Out of the Textbook, Into the Cataclysm
About two weeks ago, I sat in my most boring class typing away on my laptop. I generally try not to do that, as I think in classes that aren't taught in a huge lecture hall this is unforgivably rude, but I don't understand a word that comes out of the professor's mouth anyway, so I just sit and type up all my notes. I also like to chat with Fuu, who alerted me to the fact that I had missed the entire pre-xpac event. I missed all the quests, all the Deathwingness, all the limited time boss encounters and such. I missed everything to such a degree, that I don't even know what all I missed because I've been so focused on school.

Sitting there in that classroom, surrounded by my classmates, I actually started to cry.

After class, in the grad student room, as I blew my nose and tried to stop crying, a few of my classmates asked me what was wrong, and I laughed. I told them it was the absolute stupidest thing to bring me to tears, when I think of all the other things on my plate... getting married, moving, exams, thesis, etc. I haven't shed a single tear about classwork this quarter, even after a week of 18 hour stints on campus. But I had so been looking forward to Cataclysm. My friends at school didn't make fun of me, as I expected them to do. One of them shrugged and said she was very much looking forward to a WWF wrestling match on TV, so how could she judge? That cheered me up quite a bit.

Cataclysm was released the day after my Stats final exam, and two days before my Remote Sensing exam (about which I wasn't too worried anyway). Cataclysm was the light at the end of a very long tunnel of all-nighters and papers and labs and grading and everything else that grad school entails. While I have not been posting here on my blog, I have been playing WoW over the past few months while in school... precisely 2 hours every week, on Monday nights, where we finally managed to take down the Lich King 2 weeks before Cataclysm was released.

And now it's the break between Fall quarter and Winter quarter at my university, and I have been glued to my computer in our new apartment, leveling my beloved priest. I do have other things I really ought to do over the break, but all quarter long I intended Cataclysm to be my reward for working my ass off in school for 11 weeks. I managed to pull off straight As (A- totally counts btw) and I refuse to feel any guilt for spending all day long, every day, playing WoW.

It's Tuesday, and for the first time in a very long time, I tried to log in, and I remembered this thing called "maintenance day", and the customary disappointment that goes with such a day. But I'm in a WoW frame of mind, so here I am, for any of you who still have Miss Medicina in your reader, and wonder where she is... I'm here! I'm alive! I'm still around, I promise! Though I haven't been posting, for quite a few very good reasons, I'm still buzzing around on Twitter, though I'm much quieter there than I used to be. I am officially "out of the loop".

It brings me great pain to say this folks but... I have no idea how to heal anymore. Imagine if you had essentially walked away from wow for 4 months, during which all the stats and classes had changed drastically, and tried to come back to it. The only thing I really understand at this juncture is that I have loads of health, but when it comes down to it, no mana. I throw heals on people and it is the perfect example of a drop in an ocean.

In terms of this blog, it is not going anywhere, though obviously its usefulness is much decreased. I'm keeping everything up, all the leveling and newbie healing guides, as an artifact of how our class used to be, because I've always found those things interesting. I am sad to say that until I finish classes this spring, it is highly unlikely I will be able to update any of my guides. They were very time-consuming when I wrote them the first time around, and I have to accept the fact that when I wrote them, I had quite a bit more spare time. If this past quarter is any indicator, I won't even have time to post my random thoughts, or even read my favorite blogs.

I'm so wrapped up in the world of an academic nerd right now that there is little room for the geek to get any satisfaction! So while I may not be blogging these days, I do hope to start again once my coursework is finished.

It is possible I will be changing the title of this blog, however, since I am no longer Miss Medicina... I am Madame Medicina, as of October 15th :)

I miss you all! <3

p.s. Best quest-line ever? Wildhammer Dwarves. Jessabelle wants a man with an arse like an anvil.
The Interpretive Spam Dance
I hesitated for awhile about posting these pictures because I don't really want to say anything positive about gold farming advertising, or give any more publicity to it, but I just couldn't resist.

I imagine many of you have seen this going on in your faction capitals for a long time, but they keep getting more and more creative and crazy with their abilities to really manipulate the character abilities in game. Running around on my bank a few weeks ago, I caught this particular performance before all of the offending spammers were mass banned.

Then, in great emote spammage, every single toon fell asleep to spell out a website that if I discover anyone reading this actually went to due to me posting these pictures, I will be very upset.

This strange work of performance spam art continued for a few minutes, with an occasional toon being banned and leaving funny holes in the work of art before the whole lot were kicked.

I have to confess that I can't help but get a kick out of this. Yes, I know I shouldn't, and that I only encourage bad behavior and so on, and that this manipulation of character movement is also used to farm gold and is very naughty, but I can't deny I find this highly amusing.
The Future of Disc Tank Healing
NB: If you are avoiding spoilers, you can still read - I put a warning before any possible Cataclysm spoilers.

In ICC right now, I am, for the most part, the tank healer. I've always enjoyed tank healing as a Disc Priest. In ten man, this is a great setup, and on the rare occasions that I do run in 25 mans anymore, I am usually a shield spammer - which bores me to no end. I'm also very bored during the first Phase of the Lich King fight for that very same reason (but honestly, when you've done Phase one 19 billion times, I think everyone is bored at that point!).

One of the things Disc Priests were promised for Cataclysm was an increase in our ability to be solid tank healers. Will we be able to compete with the Holy Pally? Perhaps - it is still far too early to determine that for sure, but to me, one of the biggest reasons Holy Pallies are often better choices as tank healers has to do with their Beacon of Light, and the way boss fights were designed in Wrath.

Tank Healing in Wrath

Instead of the Main Tank/Off Tank setup in which the off tank rounds up adds and handles them while the MT focuses on the boss, we've had "tank swap fights". Every so often the tanks will have to swap due to some debuff given by the boss to the current tank. Sometimes (such as in the Toravon fight) this causes one tank to continue taking damage until the debuff wears off. Pallies are great for fights like this, because there isn't a single target to heal - these are actually dual target healing assignments, with one target needing more dynamic healing focus, and the other being safe with large "splash" heals from Beacon of Light. (more like giant tsunamis than splashes, but whatever)

As far as pure healing output, that is more of a numbers and throughput issue, one that can possibly be addressed in talents. Can Disc priests rise to the occasion with talent changes?

While our Power Word: Shield is great for shield-spamming, I've always felt it was a bit lackluster for tank healing. In end-game raiding, even the most powerful shields will often be blown away after just a few hits on the tank, and we are limited in our mitigation abilities by Weakened Soul. The main benefit from bubbling the tank comes not in the few hits that our bubble can mitigate before we can bubble again, but from the bonus healing we can do on them while they have Weakened Soul. We put a bubble on the tank, the tank has Weakened Soul, our heals have an increased chance to crit, and we therefore have a better chance of getting Divine Aegis procs on them, in addition to the stacking throughput bonus of Grace. The real mitigation comes from Divine Aegis. (Like all the math I used to back that statement up?)

Tank Healing in Cataclysm (talent spoilers)

Power Word: Shield will become more powerful and more useful in Cataclysm tank healing, because we will be able to cast it on the tanks more often. Here's a look at how the talents will change tank healing.

  • Divine Aegis will be the same in and of itself - crits will proc more mitigation. The change comes from Renewed Hope.
  • Renewed Hope will still give us an increased change to crit on the bubbled target - but instead of a 4% increase, we will have a 10% increase. Therefore, we will be critting more, and proccing more Divine Aegis mitigation.
  • Strength of Soul - This is the talent that will allow us to bubble the tank more often. Depending on your haste, you will be able to bubble the tank, and cast Heal on them until Weakened Soul falls off, and then Bubble them again, and continue forth. This means that Heal becomes a solid tank healing spell, so what follows are the talents that will affect Heal. Obviously, this is the most simplistic way to do it, since you will want to cast more than just Heal, but it gets the point across.
  • Grace procs from Heal, steadily increasing the throughput of your Heal spell.
  • Divine Fury in the Holy tree decreases the casting time of your Heal.
  • Empowered Healing in the Holy tree increases the healing power of your... uhm, Heal. (wtb better spell name)
  • Improved Healing in the Holy tree decreases the mana cost of your Heal.
  • And of course, don't forget Inspiration.

