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Once Upon a Time…

…Pike wrote a book.

PikeIsTheChampionMyFriends

I’ve mentioned it here offhandedly, and annoyed the heck out of my Twitter followers no doubt, but after four solid weeks of writing I have finished National Novel Writing Month. Not bad for someone who wasn’t planning on participating until basically the day before it started, and who was working from little more than a skeleton plot.

The novel itself isn’t finished– I’m not at the end yet, and once I’ve got it all edited up it’s gonna be longer than 50k words (I’m sorta aiming for 75k give or take, as a personal goal), but I just have to say that participating in this all of November, even to the point of hardly touching WoW and pretty much putting raiding on hiatus, and sorely neglecting the blog as a consequence… has been a truly amazing experience. On this blog, I write stories about a world that I love, but with this book I was able to write a story about a world that I love that I created. I like to say that I’m more of a storycrafter than a theorycrafter, and this little adventure nailed that home for me.

Anyways, I’m still trying to figure out where to go from here. As I said, the book isn’t finished, and finishing it as soon as I can and moving into editing is a major goal, although I already feel lost without the little word count chart. I would like to get back into WoW again but I’ll be frank, playing WoW right now– particularly because it’s basically just the same raid over and over at this point– really doesn’t feel quite nearly as heroic as guiding my novel’s characters through a quest to save their city. >.>

Some of you have expressed interest in reading my book, which is extremely flattering and is something I’d like to have happen at some point.* Currently I plan on finishing and editing the thing, then letting some friends and family read it and offer their suggestions, then I’ll go through and polish it up and maybe self-publish or something. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Primarily this is my official “zomg I wrote a book” exhilaration post, which will be followed by ordering a celebratory pizza and listening to Men Without Hats on repeat. (Wait, I do that last part all the time anyway. Crap.)

Thanks for putting up with it being so quiet around these parts lately. <3

* You know you want to read it; it has airships and giant robots and dragons in it.

Pike’s Got Mail!

If I have an Achilles’ heel when it comes to blogging, it’s answering e-mail. I stink at it.

First of all, I get a lot of it.

Secondly, I often read it via my cellphone at work. Then I compose a long, grandiose reply in my head.

Thirdly, when I get home from work, half the time I can’t remember if I actually answered a certain e-mail or if I just… well, composed a long, grandiose reply in my head. Then when I go to find said e-mail in my inbox, it’s squeezed in between blog comment notifications and all sorts of non-blog-related e-mail and the like. So then all these lovely e-mails I get wind up unanswered because I can’t find them and I’m terrified of looking through the clutter through them.

SO!

In my best attempt to rectify this, I have a new e-mail address. I’ve stuck it on the sidebar and also made Eltanin the Mail-Windserpent a mailto link. It is aspectofthehare [at] gmail [dotcom]. This is going to be my new e-mail specifically for people who want to get ahold of me or ask me questions. Therefore, in theory, said e-mail won’t get buried between non-related e-mails, or forgotten about.

If you have sent me e-mail in the past and have not gotten a response, and would like one, I promise it’s not cause I hate you and encourage you to send it to my new e-mail. /nods

Today’s Copout Post was brought to you by the letters Q and Q. And today’s “brought to you by” was brought to you by my guild‘s message of the day.

A Circle of Dee Pee Ess

Note: I wrote this yesterday, then wasn’t entirely happy about it so I saved it in drafts and went to bed. Now it seems to be jumping around the blogosphere without me, which makes me late to the bandwagon simply because I waited a few hours x_x, so I did some quick editing, and here ya go:

Anyone who has been lurking around the blogosphere lately has likely seen a “Healing Questionnaire” floating around. This was eventually turned into a Tanking Questionnaire. However, I didn’t see hair nor hide of a DPS version. Never fear, Google to the rescue! A DPS version appears to have been spawned over at a DPS Death Knight blog, Death Goddess.

So, because I felt awkward posting my healing responses here (I should really get over that one o’ these days) and because Pike has no tank, and because the NaNoWriMo site is down which means the word count updatey-thingy (my biggest writing motivator) is down… here ya go!

What is the name, class, and spec of your primary DPS?

Tawyn, dual-spec’d PvE Raid Beast Mastery / PvE Raid Marksmanship Hunter would be my main, although she’s certainly not my only level 80 hunter!

What is your primary DPSing environment? (i.e. raids, PvP, 5 mans)

At the moment I am in raids the most, both 10 and 25man though probably skewing more towards 25man. I do at least one 25man a week (ToC), and occasionally Ulduar or Ony and a coupla 10mans as well.

What is your favorite DPS spell/ability for your class and why?

