Sidelined Due to Illness

Sports metaphor.  That should be the first sign I'm not myself.  I have no use for sports, but an upbringing at the foot of a man who never missed a game (Baseball, Football, you name it) has layered my subconscious with a multiplicity of sports metaphors that lend themselves to almost any situation.  Sadly.

Was working on a piece for the blog a week ago when this latest round of Meniere's fun started.  Haven't had a spell like this in living memory.  I've had short-term worse recently (a drop attack about a month ago lasted less than 10 hours) but I haven't felt this ill for this long since I gave up work in 2005.

I have been on the Meclizine for the last few days. The affected ear has been hypertussive (all sound hurts) for over a week now. The tinnitus has been off the charts loud, and I've been off and on vertiginous for the whole time. Every thought feels like it has to be forced through jelly to get out of my head and onto the page.  More than a week avoiding sound, bright lights, etc.  Going a bit stir crazy, I think.

I'm pretty sure this is my allergies acting up. I haven't been eating or doing anything out of the ordinary that could have caused it.  Unless the excavation going on in the neighbor's back yard is releasing something into the air (mostly joking) I can't think of anything else that could be the cause.

Which is the big problem with this disease.  It just hits you.  You're down, can't think of anything you might have done wrong, so you play association games trying to figure out what triggered this attack that you'd rather die from than suffer through.  That's how you get to conclusions like low-salt diets and alcohol and caffeine causing the symptoms.  The truth is that there doesn't need to be a cause, and nothing you remember doing actually is as fault.  It is a disease, and the symptoms occur because you have it.

Allergies are a known trigger with me, though. Pollen levels for various plants are generally elevated when my symptoms are bad. It was spring and fall pollen season that first triggered symptoms for me way back in the 1980's and 90's. To top it off I quit getting my allergy shots a few years back because I had concluded that I wasn't getting any additional benefit from continuing them.  I had been getting shots for over a decade, I really didn't see the point in continuing.

Given what I'm suffering through now, perhaps stopping treatment was a mistake. Time to head back to the allergist and see if the shots can't get me back to something resembling normalcy.  Shots twice a week again, really looking forward to that.  Beats the alternative, as the saying goes.



Woke up to a Huffpost story on chronic pain in my Twitter feed. 15 things no one tells you about chronic pain as a 20-something. I identified with number 4 on the list almost immediately, since the first order of business today was to take my first shower since Friday or Sunday. Given that I can't remember when it was, combined with my inability to stand my own smell, today is shower day one way or the other.

It was glorious and at the same time frightening, since balance in the shower is of paramount importance.  I try not to think about how clean the shower walls are when leaning on them.  Cleaner than I am after 5 days, in any case. Now back to vegitating and re-watching last season of The Walking Dead.  Prepping for next season early, since in my currently hazy state I barely remember watching the episodes before anyway.



I posted this on the 13th of July.  It was July 8th when I started the piece I wanted to write next. Today (July 21st) I finally got out of the house and went for a three mile walk.  First time I've gone on a decent walk since (checking Endomondo) the 10th. My how time crawls when stuck in a rut.  Felt like it had been a month or more.  Got dizzy while walking but I'll take it. Best day in over a week so far.

Independence Day

For the last few years my July 4th celebrations have been limited to watching my favorite holiday film and the wife's favorite holiday film; which are 1776 watched on the dusty old laserdisc player (the only complete version of the film in existence, although the blu-ray comes close to it) and ID4 which can be watched on any format as long as it includes surround sound.

For me it's hard to beat the patriotic zeal of John Adams and his co-conspirators plotting to remove the American colonies from under the heel of their English masters. A good portion of it set to music, and sung quite well by the original broadway cast, directed by the same director. I own and have watched the blu-ray version of this film.  It is quite good, but it is not the same film that was released on laserdisc; nor does it have the secondary audio track describing the painstaking effort spent on reassembling the film after it was cut by Jack Warner with a pair of scissors; this after it had been put to bed by the director and assumed finished.  The cutting included the removal of a pivotal song in the middle of the film Cool, Considerate Men at the request of President Nixon, personally.  The song portrays the views of conservatives of the time who did not want to risk their lives, wealth and property on the very slim chance that Washington would ever be victorious against the British army.

The pro-slavery song Molasses to Rum should be especially poignant this year, given the tragedy enacted in Charleston a few weeks ago.  History is a fine teacher, if you don't deafen yourself to its advice.

On a lighter note, the wife loves ID4. When the pool was functional, she was frequently alone in the living room watching it while the rest of us retired to the pool. One year she begged a projector from friends and we watched it on the patio from the pool.  That was a good summer.  The best part of the film for me is the scene where Houston, having been destroyed by the aliens earlier in the film, is nuked in a defensive attempt to destroy the invading aliens.  Any film that destroys Houston twice is a watchable film in my book. Sorry Houston residents; the truth hurts, I know.

A sequel to ID4 is slated for release next Independence Day (2016) titled Independence Day Resurgence which they shorten to IDR. I Don't Relate to that title very well.  Maybe the film will make up for it.

