this game a good college try on several occasions, but each time I play it I just get frustrated that I cannot for the life of me see what everyone else likes so much about it.  I alpha tested this game and so far it has been the only alpha test that I actually went through the trouble of resigning from.  When it launched everyone was interested in it so I decided to give it another shot, only to end up frustrated again.  Since this is a buy to play title, I keep patching it up every so often to see if it is something I can enjoy yet.

I feel like I am less frustrated with the game at this point, than my inability to see any of its saving graces.  I feel like I am somehow flawed in that I cannot understand why this title is popular.  Don’t get me wrong it has a lot of really nice features, ones that I wish were in other games.  However the lack of meaningful interaction with the world and lack of role based game play always end up with me uninstalling the game.  I mean I understand that the world is pretty, but past that I can’t think of why someone would want to play it.  This game will always be an enigma to me, and I have yet to actually make it past 45 or so in any character.

8. Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.

Rage-car-640x360 I struggled with this one for quite a bit, and I went on this morning writing most of the other posts below before returning to it.  Mostly I didn’t quite know how to classify something as “poorly received”.  There are a lot of games that do not necessarily do well upon launch that later receive an almost cult following.  Then it finally hit me… the game I should talk about.  In 2011 ID Software was working on a brand new engine, and a game that showcased it.  Everything about it looked like we might be getting their take on the whole post apocalyptic fallout style genre.  When it released however, not a single person seemed to like it.  I however loved every single moment of Rage.  I loved the setting, the engine, the characters you interacted with… and most importantly the moment to moment game play.  The only problem I had with the game was that there simply was not enough of it.  It was over well before I was ready for it to be, in fact I thought it was going to pull a “Link to the Past” on me and show me that the real mission was only just beginning.  Sadly however the game was over and I had so many things absolutely unresolved.  However the game that was there was absolutely sublime, and for whatever reason people just couldn’t seem to see that.  Unfortunately due to lackluster sales and due to bad reviews… they never really released much DLC for the game, and I will be left with what might have been.

9. What are your favorite game genres?

I primarily play MMOs and Role-playing games or at least games with heavy character development and role-play elements.  I like games where I can become the character, rather than playing through someone else’s character.  Games like the new Tomb Raider are awesome, but it is like watching a movie.  The games that really pull me in are the ones which I can inhabit and that become about me more than the characters I am playing.  I want to be the big damned hero and save the kingdom… and if a game lets me do that I am generally happy with it.  Similarly I can never seem to actually play the “dark side” option in a game.  I cannot bring myself to willfully be a dick to people in games, because the character is really just an extension of me… and I can’t bring myself to act like that.

10. Who is your favorite game protagonist?

To be honest, I have to go with the above answer.  I am my favorite game protagonist.  When I play a game I am playing a version of myself.  It might be Bel the Orc, or Bel the Monster Hunter, or even Bel the Crackpot Surgeon…  but it is always me that inherits the character.  I like playing versions of myself and when I play a game it is about me being able to do things I can’t actually do in real life…  either that or shouldn’t do for the sake of you know not ending up in jail.  So when I play Mass Effect I am not playing Commander Shepard… I am playing myself as a Commander.  The games that do not disturb this internal narrative are the ones I tend to enjoy the most like Skyrim or Fallout.  If you actually want me to pick a character from a game that I like the most…  we will have to go with Link in all his many forms.  I guess he most represents the heroic ideal for me or a weak person that goes on a quest and gets strong during the process.

11. Describe your perfect video game.

This is always the roughest question, because if I knew how to create the perfect video game I would likely be a game designer.  For me at least like I said above the game that gets the least in the way of my personal narrative is the one that I tend to enjoy the most.  So for me I greatly prefer the silent protagonist games like Secret World of Final Fantasy XIV.  When someone is speaking the dialog of someone that is supposed to be “me” in this world, it causes so much cognitive dissonance.  As far as the game play I tend to favor fantasy games or post apocalyptic world settings, because they are very open ended and allow for very loose moment to moment gameplay.  I want a good overarching quest that drives the storyline along, but I also want there to be a ton of interesting side quests along the way that are in essence little bite sized chunks of adventure with very limited commitment.

The most important thing to my enjoyment however is the ability to go off the rails.  Nothing frustrates me than having a series of cut scenes the moment you start a game, so my preference would be to dump into a world with little explanation, and allow me to figure out what is going on as I roam around.  Cut scenes are cool, but I hate feeling like I am trying to play an “interactive movie”, so I would prefer that if they exist they are initiated by me and not forced upon me.  I place a high premium on being able to explore on my own and find my own adventure where it leads me.  I think this is why I like the MMO genre so much, is because I can carve out the game I want to play through all of the various things it offers.  I have learned to appreciate narrative gameplay, but it so often feels like I am being handcuffed and forced to do things I don’t want to.  So at the end of the day I feel like the “Theme-box” or “Sand-park” hybrid is my favorite thing.  Give me a storyline that I can follow if I choose to, but also let me go off and build my own game play when I decide to do that.

12. What video game character do have you have a crush on?

This question is a little odd to me, because I can’t say I have ever really had a “crush” on any video game character.  Maybe in part it is because I grew up in the era of gaming where storyline was an after thought and the characters really were just an assemblage of pixels.  I guess the closest for me is I have a fondness for Tali’Zorah in the Mass Effect series and always tend to pick her for my parties.  I can’t say that is a crush per say but I definitely like the character more than most of the others.

13. What game has the best music?

I listen to a lot of video game music, as that tends to be MOST of what I listen to at work.  Instrumental music is what I can write or code to most easily, so it helps me focus on whatever I happen to be doing.  Additionally there is a nice feel good element to it of nostalgia as in the back of my mind I get warm fuzzies when I hear tracks that remind me of good times in games.  Right now the soundtrack that is on heavy rotation for me is Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn import CD.  I am also a huge fan of The Secret World and Defiance soundtracks for various reasons… but primarily that they fit the game they represent and reminds me of those worlds.  However if you absolutely want to pin me down to just one soundtrack… I have to go back to Castlevania Symphony of the Night.  There is just so much to love about that soundtrack, and it will likely always be my favorite.

Finishing Up Tomorrow

Once again I have run out of time, but I feel like I can probably finish things up tomorrow morning.  I feel bad that it will have taken me three days worth of posts to make it through one single 21 question survey.  However I could not bring myself to give short answers on any of the questions really.  The questions themselves serve to unlock a bunch of memories in the process, so I figured this is my blog and I might as well expand upon them.