I'm really enjoying the talent changes for Disc Priests for tank healing. What is particularly interesting about Strength of Soul is that it will give us a lot more power and flexibility in managing Weakened Soul. If you are specced into Improved Power Word: Shield, or have a lot of mastery rating (and therefore stronger bubbles), it is possible you can let that Weakened Soul sit there longer, as your bubbles will last longer. Instead of casting Heal, you can focus more on using your other healing abilities. Perhaps you can even start Smiting the boss and just getting some Atonement splashes on the tank and melee (the weeping of healers all over the internet is hurting my ears after that statement).

You can tailor your healing style even more to the encounter. For instance, in Phase 1 of the Lich King, he seems to be only tickling our tank, but once we get into Phase 2, he pulls out his mighty Soul Reaper. My tank healing rotation will change depending on the encounter, and indeed, even on the specific phase of the encounter where needed.
[Cataclysm] Evangelism, Archangel, Algebra and You (Redux)
Alright, after clearing some of the numbers up, and talking with the delightful Zusterke on twitter, I'm reposting the numbers on Evangelism and Archangel, to give you an idea of mana pool sizes, and what you need to shoot for in order for Smites to not be a mana sink as a Disc priest.

Here is your hefty disclaimer, however: As I write this, a new beta build is being implemented, and since, of course, this is beta, the numbers are quite likely to change before anything goes live. These numbers are for informational purposes only, and I will likely revisit them once changes are live.

All that having been said, let's take another look. For the purposes of simplification, I am going to focus on the level 85 numbers, and then I will explain them.

I included the equation in this table so you could see how I determined how much mana you would need. As you can see, these numbers are much less alarming than I previously thought, and you do not really need to worry about if you will be able to get that much mana - I assure you, you will. At level 84, I've got over 50k mana from just quest rewards.

The "Total Mana Spent" column is a summation of the total amount of mana you've spent on Smites in order to get to that stack of Evangelism, with the mana reduction costs factored in. This table is meant to be read from left to right, and it may seem confusing, because it's a built process - You start with no stacks, you cast one smite that has no mana reduction, and you now have one stack of Evangelism. If you cast Archangel at that point, you will get 3% of your mana back, and then you will have no stacks of Evangelism, as you have "used them up".

Therefore, the first column is to be read as the number of stacks of Evangelism you have *before* you cast the Smite being calculated.

Please note that I rounded down for everything, and I did it at each step of the way, so the numbers are not exact. Zusterke ran a similar calculation, and there were small variations in our numbers for that reason. This is meant only to give you an idea of how to process works on your mana pool, so if you're a theorycrafter, don't take my numbers and try to do something clever with them. They are all clevered out, thanks.

PS: If you don't know who Zusterke is, get thee to the PlusHeal fora. Not only is he a mathematical whiz, he's also an incredibly nice guy, who is very helpful to those with questions.
Resurrecting the Downrank
I removed my post on Archangel/Evangelism and put it back in the drafts section until I can iron out the numbers. I apologize to those of you who left comments that helped me out a lot, but I don't like spreading misinformation, so until I can get everything fixed, I don't want it to be a hot "Search" item, if you will.

I'm going to step away from Cataclysm today and talk about our favorite Lich. The King.

For the first time in a very long time, I'm having mana problems during this fight. I know exactly what's happening, of course. For the first time in a long time, I'm not the tank healer... I'm a shield spammer. It's incredibly boring, incredibly valuable, and when your bubbles are not completely consumed? Very mana starving.

As usual, whenever I have a question about something very important in my life (Why is my head exploding? Where did my leg go? Do I have cancer?), I went to twitter. And twitter responded with suggestions for mana starved Disc priests - mainly along the lines of using lower ranked bubbles.

I was very skeptical about this suggestion, and, I confess, I even refused to use it until the tail end of our Lich King struggles last night. We had finally started to make some progress into Phase 2, and it occurred to me that by the time we got to Phase 2, I was out of mana, with all my cooldowns blown, mana pot already used, and therefore, I was useless. Swapping a few trinkets might stretch my time out a little bit longer, but that was not going to get me to the end of this looong fight.

So I bit the bullet and dropped one of my precious Clique key bindings, and added a Rank 11 Power Word: Shield to try out next week. I always hated using downranking, but if I'm going to be shield spamming in this scenario, I'm going to need to.

If you aren't sure why, here's the reasoning. Power Word: Shield costs somewhere between 800-900 mana, no matter what rank you use at level 80. However, if the shield is not fully consumed by damage, you don't get the proc from Rapture. Therefore, if your shields are so large that they are not being fully consumed, you are expending a lot of mana, and not getting much back. If you use a smaller shield, even though it costs the same amount of mana, it is more likely to be completely absorbed and give you a Rapture proc.
[Cataclysm] The Pacifist or the Archangel
Note regarding spoilers: Now that I am in the beta, I will make every effort to preface any spoiler posts with the customary [Cataclysm] tag in the title. If that tag is not in the title, there should be no spoilers - I may mention something about Cataclysm, but nothing specific that would be a spoiler (i.e. I may something like "I am enjoying playing a goblin" but no further details.)

There is a very annoying bug/glitch/intentional issue that renders me unable to copy my Priest over to the Beta. I have tried about ten times now, and I'm beyond frustrated. I've had no luck with creating a premade either, so no new testing on Disc Priests yet, per the many requests I got.

I have tested out a Worgen Warlock, a Goblin Priest, a Dwarf Shaman, and a Tauren Priest. The Warlock is now level 14, the Goblin is only 4 (due to a quest glitch that renders all the goblins unable to leave the starting zone), the Shaman is level 7, and the Priest about level 6. But I am devestated that I cannot currently play my 80 Dwarf Priest.

However, in preparation for that glorious day when I will be able to play a high level priest again, let's talk about talents, and you can help me figure out how to spec!

One of the major complaints I have about the direction in which talent points are being taken is the removal of creativity in spec choices. In raiding, there are generally optimal specs, with very little wiggle room, and that will still apply. However, for leveling, the new talent point system has effectively taken a lot of creativity out of the equation. My lolsmite leveling method will probably be nowhere near viable as a 1-40 leveling spec anymore, due to the changes in talents.

But Evangelism fascinates me.

At first sight, Evangelism strikes me as a leveling or PvP talent, and nothing more. It's not something I would want to choose for raiding. This talent turns Discipline into a viable solo-leveling spec. Currently, Disc is best for not taking damage while leveling, but not so much for dishing out damage, compared to Holy or Shadow (Holy is good up until level 40-45, IMO, where Shadow then becomes superior due to Shadowform).

But Evangelism puts the power back into damage dealing for Disc, which means it makes it easier to solo mobs while leveling.

The only reason, as far as I'm concerned, that Evangelism becomes a potential necessity for raiding is due to the followup talent: Archangel. Now, you can build a solid Disc spec in Cataclysm without taking Evangelism and Archangel, and then the issue of the Disc healer needing to damage in order to heal better no longer is relevant.

However, the question I intend to explore is which is superior for a solid healer: an Archangel spec, or a non-Archangel spec. What talents must be sacrificed in order to pick up Archangel, and is it worth it?

What do you guys think? What sort of talent builds would you like me to test? Head on over to the Wowhead Cataclysm talent calculator, and create some builds for me to try (once I actually have a priest that can use them on beta *weep*). Link the builds for me in the comments, and I will try to test some of the best ones and give you my thoughts.

Here is an example of a non-damaging spec that I've built.
Aaaand here is an example of an Archangel spec.

