Dealing with Absences

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Yesterday was crazy.  It was one of those days when moments after checking my phone I realized things had gone south with the patch cycle from the night before.  I tried remoting into things from home and had no luck, so I hurriedly shower, dressed and drove into work to see if I could raise anyone to get the matter resolved.  I left so rapidly that I freaked my poor wife out who was out on a walk…  and she came home to my vehicle being missing from the drive way.  The other bad thing is that I didn’t actually get breakfast meaning I was probably more grumpy than intended during the entire day.  The problem with running on adrenaline is that there is an inevitable crash…  which came about noonish.  All of this said…  I didn’t get to do a morning blog post yesterday and I was not in the proper frame of mind when I got home to do one either.

As a result this morning I am going to use this incident as a teaching moment.  There will be times when you just cannot force a blog post out of yourself…  and that is okay.  When I was doing my “Grand Experiment” that involved posting every single day I managed to make it 1121 days without missing a post or a little over three years.  That streak sorta developed a life of its own as time went on, but I knew sooner or later I would need to break it for my own sanity.  Knowing that regardless of the day that you had to get up and write something was fairly oppressive.  I would literally day dream about stopping cold turkey, and then ultimately talk myself back down off that ledge.  Ultimately when the time came I made a compromise and switched the blog for the last couple of years over to week days only, that way I could have the weekends to myself to leisurely do whatever comes along.

The truth is…  I would have probably been a lot happier with my streak of posts if I had allowed myself to have the occasional day off.  The thing with posting is that you need to be doing it regularly to gain reader traction, which for me at least translated into forcing myself to post something regardless of circumstances every day.  The truth however is that you simply need not to allow yourself to fall completely off the wagon.  It is fine to take a few days off here or there but for me at least the most important aspect is to get back to posting as soon as you feel able to.  The early days of my blog were a tale of a flurry of posts with massive gaps in between…  some of them months long.  The longer I was away the harder it seemed to create a post worth the justification of how long I was gone.  It was as though I needed to come up with some epic reason why I just wasn’t feeling up to writing about myself or the games I was playing.

In my experience however you just need to post something…  anything…  to get yourself over the hump after an absence.   You could post about what you had for breakfast…  or in my case yesterday the lack thereof.  You talk about whatever stressers caused you to need to duck your head back into your shell and turtle for awhile.  You could write about something on the horizon that you are looking forward to, or about something that you just accomplished that you are still thinking about.  The point is just to write something to get yourself over that initial gap in content and back into the habit of regularly posting again.

One of the things that I like about my current schedule is I feel like it gives me the room for these gaps.  Is it an extended weekend that includes a few days of vacatrion?  Then I have the option of writing on those days or just saying screw it and taking the entire time off from the blog.  Is there a time when life has just become too much and I cannot fit proper writing in?  Then a gap in the middle of the week is honestly no worse than a gap at the end of it.  Basically the schedule that allows for absences and not holding myself to some nonsense like those 1121 posts in a row…  makes the blogging experience far more livable.

I think ultimately that is why I have shifted things around this year for Blaugust is that I realized over time I was trying to get people to sign up for something that was largely unrealistic.  After that first Blaugust I noticed that the majority of “winners” that managed to get in all 31 posts in a month…  also wound up taking a full month off as a result.  A not insignificant number of those blogs simply ceased to exist afterwards…  or maybe had a few false starts at getting back at posting without ever really returning.  Basically Blaugust and that schedule had killed blogs…  which was the exact opposite of what I was hoping would happen.  I kept shifting around the format until in 2016 I simply couldn’t handle taking anything else on that year…  as was apparently the case with all of the events in our community.  So now as Blaugust has returned…  my hope has been that the focus be on just posting more regularly and also participating in the community…  rather than trying to run some race.

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I am not entirely certain if this post will help anyone, but I thought it was worth talking about the mindset I now take towards dealing with absences.  I hope you are having an awesome day and I highly suggest getting out and checking some of the other blogs participating in Blaugust.  Here are some resources to help you get started…

There is still plenty of time left in the month to participate.  If you are interested check out some of these links.

Side note:  The images don’t mean much of anything but I played some Monster Hunter World on PC last night and am getting tired of just posting the Blaugust logo over and over on these.

 

Jason Jessee Board

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This week was originally designated as “Get to Know Each Other Week” in my master scheme but I feel like that is well under way in part thanks to the existence of the Blaugust Discord.  If you have not joined the discord I highly suggest doing so, also if you have not signed up for the event then there is still plenty of time to get involved.  For as generally open as I am with my readers about a lot of things… I still find it fairly hard to actually talk about myself in any sort of directed way.  Sure while I am in the middle of writing about a topic there are a bunch of real life details that end up getting thrown into the mix for flavor, but to sit down and write a specific topic about me as a person…  that is a whole other challenge.

I was born in 1976 on the wane of the seventies and the cusp of the eighties…  then spent my high school and college years in the nineties giving me a really odd blend of cultural experiences.  Each of those decades left its own indelible mark on my psyche.  Another piece of the puzzle is the fact that I was the only child of a machinist by day and occasionally professional photographer by night and weekend…  and a home economics teacher.  I grew up in Rural Americana in the middle of the part of Oklahoma aptly referred to as “Green Country” in a town with a population of around 2000 give or take a few.  We lived just far enough outside of the city limits to prevent us from getting cable…  or me having many kids to play with.

