Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Any day now...

I'm a terrible blogger, it seems. It's been something like six weeks since I've put virtual pen to paper. Let me make another cliche'd claim to try to do better in the future.

ANYwho...

- It's almost time! Alarra's at 39 weeks as of this morning. She's been having her Braxton-Hicks contractions for a couple of weeks now and at any moment I could get the call to come home from work because they're regular and painful now. Most people know that I've been not so secretly hoping that our little pudding troll waits a few extra days to come home so that he'll share a birthday with Bele. It's just four days past the due date, it's not like I'm asking much, right?

- I'm bored with my job. I like the company I work for. I like the people I work with. I'm sick of doing the same thing day in and day out. I've stagnated here and stopped learning new things relevant to my career field. I should move on. The thing is, I don't want to lose the benefits that I've got where I am. I feel stuck.

- I'm apprehensive about next week. Not because of the baby, but because of my mother in law. Don't get me wrong, she's a wonderful woman and can be a blast to spend time with under normal circumstances. But she's a worrier. Oh my word is she a worrier. She's going to be spending about a week with us after the baby's born and I'm afraid that she won't let us parent like we want and need to parent. When Alarra says "I don't feel good" out of the blue, mom wants me to rush her to the ER. I fear she's going to think every little whimper from the baby will evoke a similar reaction and I fear it will drive me, and possibly Alarra, batsh*t crazy. Maybe it won't be that bad. Here's hoping.

- Our house is trying to fall down around our ears. It seems every day something new goes wrong. Today it was the dryer. I mean, the dryer has been problematic since we moved in. It won't dry an entire washer load of clothes. We have to pull stuff out so that the load is light enough for the drum to turn. We've gotten used to that and it taking two dryer loads to dry one washer load of clothes. Only last night it was worse. Alarra tells me that she was washing some stuff in our new "Free and Clear" type laundry detergent to put in the hospital bag (I know, we were supposed to have this packed weeks ago) and she finally had to pull out so much that there's only a pair of pajamas, the baby outfit, and a couple of baby blankets in the dryer before it would spin. This is unacceptable. Fortunately we have this insurance policy for homeowners that's supposed to cover this kind of thing. I hope they cover this. We're (I'm) going to be calling on this later today.

- Our alliance in WAR recently struggled through some, err, drama that caused one of the guilds to feel they needed to leave. Why? Because they didn't use Ventrilo as a communications venue during RvR (see my last post for what RvR is). Okay, that's not quite true. It's just the guild leader and his wife that didn't use it, and they had their reasons. Only, instead of just saying "We can't use Vent for personal reasons I don't care to share," they kept saying "We won't use Vent and I don't need to explain myself to you." This lead to much questioning of their sanity and they took it personally, even so far as attacking another guild leader who was trying to stand up for them. It's too bad. They are a good guild and we are disappointed that they had to be so immature as to resort to what is essentially taking their ball and going home.

- In other WAR news, however, our guild, Dark Watch, is doing very well. Since the server merge from Magnus to Badlands we've been able to really establish ourselves as a group of folks that can be counted on for dungeons and battles both, and both at a high level of play. Moreover, our guild is in an alliance full of other guilds who are equally successful at all levels of play and still somehow manage to keep the atmosphere casual enough that we don't feel like like we need to be hardcore in order to fit in with them. This makes Zeb a happy, happy Troll.

Until next time,

Zeb, Out

Thursday, June 18, 2009

WAAAAAAAAAAAGGHHHH!!!

For those of you who don't know, that's the standard battle cry in my current chosen MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online), Warhammer: Age of Reckoning (a.k.a. WAR). This will be my topic for today.

First, a little background.

WAR is an online game based (loosely, I'm told) on the Warhammer Fantasy tabletop strategy game universe. The sides are divided up into Order and Destruction. Each side has three playable races. Order consists of High Elves, Dwarves, and humans loyal to the Empire. The Destruction side is made up of Greenskins (Orcs and Goblins), Dark Elves, and humans loyal to the powers of Chaos. These are further broken down into pairings. These pairings are supposed to represent the opposing races which suffer the most hatred for each other. Dwarves and Greenskins battle for common lands, as do High and Dark Elves, and Empire and Chaos.

