World of Warcraft; Brewfest!

I recently wrote a novella (so the wife says) about my 5 years playing World of Warcraft trying to complete a quest I set for myself.  However, there is (at least) one other thing I did forget to mention. Gameplay in the world is generally pretty predictable, except at certain times of the year when world events occur, or on the odd years when a patch is released.

The first year I played was the release of Wrath of the Lich King, and the world event for Hallow's End that year was marked by rolling hordes of zombies in all the cities, and mayhem that kept us lows (players who didn't have characters at max level. Level 70 at that time) from getting anything done.  A world event and a expansion pack release event rolled together, or so it felt at the time.

"What are those weird glowing crates for?"
I remember walking one of my 'toons into Ironforge and wondering where all the guards were, why was there smoke in the air...?  Suddenly, in the distance, movement in the smoke.  Players? No. Zombies! Every freaking NPC for the city had been turned into zombies by players who had been infected by the undead plague. It's funny now in retrospect, but I had things to do in the cities, unlike max level characters. I was quite annoyed at the time.  My toons took to sleeping in trees outside the cities until the the patch event had passed.

However, the first world event that took place in World of Warcraft after my subscription started was Brewfest; and Brewfest has remained my favorite event in the game ever since. When it spawned outside of Orgrimmar & Ironforge, I had no idea it was a temporary thing, or that this same event (like many others) would re-occur annually. I feel in love with it.

The reason for this goes something like...

There was a Jackalope over the bar in the local beer hall in the Kansas town I grew up in.  My dad used to love to tell stories about hunting Jackalopes; to which all his friends (who were in on the joke) would lovingly add details.  I can't speak for the other children, but I was fascinated by this cryptozoological problem.  I would go looking for Jackalopes while wandering the fields near my house.  Unsurprisingly I never did find one; not until I started playing around at Brewfest.  The purpose of Brewfest was to get your character blind drunk; or rather, the program responded (and still does, to some extent) to each beer you drank by making the screen images progressively fuzzier, distorting perspectives into tunnel vision.  Also, after you've drank about three strong drinks, invisible creatures started to appear.  Little horned rabbits with wings.  At first I thought I was seeing things.  I really did feel like I was drunk (still do, sometimes. I blame the Meniere's) and where did those creatures come from?

They were labeled Wild Wolpertinger in the game.  Researching the name, I discovered that Jackalopes and Wolpertingers are related; related by beer.  Wolpertingers are commonly found on display in taverns in the Bavarian region of Germany; and Jackalopes seem to be found in German settled areas of the American Southwest, also to be found in taverns there.  I had discovered a long drinking tradition, the telling of tall tales while indulging in the spirits at the local drinking hole. My father, whose mother was of German descent, was simply carrying on the tradition.

"Hey newb, did you know you can
dismiss your user interface by hitting CTRL-Z?"
The first year I played, you couldn't catch Wild Wolpertingers, but you could purchase a pet one with tickets  (and your pet is invisible to everyone but you.  Unless they are drunk) You can catch them now, just like you could when the event first started, but that year you couldn't.  I had to have one, so Tharthurm and I spent some quality hours working at Brewfest to get tickets for the Wolpertinger. Even took some tourist shots with the local guardsmen.

It was the event of Brewfest, combined with this whole new world to explore, that made me fall in love with the game.

It was after getting the pet (the pet that no one can see but me) and having it summoned pretty consistently for months, that I began to identify with the Wolpertinger; after all, it and I were the only consistent things across the various characters I played, and the other players couldn't see either of us. So I started using it as my avatar across many boards and platforms I post in, using the cryptozoological beast to represent me.  I commissioned a piece of art from an artist I know so that I wouldn't have to violate Blizzard's copyright to it's own game images.  Hers looks better than theirs, anyway.

That is where I am today. Represented on the internet by a cryptid that my dad used to tell great stories about, and that I rediscovered in a game I just happened to be playing because a friend asked for a favor.  If you play WoW and haven't taken time to get your What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been achievement, You are missing out on one of the more interesting parts of the game.  You should at least try Ram Racing.  Do it now, because Brewfest is here!



First the praise, now the criticism.  Three years ago the designers at Blizzard got lazy and they gave up offering new mugs (the in-game collectable for this event) and at the same time disabled a handy feature of the game for new players.  The old mugs were a useable item, and gave a buff which was useful in game.  Rather than scale the buff for new releases of the game, they simply replaced the real mugs with a magically refilling baby bottle that does nothing.  Bring back the mugs!  Bring back the buffs! (this is true of Hallow's End candy as well) Update the gear drops for mid-xp and end of xp events, for crying out loud! Make it desirable to do the events, so that people will do them.

