Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Always Remember

I am still completely not here. I am working on my script. I am typing this with my toe on my laptop as I type furiously away.


Anyway, slow day at the salt mines today as I worked on some other stuff and hammered out a few last minute quirks in the plot. And I needed to rebuild a system of civil servants ranks and customs from the ground up, which took a while. Took me a little while to find my legs, but I was getting there by the end, I think. Started with the very cold open. Had to resort to a massive infodump of a voice over which is lme, but it was that or devote the first act entirely to world building. Still, I'm going to call it a night and kick it off again tomorrow. It's late, it's hot, and I'm getting tired.

Swamp Opera
Page Count: 10
Word Count: 2000
Death Toll: 0

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Just when I think I can get into my head, they pull me back out. Putting the words from the past on hold for a moment because it seems that the Bush administration and the neo-crone hawks are up to their old tricks.

Trying to force through an amendment in the Senate which would basically authorize war with Iran. This is a battle we should have fought five years ago. Let's hope it's a lesson our leaders have learned.

National Halo Day

Productivity around the nation no doubt sank mightily today as Halo 3 went live. And scores of gamers either took the day off or dragged their bleary-eyed selves to work after a night of camping out and devouring the single player game. I, of course, am on a break. From this blog. That I am posting at right now (Okay, it doesn't make sense but just go with me.). But it's not to be running people down and spraying hot electric death all day. Honest. Because when it comes to Halo I....don't get it. Completely don't see the fascination with Halo entirely. I mean, okay, it's got a halfway decent plot. But it's still a video game. I don't play video games for the plotlines. So, okay, it's got tight controls and decent balance. So do half a dozen other FPS I've played. And that, I think, is the reason why the Halo phenomenon leaves me scratching my head. I've played plenty of other shooters from way back when. I remember Doom and Quake and Unreal and more so I'm ot blown away by the idea of multiplayer deathmatches anymore. Halo's a nice game, don't get me wrong, love to throw down whenever there's a LAN or a family reunion, but I think it was just a game that was in the right place at the right time. The first FPS shooter on a powerful enough system to run it right with a built-in multi-player system. It captured millions of fans who'd never seen anything like it before. Fans who've made it into a system seller, hyped it into the biggest release ever. But, for me, it's just another game.

Guild Wars: Templates (Again)

I'm going to be banging a familiar drum here. But why aren't there pre-mades anymore? Be nice to have with the upcoming PvP fixes. Actually, it's just be nice to have those PvP fixes to the Arena and other basic areas that seem to be taking forever. But that's an entirely different post; one laced through with rather more profanity. The drum I'm trying to pound right now is pre-mades and my old, familiar topic of lowering the barriers of entry.

If you'll recall, the state of someone trying to get into PvP is a sad one. The game needs to help those novice players out more. And just one of the ways it could be doing so is by including ready made builds that they could slap on and run with. It's even easier than ever thanks to the template system. And I don't think there's anyone out there who's seriously into the PvP side of things who'd think it's a bad idea. All the PvPers I've talked to, all the ones I've listened to, from Izzy on down, seem to agree that it's a nice idea who's time has come. That the PvP side of things is on bad footing and it couldn't make it worse to try and make life easier for those people earning the ropes.

And, from my viewpoint, it's not exactly hard to implement. You work up a bunch of builds, slap them into hex code in text files, and stream them to everyone's template folder in the next update. Boom, everyone has templates ready to go. Guidelines for what to play, at the very least. Some small assurance that they're not going to be completely horrid when they step into the RA or AB or wherever else.

Where resistance comes from is from those who remember the old templates. Which were awful, of course. I mean, the Abominable Snowman? Please. And attempt to fix it with contests and additions were slow and bulky, meeting with little favor from the eligible. And they resulted in things like the Fiana Healer. Let me get this straight. You have Divine Boon, the most awesome Monk skill in the game at the time and you use it with...Healing?!? I have to go punch little kittens now in order to stop the world from being filled with flames and demonic laughing. Punch them right in their cute, mocking faces.

Better now. These failed attempts pointed out just how hard it was to keep up with the metagame with such lag time in the game's infancy. And would seem to argue against an attempt to dredge pre-mades out of the discard pile and tap them again. But, I think, the game is much more mature now, and only the details of what works and what doesn't are in flux. People have figured out the sort of basic archetypes that you need for these templates. Because, knowing the mistakes of the past, we can do better now.

The biggest misstep of the previous pre-mades was that they tried to be good. It's a losing battle as the meta shifts and skill choices swirl. Instead, they need to be serviceable. Resilient. Chassis from which players can build newer and better things. The initial batch of pre-mades - and, remember, I was there when they went in - was too concerned with gimmicks and showing off the clever tricks that you could pull with skill combinations. That's why you had things like PBAoE based Warriors trying to spam Elementalist skills on a two-pip bar or melee Mesmers who weren't even using IW. Dammit, I need my kitten box again.

Don't know why I don't just keep the thing by the computer. Anyway, instead of trying to create super-awesome builds that show off just how awesome the game is and how big your personal theory-crafting e-peen is, what players actually need from pre-mades are the basic building blocks that teams are made up with. They need archetypes. Not quite as simple as the holy trinity of tank, healer, nuker that forms the cornerstone of PvE. But you need your basic Axe Warrior, your Prot Monk, a shutdown Mesmer and more. The specifics vary based on the metagame and the latest rebalancing but the starting points for those base party roles that you want to assemble a team from don't vary much. They're constant enough that you don't have to worry overmuch about them becoming outdated down the line.

But even that doesn't matter much. Do you realize how small template files are? Just keep throwing them out there. Have fifty or sixty of seventy, it doesn't matter, you're talking about a sliver of someone's harddrive and only a little bit of work. In that pile at least a few are going to hit. And that's all you need. All pre-mades have to do is be just good enough to get someone's foot in the door.

Wolverines Blogging: The Game

As I mentioned the other day, I saw the majority of this game sitting in a sundrenched backyard, bloated with grilled meat, on a small black and white television set with the kind of reception normally reserved for high sunspot activity. So, if you're expecting a lot of in-depth analysis of the nuances that I and only I am able to draw from watching the game then, boy, are you in the wrong place.

Instead, I'm just going to gloat. My Wolverines crushed the Nittany Lions. I don't know why the outcome was even in doubt. Ann Arbor is where Penn State season go to die. They haven't won a game against the Wolverines since Lloyd Carr was a rookie coach. Back when JoPa was, like, only 85 years old instead of wherever in the triple digits he is now. I am completely serious when I say that Joe Paterno is an assumed name. What the people of Happy Valley see as a kindly old man is really a troll. No doubt disturbed by Penn State destroying its natural habitat when they were rebuilding or refurbishing a bridge. It devoured the real Joe Paterno years ago and now patrols the sidelines, hungry. A lust that can only be sated with the raw flesh of a billygoat. Check the line item budget for the sports department. You'll see.

But, wow. Henne was amazing. He's really cementing his Heisman case, if you ask me, as he threw for a handful of touchdowns and led his team to another victory in this perfect season. It was a rout, pure and simple, as Michigan beat down an overmatched Penn State team trying to slip into town in the spoiler's role. People have overlooked this team all year but although they came in unheralded they've had a strong season.

Anyhow, since it's become something of a tradition around here, in that tragic other dimension where the Wolverines dropped their first two games - being blown out by Oregon and suffering a heartbreaking last minute loss to Appalachian State (I know, something like that could never happen, would likely drive the average Michigan fan stark raving mad, but you have to remember if it was supposed to be believable they wouldn't call it fiction.) - before beating Notre Dame, not in the titanic struggle they held this year, but by outlasting them in a race to see who'd hit rock bottom first, they also played Penn State this weekend. And, actually, besides the record, things turned out pretty much the same. Michigan handing Penn State its ninth straight loss.

The game, though, was a close, pounding affair that the Wolverines barely eked out. 13-9.

The biggest change was under center. Where, in this alternate universe, the amazing Henne was sidelined with an injury. In his place was Ryan Mallet. In only his second start he showed just why he was a highly rated prospect showcasing a monster arm. He also showed just why he's a true freshman with some boneheaded decision making. There were some flashes there, though, and after some seasoning he could be the next great Michigan quarterback. The real story, though, was Leon Hart. He put the team on his back, again, and basically willed them to victory. Breaking the career rushing mark set by the A-Train along the way. Shame he never really hit it in the bigs after that stellar rookie season with Chicago, but Thomas was a damn fine runner and with the rest of the season to go, Hart looks primed to shatter the bar he set.

On the other side of the ball, Penn State didn't manage to score a touchdown against a defense that looked completely different from the beginning of the season. They are, for example, actually performing the difficult and highly technical maneuver known as a "tackle" now. And they positively hounded Penn State's senior quarterback.