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That means a good deal of my life was spent entertaining myself through copious amounts of imagination and a strong dash of public television.  I’ve talked a bit about my attachment to Mister Roger’s Neighborhood but I was equally attracted to adult programs like Nova.  For the first several years of my life I spent the majority of my time with my grandmother and grandfather who served as a babysitter while my folks worked.  My grandmother also doubled as my companion on so many adventures from learning how to cook, to roaming around in the pasture…  to playing rousing games of candyland.  There were many times come Friday night when my folks came to pick me up, that I would announce that I was staying the weekend.

As time passed and I aged those weekends with my grandparents were replaced with staying over at friends houses.  There was a circle of two other close friends that I had and it seemed like every single weekend we were gathered together at one of the houses.  I always enjoyed the act of getting out of my own family and melding into another one for the weekend.  In late middle school one of the trio moved away and we were left with a duo.  By the time high school rolled around things started to get a little strained, since my partner in crime was largely forced into sports by his father who wanted him to follow in his own footsteps…  and I didn’t really have the equivalent pressure pushing me in that direction.

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We all saw each other pretty often because around about this time skateboarding was a massive thing.  My first “real” deck that I planned for and bought on my own was the Jason Jessee Neptune deck, and I wish I still had it if for no reason other than to hang it on the wall.  I’ve contemplated buying one of the modern reproductions to do that, but its an awful pricey expense for a piece of kitch.  Skating lead its way to other drift compatible activities…  like playing in a band that ultimately formed around the nexus of a few of us that hung out frequently.  I played the drums, the friend from middle school played the bass and patterned himself after Flea of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and the other friend with seemingly unlimited means bought a sweet telecaster and played lead guitar.  We never really coalesced on a proper band name… we were FSU for awhile which we thought was edgy because it stood for Fucking Shut Up.  Later we performed under the name Jive Daddies… which I always thought was kinda dumb but was overridden by the other two.

During my junior year however I got really sick.  I started having these black outs and managed to park my car perfectly in a ditch down from my house once.  It was ultimately sorted out that I had a pinched blood vessel in my neck, that was the side effect of getting rear ended in a car wreck and developing a minor case of whiplash.  However it took awhile to sort that out and during this time I sorta drifted away from that circle of friends and built a new one.  One of the truths of small time life is the lack of things to do… leads kids towards copious amounts of alcohol and drug abuse.  My original duo of friends found their way into more serious paths leading towards hard drugs, and that was not a journey I was willing to follow them on.  So really my illness became a convenient excuse to simply stop participating and extract myself from that situation.

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Another thing that happened around this time is that my family finally got a computer.  It was a 386SX 16 MHz without a math co-processor with 2 meg of ram and a 90 MB hard drive that at the time seemed like all the space I would ever need.  It had no sound card because those simply did not come with computers standard at that point and was largely designed for business products running Windows 3.0 originally…. and later upgraded to the revolutionary 3.1.  I learned computers through necessity, because I kept doing something to jack the machine up and then needing to figure out how to fix it before my dad got home.  Largely these interludes involved me trying to sort out how to get more than 16 colors in windows paint…  it was simpler time.

The new circle of friends and I vacillated between two activities…  pen and paper gaming and pouring over whatever bootleg games we managed to get from someone that had a relative in college and would ship us home boxes of pirated games.  Getting anything new was pretty much out of the question because at this point we had no access to stores that sold anything even vaguely related to PC gaming.  At some point I stumbled upon a bookstore that happened to have 5.25 inch floppies with shareware on them and got my first copy of Wolfenstein 3D and an editor that someone made for it.  We obsessed over building levels to the game and the result was usually one person building a level and another person trying to run through it.

I feel like at this point I have already typed too much information about myself, so I am going to cut things off at this point.  We are now circa 1992 and on the cusp of Magic the Gathering being a thing.  I’ve recently gotten back in touch with one of the members of the little crew that I played table top games with, so I fully expect him to respond here at some point.  I do miss those days when things were so much simpler and it seemed like we had all of the time in the world to hang out and do stuff together.  Time moves so much faster as you get older, and busier, and have your attention fragmented by dozens of things at the same time.  I might pick up tomorrow with some more details that I maybe glazed over, but like I said…  getting any sort of coherent narrative out of me about myself is a challenge.

 

Thanks Folks

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Yesterday I made a blog post with one intended purpose, but it wound up being interpreted in a completely different way.  I thought I might talk a little bit about this because as a blogger this is going to happen.  We all view our posts through the lens of our experiences.  No one can actually be inside your head or completely understand what it was that you meant by something.  This is in part why I spend a lot of time retracing things I have already talked about in my blog posts because in my head…  no one actually reads my content.  The corollary of that however is that I feel like I need to write something that would make sense to someone who is hitting my blog for the first time.  I do a lot of things like “for the uninitiated” call outs where I back track and explain why a thing is important to this topic.  Granted this ends up increasing the length of my posts, but the hope is to keep someone from needing to furiously crawl through my back log of now over 1800 posts.

Ultimately for me personally, when something is so widely interpreted in a way I stop to think…  is that ultimately the post I wrote without intending to.  There are so many times that once fingers get started on the keyboard that posts sort of develop a mind of their own.  I know there are writers out there that carefully choose every word and sentence to build a strong discussion about the topic they are referencing.  Then there are others like me that get started and let the post develop as they go.  The problem with that method however is that things can veer off in unintended directions.  My intent in yesterdays post was to be some sort of a positive post about “these are my demons that I deal with but I still manage to get up and write every single day”.  The idea was to share my personal struggle so the folks out there who are going through the same thing can know that they are absolutely not alone.