Feign Death doesn’t count, does it? >_> Umm, hmm. Bestial Wrath is always fun. I really like Silencing Shot when I’m spec’d Marksmanship. Nommy silence.

What DPS spell do you use least for your class and why?

Tranq Shot but you use it a surprising amount of times in ToC. Let’s see. Jaraxxus? Check. Faction Champions? Check. Anub’arak? Check. Now that I think about it, though, I’m not sure if that counts as a “DPS ability”. Hmm. This is a tougher survey to fill out for DPS than it was for heals! D= Does Rapid Fire count? Only cause of the long cooldown.

What do you feel is the biggest strength of your DPS class and why?

Well solo’ing and questing and the like is obviously pretty easy but in a PvE raid-ish situation, I’d say the very fact that we are ranged but not magic-based is a strength. On my (very rare) ventures into the Moonkin Suit, I’m always surprised by these weird boss mechanics where you’ll be silenced or locked out of a class of spell. I remember mentioning to my boyfriend the warlock how irritating I thought this all was, and he was like “SEE?? FINALLY YOU UNDERSTAND!” So getting to bypass all of that is nice.

As a Beast Master in particular, I like the fact that I can be doing a ridiculous amount of DPS but I rarely have aggro problems because my aggro is split– about half of it is my pet’s threat, and half of it is “mine”. Having to Feign Death is delightfully rare as a Beast Master, so you pretty much never have to stop DPS!

What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your DPS class and why?

The fact that we become screwed at melee range. This can be avoided in most PvE situations, but it sucks in PvP when you’re up against someone who knows what they’re doing. Fortunately I avoid most PvP beyond level 60 or so.

I also think that Blizzard did a somewhat haphazard job of incorporating pets into things. Those fights where you get a gigantic buff? Your pet probably doesn’t. Although this is annoying in raids or instances, the most glaringly painful example of this, to me, actually isn’t in a raid or instance, but in Battle for the Undercity. Guess who gets a giant, massive-stamina-and-constantly-getting-health-restored buff? You. Guess who doesn’t? Your pet. Guess who can’t survive more than two seconds in the AoE heavy Battle for the Undercity? Yeah. That entire quest, instead of being amazing and awe-inspiring, was nothing but me Volley spamming and not having my beloved pet beside me, and being frustrated overall. It was much better when I did it later as a Moonkin.

I also wish there was a way for you to “give” a zonewide buff to your pet instead of you. If I’m out grinding or questing, the last thing I want is some super massive damage buff on me making me pull aggro from my pet. Put it on my pet instead of me, please. Pleeeeeeeeeease.

Similarly, all those quests where you get to pick a reward item of either “gain back health on physical attack!” or “gain back mana on spellcast!” … can there be one for “gain back mana on physical attack”? Please? /puppy dog eyes

In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best DPS assignment for you?

Single target, stand-still, pet-friendly, pewpewfest. Patchwerk, in other words. (I’m sure most DPS would say that…)

For Beast Master in particular, we excel at fights where there is a lot of loss of character control or where you’re running around a lot, and your pet doesn’t have to. That’s 45% of your DPS right there merrily DPSing away while you run around like a freak.

What DPS class do you enjoy DPSing with most and why?

There are multiple ways to interpret this question, I’m going to interpret the “with” as “alongside”. In which case, probably something like a feral druid for Leader of the Pack or a bunch of paladins for the buffs.

Or clothies, cause they won’t roll on my stuff. I’M GREEDY OKAY. >_>

What DPS class do you enjoy DPSing with least and why?

Other hunters, which makes me feel kinda horrible, but… I get crazily, madly competitive around other hunters and I just end up constantly checking my position on Recount as compared to theirs. I’d much rather be in a group of all other classes where there is no real comparison between my DPS and theirs, because I know nothing about their classes. Then I’ll usually just forget about Recount entirely and focus on having fun and doing my job.

Really, I love people who play hunters, I just… have a hard time playing with them. =(

In the end though, I’m not hugely picky about who I group with =P

What is your worst habit as a DPS?

Now that I’ve started playing my druid a lot I find myself inadvertently watching healthbars. =X

I also do this thing where I get trigger-happy and overwrite my Serpent Sting before I need to. Gotta work on that.

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while DPSing?

BUFF. MY. PET.

Can I make it blinky and in a scrolling marquee? Cause I totally will. Just watch me. Juuuuust watch me.

(In all fairness, I get super irritated when I’m on my druid and hunters don’t rez their pet in a timely fashion. By which I mean, buffs are going out and the hunter knows his pet is dead cause it’s laying in the middle of the floor, and isn’t doing anything about it. In that case, you’ve missed out, bucko. Huh… I’m turning into one o’ them fabled Snarky Healers, aren’t I?)

Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other DPS?

The Beast Mastery spec lags behind the others but not nearly as much in practice as I think people tend to assume it does. Both of the facts in said sentence (that it does lag, and that people overestimate the lag), irritate me to some degree.

As for hunters as a whole, I dunno, all the Recount screenshots I’ve seen of superendgame guilds show hunters as really lagging behind, but that must just be a superendgame thing because hunters destroy the meters in my guild. Like, you’ll have that one crazygood mage, that one crazygood rogue, and that one crazygood feral druid, but everyone else toppin’ the meters? Hunters, hunters, and more hunters. So, I dunno.

What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a DPS?

Recount is the obvious one though I have a love/hate relationship with it. Hunters are just so dependent on buffs, group makeup, fight mechanics, and everything else that it’s silly to use Recount as a be-all and end-all for it. One day I’ll have 6k DPS on a fight and then the next day I’ll struggle to hit 4.5k on the same thing.

Honestly I think it’s mostly an “impression” thing. If I’m getting invites to the Hard Mode Stuff, which I know the raid leaders are selective about in terms of invites, then I know I’m doing good. [Ed. note: apparently I got an invite to a Hard Mode Thing via Twitter in the middle of writing this, so my point is proven! Huzzah!]

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your class?

That hunter is about /send pet and /afk auto shot. See, I have a theory about where this misconception came from. A hunter’s “special attack” doesn’t really look like anything. Okay, so the arrow or bullet might be a little shinier. That’s it. Melee classes spin around and do fancy footwork, casters make all sorts of different things come out of their hands, but hunters are all the same. Pew. Pew. Pew. It literally doesn’t look like you’re doing anything but Auto Shot, and that wiggles into other peoples’ subconscious.

What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new DPSers of your class to learn?

Pet management and keeping an eye on your pet. For me, it’s so ingrained from playing so many hunters, that a.) Wash is often the last pet standing in a tricky fight, b.) I spaz out when my treants die when I’m playing a moonkin, and c.) I’ve been known to instinctively pound my Mend Pet keybind when I see the main tank low on damage. All of the above are Trufax.

Beyond that, I think that there are little nuances that people don’t expect to have to look into that make a large difference in hunter gameplay– glyph choices, intuitive cooldown uses, etc.

What DPS class do you feel you understand least?

Pretty much anything that isn’t a hunter, although I have a rudimentary understanding of boomkin (seeing as it’s my druid’s “solo’ing spec”) and to a lesser extent warlock, since my boyfriend played one for so long. Lemme put it this way: I could probably play a boomkin for something and not entirely fail, and I’d probably fail slightly more as a warlock but still have a decent idea of what I’m doing. Everything else, I’d be completely and utterly lost.

What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in DPS?

Omen though I don’t need it very often these days; threat is pretty much a non-issue for Beast Mastery and when I’m Marksman a Feign or two will fix it right up. Scrolling Combat Text and Scrolling Combat Text Damage to see procs and see a sort of visual representation of what I hit for and how often I crit. OmniCC for cooldowns. Quartz for the cast bars and the DoT/HoT timers, though honestly I find that one to be waaaaaaaay more handy for my druid than for my hunter. (Cast bars for the moonkin, and HoT timers for the tree.)

[Your class’s preferred basic stat] over other stats or balanced stat allocation, and why?

Depends on whether or not you’re hit-capped. =P

Beyond that, this one really seems to go into an area of being a moot point once you enter endgame stuff. Install RatingBuster (which is much better than the Blizz default stat thingy.) Compare your gear. ???? Profit! If you’re really hardcore you can even use a spreadsheet or something.

Well, that’s the end of the survey. I tag any of you fine DPS folks who want to fill it out! =D

NANO SITE IS UP *poof*

TreeStory: Contest Winner!

The winner of the “400,000 Site Views” contest was Bloedhoorn, a tauren resto/kitty druid. This sort of presented a unique challenge to me because it meant I could write a story where druids were the focus, which I hadn’t done before. Anyways, as the character was being described to me, I was informed that Bloedhoorn spent a lot of time in tree form jumping around, dancing, and waving, which “comes naturally to being a Tree.” I really liked that last comment so much that I tried to see if I could base a whole story off of it. I also tried to incorporate Bloedhoorn’s love of companion pets. Hopefully I pulled it all off:

Bloedhoorn was in the form of a chocoloate-colored dire raven, flying high, high above Hellfire Peninsula. He rarely went to the Outland these days, so it was an unusual excursion, but he had recently been informed that a young druid from his home village who was following in his hoofsteps was in the area, and as he knew her family he wanted to drop by and see if she needed any assistance.

