Brief Goldrush

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Screen Grab from WoWToken.info

Yesterday was kind of a shit day.  I got to work around 7 am, ran around like a chicken with my head cut off and didn’t get home until after 6:30 pm.  To make matters worse I wound up skipping breakfast with the idea of just grabbing something from the cafeteria in the basement…  but apparently they changed hands and are no longer open at a reasonable hour for breakfast eating.  When I got home I ate some left overs and planned on largely chilling out on the sofa with my laptop, however within minutes I was falling asleep at the keyboard.  Instead of opting to consume caffeine to forcibly prop my eyelids open like I do so many nights…  I simply went with it and crashed hard.  I know I woke up a few times, one of which I vaguely remember going to the kitchen to get a drink…  but for the most part I was completely dead to the world not really becoming aware of my surroundings until about five minutes before the alarm was set to go off this morning.  Bel is still a very sick Bel, and while I am taking some stuff whatever respiratory hell that I picked up at PAX South seems to be lingering.  Unfortunately work is absolutely madness right now and we are pushing towards a hard deadline…  one that honestly made me think if going to PAX was a good idea at all in the first place.  So I am suffering through it, and largely just collapsing into my desk chair and trying to think clear thoughts…  that is until yesterday when a firestorm erupted not even vaguely related to said deadline.  All of the sudden I am back in the same meetings I attended six months ago… and being told to develop the same solution I suggested six months ago but was largely told wasn’t needed.  Suffice to say… it was a miserable day to be a Bel.

As a result I don’t have much that is exciting to talk about other than the fact that something strange happened.  We had essentially a virtual run on the banks in the form of the WoW Token going from 60,000 gold to 115,000 gold and back down to around 66,000 gold all within a 36 hour period.  So what caused this?  Well quite simply the law of supply and demand, but more importantly the release of the ability to fund “Battle.net Balance” from consuming a WoW token instead of simply trading it in for subscription time.  If you will indulge me in a quick side bar here…  didn’t Blizzard say that as far as branding goes “Battle.net” was going away?  I find it bizarre that they are rolling out a new feature with this same branding instead of simply calling it “Blizzard Balance” or something super generic like that.  Essentially all of those folks with pent up desires for products on the Blizzard store, suddenly had the ability to cash in their bankroll and buy those things pushing the demand for tokens way higher than the demand for actual gold.  In truth this should have been foreseen given that there will always be a constant need for things on the store that previously cost cash, but there is a constantly dwindling number of aspirational gold needs in the game.  Sure you could really drop a silly amount of money and buy outright that 2 million gold spider mount…  but at the end of the day it does nothing but sit there as a supposed status symbol.  Whereas in the past with the Tundra Mammoth and Yak… those greatly improved game-play especially when it came to leveling alts.  However I won’t lie that the thought of being able to sell a token and purchase the Alliance motorcycle did cross my mind as something I might be willing to do.

What I want to talk about more than anything else is the absolute windfall that this means for Blizzard.  When you purchase a token for $20 it can be then traded for goods valuing $15…  be it in the form of a monthly subscription or now in $15 of Battle.net balance that can then be spent on anything from physical merchandise to the digital services they provide.  Every time a token changes hands Blizzard makes $5 off the top, regardless of what it is spent on.  My theory is that a lot of the tokens over the last two days were spent purchasing digital services… like character moves or renames… things that folks had been wanting to do for a long period of time but just been unwilling to cough up hard currency to make it happen.  If that is the case then every single one of these token purchases also essentially amounted to pure profit.  I have been a long time critic of the prices that Blizzard charges for character moves or renames… when essentially they are charging for access to what is now a completely automated and scripted interaction.  Once upon a time there was a labor cost associated with these services, because someone manually kicked off a SQL script to make it happen…  however that has not been the case for over a decade and the price never actually went down.  If folks spent their tokens on digital game purchases, or in game items for Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm or Overwatch… then again that is mostly pure profit.  The only time there are serious physical expenses factoring in is if someone purchase tangible items on the store like a Murloc plush or an Overwatch hoodie.  Even then…  they are still making a decent profit on that item or they would not be selling it.  Basically the Token system allows Blizzard to double dip and make a profit on the front end and the back end of every purchase… and at the same time ensures that the folks that are grinding out the gold are actively playing their properties.

In truth I think we can expect one of these “runs on the bank” each time something new is released from Blizzard.  A new champion in Heroes of the Storm… bam the token price inflates as folks scurry to purchase it.  The Diablo 3 expansion pack that adds Necromancers releases…  same thing… a rush to sell off some gold to purchase the thing that folks want.  I think of this much like the lottery system, in that once the reward gets to a certain point… it brings people out of the woodwork that would never normally buy tickets.  Personally that price point is somewhere around 300 million dollars for a lottery, because that prompts me to start buying the occasional one off ticket here and there on the vague chance that I will actually win.  For WoW players that price point seems to be 100,000 gold for the US economy and 200,000 gold for the EU economy.  The bizarre part of this is that I don’t think the balance feature is even available on the EU realms yet, and it absolutely had no effect on China, Taiwan, or South Korea yet… but in truth those three markets are madness anyways. Regardless… the fact that players can now cash in their gold for tangible goods… that they could then in theory sell on secondary markets like Ebay tells me that we are going to change the dynamic considerably.  You have just essentially let players start turning game time in to real dollars, which is a strange paradigm and one that is not entirely dissimilar to the traditional third party gold markets.  Granted this is going to be a SUPER lossy process, but one that will exist nonetheless.  One that more than likely only the most sage of gold making wizards will ever figure out how to tap.  Things are going to be really strange from this point out.

[Edit] I just heard from my friend Nyn that you cannot apparently use Battle.net balance to fund physical items… so that at least negates some of my commentary.  However that does mean that tokens going to Battle.net balance are essentially going to be largely pure profit for Blizzard.