Robert Reich on Patriotism
The most common form of Independence Day celebration, fireworks, are only a memory for me. As a kid it was my favorite holiday because of the fireworks. We'd always have a decent personal show set up in the street in front of our house, or in our back yard. I constructed models just to blow them up with fireworks on the 4th of July. I remember fondly the first time Leoti paid for a firework display, laying in the middle of the football field watching the fireworks go off overhead.  I also remember many a summer where I temporarily deafened myself standing too close to explosives when they went off.

Another point of history that should be instructional.

As my disability has progressed, sensitivity to noise has increased. Any loud noise can set off vertigo quite easily. Flashes of light are painful, not enjoyable. Combustion fumes alone have been known to send me into a vertigo spell, so the great American pastime of trying to set the neighborhood on fire on Independence Day occurs without my active participation.

In Austin the city display is the only display allowed by law, a fact I find ironical as well as sensible.  There is always a neighbor who defies the ordinance and sets fireworks off anyway, usually several of them. The police and firemen are kept running all night long responding to calls.  At least the region is well watered this year. Won't be any county-wide grass fires set off by fireworks this summer.

Oatmeal's America Explained to Non-American's on a Facebook friends wall inspired this introspection.  I can't link the image, you'll just have to go to his site and soak up the glory that is American Independance Day.  Looking back, as I've alluded to twice already, I wonder why the obvious desperation of July 4th celebrations isn't apparent to more Americans. We so desperately want to demonstrate to the world how happy we are being free.  One would think that the joy of real freedom would be enough, if only we know what that elusive thing really is.

Partnership by Any Other Name

Since this is topical once again, I moved it forward from its original April 30th publication and added an addendum to the end discussing current events. If I had perfect knowledge of future events before they happened, like a god, I would have held off posting this and Homophobia in Denial until now.   
On The Other Hand, If god is really what people say he is, he could have fixed this problem as well as the slavery problem in advance by giving detailed instructions to the people who wrote his books; rather than letting them write down their own customs and fears as if they were instructions from him.  But then I was going to leave that specific discussion to Jim over at Stonekettle Station. Trying to stick to the legality issue here.  


It slipped my mind that I was actually being topical with my piece Homophobia in Denial; that the SCOTUS was going to be debating the legality of marriage being broadened to include two people of the same sex.  Given the contents of that piece, it should be pretty obvious that I have no problem with two people of the same sex getting married.

I actually go a bit farther than just not having a problem with that. I really don't see the point in marriage in the first place, as far as being separated from other business contracts.

I know, I know, I'm a soulless bastard that has no emotions. Trust me, I've heard that a few times. Still, I have to wonder why marriage is different than any other joint partnership? Why are there special rules for this business arrangement that are completely different from all the others?

The Wife and I have a prenuptial agreement that involves a rather grisly death if either of us strays, sexually.  I know that I wouldn't have to make that deal with a business partner.  But I also know that we are complete weirdos and discuss every point of an agreement before we enter into them.  This is true with everything we purchase, not just with the agreement that started our relationship.

Most people don't even know what their partner wants in the case of medical incapacity. We've discussed so many different scenarios that I'd be hard pressed to name an event we haven't discussed and what her wishes would be.  Without that level of discussion, marriage is just a business arrangement, with no more emotional investment than the subject of which TV to buy.  Fully half of the people who get married will stay married less than 5 years.   The first TV they buy as a couple will still be working when the divorce is settled.

That is not a sacrament, that is an agreement made on an emotional whim. A moment of sexual lust, lost as soon as the dopamine receptors become habituated to the reward.

Given that marriage is expected before sexual gratification is achieved because of religious teachings, who is to blame for its being entered into so lightly? Not the government, which is tasked with simply keeping track of the business agreements made in its jurisdiction.  That blame rests solely on the shoulders of religious leaders who push the agenda of sexual abstinence (which is in reality a perversion) onto our unsuspecting children. The selfsame leaders who are now leading the charge against so-called gay marriage.

I'd like to offer the counter-argument that gay marriage is actually better than heterosexual marriage. How is that possible, you ask? Because homosexuals who want to get married have at least thought about what marriage means. Have at least talked to their partner about future plans. Want to tie each other together in a binding relationship that means more than a few months of hot sex. They at least understand that marriage should be a lifetime commitment, not something entered into because they have to do it before sexual gratification occurs.

Courtesy Girl Du Jour & Jim Wright
The real sacrament, if there is one at all, is the gay marriage; because they're making a pledge with the full knowledge of what that pledge means, not blinded by the passion of unfulfilled lust.

As for how to address those naysayers out there who think that marriage is some holy union too good for homosexuals to share in, I'll leave that to Jim over at Stonekettle Station.  He does a much better job of taking them apart than I ever could;
You are the very absolutists, the very religious fanatics, this country was designed to protect its citizens from. -- Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station



The NYT article that debunks the 50% divorce rate myth (yes, it is a myth) has a lot of good information in it on the subject of marriage and divorce.
About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (excluding those in which a spouse died), up from about 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates. If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce, according to data from Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan economist
 Among the many facts in the article is the notation that the less educated, more traditionalist male-lead households still suffer from divorce rates at the previous high levels. So it is a myth for every group outside of traditional christian households lead by a male breadwinner.

