Saturday, August 23, 2014

World of Warcraft; Long Quest Completed

Back on September 2, 2008 a good friend of mine asked a favor of me.  Really, it was probably the only favor he ever asked of me, and to me it seemed like such a small thing, I didn't see any reason why I couldn't help him.  He'd been playing World of Warcraft for a few years at that point, and he was having trouble getting groups together to complete content; not to mention that they were giving away mounts for recruiting friends, and they were really sweet Zhevras.

I had played Blizzard games many times over the years (I would have said I preferred the Real Time Strategy games if you asked me) I liked playing head to head with family, a pastime (and a blog article I've been working on) that went back years.  Diablo II was a favorite in the house and when World of Warcraft was announced at the end of Warcraft III I hoped it would be something like that game in execution. The cheapskate that I am refused to even entertain the idea of paying for a game on a monthly basis, so I dismissed it as a possibility even if it was something I might like.

A few years later, and a lot more time on my hands spent indoors fighting the symptoms of Meniere's, made the idea of spending a few dollars a month for game access seemed like a bargain.  I'd be doing my friend a favor and I had already asked him to shave my head earlier that year as a symbol of support for his going through chemotherapy again.  A request to join him in a game I secretly wanted to play anyway was easy in comparison.

So we started playing. Almost from the beginning I got off on the wrong foot in the game.  I had no idea that the two factions could not talk to each other or play together. I created Horde toons (a Tauren Warrior & Undead Warlock) on a server he was playing as Alliance (in fact, he only played Alliance) so he had to make new toons to play with me.  My daughter only wanted to play Night Elves (her favorite race from WC3) and she had already created a toon on another server that I just had to join her in playing. Being fond of Rogues from Diablo, I created a NElf Rogue (female, of course.  All rogues are female) to play alongside her druid.  I quickly created a whole slew of NElf characters with the intention of playing all classes as NElf, only to discover that not all classes could be played in all races. That lead to the Gnome mage Brenelbur and his evil warlock twin, but that was when the plan got out of control.

I hatched a scheme to level one toon (character) of each class, and I would do this for both factions, with a genuine attempt to play all races and both sexes for each race with at least one toon.  When I mapped this all out, there were nine classes, which Blizzard expanded to ten with Wrath of the Lich King and eleven with Mists of Pandaria.  There were also fewer races, with Worgen and Goblins being added as playable races in Cataclysm (DraeneiBlood Elves having been added in Burning Crusade, along with Alliance Shaman and Horde Paladins. I started playing at the end of this expansion of the game) so I had to skip a few race/sex combinations.  This was made easier on the alliance side, because I saw no need to play humans in a fantasy game.  I could play that in real life by turning off the computer.

When I started this quest, this scheme of mine, I really thought it would be no sweat to complete.  A few months playing, and all done.  Then the new classes and races were added, and the levels increased, and I began to wonder if I had even been sane when I came up with this crazy idea.

With the announcement of the release of Warlords of Draenor this November, I knew the time to finish this quest of mine was now or never. Ten more levels on Twenty-two toons would probably be more than I was interested in doing, and I really didn't want to fail. So, earlier today I finally leveled my twenty-second toon to endgame, level ninety.   A late birthday present for myself, and a nice way to close out the favor I started for a dear friend who logged off a few years after we started playing.  I'd like to offer a heartfelt thanks to Bear, wherever he is, for making me take up this silly game. I think it has kept me sane, if this is sanity.



One of the things that has improved over the years I've played this game has been the website. The last time I tried to do a toons & servers update, I had to clip photos from screenshots for each toon.  This version may be more boring to read, because I won't be adding photos for all twenty-two toons, but it will be significantly easier to write. The links for each name will lead to the stat page for each of my toons. Better than clipped art, it is proof that the toon exists and represents an example of how it is set up, and what it looks like currently.

My main Horde toons are still on Terenas, although the server is really a backwater in the game and it limits my ability to play content that is limited to the home server.  Blizzard has been working to combine servers and content, so this might not be a problem much longer. Of course, I could just level new toons on other servers, and that process technically has already begun. However, these are the eleven I count as main Horde;