He circled Thrallmar a few times and then saw what he was looking for: A tree. A treant, to be more specific. Practicing her spells; wooden hands glowing with energy. Bloedhoorn smiled to himself and flew down and alighted next to her. He nodded his avian head and squawked out “Songlark, I presume?”

The treant looked at him curiously. It was notoriously difficult for a druid to speak much while in the form of a tree, especially if said druid was newer to the art and unused to having, quite literally, a wooden mouth. So instead, Songlark made a sort of grunting noise and nodded.

Bloedhoorn chuckled and effortlessly shifted into his tauren form. “I am Bloedhoorn,” he said, and bowed. “You may not know me, but I know your family well. I heard you were here and came to see if you needed any advice from a more experienced druid.”

Songlark digested this information and and forced her stiff mouth to work, although she was sure the words came out sounding a little funny: “It is nice to meet you.” She bowed back, leaves atop her head quivering.

“I see you were practicing before I arrived,” said Bloedhoorn. “How is that going for you?”

Songlark shifted back into her tauren form, where she would have more freedom to speak naturally. “I’m not sure,” she then admitted. “I don’t feel like I am doing all I could be. I know my basic spells– the ones all druids know. But very few tricks beyond that. I worry I may be… a hindrance…”

Bloedhoorn nodded. “I remember feeling that way, when I was where you are at in your studies,” he said. “We have some things to practice, then. But first, we must get out of this wasteland and go somewhere more fitting. Come!” he shifted into his stormcrow form, but Songlark remained stationary, looking a bit sheepish. “I… have not learned to fly, yet.”

Without a word Bloedhoorn then turned into a sleek cheetah. “No worries,” he said, as the younger druid followed his lead. “Now, come!”

The two dashed out of Thrallmar, and not much later they were among the somewhat ethereal woods of Terokkar Forest, both in tree form. “It is easier for a druid healer to practice when among real trees, where we can pull on the inspiration of nature,” Bloedhoorn explained. “Now, Songlark, I will show you a trick. We specialize in healing someone’s wounds slowly, over time, however, in an emergency, we can draw these energies together to heal all at once.” He was about to demonstrate when suddenly he paused. He thought he’d seen something move, out of the corner of his eye…

But then it was gone again. Chalking it up to a bird flitting about, Bloedhoorn prepared to cast a spell. But then, wait! There it was again! Something was moving in the forest.

“What is it?” Songlark asked, but Bloedhoorn held up a branch to silence her. Slowly he scanned the area with his eyes. Nothing but trees.

Trees…

One of them was moving.

A treant! Or more accurately…

“Another druid?” said Bloedhoorn quietly to himself.

It was! Another druid in tree form, watching them quietly. Songlark saw it as well, and the two tauren stared at it. It was downright unusual to see a druid in tree form out in the field, especially alone. And Bloedhoorn, being fairly well-traveled, immediately recognized it as not just any druid, but a Night Elf druid. He relayed this information to Songlark, who gasped. “Does she want to fight?”

“I would have a hard time believing that,” said Bloedhoorn. “One does not do much damage in the form of a treant, as I am sure you have learned already. No, let us take this slowly.”

He took a few steps toward the other tree, and waved. She waved back.

Bloedhoorn pointed to himself and Songlark, and then bowed. He was trying to get across the message that they were friendly, since he knew they would not be able to speak the same language. The other tree watched them intently, and seemed to understand what was being said because she nodded.

Bloedhoorn then pointed to the other tree and shrugged. It was his way of asking what she was doing there.

The other tree pointed to herself and said, “Tamaryn.” It must have been her name. Then, she began a series of wild gesticulations that absolutely baffled the two tauren. She scratched at her face with her leafy hands, then made a paddling motion, then pointed at the surrounding forest, and finally slumped over in a look of despair. When these gestures were met with a confused look on the faces of the other trees, she repeated them.

“What’s she trying to say?” asked Songlark.

“I don’t know, but I think maybe it has to do with it raining orange frogs?” Bloedhoorn guessed. “These night elf types are very unusual.”

“I can see that,” said Songlark.

Tamaryn appeared exasperated at this point, but then suddenly her face lit up, as though she had an idea. Suddenly she shifted into a sleek, dark bluegreen panther.

The two tauren jumped. Such an action was potentially threatening, afterall, since the form of a cat was frequently used to fight. But before they could react, the other druid turned back into a tree and pressed her hands very close together, as though trying to point out that something was being squeezed together… or perhaps…

“I KNOW!” Songlark said. “She is trying to say something is very small.”