It is also worth noting that the progressive changes of the 70's persist today. The feminist revolution, the achievement of reproductive rights for women, and the more relaxed attitudes towards living together before marriage have lead to reduced rates of divorce, with women holding an equal place in modern society alongside men. This comes as no surprise to me, that women being formally allowed to now pick their mates instead of being prizes handed out by their fathers has lead to fewer bad marriages.

Fewer people marry these days.  That statistic has also lead to a reduction in divorce.  Can't get divorced if you never marry.

The point that is made statistically in the article is synonymous with the point I made in this blog post; that marriage has already changed and will continue to change. That escaping from the confines of christian dogma has been a positive change in US society. That testing a relationship with co-habitation before actually getting married is a very good idea.

Courtesy Coffee Party
The Wife hates that I compare marriage to a business arrangement.  She has always hated that comparison when I have made it. I'm sure most romantics of both sexes hate the very notion that marriage is anything like a business deal.  Their rejection of this observation doesn't actually change the reality of the situation. That there are financial concerns that have to be addressed when contemplating any union. That marriage is desirable to homosexuals because it fixes problems with custody of children, inheritance and survivor's benefits. These are largely financial calculations, and marriage exists to address them.  Not because of love. The notion of romantic marriage was an unrealized ideal before the 1970's.  That is the hard-nosed fact about marriage that romantics ignore.

When seen in that light as opposed to the notion of fee for sex being the business arrangement (you dirty-minded people. I wasn't even thinking of it that way) it becomes understandable that the largest concerns in any marriage are financial.  If you fail to discuss these issues before tying the knot, you will regret it later.



The SCOTUS did render the correct decision and not force the people at large to add marriage equality to the long list of changes we're going to have to make when the Constitutional Convention is called to reverse Citizens United.  It would have been nice if the court had made its decision based on the unconstitutional sexual discrimination which all the objections to same-sex marriage exhibit, as discussed in this article on Salon;
The Supreme Court has long held that laws that discriminate based on sex must be presumed unconstitutional and invalidated unless the government can prove that they can pass rigorous, heightened judicial scrutiny. Relying on that doctrine would answer the crucial question why the Court was deciding the same-sex marriage question at all. The sex discrimination shifts the burden of proof to the state, and the state hasn’t met that burden. The argument is clear and based on decades-old precedent. An amicus brief I coauthored developed this claim, and Chief Justice Roberts raised it when the case was argued.
But any vehicle that gets you where you want to go is better than no vehicle at all.

No need to repeal DOMA now. That act has been rendered invalid with the decision handed down last week.  We still need to repeal RFRA and apologize to religious minorities and the non-religious for ever passing it in the first place.  Still hoping for a congress that is more useful and less obstructionist than it has been for as long as I can remember now.

One way to get that might be to hold certain attorneys feet to the fire.  Attorneys like Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz who have violated the ethical rules for their profession;
The American Bar Association designed the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to define ethical duties of attorneys. State Supreme Courts have adopted versions of the Model Rules as binding upon attorneys who practice law in their jurisdictions. Attorneys are not free to ignore them–compliance is conditioned upon being licensed to practice law–and failure to obey could result in disbarment.
Disbarring them for ethical violations (Cruz's behavior on several subject warrants this, not just this one) would be a supreme irony, considering the arguments that they are making.

Robert Reich's Big Picture for Fixing the Economy

The series of  linked videos below highlight ideas to fix the economy, the top 11 12 points on Robert Reich's mind when it comes to our current economic problems.  These aren't rocket science or socialism, just some pretty hard-nosed factual recommendations; and we'd do well to follow them.  They run contrary to the long debunked refrain of Reaganomics or trickle-down economics that has held sway in the US since Ronaldus Maximus was President, long before most of the people currently breathing on this planet were born.

They also run counter to most current libertarian economic theory. It is painful to say this, but most libertarian thought on the subject of economics is so woefully uneducated that I almost balk at calling them out. Doing so is not likely to be profitable based on the standard of keeping old friends. As I was crafting this article a post from a good friend on Facebook showed up, trumpeting the flat tax proposals of Libertarian darling Rand Paul.

A flat tax will do nothing to recapture the ill-gotten gains of the wealthiest Americans, the people who profited from the latest boom and bust, as well as the previous boom and bust cycles. Cycles that have grown shorter and shorter since deregulation went into effect under...  Ronald Reagan, who was also influenced by libertarian ideas of his time.