Derpest Dungeon

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Last night did not exactly go as intended, but it was a pretty great night nonetheless.  Originally I had hopes of getting a Mythic+ group together so that I could use my +5 Maw of Souls keystone.  That said I didn’t really exert a whole lot of effort in finding it either, and when I finally got settled in for the night after a bunch of idling there were only a handful of us on.  Instead I opted to work on my time walking dungeons in the hopes that I might get more of that tasty tasty Essence of Aman’Thul from the weekly quest.  When we got a group together it consisted of Rylacus and his son Tinoke who both still needed 2 dungeons… myself who needed 4 and then Bled and Phy just because they are awesome and love me enough to do a bunch of time walking dungeons.  In truth I had completely pug tanked one of the dungeons so I could have suffered through it if I had to, but I enjoy tanking for my friends way more than I enjoy tanking for strangers.  In any case we got to chit chat back and forth on Discord while doing the dungeons and that made the four go much faster.  I had hoped by the time we finished there might be more people around, so we could pull together that Mythic+ but alas that was not the case.  In truth I am guessing it was a good thing since a crisis arose while we were doing the Time Walking heroics.

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I hate printers, probably more than any piece of equipment ever.  They never seem to work as intended and always require an inordinate amount of fiddling.  One of the things you have to know is that many nights my wife can print as much as an entire ream of paper for her class.  When I am upstairs I am also at least in part the warden of the printer, and get yelled up at to fix issues when they arrise.  Now earlier in the evening she was printing perfectly fine… and then all of the sudden things stopped spooling entirely.  I tried my best to correctly diagnose the problem, but none of the rampant googling actually provided anything that was useful.  Of note… we have a massive workgroup printer that weighs about 200 lbs and is precariously connected to a machine that acts as a print server via parallel to usb cable.  It works 99% of the time but is just brittle enough to make me constantly uncertain of what might be causing the problem.  We tried a sequence of rebooting the laptop and rebooting the “server” to no luck.  She was able to hit file shares on the “server” without issue, but any time she tried to access the printer it said that it did not exist.  However I could print to that printer from any other computer on the network so the connection was still there and active.  Finally in my destination I started fiddling with home group settings, and changed her share settings because I was literally trying everything I could reasonably think of.  Instantly it was like something refreshed her machines permissions and she could suddenly see the printer and life was once again good.  Once again… let me express my undying hatred for printers.

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Apparently Tam had been trying to get a hold of me while deep in printer diagnosis hell.  Over the weekend I made a vague attempt to catch up on the Final Fantasy XIV content, but hit a both literal and figurative wall…  in the form of the Baelsar’s Wall instance.  I was not about to pug tank it… and it turns out apparently I couldn’t anyways because my item level is too low.  I am currently sitting at 220 but apparently need 230 to get there.  When I finally got patched up and logged in, Ash was needing to go to bed which left us with Tam and Kodra and seeing as I had not actually run any of the second half of the derpest dungeon, we opted to form a group for that.  I have to say… while I have struggled in the past to get in and have fun…  the deepest dungeon really hit the spot.  The deepest dungeon serves the purpose of being quite possibly the easiest way to get weapon upgrades, with a mini game system that I have talked about in the past that involves collecting “gear” and leveling both your weapon and armor to 30.  When you have collected 30 you can turn that in for a very solid 235 weapon which would be a sizable upgrade for me.  Now when I entered last night I was sitting at the point where I stopped playing last time… which was somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 weapon and 14 armor.  By the end of the night if I remember correctly I was sitting at 30 weapon and 28 armor… so pretty close to being able to collect my first weapon.  It seems like the 51-100 floors move your item levels considerably faster… either that or we simply got lucky.  To be honest, I had more fun in FFXIV last night than I have in a long time…  and the above screenshot is there to simply serve as a reminder to just how insane Cactuar is as a server.

[Edit] – I can’t re-title the post without breaking every link that I syndicated this morning.  That said I am finding out that “Derp” has some problematic roots and is a word that makes a lot of folks uncomfortable.  It’s not really a word that is of any importance to me so going to attempt to jettison it from my vocabulary.

Restless Weekend

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This weekend was a bit of an odd one, because at least for me it centered around recording our “Games of the Year” show on AggroChat.  This is generally speaking a huge ordeal given that our show is made up of six very different minded people.  Back during the days when we had four regular hosts it was less of a proceeding but now that we essentially have six people each picking three games a piece… that means we wind up talking about 18 games, which as it turns out divides neatly into two 9 image panels.  The above image is the first of these and serves as the backdrop for our normal show card of sorts, however with the text over it you can’t necessarily make out all of the images involved so I decided to post it here.  You can as always find the show on AggroChat or my method of choice for sheer simplicity of listening…  YouTube.  The reason why this largely dominated my weekend is because we ultimately recorded two podcasts that were both two hours long before I set down to edit them.  Post edits they both clock in around an hour and twenty minutes, which really is shocking given that I did not actually time anything out in an attempt to make them work as relative set pieces.  I guess however if you set out to record nine games per show… the end result comes out fairly evenly.  I did make an attempt to shuffle the deck in such a way as to put the games I thought we would most likely talk the longest about divided evenly among the shows.

So we recorded from 8 pm CST until just after midnight, and then I got up around 7:30 Sunday morning and edited until 12:30…  and as a result every other element of the weekend felt like it was shoved to one side or the other.  Of course all of this madness has a purpose since the double episode is timed perfectly to cover the absence of myself and Ashgar as we go to Pax South.  Now in theory Grace, Kodra, Tam and Thalen could record without me… but that would mean I had the forethought to have the mess that is our show in a state that I could easily hand over the reigns to an understudy.  I have not planned ahead that far, and while I do have a series of Audacity and Photoshop projects to speed up the process…  I am not sure if I could even properly explain what exactly I do each week.  It is my hope however that I managed to not only publish yesterday, but also schedule everything else to publish next Sunday while I am driving home from San Antonio.  Staging a publish to happen without me is always a fraught thing for me… because so rarely does it actually work as intended.  Even if it does… I am literally stressed beyond reason until I see the tweets show up in my timeline from the publish process actually doing its thing appropriately.  In the grand scheme of things however…  it is not the most important thing in the world… but it is important to me.