Some are crediting this to, you know, manning up. But I'm not entirely sure. I think it's less due to the a revitalized defense than it is to a defense that's finally found its level. Penn State doesn't run the sort of spread option that so bedeviled these imaginary Wolverines in the first two games. They're a much more standard, much more traditional offense. One set up around a running game and a typical pocket passer. In other words, the sort of offense that Michigan is set up to do well against because it's what the Big Ten is built on. Penn State is the sort of team Michigan is designed to beat because that's what it takes to win their conference. Which has been the goal at UofM for years now. It's not about winning championships, not even about winning the Rose Bowl, it's just about getting there. Well, what happened this year was that the level of talent in the Big Ten was exposed. While Michigan might have had the horses to run with, compete against, those mobile quarterbacks and spread field offenses in the past, this year they were a step too slow and weren't able to make up for being more than a few steps unprepared. The Nitany Lions may have been one of the better teams in the Big Ten but, this year, that's not saying much. But, for now, that annoying reality is going to be overlooked while the Wolverines seem to get back on track. In this fictional world I'm weaving, it all comes crashing down the next time they face some real opposition - in their bowl game. Leaving everyone who's forgotten the lessons of the first few games wondering just what's gone wrong. Again.

And the answer is simple: The Wolverines aren't that good. And neither is the Big Ten.

You Need To See the Doctor (Again)

More Dr. Kucho! This is basically yesterday's beat modulated with a new vocal sample. I'm torn as to which I like more.

Yes, I have played them both at the same time.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Remember, I'm Never Gone, I'm Just Not Paying Attention

Sorry to say, but the forecast calls for light blogging this week. Classes are kicking my ass and basically ignoring them over the weekend isn't helping matters. But, more importantly, I want to get my script cranked out by the end of the month. Really think I can do it this time and I'm going to be taking the shot this week. I'm battening the hatches and closing off outside influences as we speak because the real world is far more strange and depressing than anything I'm writing. And it's bleak enough without realizing that reality is even more over the top than my worst case scenarios. So, don't expect me to say much this week. I have, however unusually for me, planned slightly ahead, and should have a few things from the backburner to toss out (I mean, not today, of course. That would be work.) so this place won't be completely empty. Including things like Tiger Stadium, my surely long-awaited review of GW:EN, football, and more.

As for that script, since it's worked so well in the past, I'm starting over from scratch. Going to go back to the beginning and work it all over from word one. Man, I can't wait until NaNo. I'll try and keep you posted but until we next meet, wish me luck.

Swamp Opera
Page Count: 0
Word Count: 0
Death Toll: My sanity

The Best Part About the Annual Get-Together Is That It's Now Roughly A Year Away

Ah, what a wonderful weekend. This year, the annual get-together was not held in a MetroPark. A first, as far as I know, but hardly a necessity since so many of us have been growing up and growing away. Like my brother who's gone to California. Like my cousins who've moved to New York. Or my uncle who's announced he's getting divorced and moving to Seattle. Still reeling a bit from that one. Child of divorce myself but the rest of my parent's siblings seemed to be content not only with their lives but their spouses. They seemed so happy when we saw them just a few months ago, hard to believe it's happened. But that's some old family news, bubbling to the surface by a juggled guest list. Instead of a placid afternoon in the wanning days of summer spent amongst the trees and walkways of Kensington, we instead descended on the home of yet another cousin (Don't worry, I have, like, twenty, even I can't keep track.) for a day of grilling and chilling within the boundaries of Detroit. Getting to the Cass Corridor is a bit of a trek for some of the clan but not much since I stopped at my mother who lives in a nearby suburb.

My cousin's place is the kind of beautiful old home that makes you ache for the Detroit of yesteryear. A Victorian-era split level with the kind of workmanship and charm you just don't see these days, separated into a few apartments suited for the nearby university population. It's in the midtown region, just off that triangle formed by Wayne State and the museums. It features a huge yard that's been partly given over to an impressive garden. The house across the way had beehives to make their own honey. The next street over is a newly constructed subdivision of factory formed houses. Pretty close to the rotting husk that is Tiger's Stadium, too, which is always as interesting as it is depressing to see. But I was more interested in the progress of the permanent casinos.

It's a long, complicated story but, basically, about ten years ago the city legalized gambling, somewhat, and allowed three casinos to set up shop. They were supposed to open up temporary homes while more permanent fixtures with hotels and more. These places spent millions fixing up or refurbishing old buildings for those temporary homes. Now (About a few years too late to get the benefits from a SuperBowl in their backyard, of course, because if you can't shoot yourself in the foot it just wouldn't be the Motor City.) they're finally ready to move into those permanent structures they've been building the past few years.

My cousin's house is just down the street from the new Motor City Casino's home. It's...well, I hear it lights up in neon lights and you have to applaud the ambitions but it's still the ugliest thing I've seen in a while. Here, not the best picture of it but an awesome picture I found on Flickr but, unfortunately, can't swipe.

Looks more like an airport stuck on top of a high rise than anything else. Although you can't see it in the picture, just barely, I got a look at the new MGM, too, which looks a bit more palatable but still really out of place next the to DTE complex you can see where my mom works. That behemoth cost her a parking spot but earned her a year's worth of free buffets so it all works out.

Speaking of high-rises it's also near the Brewster-Douglas projects. That's where Lily Thomlin, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, and more grew up, by the way. Most of them are gone now, replaced by those psuedo-suburban tracts but a few towers still rise into the sky. A reminder, like the heavy locks on the door, that things are far from rosy. Because just a few houses down from my cousin's meticulously maintained, chicly appointed outfit, was a similar looking house. Just one that was boarded over, the windows and doors replaced with plywood. Abandoned. Just one more piece of the blight that surrounds the oases like my cousin's.

Still, it was a nice afternoon. My Sino-Indian ribs, coated with a melange of all-spice and caradmon and brown sugar and more. They're recognizably barbaque-y, flavored with smoke and sweet and savory, but still completely different from ribs slathered with the old mesquite from the bottle. As I was in charge of the proteins, I also brought along a selection of burgers, most store bought (I'm doing a lot of things, but staying up late to crank out thirty hamburger patties is not one of them.). An assortment ranging from plain old ground round for the unadventurous, to turkey burgers, and even some veggie burgers for the vegans in the crowd. I also made some of my, now famous, gormet burgers, with some spices and chunks of blue cheese mixed into the blend of different meats. Those were just awesome topped with home grown lettuce and tomatos. I brought way too much, though, and I'm now going to be eating burgers for the rest of the week.

My grandmother broke out the photo albums. Gifts were exchanged. We managed to catch most of the football game by running an extension cord out from a second story window to a little 13-inch black and white with rabbit ears. The reception would blur whenever anyone walked near it. That might sound bad but you have to keep in mind, this was done by the same uncle who brought an adapter and said extension cord to run off of his car's cigarette lighter so we wouldn't have to miss the game. I made off with a wickedly hot chile plucked fresh from the earth that morning.

It was a nice, in so many words. But now, more than ever, I'm ready to get moving. Nothing like your relatives asking you, "So, what are you doing with yourself?" to get you motivated.


Finally found it! You have no idea how long I've been looking for this one. We need better engines so I can search for things like "That song I heard in that club the one time with that girl in the green tank top who smiled at me that one weekend. You know, the one with the laser beam sound.".

Friday, September 21, 2007

Combo Breaker

I know it looks like I've run out of steam but I was actually working on my script all day. When I wasn't, you konw, going to class, working, eating, taking care of basic biological necessities, and whatever else seems to eat up the hours of the day.

I wanted to get some good headway into it because it's time for another weekend off. This week, it's another family reunion. Seems like we have them every month but you have to understand, I have a huge family. We have to meet every so often or else we'd forget who everyone is. But, tomorrow's a travel day for me, as I head back to the homelands. I shall be back and hopefully ready to kick out some more posts shortly.

Until then, let's see....

GW:EN. Still sucks.

Politics...incredibly depressing.

Lions, surprisingly good.

Tigers, dead to me.

Red Wings, starting their exhibition season.

Wolverines on track for a national title unless we're talking about the Bizarro version. In which case I....actually like their chances against Penn State tomorrow. They're the best team in the Big Ten this year but that's like saying they're the brightest kid in the special ed class. They get the gold star but not a lot of credit.

Be Honored By My Lateness

Blast from this blog's past. But, yes, I need you right now.

Graduation has, as they say, "dropped". I haven't bought an album in, like, ten years at this point and I'm not breaking that streak for that one. But I hear good things.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Sorry for the light day of blogging but I started a new class tonight and it's just sapped away all my energy.