Recapturing this cash and redistributing it to the vast majority of Americans through increased pay and investment in infrastructure is essential if we are going to build a functioning economy and not fuel the next cycle of boom and bust.  It is the outrageous amounts of cash that allow the 1% to engage in risky stock market betting like we've seen since the 1980's.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

A word about the composition of this post. Linking videos that are native on Facebook is a stupidly fiddly process, and Facebook is where I found these videos first. Consequently the text intro for each is a Facebook link, while the videos are from Youtube, giving me the ability to watch and comment on each video while it is running.

#1 is raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.



There are several common misconceptions about the minimum wage. He hits most of those points in the video. The free market types who object to minimum wage laws on the basis that it interferes with employer/employee contracts, or that it could cause inflation, only see part of the bigger picture which Reich addresses in the video.  Commerce relies on the majority of the population being able to afford the goods generally available to that population.  That means paying the working class enough for them to live on.

#2 is to make work family friendly.



I quit my regular job to raise our second child. We could not afford to put our child into expensive daycare; and really, I wanted to spend time at home with what I knew would be our last baby, having missed seeing much of our firstborn's early years due to the demands of an architectural career in the job climate prevalent in the US.  Had it been possible for me to take on outsource work at home, work from home, etc. the impact on our families' finances would have been less drastic. Had it been possible for the Wife to spend meaningful time with the baby while still working in her tech career, I might not have had to give up architecture for a few years longer, might have enjoyed my final years in my chosen profession before being sidelined with a disability.

#3 is to expand Social Security.



As a current Social Security beneficiary, I should probably recuse myself from commenting on this video. Still, it bears mentioning that the the cap that he focuses on is far too low (because of past inflation) and that rather than set a dollar figure cap, if a higher cap is the compromise solution, there should be a median income calculation involved in determining what the cap should be.  Inflation will continue. Wages will continue to rise. Upper range incomes will continue to get higher unless we re-institute confiscatory income tax (90% as it was when introduced) for high wage earners. Might as well write laws that take it into account.

#4 is to bust up Wall Street.



How I wish this one stood a chance of happening.  I only do business with a bank when I'm required to; unfortunately that happens more today than it did in decades past. The reason for this is the lax rules on banks that should never have been relaxed in the first place.

Most of what is happening today is reminiscent of what occurred at the turn of the last century.  One of the books I'm currently reading is The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism much of the battle the occurred then is re-occurring now.  Nearly daily I get a sense of deja vu reading the news.  I recognize this struggle.  It is a shame that more people do not learn from history.

#5 is how to reinvent education.



This one carried no real news for me. Having gotten one child through college and working on getting the second one through high school, and being an involved parent, has left me with few delusions about the state of US schools.  They are pathetic.  So pathetic, in fact, that I paid for private school for my children (Montessori) until their needs weren't met by the school. Then I took the time to make sure they went to good charter schools, magnet schools, etc.  Anything except the standard schools offered to average Texans.

The objection often raised to charter schools is that they are religious in nature.  While it is true that some alternative schools are religious, the schools I selected for my children have actually had less religious content (generally) than the public schools in Texas promote.  Sometimes people seek alternatives for very good reasons.

#6 is to end corporate welfare.



This is an old favorite of mine.  If corporations get handouts then everyone should get handouts; because the corporations demonstrably don't need anything to continue existing.  They have no physicality to maintain, being figments of law in the first place.  We would be much better off handing money to every citizen rather than handing it out to corporations.

#7 is to strengthen labor unions.



I've never been a fan of unions; still, it is hard to argue against the positive effects that collective bargaining can bring to the employment side of the equation.  Collective bargaining levels the playing field when negotiating with large employers.  Unionization lead to days off, 8 hour work days, breaks for meals, extra pay for overtime, etc, etc, etc.

When capitalists spit at socialism in my presence these days, I point out the benefits that have come to the working masses due to the influence of socializing forces like unionization.  If you don't want to go back to working nude in the same place you sleep, with your children huddled around you at night for warmth because your employer is too cheap to heat the workplace (read The Bully Pulpit as mentioned previously) unions are a good thing to have.

#8 is to raise the estate tax on the very wealthy.



Everyone who can work, should work.  The existence of a wealthy class who feel entitled to live off of the earnings of their parents and grandparents is contrary to the ideals that the US was founded on. Contrary to the Midwestern work ethic most of us grew up with. It is hard enough for me as a disabled person who is lucky to get from the bed to the chair some days to justify not working.  I can't even fathom the thought processes of the 1% who wouldn't dream of working for a living.

Or to quote Chris Rock 'If poor people knew how rich the rich are, there would be riots'.

This isn't one of the series I'm commenting on here, but it bears reposting;



It and the other videos in the playlist talk about this same subject, how wealth inequality is worse than it has been in almost a century, and the last time it was like this, the economy didn't improve until after we fought the second world war.  That should not be a direction we should head in this time around.

Also in that playlist is a trailer for Robert Reich's excellent film Inequality for All.  I have viewed the film several times on Netflix and recommend it to anyone who wants to get a feel for the problems America currently faces.  This as opposed to repeating trickle-down mantras in the hopes that they will self-correct and prove themselves true in the long run.

#9 is to make polluters pay US.