However I feel like maybe a little too much of those demons were on display, and the post maybe came out a little true to life.  The hard truth is that I do not see in myself the person you all see in me.  I find it as impossible to reconcile that as it is to develop the internal infrastructure to accept a compliment.  That said… there were many times yesterday where I was almost brought to tears as the comments came in throughout the day.  I had every intent to sit down and respond to each and every one of them…  but I am still to this very moment a little too overcome with emotion to try tackling that task.  I didn’t write a post with the intent of getting reinforcement from my community, but that was ultimately the result.  I got a virtual war-cry from my friends to the equivalent of “we got your back!” and I appreciate it greatly…  even though I am not entirely certain how to process it.

There is no real hyperbole intended in yesterdays post, because I sorta accidentally opened the door a little too wide to the self doubts that I hear inside of my head every single morning.  That said I still hold my breath and hit that publish button.  I am glad that there are people out there however that apparently believe in me so much more than I believe in myself.  So many of the things that I have done in my life I did only because I felt like there was no one else out there to do them.  I lead my first guild because I was concerned about what the future might bring for me if I didn’t step up and do that.  I moved into a leadership role at work, because no one else was and the challenges that we were dealing with required more management than a bunch of independent developers.  I stepped up to my current management position only because I was afraid for what might happen to the unity of our team if someone else took the reigns.  A lot of the decisions I make are not out of a faith in my own abilities, but a fear in what might happen if I don’t do the thing that appears to need doing.

I was afraid that if I waited much longer that whatever was left of our community what fade away.  It was my hope that it was not yet too late and by the fact that we have now tied our best year in participation it seems like I might have accidentally picked the right time to do this.  The last couple of years have been extremely rough on this community, and my ultimately hope was that we could get back some of what we lost.  There are blogs that are gone and likely never coming back, but we are bolstering those holes in our wall with brand new bloggers that will hopefully infuse us all with a level of excitement.  I think it is impressive how far we have come in so short of a time.  Each year the initiative has picked up steam as the process has gone on and the flood of topics pulls people out of the woodwork.  Here are the numbers of past years…

  • 2014 – 52 Participants
  • 2015 – 88 Participants
  • 2016 – 62 Participants
  • 2017 – 0 (I failed to get it organized)
  • 2018 – 88 Participants (so far, it is not too late to join in)

Also impressive at this point is we have 92 members active on the Discord with a large number of people who have just joined to participate in the conversations even though they may not be officially participating in the event.  I do believe…  we may have a community again and an extremely active one.  Ultimately that was the thing I was missing the most, being part of something much larger than myself.  There have always been some of us that spun topics off one another, because quite honestly we refused to accept the pronouncement that blogging was a dead art.  It is my hope however that this version of Blaugust will be more forgiving when it comes to the after effects on the community.  There are a lot of bloggers that in the crush to get their 31 posts in…  have burned themselves out in the process only to close up shop shortly after the event ended.  My hope with this year is that we are providing folks the tools to run the marathon, not the sprint and keep going for the rest of the year.

There are so many mornings that I feel like a little kid pretending to make a newspaper or sitting in a hollowed out cardboard box pretending to be on a television show.  The truth is however that people are out there reading this and I am thankful of the kind words that you have shared with me.  I will do my best to try and figure out how to accept them.  I have more of a support structure than I deserve, and I am extremely thankful to everyone who has joined me in this madness.  We are on a really interesting journey together and I don’t quite know where it is going…  but I feel like it is going somewhere very special.  So in so many words… thank you so much for the help and love and support and random hugs.  Thanks for having my back.  Lets go do awesome things together!

The First of Blaugust

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Welcome everyone to the very first day of Blaugust…  the legit and actual month thereof.  It has been a wild ride to this point because as of just a few minutes ago we had a little over eighty blogs signed up and ready to go.  You are all proving that there is in fact a desire for this sort of thing still and that no… in spite of all of the hot takes to the contrary blogging is not in fact dead.  The reason why I did this thing was in part to stoke the fires of our community once more and see who all I could get to come out of the woodwork.  We have lived in this torporous state for far too long and it is time for us to get active again.  Blaugust is in fact a month dedicated to active posting.  We just finished the pre-game week as it were with posts on technical topics about actually getting started.  Now it is time to get out there and write some amazing content…  and with that comes a need for topics.

During this week you should see posts showing up in the community with ideas to keep you going for the rest of the month, and I have a few of my own to add to this.  However I wanted to take a moment this morning to recap just how impressive things have been so far.  First off… there is still time to participate in Blaugust even though the month has officially started.  The idea is about getting active not necessarily about posting every day, so as long as there is still some time left in the month there is time to sign up.  You can check out the official sign-up sheet here and join us on Discord for what is becoming an exceptionally active community of creatives.  There have been many conversations that I have peeked in on while sitting in a meeting this week, that have seemed really awesome.

I think now is probably the time to recap the folks participating as well.  There is a master list that I have been keeping updated if you want to incorporate it into your content or the amazing Chestnut has been maintaining a twitter list of the folks active on that platform.  Now for my own lists…  folks participating.

The Community of Mentors

The Awesome Folks Participating

In 2014 the first running of Blaugust we had 55 folks sign up and participate.  In 2015 we had our biggest year to date with 88 participants and in the last official running in 2016 we had 62.  At this point we have completely eclipsed two of the years and given the patterns that I have seen in the past of folks joining in mid month I fully expect that we will be blowing that 2015 number out of the water as well.  The level of support I have gotten in this initiative has been staggering, and I want to take a moment to everyone who is helping to make it an extremely lively place to be.  I’ve been attempting to pop my head into the proceedings as often as time allows but things have been sorta insane in my life the last few weeks.

