Jun 27, 2009

Daniel Larison

This is why I added him to the blogroll. He writes for the American Conservative:

Americanists believe that any statement from the President that fails to build up and anoint Mousavi as the preferred candidate is discouraging to Mousavi and his supporters, because they apparently cannot grasp that being our preferred candidate is to be tainted with suspicion of disloyalty to the nation. It is strange how nationalists often have the least awareness of the importance of the nationalism of another people. Many of the same silly people who couldn’t say enough about Hamas’ so-called “endorsement” of Obama as somehow indicative of his Israel policy views, as well as those who could not shut up about his warm reception in Europe, do not see how an American endorsement of a candidate in another country’s election might be viewed with similiar and perhaps even greater distaste by the people in that country.

Good old fashioned hard-headed realism.

FUUUUUUUUUUUUU

UUUUUUUUCK.
I was prepared to be betrayed by Obama. But not like this.

Victor David Hansen...

...is a fucking dipshit. Seriously? I used to joke that way to make fun of conservatives. It's cold here so global warming is clearly a myth. What a complete tool.

Jun 26, 2009

The new emblem system

Well, this has been done to death already, but I had a few thoughts:

1) I thought this would happen earlier. Heroics were getting deserted within a couple months of the Wrath launch, as there was no reason to run them. The solution Blizzard has landed upon is in fact what I would have done from the start--i.e., keep the lower tier raids and heroics one badge level below the cutting edge stuff, so that people will be able to get a bit of gear just from grinding. This was basically how it was in BC. For my part, I see this as a reason to keep people online and running stuff with their friends on off nights. As it is, for a top player or near top, there isn't much reason to get on when it isn't raid night.

2) Calling these "welfare epics" is missing the point. Blizzard has made the lower tier gear pretty easy to get in Wrath (Naxx), it's just now the gear has inflated a bit. Elite raiders will be rocking full tier 9 way before the 5-man grinders can get 8.5. Not really a huge change, IMHO.

3) Gevlon has an alternate idea: make an economic solution from crafted epics so that people could grind out gear in the context of the AH rather than heroics. Honestly, that doesn't seem like a bad idea--though I wouldn't discount that, especially for the new player, heroics are pretty good practice for raiding. No doubt Gevlon would scoff at that, and probably blame something on the poor in the process (global warming? I wonder if he even believes in that).

On a side note, I take issue with this sentence:
"The first argument is true in some way. Actually that's exactly Keynes suggested against unemployment during the Great (in two years "Small") Depression: "pay people to dig holes and other people to bury them". Too bad that there was no WoW back then. The government could pay subscription for the unemployed and pay them money for AoE-ing down 5-mans."
Keynes' famous sentence is what's known as hyperbole, meaning he wasn't serious, and in fact may have been thinking humorous thoughts in the back of his mind. He was making a rhetorical point; only a fool would actually suggest digging holes and filling them back up again as a response to recession. Government stimulus is always directed toward projects like rail, bridges, schools, etc.

But if you're looking for horseshit Randian economic mumbo-jumbo draped over the WoW world like some reeking Satanic napkin, Gevlon's your man.

More thoughts on classic raids

The basic draw of the old world stuff for me is, I think, the story behind everything. I'm one of those gamers that (on my first toon anyway) read every quest description, marveled at the zones and the lore, and read up on a great deal of stuff. This is why I'm now leveling a Horde character--to see what I missed story-wise. When I play other RPGs or shooters I really like to poke around and see what kind of interesting nuggets of backstory I can find here and there.

For example--Half-Life, where in the various games you can see the G-man (and a lot more) every once in a while if you explore a lot. (My favorite shooter series, by the way.)

The thing about WoW lore is that it's not that great--B+ level fantasy, I'd say. It's got some great sub-plots (Tiron Fordring and the Ashbringer) and some lousy ones (Varian Wrynn), but the ability to be there and watch it all happen is really cool--it makes what would be a mediocre book into a near-transcendent experience. The first time I saw Illidan was a feeling of overwhelming excitement.

Of course, that feeling is likely easily exhausted--but as gamers cycle through WoW and new raids keep coming out, there's going to be a expanding set of old raids with a growing population of gamers that haven't seen any of it. I think that if people like me and Klepsacovic
can make a hobby out of old raid exploring with basically no rewards except bling, there must be a viable sub-market out there.