Or maybe it's the return of the OJ think. I agree. The only people who give a shit about this are the half-dead news directors with erectile dysfunction who need a good scandal to get it up. But, no, this is going to swirl for months, eating up time that could be spent dealing with actual issues.

Anyhow, off now to work on my script. Hopefully, I'll have more to say tomorrow.

Tigers Blogging: Broken Dreams and Shattered Bats

This is the post I haven't wanted to write. Because it means that I'm throwing in the towel on the Tiger's season. After this afternoon's loss to the Indians, it's pretty clear that winning the division is a lost cause. The Tigers are now 7.5 games behind Cleveland with only 9 games to play. And the wild card spot is equally out of reach since they're now six losses behind New York. The Yankees might catch the Red Sox but it doesn't matter, one gets the pennant, the other gets the wild card spot. The Tigers are in the same place as last year's White Sox. A promising team that's out of the playoffs despite a solid run deep into the postseason last year.

Back towards the beginning of the season, everything seemed to be going right. The struggling Yankees and the ascendancy of the Red Sox meant that, even though Cleveland was rocketing to their own excellent start, the Tigers would at least be a lock for the wild card.

Even around the middle of the season, with Verlander's no-hitter, Roger's returning to roast hitters, and the promised return of Zumaya which would life the sagging bullpen, things looked fine. The wild card was within easy reach and a return to the playoffs to avenge last years collapse seemed to be in the cards.

Now? Well, the Tigers would have to win every game from here on out and the Yankees would have to play sub-.500 just to force a one-game playoff.

What the hell happened?

The Tigers have actually put together a decent September, made a respectable push to get to the postseason, this latest series against Cleveland notwithstanding. But the Indians and the Yankees have been even better. Detroit has just not been able to make up any ground. And those early loses with a struggling bullpen and the late ones with a shaky rotation just can't be overcome.

But I can't be too upset. After so many years of failure and frustration, The real accomplishment of these Tigers is that barely missing out on the playoffs seems like a disappointment.

MLB: You Have To Love This

The guy who would up holding Barry Bonds historic ball, buying it for three-quarters of a million at an auction (And, boy, does McFarlane feel like a real d-bag for shelling out so much for McGuire's recordbreaker now or what? Even more of one, I mean.) has put up a poll to determine what to do with it. Either hand it over to the hall, hand it over to the hall branded with a huge asterisk, or pack it in a rocketship and blast it into outerspace. Ha! Brilliant. And not too shabby in the self-promotion department for the fashion designer behind it all, either. I think it's pretty clear which way I voted here: stamp that sucker and let the cheater's shame live down through the ages.

NFL: Oh, Joey

The Falcons have signed Byron Leftwich . No doubt this will soon put an end to the disastrous Harrington career resuscitation tour. I have no idea why I thought it would work out this time.

As An Apology for the Last Post

Have some genuine Harrison.

Seriously, Pirate Day might have been cool once but it's, like, gone all corporate and stuff now. So played out. Like zombies.

Warning: Guild Wars Humor Ahead

How does a pirate talk?

"Active Lux guild looking for responsible, mature members for officer position. Have 400k faction, guild hall, all merchants. Regular AB and GvG. PM me if interested!" Repeated once a minute until your mom tells you dinner is ready.


Yarr mateys, did ye know it be talk like a Pirate Day? Yeah, I'll be stopping now. Instead, enjoy this bit of song styling. Just wait for it.

I'm truly sorry for that.

With A Vengeance

Ha! Rolling strong into the wee hours of the night. 15th post of the day and I'm saving up. Blasted past 100 posts for the month and, according to Blogger, we're about to pass 1000 all time. I might have been off yesterday, but I knew that weekend break would pay off.

In other news, heavily working on the script now. Might mean content around here drops off, might just mean I'll hit some kind of third wind and reach some new posting nirvana. Either way, I'm charging hard to get done by the end of the month. Then comes an October I'm not sure what to do with. And then it's November and this year's NaNo. Should crest the billion word mark this year. So, I'm off to put some more time into my script. It needs it at the moment, but we're getting there.

A Stupid Truth

The political calculation here is way off. Sometimes, I think the 2006 election, weren't the dawn of a new, brighter era in American politics but a brief parting in the stormclouds. The merest hint of a return to sanity before we plunged even deeper into the swirling winds.

That it might have been different, might have been better, after all, had the Democrats lost. If they couldn't win that election, with all the political gifts they'd been handed, then they couldn't win any. A stake would have been driven through the party as it collapsed. Slowly but surely. Giving way to a new party. One that might be actually in opposition to the status quo. One that would understand the need to fight, not sit on the fence, on the defining issues of our time. But, no, the Democrats were given new life in 2006. Seem primed for success in '08. And now we're stuck with the same timid, trembling bunch so beholden to the consultants and polls. And who are so intransigent on the Iraq war. And posts like the ones I've linked to don't help me feel any better about it.

That calculation should also include the growing frustration with all the foot dragging. The Democrats got their slim majority on the strength of one issue last election. And now they're failing to get anything done about it. Any kind of halo effect is based on the possibility of the war ending. The fear was that the Republicans would stalemate and then shift at the last moment to grab all the credit for "bringing our boys home". They couldn't because their ravenous base would tear them apart. They're so invested in being right about the war, so preoccupied with carrying water for the Bush administration that they can't turn aside now. But the central part of those estimations was always that the troops would, one day, be coming back home. That someone would be stopping the awful bloodletting and getting them out of harm's way.

That hasn't happened. And I'm pissed about it. I know plenty of other people are to. And while most of our anger is properly directed at the administration and the minority that's manage to stall and dither their way straight into this mess, there's plenty left over for the leaders who've failed to deliver. Failed to fight their hardest, to pull out every stop, resort to every trick, to at least try. Because, at the moment, it looks like they're not. And if it's because they're looking for some kind of electoral advantage, well, they might find it to be perilously fleeting. Delivering results, on the other hand. Doing the right thing to stand up for what you believe. Even if you lose a fight or two along the way. Well, that's what's going to last.

File This Under Looking On The Bright Side

Maybe global warming won't be so bad. At least we'll have the northwest passage.

You Know What This Needs? More Chocolate

Oh my, it is real.


Wrapped in chocolate.

I hear it's at Whole Foods. An expensive experiment at $7, but I'm oh so tempted.

Incidently, I've shared this discovery with many people by now, and their reacion mirrors mine. A brief moment of rejection as the mind rebels. As the concept is dismissed out of hand as too odd, too weird, to be anything like food. Quickly followed by a curious rexamination. Then a dawning realization that you might have been too hasty, that, “You know, that might not be too bad. Salty, sweet. That actually sounds kinda good.”

Random Thought of the Day

Compromise is not telling other people what you want and expecting them to give it to you.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

This Will Get Me Some Unwanted Hits

Good that the guy - this federal prosecutor who proves that Gonzales wasn't the worst person employed the DoJ - was caught but all I have to say is....

Since when did Macomb Country turn into Thailand? There's been way too much talk about child sex lately.

Guild Wars: Wiki Move

So, the unofficial wiki has moved. They've been sold, bought out, or whatever the sorted details are by Wikia, a conglomeration of various wikis from across the digital wastes. Chaos has, of course, ensued as the recriminations fly.

I've been keeping a watchful eye on it. Having been involved, somewhat, with the rapidly rising costs and increasing demands of that sort of product in the past, I'm not exactly opposed to someone cashing in all their hard work. On the other hand, having taken part in the kind of shady, seat of the pants, backroom deals involved in those sort of endeavors, forking over a non-commercial site because someone backed up the Brinks truck doesn't sit quite right. I don't really have an opinion one way or the other because, as I've watched the issue unfurl on various talk pages and message boards, I don't really have a dog in this fight. I use the wiki, from time to time, probably more than I should, but there's the official wiki now. And ever since that went up, I've figured the unofficial one was going to fall into trouble one way or another.

No, what fascinates me here are the copyright issues. The copy left issues involved in the various licenses and agreements that are being brought up as the lawnchair lawyers stake out their own pieces of intellectual property. The increasingly pressing question of just who owns this stuff. How is it, can it even be, transferred? Or are collaborative, open projects like a wiki doomed to fall into a tangled mess of conflicting claims and rights? Interesting times, indeed.

Guild Wars: We Got Us a Convo!

As I keep on trucking away at the fringes of the Guild Wars experience. Not quite playing. Not quite not playing, either. But somewhere in that nebulous void between the two where I'm torn between the extremes. As I keep plugging away, hiding out on the fringes, I've still managed to bump into some old friends. Insomuch as you can bump into someone when all you've ever known of them has been a few lines of text or a comforting voice in your headset.