  • Olaventa - Orc Shaman (Herbalism, Inscriptionfrom the lowly also-ran who started out as a male with a different name, this toon has graduated into becoming my raider.  Shaman are excellent healers, and when your secondary talent is Elemental (not as much DPS as enhancement, but respectable) you can essentially use the same gear to level as damage & healing and not feel that you are letting anyone down by doing so. Olaventa as a character had a serious crush on Thrall when he was warchief of the horde.  She's not forgiven him yet for leaving us with Garrosh as a leader. My scribes both wanted the Loremaster title, so they each completed every quest for their faction up to Mists of Pandaria. This toon has also completed all the quests for that Expansion, making her the most played, most experienced toon that I have. 
  • Uroga - Orc Hunter (Skinning, Leatherworking) Both my hunters I play just for fun. I collect pets with them, and not much else, although their professions are part of my overall scheme to explore different class/prof combinations.
  • Rakudaga - Troll Druid (Herbalism, Alchemy) I deleted the character I started with this name and created a new one of the same name (the name fit a Troll better anyway) for the new racial combination of Troll/Druid that was offered in Cataclysm. Druids are my second favorite class after shaman these days, and some of the best tanks in the game.  Still, I don't tank with them, I take the same minimalist tack with them as with other classes, combining balance and restoration which allows me to double up gear for leveling.  I used to hate male Trolls in game until Mists of Pandaria and Vol'Jin. Now I'm starting to like them.
  • Rasmuerta - Troll Deathknight (Mining, Blacksmithing) I've had a problem motivating myself to play Deathknights after Wrath of the Lich King. I mean, what is their motivation, as characters? "OK, life (or death) goals achieved, now what?" Still, they remain one of my favorite classes, and the only class I'm comfortable tanking with. 
  • Tanath - Blood Elf Mage (Mining, Jewelcrafting) My only Blood Elf. I just couldn't get into the story behind the Blood Elves. They remain my least favorite race in the game, weirdly. They are amongst the most frequently played by other players.  Mage is one of my favorite classes, but this mage doesn't get played very often.  Just enough to get her to level 90.
  • Creavishop - Undead Warlock (Tailoring, Enchanting) The third toon I ever made, and still my secondary raider for this server, because he is my enchanter and I'm always looking for materials for his work. Warlocks are liberating to play.  Demon summoners and associated with evil in the lore for the game, they remain essential for any well-rounded raid group. Still making containers for all the toons on the server, and not getting enough gold for his work as far as he is concerned.  His plans to take over the world are taking longer than he thought.
  • EugennahUndead Rogue (Mining, EngineeringRogues, which were amongst my most looked-forward-to classes to play, have not turned out to be one of my favorite classes.  Now that locks have been removed from regular game play (no more keyring) their essential role in-game has been left behind. Pick-pocketing isn't nearly as much fun as it used to be, with more and more NPC's in game reporting back as having no pockets to pick. Bummer. Eugennah hates her bony elbows and knees, and doesn't like Undercity at all. She took over Engineering from Uroga so I could see how that might assist a Rogue in play. Her survivability in encounters seems better than Eieloris, my other Rogue.
  • Raspallia - Tauren Paladin (BlacksmithingJewelcrafting) This toon was created as an experiment testing out the benefits of combining creation professions and their extra-beneficial perks. I also discovered the joy of PvP healing as a Holy Paladin.  There really isn't a better class to play as healer in a PvP situation, and survivability for this paladin is much better than the other Paladin who combines Blacksmithing and Mining.  Those perks are rumored to be disappearing in the next expansion pack.
  • TharthurmTauren Priest (TailoringAlchemy) Tharthurm was the name of my first toon; but I really wanted my warriors for both factions to be small females, so the Tauren warrior was deleted, and I gave his name and look to the priest that I could make as a Tauren for the first time in Cataclysm. Tauren are my favorite race, in theory.  In practice I don't like the movements that Blizzard created for the models. I want to like and play them, here's hoping the improved modeling in Warlords will make that more pleasant. 
  • Rastarsha - Goblin Warrior (MiningEngineering) The addition of Goblins as a playable race created a quandary and a opportunity for me. I could finally actually have a Goblin engineer and could have a warrior on the horde side that would echo the stature of my alliance warrior. But I had to delete my first toon to do it, and I had to decide on either female or male, since I couldn't do both. Pigtails decided me, although you can't see them on this toon.  Goblins, like Gnomes, are amusing.  That is why you play them. 
  • Jainrasig - Pandaren Monk (SkinningLeatherworking) All my monks are Pandas, and all of them are named Jain. There was a Bodhisattva of a similar name, and what Firefly fan can resist naming a character Jayne? RAS is for me. I've looked forward to playing as a Panda since I first started playing World of Warcraft, having loved the heroic character that was available in WC3.  They took long enough to give them too us.  The Pandaren lore is some of best World of Warcraft, in my opinion.  I'm going to miss playing Mists of Pandaria come November. 
Muradin server was home for several years, even though I started out playing on Terenas. Because my family and friends were playing Alliance, my toons there were developed much faster than the Horde toons.  We found a welcoming guild on the server named "of the Emerald Dream" and were happy there until one of the raid healers took exception to my allowing my daughter to play the game while she was still drugged from having her wisdom teeth out (of all the things to pick a fight over) so we left and created our own guild, which I still run (on several servers, just not very successfully) even though I'm almost the only player left in the guild, now.  Frosty Wyrm Riders is max level (25) on Muradin, I just don't raid with that guild.
  • TarashalNight Elf Druid (Herbalism, Alchemy) This is the toon I keep coming back to. I started out focused in Mists of Pandaria with my Horde toons, determined to level and raid first as Horde with my adopted guild there. Before the year was out I was no longer raiding with them although still in the guild, three different raid teams having formed and dissolved in the process. Raiding in Mists is far harder than any other expansion pack, and this has shown through in the rapid dissolution of formerly sound raiding teams that had lasted through Wrath and Cataclysm. Even the raiding guild that I was part of on this server lost several players we had relied on for years.  Because I had started out with a different guild and faction, this toon did not make it into the raiding group which is most advanced in the content for this expansion.  Still, he has the best gear of any of my toons, and has completed more of the content than any other toon except for Olaventa.
  • EielorisNight Elf Rogue (Skinning, Leatherworking) With her fondness for Dwarves, which she deems "Just the right height", Eieloris still has more 'backstory' than any of my other toons.  That only matters to me in the end; still, I really do enjoy playing this toon and would play her more if I hadn't discovered how much I like to PvP heal as a Paladin.
  • Rasputing - Draenei Paladin (Mining, Blacksmithing) Also the name of my Monk character in Diablo III, the wife named this toon when I created it, the first in a long line of RAS characters. I really didn't like Paladins at all until this expansion pack, and it was only when I took the Tauren Paladin into Battlegrounds that I discovered how much fun it was to PvP heal as one.  By that point I had leveled this toon to 90, and he had a hard time getting the gear he needed to match her in PvP. Now that they are almost equal, I really can see a benefit in combining creation professions as I did with her. I'll have to wait and see what Blizzard does with Professions in the next expansion.  Draenei are, in my opinion, the only good thing introduced in Burning Crusade; I tend to skip that entire area of the game when I level characters (easily achieved by taking up archeology at level 60) but the Draenei move the way the Tauren should move. 
  • Raslinda - Draenei Shaman (Mining, Jewelcrafting) I try to remind myself that the game is fantasy when presented with differences between the sexes like are present in the male and female Draenei. Split hooves vs. solid hooves?  Looks more feminine, only represents a million years or so of evolution. She does look good moving, and the action animations for the female Draenei are some of my favorites. 
  • Rasmortis - Worgen Deathknight (Jewelcrafting, Blacksmithing) Worgen represent the race I'm most ambivalent about. I like the animations, but I never understood why they had to be added to the Alliance, other than as a race to balance out adding Goblins to the Horde. Having said that, adding them gave me an excuse to change Mortis from human, so there went my only human character. I really do like the way he looks in his black PvP armor transmog. If I had more time, I'd play this class more often. 
  • HelliceWorgen Warlock (TailoringAlchemy) This is actually my second Worgen Warlock named Hellice. I leveled one to 85 for my son at the end of Cataclysm, and gave it to him as a present. I like the name, icy-damnation. Perfect for a warlock. This was the last toon to level to 90, because she had to start from one at the same time as my Pandas, and they were going to be leveled before she was.  Warlocks are just fun. That's all there is to it. Mind if I suck out your soul and use it as a weapon on you? Doesn't matter, she'll do it anyway.  Worgen are damned to start with, that is the nature of their affliction. Why not warlock as well?
  • Juverna - Dwarf Hunter (MiningEngineering) Named for Ireland; he, like my Horde hunter just collects pets.  I know, I know, they are great DPS machines in this version of the game.  I don't care, hunters are solitary. That is why their best friends are animals.
  • KeslingraDwarf Priest (Herbalism, Inscription) Just between you and me, this toon I specifically made to resemble the wife, giving her the red hair I know she really keeps hidden under the blonde; and I say that just because when she reads this she'll be furious and there's nothing I enjoy more than having her angry at me. This toon taught me the value of playing a priest, which I never expected to enjoy playing. Shadow Priest has finally turned into a DPS specification worthy of the designation, and priest healers are the strongest healers in the game.  Since she is also a scribe, that means I completely every quest with her for the Loremaster title just as I did with Olaventa.  Lots of experience playing this toon. She is the current guild master for Frosty Wyrm Riders
  • Brenelbur - Gnome Mage (Tailoring, Enchanting) This was my fifth toon created (after Tarashal) and I blame/credit him with starting me off on this crazy venture. He wanted to be a NElf and I resisted changing him to one after that race/class combo became available; but it was the frustration of not being able to make NElf mages that set me on the course of approaching the game the way I have. He is my secondary raider on Muradin (enchanting materials, yet again) and the character I play most often after the druid and shaman. Still love the Gnome laugh after all these years.  Joke all you want about Gnome punting; after taking this mage into battlegrounds recently, I have to say that mages have a ridiculous ability to keep other players frozen almost indefinitely. Try punting me when you are frozen in place, you big green monster. I'll just laugh and blink away.
  • RasmilliaGnome Warrior (Mining, Engineering) Watching making of documentaries for films that I'm a fan of, I hear comments like "it was my favorite scene, but it just didn't make it to the cut" a lot. This toon started out as a male named for one of my favorite SF characters. But he needed to be a she, and she had to have a different name. I should have just duped the name Rastarsha, but I stole Starsha from a guildmate and I didn't want to go flouncing around her server with her name tacked on to one of my toons; so millia for warrior (Milly for short) never mind that another guild mate now has a toon named Milly.  I think she'll understand.  I really, really wanted her to have the pink pigtails.  That was a must; that and dual wielding two-handed weapons. I admit it, I am easily amused.
  • Jainrasig - Pandaren Monk (SkinningLeatherworking) Yeah, same class/profession combination as my other Monk,  breaking my changing pattern. I really hadn't expected to have an eleventh class to have to deal with. When it came down to brass tacks, they both needed to make their own leveling gear, so they both ended up as skinning leatherworkers. The daily quest that is available to Monks makes leveling much faster.  The Monk class itself is quite different from the other classes.  I can't say I know what I think of it yet; which is too bad, because it will be different soon.  Classes always change with each expansion. 
I will really miss Pandaria, even though I haven't enjoyed raiding through it very much. Chen Stormstout was my go to hero for Warcraft III.  If I could hire him in a map, he was on my team. His quests in the Valley of the Four Winds are essential for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in the lore of Warcraft.  Unfortunately they have taken out the additional quests relating to him that were part of intermediate expansion content; but that is why it is important to play through the game as it is offered, and not as it exists as preserved as part of future content. I do wonder how they will include Garrosh in quest lines that used to rely on him, since he will no longer be the warchief of the horde after this expansion.  A good portion of those quests will have to be truncated, or they will simply be left alone to stick out like sore thumbs calling attention to content that should have been updated but was not.