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As far as gaming went this weekend that was equally scattered.  I patched up Final Fantasy XIV and made it far enough to hit the first instance gate, before ultimately walking away.  Similarly I patched up Wildstar, created a Chua Warrior and played to around level seven before once again walking away like a bored child.  As far as gaming that managed to last for more than an hour…  we had World of Warcraft where I finally hit 35 points on my Protection Artifact and started pushing up Fury instead.  I have gotten back in the habit of logging in each day to do my Emissary quest because now there is also a potential legendary upgrade waiting at the end of the grind.  I started doing my Time Walking dungeons… but only managed to make it through the first one tanking it before once again wandering away.  The game that seemed to stick the hardest was Elder Scrolls Online where I completed a good chunk of Malabal Tor, a zone where I am already completely enthralled by the storyline…  even though it involves largely nothing but elves and their internal politics.  I’ve decided that the Bosmer are what it takes to make me really enjoy Elves.  I am really enjoying the whole lore regarding the Green Lady and the Silvenar, and I guess in truth that was an aspect of the lore that I had either forgotten or ignored in playing other Elder Scrolls games.  I even managed to have a few emotional gut punches last night, when I lost characters that I actually really liked during one quest chain.  In truth all I want to do right now is hide in my blanket cocoon on the couch and play more ESO, but that said I do want to at some point get a Mythic+ in for the week since I have a +5 Maw of Souls key.

Nighthold and Senpai

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Last night I managed to pull myself out of my recent funk and actually get more than a modicum of excitement about the prospects of raid night once again.  On Tuesday The Nighthold opened and since we are a Wednesday night raid we hoped that any weirdities would be resolved by then and we could simply get in and start working on clearing new and interesting things.  Thankfully that was the case and we moved forward with only the most spartan scribbled notes to go from as we pushed our way through the boss fights.  We are not exactly a super serious raid, but that said it is nice to keep moving and doing things that are at least progression for our purposes.  Before the launch of Nighthold we managed to clear both Emerald Nightmare and Trial of Valor on Normal, and push all of the way through Heroic Emerald Nightmare and even got it on farm status.  We have a bit of an odd structure in that we raid a single night each week, and then have a second night on Friday that is completely optional.  So up until this week we had been doing Heroic Emerald Nightmare on Wednesdays and attempting to clear Normal Emerald Nightmare and Trial of Valor all within a pretty compressed Friday night.  For the most part it has worked out pretty well for us, because Friday gives us a night to start bringing folks who are maybe not geared enough for the more serious content.

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As far as the fights that we saw… I have to say they were really fun.  We are very much a raid that learns on its feet, or at least needs multiple attempts to sort out the fight.  However generally speaking once we have a fight sorted as such, we then can pretty much repeat it every single week regardless of the exact raid composition.  Skorpyron was absolutely a case of me trying to sort out how exactly to do the tether mechanic effectively and I think we managed to get it down on our third or fourth attempt…  going pretty much from chain rezzing tanks to clear within the space of a single attempt.  Chronomatic Anomaly was its own special hell, but we sorted out how to deal with the tank swaps and the add phases… and the fact that the boss could be moved if only slightly towards the add when it first spawns making the “dunk” go much more smoothly.  Sidenote… the dunk absolutely reminds me of a handful of fights in Destiny where you have to pick up an orb and then slam it down somewhere else… so  I got a bit nostalgic there.  We then moved on to Trilliax… the fight where we get to eat cake… and play with roombas.  To be truthful as the tank I am not entirely certain what is going on other than the fact that it sounded like madness, because Art and I spent our entire time worrying about tank swaps and trying to kite the boss around the room…  or prepping for the next kite phase.  I know it somehow involved eating cake and not eating cake and not allowing the roombas to have any cake.  Whatever the case after a couple of attempts we had one of those slow wipes to the finish line that ended up with a boss kill.

Throughout the night I had been tweeting out each time we downed a boss because I knew there were a few people who could not make it last night, and also a good chunk of our guild as a whole is on twitter.  Over the years I have sorta adopted people and smuggled them into my guild, and now you have the end result that tends to be an amalgamation of awesome.  We were working on clearing the insane amount of trash on the way to Spellblade Aluriel when I got a Battle.net message from a friend of mine that lives on the other side of the faction fence.  He excitedly told me that I apparently got a congratz message from the official World of Warcraft account, and when I alt tabbed over to check myself…  sure enough there was the above message as well as a handful of favorites to go with it.  Senpai apparently noticed us, and smiled upon our progress.  I won’t lie…  it gave me and still does give me a bit of an afterglow of warm fuzzies.  We continued on and put in a little work on Spellblade Aluriel, and managed to at least push into phase 2 before needing to call it for the night.  Like I said we are a bit of an odd case when it comes to raiding because we raid 8 to 10:30 EST, and try really hard not to push too far over that line.  So in that 2 1/2 hours minus a break in the middle when our first flask wears out we managed to clear 3 bosses and at least reach a point of understanding with the fourth.  As is always the case I am certain we will speed up in week too, because it honestly felt like last night we spent more time talking out strategies than actually fighting things.  All in all though it was a pretty great night of raiding in a really pretty instance with some seemingly fun encounters.

Curve Beating

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I can in all honesty say I did not really expect to be placing this clipping of a screenshot on my blog.  When we cleared Normal Emerald Nightmare… I was pleased as hell.  When we turned around and cleared Normal Trial of Valor…  I was ecstatic.  When we started work on Heroic Emerald Nightmare…  I figured that it would give us a challenge right up until the point that Nighthold Normal was released and that we would ultimately switch gears.  I mean Nighthold is supposedly slotted for January 17th… which is only 26 days away depending on how you count today.  We however started making some significant progress in Heroic Emerald Nightmare… and in truth I didn’t really dare to hope we would manage to get through it yet.  We have several friends who are raiding mythics in a much more serious capacity than our guild raid.  The awesome thing is… we are apparently the sort of raid that they still enjoy coming along on because of the interaction between all of the members.  So in part I chocked our Heroic victories up to the number of “ringer” dps we ended up bringing in as a result.  Last night we were extremely short on numbers and missing most of this overpowered dps that we had so often been bringing.  I had resigned myself to hopefully repeating our previous progress, and just enjoying the process.