But over the weekend, I managed to speak with a few of those people who'll always bring a smile to my face. Old friend, old accomplises all, but fellow travelers along those old familiar roads I so love to retread. People whom I could never apologize to or thank nearly enough so I don't even bother to try. Not that we hard that sort of heart t heart as I ran through my latests zone or in-between my latest casts. We just talked.

After the pleasantries, the "what have you been up to you old so and so"s were over, we stared in on the game. Starting with how bad it all was, how poor a state the game was in, and how many of our companions had dropped off along the way. All while we avoided the question of just what we doing still playing, then (For me the answer's simple. Boredom. And a masochistic streak.). But those brief talks soon veered wildly off course. Into topics and discussions both airy and edifying.

That's the way it always goes. Sure, we might talk about the latest update or the virtues of a particular skills, the way office workers might talk about their latest report or their vacation schedule. But talk soon turns to other matters. To chew over other concepts, other ideas, and leaving the rude details of actually playing the game far behind.

A long time ago, I used to wonder why it was that those conversation I had in the game were so seldom about the game itself. How, with my friends, talk about strategy or the latest build fashions would soon give way. The topic shift to anything and, as I had some pretty smart friends, everything but.

Now, though, I realize that it's all about the community that draws you back to the game. That the controls, the skills, the details of playing and competing, well, they don't matter. Not as much as those bonds you forge with the ones beside you.

Guild Wars: PvE Monk Builds

I've been playing around with my poor little match girl, my long neglected Monk, who's been relegated to mule status for most of her existence. Freed by the increase in storage, I embarked on a whirlwind level spree and a brief tour of the Northern Shiverpeaks with her. Lately, I've been trying to fill out her skill bar which is really lacking at the moment by marching her through the various campaigns. And I thought I'd share a few of the builds I've been using to do so.

Mo/E SoR Prot

Protection Prayers 12+2
Divine Favor 12+1

  • Dismiss Condition
  • Shield of Regeneration {E}
  • Aegis
  • Reversal of Fortune
  • Resurrection / Signet of Capture
  • Glyph of Lesser Energy
  • Blessed Aura
  • Shield of Absorption / Protective Spirit

Basically lifted this one from obs mode. Modified slightly for PvE play - mostly by taking out Remove Hex in favor of a rez (Yes, I use Resurrection. Yes, it's the only rez I have with my Monk. Yes, I need to get better.). Pretty basic. GLE is there to power out the SoR and Aegis while RoF and the prot of choice are there to deal with everything else. Blessed Aura maximizes the effectiveness of SoR and others but it can lead to some energy crunches.

This build sees heavy rotation on my Monk Heroes when I think I need an upgrade to the backline over Lina or whatever short bus all-star has signed up to hench for me. Not because they're particularly good with it but because this would be the pre-protter Protection based Monk that gets paired with the infuser Healing based Monk that I normally play. And the AI runs a protter better than it does power healing. the AI might apply SoR for a boo-boo but at least that way it won't stop pumping out the LoD to self-heal a scratch while the entire team is degened to death. Have better gear and skills on my Monk for a healer anyway. But, I've used this one a bit and it's pretty awesome. Shield of Regen has long been one of those skills I've liked, I remember when it was godly back in the test, and the casting time reduction has made it playable again. Whenever I need some protting, this is the build I turn to these days. I flip back and forth between Shield of Abs and Prot Spirit depending on the area and what the other Monk has. PS is more expensive but in some places it's just too critical to do without.

Mo/Me Fast LoD Healer

Healing Prayers 12+2
Protection Prayers 8+1
Divine Favor 10+1

  • Etherial Light
  • Dwayna's Kiss
  • Signet of Rejuvenation
  • Light of Deliverance {E}
  • Resurrection / Signet of Capture
  • Dismiss Condition
  • Holy Haste / Protective Spirit
  • Remove Hex

This has been the build I've tooled around with most. I mostly pieced it together because LoD was my only halfway decent elite at the time, but it's proven consistent and reliable. It's for spamming out the high-powered heals and keeping those red bars up. Works great when paired alongside the above SoR Prot Monk. Those enchantments fuel the go-to heal, Dwaynas, and while the protter concentrates on blunting the flow of damage, I can concentrate on acting as the safety net when the prot fails. It's got removal covered with the excellent Dismiss for conditions and Remove for hexes (I'm as surprised as anyone that they actually made it playable. I never thought I'd actually slot that on a Monk's bar. too slow, too lengthy a recharge and I never expected to see them get sensible with it. Hexes must be really, really bad.) LoD is, of course, super-sexy. Fast, cheap, and can single-handedly save your party. Holy Haste is optional. It's my favorite new toy since I'm addicted to Healer's Boon but it really helps those last minute spike heals land before someone pops. It keeps me from using enchantments, though, so sometimes I slot PS insead if I think I need the extra help. I've been fiddling with that third slot, at the moment it's JuvieSig but although that's a nice little heal, I'm not completely sold. Idealy, I'd want it to be PS but that can't happen, so I rotate through a bunch of things.

Yes, that does leave me with only Etherial Light for a self heal at times. That's because I actually do a little something known as "kiting". Actually, it's more like I do a little something known as "stand just out of aggro range while the AI soaks up the punishment" but that doesn't sound as nice. LoD works as an emergency heal, too, if I'm catching some damage but the best form of damage mitigation is not getting hit in the first place.

Mo/E HB/HP Healer

Healing Prayers 12+2
Protection Prayers 8+1
Divine Favor 10+1

  • Dwayna's Kiss
  • Shield of Absorption / Protective Spirit
  • Deny Hexes
  • Heal Party
  • Resurrection / Signet of Capture
  • Glyph of Lesser Energy
  • Divine Spirit
  • Healer's Boon {E}

This one's a bit of a work in progress. I mostly wanted to try out the Divine Spirit+Deny combo. I mean, I get that it's great for pumping out hex removal but Divine Spirit just seems like a bit of a waste with all its downtime. It's an energy hog, especially when running Prot Spirit. But between that other and GLE, one of them is always up to help out. The idea here is big, fat massive heals pumped up by Boon. Dwayna's can hit 200+ easily and an amped up Party wide heal is a beautiful thing.

It's a bit more fiddly than the LoD build, though. You power so much raw healing out that overheals are a rela issue and if you're not careful you wind up blasting 50 damage into oblivion only to get stuck in recharge hell while someone gets chopped down. It's a big change from the LoD build where you can twich out anything until your energy runs out. Needs a much better sense of timing, an awareness of what's killing you and when. And there's very little in the way of self-healing here, too. You really have to rely on your other Monk while you concentrate on the actual nick of time saves. I, of course, love it.

Those are what I've been using lately. I gather the hot new trick making the rounds is using Glyph of Renewal to supercharge Divine Spirit. Puts it on a 15 second recharge and with high enough stats and a 20% enchantment mod you can get the duration to match, giving you an endless up time. That lets you spam out 1 energy heals until the cows come home. I'm not sure I see the point, really, because there's other ways of making sure you have enough energy. Ways that don't require two slots and your elite to make a mediocre skill shine. But I think I'll give it a whirl anyways, once I get Divine Spirit.

Tales From Observer Mode: Heavy Weight Fight

[rawr] vs. [MoJ] - GvG Tournament

The Ministers of Justice appears to be an all-star team of semi-retired guilds, filled out by some top tier ringers. You've got Augie and Vanq and Tommy and my man Ensign and those are just the ones I recognize. I remember watching them storm up the ladder a few weeks ago and they sit at #35 right now. A tournament match between them and #3 Rebel Rising, no slouches themselves, is marked in my book as a "much watch".

Isle of the Dead

#3 [rawr]

  • W/E - Axe w/ Conjure (Frost)
  • W/A - Axe w/ D-Dagger
  • P/W - Defensive Anthem w/ Aggressive Wild
  • Throw, Spear of Lightning, Harrier's
  • Me/Rt - Hex Eater Vortex Dom Mes w/ Revealed,
  • Shatter, Mirror, Power Leak, Diversion and
  • I'm guessing Flesh of My Flesh
  • E/Mo - B-Surge Draw bot w/ Ward Against Melee
  • Mo/E - SoD prot
  • Mo/E - LoD heal
  • E/Mo - Water SoR runner

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say this is what a balanced team looks like these days. Maybe you switch out the Mes, or vary the runner spot some but you start with that solid frontline and that defensive backline.