“Hrmm…” said Bloedhoorn thoughtfully, his tree-face scrunched up in thought.

Tamaryn repeated this series of actions a few times: turning into a panther, then making the “small” gesture, and then pointing at the forest. And all of a sudden, it dawned on him.

“Small cat. She’s lost a small cat!” said Bloedhoorn. “And it is hiding in the forest somewhere. Perhaps she wants us to help look.”

Bloedhoorn held up a finger to the other druid, signaling her to wait. Then he turned to Songlark. “You use the swiftness of the cheetah to scout around this area. I’ll look from the sky.”

Songlark nodded and shifted into cheetah form. As she did so, Bloedhoorn became a stormcrow and flew high into the sky. As he hovered there and scanned the area with sharp eyes, he found several questions entering his head, the main one being why the other druid did not look through flight herself. He could sense that she was just as powerful and trained as he was. There must have been some reason why she was staying in treant form.

He flew a bit east; he saw Songlark searching every nook and cranny below him and Tamaryn also looking– still as a tree. Realizing this might take a while, Bloedhoorn took a deep breath and closed his eyes, trying to imagine that he was a pet cat that belonged to a treant. Where might he hide…

…in the branches of another tree, perhaps?

Swooping lower a bit, he flew between the trees of the Terokkar woods. He kept his eyes wide and his ears open, and it wasn’t long before he heard it. A quiet, barely perceptible “Mew…”

Immediately he stopped, wheeled around, and spotted a small white kitten perched atop a very tall tree. Its eyes were wide and it was staring rather nervously at the ground that was far below as it mewed helplessly. Smiling to himself, Bloedhoorn alighted on a branch next to it, gently took it by the scruff of its neck in his beak, and then fluttered down to the ground, where the night elf druid was waiting.

Tamaryn’s face lit up and she cheered as Bloedhoorn set the kitten down, which immediately ran up and hid in the branches atop Tamaryn’s head. A series of words tumbled out of her mouth, which Bloedhoorn didn’t understand, but which he assumed by her expression were words of gratitude, so he bowed at her.

Tamaryn bowed back, and then with a last wave, she walked away into the misty woods– still as a treant.

Bloedhoorn returned to tauren form and watched her go, rather mystified. At that moment, Songlark dashed up as a cheetah. “You found the cat?”

“Yes, it has been returned to its owner. I know why she was in tree form now; the cat appears to live on her head.” He scratched his scalp.

“Huh…” Songlark shifted into tauren form herself. “Well, that was an, uh… unexpected little diversion.”

Bloedhoorn chuckled. “What did I tell you, the Night Elves are a bit odd. You can’t blame them really; they’re purple, afterall. Now, where were we…”

Not Bad… for a Human

So it’s “Aliens” quote day, so sue me. (Best Movie Ever by the way.)

ANYWAYS! For those who missed it, this blog has been infected with a nasty little bug the past few days, so I nuked the site from orbit to try to kill it. Backed up my posts/comments/images, deleted everything, and spent the last six hours trying to bring this back online again after some issues.

Everything, for the most part, should be back– obviously some of the stuff on the sidebar and some theme stuff needs to be fixed, and images are in the middle of being uploaded and probably won’t finish for quite some time, since I have a truck-full of them… but all posts and comments (aside from those comments that were posted in the last few minutes before D-Day, after I’d backed everything up) should be good to go.

Since I’ve pretty much been working on this all day, though, I’m gonna go relax for the rest of the night and finish polishing up the blog tomorrow!

I would like to thank everybody for their patience and for doing things like leaving cheery or silly messages on various phases of the reconstruction process when I was frustrated as all heck. I would also like to thank everybody for your patience regarding the fact that the blog post content here has been pretty craptacular while I’ve been dealing with this problem. =P Hopefully, though, it’s behind us now (if not, it won’t be pretty). Onward and upward~

We're Gonna Take Off And Nuke the Entire Site from Orbit

It’s the only way to be sure.

Newt

So, soldiers, here’s the scoop. I thought I got rid of the nasty bug causing site redirect issues and the like last time, but apparently I’ve yet to root out the Queen Alien, so the issues have returned. I spent some time searching around but to no avail, and since I don’t want to waste my time on this crap when I’ve got stories to write and pictures to draw and WoW to play, (to paraphrase a wise man, “I’ve had it with these motherfrackin’ snakes on this motherfrackin’ plane”) I’m gonna attempt something crazy.