The toons don't get blind drunk killing Dark Irons anymore.  I get it, we want to be sensitive to people who don't approve of drinking to excess, but it's a game for crying out loud. I still go around killing everything that moves in the game, and I don't feel the urge to do that in real life.  I also understand that players become ill watching the drunken graphics. Me too. It would be nice to be able to just kill the visual effect with an easily findable toggle when it gets to be too much.  But that is aside from the point of drinking beer and throwing mugs to down the Dark Irons.  What are we saving the kegs for anyway since they can't be used to refill mugs? See the first critique.

Finally, let's admit the game has changed. Pandaren should be top brewers, not Ogres. Ogres make some nasty strong drinks, but Pandaren have turned brewing into a lifestyle.  They should not be relegated to a booth in the corner quietly selling also items that have no bearing on the event itself. None of my Pandaren will even go to the event until they are properly represented as the best brewers on Azeroth.  Call it a protest.  The rest of them will be there, though.

Be Skeptical of the Skeptoid, Even

This bears mentioning, only because not mentioning it will leave me open to criticism.  I have (and will continue to) rely on Skeptoid.com for quick refutations of common folklore and mis-directed mass hysteria. I don't think I've mentioned the site too often on this blog, but I know my Facebook page and G+ are littered with references to the podcast.

I do that because Skeptoid is short; generally just over 10 minutes, or a few easy pages of reading. The site also includes references for those interested in diligence (more than I can say for most sites on the internet today) and the podcast features a regular corrections episode where the narrator eats crow in public (and I wish more podcasters were willing to do the same) which is good for the soul and keeps the podcaster honest with his listeners.

However, the narrator and de facto owner of Skeptoid Brian Dunning, has been convicted of wire fraud, and will be spending several months in prison and a few years on probation after that. As someone who has been fascinated with computers for as long as I have (My uncle made the first portable computer I ever heard of.  It was built into a Suburban and was so large you had to sit outside the vehicle and access it through the side doors)  the intrigues engaged in by hackers no longer surprise me.
[A]ccording to the superseding information, the wire fraud involved causing cookies to be installed on internet users’ computers without their knowledge. If, by chance, those users later visited eBay and bought something, then an entity owned by Brian (at least in part) would be treated by eBay as if the entity’s website had driven the customer to eBay by means of a direct referral. The entity owned (at least in part) by Brian would then get a commission from eBay, as if the entity’s website had actually been responsible for driving the user to eBay. In reality, the entity’s website would not have driven the customer to eBay, and thus eBay was defrauded. Thus, wire fraud.
The superseding information charged Brian with wire fraud, occurring between May 2006 and June 2007, and on April 15, 2013, Brian pled guilty to that charge. 
from THE SKEPTICAL ABYSS: A SKEPTICAL TRAGEDY h/t to Doubtful News
 It was a clever hack job, reading through it; and it netted him a rather large sum of money.  However, contrary to the assertions of another skeptic (who's opinion I generally respect and agree with) Brian did not defraud visitors to his websites, although his use of their computers to defraud eBay ranks right up there on my outrage meter with DDOS attacks and malware masquerading as legitimate software.

Brian stole from eBay, not his website visitors.  It would be a cold day in hell before I would trust software offered by him (or his affiliates) because of this, but the vitriol seems a little excessive;
Again, just to be clear: Dunning is a rich, convicted fraud who may soon be facing up to 20 years in prison (though more likely much less for a first offense). The very same skeptics who happily point out to Mormons that they idolize a fraud in Joseph Smith, and who tell believers of Sylvia Browne that she was convicted of fraud, are giving their money to a convicted fraud who actually used them in his criminal acts 
from skepchick.org
I get it, he defrauded eBay and now he's going to jail.  Ever heard of phone phreaks or any of the other long traditions of thumbing your nose at the man? eBay is just another cog in the machine from that perspective; a target to be milked if you can figure out how to trick them into giving you cash.  It is not, repeat not, stealing from poor shills who are desperate for any answers (even fake ones) to the problems they are faced with.

Not that I want to soft pedal what Brian Dunning has done.  I don't, and I don't expect anyone who engages in illegal activity for whatever reason to be treated any differently than any other lawbreaker. That doesn't change the veracity of the work contained in Skeptoid, which represents the effort of hundreds of people now, and the contributions of thousands.