#25 [MoJ]

  • A/E - Aura of Displacement w/ Shock
  • W/Rt - Backbreaker w/ Enraging Charge, For
  • Great Justice, Mokele Smash, Flail
  • A/W - Shadow Prison w/ BoA, Recall
  • Me/E - Power Block Dom w/ Ward Against Melee
  • runner
  • P/W - Defensive Anthem w/ Aggressive
  • Harrier's, Vicious
  • Mo/A - ZB split w/ Return
  • Mo/R - LoD heal
  • Mo/E - SoD prot

Augie's running what looks to be his vaunted double Backbreaker build. Very sexy. 8 seconds of knocklock must be fun. There's also a very split friendly trio with those double Sins and the split Monk Ensign's on. The Mesmer tends to run flags for them when the Monk's split off.

Interesting match-up here. Two good teams running slightly different builds. The Ministers look to be a bit more aggressive, a bit more split happy, and a bit more fragile but still resilient thanks to having three Monks and other defenses. Meanwhile, the Rebels look to be more resilient, with two heavily armored Warriors and a bunch of disruption. In other words, [Rawr] would be a pain come VoD while [MoJ] looks to be well able to set the table before getting there. Should be fun to watch, especially if things drag on.

I rez in about 3 minutes into the match, the teams are fighting around the flagstand and, frankly, not much is happening. Nice push up by [MoJ] lead by their split squad and they get a morale boost. Now [Rawr] is trying to return the favor, hammering Chuck who's in his familiar role as flagger. Go Chuck, you magnificent bastard, go!

About 7 in, [Rawr] is starting to crack here, the fighting's all in front of their base and they're starting to take deaths.

A few minutes later and they've managed to recover, staunching the bleeding, and losing only the first layer of NPcs in their base. But the game's score board says they're well behind and the morale chart says they're hurting.

Now it's [MoJ]'s turn to crack, as they take four or five deaths in rapid fire fashion, losing their entire backline as they try to desperately retreat, but it's just before the auto-rez so [Rawr] can't capitalize. Meanwhile, [MoJ]s Sins slip into their base and work down a few more NPCs before bamfing back out - they're running a Recall sandwich with Ensign as the meat and on the small Isle of the Dead map, it's very effective.

A few seconds from VoD now, and [MoJ]s splie is trying to take out a few more NPCs before they rush the flagstand. The Ministers are up on morale, being nearly at full, and up on NPCs, having lost virutally none. But half their split wipes around the 19 minute mark, leaving them underhanded during VoD. Soon enough the team's are equal again, with the their respective hordes wiped out. [MoJ] is taking the worst of it, constantly being pressured. Sure enough, at the 23:30 mark it's a resign spike as the Rebels take it. Just a bit stronger in the flagstand fight at VoD with those Wars and a Water Ele as opposed to [MoJ]s two Sins and a three Monk backline.

Caught another match with [rawr] later in the day. They'd climbed to #2 and were up against #41 I The Academy I with blast from the past Rayne subbing for them. [Ai] were running with two axe Wars, a P/Me with Mirror and the ubiquitous Defensive Anthem, a Hex Eater Mesmer, an Ele runner and the typical LoD/SoD Monks. They got hammered, resigning out as their Lord was downed before the ten minute mark. Definitely a fierce team.

Wolverines Blogging: What a Game!

Before I begin, a disclaimer of sorts. Of all of UoFM's many rivals, it's Notre Dame I hate the most. Oh sure, I'm obligated to despise Ohio State and, having run the gauntlet to Ohio for a game or two, with good cause. But that's a hatred born out of respect, out of mutual fear that the other is going to be the one to end that perfect season. And since I'm from Michigan I reserve a special type of nonchalant disdain for the in-state rival, MSU. But that's only because it's shoved in your face nearly every day of the week from those who live and die by the possesion of the Paul Bunyan Axe, thanks to the low self-esteem of the Spartans who, like a young girl reading Cosmo are hopelessly comparing themselves to a standard they can't reach. Notre Dame I just flat out loathe. They represent the worst of college football with their special status, their unique standing, and the way everyone still respects them not because of what they've done lately but because of their vaunted history. It's the games that Michigan drops in the Golden Dome on a last minute spurt of the old Irish magic that sting the worst. So, forgive me for any rhetorical excess but the claws come out when the dirty, filthy Irish try to bring their fight to the Ann's fair Arbor.

This year's match was one for the books, though. A tense, hard fought affair that seesawed back and forth. It looked like the Irish were going to pull the rabbit out of their hat again with some late trickeration before they were pounded back into submission and sent packing with their first loss of the season. Michigan remains undefeated and it's on to next week for a titanic showdown with one of the Big Ten's worst kept secrets, a resurgent, hungry Penn State as the conference schedule kicks off with a bang.

But enough about what actually happened, let's check back in on that persistent figment of my imagination, that strange little world where the Wolverines dropped both games to start this season. And, the Irish, instead of regrouping strong after a disappointing season by replacing several key positions have fallen into their own shambles. They've dropped their first two games, their former starting quarterback's transfered, and they're going with an untested rookie in this, a pivotal game. Of course, Michigan is, too, since the Bizarro Henne instead of rising in the Heisman standings has gone down with an injury leaving stud recruit Mallet to helm the team. Heading into the match, they each teetered on the brink of ruin. Or as close to ruin as an 0-3 in collegiate athletics will bring you.

In this depressing and, I must stress, imaginary world, the game was about as pathetic as the teams involved. Michigan laying a pasting on Notre Dame that makes last year's blowout seem tame. It was 38-0, a shutout as the Wolverines showed flashes of the promise they've so squandered. Michigan fans are )already falling for the flash of brilliance, their dreamy eyes full of stars and Big Ten titles. But they're just setting themselves up for disappointment for next week, the Nittany Lions come calling. And in this world, they're not an unheralded team on the fringes of the top 25 just waiting to make their mark, but, so far, the class of a damaged Big Ten that's seen mighty OSU and promising Wisconsin fall into mediocrity although with Michigan's death spiral.

It's as hard to blame those fans as it is to pity them. Because, on the merits of this one, single game it might seem as though all is right with the Wolverine nation.

The rookie quarterback for the Wolverines didn't exactly set the world on fire in his first start. He went 7 for 15 for only 90 yards, though he did throw for 18 points. More importantly, he took care of the ball. No fumbles, no interceptions, and he did everything he needed to give his team a chance to win. Clausen, hi s old high school rival wasn't any better, going 11 of 17 for 74 yards and an INT while taking seven sacks.

The real difference was on the ground, where Michigan piled up nearly 300 yards rushing including 187 fro Mike Hart. It took a 4th quarter drive to keep from breaking their record of -12 yards. They still finished in the negative with -6, though.

But dismantling a hated rival can be misleading. The thing is, Notre Dame is terrible this year. Awful. If it wasn't for Michigan's swan dive in the first two weeks, their ineptitude would have been the story of the season so far. Coming into the game, they were at the bottom, out of all 119 D-I teams, in just about everything that matters.

This wasn't a game the Wolverines won, it was one the Irish lost. Their offense couldn't get anything done, they turned the ball over and killed their own drives. It was easy for Michigan's Keystone Corps defense to look good against a team that pitiful. And for their own struggling offense to looked good, because it's pretty easy when you're playing on your opponent's side of the field all day. Not that hard to score when you only have 50 yards to go and a gassed defense that's kept on the field over long.

No, beating the Irish, in what I must again reaffirm is a fictional world before I shatter the fragile mental health of many a Michigan fan, isn't cause for celebration. It's but the first step on the road back to respectability. The real test comes next week, if the Wolverines can pass that exam, then maybe their fans can start to feel better. Because, for now, all beating Notre Dame means is that they're not the absolute worst team in college football. And that's nothing to boast about.

NFL: Kings of the Jungle?

So, the Lions are undefeated.

It's been a long time since they played a competitive game against the hated Vikings. Even longer since they won. And the mood amongst the poor faithful seems to be on the rise. The Lions aren't exactly setting the league on fire but they're not an embarrassment anymore and they're starting to get recognized as such.

Fans are, of course, elated. That's how low the bar is set with the Lions. Not sucking too bad is cause for a parade down Woodward, I guess. But I still remain unimpressed and wait for them to have a good showing against an established team. It's a long way from the days of Culpepper and Moss in Minnesota, after all.

And, man, was that an ugly game. Lots of turnovers. Even more boneheaded mistakes as the teams competed to see who could give the game away. In the end, in that overtime, it came down to which one made the last mistake as the Vikings turned the ball over at midfield and gave the Lions a short field to work with, leading to an easy and almost guaranteed field goal to win.

Maybe it would have been different had Kitna stayed in the game. He was awesome during that OT, putting his body on the line to will his team to a victory even as he was shaking off that concussion. That's the kind of antics that will really endure you to the Detroit fans, of course. But earlier he was ending drives with interceptions in the endzone. And it doesn't really take much to outduel a rookie quarterback who throws for 4 INTs.