Namely, I’m gonna back everything up, delete EVERYTHING, and reinstall WordPress from scratch.

Then I’ll make all my passwords like three times longer, which means they’ll probably take about ten minutes to type out, but ya know.

If THAT doesn’t fix the problem, then… well, I’ll probably lose it, but we’ll deal with it when we get there.

AS SUCH, you may, over the course of the next few hours/days/whatnot see reduced site functionality, missing themes, the site not loading entirely, random 404s, etc. while I try my best to completely reboot the blog. All comments and posts, as well as the entire site itself, will be backed up in multiple ways so I can always revert it if I mess something up entirely.

Until then, wish me luck– I’m takin’ this thing to the airlock.

So, Do I Have a Bullseye On My Head, Or What?

I am somewhat embarrassed to admit this but it must be done, because this blog is about honesty: it appears as though my site has been compromised. Again. As such, I must extend my deepest apologies to anyone who has heard weird music on my site the past few days, been redirected to spam sites, been lambasted with popups, had their Antivirus tell them terrible things about me, etc.

Now not everyone appears to have had this problem with my site– I think Adblock Plus kept a lot of the gunk out– but I know many people did, and since I have, from Day One, maintained a strict “NO ADS” policy on this site, it was rather distressing to me that this all happened.

Furthermore, I find myself wondering what I’ve done wrong. See, I’ve always been of the school of thought that if something like this happens, much more often than not it was preventable. And so you can imagine how embarrassed I am when I feel all secure with my hugely long letters-n-numbers-n-symbols passwords, and my Firefox and NoScript, and crap somehow manages to get past it all anyway. It’s frustrating.

Anyways, you did not come here to hear me rant, I think! Mostly I just wanted to offer this apology and also ask for blog readers to be on the lookout: I think I got rid of the parasitic code that was causing the problem but if you’re still getting weird redirects or popups, let me know. Heck, I’ll back everything up and rebuild this blog from the ground up if I have to in order to maintain the integrity of this site. I want this to be a safe, ad-free place on the internet.

THE MORAL OF THE STORY (because I like those, and I like excuses to make them): If you are a blogger, you can’t be too secure. Change your passwords frequently, make backups, use Exploit Scanner (awesome plugin), and keep an eye out for anything suspicious. The internet is like the “wild west” of today. Wild and untamed and ready to be claimed, but bandits abound and you gotta know your self-defense. And not die of dysentery. /nod

WELL, back to writing~

This is the Greatest and Best Raid in the World… Tribute

KanyeWestUlduar

Long-time readers can probably guess what this post is gonna be about. Newer readers, let me introduce you to a little raid called Karazhan:

Karazhan

Let’s start from the beginning: entering this place. Let’s see if I can properly do this justice.

You hit 70. You do a bunch of regular instances. You get all your rep up to Honored (or, for a little while, Revered) by doing said normal instances. You try a heroic but it kicks your butt so you do more regular instances for a while. Then you finally start doing heroics.

And then you start to think about Karazhan.

The questline for the Karazhan key– which at one point, everyone in the raid needed to have to get in– sent you flying all over the place, solving puzzles and mysteries about this mystical tower.

Then you have to do an instance. Shadow Labs. Not a huge deal, everyone is doing this instance.

Then you have to do a second instance. Steamvaults. A slightly more irritating instance (for me anyway), but still not bad.

Then you have to do a third instance, called Arcatraz. The catch is that you have to be keyed for Arcatraz, and to do so, you have to complete two other instances: Botanica and the Mechanar.

Done yet? Oh no. Then you get to go do Black Morass. Meaning you get to go back in time and help Medivh do bad things, like let the orcs into Azeroth.

Then, and only then, do you get the key.

WoW_KaraKey

Oh, and what an adventure awaits you then, and what further quests, because that’s right, the quests don’t stop with the key. They send you into the tower, and then they send you in again, and again, and again. They’re there to help you get keyed for the later dungeons and get you your Violet Eye rep ring, but in my mind, they were fantastically interesting in their own right.

Everything about this place is magical. Not only are the aesthetics and design beautiful, but the bosses are, as well. An undead horseman. A castellan entertaining his dinner guests, just a bit miffed that you barged in unannounced. An opera, featuring three completely boss fights of which one was chosen at random each time you did it. A chess game wherein you took control of the pieces. The ghost of Medivh’s own father, mad with grief and guilt. A giant arcane guardian, reminding you in painful fashion that you are not where you should be. And these are just a few.

And the fight mechanics themselves were, in my mind, unparalleled. I hadn’t seen any of this stuff before, and most of it I haven’t seen since. Moroes involved an ungodly amount of crowd control; priests shackling and hunters trapping, gloriously trapping.

