Monday, October 13. 2014 | Comments (2)
Wednesday, September 4. 2013 | Comments (0)
Donna Lewis was one of a sizable handful of female singers in the mid- to late-90's who hit the airwaves with one or two pop hits and quickly disappeared. That wouldn't be so unusual, except that it really was a veritable flood for a few years. This was arguably the precursor to the "Grrl Power" movement, as it seemed be largely triggered by the success of Melissa Etheridge and other perceived-alternative and independent musicians; a female-centric offshoot of grunge. Lewis stands out not only for the extreme catchyness of "I Love You Always Forever", but for her impressively produced debut album "Now In A Minute". A few of the songs falter due to noticeably resembling each other, a real shame that mars an otherwise outstanding sonic experience. However, the albums other great failure is that it serves as a great cure for insomnia.
America's 50 Countries - Article on National Review about the heterogenic nature of America.
Andrew Branca appeared on a California NPR broadcast a couple of months ago to serve as the token defender of George Zimmerman and Stand Your Ground laws. Havoc ensued when Branca pointed out that 33 states have Stand Your Ground laws like Florida's, and California's is actually the most liberal (in the classic sense).
What, exactly, ARE Jay-Z's 99 Problems? An artist on tumblr is working it out.
Brimstone over Iwo Jima.
"Without Love" is probably the best song on the disc. Sounds truly phenomenal cranked up loud. Amazing mix.
The "Not-as-dark-as-advertised" Ages. An idea that's been covered quite a bit the last few years. Hopefully, the classic idea of the "Dark" Ages will be gone in another decade.
World of Warcraft subscribers down to 7.7 million. I talked about this on Facebook a few weeks back. As many have pointed out, 7.7 million is still the largest subscriber base in America, and it's probably the largest user base as well. Guild Wars 2 is claiming 5 million users, although it's very difficult to compare "users" to "subscribers". However, considering how successful many free-to-play games have been, I still think if WoW trends below 5 million Blizzard starts converting the game to FTP. The next expansion will prove it either way, in my opinion.
Former NBA star Kenny Anderson comes to terms with sexual abuse when he was a child. Another long piece by SBNation. These long-form articles SBN has been doing are excellent reading.
A tear-jerking story about "Animal Crossing". Will make you hate yourself if you've ever thought anything bad about your mother.
For Texans, a short guide to many lost buildings at Fair Park in Dallas.
And, again, while fantastically produced and featuring Donna's excellent voice, this is one of the songs that will put you to sleep.
Something I need to add to my list of things that I say I'll do but never get around to is reviewing a few albums. I know everyone loves hearing the opinions of a music snob. Speaking of which...seriously, who reads Rolling Stone anymore? I didn't even know they were still published.
P.S. Still can't get to sleep? Try this one:
Monday, August 5. 2013 | Comment (1)
Next up on the Trial Account is The Paladin. Paladins are playable by three Alliance races and two Horde and can spec as a Healer, Tank or DPS. In the first twenty levels the Healer and DPS specs are more useful, but the inherent Paladin skills are good enough to make even the Tank build enjoyably different from a Warrior Tank.
Paladins aren't highly respected as a class in WoW, mainly because Paladins are as heavily armored as Warriors, and also have a plethora of heals they can use on themselves, AND a shield spell that makes them almost completely invulnerable to damage for short periods of time. This shielding ability is called "bubbling" in WoW and other games, and giving such an ability to a DPS tank just doesn't seem fair. Coupled with the Paladins speed boosting talents, the shield could also be called a "Get out of Jail Free" card.
A Healing Paladin has more advantages than just a bunch of heals. There are several burst Holy damage skills that suit casting-oriented Paladins. Equip a shield for Healers and Tanks. However, Retribution specs will want to use a two handed weapon for maximum melee damage.
I have to admit I really enjoyed playing a Paladin. All of the talents you will get at level 15 are speed oriented; the best for general use is a 15% speed boost that adds extra speed boosts as you gain the Paladin's version of Rage. Paladins make quite a spectacle in PvE, as they dart past other players and explode holy light all over a mob, loot and dart off.