It has been a fun five plus years playing the game so far. I have been invited to the beta for Warlords of Draenor and have done some minor fiddling with it so far.  I really wanted to hit this milestone before allowing myself to be diverted, though. Quest completed. On to the next one.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams

"Keep a little bit of madness in you.  Just a little touch of it.  Just enough, so you don't become stupid. A little madness will keep you alive, because no one in the world knows how to tax that." - Robin Williams - Reality... What a Concept
I had that album on cassette (ironical) it was one of my first purchases, if not the first comedy album I ever owned. I listened to it so often I memorized it, before the tape fell apart and I had to stop playing it.



I loved Mork & Mindy. Watched his appearances on Carson. Went to see every film he was in, just because he was in it, and for no other reason.

I was outraged at Dead Poets Society, though. (spoilers!)  I've watched it since, and I know now that I was wrong, that I shouldn't have been so angry at the suicide portrayed in that film.  But at the time I felt it was a betrayal, that it was an acknowledgement of the darkness in the world, that the film let the darkness win, by killing what I saw as the main character, the character I identified with at the time. Worse, I associated Robin with the film, because I had gone to see it specifically because he was in it.

All of us fight our own inner demons. I've fought with depression for many years, longer than I can count. Menieres has only made it harder to cope with, but the darkness has been there for as long as I can remember.  So long, in fact, that I don't even remember when I made the pact with myself (unlike others) that I wouldn't contemplate suicide.