One of the hardest parts about blogging is the fact that there are some days you are just going to have a completely blank mind.  The harder you try and materialize your thoughts so you can condense them into printed word…  the more they seem to fly around in your head at incomprehensible speeds.  Then there are days when you have too many things you want to say and they sort of log jam somewhere between your brain and your fingers.  In those cases it is good to have a backlog of topics that you can draw upon in order to force some sense of focus.  Here are some topics that I have kicked around in my head before but never actually written about.

Ten Random Topic Prompts

  • Write about the first time a game made you cry.  This could in theory be substituted for any sort of media… a book, a movie, a play…  just write about the first time you found yourself completely caught up in the story and those walls fell.
  • Write about your first online gaming experience and why it was positive or negative in shaping your opinions of online interactions going forward.
  • Go find a random screenshot that you like and write about what was going on in your head or in the game at the moment you took it.
  • Write about how you got involved in your first guild, and the sequence of events that prompted you to finally accept an invitation.
  • Write about your three favorite items from any video game ever regardless of genre.
  • Write about any goal you have achieved in the past and what it was like to work towards it and eventually get it.
  • Write about some of the positive or negative interactions you have had with the blogging community.
  • Write  about someone you met through gaming that has turned into a friend that transcended a single game.
  • Write about times where your gaming life has clashed with your real life obligations and how you have handled that.
  • Write about something you really truly love be it a Movie, Television Show, Piece of Music, Video Game or literally anything else you are super passionate about.

Finally in closing… today is an auspicious day not only because it is the official beginning of the month of Blaugust, but also because it is my 20th wedding anniversary.  It is just staggering to think about that it has been twenty years since our wedding.  I am super happy to be sharing this journey with my navigator…  because everyone knows I have zero sense of direction.

Seeking Screenshot Tool

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This morning I am going to go in a different direction… and ask the Blaugust community with assistance on something.  For years I have been a loyal FRAPS user for the purpose of recording game screenshots.  I have a legally registered copy… that happens to have personal information in the registration details screen so I have mosaic’d it out.  There are an awful lot of pirated copies floating about but I happily plunked down my $40 and have been using it for over a decade at this point.  It has always simply worked as intended and given me the ability to record screenshots without fail.  This changed however when Destiny 2 made the weird decision to block any form of an overlay for “security reasons” there by making it so that FRAPS could not record anything successfully.

First I feel like I need to start off with why I use FRAPS rather than in game screenshot tools.  It all comes down to the fact that I like posting a significant number of screenshots in my morning posts…  and that I am lazy.  I cannot remember what the directory MMO number 376 that I have installed on my system uses for screenshot storage.  As a result I like having everything dumped into the same directory where I can filter through them quickly, and eventually archive them off to my network attached storage.  I have a truly nonsense number of screenshots stored out there at this point.

Ultimately what I am looking for feature wise…

  • ability to capture fullscreen, borderless and windows screenshots without capturing the window frame or my desktop
  • ability to save to the format of choice… I tend to dump things to JPG because my blog gets grumpy if I upload PNGs anymore
  • ability to work flawlessly without having to constantly check to see if its on
  • ability to change the target directory and dump everything to one place
  • ability to bind whatever it is to work off of PrtScrn button because its habit

For years FRAPS did all of these things but one of the recent Windows 10 updates seems to have changed that.  Now any time I launch a game I need to kill FRAPS and relaunch it to get the overlay to work properly.  This means that it is now a fiddly mess and it makes me grumpy.  So what I am asking you my community is…  is there a hidden gem out there for screen capture that I am unaware of?  Now I am going to talk about some of the alternatives that I have used.

GeForce Experience

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This one seemed like a no brainer given that I run Nvidia based cards and this ends up installing to your system regardless if you want it to.  It isn’t a flawless system but it was the only reliable way that I seemed to have to be able to record Destiny 2 given that the overlay is hardware based and not something executing at a software level.  Its major flaws were the fact that it would not dump to a single directory, but instead a series of directories named off of what the game executable thinks it is.  This causes some weirdness when the game developers don’t actually go back and fix the name of their executable… for example the Quake Champions screenshots I have are in a directory called “PC” or Dauntless for whatever reason shows up as “Archon” which was maybe an early name for the game?

Another flaw is that you cannot change what format the screenshots are dumped in as it always saves to PNG, which involved me going through a morning ritual of converting all of the screenshots that I was going to upload to JPG to bypass the nonsense size limit.  Lastly and quite possibly the most damning problem is when I happen to be running a game in windowed mode…  it records my entire desktop like the above screenshot.  This means I either need to drop it in photoshop and cut out the window or just live with the fact I am posting a postage stamp for a screenshot.  Not ideal to say the least given that when I am streaming I occasionally run things windowed so I can see what is going on in stream etc.

Dxtory

Another screenshot software that has been recommended to me numerous times is Dxtory by ExKode which is I believe a Japanese based software house.  It is also in the 30-40 dollar range price wise and does a really good job of capturing both images and video.  The problem is… it would occasionally just stop working and not give any indication of this.  I would be playing along thinking everything was working as intended… I would still have an overlay in game indicating that the software is active…  then when I sit down to write a blog post the next morning I would have zero screenshots to show for the previous nights play time.  The unreliable nature and the fact that this was not an every night occurrence made me move away from it.  Some times it would go for three or four nights without flaking out on me… and other times it would happen multiple times in the same night.  I was not able to find any sort of pattern around it.  Whatever the case however it was unreliable and I opted to move away from it.