The Human, Draenei and Blood Elf races are better suited to the Holy spec; Dwarves and Tauren are more suited to Protection. The Retribution class used both casting and melee, which would probably favor Humans and Draenei; but as usual, you can make any of these combos work if it's fun. I had the most fun with the Blood Elf and Human, I still don't like the Dwarves, and it was obvious that the Tauren was not a competent caster.
And once again I have to re-iterate that the Draenei starting areas are boring (and bugged), the Human starting areas are fun enough but a bit buggy as well, the Dwarf starting areas are AWFUL. Silverpine Forest and The Ghostlands are both awesome. Level there until you get bored.
Next stop is Shamans, which are playable by SIX races. And so far, I'm not sure I like shamans very much.
Wednesday, July 10. 2013 | Comments (0)
From the most common class in WoW I moved on to the least common, Druid. Only four races can field Druids, and that's probably a good thing. If more classes could create Druids, most players would play Druids. Druids can spec as a pure tank, a dps tank, a dps caster, or a healer.
As a solo casual player, the ability to switch back and forth between caster and melee is fun and useful to the point of being cheatery. Throw a slow ranged spell and cast a binding spell right after it, then throw as much damage as possible until the target unfreezes; when they reach you transform into a cat and whack the last bit of health off. You may take 10% damage most of the time. As Charlie Sheen would say, #Winning!
The only talents you will access in the first 20 levels are Feline Swiftness, which increases your travel speed all-around, Displacer Beast which allows you to charge to an opponent and appear behind them; I never really got it to work comfortably, and Wild Charge which gives some kind of jumping/running skill to your transformed state.
The only specs that are really useful in solo casual play are Feral for melee and Balanced for casting. All Druids get the Cat state for melee damage, but if you spec Feral you get additional stats and skills. (The Guardian spec affects your Bear form similarly; I think the Healer spec just gives extra healing skills to your natural form.) The Balanced form provides a Solar Eclipse/Lunar Eclipse power bonus meter and a Moonkin transformed state that boosts your arcane statistics while casting. As for talents, if I could figure out the Displacer Beast skill all of them would be useful in some way. Faster movement speed is always great of course, and the Wild Charge skill gives a "jump-back" skill to the Moonkin form that I did occasionally use.
I don't have much to add regarding the races. Night Elves and Worgen are the only Alliance races that can be Druids, but I didn't get a chance to finish the Worgen to 20 because of a bugged quest at a story bridge.
On the Horde side, Trolls and Tauren can roll Druids. Playing a Feral Troll Druid was a cakewalk. I played through Barrens again, and just sailed through.
Also, "Rapzeela" was randomly generated. Awesome name. My Tauren Balanced Druid, Barfal (another randomly generated name that is also awesome) was my first male character in WoW. I can now recommend that you not even mess with female Tauren. They aren't well-modeled and have very few customization options. Male Tauren have, easily, four times as many options.
So, recommendations. Night Elves are the best for Balanced by a large margin, and Tauren are the best for Tanking and melee damage. Trolls lean toward casting, and Worgen toward melee. But at the lower levels, the skill set for Druids is so vast that it doesn't matter too much.
Next up: Paladins. Another class that I've never played.
Thursday, July 4. 2013 | Comment (1)
WoW players, have you ever listened to the music for the Karazhan dungeon? That is some creepy s***. For maximum effect, play it in the background while you're doing something else, home alone. With the lights out.
Wednesday, July 3. 2013 | Comment (1)
Let's jump straight into the race comparisons:
I'll state right here that I prefer playing Horde. The Horde has more interesting races than the Alliance, and better stories. On the other hand, I can do without Durotar and Barrens, and playing an Orc is incredibly boring. I finished with decent bag space and over 8 gold. In fact, all of my Horde characters finished with more gold than my Alliance characters. I was guessing this was because the Horde is much less populated on the server I'm using, but there are some objections to that idea.
Second verse, same as the first. Tauren are incredibly popular. I don't like them. I don't like the animations, I don't like how they look, I don't like the starting area. Rather than doing my 10-20 in Barrens, I went to Azshara. I like Azshara.
