Thursday, August 30, 2007

World of Warcraft

I was talking World of Warcraft with a friend of mine the other day. A couple of interesting points came out of the discussion. The first being that I'm the ideal player from Blizzard's perspective. I pay my fee every month and then end up playing at most once a week for three hours (max). Now my kids also play occasionally as well (which may be the big reason I keep the account) but as you can see in terms of resource use per dollar, absent someone who's completely inactive, I'm probably about as good a customer as they have. The second observation he made, was essentially that the Death Knight may be to World of Warcraft what the Jedi was to Star Wars Galaxies.

See from the moment I heard about a Star Wars MMO, years ago. I predicted it wouldn't work because of the Jedi problem. Because I had already experienced the Jedi problem in the tabletop Star Wars RPG. Simply stated everyone wants to be a Jedi but they can't. As you can see it's even worse in an MMO with thousands of players than it is in an RPG with 6. And so you have to limit their availability and whichever metric you choose as a limiter anyone who scores low on that metric (whether it be time, money or cleverness) is going to be pissed that they can't play a Jedi. Now I confess that I never played Galaxies, but from everything I read exactly what I predicted came to pass, and Galaxies, after an initial surge has basically declined in membership ever since.

So now WoW is introducing the first legendary class. The Death Knight and though I think they're not in quite the dire straights that Galaxies was they still may have painted themselves into a corner. See if they make it the same as every other class then people will be mad, "It's a Legendary Class for crying out loud! I had to do a really hard quest!" But if it's not the same then everyone will want to play it and that will break the game because no one will every want to raid or party with ALL Death Knights, nor will the verisimilitude of the environment hold up very well (and it's weak already) if no one plays anything but DKs at the highest level. Anyway we'll have to see what happens, but virtual worlds are a strange creatures.

Part of the reason I was thinking about all this was that there was an article in The Economist about people studding a disease which had been released in WoW, and there were a lot of surprises. More people than they thought were heroic, a lot of people died of curiosity, and then there were people who attempted to intentionally spread the disease. Now obviously when all that's on the line is virtual death people are going to behave differently than when they could actually die, but apparently, for the scientists, the results were close enough that they want Blizzard to do it again, and I guess, according to the article, they've tentatively agreed.

I get bored to easily to be addicted

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I used to have subscriptions to lots of different magazines, but I quickly realized that I wasn’t reading most of them and so it was not only a waste of money, but the unread magazines would pile up and clutter the house. So now I’m basically down to two, the Economist and Wired. We may still have a subscription to Scientific America, but it should be about to expire, and I used to have subscriptions to Dungeon and Dragon but Wizards/Hasbro yanked the print license from Paizo so the last issues of both magazines arrived just this month (and yeah they’re supposed to end up on the Wizards website, but that doesn’t really count, and yeah my remaining credit with Paizo translated into a Pathfinder subscription, but with a cover price of $19.99 that’s more of a book then a magazine…)

Anyway to return to my point only two magazines have survived the culling, The Economist and Wired, I’ve talked about the appeal of The Economist in previous blogs, but what’s the appeal of Wired? (you might ask) Well for one thing it’s really cheap, you can basically get a year of it for ten bucks. Of course that wouldn’t be sufficient, it’s also got really great articles, both short visual ones and longer investigative ones as well. There was an article in the September issue that my wife and I found utterly fascinating. I can’t really do it justice so I suggest you go read it yourself. Basically it starts out as your standard story of an older guy pretending to be someone younger and meeting a 17 year old girl, but it has some very interesting twists and turns before the end.

I also like the short visual articles, though I have to confess their section expired, tired or wired generally makes me feel out of touch, since whatever I like generally ends up in the expired column… This is not to say that I ever believed I was hip, more that I always felt I had a certain cache in the geeky community Wired primarily covers, but I guess now I’ve grown out of even that tiny slice of faux-coolness. In the tradition of many other magazines (in particular I’m reminded of the now-defunct Omni’s Anti-Matter column) their last page is given over to humor. Every episode ends with an image entitled “Artifacts From the Future” where you are, presumably, show an picture taken sometime decades from now. The current issue has someone celebrating their 150th birthday and receiving a gift certificate for “telomeric extension gene therepy”. The card is also signed “hapy birfday g4pa!” I’m not sure if that means he’s the child’s great-great-great-great grandpa or just his great-great-great grandpa…

Not likely to see triple digits

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Working from home

Well it's my first day telecommuting. And obviously it's taking some time to adjust. I can tell you that having to remote into my desktop at work is kind of annoying, as is not being able to just stand up and walk over to talk to someone, but I think overall it's a good thing. For one thing I don't have to deal with the web content filter. Which means that right now I'm listening to Beethoven's 9th through YouTube. YouTube is of course blocked at work, though one imagines that it's for reasons other than Beethoven's 9th...

In any case I don't want it to seem like I'm goofing off too much, so I'll wrap it up here. Perhaps tomorrow will be more interesting, but I wouldn't place money on it.