It's a sad observation of human existence that suicides increase when someone else commits suicide; this is especially true of prominent figures.  Watching MSNBC's coverage, I was struck by this when they flashed the numbers for suicide prevention on the screen.  I feel it is a shame that Robin let depression win; and as someone who fights depression, and who knows there are others out there engaged in a daily battle with it, I have to see it as letting depression win.  This is not a judgement on Robin, or an observation of failure on his part.

Depression is not cancer; or maybe it is. Cancer of the mental processes, perhaps. In any case, when the physical body fails (and it will, for all of us) then it really is over.  But when the mind gets trapped in that inward spiral, no one can break you out of it unless you want them to, unless you want to keep living. That is a choice you make.

I will not leave a body for relatives to find, to ask themselves "what did I do wrong" when it isn't about them. It's about me.  There will be no notes.  No questions.  Because (fate willing) I will not have to make that choice. I just hope I have time to write down all the things I think need to be related before that Mind That Bus moment happens.

Like Dead Poets Society. It's not actually about the suicidal character; or rather, it not just about him. It's about the mousy little guy who follows along for the whole film (my first conscious introduction to Ethan Hawke, another actor who's films I try not to miss) never hazarding more than is required of him because he is too afraid to take that chance.  It's about all the other characters, sucking all the marrow because they had a teacher who encouraged them to live life to its fullest. Because we're only here for a brief moment, and then we're gone.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Trolling, Second Amendment Style

Schadenfreude, pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

There was a study done recently on trolling behavior on the internet. I'm sure most of us remember it, but for those who don't, here's the link and a snippet;
"These findings provide a preliminary glimpse into the mechanism by which sadism fosters trolling behavior," the article says. "Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others. Sadists just want to have fun ... and the Internet is their playground."
The key phrase to take away from the article is "Not based on random sampling" which means that any claim to scientific rigor in the study just goes out the window. Consequently the label of sadist really can't be applied to trolling behavior in general, much less just the trolling on the internet. Still, it always interesting to see trolls squirm.

There are trolls (as in people who place themselves in the way of furthering a conversation) everywhere in life.  Recently they've been showing up in restaurants and retail establishments across Texas.  They look something like this;

These are trolls, trolls in real life.  They are attempting to stop a conversation concerning the place for weapons in everyday life in the US.  They intentionally bring weapons into places where they are not needed or wanted, and they do it specifically to stop conversations like this one;



MSNBC

Now, I have talked to people like the Texas Open Carry members in the photo above (another one of those frequent conversations in the TexasLP.  It's in the platform, even) They insist that they are simply exercising their second amendment rights. I understand the argument, but I have a counter observation I'd like to offer "Do you take that in a short or regular straight jacket?"  Because the idea that people will not feel threatened by their openly carrying weapons is completely fucking psycho.   It reminds me of the NRA stationing armed guards at a Washington Press Club event they were attending, only to have the press call authorities to have the armed guards removed.

The presence of a weapon in any situation is a unspoken threat of force, always there under the surface.



Jon Stewart reveals the nature of open carry; the goals of the NRA.  The clip after that will give you tips on how not to troll with your guns.

Jon Stewart - The Daily Show



To troll someone is to experience Schadenfreudethe reason I started this article with that definition.  This entire article gives me enough Schadenfreude that I think I might need a cigarette now.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Godwin's law, the GMO Version

Of all the contentious arguments I've engaged in over the last few years, the most contentious has been the irrational fear revolving around GMO crops.  On this weeks Skeptic's Guide the Universe they get into the latest example of the kind of rancor that occurs on the subject of GMO; namely, the targeting of people deemed sympathizers with the Nazi labeled antichrist of corporations, Monsanto.

I myself have been accused of being on the payroll of Monsanto.  I wish that were the case.  If any Monsanto executives are reading this and want to pay me, please let me know.  I am not a journalist, I do not care if anyone considers my opinion unbiased or not; I will gladly take your payola.

However, targeting people who rightly suggest that the phobic froth around the mouth of the anti-GMO crowd is just this side of crazy is completely uncalled for and really should be investigated;
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, besieged by complaints from targets and the science and journalism communities, immediately launched an investigation of Adams and the site, with Adams facing possible felony charges of inciting violence (if he lived in a Europe or a Commonwealth country like the U.K., he would probably already have been served).  
(GLP Article)
I've never had any use for Mike Adams or NaturalNews.com, although I have been vilified by many, many people who mistakenly go to his website thinking that his information is reliable, it isn't; and with his death threats and targeting of science journalists he has finally crossed a line that I hope he will be punished for.

GMO is not Monsanto. GMO is not a thing. GMO (Genetically Manipulated Organisms) is many things, some of them quite beneficial; but that doesn't stop people with a phobic response from loosing their shit over the subject. Nor does its beneficial results get recognized by the self-same phobic types who decry it's very existence.  Case in point, this article offered by an anti-GMO friend on Facebook that I have since blocked due to his (Mike Adams like) insistence that I was a Nazi sympathizer for Monsanto.
Scientists at the Mayo Clinic on May 14 announced a clinical trial that had been carried out in 2013, in which a Minnesota woman was injected with enough measles vaccine to treat 10 million people. Over the course of several weeks, the multiple tumors growing throughout her body shrank and vanished.  
After undergoing chemotherapy and stem cell transplants, Stacy Erholtz's myeloma -- a blood cancer affecting the bone marrow -- had spread into her skull and other parts of her body. The virus she was injected with had been engineered by researchers for cancer therapy.
You read that right. GMO cured that woman's cancer. That is just the tip of the iceberg.  Mexico has halted planting of a GM corn that was engineered specifically to address dietary deficiencies in their poor diet (which is largely corn) based on anti-GMO fears, and the threatened profit margins of competitors.
Mexico already imports tens of thousands of tonnes of GMO yellow corn each year, largely for animal feed, and permits planting of other GMO crops, mainly cotton and soybeans.
Supporters of GMO corn like Mexico's corn farmers' federation argue it can boost yields by up to 15 percent.
Their peers in the United States, Brazil and Argentina - the world's top three corn exporters - are already producing large quantities of GMO corn. 
(Reuters Article
They could cross-breed corn in the traditional method of genetic manipulation for a thousand years and potentially never get the results that they achieved by simply taking the code out of one corn plant and splicing it into corn that grows in the Americas. It will end vitamin deficiencies in many poorer areas that rely on corn for sustenance in the same way that Golden Rice will potentially end vitamin A deficiency blindness in areas of Asia that rely on rice.
Because many children in countries where there is a dietary deficiency in vitamin A rely on rice as a staple food, the genetic modification to make rice produce the vitamin A precursor beta-carotene is seen as a simple and less expensive alternative to vitamin supplements or an increase in the consumption of green vegetables or animal products. 
(from the Wiki article) 
Our first world fears should not be given more credence than their very real needs. I think we should let them decide if they want to eat or not, want to see or not. It is a lot like the fear surrounding vaccination. When your kids start dying, you'll discover you like medicine after all. GM foods are not health risks in and of themselves, no matter how many times you say otherwise; but, ya know, Round Up ready corn! It causes cancer!  Except it doesn't.
The biggest criticism of the study is the combination of two features – the small sample size and lack of statistical analysis. The entire study is premised on comparing various dose groups with control groups that were not exposed to GMO or glyphosate. And yet, the authors provide no statistical analysis of this comparison. Given the small number of rats in each group, it is likely that this lack of statistical analysis is due to the fact that statistical significance could not be reached.
In other words – the results of the study are uninterpretable. 
(ScienceBasedMedicine article)
Uninterpretable; read as "the essence of bad science".