Now we're talkin'. I know the Forsaken were changed up at some point; I'm guessing it had to do with the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Anyway, I never played the original Forsaken, only the current version. But I love the Forsaken. I love the story, I love the first few areas, I love undead Blood Elves and wish Blizzard would allow you to choose which race you wanted to play a Forsaken version of. Because I hate the Forsaken character models.
Trolls supposedly aren't very popular with WoW players, but I don't know why. My first character was a Troll, and I've enjoyed playing Trolls ever since. Much like Dwarves and Gnomes, my recommendation is that if you want to play an Orc, play a Troll instead. That's the one downside; Trolls once started out in the same area as Orcs. They now have their own little area, but it only lasts for the first 5 levels (like the new Gnome area). And they've got enough room (Blizzard cut out a tremendous amount of content in the Troll starting area recently) that the starting area could easily go to level 10 or so.
Goblins get the phased-storyline treatment for their starting area like the Worgen. The Bilgewater Goblins start out in the ocean, get blown-up by Deathwing (it's a pretty amazing moment) and wash up on the shores of Kalimdor (the western continent) where they are aided by Thrall and subsequently join the Horde. I really want to like Goblins more than I do, and they come with plenty of incentives. I have to say I would play a Goblin before I played a Gnome again, but both are down the list.
I didn't think I would like the Blood Elves, but I do. They have a good story, plus being one of the newer races they have good models and animations. Their 10-20 area is fantastic, but the starting area gave me a headache (it's very shiny and yellow-orange).
By the numbers, Tauren are the best Horde-side character to play a warrior, although Orcs and Trolls have good Strength and Stamina as well. Although, as with the Alliance characters, specing for Protection was more important than any stats in the first 20 levels. Arms is ok, but you only get enough skills to work with right at level 20, and Fury was still frustrating.
And so, out of ALL races, what was the most fun to play?
Protection speced Night Elf; but Draenei are well-made and interesting, Worgen have probably the best starting area and make good warriors, and Humans are well-balanced and have easy access to many fun areas. If you want the best spec, roll a Dwarf.
Protection speced Forsaken or Blood Elf, but Goblins can be fun and have a good starting story, and Trolls are well-balanced. If you think you may care about stats later in the game, though, roll a Tauren or an Orc.
That does it for the most common class in the game (every race can be a warrior). Next up will be the least common (Druid, even though you see a ton of them, for quite understandable reasons.)
Saturday, June 29. 2013 | Comments (5)
Okey dokey. I have finished playing a warrior with every race in WoW (except Pandaren) to level 20 (which is the trial account level cap). What can you learn doing such a thing? Well, I can tell you which of the three warrior specs I liked; and I can tell you which race was the most compelling and enjoyable, and I can tell you how the starting areas play; and several other things, honestly. Keep in mind, these observations will be most appropriate to casual PvE players. Besides which, playing in the end-game multiplayer content or PvP is a completely different beast from low-level PvE, and primarily concerns skills and equipment that you won't even come close to in the beginning game.
The simplest item I'll take care of first: for the first 20 levels, choosing "Protection" as your warrior specialization gives you a "win" button called "Shield Slam". Protection is so ridiculously over-powered until you hit 20 that, if you have delicate sensibilities when it comes to MMORPGs, you may consider a Prot PvE build to be "cheating". However, keep in mind that the build balance out as you approach 20; and per rumor, around level 60 Fury (dual-wield one-handed weapons) and Arms (only two-handed weapons) out-strip the damage done by Shield skills. On top of that, the Protection build, while safe, becomes a bit of a slog at higher levels, making what is already a tedious game (in places) a bit more tedious-er. But for a few levels after you ding 10, Shield Slam is a one-hit kill in most situations.
For casual players, I would recommend Arms as a second choice. With a good weapon, Arms will be doing more damage than Protection by the time you hit 20, although you'll only have a level or two to enjoy it. And that good weapon will have to be a drop; you don't really get one as a quest reward (that I've found) and you can't trade on a trial account. Plus, Arms is as easy to run as Prot, so you will spend more time watching the action and appreciating the scenery.
