Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Flame Warden: Midsummer Event Achievement

During certain times of the year, Blizzard throws events for the World of Warcraft players. Week(s)-long events such Hallow's End, Winter Veil and Noblegarden celebrate the holidays while Midsummer Fire Festival and Harvest Festival herald the onset of the seasons. Each festival contain events, collectible items and ingame decorations and NPCs that add to the celebratory atmosphere.

In the past I've half-heartedly participated in the events. I had been more focused on leveling characters and running the dungeons. However, with the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, Blizzard added Achievements to the list of quests, reputations, dungeons and raids to be had. Of course, there is an achievement (and quite a nice reward) for finishing all the quests, pvp requirements, and collection of related items to all of the ingame festival events.

It began with Hallow's End. I collected all the needed candy and costumes. Fought and won against the Headless Horseman, cleaned up the stink bombs thrown by the horde and killed 50 hordies while under the influence of a buff (among other things). During the Lunar Festival, I visited all the Elders to collect the coins of ancestry, fought and killed Omen, shot off fireworks and acquired the festival garb. You get the idea.

I have been feverishly working on the Midsummer Fire Festival achievement, which began on Father's Day. I ran all over the place, honoring Alliance Flames and desecrating Horde Flames, I danced on the fire pole and juggled lit torches in Dalaran. But I saved the most difficult for last, stealing the flames from the major Horde cities of Undercity, Orgrimmar, Thunder Bluff and Silvermoon.

Desecrating the flames is easy. The flames are just outside the smaller towns and all you do is click on the bonfire to extinguish the flames. You are flagged pvp after you do the dirty deed. However, stealing the flames requires you to run into the city, filled with guards and players, find the bonfire and snatch a flame, all while flagged pvp. The bonfires are usually located deep within the city's perimeter and at any time players of the opposing faction (the Horde) can strike and kill you.

I got up early this morning, before work and nabbed Undercity, Thunder Bluff and Silvermoon with no troubles. As a druid, I shifted into cat form and stealthed my way past the city guards and a handful of players on at that time of the morning. I decided to wait and do Orgrimmar when I got home. For some reason, the guards are difficult to get around in stealth form in Orgrimmar and the city is usually heavily populated with other players.

I returned home around 9:30 this morning and mentioned to Danno (who decided to work from home today) that I was going to try to hit Orgrimmar. He perked up and asked if his shaman could accompany my druid on the task. When it comes to pvp, the more the merrier.

We didn't have a plan past getting into the city. I was worried we wouldn't be able to get past the guards to reach the bonfire. My druid is a healer and her off spec is spellcasting. For Orgrimmar I decided to go the healing spec and heal our way through to the bonfire. Danno's shaman is a killing beast so I knew we'd be ok in the damage department.

We entered the city with a stream of guards at our back. But we did make it to the bonfire.

I reached the bonfire first and had no trouble stealing a flame. Danno however, was getting his ass handed to him and couldn't click on the bonfire. So I stepped in and got their attention with a hurricane, as shown here.

For some of you tech savvy wow players who read my blog, I did not do the alt-z to clear the screen of chat and action bars. There wasn't any fricking time! I just screenshotted like an idiot. LOL.

Well, once we did Orgrimmar, we could not just leave the other cities unattended! We refined our plan and set out a course of action. I decided to forgo the healing abilities and concentrate on inflicting damage if needed. I was there to grab the attention of the guards and other players so Danno could steal flames from the bonfires.

Next we went to Thunder Bluff.

This time I summoned my allies, the Treants and brought the stars down from the sky to distract the guards from Danno's thievery.

Boy did we piss the guards off! We had EVERYONE running after us. They followed us to the lift

and down the big tall hill. To quote Danno, "RUN BITCHES!". And that's what we did.

Undercity was the only city that had their bonfire pretty much out in the open. However, their city is ahem, the sewers. So that's just as well.

The only concern I had was that of horde players who decided to kick our asses as soon as we entered the city's walls. But my fears were unfounded. There was one level 80 deathknight whom I made a point of standing next to while Danno clicked on the bonfire. The player wisely left us alone. He watched for a moment before riding away.

Our last stop was the Blood Elf city of Silvermoon. This is a posh city, complete with flowing curtains, lavish resting areas and clean walkways. It's my favorite city when I'm playing my horde mage. (Oops, did I admit that outloud?)

I sooo love it when the sexy boy elves chase me. :)

And here is Danno, getting ready to steal the last of the horde flames. Hooray!

Friday, June 19, 2009

June Book Club: Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo

Tuesday was my monthly book club meeting and Breakfast with Buddha was the book we read. Several months after his parents are killed by a drunk driver, Otto Ringling, an average, working man living in the Connecticut suburbs, plans to return to his childhood home in North Dakota to finish family business.