Think I should tweak those? Strength of Soul is one of those talents that I definitely need to test, because with that component of rotation building in addition to an Evangelism based rotation, I'm not sure how much time would be left for actually reacting to incoming damage.
Into the Cataclysm...
Ahh, twitter.

Yesterday I entered a contest via twitter for a beta key... and Light Above and Below - I WON!

So, now I have a beta key, but I'm waiting for battle.net to update with the info so I can start the long and arduous process. But I'm already planning ahead.

Derevka from Tales of a Priest has been an awesome resource for beta news, and I'd like to provide good information as well! So I'm asking you, readers:

What do you want me to explore in Cataclysm?

What questions do you have? What is it you want to know? Do you want to hear about the new classes? Are you interested in how leveling will be in the Old World? Want to know what things have changed? Want to know how the mana and health pool changes will affect priest healing? There are lots of bloggers who are in the beta and testing things out - is there a specific issue or question that you've had that no one has answered or tested for you?

Your wish is my command. CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE, FOLKS.
Update to the Healing Blogroll
I took an hour or two this morning to go through and update my healing blogroll. Even though I stopped doing the Friday posts with link roundups of healers (due to there being such a shortage of anything to even talk about at the moment), a lot of traffic goes through my blogroll list from wow.com, and I want to keep the list helpful.

I added a couple of blogs that I've found, cleaned up some that have closed shop, checked all the links, and also added notes if it has been awhile since someone has updated. I'm not going to remove people who haven't updated for awhile until Cataclysm for two reasons:

1. There still may be a lot of good, relevant information on their site
2. They may start blogging again once Cataclysm is close to release.

I realize I am slow on adding links to the page, and I have no doubt that due to distractions over the past couple of months, I may have missed a few. I'm double checking the comments on the post right now to make sure I've added the blogs that people have requested.

If you are on the list (and if you have a healing blog, I WANT YOU ON THE LIST), please check it here and let me know if any of the info I have is incorrect (i.e. title, url, where I have you listed). I know a lot of you blog about several different healing classes, but I'm trying to stick people under the class category where they post the most helpful information. I read so many blogs though that sometimes the details get hazy, especially right now when lots of people are focusing on leveling alts.

If you know of a blog I've missed, please, please PLEASE leave a comment here or shoot me an email: missmedicina at gmail dot com. It's not shameless self promotion... it's helping me out with more resources!
Strong Enough for a Member of Humanity
I feel that in my rantiness of my original post, there were some things I didn't make particularly clear. I do appreciate the outcry of support that followed, mind you, but I wanted to clarify some of the things I said to make sure that it was understood and not misinterpreted.

A lot of times, those of us who point out sexism or talk about feminism don't always point out why feminism is important for more than just women. Often people will say it's important to men because of how it affects the women close to them whom they care about, but it's more than even just that. The term "feminism" is misleading in modern times. It leads many to believe that it's all about bringing power to women, and bringing men down. The thing is, it's really not, though I know that it can come off that way.

Feminism, as a movement, certainly did begin in an effort to bring more equality to women. But the movement was so huge that it expanded to look at all forms of inequality between peoples - not just for women. It was a new way of thinking about things - based on the apparently novel concept of actually thinking about things. About not accepting things simply because that's how it's always been done. Challenging the very primal beliefs that we have about ourselves and others; about superiority and power dynamics.

Even if you disagree with someone about what they consider sexist, even if you think people take it to the extreme, even if you don't see something as offensive that another might, even if you feel that deep down there are fundamental differences between genders, and even if you don't believe that - the point is that by joining in on the discussion, you were required to actually think about it in the first place. And even if you come to the conclusion that everything is okay, you have wedged your mind open just a little bit more to at least consider the notion that there is a reason to reconsider things we've always taken as truth. Part of why mentalshaman's deconstruction of sexism in WoW is so important is not because we're all chomping at the bit to say "Yeah, sexist bastards!" and poise for attack - it's to make us look at things and actually think about them. Maybe some of the details are unfair, and maybe some aren't. But it's definitely worth at least considering. It's not about angrily ripping the world we love apart, but more about looking at it more carefully so that we don't get lost in a fantasy within a fantasy world. If you never challenge your own assumptions about the world around you, you will always be in the mindset of a five year old who simply takes everything presented as undeniable fact.

What feminism has truly brought to us, whether you like it or not, is the ability to challenge those long-held beliefs. And it is continually evolving and expanding as we look at new things we never thought about. Before I began studying feminism, it never occurred to me how internalized these concepts are of what makes a man a man, and what makes a woman a woman. You don't have to have children to be a woman. And you don't have to be the breadwinner to be a man.

So you see, the reason it is important is not just because women should be treated equally. It goes beyond that - if women are treated equally to men, then by default at the very least, men should be treated equally to women. If a woman steps up and says that it doesn't make her less feminine to work in the coal mines, then that means a man can stand up and say he's always wanted to be a nurse, and that doesn't make him less masculine. What it's NOT about is saying "well men have to put up with it too, so it all evens out and everything is fine!" No. The fact that men have to deal with it too is what makes it LESS FINE. Not because they are men and therefore it should be more important, but because it means that even MORE people are being subjected to the discrimination and judgment that comes from the same source. And the more people who take the time to deconstruct these long-held beliefs, the more people who will treat others as human beings who have a right to live their lives how they choose without the very tenents of their identity being questioned or ridiculed. Everyone is affected by sexism to some degree, whether they are male or female: and therefore everyone has a justification for standing up in opposition to it.

I don't think it's fair that when I was a delivery driver my boss didn't want me to take deliveries to certain neighborhoods - and I sure as hell don't think it's fair that because of that, he made one of the cooks (who was about half my size, had half as much knowledge of the area, and was twice as terrified) go do it instead - just because he was male. It wasn't just an insult to me as a female - in fact I think it was even more hurtful to him as a male. I just got pissed off. He was put into a dangerous situation he was much less equipped to handle.

There are studies all over the place that suggest men are less likely to get medical treatment for physical or mental disorders, and therefore die earlier on average than women... because they are raised to believe that a "real man" will simply "power through it". You shouldn't feel like less of a man for taking care of your health. No one has a right to make you feel that way - not your wife, not your parents, but most of all, not the whole of society at large.

Perhaps you like the traditional chivalrous customs, such as holding the door open for your date, or buying her dinner. But you should have a choice to be that way - not feel as though you are forced into it by what society tells you you ought to do in order to be a proper man. I don't like assumptions, and when I was dating, I brought money to pay for dinner. I at least offered to pay and presented the man in question with the choice. That wasn't just for my benefit. If someone wants to buy me dinner, I want them to do it because of me as a person - not just because I'm a chick.

A few weeks ago in Wintergrasp, while farming for eternals, there was an argument going on in general chat. One individual was antagonizing another about their PvP gear. I was already getting riled up in my indignant and self-righteous anger, but then, the antagonizer in question called the subject of his harassment a dude - to which the "dude" replied that she was female.

Suddenly his entire tone changed. Immediately after she replied that she was female, he apologized, and started using proper grammar and spelling, and being very polite and friendly. She was obviously confused about his change in behavior, but I was utterly enraged. Maybe it was silly of me too, because I had just been about to give him hell for being a jerk... but now that he decided he was going to be all nicey nice because she was female, I was even ANGRIER.

"Why exactly are you apologizing?!"
"I'm sorry, I didn't realize she was female."
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"Well, I wouldn't have been so rude."
"Screw you! Go forth and be rude freely! She can take it just as well as if she were male. You weren't willing to stop being a dick for the sake of, you know, not being a dick, but now that you realize she's a girl, you're suddenly willing to be a decent human being?"
"What? Do you think the corsets we're wearing make us more fragile and susceptible to your asshattery? Did she bat her eyelashes at you in such a way that you suddenly felt shame for your poor behavior? Oh sir, ahm just so sahrry for steppin' into your big manly brain, ah jes' can't keep up with your phallic wit and chahrms!"

At this point every female in the zone started chiming in.