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Now is the point where I tell you… that I can not possibly be prouder of my guild.  Instead of struggling with the absence of some mythic ringers…  we instead continued to perform at an admirable level as we not only defeated…  but one shot several of the bosses we have never attempted.  We had some early struggles as we essentially got back in the swing of the raid…  for me not being able to make the last two Friday nights I felt more than a little rusty.  However by the time we reached “Spiderbirb” we were trucking along nicely and managed the first new one shot of the evening.  Similarly we seemingly rolled over Ilgynoth… or at least pulled out a victory doing the fight in a single burn phase.  From there we worked on Cenarius and once again managed to pull out a victory in a single attempt, which lead us to only having Xavius to work on.  This was sitting at 9 pm my time… and I thought to myself that we were in a good position to get a bunch of attempts in… giving us at least 30 minutes before the official end of the raid.  I also thought that with it being the holidays… we might be able to extend a bit to get the kill if needed.  It turns out we didn’t need all of that time on attempts, because we had a very close first shot and managed to pull out the victory on attempt two giving us still about fifteen minutes to spare before our official ending time.  It was a really great night, and I am amped about our prospects going into Nighthold.  We will for the first time this expansion be starting new content on exactly the week it comes out, which is a bit of a point of pride for me.  I love feeling like we can be casual, but still extremely successful.

By the time the raid was over I realized that I had not actually spent any time with the Luna that evening.  So I took her into my office to chill out and get some attention while I opted to play some Destiny.  At this point I am 399 light… and have limited my list of needs down to replacing my 394 Ghost Shell, 399 boots, and 399 Heavy Weapon.  I had a moment of extreme excitement at one point in the evening when I got an exotic heavy engram…  which decoded at 399 instead of the 400 I have been getting from the SRL event.  Before long I was joined by my friend Grace and we hung out doing some racing.  She was working on one of the quest steps where you had to get ten races where you place in the top three… and I maybe just maybe played a little aggressively with the other drivers.  There was at least one time when I happened to ram into the person who was closing in on her then third place slot.  Who knew you could tank with a speeder bike?  In truth I had seen a few clans doing this over my time racing… where they were essentially clearing the way for their friend to come in and snatch the first place position so I considered it completely fair game.  That said she managed to pull out a few come from behind second place victories like the one I decided to screenshot here.  The bonus of the entire night was that in both cases we improved our light levels… and simply hanging out and chatting made the whole racing thing go significantly faster.

I have honestly had some extremely good luck during the SRL with crucible weapon drops.  Last night was apparently no different as I managed to pick up a really nice version of the NL Shadow 701X.  Firstly it has triple tap which is a stat I love for boss encounters… or anything else I am pretty certain to land three precision shots in rapid succession.  To crank up the stability is Hand-laid stock… which ultimately reduces the range but I can live with that at 47.  Finally hidden hand helps with triple tap in making it slightly easier to get those precision shots…  so all in all the weapon has some really nice synergy.  The only negative is this is a scout rifle… and I don’t really tend to use a lot of scout rifles.  This lives in the Mida Multi-Tool family, and actually has a higher rate of fire…  which makes it feel extremely spammy.  Now if I could have replaced Hidden Hand with Full Auto… this would have been just about my favorite scout rifle.  In any case this is definitely something worth holding onto and other than my Hand of Judgement from Challenge of Elders… I didn’t really have that many legendary scout rifles that I enjoyed using.  In any case that still gives me a good roll for Eyasluna, and god rolls for Hopscotch Pilgrim and potentially NL Shadow 701X coming from SRL so far.

Icecrown Challenge

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The world is a truly bizarre place sometimes.  There are a lot of folks that make up my twitter timeline that I know… but only in a slantwise way.  I recognize them, and am even happy to see posts show up as my feed scrolls by, but I really don’t know much about them.  ArcaneRatsel is one of those folks, and I largely followed her because she does amazing things for the Warcraft community as a whole.  She was part of an expansion of my timeline as I attempted to follow more positive Warcraft folks.  For example she did this crazy thing where she essentially created faction logos for anyone who was interested…. and as a result created a truly silly number of them.  She is also involved in the Running of the Gnomes that supports Cleveland Clinic, Running of the Trolls that supports the Trevor Project, and now the Icecrown Challenge that supports the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  To say she is a “good egg” is a big understatement… but again this is largely someone I only knew existed in passing and occasionally but rarely ended up in the same conversation with.  So yesterday all started with a really simple thing…  she said she was passing through my state to visit family.  It is not like Oklahoma is a popular destination spot, so generally when I see that I comment and welcome whoever it is to the state.

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After a handful of back and forths… the conversation quickly moved to DMs…  because in the oddest of coincidences apparently we grew up in the exact same town of 2500 people.  There is a little less than a ten year difference between us in ages, so we are for all purposes of different generations.  It is not like we should have had a lot of overlap…  but we absolutely did.  My Mother was a teacher at the High School for decades… and it turns out her Mom was as well.  In fact her Mom was my Freshman English teacher, and for a period of time went to the same church as I did.  Through either the church thing or the teacher thing… I know I wound up in their home multiple times throughout my “growing up” period, and as we found out last night my dad who was an armchair professional photographer took portrait photos at least once.  If you were to do an “as the crow flies” we grew up less than a mile apart, in fact from my house you could look out over the pasture and see hers.  Ultimately… the world is a really strange place sometimes and what seems like massive distances can be shortened in an instant.  I mean after all my wife and I grew up thirty minutes apart, and were in turn introduced by a mutual friend in Belgium.  It is also weird how someone who is a complete and total stranger can suddenly become of much more significance from a single thread of connection.