Jun 23, 2009

Classic raiding


Tobold has another post up that piqued my curiosity. He disdains the possibility of classic raiding guilds (apparently not aware that there are at least a couple classic guilds out there that refuse purchase of TBC or WotLK). He's probably right that the vast majority of players aren't very interested in raids where you don't get the latest and greatest gear.

However, I think he discounts the power of nostalgia and history too much. Lots of people enjoy going into those old world raids (like me--I still have yet to make it into the Sunwell, to my eternal dismay). One of the interesting properties of WoW's constant updates is that raids and zones are systematically discarded, and the bleeding-edge population moves on, leaving the old zone basically empty. But my feeling poking around the old raids was the powerful pull of historical curiosity--I wanted to know what the classic raids were like, how the bosses worked, etc. And I had a great time doing it. The constant updating leaves multiple layers of old content around, which gives WoW a historical punch far outweighing its five-year history.

In short, I think there is a market out there for this kind of old-world exploration, and it's definitely worth an second look for Blizzard.

MMO combat

Tobold has an important post up about hypothetical combat systems for MMO games. I think he hits on most of the important parts, but perhaps underestimates how difficult it is to make a decent combat system. Execution is Blizzard's trademark, and a conservative combat system that functions perfectly will always be better than an innovative one with many bugs.

But I think he's on to something. WoW will probably be considered the pinnacle of the hotkey style of combat, but with new technology, different styles will be brought forth. Check out Tobold's post--more later.

Jun 12, 2009

Sigh.

Politicians suck.

We in America trust too much in the supreme leader of power--we would rather hand the reins over to someone else rather than yank the power back ourselves. Cause, well, it's hard, and a huge pain in the ass to go out and organize and build coalitions of Congresscritters and write letters, etc. It sucks.

But we're learning now that no man can be trusted with the reins of the most powerful country on earth. Inevitably, he will fail us all. Power is a ratchet--no man will give up the power his predecessor gained for him. It must be wrenched back from his grasp.

Latest from Pogo.

Man, I can't get enough of this guy. This piece is less melodic, more subtle and less repetitive--more in the true ambient style of things. This time, the subject matter is the Secret Garden:

Jun 10, 2009

Now that's spiritual



UPDATE: Comment win: "When I feel like shit. I watch this and replay it over and over again until I get this feeling and it becomes that much more harder to breathe because of epic reality check this video gives me." Reality check, indeed. Science rocks.

Jun 9, 2009

Solo-man

Recently, I've taken to soloing old-world raids since my guild is small and I usually can't play much during the evening when they're raiding. I did AQ20 all the way to the end, skipping a couple bosses, which was pretty easy. Often the trash is harder than the bosses, due to weird mechanics like eating you alive. (It's actually possible to solo those things as a tank paladin, you just have to stay at max range and hit exorcism and avenger's shield.)

The Molten Core trash is fairly easy, and the temptation to skip it often leads you to pulling 5-6 mobs. The Firelords are among the worst, as they spawn an add that multiplies like bacteria if you don't kill it quick. Plus, they silence you for 20 seconds, locking me out of everything but Hammer of the Righteous. Core Hound packs are probably the most annoying trash, as all 5 or so have to die with in 10 seconds or they get rezzed by their brethren.

I learned to not underestimate the power of the protection paladin. At one point, I accidentally pulled 2 Molten Destroyers, two Ancient Core Hounds (different from the packs), two Lava Annihilators, and a Firelord. The mobs are so big, I couldn't reliably target the firelord adds, and I let them get out of control. I was about to give up, but as it was a long run back, I decided to fight it out and get as many of them down as I could. I focused on the Firelord first, but by the time I got him down I was almost dead due to lack of Holy Shield, Sacred Shield and extra heals from Judgment of Light, and there were probably fifty adds spawned (at least, they were so overlapped I couldn't begin to count them). However, with my buffs back up, I noticed my health creeping back up--apparently with the fire resist aura, nearly all of the adds' attacks missed. They also have a despawn timer; after about 2 minutes they all died, and about five minutes later I finished off the rest of the mobs. That was exhilarating, especially because the run back from MC sucks.