Credit where credit is due, as well as blame.  Skeptoid represents Brian Dunning's best work, just as the conviction for wire fraud (hopefully) represents his worst.  It will be interesting to see what he has to say for himself after the dust settles and he can speak freely on the subject.

September 11, not 9-11

My dad was born on September 11, 1938.  On his sixty-third birthday terrorists destroyed two American icons and shattered forever the illusion that we were beyond the reach of the people intent on doing us harm. There are many lessons to be learned from gaining that insight, but it doesn't appear that the US has learned anything in the intervening years.  We re-live the events of 9-11 over and over again on each anniversary; wallowing in our collective angst, while repeating the same mistakes that lead to that day, that sprung from that day.

Military adventurism continues almost unabated. Undaunted by the mess that we created in Iraq, we now propose to intervene in the area again.  We remain convinced that everything that happens around the world is somehow linked to us, that we have to weigh in on events, or that somehow the events were caused by us, as if the world only exists because we send our military out there to make sure it does.

My father did his time in the military.  I was born overseas because of the Cold War, and my parents answering the call to serve.  He didn't like military life very much, and left the service after 4 years to return home to Kansas and his family there.  As a teenager I foolishly contemplated joining the military myself, and mentioned it to him to see what he thought. "You like taking orders?" he said.  I didn't, I replied. "Well, then you don't want to join the military." That was his thinking on the subject, as he related it to me.

Every year after 2001, he complained that the terrorists had stolen his birthday.  Every year until he died, the day that he had looked forward to through childhood had become something terrifying and repugnant.  It annoyed him that his day had been the day they picked. I can understand that.  It is captured in the sentiment of Jim Wright's piece on Stonekettle Station (a re-post) when Jim mentions the generation that has grown up since the towers fell, never knowing the America that we all remember.  They only know the America we created in our fear after 9-11;
This new generation has lived under the shadow of those falling towers every single minute of every single day since the moment they were born.
So in that sentiment I'd just like to reclaim today, and every September 11th after this one for my father.  Happy birthday dad, wherever you are.  I promise to spend more time thinking of you than of the other events that make this day stand out for average Americans.  Because really, why remember if we aren't going to learn anything from it?

To Grok in Fullness

 "You grok," Smith repeated firmly. "I am explain. I did not have the word. You grok. Anne groks. I grok. The grass under my feet groks in happy beauty. But I needed the word. The word is God."
Jubal shook his head to clear it. "Go ahead."
Mike pointed triumphantly at Jubal. "Thou art God!"
-- Robert A. Heinlein - Stranger in a Strange Land
I find it ironical that failure to communicate ideas (generally philosophical/religious ideas) always sends me scurrying back into the dusty cupboards of my mind, only to fall upon that phrase in the end.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0345472322/braipick-20
From: Mindset by Carol Dweck; h/t to Brian Pickings
I don't think most people read, even the ones who do.  I find that I don't actually read a lot of the things presented to me these days. I mean read as in; take the time to soak up the words.  Not just look at their surface, but really understand the meaning of the words as arranged on the page.  To grok them, as they exist.

The tons of text presented to us each day in today's world precludes us from spending time actually thinking about what the words mean, What we mean in the words.  So we skim.  We assume intent on the part of the writer, trust that the structure will lead a predictable direction, and skip to the ending to assure ourselves our assumptions were correct.

Gone are the days laying on the floor in the sun-illumined dust, turning pages in earnest, breathlessly exploring the bounds of knowledge.  Now it's electronic pre-determinism and endless counter-attack against ideas we aren't even sure our opponents are supporting, but we think it's there in the text we didn't actually take time to read.

Listening to a book isn't reading it.  It is a valuable experience to be read to, I'm not knocking that.  I have read whole series of books to my children, some of them more than once. A good reader can add himself to the work, making it more than it was when written. But then it isn't the work as the writer intended it; just as the movie isn't the written word, either.

You cannot grok the intent of the writer through headphones, listening while you are doing something else.  Suddenly the reader seems to be editorializing on your ability to fold towels, the words interwoven with the task you were performing, the two inextricably interwoven in your memory.  When you try to recall the subject, suddenly you feel like doing laundry or walking the dog. Why does thinking about that lecture bring up images from a video game?

To understand the meaning of the words, you have to read the words in the form they were written in, to get a feel for each individual character and it's placement in the word, the word in the sentence, the sentence in the paragraph, because that is how the idea came to the writer in the first place.

That is how you Grok.  But don't expect me to agree with you, the writer, just because I understand you.  That is a whole different set of problems.

Did Einstein say this? Let's try to understand