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Now when I first saw the Icecrown Challenge I was thinking…  “Bel you should do this thing, because you clear Icecrown weekly anyways”.  Now that I have some connection to at least one of the folks responsible for running the event…  it was simply something I couldn’t NOT do.  So last night I set my stream up and streamed my adventure across Icecrown…  with a lot of help from my audience.  By help I mean absolutely throwing a monkey wrench in the proceedings.  I was all set to try and clear as fast as possible, but things happened along the way.  You can watch the entire stream as a Beam VOD, but suffice to say…  I am not taking full responsibility for some of the madness.  I’ve been interspersing some of the wing boss kill times throughout this post that I lifted from my recording.  I am just going to lay them out here to see if you can find the problem…

  • Professor Putricide – 11:11
  • Blood Queen Lana’thel – 14:46
  • Sindragosa – 26:56

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It took me 3 minutes and 35 seconds to clear from Putricide to the Blood Queen, and based on some probably wrong math….  12 minutes and 10 seconds to get to Sindragosa.  The majority of that time was spent on attempting to do the Dreamwalker fight.  My viewers told me with the utmost confidence that I could absolutely heal the dragon to full with a single bandage, and I am sure that is absolutely the case…. but not on heroic where she is constantly taking damage over time.  So I wasted a good ten minutes and a I think eight bandages trying to make this work… only to get instantly interrupted when I started challenging the heal.  So essentially all of the time I had made up to this point was completely blown and I ultimately had to jump in a portal to reset the encounter.  Now were I choosing to run it on my Paladin, life would have been dandy.  I know that I can heal her to full with a few flash of lights and move on with my life.  In fact that was a large chunk of the reason why I used to always run this place weekly as a paladin.  However last night I had to simply move on with my Warrior.

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After the huge ball of frustration that was Dreamwalker… I finally looted Arthas and paused my timer at 31 minutes and 49 seconds.  As per are the rules of the Icecrown Challenge… I then turned around and donated $31.49 to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  Additionally as part of the rules of the contest… I challenged Mort, Ashgar, and Thalen to also take the contest and make their own donations.  The donation drive runs for I believe a month and officially started 12/13.  Right now they have roughly $400 in donations and I feel like we can get this higher.  Even if you are not directly challenged, you can totally start your own branch of the tree like I did.  I would love to see this trickle through all of the little offshoots of the community… because lets face it…  running Icecrown is fun.  While I might grouse a little bit about losing ten minutes… that “wasted” time just meant I donated a little bit more money towards a really good cause.

 

Social Structure and MMOs

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I’ve talked off and on about Imzy, and how it is filling a niche for me at least that Google+ used to in that it allows for a sort of long winded discussion that twitter just simply doesn’t.  Yesterday I read a post there that made me realize something I had been trying to sort out in my head for awhile.  The vast majority of my gaming time is spent playing MMOs and I tend to have several that I am in various states of active in at the same time.  However I rarely if ever gain any sort of permanent traction in them, and after a few weeks of play tend to fade away again until the whim hits me to fire it back up.  I go through a cycle of curiosity that leads to excitement…  that leads to confusion and disillusionment that ultimately ends with me leaving once more.  I will pick up a game and for a few days to weeks it is going to be the most interesting thing in the world as I get adjusted to the systems and mechanics again.  However I always reach this point where an overwhelming sense of “what now” hits me.  When that happens I wind out going right back to whatever it is happens to be my core game…  which if we are being honest with me is an alternation of World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV.  I have been working on my games played during 2016… and decided to extend that out to all of the games that are easy to track thanks to my blog.  There is a clear pattern of when I start getting super excited about WoW I shift away from FFXIV and versa vicea.  There is of course some overlap, but you can see a back and forth pattern that emerges.

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So the question is then…. what do these two games seem to have that so many others don’t.  The answer was sitting there waiting for me to notice. I often talk about games having great communities…  but generally speaking this is in broad terms and extremely non-specific.  Most games have some excellent niches in them, but in the grand scheme of things that doesn’t really do much to add core enjoyment for me.  I keep returning to World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV… because those are the games that I have established communities in.  There was a time when I was willing to branch out and meet new people…  plunk myself down in a brand new game and start growing an entirely different infrastructure.  The community that I have right now… is in large part the result of me doing this over and over.  Each new game I go into I meet a whole new cast of people…  but at some point that began to change.  As I gathered a larger and larger core of players… I stopped looking outside to the community nearly as much and instead looking to my guild.  While I am still meeting a lot of new people… they are coming with the pedigree of knowing someone I already know and am familiar with…  which of course speeds up the social footnotes that come from meeting anyone new.

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Last night was a prime example of this happening, because we were raiding in World of Warcraft and had someone pop by and join….  that I had not personally played with in several years.  My personal community in House Stalwart within World of Warcraft seems to have this ability to stay evergreen… and always have a certain chunk of the population that is active and always happy to be there.  House Stalwart my guild has existed for twelve years…  in spite of my actions.  When I left WoW to start playing Rift I tried my best to burn down everything about the game… actively recruiting people away to play this new an exciting game.  I did the same thing for Final Fantasy XIV and Elder Scrolls Online… and countless other games.  However at its core… the guild still remains and not only that… but has remained viable for the purpose of doing interesting end game content the entire time. Similarly the Final Fantasy XIV guild… while considerably younger just seems to endure whatever boom and bust cycles we go through population wise, and in both cases….  I know that I can return at any point and will be welcomed back with open arms.  In truth I think pretty much everyone who has touched either guild feels the same way…  which is why folks are constantly showing up from out of the woodwork and reintegrating back into the core at least for a little while.