Otto invites his sister on the trip but she dupes him into taking Volya Rinpoche, her spiritual guru and boyfriend. Thus begins a week-long trip of cultural and spiritual immersion for both men, especially Otto. In the beginning, Otto is furious at his sister and wary of Rinpoche, whom he suspects is nothing more than a quack. But as the days pass along with the miles, Otto's walls of distrust begin to dissolve. A friendship blooms between Otto and Rinpoche and Otto begins to find the answers to his questions about life.

The author gently guides the reader through a smattering of beliefs held by Christians, Hindus and Buddists. The author does not quote from any holy books, but rather he mentions the teachings of Jesus Christ and Buddha. He delves into the subjects of meditation, reincarnation, prayers, morality and the "golden rule".

Merullo uses vivid imagery to describe physical surroundings ("There is no feeling like walking through the old cement bowels of a place like Wrigley or Fenway or the House That Ruth Built, then emerging into the artificial light, seeing the flat, perfect emerald city of the playing field, the players themselves like gods in their white uniforms..."), Otto's internal conflicts (..."I was a well-off white man in a poor black neighborhood, my social standing stamped on my car, clothes, face and posture as clearly as any mark of poverty, and I felt disliked, guilty, and vulnerable." "...With their empty interiors and dirty plywood eyes, the fine old stone buildings on Youngstown's main drag somehow seemed to mirror me: nice enough on the outside, architecturally pleasing and structurally sound, but with some hollowed out places where the rats ran."), and memories invoked by simple encounters.

The loss of Otto's parents remains in the background of the story, but Merullo does a good job of linking Otto's parent's death with his resulting spiritual crisis. The book does not preach religion at you, rather it invites you to probe your personal spiritual beliefs. The story is not heavy nor is it overly light hearted. I highly recommend the book.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Cricket Posteriors

I did a program for a handful of girl scouts this past weekend. The program consisted of the scouts solving a "crime" allegedly committed by an insect. In this particular case, there are dead crickets involved. The kids go into the "neighborhood" to "walk the beat" to learn how to "build a case profile" of the various suspects before going to the scene of the crime in search of clues and suspects. The kids also meet 4 insect "suspects" and learn of their behaviors before solving the crime.

The girls were a lively bunch but well behaved and very interested in the program. After they walked the beat they met the "family members" of the deceased cricket victims. Each girl received a cricket in a small jar they could examine while I discussed cricket anatomy (antennae, head, thorax, abdomen, etc). One of the girls asked if you could tell the difference between the male and female crickets and I promptly explained that female crickets had an ovipositor, a thin, sword-like projection on their posterior whereas male crickets lacked the long projection. So the girls spent a minute or two examining their crickets to see if they had a male or female.

For some reason, the girls did not want to relinquish their crickets when it was time to move on to the next portion of the program. In the 5 minutes the girls had their crickets, they had named them and professed great attachment to these insects.

"Why do you want to keep them?" I asked, "They smell!"

"But I love Lou!" one girl exclaimed, "I don't' want to let him go!"

Next it was time to investigate the crime scene. Each girl was given a magnifying glass, a booklet to take notes and a plastic baggie to pick up evidence. Did I mention there were real cricket pieces scattered across the crime scene? Of course the girls asked if the cricket bits were real, to which I replied, "Of course!"

The girls took it in stride and this is when they applied their newly acquired knowledge of cricket anatomy, namely, the...ahem...posterior end.

"Oh look! I found a cricket posterior!" one girl said. (they didn't really say posterior. We're using that noun here so no perverts who type in the b word can find my website)

"This one's a girl cricket posterior." another announced, writing the info in her notebook.

At least 3 girls claimed to have found cricket posteriors but I knew better. I had placed mostly cricket legs or heads across the floor, not posteriors.

After examining the crime scene, the girls met the "suspects" one of which included an african giant millipede. Most of the girls wanted to touch or hold the millipede but there were the predicted 2 or 3 who wanted no part of the arthropod. One girl in particular absolutely loved the millipede and touched it and then wanted to hold it...or so she thought. Each time I'd try to place the millipede in her hand, she'd flinch and jerk her hand back. This occurred 3 or 4 times before I stopped and said, "ok, well I'm going to put him back now."

"No! Just give me a second." She paused, took a deep breath and then enthusiatically said, "Ok. I'm ready this time. I'm really ready."

She was convincing. She convinced me that this was it, she was really going to hold it and I think she believed it herself. But as I extended the millipede and touched her hand, she squealed and jerked back saying "No! Wait!."

Oye. Eventually she did hold it, but it required her troop leader's assistance. And then once she held it, she didnt' want to let it go. Silly girl.

After the girls solved the crime, 2 of the girls wandered up to the table where the crickets were sitting.

"Can I have Lou? Please?"

"No! You really dont' want to keep a cricket trust me." I replied.

"Oh but I do!"

"You can go outside to your backyard and find a cricket."

"But it won't be the same!"

I gave her a stern look to which she replied with a pout.

I dont' think I've ever seen a group of girls as obessesed with crickets and their posteriors as this bunch.