Let me see if I can explain what is going on here. There is a tendency to grant that something that is natural is good. This is fallacious reasoning.  Everything that is toxic is also natural; or nearly everything. That is aside from the fact that none of the other varietals that are being farmed are natural in a fashion that varies from the GMO varieties. The methods used previously to manipulate crops are hardly natural. Chemical and radioactive treatment to force mutation, as well as cross-breeding. If you compare food crops to their natural variants, you would be hard pressed to identify what they have in common.

So the fear of the unnatural really is a phobia, unsupported by science. Understanding that, you might get a feel for why companies that market products might not want to be subjected to labeling mandates that cover GMO content in their products.
GMOs are just one efficient tool that people using bad farming practices can also utilize. This is akin to arguing that because crop dusting huge volumes of chemical pesticides is bad, we should boycott airplanes. Herbicide and pesticide resistance were cropping up long before genetic engineering came onto the stage, necessitating much greater use of those chemicals or turning to more toxic alternatives. The introduction of Roundup ready crops actually began as a wonderful thing in this regard, since Roundup was less toxic than many of the alternatives being used previously, and could be used in much lower amounts. That happy state of affairs was mis-managed and now much larger doses are needed because of resistant weeds, but again, this isn’t the fault of the GMOs. 
(Scientific American Article on labeling)
The fearful just want to boycott, and the manufacturers don't want to be boycotted. Consequently labeling mandates will continue to hit brick walls (even though full disclosure should include such labeling) until there is less unreasoning fear in the public at large.  In Other Words, educate yourselves and you might get what you want in return.
There is broad scientific consensus that food on the market derived from GM crops poses no greater risk than conventional food. No reports of ill effects have been documented in the human population from ingesting GM food. Although labeling of GMO products in the marketplace is required in many countries, it is not required in the United States and no distinction between marketed GMO and non-GMO foods is recognized by the US FDA. 
(Wikipedia Article on GMO)
I hear you saying "But patenting of organisms! Evil Monsanto!"  If you want to change patenting, then change patenting. You won't get much argument from me.  Patenting itself is a government subsidized monopoly on production, I much prefer competition.

Monsanto, separate from the subject of GMO in general, is its own worst enemy.  Every attempt that it makes to limit its liability through law, or to manipulate the media to cast itself in a better light ends up being picked up and used by its enemies to make it look all the more evil and manipulative.  It's hard to imagine that you can make a company responsible for creation of Agent Orange look more evil, but that is a failure of imagination, as the article I lead off with should illustrate.

Still, digging into the issue of farmer suicides and various accusations leveled at Monsanto, it becomes hard to connect the dots reliably.
Studies dated 2004 through 2006 identified several causes for farmers suicide, such as insufficient or risky credit systems, the difficulty of farming semi-arid regions, poor agricultural income, absence of alternative income opportunities, a downturn in the urban economy which forced non-farmers into farming, and the absence of suitable counseling services. In 2004, in response to a request from the All India Biodynamic and Organic Farming Association, the Mumbai High Court required the Tata Institute to produce a report on farmer suicides in Maharashtra, and the institute submitted its report in March 2005. The survey cited "government apathy, the absence of a safety net for farmers, and lack of access to information related to agriculture as the chief causes for the desperate condition of farmers in the state." 
(Wikipedia Article on farmers' suicides) 
I really, really wish there was a good summation to be had for this post. There isn't one. Over and over again I attempt to enlighten friends who fall for the natural fallacy offered by people like Mike Adams. Over and over again I'm told that I don't understand the first thing about the subject.  Because they know. Monsanto is evil. GMO is bad. Never mind that neither of those accusations are true, as I (and others) illustrate over and over again. Humor doesn't work.  Information doesn't work.  If you have an argument that does work, I'd love to hear it.

Queerest Thing Happened

Well that's gay!
Friends of my children have been putting those particular words together for years now.  It has always driven me to distraction. My typical response runs along the lines of "how was that a joyous event?"  or "They do appear to be enjoying themselves" I've almost never been able to let that one pass.  What they mean to say is "that went queerly" or "that makes me feel weird", but their undereducated little brains cannot retrieve the proper words to express themselves clearly.

Gay≠Queer

Gay is not queer, queer is not gay. Queer; as any decent dictionary (not Wikipedia btw. Wiki is consumed with slang usage, the nature of a popularly edited tome) will tell you, means strange or odd, or when used as a verb means something akin to spoiling. It was thrown as an insult at homosexuals and transgendered people by backwards thinking troglodytes who were made to feel strange or odd by a man wearing a dress or acting feminine. If those groups wish to label themselves as queer now (much the way christians adopted the insulting term for followers of christ as their name) that would be their business.