Greenshot

This is an open source software mostly designed to capture regions of an image much like windows clipping tool.  However it does in fact have an unattended screenshot mode and as a result I attempted to use it as my software of choice for awhile.  The problem is that when running Windowed Borderless… it would intermittently alternate between taking a screenshot of my desktop and taking a screenshot of the game.  This became problematic given that I was missing a bunch of screenshots and again… maybe had nothing to show for my night of gaming come blog post time.

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The core problem is that most of the screenshot tools don’t really do the thing that I want them to do given that they are largely focused on capturing video…  and not capturing still images.  I have StreamLabs OBS for those moments when I want to capture video so I have that covered.  However what I want instead is just a reliable screenshot tool that I can use with literally every game I play, so the images don’t get lost somewhere on my hard drive.  I may give Dxtory another spin because it has been numerous years since I last tried it.  Ultimately however what I really want… is FRAPS to stop being a butt and just work again.  In the meantime however, I would love to hear some of your suggestions for screenshotting games?  Do you still rely on the in game screenshot tools, or have you consolidated to using some tool other than the ones I have mentioned?

 

Not Prepared

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Last night I logged in a bunch of characters in a failed attempt to prepare for the impending apocalypse that is sure to come with today’s patch.  What I mean by that is the 7.0 patch nerfed the prices of a bunch of the garrison missions as well as the sales prices of a ton of the associated nonsense that comes with that sort of thing.  So last night I logged in and collected any gold missions I had waiting to be collected since I had not logged into WoW in a few weeks…  and sold all of the items used to upgrade followers that I had in my inventory.  While the servers are still up and running at this very moment the patching process has already started to our clients, and by the time I come home there will be a whole new era of World of Warcraft started.  I am still not entirely sure how I feel about this.

I don’t mean this post to sound as hyperbolic as I am sure it will come off as, but Legion was sort of a tipping point for me in many ways.  Blizzard showed me how good a design could feel that didn’t focus on the red versus blue nonsense but instead dug down hard into the class story-line and creating situations where all of us…  Horde and Alliance worked together to solve issues.  While I didn’t stick with it for the long haul, Legion is probably my new favorite expansion for World of Warcraft replacing the previous…  Wrath of the Lich King.  I had hope that we would see a new shining era of working together to fight the bigger baddies in the world, but instead what we got was a doubling down on the infighting and bullshit, and a path that looks to be setting up both Jaina and Sylvanas on a possible path towards becoming raid bosses.

My dream for World of Warcraft is a time when I can sit down and play with both my Horde and Alliance friends together, and this expansion seems to be putting a final nail in that concept.  As a result my interest in this game has never been at a lower point, and were it not for twitter and people talking about the 8.0 patch constantly I probably would not have known it was a thing.  While a lot of my friends were in a flurry of activity trying to finish out their mage tower challenges, attempting to beat all of them before they went away…  I find myself in a situation where I never did a single one.  The last expansion saw me going into it with one of every class Alliance side at maximum level…  this expansion sees me going into it with 2 warriors, 2 deathknights, a demon hunter and a paladin.

This expansion also sees me planning on switching my allegiance and “maining” horde this time around.  It is going to be a weird ride when in less than a month now the expansion launches.  I have deeply mixed feelings about my future with this game.  I’ve heard the “its world of warcraft, not world of peacecraft” nonsense so many times it makes me want to punch people through the internet.  I used to keep going because I had this nexus of hope deep down inside of me that someday somehow things would change and the faction wall would fall and I could finally unite both groups of friends living on either side of that chasm.  That hope has died, and with it a lot of the reasons why I kept playing the game.  That said I know I will give Battle for Azeroth a shot and probably even find myself enjoying certain aspects of it.  However the hope has mostly been replaced with Dread as I watch this Warbringers series seeming to make good on that concern that we might be losing one more more powerful characters to a Raid someday.

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After patching my addons and logging into a bunch of characters…  and then the requisite amount of “oh look its bel” and answering a series of messages…  I eventually retreated back into my comfy space that is Elder Scrolls Online.  I sorta knew that I could only log in so many characters before someone noticed my presence and started trying to interact.  I mean this is more of a thing on the Alliance side where I have been gone far longer.  On Horde side I am mostly greeted with a “hi bel” since I tend to darken those doors fairly often.  House Stalwart was the guild that I built on the day the servers opened in World of Warcraft and for a long time it was my home.  However the game has changed and with it the guild has changed as a necessity to keep folks active and happy.  I don’t begrudge anything that Elnore, Rylacus or now Kylana did to keep things up and running and the tweaks they made to stay viable.

That said House Stalwart feels like returning to the small town you grew up in, years after leaving it…  and while the folks are friendly all you can notice is the things that have changed and the names that are no longer there.  That guild and the Alliance side of the house are fundamentally different now, and quite honestly are different from when the Legion expansion rolled out and I went through my last period of heavy activity and raiding.  To say active and relevant you have to be a guild in constant motion, whereas the older I get the more I seem to want things to stay the same.  As it stands, though I created it…  I identify more with Greysky Armada our FFXIV guild than I do with House Stalwart these days.  While the Elder Scrolls Online guild bears that name it bears way more connection to Greysky and the AggroChat community than it ever did the original World of Warcraft one.