The game map is further broken down into Tiers 1 through 4. The purpose of the tiers is to make it easier to put players of similar levels into combat with and against each other. The tiers are broken down roughly into ten rank (WAR for level) increments. So a Rank 1 through 10 player would participate in Tier 1 events, 11 through 20 in Tier 2, et cetera up through Tier 4 which is end game content.

The game is Realm Versus Realm (RvR) which is similar to Player Versus Player (PvP) but there are some important, fundamental differences. These differences don't matter much to a lot of people, including players, but they matter to me so I'll briefly outline them as I see it. First, this isn't every Elf for themselves and anyone's a target. There are distinct sides in the combat. (There are PvP servers setup that remove this particular distinction, but I don't play there and what I'm describing is how it works on a Normal server.) Second, this isn't just a battle to rack up numbers and see who can list the most kills. There is a purpose to it. The outcome of every open field skirmish, keep capture or defense, and claim of a battle objective has a direct effect on the overall state of the war at large. If these battles are going well enough, the winning side can actually invade the capitol city of the losing side and capture their ruler!

With that out of the way, let's talk about why any of this is important to me.

I'm a guild leader in the game. No big deal, right? Any yahoo with a credit card and a couple of friends can start a guild in this game. It's true. We're not the biggest guild in the game and we don't have the largest RvR presence in the game, but we're far from a non-entity too. Our guild currently weighs in at over 200 characters* and in our alliance, our guild is the only one over Guild Rank 20 (more on this later) or over 100 characters. People recognize us on the battlefield and I like to think that we get a little bit of respect for being a presence in the game on our server (Magnus).

This makes my position as a guild leader a bit more daunting. There's too much at stake now for me to see this as some kind of a lark. Now I have to worry about who's getting to be officers, and what officer ranks can do what, and what criteria I use to determine who gets to be what rank of officer. I don't just need to worry about what kind of impression I make on people, I need to worry about the impression my people make on people. So far it's been a good one, I'm told, and this makes me happy.

"Oh, Zeb, it's just a game. People don't care what you do with it, right?" Yes, it's a game. But it's a game that people buy, and then subscribe to so that they can enjoy their spare time with other like minded people. It's immersive. And because it's immersive, there is politics! We saw an example of that just today when an allied guild's leader made a rather lengthy and empassioned speech about why he's taking his guild and leaving the alliance. Apparently there was some friction between him and one or two of the other big players in our alliance.

On the bright side, I am really pleased with the way our guild is shaping up and the way our alliance is coming together. We have a good core of people who are working their way through our officer ranks and we have seven to ten people online on most days during prime time. We have people who are involved in the guild and the alliance. Our alliance is regularly running events for everyone and often (though I'd like to see more of this) the guilds will show up to other guild's events.

Hmmm, I think I had more that I wanted to say but this has run on long enough. Maybe I'll do more later.

Until then,

Zeb, Out

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Busy Prepositions, Always On The Go!

Yeah, we've been busy. Seems every weekend now we have something coming up that demands our attention. This is both good and bad.

For instance, this weekend was Alarra's (2nd) baby shower for people in our neck of the woods. It was nice to have all those people over and it was a lot of fun, but our house is kind of small for it. We have about 500 square feet on the main floor and we had something like 12 people and 2 overly excited dogs in attendance.

Next weekend we're going to try to have a game night and we're hoping to have 8-10 show up for that as well. Again, it'll be nice to have people over and spend some time getting to know some of our newer friends as well as just spending time with some of our less knew but longer distance friends. But really, how many games are there that are suitable for 8 or more people? Not to worry! We have LOTS of games and if we happen to have two of them going at once, so much the better.