I can still hear the screaming raised against the carbon tax back when President Obama first took office and suggested some of these very things.  Six plus years later, it is even clearer that the only solution is to do exactly what this video suggests. Make the oil companies and energy companies pay to use carbon producing fuels.  Incentivize the use of green technologies.  CO2 is over 400 now.  We can't keep adding it to the atmosphere.  We just can't, if we want our species to continue.

#10 End mass incarceration, now!



This is probably the biggest point of agreement with libertarian/anarchist thinking on the subject of governance and the economy. The kind of thinking I was most frequently exposed to while active in the LP of Texas for about a decade. The business of keeping prisoners has been a target of small government types for years, long before the average American or the re-emerging liberal majority took notice of it. It is a serious embarrassment that the US has 2.5 million members of its population behind bars; more than any other nation on the face of the planet.



Needless to say, as soon as the 10 were out, there was a glaring need for one more item on the list (isn't that the way it always works?) So here is the latest one;

#11 Medicare for all.



The problem with most free market approaches to healthcare is that modern medicine is too complex. It's ability to function, to deliver its product (if health is even a product that can be sold) is tightly linked to corporate structures that are themselves an imposition on free markets. Price gouging is a part of the calculation of every new drug introduced to the market, how much can we get away with charging for this drug? And testing and development of these drugs requires large staffs, deep pockets, wide access to the population. The only way to counter the corporate nature of modern medicine is to either subject them to public control directly (which would be socialism with all the baggage that a state-run organization brings to the table. This would stifle innovation) or to leverage the pricing of the drugs and services produced with collective bargaining. It has to be one way or the other. Neither solution is pretty, but the group purchasing option that medicare provides leaves the companies free to do what they do best, produce goods for the general public.



He swears this is the last one.  Makes an even dozen.

#12 Get Money Out of Politics.



I've been on this bandwagon for about a year now.  Maybe longer.  I blogged about this subject after reading several scholarly articles on the subject of campaign finance, and reading Lawrence Lessig's book Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It which is free online now. In my article from last November, following the election, I list the various groups working to get money out of politics.  If you want to get involved in politics, if you want to see any of these many points acted on and made policy, then I suggest you contact one of those groups or get involved in your local precinct for whichever flavor of the two major parties that you prefer (D or R) if you object and say "I want more choices than that" then I need to be frank with you.  Including more choices than those two on ballots requires more work than even the 12 points addressed here would require.  You're welcome to engage in that struggle if you have the strength for it. Or just go vote when the time comes. If you don't know where that is, go here.

His book Saving Capitalism should be in bookstores (if you can find one) soon.  You can vote on which one of these 12 ideas will be a new campaign for Moveon to promote here.  Has to be #12 for me.

Flight Has Always Been a Perk; An Example of Confirmation Bias

I love the way the brain works. I want that out front on this post. I'm fascinated by the ways that we humans craft our thoughts and feelings, while at the same time seem to be completely unaware that most of the facts we think are immutable are actually just feelings that we have emotional investment in.

The whole argument about flight in World of Warcraft that is currently swirling in game conversations across the internet is an excellent example of this completely human tendency.  For those people who think flight has ruined the game, a group filled mostly with game developers and troglodytes (my own confirmation bias) they point to game history and assert that
Flight has always been a perk. You always have had to pay for it.
While the cost of flight was quite steep when introduced in Burning Crusade, the first expansion of World of Warcraft,  in Wrath of the Lich King it was available at level 68 for a nominal fee for the Tome of Cold Weather Flight. Only your first game character had to slog to get to level 77 before flying, and then it was flying for the last three levels. The game was designed to incorporate flight into the mechanics in a rough approximation of the way I thought it should be, and the way I thought the game was going to progress into the future. In Cataclysm you could fly for the entire expansion, once again for a very nominal fee (about 300 gold) and even the dead could fly from graveyards to wherever you died last, a change that was made for Wrath of the Lich King in areas set up for flight play.

While I had a lot of complaints about Cataclysm, flight was one of the things I really liked about it. It wasn't quite ideal, I couldn't fly and fight or even ride and fight, but at least I could use the flight mechanic I had already paid so much for in Burning Crusade.  Flight is just another form of travel, no different than the riding mounts allowed in later levels of the original game.  Not too many players remember having to slog to level 40 on foot.  These days you can obtain riding skills and mounts at level 20, with fast ground mounted speed available at level 40 instead of the endgame perk that it used to be.

Imagine the complaints, if you can. What if the game developers removed the ability to ride mounts at all in the game? Riding is a perk, after all.  You have to earn your mounts, all of them, with each expansion of the game. How many people would willingly keep paying for and playing that game?  Not too many, in my estimation.

Then came Mists of Pandaria, and it was the reverse of Cataclysm. The rest of the game was engaging, but the fact that none of my characters could fly until the repetition of endgame made the entire game into a grinding endurance slog that I repeated 22 times through some crazy goals I had set myself 5 years previously. Not to mention the hair-brained idea of gating cloud serpent flying and requiring every single character you leveled in the game to have to grind that reputation in order to use those mounts; only to have that reputation grind removed as a requirement for the current expansion.  Imagine the frustration of those players who spent days working on that reputation for all their characters, only to have the work rendered pointless later.