I think ultimately so much has changed in my life and inside of me since 2004 when the doors opened to Azeroth.  What used to feel like family now feels like a foreign country.  I can’t really blame the game or the players…  it is me that changed because I kept leaving with increasing frequency to go elsewhere.  I remember my first “WoW Tourist” jaunt happened about six months after release, before I had even made it to level 60 on a single character.  A bunch of my friends went off to play Everquest 2 with the group of folks who didn’t follow us into World of Warcraft but instead chose that path.  I remember doing this again for Warhammer Online and quite frankly every major MMO release seemed to pull me away from Warcraft for a period of time…  until those periods of time got longer than my actual time playing the game.

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While this image is greatly outdated at this point… you can see this constant string of orange squares at the top to represent time spent playing World of Warcraft.  The only problem with that is it is a lie, and a lot of those interactions are time spent subscribed and poking my head back in for a night here or there and not large blocks of dedicated time.  I left the game during the early days of the Cataclysm expansion prior to the first patch, and in truth I never fully returned to feeling the same way about it as I did back then.  Sure I have come back with each expansion and usually become active again just prior to a new patch…  but that orange bar is evidence of a lot of time spent moonlighting in World of Warcraft but not actually playing it as my primary game.  I have some deeply complicated feelings about my inability to let go of the past and just move on, and a lot of those feelings have come to a head recently as I stare down the barrel of this expansion.

Sorry for what probably ended up being a bummer of a post, but occasionally I cannot predict the post that will come forth from my fingertips on a given morning.

Hot Shower and Tall Toilet

I flat out lied yesterday morning.  No blog post ever happened because it was one hell of a weird day.  First off I did not sleep hardly at all Sunday night.  I am not sure what was up but I spent most of my night tossing and turning and staring at the clock as it kept ticking up towards our 5:30 wake up time.  Then Kenzie our oft times asshole cat woke us up around 5… because apparently she was afraid we would over sleep?  I took Monday and Tuesday off this week to combine it with Wednesday that we were getting for the 4th of July.  This has given me a five day weekend… and it has been glorious.  Now when I originally took the time off it was as the suggestion of my boss… given that it was shaping up that I was going to be the only manager in the office Thursday and Friday.

There was nothing really planned at all, but my wife decided to take this opportunity for me being off to schedule a bunch of things that otherwise needed to happen.  So as it went yesterday we had an appointment at 8 am, 10 am and 11 am…  originally just to give estimates but some scope creep happened.  Some time ago… around the 13th of February we had an issue where we had NO hot water at all.  You can read that post if you want more details but the long and short of it is…  our Hot Water Heater had a manufacture date of 1977…  making it one year younger than me.  Hot Water Heaters are in theory not supposed to last forty years… and as a result ours was full of a sediment made largely of calcium deposits that were getting sucked up with the hot water and clogging all of our delivery points.

So we knew at some point we would need to get all of that fixed but the estimate our Air Conditioning company that also does plumbing gave us…  was pretty painful.  They laid out three options for us and all of them involved a certain amount of work to “bring it up to code” which in truth is something we just had to take them at their word.  Back in February we managed to remove the clog from the shower which restored functionality and allowed us to kick the hot water heater replacement down the road a bit.  So yesterday we had intended to get a second estimate from a local business, and instead had a bit of scope creep.

Home ownership is largely a long string of things that annoy you about your house.  One of these was the fact that in our main downstairs bathroom we had a shorter than normal toilet.  You have to understand that I am 6’4″ and a good deal of that height is in my legs… making less than comfortable to use said toilet over the last almost twenty years.  The other problem is that toilet never really flushed amazingly well and took 15 minutes for the huge tank to fill between uses.  However like so many things with a home… you just sorta live with it until you reach a critical break point.  While we were dealing with the hot water heater we asked for an estimate to get that replaced with a taller toilet… and apparently what I was really wanting was an ADA compliant toilet which is roughly 18 inches tall instead of the 15 we currently had.

Essentially the estimate we got for the hot water heater and the toilet…  installed and ready to go was less than the lowest estimate we got from before.  The guy had time to do it yesterday so we went ahead and made it happen…  and now I have the toilet I have always wanted.  It is going to take some getting used to given this feels a lot taller than our previous one…  and the fact that the person who flipped our home did not remove the tank to the toilet and just painted around the old one… meaning we have some ancient wallpaper now showing.  That will be handled during a future frantic weekend but for the moment I am supremely happy… and given that at the last minute I had to dip into my birthday money because the amount the guy told us to pull out of the bank was a little off…  we are calling this my birthday present instead of our anniversary gift.

I am guessing we will call the Hot Water Heater the Anniversary gift and my god… the shower was glorious this morning.  I guess I did not realize how far gone the 40 year old one was… because we have been taking showers for some time with the knob all of the way to the hot side.  I damned near burned myself this morning because the new unit works significantly better.  The water pressure though… that is the big difference and while I had to take the shower head off and fish out some bits of calcification with tweezers…  once reassembled the end result was phenomenal.  It really is the little things that make you happy in life.

This has been an insane weekend of doing stuff…  that saw us disposing of a bunch of things that had been sitting around taking up space including the 250 lb HP Laserjet 5si office printer that we were originally trying to find a good home for.  We now know what it is going to take to remodel the bathroom as well so we can start planning accordingly.  We’ve spent much of the extended weekend talking about all of the things we can do that are just cosmetic that will improve our opinion of rooms like the kitchen.  Unfortunately this has meant not a ton of gaming, but if I have to sacrifice of that to use the bathroom comfortably and have a hot shower…  then it seems like a perfectly acceptable sacrifice for now.