The Lions are an incomplete team. Their defense looks good at times, bent and broken at others. But what they really lack is the strong running game they need to score at will. You can go pass wacky all you want and put up the insane numbers that make you look good. But if you can't run then you're in trouble in the red zone when the field shortens and those routes you've spread open to march down the aren't there. You have to be able to pound the ball and the Lions just don't seem able to yet.

Still, exciting game. A nail-biter. One the team would have dropped the last few years, for sure. They're getting there. Slowly, but clawing back towards being a decent team again. I just think it's not a time to abandon all reason and precedent to be giddily optimistic.

Because, if the question is asked; are the Lions for real? The answer has to be no. Teams that are for real don't commit five turnovers or go 4 for 13 on third down conversions. We'll see what happens next week when they get the Eagles coming off a short week. Although, since they're getting it handed to them on Monday Night as I type this, maybe they're not a good test after all.

Also, apparently Calvin Johnson's nickname is Megatron now. I'm not sure whether to be impressed or disgusted.

NFL: Around the League

The Falcons continue to make a mockery of my tentative support, sucking hard and often. I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again but Harrington has...not looked good.

New Orleans, another fashionable pick heading into the season, has also crashed back to earth after their miracle year last season. Inevitable but still sad to see America's real team struggle just like its city.

San Diego isn't looking too good now, are they? After all their bluster they don't have much to show for themselves. Not many points out of that vaunted offense - they barely managed to beat Chicago in Week 1 and they got drubbed by the Pats.

Green Bay sits atop the Central Division, the old black and blue, along with the Lions. Their undefeated 2-0 record seems to have revived Brett Farve's fortunes or at least sportswriters hankering to latch themselves onto his jockstrap with high powered suction.

Janikowski cost the Raiders another game (I'd say his blown field goals cost them a lot of momentum against the Lions last week) after getting iced at Mile High Stadium. Remember, they spent a first round pick on the guy.

And Philly bombed on Monday Night. They're 2-0 and looking none too fierce. Next up is the roar of the undefeated Detroit. Could there actually be a reason to get up for a Lions game. It''s been so long, I'm not sure I remember how. But, I suspect the answer involves a lot of drinking.

NFL: Standing Pat

In the wake of last week's revelations about their using videotapes to record opposing defensive signals, the Patrios played a game this week. As you might expect, under the massive weight of the stiff penalties they incured....oh, that's right. They weren't penalized at all, at least not this year.

First, the good news. The Patriots beat the Chargers handily on Sunday. So they can indeed play without being dirty, stinking cheaters. In the best traditions of pundits who ignore their failures and focus on their few successes as in order to justify their opinion dispensing position let me just say that I totally called this. New England now has a huge chip on their shoulder, motivation to get out there and prove themselves every week, and they look pretty solid so far.

The bad news, what I refuse to call CameraGate looks ready to head into RadioGate. It seems that during that fateful Jets game the Pats were also up to some tricks with some radio frequencies they weren't supposed to be using. I don't really understand it myself but it seems like they weren't just trying to record defensive signs but also somehow capture the opposing teams communications. The league having issued a warning to other teams is investigating, reporters are making noises about it, and it looks like it could get worse for New England before it gets better. The league has also requested all the ill-gotten materials from videos survailence, in order to review it, and might lower the hammer there, too.

But more importantly, despite winning on Sunday, despite rallying around their coach and everything else, this isn't a story that's going away. It's going to haunt them this week and most likely beyond. It's going to haunt the franchise even longer. Probably a good thing for their on-field performance but not in any other way.

Mission Restatement, Take Two

It's not the destination, it's the journey. Time for me to...

Still Feels Like Vacation Time

Not sure why but I'm not feeling it. My writing's just turned to mush. Can't get anything done.

Had a lovely weekend off, though. Went out to a cider mill with a special someone. The many apple orchards around the state are one of those wonderful treasures you'll find in Michigan. We picked some apples, got some cider, feasted on fresh-made donuts and, in general had a good time in the chilled weather.

Also, played a bit of Guild Wars, bumped into some old friends and had some nice chats. Beat the two campaigns, as I'd considered, instead of concentrating one character and getting all their capping work done.

Didn't get as much work done on my script as I would have liked although I'm feeling pretty inspired about it at the moment. Which is good because it's about time to start the final push on that in order to get it done by the end of the month.

I should be refreshed, recharged, instead I'm reluctant. Just not really up for it tonight. So, I'm not going to force it. I'll be back tomorrow, though, when I should be ready to get back to it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

And Now I Must Away Into the Night

This blog rolls strong out of the second week in September. The post count is looking mighty healthy. There are these strange people known as “commenters” hanging around who occasionally say things. I'm feeling pretty good about what I'm writing, for once – think it's getting better, getting stronger, getting easier as I ride the snake. I'm about to call it a night early and head off to the bar. Things are looking good, we are maintaining. So, of course, I'm taking the next few days off. Unlike the past few weeks I don't have much planned. But it's worked wonders and I want to keep a good thing going.

Going to get out, pick some apples, get some cider, enjoy the approaching fall and chill out but nothing's really set in stone. Going to bite into my poor, neglected script and see if I can't put a big old dent in the whole of it. My biggest plans at the moment, because I'm oh so weak, involve playing some Guild Wars. Nope, nothing to do with Reward Points and the like, just some PvE time wasting.

I either want to get my Monk through Prophesies and run around to cap all the elites. Or I want to finish off Nightfall with my Sin and do likewise (I mean, I don't even have Shadow Prison on him yet. This is something I must correct or be unmanned.). Neither one is going to be too difficult since both are on the last stretch of three missions. The Fire Islands the Monk has to deal with are probably going to be longer not just because that's how Prophesies rolls with it but because you're talking about three full missions. The Torrent stuff my Sin has to shadowstep through is harder, in my opinion, but shorter because beating Abaddon is like half a mission and something I've got down to a science at this point. It's getting past the bosses in the Gates of Madness and avoiding TPK from AoE deathblasts in the Gate of Pain that's the sticking point. On the other hand, the last time I ran through the Gate of Madness I completely tore through Shiro like he was a little punk. I was set up to beat him with a B-Surge/Blur bot and a smattering of other nasty hexes spread throughout the party and it was so effective I was able to tank him on my Warrior without a single defensive skill – beyond HealSig – on my bar (I like the killing work. Not so much the punching bag routine.). I wound up pulling him first for some odd reason, though, and that meant I had to run around and cap the shrines with the Lich nuking at my heels. Not the approved way of doing it, but I got it done.

At the moment I'm leaning towards the Sin although I might just wind up doing both and forgetting about the map running and skill capping for the nonce. I mentioned it in passing earlier but I got a look at Critical Agility and just had to try it out. It works, as you'd expect, great. And my Sin's a lot of fun at the moment. I'm running it as a psuedo-tank with Critical-D alongside the armor boosting agility since they both refresh on a crit. And I crit like once every three seconds with my Moebius/Death Blossom with an Impale chaser kick started by Golden Phoenix (needs an enchant which is covered by my buffs), followed by . It's a spinning flower of widespread death on a permanent IAS that's relatively resilient. Nothing too original or fancy but it gets the job done. It's also interested me in the new-to-me PvE only skills. I think I'm going to take a good, hard look at them this weekend, something I've been avoiding for a while.

I've also discovered a new trick with my Heroes. Signet of Disruption and a Mesmer henchie. AI interrupts combined with a reliable, halfway decent hexer means you hear a lot of beautiful clicks.

Anyhow, be excellent to one another while I'm gone. Leave some comments, if you want, I'll be sure to...ignore them until Monday at the earliest.

Budget Crunch

Well, this looks to be it. I haven't said much about it, mostly before now but the state of Michigan, the state of my birth, has been in a deep financhial crisis for a while now. It might not be as easy to talk about fiscal policy as it is about break points and dramatic license, but one of the nation's fifty states going into shutdown mode because they can't balance the checkbook is kinda serious, don't you think? The Michigan legislature is trying, right now, to work out a deal to avoid that but, if they don't, then the government grinds to a halt at the end of the month.

That the Great Lakes State should be in these dire straights doesn't come as a surprise. Michigan is place that's been slowly bleeding population away to other, more successful areas for years now. Stories like my own brother's are all too common; a bright, talented engineer who found absolutely no job offers in the state and, instead, left for greener pastures. He's in the sunbelt now. You think he's coming back? You think he's going to start looking for a job at some bloated auto maker and return to deal with our winters and weather instead of getting in on the ground floor of the green revolution in sunny California? He's gone. My brother's gone for good. And his youth, his intelligence, his enthusiasm is gone with him. Along with him went the payroll and property taxes and federal funding and more. That drain of people, the poor performance of Michigan's home grown industries, the end of the tobacco settlement monies pouring into the coffers, it's all contributed to falling revenues.