In much the same fashion, gay does not mean homosexual, even though most dictionaries now list that as its primary meaning. Gay means happily excited or lighthearted and carefree.  Case in point; when the Flintstones themesong encourages you to have a gay-old time they are not suggesting you become homosexual;




They want you to enjoy yourself lightheartedly; a perfectly cromulent way to define an episode of The Flintstones. So when friends of my children (or gaming troglodytes on the internet) exclaim "well that's gay" in response to something that frustrates their primitive brains, I can get a bit snippy. Your latent homosexuality (homophobia) causing you to to be set queer towards homosexuals does not mean you get to call your reaction "gay". Gay is something you enjoy, not something that pisses you off or scares you.

In that sense (a sense of joyous engagement) homosexuals who want to label themselves with the word gay are welcome to it. But can I have queer back, please?  I mean, I like the word.  It easily defines the feeling you get when walking through a graveyard at night. When someone is watching you and you can't figure out who it is.  It's a good word, just not an insult to be hurled at people who are clearly enjoying themselves.



As my daughter observed on Facebook; yes, I have been reported on World of Warcraft for suggesting that someone insulting the english language by transposing the words gay and queer should pull their heads out of their asses and understand word meanings.  Ironically their complaint was that I was insulting homosexuals by using the word queer

What people choose to label themselves with is not a concern of mine; has never been something I take seriously or give meaning to.  People call themselves all kinds of things in the course of their lives, almost never do they actually adopt the entirety of what the word really means (Objectivist and Libertarian spring immediately to mind) or actually even have a clue what other people adopting the label really believe. 

The rant my daughter was on about on Facebook (the one that inspired this piece) concerned the word retarded.  As someone who was labeled slow for most of my childhood, it's another subject I can get snippy about. Having a learning disability, being retarded in development (retard means to slow; it is an engineering term) is one thing; being called a retard is no different than being called stupid, uneducated, or dumb (although dumb has many other insulting meanings as well) it is insulting to be so labeled, and people should be challenged when they offer base insults to people they disagree with.  It is ad hominem, and beside the point of argument to be insulting to your opponents.

However, when you call a console retarded, I really don't see the point of being offended personally.  

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Poetry vs. Philosophy

[Historical musings from the "hey I'll hit publish later" archive. The comments were a response to CS127 but they had almost nothing to do with the episode.]

The song Dan is thinking of, unless I am mistaken, is a Don Henley song from his first solo album. Not the Eagles.





Although, as the video above shows, the Eagles are not above cashing in on Don Henley's solo efforts, any more than they are above cashing in on Joe Walsh's or any other band members work that will gain them a few more bucks. Kick 'em when they're up, kick 'em when they're down. Pretty much covers the rise and fall of any candidate, including Barack Obama.

The problem is there isn't a single person who can fix the problems this country faces. Everyone wants to vote and be done with it. Doesn't work that way. You have to roll up your sleeves and get to work yourself if you want to see change.


As a general rule I hate music videos. I link them only because there isn't an easy way to share a song without video attached. The greatest music video is the one running in my head when I'm listening to my favorite music. Having someone else interpret what the sound means ruins the entire concept of 'music'.

Take it Easy has a specific meaning for me, related to the time and place in my life where the poetry spoke to me. Supplanting that with surfed up images is faking real meaning.

Develop an appreciation for classical music, and you'll know what I'm talking about. 
There's a world of difference between a poet and philosopher. Ayn Rand was a philosopher. John Lennon was a poet. Immanuel Kant was a philosopher (just not a good one) Ludwig van Beethoven was a poet (one of the best ever) There is no question what a philosopher means when he attempts to define reality. A poet's every word is open to interpretation, and yet the emotion should ring clearly through the words and/or music.

Mistaking poetry for philosophy highlights a key reason why society is still mired in prehistoric superstition and saddled with problems that can't be solved on anything other than a personal level. Rational legal structures cannot satisfy emotional needs. Wanting to feel safe is not a reason to enslave the medical profession and force me to contribute. Needing to feel cared for is not a reason to steal my retirement savings.

Wanting to save the earth has no bearing on whether your actions will actually improve the environment, or simply destroy property rights; and through their destruction, the fabric of western society itself. If it can be objectively proven that humans are destroying the planet, then either we can be counted upon to act rationally and alter our behaviors for our own good, or the hard-core environmentalists will get their fondest wish. Destroying property rights just improves the hand of the power seeker, who has no more of a clue than you do what will improve the environment.

Wanting to save another's soul from eternal damnation by outlawing questionable behaviors like prostitution and recreational drug use has proven to go farther towards creating hell on earth than doing nothing at all might have. Allowing individuals the freedom to live their own lives, whether you approve of their choices or not, underscores the value of liberty. Poor choices serve as their own correction mechanism; there is no need for further punishment, it just clouds the issue bringing in a layer of paternalism when none is warranted.

Poetry appeals to your emotion, comforting or crying out for redress. Philosophy informs your mind, and outlines the possibilities in life. Clarifying whether someone is being philosophical or poetical is the first step in understanding whether they are trying to avoid reason, or attempting to motivate with emotion. And the difference is crucial.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

How Many Herbs Will It Take To Make A WoW Trinket?

I remember when this was important to me a year ago.  I was marveling at the massive investment in time and resources the Scribe (Inscriptionatrix?) trinkets cost to make.  I really, really wanted to demonstrate just how much these "easy" trinkets actually cost in work-hours; easy being the dreaded word used to dismiss all things gaming "Oh, that's easy" except it never is. I've offered the following to the dismissive types, what easy would be in terms of a boss fight;
The boss enters the arena, draws his weapon and advances on you.  He trips mid-stride on a loose cobblestone and impales himself on his own blade.  Fight ends.
That is an easy fight. Nothing about Mists of Pandaria is easy, no matter how many players dismiss it as such.  If you think it's easy, try raiding without Deadly Boss Mods or any other addon, and delete all your macros.  Take a video of it as proof.  Now tell me how easy that is.