I almost didn't purchase Warlords of Draenor because of the announcement that flight wouldn't be included. After I thought about it for awhile I figured that they would add flight at some point, otherwise the inclusion of a flying mount in the collector's edition becomes false advertising. Bait and switch.

Now it is revealed that through game developers misjudging what the player base would put up with, they're going to gate flight (if it is ever introduced at all, they still aren't promising anything) with a long, long grind requiring you to play through all the content of Warlords of Draenor and the soon to be released patch 6.2 in order to qualify to use basic mechanics of the game that should have been included with the first release.

I say should have been included with the full understanding of what that means. Flight is a travel mechanic, just like a riding mount is a travel mechanic.  Before earning riding mounts in the game, you never understood what a time savings was involved in being allowed to ride. Once you have riding mounts, you'll ride them right into buildings if allowed to, never dismounting unless the headers of the doors keep you from getting through them while mounted. In a similar fashion, a player never thought about why they had to navigate the terrain (alive or in spirit form) you just did that.

Now that flight is being withheld arbitrarily from players who are used to flying, the fact that a developer stuck an impasse between where you are and where you need to be becomes a major frustration specifically because you know that they keep you from flying just to slow down progress in the game.  No other reason, they just want you to spend more time working on game progress.

The idea that this increases immersion in the game, or makes the game more challenging are just excuses presented to mollify complaints.  They could include flight and make it more challenging. In Burning Crusade you could be knocked off your flying mount. While this was frustrating it was no more frustrating than currently being knocked off your riding mount by a frog or a flower (Which happens. Flowers can kill you in World of Warcraft) in Mists of Pandaria there was one area that allowed flight, but that flight could be canceled by crashing into an insect swarm.  It is only unimpeded flight, the status of flight as an endgame perk, invisible to everything but other players, that breaks immersion; makes the game too easy.

Gating flight is not giving the players what they want. It is holding the last remaining carrot out as bait to get us to continue playing (and paying for) the game. The manipulation is so transparent as to be insulting.  Taking a stance that flight should be removed permanently from the game so many years after it was introduced is so foreign a concept as to make me question the honesty of people who say they don't want to fly.

What game have you been playing these past 7 years?  Not the same one I have, apparently.

(Will be serialized on the forums hereUnless I am banned again, of course)

Banned From the Forums, Again. Don't Mention Community Policing?

Blizzard (specifically Battle.net) has banned me from the forums again  This is the amusing part, pay attention.  I was banned from the forums for daring to link to my response to being banned from the forums previously.  Apparently Blizzard still isn't interested in complaints in spite of their insistence that they are.

The real problem appears to be that they have a bad (as in faulty) language parser.  It's not surprising, it's actually the parser that got me banned the first time.  I was trying to illustrate how crappy their language parser was, and if I go into why the parser is broken/crappy/should be scrapped in this post, I won't be able to link this post in the future if I forget that I poked fun at the parser here. It's also worth noting that it only parses on new threads. It takes a flag from a user to get the bots attention on replies. (there's no point in being cute here. More after the break. However, the next sentence remains true.)

The fix to this problem is simple. Don't let your bots ban people. But that leads to another problem, Blizzard can't afford to hire enough cops to police the communities they've created. The hypocrisy of Blizzard banning players for botting while using bots to ban people is apparently lost on the leadership at Blizzard.

Not that I bot, Blizzard. Don't want to be banned for linking to an article that has the word bot in it. If they continue using the same stupid parser, that is liable to happen.

The solution to this problem, and many other problems, is a ratings system for the player/contributor base. Let the massive player/user community police itself. This isn't even rocket science, a ratings system has been put in place in many other large online communities, and generally meets with some level of success based on how well the tools are implemented.  Whether there is oversight to come to the rescue of the scapegoated, for example.  Whether the tools are allowed to have an effect on the employees of the hosting company, for another.

I've mentioned community policing tools many times in the past. (including the last time I tried to start a thread on this subject by linking previous mentions of the subject. Don't do that blindly.  The phrase "please sir may a have another" springs immediately to mind) Mentioned it at the end of the previous expansion pack. Mentioned it during the Cataclysm expansion. Mentioned it during Wrath of the Lich King while interacting with the GM's. I don't think I even understood how many people were playing the game while I was still playing Burning Crusade. If I did, I'm sure I mentioned it then too.

Because it is a glaring oversight on the part of online game developers, generally.  The understanding that large communities require policing, and that the best police are recruited from among the players; people willing to file reports, click buttons, whatever the tools in place allow.  Those are the game companies' allies, and it is about time that the companies understood that they are shooting themselves in the foot by not allowing the communities to police themselves, and providing the tools for us to do it.