It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine

Friday, August 24, 2007


I get this daily e-mail from InformationWeek that has a round-up of all the latest stories from the IT world. Occasionally there’s some interesting stories there, but if it was just the IT news I probably would have taken myself off the mailing list a long time ago, but every day they have a quote as well, and they’re generally quite good, better than most of the quote a day stuff I’ve seen. Here’s today’s quote:

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was thinking of quotes in general because today is my final day working 40 hrs/week at the day job, and I was reminded of a Churchill Quote:

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

I’m often reminded of that quote, and I think it’s once again accurate, I think that as I look at my career, that this spot will probably, when I look back, be most accurately classified as the “end of the beginning.” I’ll end with one final quote, it’s my favorite of the demotivator’s quotes (

If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job. The kind robots will be doing soon.

Sugar Candy

PS As aozora correctly pointed out, my wife won that last round, of course I could have always refused to approve either comment, but that’s not very sporting now is it? I’m willing to take my blows like a man.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Entertainment, and recreation in general (wait is entertainment a subset of recreation or vice versa, or are they just two different words for the same thing?) is tough. Now you may scoff at that statement, you may laugh, you may even derisively point your finger, but hear me out. The reason entertainment is tough is because it’s so easy to overdo it, I mean how do you know when you’ve had just the right amount of entertainment, not so much that you were recreating when you could have been profitably working. Just enough to be recharged, but not so much that you’re enervated and listless, and then there’s the problem of participating in the right form of entertainment. Ideally you want something that will restore some of your mojo and be fun at the same time. This can be trickier than you might think. A backpacking trip into the deep wilderness would seem very restorative, but it can just as easily end up putting one into a Thoreau-esque Walden state where before you know it you’ve bought some land to build a cabin and tossed your computer into the trash.

Of course the preceding paragraph took as one of its default assumptions that entertainment and recreation are necessary. That may not be the case, though even Stephen R. Covey in his best-seller “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” made “sharpening the saw” his 7th habit. Certainly one can come up with countless examples both contemporary and historical where people have gone long periods of time without engaging in the kind of activities I think of when I speak of entertainment. Of course they did have entertainment, but it was a lot different than the choices offered to me. It’s very rare that “gathering around the campfire and dancing” makes it on my list of potential recreational activities on any given evening. And that really brings up another thing that makes recreation tough, there’s so many choices. Do I watch my NetFlix movie? Go for a walk? Play any of 20 different computer games? Read the book I’m working on? Nap? Play board games with the family? Etc…

Now I’m sure most of you are thinking that by whining about recreation I’ve reached a new low… Probably, but like Stephen says sharpening the saw is important, and lately I seem to not be very good at it. For example one would think that I would return from GenCon revved and ready to go, but mostly I’m just tired, which may have everything to do with the sleep debt I’m still carrying and nothing to do with my recreational choices, but the point remains I think it’s important to occasionally recharge the battery and at the moment I don’t seem to be doing as well as I could with that aspect of my life. This is not to say I’m not engaging in any recreation, if anything I’m over-doing it at the moment.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Still Hung-over

Firstly, Gary Gygax created D&D, and even earlier than that he started GenCon, so yeah, he’s somewhat important to the people attending. Secondly, about the Karl Rove thing, because I'm really good friends with the two guys who do 80%+ of the content for the official Dreamblade website my picture ended up on the website a lot more than it should have and I was mentioned more often than a player of my lowly stature should be. So they (the website guys) decided that I was the shadowy power behind the throne, much like Karl Rove was said to be the shadowy power behind Bush.

Finally, yeah I’m definitely sympathetic to experiencing some melancholy about the announcement of 4th Edition. You’ve just gotten to the point where you feel like you have all the books you need and everything’s going great and then Wham! they release a new edition, and suddenly all the support dries up. Furthermore you can’t ignore the possibility that they may completely screw everything up, which is an even greater possibility when you start tossing in the minis angle and the digital initiative. Still I think I’m choosing to be, at least slightly, optimistic. Particularly since there’s no point in making any definitive judgment on things until at least the Players Handbook comes out.

I’m still suffering from some lingering sleep debt. I slept okay last night, though I had forgot to turn off my wrist alarm and so it went off at 5:55 this morning (the time I had to wake up yesterday to catch my plane) so I didn’t sleep for quite as long as I could have. I’m guessing that it will be next week before I’m fully caught up, if then.

My mojo regenerates slowly

Monday, August 20, 2007

I've been bad

Wow! I didn't realize that it had been nearly two weeks since I last posted. Things have been unusually busy (as I mentioned). I'll try to do better. I'm continuing my phase out of the day job and I'm going to drop to 30 hours a week next week, 12 of which will be telecommuting, so that should really increase the amount of discretionary time I have.

I got back from GenCon earlier this afternoon, and nearly immediately laid down for a nap. As usual I averaged about 4-5 hours of somewhat fitful sleep every night (including the night before leaving, because I was up late packing). So I'm pretty wasted. When I talked to my wife about this she was unsympathetic. "So you're saying you were up late every night playing games? Yeah, you're really breaking my heart..."