I actually did feel kinda bad about that. In his defense, he was obviously very embarassed, but he took it like a champ, especially since he'd been such a dick before. Truth is, I don't think it occurred to him that a bunch of girls might not appreciate the fact that he was suddenly nicer just because of their gender. It was like he suddenly was embarassed for his behavior now that he realized his audience was made up of a bunch of people with whom he might at some point want to flirt.

You should be a courteous person to both men and women because it's the right thing to do as a human being. If you say you're going to be nicer to girls, then effectively you're saying you're going to be meaner to men. While I'd prefer you just be nicer, period, I'd at least like to know that you aren't treating the men any shittier than you're treating me. It may immediately benefit me more that you are being nicer to me, but I don't think it's right that you are meaner to someone else, just because they are male. Be nice to me because I deserve it, not because rumor has it there are breasts underneath my clothes.

See, I'm not an angry bitter female. I'm just a pissed off member of humanity.
The Summer of Sindragosa
I'm a bit late to announce this, seeing as how we accomplished the feat on Monday night, but the Summer of Sindragosa has officially come to an end for my raiding team.

Summer is tough on all raid teams really, and we struggled as much as, if not moreso, than any other typical raiding team. As a reminder, we only raid one night a week, and only for two hours. Monday night the stars aligned so that all three of our healers were there, and everyone in the raid was now familiar with the fight. We normally two heal content, and only use our Third Healer to help us learn new fights, or when the mechanics of the fight specifically call for a third healer (i.e. Dreamwalker). Our successful strategy included our ever-flexible Shaman of Awesomeness in his healing spec, DPSing during the first phase, and healing during the second (with every innervate and Power Infusion reserved for him for his mana reserves).

The Summer and the Roster

To give you some context on how brutal summer issues can be to a raid, let's look at some numbers. When you only raid 2 hours a week, attendance issues are severely magnified, however, due to the fact that we only raid 2 hours a week, it is generally less common that we even have issues in the first place. But even we struggled with the summer blues.

  • June 7th: Our first attempt on Sindragosa.
  • Total number of attempts before first kill: 31
  • Total number of nights we attempted Sindragosa: 5 (total amount of time spent on her is probably around 8-9 hours)
  • 7 Attempts at 20% buff.
  • 8 Attempts at 25% buff.
  • 16 Attempts at 30% buff.
I wanted to differentiate between levels of the buff, because other guilds might have needed 40 hours or 100 attempts to take down Sindy, but made all those attempts with a much smaller buff or none at all, and I feel it would be wrong of me not to recognize that difference.

Now, to look at roster changes. We had two nights of working on Sindy before we began having roster problems, and had a role switch, most specifically of one of our tanks. While this did not have a negative impact on the fight itself, as the new tank is incredibly good, it did cause a lot of slowdown, as we felt that our new tank, who was normally a DPS, had never tanked in ICC, should get a chance to tank through the entire raid up to and including Sindragosa, so we reset. And then we had two weeks of having to sub some people, and getting new people up to speed on the fight and everything that goes along with that.

The Power of the Versatile Third Healer

So let's talk about the healing makeup. Of the five separate nights we worked on Sindragosa, 2 of those nights were with only two healers (however, on one of those nights we had a shadow priest, and that helped). This was not intentional, and certainly not what we wanted, but our SuperShaman went away for a couple of weeks to do summer things and he is completely irreplacable as it turns out.

  • night 1 (7 attempts): 3 healers. Shaman, Druid, Priest.
  • night 2 (8 attempts): 2 healers. Druid & Priest. (Shaman on DPS)
  • night 3 (2 attempts): 2 healers. Druid & Priest. (Shaman out of town)
  • night 4 (7 attempts): 2 healers. Druid & Priest, but Shadow Priest present (Shaman out of town)
  • night 5 (7 attempts): alternating attempts with both 2 healers and 3, Druid, Priest, and Shaman. Our final kill had our shaman DPSing during the first phase, and healing during the second.
That means that out of 31 attempts, 19 were with only 2 healers, 8 were with 3 healers, and the 4 most successful (and finally leading to our kill) attempts had our third healer DPSing during the first phase, and healing during the second. You know what this calls for? PIE.

Okay well, I think I've gotten carried away with my entire meta-analysis of our Sindy attempts. There were a lot of factors contributing to our final kill that Fulguralis discussed in more detail. He's great at talking strats, and I'm much better at talking stats, if you will, so I tip my hat (which is the same one he wears) to his discussion of it.

I hate it when our Third Healer is gone, but I hope we are never guilty of taking his flexibility for granted. It's one thing to be willing to switch specs for different fights, but quite another thing to ask someone to switch roles so drastically during the fight itself. "Stay in your healing spec, but do damage that will be inefficient and kill your mana and is completely out of your comfort zone!" I mean, really, who asks for that kind of thing?

Me, actually. And it totally worked. Damn that kid is awesome.

I leave you with the required screenshot of a situation in which I hope to spend much less time indulging now that Sindy has died.

Masculinism Is Not A Word
Well, I do realize I’ve been a bit flighty recently, but each time I go to put together a post I keep getting distracted by some stupid King demanding that I kiss his ring, and then 10 hours later, I realize I’ve just spent all that time playing Civilization IV: Revolution. Anyway.

Blah blah blah, there’ve been quite a few posts about feminism going around lately, as I’m sure you know. Since it’s actually something of one of my favorite topics, I’m surprised myself that I haven’t commented on it earlier, but I’ve had some pretty bad backlash from doing so before, so I decided discretion is the better part of valor. Also, since gender issues are sorta “my thing” if you will, then maybe it can be explained by my own admission that there is no way I can address the topic of sexism in WoW, and keep it focused on WoW, and not go on a full-fledged rant.

And then this morning Chas posted what I think is quite possibly his all-time best post at Righteous Orbs, and it really touched me. And then I decided “Valor” and “Discretion” can both go have a cup of tea with Stalin for all I care, because RANT INCOMING. Consider yourself warned.

I’ve mentioned previously that I was once in a PhD program at a nice school in the Eastern US and that certain events led to me withdrawing after one semester, and therefore giving up all my little hopes of being a professor, and all that jazz. Well, here’s one of the other major components of that story.

My first semester, I focused most of my attention on Feminist Geography. Every time I tell people that, I get scoffed at by people who have no idea what that means, and as much as it irritates me that instead of asking what it entails, people merely laugh at it, it’s not particularly important for this story. Suffice to say I spent my time essentially in Women’s Studies, and exploring how gender issues are affected by where people live, work, etc. My professor and advisor, someone I’d admired for years, was a product of the old school bra-burner generation, and I had a lot of respect for her for that, mind you. So when I presented my research at the end of the semester, it was heartbreaking to me that she was absolutely NOT impressed.

Maybe it’s simply because I am a female, and I prefer to study things that are foreign or novel to me (which is why I get such a kick out of British TV), but I was much more interested in the way sexism negatively affects men. Because it does, and to say it doesn’t is to be just as blind as someone who says that all women who complain about sexism are making mountains out of molehills.

How many single dads do you know? When I went to try and get demographic information on this, imagine my surprise when the published numbers from the 2000 US Census I found only documented single mothers, and not single fathers. When a friend of mine who is a single dad was unemployed, I told him he should try operating a daycare out of his home because he’s so great with kids. He laughed, and informed me that no one would give him the business, and that he would likely get in trouble for it – men aren’t supposed to spend that much time with children, or they are pervs, didn’t you know? This was brought even more to light by a long-standing policy by British Airlines which was finally brought down this week: Before a recent lawsuit, lone male travellers were not allowed to be seated next to unaccompanied children.