Curator, a gear check if there ever was one, and the source of more in-jokes with my longtime WoW friends than pretty much anything else in the game.

No, really:

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Shade of Aran was, without question, my favorite boss in the instance. Explaining it to somebody who had never done it before was always hilarious, because it took so freaking long and you knew the new person probably wasn’t going to live anyway. Flame Wreath jokes abounded, and the ceremonial “Playing of the Chant over Ventrilo” before the fight was held sacrosanct.

Prince Malchezaar, that infuriating fight that liked to drop infernals on your head, and quite arguably one of the most difficult raid bosses I’ve ever bumped up against for an appropriately geared group. Oh gosh. I remember the first time my guild downed him. At the end of the fight one person was still alive: the tank. We had a priest in Spirit of Redemption form, and the tank. That was it.

Sadly this promptly turned into massive quantities of loot drama and QQ regarding the T4 helm, but we won’t speak of that.

Have I mentioned though that Prince is still fiendishly difficult at 80 sometimes? Sheesh.

And chess, good ol’ chess, the one fight that actually gets harder as time goes on because you tend to bring fewer people into Kara these days so you have fewer people controlling the pieces. Chess, which once pooped me out into Curator’s room after the piece I was controlling died, and since I was the loot master and didn’t get back in time we couldn’t loot the chest. Everyone had their loot a few days of GM tag later, including a new pair of boots for me.

And the best part is that somehow, the magic of that place hasn’t disappeared. Oh supposedly Medivh sucked it all up at the end of “The Last Guardian” and all that’s left are specters of the past and some other bizarre creatures. I call shenanigans on this. Because somehow after all this time I go in there and Karazhan is just as magical as it was the first time. The mere music makes me teary-eyed.

A few of my sisters, who have actually played WoW for longer than I have, but considerably more casually, recently transferred servers to Silver Hand; one of the things that I think enticed them over the most was my promise of “I’LL TAKE YOU TO KARAZHAN. I WILL SO TAKE YOU TO KARAZHAN.” because they had never been. And the other day I did just that; took one of my sisters (the other isn’t quite a high enough level yet) through the entire place with the help of some buddies. She made out like a loot bandit, since she’s sitting at level 70 but WotLK-less, but even better, she got to go on a tour of My WoW Happy Place. (And no, Attumen didn’t drop it.)

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(Yes, she’s in a guild called < Tawyn's Pet >. No, it was not my idea. I swear. Why are you looking at me like that??)

And after all this time, even when I am in my temporarly Tree disguise rather than my hunter one, I still stand by my man:

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My oldest group of friends in WoW is about five- or six- people strong and we all met in some random Zul’farrak run a long time ago when we were all level 40ish. Burning Crusade was our fifteen minutes in the sun and Karazhan was our peak. Some of us have stopped playing WoW, or play it much less, but we all keep in touch outside of the game, and the near-mythical status that one raid– just one raid– has reached within our little group is undeniable. Scarcely a group AIM chat goes by where someone doesn’t bring it up, and one of my friends has started posting a weekly Karazhan “comic” (more like a graphic novel, really) starring our characters on a forum that we frequent; it’s quite amazing so far and has me awaiting each Friday the way a kid would await getting his comic books in the mail.

There are other really good raids.

But there is only one Karazhan.

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P.S. What was your personal “ZOMGAWESOME” raid or instance? Comment about it here or post about it on your own blog– I’d love to hear! ^_^

An Adventure of Atomic Proportions

“Celebrated annually on October 23 from 6:02 a.m. to 6:02 p.m., Mole Day commemorates Avogadro’s Number (6.02 x 10^23), which is a basic measuring unit in chemistry.”

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If this blog has an official holiday, it’s Mole Day. I know I’ve announced it on this blog at least once before, and I’ve been annually announcing it on my LiveJournal for years.

However, rather than simply announce it this year and then move on, I’ve decided to actually go into a little depth on why I take note of this day every year, since I know the vast majority of you have your head tilted and are scratching your scalp. Get ready to enter the bizarre little world of Pike…

DISCLAIMER: This is a non-WoW post. If you are here for the WoW, it won’t hurt my feelings if you skip it.

Ahem.

A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, I was about ohhh, four or five years old. My mom was in pre-med school, and she was taking a biochemistry class. And at some point she realized that I could be her little study buddy. So she sat me down with some paper and told me about this magical world that was so tiny that nobody could see it, and it was made up of atoms and molecules. Then she started telling me about them and drawing little diagrams on the paper. About how “H” was hydrogen and had one bond, and “C” was carbon and had four bonds, and “O” was oxygen and had two bonds, and so long as I remembered those rules, I throw a whole bunch of letters onto the paper and connect them with lines and make my very own molecule!