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So the problem that exists with nearly every other game…  is I just don’t have anything close to this infrastructure…  nor do I really have the emotional or intellectual strength to try and forge it.  There have been House Stalwart offshoots in damned near every MMO that has existed… or at least as a guild community we have chosen a specific server and faction to all roll on.  However for most… these interludes serve as a vacation from the game they were already playing… and after a break most folks wind up going right back to the familiar.  In a traditional MMO I need to have something that I am building towards, and that object on the horizon is usually doing interesting things with my friends.  So while it is absolutely fun to pop in and play Rift or ArcheAge for a weekend…  I find hard keeping motivated when I know I have no real facilities to do any of the big interesting things… other than pugging.  I am spoiled to be honest, and so many years of not having to PUG has soured my experience as a whole.  Any random person I encounter is somehow tarnished by the memory of all of the good times I have had with my guild throughout the years.  After generations of MMOs… this has lead me to be rather insular in my gaming habits and tending to return to the folks I already know and respect rather than trying to create something new.

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So now days I tend to operate in two modes.  I have the games that I am active in and have deep social connections… and the games that I slink off to when I need to limit my social connectivity and turtle for awhile.  I tend to gobble up whatever new content is available, and then happy drop that game by the wayside as I return to active duty again.  Games like Star Wars the Old Republic, The Secret World and Elder Scrolls Online are great for this role, given that they all have deeply engaging stories that you can find yourself completely lost in…  so much so that you forget that you are essentially alone in a crowd of strangers.  There are a lot of games that I think I would enjoy… if I had a similar stable infrastructure.  However at this point… to be honest… folks are pretty stratified in their gaming habits.  I can no longer really make an impassioned argument as to why they should abandon X game that they know and love for Y game that is new and different.  I know this boom and bust cycle all too well at this point… and while it is a hell of a fun ride, to some extent I am getting that fix elsewhere.  For me personally… the Diablo 3 season mechanism perfectly emulates the feeling of “unwrapping” a brand new MMO and rushing with your friends to level as quickly as you can.  This time however we all know it is perfectly fine to fade away once you have achieved your  goals…  because its a game we will all return to again and again as new seasons happen.  I have been the cause of so much frustration and disappointment in my gaming career…  that I guess in some part I would rather slink off alone… than get folks excited about yet another game that I am sure we will all abandon within three months time.  However that same instinct…  is what keeps any of these games from actually gaining traction.  What I realized this week when reading the post on Imzy is just how desperately I need that social infrastructure for me to be able to enjoy a MMO.

Helya Defeated

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In the past I have talked about our youngest cat Kenzie and her proclivity for playing fetch with rubber bands.  Well the game has changed… and it has shifted from being one of those “once in awhile” things to an all the time thing.  We will often times wake up with a rubber band beside us in bed and her expectantly prancing back and forth next to it waiting for us to throw it.  This morning for example as I got up, showered, and got dressed I threw the rubber band a couple dozen times.  Sometimes she would shift things up and bring the rubber band back to my wife instead of me… but nonetheless it was certainly clear that it was fetch time.  I am wondering however if I can also change the game… and teach her how to fetch things like balls.  The first cat that would play fetch that I had ever seen was Dee Dee the now fat and sassy cat that a neighbor of ours has.  She however tended to favor these foam balls that you could get from PetSmart.  We tried this with several of our cats but it never really took…  however now that the fetching behavior has firmly planted itself in Kenzie I am wondering if we can also teach her to fetch balls.

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We had a pretty great raid night as far as raid nights go.  Some time ago we shifted into having a progression night which is Wednesday and a farm night which is Friday.  On the farm night we attempt to clear Emerald Nightmare normal as fast as we can, and on the progression night we have been working on Trial of Valor with the initial hopes of being able to clear it in time for the launch of Nighthold.  However with the 7.1.5 patch being pushed back… it seems like we have all the time in the world for that goal.  Last week we managed to get our first Guarm kill and we were able to repeat that feat this week…  however it took a few tries.  The part I am proudest of however is the fact that we managed to defeat Odyn this week as a one shot, which given how many moving parts there are on that fight….  I am pleased and amazed and even phase three felt pretty solid.  I think folks finally started dropping things where they should be dropped which allowed the tanks a lot more flexibility of placing Odyn where he needs to be during that final burn.  As far as Helya goes… it still feels like a mess but the attempt where we managed to push her into phase 3 with most of the raid up… we also managed to kill her.  I was recording last night while we raided so was able to pull screenshots of the exact moment she went down and in truth… the raid as a whole was still in a pretty decent position.

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Since we still had a lot of night left to go we went over into the Emerald Nightmare and started working on heroic bosses.  Previously we had made a few attempts on Nythendra and more or less had the correct positioning and such down.  We lost a handful of people between the zone switch because they needed to go for early work and such, and we adjusted a little bit.  The shocking thing is… in theory we made a one shot as we were sorta in a slow wiping state when the boss finally went down.  As you can see in the screen shot my entire team was dead, and I had just literally blown up from the rot debuff when the boss went down.  It was messy… but I will take it because she dropped the best possible loot.  She dropped me an exact upgrade, stat for stat… simply the heroic version of the Insect-Etched Chestplate that I was already wearing.  From the previous encounters of the night I got a few pieces of loot… that I am unfortunately going to have to do some simulation to determine if they are truly upgrades or not.

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There was a bit of back and forth to determine what exactly was our next encounter to attempt.  Some folks were leaning towards Ursoc, but even on normal that is a healing battle to try and keep the tanks alive.  Emerald Dragons however seemed to be a little more attempt-able for the next step… and did not actually introduce any new mechanics.  So we set forth to take down the dragons that used to give us nature resist gear back in the day.  All in all it went pretty smoothly with the first pull almost netting us a kill.  We reached a point where normally we thought we could simply burn them down without doing a tank swap… and because we didn’t swap it stunned the entire raid.  Still kicking myself a little bit about that judgement call, because while I asked the raid…  it was ultimately myself and Art that decided not to swap.  We did however come back and get the kill almost immediately after.  There was a vote to see if we wanted to keep moving… but we were already sitting at our normal raid end time and considering that I didn’t get much sleep last night I voted against it.  I like the way our raid does this thing…  in that if we want to extend and make attempts on a boss after our normal raid end… we simply throw up a readycheck and if anyone… or at least a significant unrecoverable portion says no we stop.  I have to say this whole recording thing is handy as hell because it was super easy for me to pull screenshots of the moment of death this morning.