It’s hard enough for women when they are victims of rape… but what about men? I used to live in a pretty shoddy area, and during the three years I lived there, I know of four men who reported being raped, and I really felt for them. Chas’s tale of the comedian in Edinburgh made me think of those 4 young men in my old neighborhood who were victims. Did they go to the University Women’s Center for support and empathy after their attacks? For the men who are victims of domestic violence (and you would be shocked by how common it is, because of how rarely it is reported), do they go to the special women’s shelter for abuse victims? I’m all for having these support groups around, mind you, and I fully recognize that I’m getting caught up in semantics, but when a gay man decides to join a GLBT support group after being bullied for being “girly”, maybe it would be a little more supportive if he didn’t have to visit the Women’s Center in order to employ it.

I’ve got a pretty good sense of humor, and most of the time I can roll with the punches. In general, terminology that people use does not really offend me. I’ve got a bit of the sailor in me, if you catch my meaning, but one thing I absolutely cannot stand is jokes about men getting raped. The jokes that suggest that a man can’t be raped, or “you can’t rape the willing”, or something to that effect enfuriate me. Jokes about raping a boss don’t bother me, nor do people using the dreaded “c” word… but jokes about men getting raped? I will throttle you. The reason it bothers me is because it reflects a societal belief that genuinely exists and is not subject to nearly enough discussion and debate… a vast majority really do believe that a man can’t really be raped, and it sickens me.

I didn’t want to study Feminist Geography, I wanted to study Geography of Gender… and at the time, that was simply unacceptable. There is this idea that the dreaded Patriarchy is some group of old white men sitting around a table trying to think of ways to keep the woman down, but it’s not like that. The concept of patriarchy is just that – a concept. It’s a vast structure of societal and cultural beliefs that affect both men and women. There is an underlying cultural belief that women can’t be truck drivers and coal miners and still be heterosexual, just as much as men can’t be flight attendants or nurses and still be heterosexual. The whole Patriarchy is the enemy of not just women, but men as well. Maybe a lot of men do benefit from it, but most are victims just as much as women are.

I am a Feminist because I believe women should be treated with equality. I am a Masculinist because I believe men should be treated with equality. The fact that my spellchecker just alerted me that the word “Masculinist” does not exist is very telling in and of itself.

Err, and to bring this rant back to WoW, enter the invisible and incredibly awkward segue...

I hate that the choices I have for toons in WoW are generally so disgusting to me physically. I love my female dwarf, and everytime I log in in Dalaran, or join a pugged raid or a battleground, there are comments about how rare female dwarves are. Female dwarves are so butch, after all! But they aren’t… they are quite possibly the most realistic body image for women, and I wanted my toon to be a reflection of me (even though I’m 5’10). The closest thing Chas can find to what he looks like is a Blood Elf male, who are considered the “girliest” of male toons, much like the femdwarf and the femorc are “butch” toons.

There have been a lot of comments that suggest women in wow need to step up and play more tanks! Play more DPS! Step away from the female-as-a-healer stereotype! (I’m exaggerating, by the way) Well, as a dedicated and permanent female healer myself, I absolutely fit the stereotype, but that’s okay with me. Just play whatever role, whatever toon, whatever class, you love most: And damn what other people think about it. If you feel like you ought to play something you don’t enjoy as much merely to make a point, then I think you might, in fact, be missing the point. The idea behind what others were saying, is that if you have even an inkling or a notion that you might enjoy tanking or DPSing, then go for it, and I and many others encourage you to do so, ladies.

But also… More men as healers, plz! (But, you know, only if you're into it)
GenCon 2010 - Pictures

Blogger is truly awful for uploading a lot of pictures, I find . This is actually fairly nightmarish to post. Things will inevitably end up looking funky, and so I apologize, but I did want to share some pictures from GenCon, like I promised a week ago. I've been struggling to do so ever since >.<

So... let's get to the pictures!

Does this t-shirt look familiar? Remind you a bit of my classic solo-dungeoning style? My fellow raiders (since everyone in our raiding team was able to attend GenCon) thought so, so I had to pick it up.

One of the best things from GenCon was True Dungeon. There was a lot of room for improvement, but the experience was amazing.

If you haven't heard of True Dungeon, you go in to a built labrynth style room with a group of your friends, after having decided which D&D class you will play, and equipping yourself with the proper "gear" via tokens (you don't actually change your clothes).

In each room you are presented with different prop puzzles that you attempt to solve in order to "clear" the room, including combat sequences, locked chests, etc. Every class has a different kind of "skill check". For instance, I played a cleric, and everytime I wanted to heal someone, I had to pass a memory check, identifying the proper shape of prayer bead for a specific virtue. The rogueish class in our group had to delicately move a small bead through a lighted track in order to open a locked chest, and the melee classes had to slide large tokens across a drawing of a creature in order to strike properly. This is all in addition to using your collective brainpower to solve puzzles and do some problem solving.

A lot of people ask if it's like LARPing, and it's not - there's no acting roleplay involved necessarily, and we were cracking up a lot of the DMs and characters in each room with our goofy antics.

I also picked up a lot of WoW TCG cards. We all got starter class decks (my fiance and I each bought two) as well as some booster packs. A lot of our crew are old school Magic players, and the overall opinion was that while it can't hold a candle to Magic TCG (and I doubt anything ever will) it was still pretty good, and there were some aspects of game play that were better.

Last weekend a bunch of us got together and actually played a WoW TCG raid, and that was very interesting. Pretty fun, but there are some definite weaknesses. I'm playing around with different deck builds, and fighting against different classes before I pass a final judgment. If nothing else, I got some nice loot cards from some promotions at GenCon. Cryptozoic is really doing a lot to promote the decks even in spite of all the problems caused by the changeover from Upper Deck (a lot of the cards still refer back to Upper Deck websites and promotions that no longer exist).

I'd been hearing about the awesomeness that is The Ram (a local pub/brewery type place near the convention center) for years, so I was excited to finally get to check the place out. Now I can be a cool kid too and have a t-shirt like all of my friends.

In order to get a hotel for GenCon, you basically have to buy a badge and get into the housing pool in February, and get lucky by reserving your room then. My fiance bought his badge, but was in such a rush to make sure we got a room, he didn't order mine. Therefore, I had the lovely experience of waiting in line at 7am on Thursday morning to get my badge... fortunately, as punishment, I forced him to get up and wait in line with me :)

A long time ago, when I first started D&D, I mentioned the troubles I had in finding a good female dwarf mini. My main goal for GenCon was to acquire a mini that would work well for my female dwarf cleric, which is essentially my staple class, no matter what (yay dorfchicks!). The folks at the Reaper booth at GenCon were able to locate the exact one I wanted in seconds. I was on cloud 9.

Later, I tried to paint minis. Suffice to say, I will be begging and pleading with others amongst my friends to paint my mini for me, because I do not have the patience to paint tiny things. After an hour of it, I pretty much wanted to rip my own hair out, as well as the hair of everyone else nearby.

Probably one of the things people most recognize about GenCon are the amazing geeky costumes. I took lots of pictures of fantastic costumes, most of which are homemade, but in my eyes, these two costumes are the winners. The two folks pictured here had actually never met before... they were just two random people who had awesome costumes that looked fantastic together, and everyone wanted pictures of them.

Last but not least, I'm including a rather boring photo of the auction room at GenCon. I didn't spend as much time here as I would have liked, but there were some really superb things up for auction - of special importance were many personal effects of the illustrious late Gary Gygax, and the proceeds were donated to his wife I believe. Apparently, despite everything he'd done for the gamer culture, he wasn't able to leave much behind for his wife. I sure would have liked to bid on his beat up briefcase that he carried everywhere...

Okay, seriously. I'll try to stop gabbing about GenCon now. It's just that ever since the convention, my brain has been divided amongst multiple new games and things that I'm enjoying. My mind has expanded in pure delight! My pen & paper D&D group is going to try out OpenRPG so that we can game more frequently, since getting together has proven to be a bit difficult. If you have any experience or anecdotes from using OpenRPG, I'd love to hear them!
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GenCon 2010 - The Experience!
I am fresh from my first venture into the wonderful world of GenCon, my friends, and I feel revitalized.