So I did. And my mom looked at it and told me what molecule it was. I was in awe. I drew a new one, and she did the same thing. I’m pretty sure this was my mom’s clever method for studying for a test or something, but what she didn’t know was what she had unleashed in her little girl’s brain. See, I found this molecule world to be absolutely fascinating. For days after that I would fill up spiral-bound notebooks with giant sprawling molecules that I had “invented”. One day I found out that since “H” had only one bond, it could bond to itself, like so: H – H . I showed this to my mom, proud of what I’d discovered, and she informed me that that was how Hydrogen worked in its natural state. I was just floored by this all. It was the coolest thing ever. My mom even milked my new little obsession by getting me chemistry kits and letting me leaf through her huge textbooks. I soaked it all up.

So flash forward several years to high school when you could choose to take either physics or chemistry and I, of course, chose chemistry (unlike pretty much the rest of the high school.) I vacuumed everything up; it was all just amazing to me. Combining chemical elements to make new substances? It was so magical to me.

The next year I went even further and took Advanced Placement Chemistry. Now, those were the days. We had a lab class once a week and a lecture class on the other days and I just poured myself into that class. Balancing chemical equations was my favorite thing in the world. It was like my version of Sudoku or something. I also took about a hundred index cards and made “Reaction Prediction Flashcards”– Various chemical substances are mixed together under a certain circumstance, what happens?– and I memorized those things the way a kid would memorize his Pokemon cards (or the way I memorized my Pokemon cards, for that matter… /cough) My excuse was that it was “practice” for the big scary AP Chem test at the end of the year, but really I just loved doing it.

It was also about this time that I first read the book “Uncle Tungsten“, a collection of memoirs written by the famed neurologist Oliver Sacks, about his childhood love affair with chemistry, and I identified poignantly with it. I was sure that this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to play with molecules and chemicals and make things.

…but there was something else competing for my geekish heart.

I have long told people that I am too sciencey to be an artist, but too artsy to be a scientist, and that would rear its head several times throughout my journeys in chemistry. As much as I loved the technical side of everything, I also found myself taking an unusual position in science: seeing the art in it all.

In the margins of my notebooks I would sketch up anthropomorphic caricatures of each of the chemical elements. Carbon was represented by a diamond, and Mercury was a crafty shapeshifter. Helium was a large red balloon who was rather self-conscious about being a noble gas despite having only two valence electrons. I wondered about their lives and their stories. Did the noble gases, I wonder, feel terribly lonely that they couldn’t naturally bond with any other element? Did the halogens go through their life filled with a longing and aching to be filled with that missing electron? I didn’t think they felt this way for real, of course, but all I could think of was how great of a story it would make.

I wrote up dorky chemical love poems.

I’ll be sodium if you can be chlorine
And together we’ll form a
Binary ionic pair;
On second thought, you tend to be
More positive than I so
You can be sodium there.

And made dorky chemical jokes.

“What’s another name for a ring of steel? A Ferrous Wheel!

I marveled at how beautiful the Periodic Table of the Elements was. Everything all aligned and in its place. It was a tool, but to me, it was also a work of art.

And thus it was that at some point I decided that instead of making things, I wanted to tell their stories, and so that other love of my heart– my love of art and fiction and stories and little film reels in my head– finally carried me away. I hung up my lab coat and my goggles (I really did own both of those, and loved wearing them,) and went to college and majored in Media & Theatre Arts. Originally I wanted to double-major in chemistry as well, but there is literally no overlap between the classes in those two completely different majors, so it would have been expensive and time-consuming, and so other than one chemistry class freshman year (that I didn’t have to take but I took anyway because I wanted to), thus ended my formal training in science.

In the years that have passed since then, I sometimes wonder if I made the right choice. Sometimes I want nothing more than to dig out my lab coat and goggles and run away and become a scientist, the way other “freaks” would join the circus. Alas, life is a little more complicated than that, and going back to school is expensive, so I sit here and I dream. I dream about chemical elements with emotions and feelings who live and play in a gigantic laboratory, and the adventures they have.

And I carry a Periodic Table of the Elements in my wallet. Because it’s beautiful. And quite loveworn with use. (And cause you’ll never know when you’ll want to work out exactly how many sodium atoms are in the bag of chips you’re eating on break.)

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So Happy National Mole Day.

…and yes. I’m the biggest geek of all time. We don’t have to beat around the bush here…