Fury is the most fun, ostensibly, and is the way to go for high-level damage dealing. Fury builds are for critical strikes, but you won't have a high enough crit rating to make a difference until around level 60. Two good one-handed weapons will do even more damage than Arms builds, but at the lower levels you'll be watching your skill bar to get the timing right, rather than watching the intricate animations Blizzard made for two-handed builds. By all means, give it a try, but I only recommend a Fury build if you're dead serious about dealing damage until death. But if you are, the game is in the skill bar anyway...so have at it.
Any other build options and gear strategies have the same problem. Sure, you CAN be choosy about your gear... but at level 10 it's pretty meaningless. The level curves are steeper than the gear curves at this point. At level 15 you will also be asked to choose one of three talents: Juggernaut gives your "Charge!" skill a 12-second recharge time in place of the original 20; Doubletime allows you to use the "Charge!" ability twice before triggering the 20-second cooldown, and Warbringer cause the "Charge!" ability to knock the target down in addition to stunning the target for 3 seconds, which causes a 50% reduction in movement speed for 15 seconds. For PvE, I can't really make a case for choosing anything other than Juggernaut. Now, if you group regularly you will probably want to pick either of the other two, but for solo play Juggernaut is the best option by far, IMO.
The human starting area covers Elwynn Forest; you will also probably finish Westfall and make your way into the Redridge Mountains before you hit 20. I had played through these areas before, so it surprised me to discover that Blizzard has cut probably 20% of the quest material from Elwynn and Westfall, maybe more. In Elwynn I'm pretty sure I remember multiple quests into multiple kobold-infested mines, and an entire quest chain dealing with the bandit farm. In Westfall I remember having to deal with the Quillboars. Additionally, many of the "kill X, find X, touch X" quests have significantly reduced the size of X and increased the drop rate. This is generally a good thing, for you sanity and boredom, at least. I hit level 20 with around 7 1/2 gold and a decent amount of storage, as you can see in the picture.
Dwarf is supposedly the least-played race in WoW, and I can believe it. The character models and animations are uninteresting, and the starting area is one of the least enjoyable for me. It doesn't help that the Gnomes share the same starting area. Dun Morogh always feels very random to me, although you can go through it very quickly once you're familiar with the quests. Loch Modan, the second area you'll most likely go to as both a Gnome and a Dwarf is better, but it's such a huge are that you'll probably get tired of it. And that's after Blizzard cut out a large chunk of quests. You don't really hit a Dwarf storyline until you hit level 20, so that contributes to the lack of interesting content. As a Dwarf I ended with slightly less bag space and slightly less money.
I find the Gnome storyline more interesting than the Dwarf storyline. The Gnomes originally shared their starting area with the Dwarves, but were moved to a new, nearby area for the first five levels. I ran my Gnome through exactly the same area and quests as the Dwarf just to see how it compared with familiarity and with a different specialization. As mentioned above, it was faster; that was it. I received less bag space through 20 as a Gnome, but about the same amount of gold. Bottom line: If you're going to play a Dwarf, play a Gnome instead.
Of the original four races, I find the Night Elves are still the most compelling. They have the best animations and the most thorough and exciting storyline. The starting area, Teldrassil, isn't one of the better areas, but you move to Darkshore at around level 10. Darkshore is another large area like Loch Modan, and you will hit level 20 before you finish the area. Thankfully, Darkshore is a bit more varied and interesting than Loch Modan. I ran it with two different characters and enjoyed it both times. I finished with 8 1/2 gold, a full gold more than any other character for the Alliance, and had plenty of bag space again.