This may have been my fiance's 11th GenCon trip, but it was my first, and it was a lot more fun than even I expected!

As you wander the halls of the Indiana Convention Center, surrounded by people talking about Star Wars and Star Trek and Magic and trolls and hobbits and demons and swordplay and any manner of geeky activity, this is the only place where it's okay to stop someone and ask if that device they are carrying is a new game (no, it's just a fancy thermos), or which version of Settlers of Catan they are playing, or where they got that fantastic bright pink wig with the matching corset, or find people who actually *get* the jokes on your t-shirt.

It felt... like home. *sniff* Surrounded by people who are even geekier than myself. Inundated by social awkwardness that melts away as people find a common passion. Tip-toeing carefully around board games and card trades and minis spread everywhere, knowing just how valuable those items are to their owners and friends. For once feeling like the coolest person in a room because you can spout off the fundamental differences between a WoW priest and a D&D cleric, and which stats are most important for each type, and finally locating the one vendor who understands why it is so important to you to have a delightful female dwarf mini.

So... what did Miss Medicina do?

  • Drank way too much beer at The Ram. (And bought a t-shirt!)
  • Spent far too many hours wandering the exhibit hall (And bought a t-shirt!)
  • Picked up a fancy gencon badge holder (And bought a t-shirt!)
  • Restocked on card sleeves for my new-found delight in the WoW TCG and for my D&D spells
  • Paid far too much for far too many TCG booster packs (And got a Blazing Hippogryph!)
  • Remembered the prayer bead for every skill check for my cleric in True Dungeon (And almost fell through a mirror!)
  • Relived my childhood at Video Games Live as an orchestra rang out the midi files of my youth from Nintendo's Zelda to Mario Brothers to Lament of the Highbourne.
  • Bought dice. So... many.... dice....
  • Discovered Kill Doctor Lucky, and almost managed to do exactly that.
  • Ran into someone else from my hometown academic program, where we could reveal our secret geekygamergirl obsession for the first time.
I walked away with a few new collection hobbies that may come back to bite me in the ass, but I had a ridiculous amount of fun. I also have a new appreciation for the City of Indianapolis, which I confess pleasantly surprised me. I did not meet a single person who showed any sort of resentment towards the mass influx of geeks upon their fair city - in fact, we were welcomed with open arms. At the local mall where we stopped to get some food, we sat next to two well-blonded and tanned high school age girls whom I expected to be weirded out by us. Instead, one of them brightened up and pointed out a costume of someone walking by in great excitement as she recognized the Sailor Moon fans.

Everyone has a little bit of a geek somewhere inside it seems. GenCon is one of the few events at which you can completely let loose, and it's cool to be "uncool". We don't think your full suit of homemade chainmail is the mark of a loser here - we are all very impressed. Go ahead and rock out in that steampunk corset, lady, it's welcome here. See that dude over there? He writes the best Harry Potter fanfic.

I've been to several academic conferences in my life, but I probably met a greater number of truly brilliant, creative, and enthusiastic people at one GenCon than at all of my academic conferences combined. I was blown away by how welcoming everyone was. Ever since I met my fiance and was introduced into the deep geek world of gaming (I had been a closet gamer previously), I always felt a bit like an outsider. But not at GenCon! There's so much content, so much new stuff to see and learn, that everyone is new at something, and everyone is getting exposed to new things. Everyone is both a pro and a noob depending on the scenario, and it felt excellent. So much knowledge exchange...

I will followup with a picture post. Blogger isn't particularly picture friendly, so I need to do some finagling.
Call to Arms
Guys, I would have posted earlier but I've been very busy.

You see, I've discovered PvP.

I know, I know - please try to control your shock. I've always been a devout non-PvPer. Fear of the unknown had repressed me for years. (Actually, it wasn't the unknown - it was the inevitable LOLNOOB OMG U SUCK battleground chat and complete lack of any resilience)

So, here's how it all began. I was at a lowly 87 mounts after finally reaching exalted with the Netherwing Faction and acquiring my new shiny dragons. 87! That's 13 less than my goal of 100! Math is hard! Where am I supposed to get the final 13?!?!?

And then I saw that you could purchase mounts with honor.

So, with great trepidation and determination, I donned my few pieces of lolpvp gear that had been thrust upon me from VoA pugs, and nervously clicked the "Queue for Random Battleground" button. AND HOLY COW. PVP IS AWESOME.

I can't stop. I've done nothing but queue for battlegrounds since. I'm not eating, sleeping, or posting. I'm pwning hordies and jumping into Wintergrasp every chance I get.

I changed my shadow spec to a PvP friendly one suggested by shadowpriest.com. I rearranged my buttons. I have Silence! And Psychic Horror! And STONEFORM BITCHES.

So I would like to share with you some of the most important lessons I've learned in my recent Battleground Mania.

  1. Always Always Always hit CTRL-S in the preparation area for Alterac Valley (and most battlegrounds actually). In a 40 main PvP group, there will always be rogues, and at least one of those rogues will always be an annoying flying-dagger spamming kid. Or a Path of Frost spamming DK.
  2. You don't need to suck for everyone to know you're a noob when you go into a battleground. As soon as you get that achievement for An Honorable Kill! everyone will know.
  3. I officially feel very bad for the Hordies on Lothar. They haven't had Wintergrasp since Wednesday. It's all because of me, I'm certain.
  4. Arcane Torrent SUCKS. Jerks. As far as I'm concerned, the only Blood Elf I will ever like is Tamarind, and the rest of you emokids can keep your damn torrents to yourself!
  5. Stoneform is a racial ability I alway found completely useless until battlegrounds. Now I use it just about every cooldown. Between that and Psychic Horror, I fear no rogues or warriors. LOLSTONED
  6. Find something you're good at (or at least not terrified of), and just stick to it. If you're new to battlegrounds, just go stand at a tower and pretend you're defending it, when in reality you're looking at the map trying to figure out where the hell you are.
  7. I still have not mastered the ability of picking up bombs.
  8. I hate Warsong Gulch.
  9. Even if you're a shadow priest... don't be afraid to heal. That's part of what I think makes shadow priests great in PvP. If I know I'm going to die, I just throw a Prayer of Mending on myself... at least it will still bounce after I'm dead.
  10. When in doubt, just jump. A lot. It makes you look like you're actually good at this.

When I first decided to start jumping into PvP, I asked around: "How much resilience should I have before I start running battlegrounds?" The answer was usually a number around 1000. Since I only had about 100 resilience starting up, I felt incredibly timid joining in.

But thinking you need 1000 resilience to even start is ridiculous, as far as I'm concerned. In order to get enough PvP gear to have that kind of resilience, you're going to have to actually DO some PvP first. As long as you are prepared to die a lot, just jump in! Ignore people who are jerks in BG chat. I've found that lots of people are actually very encouraging, with compliments for successful defense tactics, gratitude for any healer around, and lots of cheers when there is a win.

And the game has come alive for me again. Though I've never really been gear or loot obsessed, there is a lot of fun involved in setting gear goals for yourself. And what's great about getting PvP gear is that you aren't directly competing with someone else for a specific item. There's no rolling against other priests, and the disappointment or arguments that come from someone losing the item. All the competition is focused on the battles themselves, really. Gearing yourself is a very independent endeavor - and I'm getting a kick out of it.

I bought two mounts in the beginning... and now I'm just buying more PvP gear with my honor. Oops.
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Donner, Party of 11 Million
Every now and then, something exciting (read: dramatic) occurs within the Blogosphere. I'm sure this happens in every topical blogging universe, but it gets especially heated in the WoW world in the summer.

Between slow downs in the game from the pre-expansion pack lull, and people going in and out due to summer plans, WoW can just get boring.

For instance, I could post all kinds of things about the upcoming Cataclysm Priest changes. It might actually even be notable that I haven't. The reasoning behind it is that I do not have a beta key - and therefore, since I cannot test things out and try them for myself, I'm hesitant to attempt explanations and criticisms or support for something I haven't actually seen.