I don't even know where to start with a solution here. All I know is that things are scary and going to get scarier yet. Michigan, while not the greatest state in the union, was a fixture of, let's say the top half. Dropping in and out of the top fifth. A big state. An influential state. An important state. But that was back when it seemed like what was good for GM was good for the world. Now, it's on the verge of collapse, of obsolesce, and worse, irrelevance as its fortunes continue to fade. And now, our representative are heading to the capitol dome to decide just how deep the cuts are going to be. Just how bad the blood letting that needs to be performed to save the patient. Because the alternative is even worse. Because if the branch of the Michigan Congress – evenly divided split Democrats in the House and Republicans in the Senate with a Democratic Governor in former rising star Jennifer Granholm (Remember when people talked about repealing, amending the 2nd Article so she could run for President some day? A time before the Party found Obama. She was dragged down by the utter failure, the abject despair in the state that's arguably suffered the most the past few years. We've got a higher rate of unemployment, a higher rate of foreclosures, a higher rate of layoffs than nearly anyone else. By whatever measure you want to make, Michigan's economic climate ranks among the worst.) - if they can't find a compromise it means a screeching halt to the business of the Secretary of State, the courts, the various charities and aid foundations that people rely on.

And the frightening thing here is that it looks like they're not going to make that compromise. That an agreement won't be reached because of whatever petty bickering and ideological concerns are keeping those politicians from working the problem instead of the polls. I have my fingers crossed that good sense and self-preservation will win out, and some kind of gutwrenching cut to services or gutclenching raise to taxes can be found that will get us past this crisis point. But I can't be certain.

There are a few elements at play here that have brought us to this point and they, I think, stem from the Contract With America days of the conservative resurgence. A movement that's, after nearly 15 years of running this country into the ground, been thoroughly discredited by now. Proving, once again, that modern conservatism is an ideology for winning elections, not for governing. Why people even credit their ideas anymore is beyond me.

But, those factors are the constitutional requirement that Michigan, like a lot of other states, must have a balanced budget. And term limits which cap the number of years elected officials can spend in office.

The first factor means that at the end of the fiscal year or however the state divides up the calender, the legislature has to have a budget in place where expenses don't exceed revenue. They can't be in the red, period, or the entire system shuts down. This might sound like a good idea because the concept one shouldn't spend more than one has is good, common sense advice. But there's another word for exceeding your revenues and that's going into debt. As someone with a mortgage and a credit card can tell you, not all debt is bad. If you eventually pay it off, of course (A problem the federal government which, by the way, lacks a balanced budget amendment, thankfully, constantly has.), then you're using that debt to buy your way out of your present financial crunch in the hopes of being able to afford it in the better days to come. Another way of putting it is "priming the pump", a pretty established concept in economics because even I've heard about it. You have to spend money to make money, in order to get returns you have to invest, and when a state's in economic trouble is often the best time to start breaking the budget and ramping up massive debts. Because it's the time that the people of that state most need those extra funds. Instead of fiscal restraint, instead of tying our hands when a crisis arises, what we is fiscal responsibility. Representatives and politicians who are going to take care of the public's funds wisely, to use them for the greater good, or else face repercussions.

We don't have that, of course, because of the second factor, term limits. In Michigan you're restricted to three terms in the State House, or six years, and two four year terms in the State Senate. Again, that seems like a common sense good idea because you don't want those rotten crooks, those career politicians to just sit there living high off the hog forever. And with gerrymandering and the incumbent advantage, it's very hard to unseat all but the most unpopular legislators. A term limit would seem to offer a solution because it means, like the military, like a corporation, it's up or out. You either do well and advance your career by running for higher office, or you have to find work elsewhere. But government isn't a place for simply results and careerism, it's also a repository for wisdom and experience. Qualities that take years of practice and hard work to gather. I know it's hard to believe but some of the people in the legislature are hard working, public servants, who are trying to do the best for their constituents. The thing is that you don't want to get rid of all politicians, just the bad ones. And the fact that it's hard to do so at the ballot box means we need to look at all the ways our elections have been perverted over the years instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Instead of forcing out all that political experience and clout, and shoving it across the street where instead of moving on to the private sector, to teaching jobs at universities, or anywhere it might do some real good, it winds up attached to the increasingly powerful lobbying houses. Those are the real gravy train for ex-legislators who get to use their contacts and knowledge of how to work the system and get a big, fat paycheck while doing it without all the accountability and scrutiny of public office.

Late Update: I've been holding off on posting his in hopes that some late news would break. But none yet, it's the same old stand-off. Working into the night, the House is no closer to even passing a bill at this point. Looks like October 1st is going to be a quiet day for my home state.

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

As always, and as always hotly denied, everything in Iraq revolves around oil. From the fight over oil-rich territories to control to the squabble over revenue sharing which led to the latest impass amongst the Iraq parliamentarians, it all leads back to that sweet Texas Heroin to which we're so addicted. And, hey, you want to know why that parliament failed to reach a political reconciliation facilitating agreement? The free fucking market forces of American businesses making illegal deals (Behind the subscription wall so here's another link.) Gambling on the break-up of Iraq into three semi-autonomous regions, apparently. This deal doesn't happen without the tacit approval of the US Government, of course. There's just no way. Just...argh. Time to dust off the Lloyd Bridges Memorial Award again because it looks like I picked the wrong week to stop taking anti-depressants. Yes, that's right, looks like we need someone to combat the Neocylon menace.

Seriously. What the hell are we doing over there?

The Jap Loves It: This is Even Funnier In Context

I somewhat let my love for this show slip earlier. But, recently, someone clued me into a show called the IT Crowd. I'd heard of it before, especially that it's being imported to the States as a part of what I fear is an increasing trend towards geek chic (Check out, for example, the excerable Big Bang Theory and tremble in mortal fear as your soul is crushed.). It was, perhaps, inevitable, but I'm a little leery about the cultural ascendancy of the nerdcore being co-opted, chewed apart, as the latest fad and then thrown aside for the next big thing (Like, say, luchadores.). Instead of, you know, being a broad-based movement towards a culture that respects expertise and competence and passion instead of vapid ennui. Or at least a way to pawn off playing way too many video games as being cool.

So, I hold out little hope for the American remake. The original British version, on the other hand...

I don't know. It's going to be on NBC, the same network that remade the Office. If you'd asked me up until after the first few shows, I would have said that was a mistake, too. If they can come up with scenes as loopily surreal as that one without simply aping the original scripts then it might be worthwhile.

That scene, by the way, is even better in the course of the episode which begins with Jen, the appealingly down to earth redhead (Unlike the bleached blond goddess that's sure to show up in her place in the American version.), being strangely attracted to the too-small pair of shoes which cause a crippling foot injury. Which explains why she's stalking around barefoot. What it doesn't explain the reasons behind the killer bit about the fire and the boss being so concerned with her stress levels. You can, however, figure those out for yourself as you can see full episodes on YouTube, including the one, “Calamity Jen”, that clip is drawn from.

I have, of course, watched them all by now. I'm not normally one to flout copyright laws so thoroughly but since the series is overseas and unlikely to be released here thanks to the remake, I'm okay with it. Also, I should add, seeing all those episodes has made me much more enthusiastic about the chances of the American remake – good advertising, the way these things can be used for. I should warn, though, in addition to the screwy aspect ration, the second season episodes really go off the rail for me. The first season isn't perfect, either, but the good bits really make up for it. The second one, on the other hand, has really lost me by replacing the boss with his ne'er-do-well son whose diet seems to consist entirely of scenery. Which doesn't work very well since you've already got the blustery set destroying buffoonery of the Irish geek. Victim of its own success? Drawn down creatively by the American exportation? Can't tell but it just doesn't feel quite the same.

Guild Wars: Stupid Upgrade System

Okay, so I've been raging against the dying of the light in the PvP side of things lately (Lately? Maybe ever since, oh, June of 2004.) so let's vent the steam pipes about PvE for a little bit. Here's the single biggest thing keeping me from enjoying the campaigns right now: the stupidity of the upgrade system.

Because with Heroes, I don't have just the handful of PvE characters to equip with the right runes and perfect weapon mods with multiple copies so I can swap between builds and roles as the mood strikes me. I have an extra ten characters per each. Because not only does my big, bad Warrior need a perfect sword so, too, now, does every copy of Koss and Goren (And Big Hot Norn Mama whenever I get around to getting GW:EN. Total GILF there. Giantess I'd Love to... yeah, this is getting creepy, right? I started this whole Nora is hot things as a joke but there are people who are actually seriously attracted to a collection of shaded pixels. I need a drink now.). And an axe. And a hammer.