Digital Manners

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I did not have the best night of sleep ever last night, but I managed.  It started off with startling awake because just as I was on the brink of falling to sleep…  I swear I heard someone trying to open the front door or more importantly the screen door.  I of course had to go check it out…  because occasionally the wind causes that noise but I found no signs of anything.  Basically I assume that I dreamt it, and was some sort of subconscious manifestation of anxiety or some such.  I say this because my wife has had the same thing happen to her and after investigating found that nothing was actually up, so either someone is fucking with us…  or more likely we are just anxious about something and our brains are being assholes.  That said… I do have a fairly crazy neighbor but I went through the lockdown cycle again and make sure all doors were safely locked before finally going off to sleep.

Another random thing I want to talk about this morning is how I have an overwhelming desire to personify technology.  I blame this on seeing 2001 a space odyssey at a fairly tender age and being fascinated by HAL 9000.  The ultimate irony here is that I NEVER talk to my devices be it OK Google, Alexa, Siri, Bixby, Cortana or whatever other digital voice assistants there happen to be out there.  I would like to think this is pragmatism rearing its head in that I can type a sentence roughly four times faster than I can actually speak it.  However I find myself talking to Google instead of doing the thing that the programmer in me knows is proper and stating my question in order of importance.  So instead of saying “Elder Scrolls Online” + “Museum Pieces” I usually type something like “What are museum pieces used for in ESO?”.

I often make random comments on social media without any context.  Last night was one of those moments where I said the above statement, and came up with a bunch of forum posts talking about them and in almost every single one of them there was a person who took the time to say “it’s not that hard you just” perform some action.  A player was asking a very similar question… on a forum… and they told him it wasn’t that hard you should just google it.  Later on another player was stating that they could not find the slots that they were supposed to go into in the Orsinium museum (answers my question)…  and again someone shot back “it’s not that hard you just” then push the action key.  I’ve seen these comments for years… surrounding gaming or programming or any other sort of cloistered geekdom where one person feels the need to assert their intellectual girth upon another person by making them feel like the question that they are asking is beneath them.   This is one of the many reasons the gaming community that like it or not we are all part of… has a bad rap for being assholes.

Diminishing the questions of another person, or pedantically correcting someone when they are off by a few degrees but you completely understood what they were meaning…  is a dick move.  That said I know I have been guilty of both of these in the past, but the truth is every one of us has done a banquet of items that are range from extremely cringe worthy to toxic and offensive as hell.  I have my past and you have yours as well, but the only way we move forward and evolve is by constantly editing our actions to adopt a stance that leaves less of a negative impact in our wake.  I am a different person than I was ten years ago… and honestly a different person than I was last year and that is okay… it isn’t wishy-washyness but instead the constant and natural process of growing as a person.  If you find yourself attacking or correcting others… or just generally shitposting out of boredom…  you may want to take a serious look at your own motivations and determine if this is the person you want to be forever.

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Chances are you are not acting like the person Mr. Rogers knew you could be.  I don’t use this meme lightly because in truth…  Mr Rogers was almost like a third parent to me as a small kid.  I would sit on the floor enthralled and watch each episode as I got home from school.  Mr Rogers and the entire land of make believe crew were my friends, and I would like to think a lot of the simple lessons that he was trying to teach us… rubbed off on me at least a little bit.  No one can realistically live up to being someone as pure and good as Fred Rogers or Bob Ross or Levar Burton…  but we can try.  As to why I decided to devote a post to this today…  instead of any other day when I happen across some frustrating interactions coming from the gaming sphere…  I have no clue.  Sometimes you just wake up and make a post because it is what is in your head and you cannot really dislodge it.

Last night it was likely a combination of the interaction I saw and then stumbling across the above video while I was playing ESO upstairs.  Which in itself is deeply influenced by the general feeling of loss and nostalgia that I have been feeling surrounding the closing of Toys R Us.  Now you get an emotional post to read this morning…  gratz.  Side note…  Thumper from Bambi was apparently also a major influence on me because I have tried really hard to follow the logic of his father…  If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.  I regularly fail to live up to all of these role models… but the intent is there always nagging me to be a better person.

 

Battle Box Playtest

So last night I did a thing… and unfortunately did not stop to take any photos of said thing I did.  I’ve said before that we have a friend in town and have been occasionally meeting him for dinner.  This friend happens to play Magic the Gathering and last night we met up at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants that is not super busy on week nights… and commandeered the table for a significant amount of time.  In theory we got there around 5:30 which means it probably took until 6 for us to get our food and eat it…  then we hung out playing magic for a couple hours leaving sometime after 8.  Thankfully I am in there often enough and tip well enough that the wait staff did not bat an eye at us doing this.

Firstly I am pretty sure that my friend is a way more serious magic player than I am.  I would probably put me in the collector niche that likes to play weird and quirky decks but not really going to make much headroom at a Friday Night Magic because I am not super focused on the meta.  I did not however actually bring my “real” decks but instead something else for us to try out.  Some time ago I watched the above video from the Professor and it planted an idea in my head.  We have a bunch of folks at work that are former magic players or ones that were interested in potentially finding out more about it.  That said most people didn’t really have decks anymore… and most definitely not decks all at the same power level.