(The permissible last three paragraphs of this post have been restored to the forums here)



Won't actually be able to link it anyway. Can't discuss bans in any fashion on the forums. Not even tangentially. Can't really discuss ANYTHING on the forums and not risk being banned if the mood strikes a moderator.

The real problem here is (not that Blizzard mods will read this) that the rules for the forums are not all in one place. The bot that banned my account sent me links to this page. It also linked this dead page for appeals (all the links for appeals are dead) The customer service interactions all refer to this page, and the forum rules are also stickied at the top of each forum.

None of the content of any of the pages agrees with each other as to what is allowed or not allowed aside from the notation that they reserve the right to suspend any account without reason.  Just another reason not to post on the forums.

Suggestions for Blizzard

I'm still playing Warlords of Draenor.  Not sure why beyond the fact that I can play for free now thanks to being able to purchase game time with in-game currency. Now that it doesn't cost anything beyond time I was already spending in the game, the argument about paying for the game goes out the window.

Still, I'm not happy with it, since none of the complaints I've aired previously have lead to changes in the game. The professions are still cludgy and largely useless, my favorite class/specialization from Mists of Pandaria remains almost unplayable (more on that after the break) my toons all look different rather than simply more clearly rendered. Most importantly, I still can't fly!

Noticed a post on my Twitter feed about a developer announcement concerning the addition of flight to Warlords of Draenor;
In an upcoming Public Test Realm build, we will be introducing a new meta-achievement called Draenor Pathfinder. You’ll earn this achievement in Patch 6.2 by mastering the outdoor environment of Draenor—exploring Draenor’s zones, collecting 100 treasures in Draenor, completing the Draenor Loremaster and Securing Draenor achievements, and raising the three new Tanaan Jungle reputations to Revered. Initially, this achievement will award a rylak mount: the Soaring Skyterror, one of the native beasts that roam Draenor’s skies. Players will remain ground-bound on Draenor until a small follow-up patch (6.2.x), when all players who have earned Draenor Pathfinder on at least one character will unlock the ability to fly in Draenor on all their level 90+ characters.
We believe this strikes the right balance between ensuring ground-based content lives up to its full potential, while providing players who’ve already fully experienced Draenor’s outdoor world extra freedom to “break the rules.” This also provides a general blueprint going forward for content to come. Players will explore new and undiscovered lands from the ground, and then once they’ve fully mastered those environments—a notion that continues to evolve with each new expansion—they can take to the skies and experience the world from a new vantage point.
The blog post that I found the developer link in was ecstatic (to put it mildly) about the developers finally relenting and allowing flight in Warlords of Draenor, but my response to the announcement is a bit more tepid, if not outright QQ or open rebellion.

I already paid for flight.  Multiple times. I've already earned flight, multiple times. Flight should not be an endgame perk. That's it, that's all I have to say. I should be able to fly all the time on all my characters because flight is part of the game, not an endgame perk.  Not interested in playing a game that excludes flight. Flight was my goal from the moment I started playing in Burning Crusade and I resent having it taken from me each and every time a new version of the game comes out.

If that's the way this game is going to be into the future then I really don't have any interest in playing it any longer.

In Burning Crusade there was always the possibility of being attacked and killed while in flight, even though it was an endgame achievement in that expansion, flying was not without risk. You learned this with multiple deaths and frustrating runs back to your corpse. Frustrating runs are the problem in any game composed of impassable terrain, whether alive or dead as a character.  Limiting travel to the ground does not make ground travel any more enjoyable if there isn't a direct route from questgiver to goal and back again.

Ghosts fly. Why can't my ghost fly in game? Why force negotiation of terrain when you are dead and have no mass, no reason to be held to the ground at all? My ghosts could fly in Cataclysm, so could all my toons fly, fly for the entire length of that expansion. One of the few (very few) things I liked about Cataclysm. But that is beside the point.

The best thing about the Nagrand zone in Warlords of Draenor is having the corral and being able to fight while mounted. Combine the corral with flight through all of Draenor, and you have the ideal playstyle for the game I thought Blizzard was working towards way back when I started playing. The playstyle I envisioned? Battle while mounted and in flight.  There was even a quest in Burning Crusade, a repeatable daily, that required you to ride and do battle on a flying mount. On your regular flying mounts, not some silly vehicle interface as was added into the game in later expansions.

I really don't care that some people don't want to fly, or that the programmers or developers don't want to develop a game that includes flight.  I'm not interested in a game that reserves flight to some endgame travel perk that isn't part of the game's regular mechanics. If that is the game they are intent on developing, then I've been playing the wrong game for all these years.

Would have been nice to know that sooner.

I am most definitely not interested in another long, long, looong grind to gain three reputations, completing all the quest content and finding 100 treasures in the game just to be able to use the mounts I purchased for this game in regions added to this game. If they weren't going to allow people to fly from the beginning and are only now adding flight back in, why are they making flying mounts for this game?