Favorite Addons

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This morning I decided to sit down and write up a post I had been meaning to for awhile.  Lately I have been having a significant number of friends returning to World of Warcraft, and among the first questions is always…  what Addons do I need?  This is as always a personal preference question, but I thought I would take a moment to talk about some of the addons I use and why.  I will be snagging screenshots from curse for the purpose of representing the addon given that it is always a pain in the butt to find circumstances that show them off properly.

One real quick note… I use the Curse client to update my addons and generally I find it  the best possible option.  I highly suggest you check it out.

ArkInventory

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This is probably the number one addon that I simply cannot function without.  At face value it takes all of your bags and presents them in a single window pane, and does the same for pretty much any bag like structure like your bank.  What sets this one apart from everything else that essentially does the same thing, is that you can configure virtual bags.  This allows you to sort all of your trade goods, or filter your gear in a way so that the highest item level items appear at the bottom of the bag.  I also use this as a way of finding what I have gotten that has dropped that is BoE because it appears in a different virtual bag.  Configuration has gotten a bit more cumbersome since it first was released but it is well worth the time.

Download Here

Can I Mog It?

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We all know the real end game is looking cool on your characters, and with the release of the Legion pre-expansion patch we got a brand new overhauled Transmog system.  I rejoiced at the thought of being able to finally reclaim all of that bank and void storage space that I simply used to keep cosmetic gear around for the purpose of transmogging.  However I was a little gunshy about simply just selling it… and the default Blizzard interface made it a little cumbersome to see if you did in fact have an item appearance.  This is when “Can I Mog It?” comes to the rescue showing you at a glance on the item tooltip if you have already collected the appearance or if you should send the item to an alt of a specific class or armor type.  For me this little peace of mind was super important before I actually started liquidating all of those hard fought appearance items.

Download Here

TransmogTokens

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If you are anything like me…  you are farming old world content to try and get new transmog options.  Look I may or may not care more about this system than pretty much anything else in World of Warcraft.  As a result you end up with a ton of the various tier tokens that you may or may not remember if you actually have the appearance for.  This addon does two important things… firstly it shows you how many appearances you have yet to collect that are unlocked with the token.  Secondly it shows you who you actually turn the token in to… which is often times even more important because I don’t always remember which tier turned in at which location because…  there have been a lot of raids I have done in World of Warcraft.

Download Here

NomiCakes

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Nomi is horrible.  NomiCakes makes dealing with him significantly less horrible.  What this addon does is simply tell you how many more recipes you can learn with a given consumable.  That way you don’t waste resources on something you don’t actually care about.  Granted at this point I have not learned everything that is available from any given food item… but at some point I hope to and NomiCakes is going to be there to remind me when that glorious day finally arrives.

Download Here

GTFO

This addon doesn’t really need a screenshot because…  it isn’t really a screenshot sort of thing.  If you raid… get GTFO simple as that.  The addon does one thing and does it amazingly well.. and that is play a god awful klaxon noise that you want to stop at all costs…  any time you are standing in something bad that deals environmental damage.  It is super simple, requires zero configuration and will immediately improve your awareness of bad… because you really don’t want to ever hear that noise again.  I especially love this as a tank because sometimes the boss is partially obscuring things that I shouldn’t be standing in… and this addon tells me that I need to move or make my healers hate me.

Download Here

Loot Toasts

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I love this addon and I am not entirely certain if I can explain why.  Largely I go on murderous rampages rather often, and I have definitely been the sort of person that ends up with a world BOE epic in their bag…. and didn’t even realize it.  I also sometimes go on farming trips, where I need a specific amount of this or that material…  and don’t want to keep having to check my bags to see if I can stop yet.  In both cases Loot Toasts helps me to keep an eye on what I just looted.  Essentially it allows you to have an area of the screen where things pop up briefly for items you have looted.  If it is something that stacks, it shows you both how many you just looted and how many you happen to have in your bags with you.  The tooltip is colored based on the rarity of the item so it is pretty easy to see out of the corner of your eye that you might have just gotten something interesting.

Download Here

World Quest Tracker

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World Quests are amazing, and pretty much in my experience the best possible way to gear your alts without tons of effort.  On the mobile app you are treated with this great view that summarizes what World Quests are available and what the rewards are… so if you are like me and mostly interested in the ones that drop gear, you can find them quickly.  The only negative is that logging into the mobile client, logs you out of the game.  What World Quest Tracker does is give you an in game interface to see the same sort of information, as well as adding in hooks for things like TomTom to give you waypoints to find where the quests start.  You have all sorts of filtering options that allow you to show say only Order Resources quests, or only quests that will help you complete a certain Emissary quest.  To make things even better… when you are on the flight map you can see all of the available World Quests so it makes picking the nearest flight path an ease.  I could not seriously imagine existing in Legion without this addon… much in the same way as Master Plan seemed to be a requirement for functioning in Warlords.

Download Here

Saved Instances

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One of the big challenges this expansion is the fact that Mythic Dungeons are essentially the new Heroic Dungeons, and that they come with a bizarre weekly lockout timer.  I always struggle with remembering who is locked to which zones, and while I can simply hit /raidinfo to see this information…  I found that I didn’t quite have the all in one interface that I really wanted.  Saved Instances is a widget that is added to your map border that gives you a quick chart of who has a lockout to which content.  I find this especially handy for farming old world content and raids, when I am trying for mounts or pets.  It will also keep track of the reroll tokens and who has used them…  and who has yet to redeem them for the week.