And don't talk to me about collectors and getting max damage weapons, that's the easy part of the equation. No, it's getting the perfect Fortitude and Enchanting and Vamp and Zealous and Sundering and HCR upgrades that's the real sticking point. Those things you can only find by getting lucky with drops while you're farming away or by trading with other players which requires you to farm away to get the gold to meet their premium for the convenience. Neither is an optimal solution for me. Plus there's the whole “standing around in town, watching the trade channel when I could be playing the damn game” factor. We don't have an auction house yet because....?)

Not to mention all the Superior Vigors and Absorption and the various combination of attribute runes that I either need to buy or collect as well. at once excited and depressed to find out that the bottom had dropped out of the rune trade. That Super Vigors were going for a mere 12~14k while still being the marque item. Depressed because I remember dropping something like 75k on one in the open market and being pleased it was a good 5~6k less than the asking price at the trader. Happy because it meant I could finally afford a new one to socket into an alternate set of armor (Because you need an energy set and a health set along with some others depending on your profession. Now that I have a Monk, I need to get four supers into a suit and get my 55 on. Or 135 or whatever the going flavor is these days. Likewise with my Sin who needs a Shadow Form running/farming suit that I can't use for anything else since it gimps me for using an actual build by having way too many Supers and the armor rating of a wet piece of cheesecloth.). But I've come to realize it doesn't matter because the cost to properly outfit my characters with a Superior Vigor now isn't just buying one of them, it's buying enough to lavish them upon my many Heroes. Meaning the price is even greater than it used to be before.

Granted such luxuries shouldn't be easy to come by. You can't pass out the high-end goodies to anyone who stumbles around the game. But the disheartening thing is that I already have all these items. All this stuff is unlocked on my account. I have Super Vigors and perfect Vamp swords and high energy sets and I'm closing in on having the full set of damage-type resistant shields (High reqs only, unfortunately, getting them in the 8~9 req range is the next, even more difficult, step.) but because of customization and upgrading, I only have them in a few places in my ever growing horde of electronic beauties. And I have to go out and find the stuff I already have all over again instead of being able to shuffle it around the server stacks.

It all stems from the same, old system of rare drops and item mods that's long since past its sell-by date. It's not convenient, it serves to reward those who play longer than those who play smarter, and, most damning, it's way too random to rely on. And don't even start to give me that bullshit about it forcing player interaction by creating trade opportunities. You don't talk to the industrial-strength traders who deal in these sort of things you just fork over the money.

What I'd rather have would be an outgrowth of the crafting system. Keep the drops and the un-IDed stuff. But let unlocking a weapon upgrade be like unlocking a crafting recipe. After you get a magic drop and ID, say, a Superior Vigor, you can go to a crafter established for the purpose and, for a significant fee, create a Rune of Superior Vigor whenever you wanted. That rune could be traded to other players, if you liked, which would, of course, keep it locked on their account but still allow them the use of it. There's a problem there with industrious farmers who'd just crank these sorts of things out and ruin the market for everyone else. Deflation sucks. But, well, that's not as big an issue for me as convenience is. This way, I don't have to scrounge for drops and rares and greens for all my many character, as long as one of them gets lucky with an item, then I can transfer that to all of my characters provided I have enough resources. Without breaking that illusion that they're separate characters, even.

Greens, unique weapons, have to be handled a little differently. Having them unlock upgrades would just lead to people farming them over and over. Instead, they don't unlock but if you unlock a special, unique item on your account (Perhaps using whatever lets special weapons get immortalized in the Hall of Meaninglessness.) to the crafter and have them make you a customized copy, if you want. That way, if you've gotten, say, a Victo's Blade or a Khefket's Refuge, you have the blueprint to mass produce it for various characters. You can move onto the next bauble instead of having to farm for it over and over.

But the overall point would be to make it easier for people with multiple alts. People like me. People like everyone who's been playing the game for a while at this point. A simplified, streamlined system to take some of the guess and grunt work out of it all. One that makes it easier once you've reached the summit, not less difficult to get there.

Everyone Should Just Outsource Their Blogging To Small Media Matt

I agree. Both about the insatiable need for multimedia content requiring clips like a furnace requires coal. And that politicians would be well served to make sure that their speeches and ads make the transition to easily embeddable form. It's one reason I'd point to for the apparent success of Darcy Burner, she understand the new media anarchy and has plenty of clips available to lather on the blog love. I, and others like me, want to support candidates, we want to spread the word, if you make it easier for us, we will deliver without even being asked.

Mental Gears Grinding

Wait, the point of the war is something other than establishing permanent military bases to safeguard a fungible resource we don't really need to protect?

I've long believe that keeping us in this quagmire is the endgoal of Cheney and his neo-con, chaos hawk crones (Huh, that's an auspicious typo.). There's something about an apocalyptic showdown with China over oil on the sands of the middle east in there but I can't get past the parts about eating the livers of the stillborn to remain young. I think Mr. Bush is more wrapped up in the idea of his legacy, that he can't be wrong, and that he was put on this earth to spread “freedom” by killing as many brown people as possible. The point, though, is that these people are fundamentally wrong. They've been wrong (Or at least lied through their teeth) about everything up to this point and we have to get the direction of our national security out of their hands by any means necessary.

The View From the Leftist Fringe

Got the following chain mail today. Don't worry, my ice-chilled revenge is being plotted as we speak. But, it also popped up as I was trawling through the comments at the Freep. And, since this seems to be a common sentiment amongst some of the more blue collar people I talk to, let me just rebut the following.

At first I thought this was funny...then I realized the awful truth of it.
Be sure to read all the way to the end!

Tax his land,
Tax his bed,
Tax the table
At which he's fed.

Tax his tractor,
Tax his mule,
Teach him taxes
Are the rule.

Tax his cow,
Tax his goat,
Tax his pants,
Tax his coat.

Tax his ties,
Tax his shirt,
Tax his work,
Tax his dirt.

Tax his tobacco,
Tax his drink,
Tax him if he
Tries to think.

Tax his cigars,
Tax his beers,
If he cries, then
Tax his tears.

Tax his car,
Tax his gas,
Find other ways
To tax his a..

Tax all he has
Then let him know
That you won't be done
Till he has no dough.

When he screams and hollers,
Then tax him some more,
Tax him till
He's good and sore.

Then tax his coffin ,
Tax his grave,
Tax the sod in
Which he's laid.

Put these words
upon his tomb,
' Taxes drove me to my doom...'

When he's gone,
Do not relax,
Its time to apply
The inheritance tax.

Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
CDL license Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Excise Taxes
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Tax (42 cents per gallon)
Gross Receipts Tax
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
IRS Interest Charges IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Liquor Tax
Luxury Taxes
Marriage License Tax
Medicare Tax
Personal Property Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Service Charge Tax
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Tax
Sales Tax
Recreational Vehicle Tax
School Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Taxes
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax
Telephone State and Local Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Utility Taxes
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax

Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago,
and our nation was the most prosperous in the world.
We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in the world,

and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.

What has happened? Can you spell 'politicians!'

And I still have to 'press 1' for English.

I hope this goes around THE USA at least 100 times.

A lie can get around the nation about a hundred times before the truth gets its pants on, I suppose, but this is blatantly false.

One hundred years ago was 1908. America was a backwater. On the rise, but second rate compared with the economies and cultures of mainland Europe. It took the massive self-inflicted bloodletting of the first World War which cost a generation of the continent's potential leaders and thinkers to change that. And on the American side of things, it took the massive federalization of services and regulation, on both state and national levels, funded by those taxes to create the infrastructure needed to become the Arsenal of Democracy. Oh, and a massive wave of dirty, swarthy foreigners from the more impoverished Southern and Eastern Europe – your poles, your Eye-ties, your slavs, with their strange ways and filthy languages (Did you know, in the ghettos and tenements they were forced into, they even started their own newspapers, the mass communication medium of the time? The nerve!) as a source of cheap labor.

You want to cut taxes then get used to having more cities lost to the seas. Get used to never knowing if that bridge you're driving over is about to collapse. Get used to lead paint in your children's toys and antifreeze in your toothpaste. We live in an interconnected society where we're all better off by pooling our resources and unless you're some kind of libertarian smacktard the best way of doing that is a system of taxation. Government isn't inherently bad. Poorly run ones are. Because the problem with taxes isn't that we have them, it's that those necessary funds are mispent. It's the flaws, the inefficiencies in the system that we need to stamp out. Because that's going to benefit everyone more than a few extra dollars in their pockets.