I can't emphasize enough how powerful Sacred Shield is for soloing this stuff. With it up, I was able to heal myself to full just from Seal/Judgment of Light from -20k health. While fighting 6 trash mobs and 50+ Lava Spawns. In about 45 seconds.

I got a boss down, Garr, as I'm considering farming Thunderfury. Quite easy. Baron Geddon should be next--video time:

If you look at the armory link in the video, you'll see that this guy has very good gear, much better than mine. That means I'll have to build a fire resistance set to have a chance at success. More coming.

The oddest thing about this old stuff is that though you get little or no rewards (seriously, the MC trash drops nothing at least half the time), I had an absolutely fabulous time. Why is that? To be continued.

Jun 4, 2009

TNC

Ta-Nehisi Coates has just been added to my blogroll. He's a big-time Atlantic blogger who also plays WoW. This one's a keeper:

This is the sort of logic that leads people to complain that there is no white history month. It's my great nightmare that I, or my son, ever sound like that--smug, self-satisfied, unreflective, whiny and narcissistic. It's the sort of comment that betrays a man bereft of any deep interest in this country's history. But if you've never had to grapple with who you are in relation to other people, if you've never had to worry much about courting people who aren't like you, if you've never struggled with being politically correct, it's exactly the sort of thing you'd say.

Check him out.

Identity

Honor's Code said something interesting the other day:
Gevlon of Greedy Goblin - I don't agree with him philosophically, but I want to learn what I can from him to increase my own meager supply of WoW gold. I love how he wraps philosophy and his world view into nearly every post while still staying on topic. I would love to develop that skill more in my own blog.
Honors himself often references the fact that he is a (presumably fundamentalist) Christian, and blogs occasionally about religious subjects. I don't begrudge him this, either, it's his blog of course, and he can do with it what he likes.

(Actually, I highly recommend Honor's Code--he really knows his paladin tanking, and his latest series about working through Ulduar is excellent.)

But wrapping your philosophy around everything you write has its downsides. Honors isn't an Andrew Sullivan-style introspective believer. He as a link to the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, which I sincerely believe is dishonest, manipulative, scientifically bogus, and mostly just plain idiotic. (Rotten Tomatoes gives it 10%: Consensus: Full of patronizing, poorly structured arguments, Expelled is a cynical political stunt in the guise of a documentary.)

Ben Stein said during an interview about that movie "...Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people." If Honors wrapped up every post in that kind of dreck, I would likely stop reading his blog, as I have basically quit on Gevlon.

Of course, I'm guilty of much the same. I don't disguise my beliefs (doesn't matter, I suppose, since no one reads me anyway). But this is only about half and half WoW and politics, similar to TNC. A political blog can't disguise its opinions, and shouldn't. But if one writes mostly about WoW or a non-political subject (and I suppose this is the point I was going for), one should tread carefully on political subjects.

Jun 3, 2009

Attitude

Larisa has another keeper over at the Inn, and it got me to thinking. It's very easy to become disillusioned in WoW. The late content tends be very repetitive, and one can get bored with grinding.

Yet when I recall my first days in WoW, they were very nearly rapturous. Never had I seen a game so captivating or fun. Of course, part of that was massive feel of the world--who can forget the first time wandering into a high-level zone and aggroing a huge skull-level mob? Everything was fresh, new, and interesting.

I think there's more to it than that. Back in n00b days, I didn't read the forums, I didn't read wow.com, I didn't check ElitistJerks, and I didn't read any blogs. Now, I wouldn't suggest stopping all that--for a good player, it's basically necessary to read up on your class--but too much forum surfing and so forth is a downer. Larisa had another post about this awhile back, but it's basically attributable to the amount of whining that happens in those places:
Whenever there’s a small temporary change in the game mechanics, people go nuts about it, complaining, bitching, moaning, whining about the cruelness and stupidity of the developers. Eventually they manage to create a negative atmosphere around the whole event, effectively taking the fun out of it for everyone else, even those that from the beginning didn’t have any clear opinion about it of their own.