I did not always have this policy, but over the past year or so of blogging, I've learned a lot of hard lessons. I thought RealID was great, and then thought it was awful, and then great again, and then there was the forum debacle, and I hated it again.

Had I waited one day more to post about Real ID when it was first released in game, so that I could experience it for myself, I think my take on it would have been very different. I rather like RealID in-game. I wouldn't like it if I didn't have a choice. Granted, it leads to a lot of awkward social circumstances, such as when someone wants to be my RealID friend, and I really don't want to, eek!

So - unless I get a beta key, it is unlikely I will talk much about specific priest changes until much closer to release.

I know I'm not alone in my wow-boredom. And when boredom strikes, people jump at the chance for something interesting. And no matter how much we might like to tell ourselves it's not true, heated disagreements amongst ourselves do spark interest. Especially when there's not a lot else going on.

We end up participating in cannibalistic activities. Dammit, Blizz, we're starving over here in the blogosphere! You're leaving us to devour one another in our hunger. If I don't get a beta key soon, I'm going to start chewing on Fuubaar's leg.

It's rather like being so bored with heroics that you go in pantsless in order to try and make it a bit more interesting.

On that note, please participate in the Very Important Survey on my sidebar. Yes, I'm asking you to click through if you are viewing this in a reader (and I never ask people to do that!)- because the future of our society depends very much on your selection of which type of elitist you are.
Random and Only Vaguely Topical
I quit my job at the Census (it was only going to last another week anyway). I got sick of being reminded on a daily basis how easily replaceable I was, and constant threats that everyone would be fired. Bah - so replace me then. ::shrug::

Then I started obsessing over Ancestry.com. It has now become like a new game for me. I must fill out every box on that pedigree chart. It's like my professions... I must know EVERY RECIPE. I called my mom to get some information about relatives, and she wanted to tell me stories. I had to resist the insane urge to tell her that I don't give a damn about the stories! Just give me birth dates and death dates so that i can COMPLETE EVERY TICKIE BOX. There better be an achievement at the end. Wait... this is ancestry pedigree... there IS no end. My obsessive-compulsive completionist tendencies will be the death of me.

After my Real ID/Real Names post a week or so ago, I finally decided to come clean to my advisor. She's more than just my advisor, she's something of a mother figure. So I told her that I blog about WoW. There was utter silence for a moment, and then her response was something along the lines of "Well... at least you're writing and keeping your writing skills up... but don't you think you ought to direct some of that towards, you know, your thesis?"

Remember how the worst thing your mother could ever do to you was to sound disappointed? "I'm not angry, I'm disappointed." After that conversation I felt horribly guilty, and decided to start working on my thesis again.

My thesis is about sex offenders. The past few days I have been assembling all my data... which means mapping where sex offenders live, looking at all these pictures of sex offenders, reading about their crimes, state laws, etc. I'm sure all my friends on twitter think I'm insane, since it's pretty much all I've been talking about, and sex crimes aren't generally considered polite conversation, even for twitter.

The thing is, when you're writing something like your thesis or your dissertation, you have to completely dive in and focus and invest yourself. Normally that would be fine - but I confess that spending so much time thinking about and looking at and researching people who have committed such horrible crimes has really worn me down. I honestly thought it wouldn't be a problem for me - I don't have kids, for one. But man. You live and breathe your thesis. It's not particularly pleasant to live and breathe sex offenders.

So, I took a break from thesising to try a battleground. I'm notoriously horrible at BGs, but I figured everyone is happy to see a healer, right? You expect the healer to get killed off pretty quickly, so maybe no one would notice how horrible I was if they were getting their bubbles. So I put on my lolpvp gear (200 resilience baby! YEAH!) and dove in to a Warsong Gulch. And then, for some completely unknown reason, and purely on a panicked whim (I'm always panicked in BGs) I picked up the flag. I had no idea what the hell I was doing. In my complete panic, I mounted up. Dropped the flag. Picked it back up. Ran around in a circle for a minute. Saw 6 red hordies come running at me... so I freaked out and deserted the battleground, and logged off.

I would have been a truly horrible soldier.

Also, this week I was looking at wedding rings, and found this particular gem. It's ribbed for her comfort. It's the perfect wedding ring for those who want a reminder of that item they should have used in order to prevent the situation requiring their marriage in the first place.
Fence Sitting is Rather Uncomfortable
There was a great hullabaloo about add-ons amongst the healing circle. As a big fan of both moarhps (Codi) and RighteousOrbs (Tam & Chas), I found the exchange particularly interesting, and instead of leaving the ginormous comment over at RighteousOrbs that I started, I figured I would turn it into a post.

The Problem With Add-Ons

I should preface this by stating that I use add-ons. I try to use as few as is necessary. Is it because I think it makes me a better player or person if I don’t use add-ons? Not at all. It is due almost entirely to the fact that add-ons have a tendency to go all wonky after a patch. And I get error messages. And thingies light up and go dingdingding and I get very bewildered. I’m not very good at customizing UIs, and I’m entirely too impatient to fix things that break on the technical end. I just click red x boxes in hopes that whatever the problem is will simply go away. I utilize this exact same methodology with my car, by the way.

I very much enjoyed Codi’s no add-on project for the very reason that she started it in the first place. Her computer broke, she had to use another computer on which she was not able to use add-ons, and she needed to heal a raid. Most of us have found ourselves in a similar situation many times. Codi’s writing on the topic helped me figure out how to fix things so that I could heal and raid well in the event that my add-ons went kablooey.

She also pointed out a lot of things that made me pay more attention – and in effect, made me a better healer, and an overall better player.

By making healing a simple matter of point and click, it removes the finesse of doing things like making macros or learning each of the unique debuffs so that you can spot them.

Now, I don’t think you have to stop using add-ons in order to learn the Great Art of Macro-Creation – Clique taught me how to use and create macros. I’m still not very good at it, and I’m certainly no expert, but through Clique I learned how to use different types of macros, and enabled myself to create macros outside of the add-on environment as well. Conceptually, I confess that I just could not grasp how to use and write macros before Clique.

In regards to the debuffs, I found her to be quite right. Before she pointed this out, I rarely bothered to actually read the name or effect of a debuff. I would just cleanse/dispel my way on through. The problem with that, is that you don’t really need to cleanse everything. In many cases, it is simply a waste of a global cooldown and mana to do so, especially when the tradeoff of a GCD and the effect of the debuff are too expensive. In addition to this, I have started noticing a lot more debuffs that need to be removed at a certain time (i.e. not immediately), and I have watched people cleanse them immediately and cause a lot of damage to the group.

Since Codi pointed out this particular issue, I started paying more attention to curses, debuffs, etc. Yes, I still use my add-ons. But I use them with more thought now – I pay more attention. And the game has become more interesting to me when I pay more attention to the specific details of debuffs.

Before Codi started her Zero Add-On Project, I was in the camp of someone who felt completely incapable of healing without my precious add-ons. But now, due to her efforts, I know what to do if I find myself raiding on my laptop (which can’t handle all my normal raiding add-ons) or on a patch day if everything explodes. I feel confident that I can still be a solid player.

I do not think that add-ons necessarily make the game easier. I find that they often add a layer of complexity that I absolutely hate – fiddling with a UI when I have about as much patience for such endeavors as I do for people who are rude and demanding. However, I find just as much, if not more, problems in trying to configure the default UI to work in a way that makes sense to me. Thankfully, Codi made the effort to explain to me how to do it properly.

As far as I’m concerned, this is a game, and therefore people should do what it takes to make the game as fun as possible for themselves, as long as it does not make the game less enjoyable for other players. Codi enjoys playing without add-ons, and she is a living testament against the people who insist that people who raid without add-ons should just be kicked from a raid by default. Along that same line, I’ve certainly never seen her championing a cause that stated that people who do like to use add-ons should also be kicked from a raid. Perhaps I was completely incorrect in my interpretation, but I read her words as championing the cause that people should learn how to heal without add-ons in order to better understand the game mechanics that add-ons may encourage people to gloss over, and to prepare oneself in the event that you are unable to use add-ons. I think it's a pretty good point.