It does take some effort to get the place ready for company, though, and it detracts from my valuable WAR playing time. Even for that, I normally wouldn't worry too much except that I'm a guild leader and we've just revived our guild from a crushing disappearnce of players (for a while it was only me, Alarra, Bele, and Gorag). So I feel a need to make sure that we stay engaged in the guild and not let it get away from us again. (Side note - if anyone is interested in trying it out, please let me know because I would love to get the referral bonuses if you decide you like it.)

The weekend after that we're heading down to Suffolk, VA to visit with the couple who are going to be our little Pudding Troll's godparents. He's Navy and they're getting ready to leave soon(ish) and we're regretting not spending more time with them before they get even further away from us.

After that, of course, is the Southeast Trogland Meetup in Johnson City. Since that's both a whole ton of fun and the place where Alarra and I met, there's no way we're skipping that. We've already got our hotel reservations and are getting giddy with excitement. It's been SO much fun the last two years. I must say, however, that I'm more than a little bummed that Trog and Shadow have had to pass it up this year.

Moving down the calendar, the next weekend is not only the 4th of July (woohoo!) but it's also our First Anniversary (woohoo-er!). We really aren't sure what we're going to do that weekend yet, but it's sure nice of work to give me a three day weekend every year for it. I think after that we have some breathing room, but by then we'll be only 5 weeks away from expecting little Jared to come home.

Anyway, I need to get back to getting ready for the next big weekend so...

Until next time,

Zeb, Out

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

More on Friends...

I've been feeling a bit left out on this front lately. You see, I'm a fairly social person at heart, despite my natural inertia to be the quiet guy in the corner. What this means is that I really want to have a lot of friends around, but I'm terrible at going out and making them. I'd been okay for a while because I had my D&D group headed by my boat friends, Dave and Natalie. Only, Dave and I had it out a while back and now I'm persona non-grata with that whole group. I had hopes that it would blow over, but it's been months now and it hasn't. Dave unfriended me on Facebook. I think Natalie may have too since I haven't seen an update from her in a while. This makes me sad, too. Anyway, the group seems to have sided with Dave, though I suspect that it has more to do with not wanting to lose their gaming session and access to the boat more than it does agreeing with Dave. That and Dave is great at spin and made sure he got the last word in before cutting me out of the discussion group and not giving me a chance for rebuttal.

Meh, whatever. Dave had been a real sheiskopf for the last year anyway and more anyway. I don't miss him. I miss the boat and I miss "friends". Even the rest of the group was actually more like acquaintances than friends. They never came to my place when invited, they never helped me move, you know, any of the things you'd call on friends to do.

Amanda's got this neat group of people she's recently met as a result of participating in NaNoWriMo. She got in with this writing group full of neat people. There is one girl there that, with her husband, even seems to have quite a bit in common with us. She writes, he's an IT guy, she was military, he works for No Such Agency, they both play WAR, et cetera. We went to their son's birthday party and they just seem like they'd be good people for us to hang out with. Only, we don't seem to be able to make that work and I'm not sure why. Ah well, there's still time for them.

But that still leaves me with "why don't I have any friends?" I used to have lots of friends. And I suppose if I were to count all of the people on GitP that I enjoy meeting when I get the chance, I guess I still do. The thing is that most of them don't live even remotely close to us, and the ones that are kind of close are still 90 minutes or more away so we can't just pick up and go bowling or whatever.

At this point it seems like my best bet is to do something like what Amanda did and join a hobby club of some sort. Only, I have no idea what it would be. On top of that, I'm feeling a little gun shy about the whole "close friends" thing right now anyway. You see, in the last four or so years, I seem to have lost every close friend I had. The common link here appears to be me and I'm worried that I shouldn't inflict myself on others anymore.

Well, that seemed overly melodramatic, didn't it? I think that's a sign that I should stop now before I really get to dwelling on it.

Zeb, Out

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Revisited...

Well, I suppose since Alarra's posting again, I should maybe too.

Since my last entry I'm two semesters under my belt towards my master's degree. I could have taken a class this summer, but there are a lot of things going on this summer that made it a good idea to wait until the fall semester before starting up again. Like...