So I don't do grinds that bore me, instead I seek out new adventure in this gigantic world that Blizzard has created for us. My latest project--soloing every Outland instance. I hit 70 in October, so I missed most of them the first time around. I did the hardest one first--Magister's Terrace--though I suspect due to game mechanics that won't be the worst one. Botanica was a lot harder, due my inability to kill all the tree adds. Ramps, of course, I can do in two pulls.

And while I do check wow.com occasionally, I don't read the forums, and don't read extensive QQ blog posts. I figure Blizzard is on top of their game, and they haven't ever really let me down. I do read things that make me happy, like TPPI, but I would like to mention one more--Wowhobbs. This guy is just so happy to be playing the game, so chill and laid-back, such a wry, subtle sense of humor, and such a natural entertainer that every one of his movies is like a hot cup of tea and a blanket. Course, I play a tank paladin, so maybe I'm biased.

Jun 2, 2009

It gets better

Remember that Mary Poppins video I linked to? Well, turns out there's a whole bunch more. I'm just going to link to this guy's YouTube channel, because it's great. I particularly enjoyed "Alohamora" and "Alice."

Joyful stuff. Check it out.

Jun 1, 2009

Oprah sucks

What do you know, Newsweek wrote something worth reading--delivering Oprah a much-needed smackdown on her passive-aggressive promotion of "alternative" medicine and health.

See here for more.

Whoa.

Not sure why I'm posting so much electronic music lately, but this is some excellent ambient trance.



Via Sully.

Excellent questions

Jack Balkin has some great points over at his site about the recent domestic terrorism and the GWOT:
(1) Should the United States be able to hold Roeder [the Tiller murder suspect] without trial in order to prevent him from returning to society to kill more abortion providers? If we believe that Roeder and other domestic terrorists will plan further attacks on abortion providers and abortion clinics if we let them free, can we subject them to indefinite detention?

(2) The Obama Administration is currently considering a national security court to make decisions about the detention of suspected terrorists, with the power to order continued preventive detention. Should this court be able to hear cases involving U.S. citizens, whether they are Muslim or Christian?

(3) The U.S. government has argued that at least some terrorists should not be tried through the criminal process with its various Bill of Rights protections but instead can and should be tried through military commissions, where the standards of proof and various procedural protections are lowered. If Roeder is a domestic terrorist, can the U.S. government subject him to trial by a military commission instead of a criminal prosecution? Although the current version of the 2006 Military Commission Act does not bestow jurisdiction to try citizens, could we or should we amend it to include citizens who we believe are likely to commit or have committed terrorist acts?

(4) One of the most important reasons for detaining terrorists (suspected or otherwise) is to obtain information about future terrorist attacks that may save lives and prevent future bombings. To procure this information, can the government dispense with the usual constitutional and legal safeguards against coercive interrogation? Should it be able to subject Roeder to enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding and other methods, to determine whether Roeder knows of any other persons who are likely to commit violence against abortion clinics or against abortion providers in the future? Would your answer change if you believed that an attack on an abortion provider or a bombing of an abortion clinic was imminent?

Read the whole thing.

Deep thought

Good thing George Bush protected us from all that terrorism.

UPDATE 1: I see I have been beaten to the punch.

UPDATE 2: Jesus Fucking Christ.

Police state watch

For fuck's sake.
Other than creating an illusion of transparency and accountability, what's the point of having laws that purport to restrict what the Government can do if political officials just retroactively waive those laws whenever they want? What's the point of having a FOIA law if the Government will simply pass a new law exempting itself from FOIA's mandates any time it loses in court and wants to conceal evidence anyway? And what conceivable rationale is there for limiting the President's new secrecy powers to post-9/11 photographs? Given that anything which reflects poorly on our Government can be said to endanger our troops and American citizens, why stop here? Why not just have a general power of suppression whereby the President can keep any evidence secret as long as his Defense Secretary decrees that its disclosure will "endanger" the troops?

Read the whole thing.

There's a reason I linked to the Pink Pigtail Inn earlier. Check this out.

It gets worse


Over at Warlock Therapy, they've been hashing out the full extent of Ferarro's deception. A few amateur detectives looked have been looking at the caches, and Sarah Townsend herself turned up as well. Turns out, s/he also stole multiple posts from TechDarling, Ms. Townsend's location (Virginia and SoCal), and her motto--from her MySpace profile years ago.

This has gotten clinical.