But back to the subject at hand.  I kept a detailed record of the number of cards I made attempting to get all four of the decks required to create the coveted trinkets that were amongst the first epic items available in the expansion pack.
I need a formula that yields stacks of herbs average to make the number of cards at the end of experiment.  There are 6 kinds of herbs.  Fool's cap is the only one significantly different. It takes 10 Ink of Dreams to make one Starlight ink, and 10 Starlight to make one card. 8 cards in a set. 
Average stack of Fool's Cap yields 6.2 Ink of dreams & 1.3 Starlight Ink 
Other panda herbs yield 4.8 Ink of dreams & 0.5 Starlight Ink 
First set - Keslingra 68 cards made - Serpents
Second set - Keslingra 77 cards made - Oxen
Third set - Keslingra 88 cards made - tigers
forth set - Keslingra 90 cards made - serpents
fifth set - Keslingra 93 cards made - cranes (end of experiment for Keslingra)

First set - Olaventa 44 cards made - Serpents
Second set - Olaventa 73 cards made - Serpents
Third set - Olaventa 85 cards made - Cranes (sold 12 additional cards 4, 5 & 6 of Tigers)
I abandoned the experiment then, and I never did come up with a formula that could tell me how many herbs per card, or roughly how many herbs it might take to make any one trinket at random.  I'm still interested in knowing the math, even though it no longer has meaning in the game; those trinkets have been long superseded, and I've sold off all the remaining cards.

The new expansion pack Warlords of Draenor will be out in a few months and I've already been invited to the closed beta.  I'm hoping that the professions will be less demanding of mats farming, but that would be an unprecedented move on Blizzards part.  No expansion to date has decreased the amount of work required for production of gear.  Proving (at least for professions) that the game does not get easier.



Taking a stab at the numbers.  Best case, using all Fool's Cap - 16 stacks yields 30ish Starlight ink, so roughly 5.3 stacks per card, 42.4 stacks per 8 cards, or 233 stacks for the 44 cards (best case) that Olaventa made to get her first set.  Fool's Cap would take the most time farming since it's only available in one area.  Farming 233 stacks of Fool's Cap would mean taking two stacks of Green Tea Leaf for every one, since they re-arranged herb spawning. It would be silly not to use the Green Tea Leaf since you would have collected twice as much of it anyway, so...

Being real, generally you would use the other herbs from Pandaria, for the most part the aforementioned Green Tea Leaf. Using the farm, you get 3+ stacks a day, generally, but one of those stacks will be Golden Lotus every other day (6 to 10 per day) or three.  Better to farm in the traditional methods, you will get less of the useless (for milling) Golden Lotus. Farming for any herb available is fastest, probably a stack every 20 mins or so, depending on population of the server and competition. 

So, the common herbs for Panda give you about one Starlight ink for each stack, roughly. That makes the calculation pretty easy.  One card equals ten Starlight ink or 10 stacks of herbs. That's 930 stacks of herbs for Keslingra to complete her experiment, and 970 stacks of herbs to get Olaventa to her endpoint, still short one of the 4 sets of cards. 

Nine hundred and seventy stacks of herbs multiplied by my twenty minute guesstimate per stack puts it at about 300 hours of farming total.  Now, you could AH the herbs if they are available.  And if you are lucky they'll be cheap, or about 20 gold per stack.  However, they're offered with a straight face on the AH even now pushing 100 gold a stack, so I wouldn't have counted on cheap.  Even at 20 gold a stack we're still talking 19.5k investment to get the herbs to (hopefully) make 4 card sets.

...and I kept hearing the word "easy" associated with making the cards. It's enough to make one wonder what kind of frustrations the people using the word easy to describe this grind faced in RL (real life) that would make that kind of time investment look anything like easy.

Well, it's off to beta land now.  I'll try not to complain too much about it when the even more astronomical materials requirements for professions in Warlords of Draenor are revealed.  Stay tuned?


Monday, July 21, 2014

How Ya'll Are? Annoyed at the Spelling, Probably

Occasionally I riff on word spellings and definitions (I'm especially fond of obvious, having tripped over it enough times) it's been a long time, but today this image appeared in my newsfeed.

This one resonated with me. I can't tell you the number of times I've typed something into a computer interface and had it not recognize the word or phrasing I knew was correct, or hoped it was.  

Back when I was writing specifications, tech manuals and notes for architectural drawings, it used to drive me nuts having to check and then tell the computer to ignore (Passive voice! Arrrg! Everything in a specification is written in passive voice!) or to add the more common ones to my personal dictionary. A lot of good that did on company computers that I would be forced to abandon every other year.  

Don't get me started on latin legal phrases or attempting to point out fallacious argument with well-known short hand.  Or slang. Really, don't get me started on slang, or as I said on Facebook;
I find it amusing when someone outside of the South tries to tell me how to spell ya'll. As if there is proper spelling for slang.
Another friend of mine linked to a blog article on just that subject.
Some writers put the apostrophe AFTER the 'a', as in: ya'll. *shudders* Now tell me, does that make ANY sense given the law of contractions? No. It does not. The proper way to contract 'you all' is by using the apostrophe to replace the 'ou' in you and the space between the words, as in: y'all
It's beautiful in its simplicity, don't you think? Boy, do I feel better, maybe even up to tackling a semi-colon or two. Thanks for letting me get that out of my system
Now if I was trying to impart colloquialism, trying to drag you kicking and screaming into the South of the United States, where ya'll is a word ya'll hear regularly, I might quip something like them's fightin' words or something to that effect.  But since ya'll wouldn't know the perfect frame in which to place my attempts to communicate southernisms, most likely my attempts to draw you into the picture will fail. 