If players really don't want to fly, why do they buy flying mounts?  It certainly isn't because they look good running.  Give us flight and stop toying with us.  Stop expecting us to spend more and more time in the game grinding just to be able to do the most basic things in the game. It's silly and self-defeating.  I have no idea how anyone who has a life outside of WoW can even play the game as it is currently structured.  It takes days of work just to get basic stuff done on one toon. More time for this one game than most people are willing to invest, in my experience. The problem is not that this game is too easy or that the rewards are just handed out. The problem is very much the reverse.



What I've started to notice is there is an adversarial relationship in place between the employees at Blizzard and the customers that play their games.  This is quite obvious when you look at the amount of work required just to be able to get errors in the program reported, much less fixed.

At least there is a suggestion box and a bug report form in the game now. Why an online game wouldn't have had this kind of feature from the beginning of the game rather than introduced many years down the road is just another example of Blizzard not actually being interested in feedback from the player community.

If Blizzard was smart they'd give gold out like candy. Gold for tickets opened.  Gold for suggestions. Gold for bugs reported. Gold for every complaint. Nothing soothes the soul like free stuff, and the best free stuff is currency you can use to buy other stuff in the game, from a developers perspective. But they don't do that. What they do is punish players like yours truly for offering suggestions, pointing out bugs, agitating for change.

As it stands right now I am not allowed to reopen my own tickets because apparently I'm a nuisance player and don't like hand waving explanations that really don't explain anything. So after I reopened a ticket about a dozen times, I find myself suddenly unable to do that and Blizzard's customer service blithely ignoring my questions about why my tickets cannot be reopened. I'm treated in this fashion for pointing out bugs in the game, rather than being rewarded for bringing their attention to something that isn't working correctly.

I still haven't seen the Hearthstone decks that the last bug I stumbled across cost me. Was not rewarded in any fashion for reporting the bug, documenting the bug, reporting the bug fixed.  That took real time and was the main reason I ended up abandoning the Hearthstone tournament I was in at the time.  Can't win if you can't get new cards.  Effort should be rewarded, even if that effort isn't directly in-game. We all are not just happy to be here.  Some of us like a bit more appreciation for our participation than that.



I now have no less than 4 claw weapons for my Orc Shaman.  This is odd, because my Shaman has never used claw weapons, fist weapons, etc; because my shaman utilizes the correct specialization, elemental.  I know that the enhancement Shaman are convinced that their superior DPS means that enhancement is the only way to go, but mace and shield are the weapons for my shaman who is first and foremost a spell caster, so the melee loving enhancement shaman can go melee somewhere else.

Except that Blizzard broke elemental specialization in Warlords of Draenor. They made lightning bolt another spell that can only be cast while standing still, just like all other casters must stand still while casting. But not only must I stand still to cast all my spells unless activating spiritwalker's grace in advance, the weights of the different spells have all be altered, making it virtually impossible to be effective in a fight while in elemental spec.

The game knows this.  When my poor shaman is granted one of the rare rewards of epic weapons, inevitably the weapon that is handed to her is one for healing or enhancement. Only once has she won a shield and a mace in the entire length of Warlords of Draenor.  She has gotten many, many times that number of fist weapons and staves, more than I can count.   So it is clear that Blizzard wants me to change to enhancement specialization just like all the other shaman I meet.

I could elaborate, in detail, what I'd like Blizzard developers to do with these claw weapons. Could elaborate in graphic, bloody, disemboweling detail, before I'd be willing to even contemplate changing to enhanced specialization.  Or Blizzard could just fix the elemental specialization. Maybe make all casters able to cast and move in the process, since they've decided that standing in one place and casting spells is too easy.

Every single fight in this game requires constant movement to avoid ground effects and insta-kill blows. Spell casters still have to stand and cast for several seconds at a time leaving them vulnerable to all kinds of damage if they want to actually do any damage themselves.  Why is this true of casters and not melee?  There is no answer for this aside from that is the way it has always been. Seems to me that magic is, ya-know, magic as in, not actually governed by any hard and fast rules.  So let casters move and cast all the time, or stop making every fight a Charlie Foxtrot of multiple effects and threats that can only be survived by running like hell constantly.



The problem with most expansions I've ever played for any game is that the developers run out of ideas for new things they can do with the game.  It's understandable, especially in a game that is more than 10 years old and has required the developers to reinvent the game every two years or so.

But there is a distinct difference between doing something new and relabeling something old and calling it new.

Case in point, the new stats on characters introduced with Warlords of Draenor are just previously existing stats relabeled as other things. This doesn't mean that the stats are weighted the same and that if you just know what the old label was you can apply the old weights to the new.  No, they did more work than that, but just barely.

What I'm saying is that they reshuffled the stat weights and renamed a few of them just to force the old players to relearn playstyles, stats and spell rotations rather than actually doing something different with the game. Different as in, say, letting us fight while mounted.  Attack opponents from the back of a fire-breathing dragon, perhaps.

I may be flight obsessed; but in my defense, I do know what I like.

(Posted in part on the World of Warcraft forum here. Don't hold your breath on it still being there.  I have a track record with the moderators there)