Download Here

Enemy Grid

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One of my favorite things about tanking in Final Fantasy XIV was the way that they chose to display threat.  It not only gave me an awareness of all of the targets in play, but gave me a quick at a glance view of which ones I had aggro on.  In the past I used a custom them for Tidy Plates to do this same sort of thing, but in coming back to World of Warcraft I happened across Enemy Grid.  It gives you a quick list of all of the available targets and if grays out the ones that you do not currently have aggro on.  Simple and easy and something I have gotten used to having in my arsenal of information.

Download Here

The Boring Stuff

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This is by now means a complete list of my addons, but more a list of the ones that I find particularly interesting.  My base UI is cobbled together from a bunch of addons that I have used for as long as I can remember, and it creates an interface that I am comfortable and familiar with.  I don’t generally go for the whole minimalist thing… and my UI is way more busy than most people would like…  however it works for me and is what I am comfortable with.  Here is a run down of some of the things that I didn’t talk about that I am simply too used to now to give up.

 

 

 

Weekend Hibernation

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It was a truly bizarre weekend for a whole lot of reasons.  Primarily because whatever illness my wife had seemed to strike with a vengeance during the tail end of last week.  As I said before I was originally planning on going to RiffTrax with work friends on Thursday night but by the time I left work I realized there was no way I could make it through an entire evening.  Instead I begged off and went home and crashed on the sofa in my fuzzy blanket cocoon.  By the time Friday came around I was really doing considerably worse and took a sick day…  which in turn screwed up  our evening plans.  We were originally slotted to do this monthly family dinner thing, but we rescheduled it for next weekend because I was not sure how well I would be to drive.  Instead I returned to the blanket cocoon once more and was as a result available for our normal Friday night Emerald Nightmare clear run.  I wound up tanking it, with the stipulation being that I was not going to talk at all.  In fact to  prevent myself from doing this I muted my microphone…. which lead to a weird run since I am fairly vocal as we make it through the content.  To make it even more odd, we were without the OTHER vocal leader Kylana which meant a whole slew of people had to step up to the plate and help make sure the run went smoothly.  So seriously huge thanks to Mort, Phy, Beist, Bledd, and I am sure a whole slew of other people who also were chatty and helpful but I am not remembering at this very moment.  It was once again a super clean run, and in the end I wound up swapping off for Erry for the final encounter since it generally requires a bit more vocal tank coordination.

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Past that night I spent a lot of time piddling around in stuff by myself.  Namely this meant an awful lot of Final Fantasy XV, and I think maybe just maybe I am finally to the point where I am willing to move on past “world 1”.  As I said before there is a point where the game warns you that if you continue on you might not be able to return for awhile.  I took this warning to heart given that I just came from playing Final Fantasy XIV where this sometimes means that a two and a half hour long cut scene is about to happen.  Instead over the weekend I found out from some of the other folks playing it that at least in this case… the game is talking about a ten minute process and not a thirty hour long one.  In past games these warnings often times meant that you would not be able to return until you found the airship, and I am pleased to find out that this is not the case.  At this point though I am running out of things I can actually do in the starter world, and all of the hunts are of a significant level difference from my current level so I think the game is not so subtly telling me to move the hell on.

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Another thing that took up some time this weekend is that I tore down a chunk of my office and set up my new Xbox One.  For awhile now I have been interested in owning an Xbox One to be able to play the titles that don’t exist on the PS4.  Similarly there is an entire group of friends that I have that are on the Xbox path, and I have not been able to play with them.  Unfortunately there were really no titles that supported Xbox 360 crossplay with Xbox One, so as each of them has upgraded…  my options similarly narrowed.  While I have had this latent desire… I also just could not justify the street price for the console given that I am primarily a PC gamer first… and a Console gamer second.  However on Black Friday I actually partook of a deal on Dell.com for an Xbox One, Extra Controller, Headset, and Five Games:  Halo 5 Limited Edition, Farcry 4, Ryze Legendary Edition, Sunset Overdrive, and Metal Gear Solid V Ground Zeroes all for right at $200.  For this I was willing to jump on it and the box arrived at my house Saturday during the day… and I wound up setting it up after editing the podcast on Sunday morning.  There was another deal on Cyber Monday to pick up a copy of the Destiny Collection for the Xbox One for I believe $25 and I jumped on that too, so while I was installing other things…  I ported over my Xbox 360 copy of Destiny.  Firstly since I am largely a digital only gamer on PS4… I did not realize the whole download after installation was as much of a tedious chore as it actually was.  Halo 5 took a good three hours worth of download time, which I found insane and shocking.  Is this what disc copy gamers on the PS4 have to deal with as well? or is this largely just an Xbox One thing?  In any case… I was kinda happy to see that my PS4 clan tag ported over to the Xbox One, and while I will still primarily be playing Destiny on PS4, I want to level something to hang with my friends playing on the Xbone.

I’ve decided to start linking the podcast on Monday mornings in what generally ends up being a weekend rundown post.  Not that I think there is anyone who doesn’t have access to it… but just in case the youtube version embeds nicely.  The other big take away from the weekend was all of the food that we cooked.  We wound up having a weekend full of comfort food, cooked in the crock pot.  So Friday night before going to bed I threw our breakfast casserole on to cook so that when we woke up Saturday morning it was ready.  This dish consists of egg, cheese, potato, ham and sausage and it amazing.  We wound up eating on it for breakfast and lunch on Sunday as well…  and still have a bunch left over.  My wife had the bright idea to turn it into a breakfast burrito with a little salsa.  We also cooked our Chicken and Cheese Tortilla soup, which we only got two meals out of…  well and an extra helping or two.  Finally on Sunday we tried out this Orange Chicken thing…  that is close but not quite there.  It was good enough but it needs something to make it work properly…  and I think I screwed it up by putting the rice directly in the sauce and letting it cook.  I should have simply made a couple cups of rice and then ladled the sauce over it instead.  In any case…  my wife and I are both largely on the mend but we pretty much spent the entire weekend hibernating.  We started taking some OTC meds when it initially hit and I think it helped out quite a bit.