Why should I learn to spell when I have a spellchecker built into every word-processing program? Because I might find myself in a situation where the word processor doesn’t work. Why should I learn my multiplication tables when I can just use a calculator? Because I lose things like calculators, and people get really irritated when you ask them, for the 19th time, what 6 times 7 is (screw you, multiplication tables). Why should I scrub the floor on my hands and knees instead of with a mop? Because with a mop, I don’t notice the clear sticky substance glued to the floor.

The Inherent Virtue of Suffering

I very much enjoyed reading all the relevant posts from all three authors (Codi, Tam, and Chas), but I think this section by Tam is quite possibly my favorite. As someone who does actually find some personal inherent value in suffering (I blame my mother), I felt very attached to Tam’s words on the topic. Specifically, this portion:

The thing is, I’m all for individual freedom. If you want to write, you can write, if you want to use the default UI you can use the default UI, if you want to eat your rice with a fork you can.

(well that’s good, actually, because I do eat rice with a fork, and I never understood why my mother thought that was strange – is it easier with a spoon? Maybe it is… /ponder)

But then I guess this section rather stung:

Unfortunately, the problem is that people who do choose to do things in a less-than-optimal manner can never seem to let it go. It’s not enough that we approach things differently: their way has to be the better way, the way that makes reflects their inherent inner virtues, like strength and determination and not expecting things to be easy all the time.

And it left me wondering… after my “I like it Hard” post, did my readers think I was insisting they ought to do things the hard way? I hope I did not alienate my readers and friends by leaving them with the thought that I considered myself superior simply because I found some personal value in increased and arguably unnecessary challenges. I absolutely do not. I also confess that I take some offense to the description of a less-traveled path as less-than-optimal. I recognize that my entire philosophy on life is annoyingly post-modern, but it does sting a bit to hear that the personal choices I make are, due to the very thing about them that makes them valuable to me, “less than optimal”. Mind you, I'm not suggesting Tam's words were directed at me. My favorite thing about Tam is his ability to take a potentially esoteric concept that applies to the real world and frame it in a gaming context, and vice versa.

So to each of you, I encourage you to find your own optimal path, and refrain from judging or casting condemnation down on others who choose a different path. Maybe that path will be the difficult, rocky, and less traveled path. Maybe it will be the cleaner, tidier, more established one. There are inherent virtues in both, depending on what you, as an individual, value most.

My path, though arguably more arduous and tedious and perhaps even filled with lots of giant pits and squiggly red lines, may not be the path for you. I only wished to share with you the joy I had experiencing it. I hope you got a kick out of it, and I am not offended if you tease me about it, as long as you don’t attempt to tell me my path is wrong, or that your path would be a superior choice for me.

Seriously, if having your night elf jump up and down naked on a mailbox all day brings you the most joy in this game, then go for it. It’s your money. What right does anyone else have to tell you that your way is not fun, and you’re “doing it wrong”? If, on the other hand, you like to spend your gametime attempting to solo every raid boss naked with the default UI on a holy priest with one hand tied behind your back… more power to you. It’s your money, and if that is fun for you, then that is what you ought to do.

Just because someone likes doing something in a way you perceive as more difficult does not mean they find it more difficult, nor does it make them (that ever-controversial adjective) elitist. My perception of an elitist is someone who insists their way is the only proper way, and then continues on to insist that anyone who does not do it their way is inferior. In contrast, just because someone chooses to do something in a way that seems far too simplistic to you does not mean they are lazy.

On a more personal note, I really do hope that none of the authors to whom I referred in this post are upset with me for writing this. I adore all of them, both as writers and as individuals. I hope that posting my thoughts on this whole subject does not lose me their friendships, because I have been blessed with the opportunity to get to know them on a personal level, and I'd really hate to lose that.
The Newest Sensation in Gaming: Real Life
After Tobold's review of Real Life (tm), I decided I had to check out this game that is apparently so popular. A glowing review from Tobold is a pretty solid recommendation in my book, so I've been attempting to log a lot of hours in this massive multiplayer game.

First off, you should be warned that it's not always easy to get a response from the developers. The forums are fool of trolls, and it can be very difficult to find people there who are genuinely kind and helpful. In fact, I think sometimes that the developers like to post as just normal players, instead of with an obvious descriptor next to their name. It can make it really confusing to get an honest answer, and it's not always easy to know whom to trust. I've been trying to just have faith that the developers know what they are doing with this game, and in general, I'm sure their plan for the big picture is a good one, there just seems to be a lot of tricky and difficult tasks before you get to the end-game. What is particularly fascinating about the end-game, is that no one knows exactly what it entails - but most of us assume, or at least hope, that it's a damn good reward.

A lot of people like to solo through this game, but I've found that the support of a good solid guild really makes everything a lot more pleasant, and certainly a hell of a lot more manageable, especially for raiding. The best strategy involves creating multiplayer networks for different tasks. For instance, I find that having one partner around can be helpful in managing day to day tasks and personal achievements. I utilize my guild for other, larger, tasks and achievements, and you need to have a full raid for some of the longer, bigger, tasks.

The quests have a lot of variation. Some are these epic chains that seem to never end, with lots of different quest givers along the way. Many of these chains differ based on the stats, abilities, and gear your character starts with from the beginning, but one thing I particularly like is that you can usually mold the chains to whatever rewards you prefer if you are willing to put in enough time and energy. Some chains reward more gold, others more personal achievments. Personally, I prefer the quests for achievements, but to be fair, I was pretty lucky with the random roll with which my toon started.

In addition to these quest chains, there is this really interesting feature based on the amount of gear you have. The more gear you have, the more daily quests you seem to accrue in order to keep that gear. However, unlike in WoW, these are not the same quest every day. In fact, if you skip one particular daily for multiple days, then when you finally get back to doing it, you have to do a lot more to complete the quest and get the same rewards as you would in one normal daily. This is particularly noticeable in quests that are related to player housing. Also, don't expect your guildmates to help you much with your dailies. Even if you team up with one player to go through the mid to end level content, you might find that somehow you get stuck doing their dailies as well as your own.

Your character functions on a limited resource capacity. The more resources you consume, the more you seem to steadily need. Over time, these resources that affect your stats (such as spirit, stamina, and strength in particular) really seem to wane, and you have to recharge. Intellect actually builds over time, unless you participate in some optional quest chains that provide short term buffs, and then give you a massive debuff that lowers all your stats for a significant amount of time. Agility, however, seems to steadily decrease throughout the game span.

Since I know how so many of you really adore raiding, I'll give you some of my perspective on this aspect of the game. I'm currently working on a short duration, but taxing raid. The end-game boss is a very strange internet dragon, who actually looks, strangely enough, like a short bald man who never smiles. We haven't yet managed to take down this boss, and I think it's because I've been in some pretty messy pugs. However, I also have this suspicion that this dragon isn't really the ultimate boss, and that there are others pulling the strings behind him. It's actually a pretty clever design, if you think about it. We keep throwing all our abilites at this boss, wearing ourselves thin, but he seems immune to damage. I'm beginning to wonder if he is simply Mind Controlled, and is being used as some kind of shield for other, weaker but nastier bosses behind him.

Anyway, I think I'd better get back to the game, as I have another raid attempt here shortly. I'll keep you guys posted when I finally defeat this boss, as I'm sure it will happen sometime in the next week or two. In the meantime, you should really check out this game. It has the potential to be especially rewarding, even though you may experience a lot of down time where you don't seem to be getting anywhere. There's a lot of serendipity in this game, and random things that other players do in the gaming universe can create lots of new questing and achievement opportunities for you, so even if you want to take a break from it sometimes, you really should check back in every day to see if any new opportunities arise.

Catch you in-game!
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