The Draenei, a.k.a. Space Goats, were added in the first expansion, Burning Crusade. So far, Draenei characters haven't been optimized for the new leveling experience, which means there are some broken quest chains that require resources not available to the trial account. Also, you have to complete approximately 50% more quests to reach level 20. As a personal aside, I've never been past Outland in WoW, because the BC content *bores the snot out of me*. I've abandoned 3 characters in Outland so far. Anyway, the extra quests and slow leveling make the Draenei experience a bit boring, especially when you realize the the 10-20 area is exactly like the 1-10 area (except maybe a bit more red). A lot of the quests are Blizzard classics like "Now that you've hacked your way across that monster-infested plain to kill 15 Hackneyed Gobbleblotchits, you need to head BACK across the plain, kill all of them again, AND THEN kill the GIANT HACKNEYED GOBBLEBLOTCHIT in the back of the CAVE at the far end." Blizzard has generally been trying to re-arrange quests so that you can pick both of those quests at the same time, or auto-deliver the boss quest when you get to the right area or meet the per-requisite. Despite all of that, and the fact that I made the least amount of money and got the least bag space, I enjoyed playing the Draenei thanks to better character models and animations than most other races.
The Worgen were added in Cataclysm, and their starting area used Blizzard's "phasing" mechanics to show different versions of the same area to the different players. The Worgen have to have the best starting area by far. The player takes part in the fall of the human kingdom of Gilneas at the hands of the Forsaken, which also involves turning most of the population into werewolves. I played through the story right after Cataclysm came out, and Blizzard has cut, I think, about 10%-15% of the content at this point. The Worgen starting area is still the most exciting, contigious beginning for any of the races, and is followed by Darkshore (which I already mentioned as being a good area). I reached level 20 with very little bag space but more money than in the Draenei area. The Worgen also have some interesting story cues, as much like the Forsaken, the Gilneans are more interested in their own mission, i.e. recovering their homeland, than furthering the goals of the Alliance. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to consider many of the Gilnean story characters and their motivations at least borderline evil, which makes them odd-man-out on the Alliance team as well.
Statistically, Worgen do the most damage as warriors and Dwarves have the highest health. Night Elves have the highest defense while Humans have the best balance.
Worgen and Night Elves have the most interesting and involved story, and have the best areas to play in for the first 20 levels.
The Humans don't have much special to offer and their starting area is a bit buggy and wonky. A boring but safe choice.
Gnomes are more fun than Dwarves, but if you want a true, damage-absorbing tank, you better play a Dwarf. But Gnomes are more fun.
Friday, May 31. 2013 | Comments (3)
Today's video and music theme is Texas Rangers walk-up songs:
1st up, Lance Berkman uses "God's Gonna Cut You Down" by Johnny Cash.
A thing that won't trigger nostalgia: Blockbuster Video.
Top 25 Epoch-Making Anime
The Lord of the Rings Family Tree project. Ambitious, and still not the easiest thing to follow.
7 Pictures of Tom Cruise being tall.
Brad Johnson: The Price of an NFL career.
The much-hated A.J. Pierzynski uses "Bullets" by Creed, "Set It Off" by Audioslave, and included below because it's the most interesting, "AJ Scratch" by Kurtis Blow:
MLB's State-of-the-art Replay System
The Giant Rubber Duck in Hong Kong; coming soon to a major city near you.
Political: The Brickmuppet sums up all of the scandals of the current governmental administration that started breaking the past few weeks.
Political/Cultural: The Part of the World That Shoots Back
And finally (for now) Adrian Beltre's song is "Pa Que Retozen" by Tego Calderon:
A video I really wanted to find, or a recording even, is George Chandler's cover of Del Shannon's "Runaway". Chandler performed the cover for an episode of The Benny Hill Show, and apparently never recorded the song otherwise. Which is a shame, because it was probably the best version of the song ever performed. I have video from the show, but I am somewhat reticent to upload, as Benny Hill related videos seem to be taken down regularly.