The theory was to assemble a series of decks that were of roughly equal power level and try and create a sort of starter magic experience out of it so we could drop in and play a few games over lunch without much effort.  This didn’t really gain much traction until I happened upon the Tribal Warfare Battle Box set from Card Kingdom.  One of the cool things for me personally about the Ixalan block was that it added a bunch of interesting Tribal cards and combinations, since theme decks have always been a thing I enjoyed greatly.  This set of decks included White Black Vampires, Red Black Pirates, Green Red Dinosaurs, and Blue Green Merfolk…  giving a pretty wide range of play styles and card types.  So I assembled this batch of decks into an Ultimate Guard Stack ‘n’ Safe box leaving two of the six slots for counters and dice and created a packaged experience.

I still need to get something to number the decks with but in theory the slots are going to be numbered 2,3,4,5 and each players start by rolling a d6.  Whoever rolls highest chooses “play or draw” but also begins the picking of decks.  There still need to be some working out the kinks but the theory is a little something like this…

  • Roll 1 – You get to choose the deck your opponent is going to play, after choosing re-roll to determine your own selection
  • Roll 2 – You play the deck in slot 2
  • Roll 3 – You play the deck in slot 3
  • Roll 4 – You play the deck in slot 4
  • Roll 5 – You play the deck in slot 5
  • Roll 6 – You get first pick from any of the decks

Now there are some problems with this…  I was wanting to go with the whole “botch” roll concept but it doesn’t seem like it will work out so I might shift things to the slots being numbered 1-4 and 5 being the choose any deck and 6 be choose your opponents deck.  That makes sense given that you want the quirky one to override the other options numerically.  Whatever the case I listed how we played last night and more or less it seemed to work out just fine.  We started off with three rounds of White/Black Vampires vs Blue/Green Merfolk and they seemed like extremely even match-ups with me winning the first one and not quite getting the cards I needed to win in the last two.  Next up we played Green/Red Dinosaurs vs Black/Red Pirates… and once again over the course of the three rounds the two decks felt extremely even.

I am super thankful to my friend for helping me play test this concept and I think it is finally read for prime time to start trying it out at work.  Ultimately the Card Kingdom Battle decks seem really fun, and while they were slower than the decks he is used to playing…  they still had just the right amount of power.  Ultimately what I was hoping was for matches that lasted long enough to allow players to get a feel of the game rather than simply getting shut down on turn three.  Feeling like you don’t have a chance is the sort of thing that makes learning magic against a veteran player an extremely frustrating concept.  These relatively balanced battle decks really do give the feeling that you have all of the power you need…  you just have to get things to work together in the right combination to build your win condition.  Regardless it was an extremely fun night and were the AC not on the fritz at the restaurant we would have potentially stayed longer.

forty two

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First I feel like I need to start this mornings post off with a discussion of how completely overwhelmed I am by the birthday wishes yesterday.  We were travelling and each time we stopped I furiously tried to catch up with personal thanks to everyone who sent me something.  I completely missed Facebook unfortunately because I refuse to install the Facebook app on my phone and wound up doing a sort blanket thanks over there when I got home.  Twitter however is my social media of choice and I tried my best to keep up throughout the day.  I think I successfully thanked each and every one of you…  but given how fast everything was scrolling there is a high chance that I missed someone.  If I did I am truly sorry because I am super thankful for all of the awesome friends I have.

For the last several years my wife and I have been doing this little mini vacation to the Kansas City metro.  As the rockstar teacher she is, she signs up to grade the AP Statistics exams…  and for the last several years has been a table leader that is responsible for making sure that all of the essay questions get graded effectively the same way by all teachers.  For those who are having trouble picturing this…  imagine a convention center filled with tables full of teachers… all of them grading essays for eight hours a day in a sort of weird factory type environment.  That is what my wife has been doing for the last week and some change.

Instead of having the AP Board fly her back home I have been driving up on the day she gets released and picking her up.  Then we run around Kansas City that night and the next morning and drive back to Tulsa.  Because we are lame we mostly just hit a bunch of the Half Priced Books stores there and usually the Microcenter since we don’t have one in Tulsa and pretty much anything else that happens to suit our fancy in the journey.  That means as the birthday wishes are rolling in we are usually moving from location to location with me trying to catch up as we go.

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I tend to tweet out random things I encounter… like yesterday I made a joke about these being apparently the Amiibos that did not sell, given they were at a Five Below in Olathe KS.  Later I found out that no… these are fairly rare and were Amazon exclusives and who knows how they ended up in the secondary market.  I wished I had picked up a couple because various folks like Pizzamaid really want the Palutena one.  You can find a bunch of odd things that show up at Five Below, which is a discount chain that I wish we had in my area.  The Below part is generally a lie because I’ve seen very few things there that are cheaper than $5.

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Another weird thing I stumbled across in my journey was this controller at Microcenter.  There was no way I was going to pay the $70 price tag but I did snap a photo because I thought it was interesting.  Once I got back to civilization I looked it up and apparently it is the Emio 5-in-1 switch controller, but based on the reviews from Amazon it is not a phenomenal product.  Apparently the Switch 5.0 update completely broke this controller like it did so many third party peripherals, but it was an interesting idea with swappable button layouts for the different Nintendo control schemes it is trying to emulate.

Anyways this is one of those rambling nothing posts.  I feel like I should suddenly feel wiser today given that I am not forty two and apparently the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.  Unfortunately I don’t feel much different apart from the fact I woke up this morning with an insane headache.  I remember as a kid anytime I would go through growth spurts my joints would hurt.  I wonder if headaches are just a sign of your mind going through a growth spurt too.  Personally I like that thought better than the alternative explanations.