Obviously I'm not going to be able to give a complete recap. Here are some highlights:

  • Bringing along my brother-in-law for the first time: Having someone who was seeing things for the first time, was cool. Sometimes I forget how jaded I am.

  • Fourth Edition D&D was announced: The Players Handbook will be out in May, which seems quick. I'm pretty excited, mostly because I'm just a big geek.

  • The Gary Gygax story: Too long to recount in full, but basically we discovered the aforementioned b-i-l didn't know who Gary was (nearly a capital crime at GenCon). The highlight was when I related the story to Gary himself.

  • The end of Dreamblade: Yeah they're still making minis for now, but with Tournament support gone, it's really just a matter of time. During the 50k tournament it was determined that I was the "Karl Rove of Dreamblade", the power behind the throne. It was sad to see all the tournament prizes they had printed/created lying in stacks and given away for free.

  • But mostly seeing all the people who I only get to see each year at GenCon.

Anyway that's all for now, hopefully I'll have more tomorrow.

August, and summer are nearing their end

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Well yesterday a co-worker invited me to a noon in-service being presented by a paranormal researcher. Near the end during the question and answer period I was a little bored so I started playing a game on my PDA. As I started playing I noticed that there was an area of my vision, kind of crescent shaped and off to the left, where I couldn’t really focus. Initially I thought it was some kind of weird glare or something, but when nothing I did seemed to make it go away I started experimenting. I can’t say if it was in both eyes or not because closing my eyes didn’t seem to make it go away. When both were closed it showed up as sort of an after imagine, the kind you might get after looking at something bright for too long.

Of course the joke that everyone came up with was that sense it was a presentation on the paranormal that it must have been a ghost. One of my friends asked if the blurry spot made any movement or tried to talk to me, I told him, “No, but it was weeping blood…” I noticed when I started playing on my PDA, but it could have been around for longer than that, and it lasted long after I stopped. In total I’d estimate it was present for aroud 45 minutes before it gradually drifted of the left side of my vision and out of sight. Obviously anytime you have trouble seeing there is a tendency to panic, at least a little bit. I panicked to the extent of making an appointment with my optometrist. I figured he may not be able to tell me what’s happening, but he should at least have enough experience to tell me whether I should escalate things. The appointment ended up being at 3:30 and while I was waiting for it, I think the blurriness re-appeared, but only at the very outside edge of my left visual field, so I can’t be sure.

Well any way the optometrist dilated my eyes and took pictures of my retina. He didn’t see anything, and kept saying that you could spend 1000 of dollars tracking down something like this. Which I think was meant to be comforting but obviously wasn’t. The dilation produced in a certain sense a similar but far more powerful condition to the one I had just been complaining about. Driving the few short blocks to my home gave me a massive headache, and when I got there and tried to get on my computer I found I couldn’t focus on anything smaller than a bottle cap, so reading was out of the question. Eventually I just laid down hoping the whole thing would pass. Eventually it all did, but it was still a pretty hellish day.

And I thought it was frustrating when my computer malfunctioned…

Monday, August 06, 2007


GenCon is next week. I’m getting excited. Of course there is a little bit of guilt associated with this years event as well. If I were being really responsible I wouldn’t be going this year, since money could start getting tight in the next few months. Now I doubt that the cost of GenCon will be the difference between success and penury, but if I keep using that as an excuse pretty soon, in the aggregate, all the stuff I justified that way might very well mean the difference between one or the other. When I originally went to my partners and “sold my soul” to the new company I offered to give up GenCon, but they told me that they wanted me to go because there was stuff I could do for the cause. As it turns out we’re not as far along as they hoped, so I will be doing some stuff for the new company, but not enough, probably, to justify the expense.

I can’t say I’m too broken up about it. Missing GenCon is just hard to imagine anymore. I have so many friends that I only see there and it’s so unbelievably fun, plus the Dreamblade 50k (the first and last) is this year. And while I have around a snowballs chance in hell of actually doing well, since I have hardly ever practice, it would be criminal to miss it after all the time and energy I put into that game… Plus having already paid for the plane tickets and convinced my brother-in-law to come along, backing out now would be difficult…

9 days and counting…

Friday, August 03, 2007


I’ve noticed a phenomenon, and perhaps it’s just me, that people start the summer with grand plans concerning the parties they’re going to throw and the activities they’ll engage in. But first, of course, they need to relax for a bit… Suddenly right about now they realize that they were so busy relaxing that they haven’t yet got around to having their party and so everything ends up getting scheduled in August. Now of course you may look at your calendar and say, that’s not true, most of the stuff I have in August is in August every year! To which I would respond, “How do you think it ended up there in the first place?

Looking at my August I have a work party, two family parties and three church parties and of course GenCon (which as usual conflicts with my wedding anniversary). And that’s just the stuff that I can remember off the top of my head. Add in the normally scheduled events and the whole thing becomes farcical. Given that I’m trying to basically work two jobs at the moment it’s getting a little bit frustrating. Definitely put me down as someone who can’t wait for autumn and the start of school.

Cooler temperatures would be nice as well