My current video game project, since hitting the level cap in Scarlet Blade (it's been upped since, and a new area added) is to use the free trial of World of Warcraft to level every class with every race to level 20, and to make judgements thereon. So far I've leveled a Warrior for Human, Dwarf, Gnome and Night Elf, and I'm working on Draenei. I won't do Pandas until the end. One thing I can tell you is that the Draenei starting area hasn't been optimized for the free trial. At least one quest chain requires access to mail, which is blocked in the demo. The four original races have all been streamlined to make the level experience to 20 quick and rewarding. In fact, it's probably a little "too" quick, and it's clear (especially in areas that I had previously visited with older characters) that a lot of quests had been cut, even though their resources where sometimes still in the game. This is an improvement in some cases; e.g. a hunting quest chain in Loch Modan has been cut in half at least. Originally you had to "kill 8 xxxxxx's" for four different low-level animals, then four different medium level animals, then four different high-level animals, then a boss animal for each. Each group was located in a different area; the entire quest chain could have you running over the entire area (pre-mount if you're doing it at the appropriate level) and can take hours and hours of work (days for a casual player). However, in some cases Blizzard cut off a quest chain half-way through, leaving a story half-finished, or cut out a quest chain that uses unique resources. A good example is in the human starting area, which cut out the quest chain involving one of the kobold-infested mines, even though the kobolds and mine are still there. Most of the quest chain involving the human bandits is gone, leaving this group of bandits that everyone talks about, but that you never really do anything about. But more about all of this later.
Tuesday, December 11. 2012 | Comments (0)
Music for the week...yes and no...
This guy (the guy who makes these videos) has apparently been around a while...in fact when I showed some of these to my wife, she explained to me that she had seen most of them a long time ago. So shoot me. It helps if you're familiar with World of Warcraft; there is a lot of material that references the game as much as the contents of the songs.
An essay on John Kennedy and the Cold War. There isn't much in there new if you study history beyond your high school or college textbooks, but if you don't...
Is green energy a fad that has run it's course? (In the long run, no...but the artificial stimulation of the green energy market may be in trouble.)
Sarah Hoyt on "Ungovernable" Americans.
The book of moe dictators.
Animated gif of the refit of the Enterprise from the TV series version to the movie version. The article the gif is taken from, about whether the Enterprise was updated, or was in fact an entirely new starship.
Everything you ever wanted to know about the Kennedy Assassination. (Cynics view, although plenty of time is given to discussing conspiracy.)
Are you worried about all of the horrible things that can happen if you take a cruise? If you aren't, you will be.
I had mentioned when I built my current computer that the namesake, Saya, was from Blood: The Last Vampire. Although, technically, it was the version of Saya from Blood +. Because it's a dual-processor system, you see. In Blood +, Saya is a twin of Diva. Clever? Maybe not. I'm now working on the next computer, which will be named Sena. Because I'm using a 90-degree-rotated case, everything's up top. And while it won't be dual-processor, I will be Crossfiring two Radeon 6870's, so the computer will still have two big ones.
Ok, I'm done being childish. The character is cute, I like the color scheme, and while the...attributes...stack (snerk) up nicely, how can you resist this smile?
Saturday, September 29. 2012 | Comment (1)
My schedule is currently thrown off because it's been raining for the last three days. Yesterday it rained all day.
Samuel Silva's Incredible Realistic Ball-Point Drawings hat-tip Anthony Luke's Photography Blog
When 1099 felons vote in a race won by 312 votes. (Spoiler: They all voted for one candidate)
Mike Rowe, the guy behind Dirty Jobs and an advocate for trade professions and labor-intensive work, wrote to President Obama in 2008, and Mitt Romney in 2012. One of them wrote back.
In the history of the modern MMORPG, who leads the pack has always been clear. Every new MMORPG that came along had reviews filled with "XXXXX, like/unlike World of Warcraft...", which indicates to everyone that WoW has been the Gold Standard. For online multiplayer. However, as this Kotaku article indicates, I've started seeing a change in that attitude. And, for the record, as much as I am a long-time Guild Wars fanboy, many of the GW2 innovations are shared by other recent MMORPGS. Champions Online has(had, IMO) dynamic beat-em-up combat; Rift has a similar event system and other MMORGS, including WoW are stressing instancing. The biggest thing GW2 innovates on is the shared world. As others have written, creating a multi-player game that doesn't make me dread strangers is quite an accomplishment.
Hey remember Julie Brown? No, this Julie Brown:
Mass gains in Antarctic ice sheet exceed losses - Which is good news.
Why did I bring up Julie Brown?
I think she might be making fun of Ke$ha. Maybe.
Of, course, I had forgotten she did this bit of Satire as well.
And lastly, how could I go a week without a link to bullying in Japan? Principal asks parents of boy who committed suicide to avoid bullying to "call it an unforseen accident."
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