Put simply; the error is in believing it's a contraction to start with. As if ya'll was ever two words compressed into one. That slang is capable of being defined or set down into anything permanent like written language. 

I have had people accost me before (carpetbaggers, mostly) insisting that ya'll is properly spelled y'all; that it is a contraction of you and all and so duh...

...but as I say to them, it's a connector between ya and ll, that hanging bit in the middle. The apostrophe represents any number of letters, syllables and whole words I don't feel I need to take the time to pronounce.  If you actually attempted to write the word phonetically, it would have at least two a's in it, something more akin to ya'all or ya-all.

I don't go around pretending to know how to spell any number of words that they might say in New Jersey (youse? use? Who knows?) it's slang.  I'd really prefer people didn't try to tell me how to spell my slang.  But I do thank you for the time it took to read this.  If ya'll are ever in the neighborhood, come by and sit a spell.



After a bit of pushback (more than a bit) I decided I'd trot out an example to illustrate the point. Consider the following sentence, which I'm sure most Southerners have heard more than once.
"ya'll be round later" 
Is it a question? Is it a statement? A demand? What words and/or punctuation will complete that sentence coherently? Is "you" or "all" in it?  Well, it depends on the speaker.

A question "ya'll be round later?"  would probably be completed "Will all of you be present when I need you later?" As a statement "ya'll be round later."  would render out something like "Come by the house later, I'll be here." or maybe "Go (wherever I'm going) and we'll meet up later." The demand "ya'll be round later."  would come out something like "You will be here later." and if dad (or pop maybe) says that, you'd better be where he wanted you to be when he was expecting it, or there would be hell to pay later.

So tell me again how ya'll is you all.  Go ahead, explain it again. I'm from here, got plenty of time.

Propaganda, Spin & Shooting Down Civilian Aircraft

I posted a link to a segment from the Rachel Maddow show on Facebook a few days back.



I've spent a good portion of today writing responses to accusations that the segment is biased and not based on facts.

I get it, it's popular these days to insist that television news is biased.  If it isn't FOX news' conservatives incessantly whining about liberal bias (liberal meaning "anything not Conservative" i.e. mindlessly jingoist with a heavy helping of Jesus on top) it's the blatant bias of FOX news itself making up stories that they think their viewers will ascribe to (#Benghazi, anyone?) as detailed on any number of channels including MSNBC which the clip above comes from.

The "why" of the location of the plane, it's status right before it fell out of the sky, will only be answered by the fight recorders if they are ever found. Flight recorders that the separatists claim to have already found.

 Conspiracies are already spinning on the subject.  Ukraine shot the plane down. Ukraine thought they were targeting Vladimir Putin's plane (the story from Russian news sources that Rachel Maddow relates) the plane was loaded with corpses and crashed on purpose to frame the Russians.  I'm sure there will be more.

Ukraine hasn't been shooting down planes in the area; Ukraine would have known (since they control their own airspace) that the plane was a commercial airliner. The separatists have been, and shot down a plane at the same altitude and similar heading earlier in the week (not to be confused with a shootdown from more than a decade ago)  So they clearly had the capability to do it again, and the motivation to continue hampering Ukrainian efforts to put down the separatists.

The separatists exist largely because Russia funds them. There is a conspiracy theory (which theorists like Dan Carlin deny is one) that suggests that the unrest in the Ukraine is due to US intervention in the region, that we're trying to pull the former soviet state into the NATO alliance. That that is why Russia acted to claim the Crimea through the use of the separatists.

The truth is that Kiev wants to get closer to the EU, to be considered part of the EU rather than a satellite of Russia. If I understand the political structure of the country, the governors of the various regions are appointed not elected. That has lead to unrest in the outlier areas away from Kiev and its direct control, parts of the country that want to elect their own leaders directly. There is also a history of distrust between the Eastern and Western sections of what we call 'Ukraine' today (bad blood from WWII during the occupation by Germany) That is why the separatists accuse the government of Kiev of being under the influence of fascists.

Russia would of course like its territory back. Kiev has been historically in and out of Russian control for centuries, and was actually the first city to be called Russia (Kievan Rus) and would probably be the capital of the country of Russia if the Mongols hadn't taken it and occupied it. But none of this means that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin should be handed the keys to Kiev just because he wants it under his control.

Putin and Russia are as accountable for MH17 deaths as the US is for funding and equipping terrorists in other regions; as in, completely accountable if you are living anywhere outside of Russia or the US. As the saying goes "live by the sword, die by the sword." The trick is to not be the one living by the sword. Vladimir Putin is the last of the KGB. When he dies, that era dies with him. If we can just stop funding the MIC in the US, the other half of the equation will also close.

It really isn't propaganda or fallacy to say Russia is to blame for downing the plane. The separatists exist as a military force because Russia has encouraged them. Whether the equipment came from Russia recently, or was soviet equipment left in Ukraine at the end of the USSR, it exists because of Russian expansionism and empire that goes back centuries in time.

Putting the shoe on the other foot (to turn another phrase) I saw the same kinds of denial surrounding the downing of Iran Air Flight 655, the Iranian commercial airliner destroyed during the Iran/Iraq war, a conflict we heavily funded and supported. Everything from the excuse that Reagan gave and the US government still sticks to (an accident) all the way to full blown conspiratory "plane full of corpses flown at the Vincennes on purpose" insanity.

But we shot that plane down in cold blood and killed all those people because we were there and ready to kill. The same is true for the groups fighting in Ukraine right now, and the group in question gets its backing from Russia and is equipped with weapons made in Russia. They are the ones ready to kill. They get the blame. As much of the blame as the US got for that downing of an Iranian airliner.

Does that mean war?  No. Not even vaguely (I'm sure John McCain is already strapping on his sword, if he ever takes it off anymore) that does mean that Russia and their proxy separatists should answer in international court and pay restitution at the very least. If someone can be found that actually gave the order to shoot that plane down, that person should be put on trial.  But I think we've had enough killing in the world of late.  How about we not call for more, just right now?