Alarra's pregnant with a healthy baby boy to be named Jared Alan on or about August 12th. That's only 4 days before Bele's 21st birthday. We're all kind of hoping, some of us secretly some of us not so much, that Jared hangs on until the 16th. I think that would be awesome and so does Bele. Alarra's not so sure about it.

Alarra's finally getting ramped up on a new job! Her getting hired this spring was a very welcome bit of news. I've managed to get us piled up in a bit of debt these last couple of years and, while we're making it, having a few extra bucks to help knock those bills back down will sure be nice.

And speaking of knocking down bills, Chase recently bought out Washington Mutual, where I had a credit card account. I thought nothing of this until I realized that they'd changed my interest rate from 6.99% to 24.24%. What!? That's right. When I called and tried to get it lowered, they told me that my account has not been flagged for any offers. When I asked for an explanation, they told me that it had been "a business decision". Bear in mind that I have been a customer in good standing. I paid my bills on time, always paid more than the minimum, used my card, and last month, even had it paid off to a $0 balance. Why then was I being raked over the coals like this? The best answer I could get was "You're welcome to take your business elsewhere." Again, What!? In these economic times you're willing to give up a good customer who's not willing to pay 24% interest? Yes, sir. So I did. I called up Citi that same hour and they offered me a 9.99% rate with 12 months no interest on balance transfers. Oh, and a $4000 higher credit limit, thankyouverymuch.

Now I just have all of these other bills to get lowered. At least most of these are short term loans. I have three that are all due to be paid off within the next 12 months. One of those is my car, which will free up $400 per month to apply to other bills. Or, maybe even to be applied to a retirement plan. Yeah, there's a novel idea. Of course, there's the fact that Alarra *needs* a new(er) car.

We've been talking about what to get for her when the time comes. We know that we want something that gets good gas mileage without being TOO small. We also would like to have something that has a reasonable amount of cargo space for large objects/long trips. I'm thinking something like the Jetta Wagon. She's not so sure. I can't say I blame her.

And on the topic of retirements and vehicles, this leads to another string of conversations we've had about what we want to do when we retire. I think we're pretty much settled on the "buy an RV and drive around the country" idea. We're not really sure how that's going to work, since I'll want to take motorcycle(s) AND a car if we do this. We would need to have both, too. You can't take a motorcycle grocery shopping and you're not going to convince me to give up my bike either. Decisions, decisions.

Ah well, that's enough rambling for now. I'll have more later.

Until then,

Zeb, Out

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

News and updates....

Yeah, there hasn't really been much going on for the last couple of weeks. A few points of interest, however...

1.) Alarra's getting job interviews! We're pretty excited about this. She had one with a residential treatment center for adolescent girls that sounds like it could be good work for her. The problem with this job is that, like many many others in the area, she needs to be licensed in order to be able to do it. There's a preliminary license she can get once she takes a couple of tests, but she's not eligible to even schedule the tests until after she's finished with two more classes from school. Why would a school let you graduate without making sure you met all of the requirements for employment first? Oh well. Yesterday she had an interview with Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center for a similar type of position, only they said that she didn't need to have her license yet, she'd just get a raise once she gets it. Hooray! We have to wait a little bit to see if she's going to be able to get the job or not, but if she does, she'll start the day after we get back from GenCon. Heh, that'll be fun. She's a trooper, though and she'll be able to pull it off just fine. It's only orientation anyway, if I understand it right.

This job, for her, would have a few benefits the other one won't provide, too. The biggest of which is that she'd be able to get her Art Therapy supervision for free, which is great. Once she gets that checkbox filled, she'll have a lot more opportunities open up for her.

But enough about her, she has her own blog where she can talk about this more and better.

2.) GenCon is coming up in the middle of August. I went to my first one last year and it was fantastic fun. I can't wait to do it again. Rich is supposed to have copies of his new book available there, which I hope to pick up. I also hope to check out the Warhammer: Age of Reckoning booth. She and I have both preordered the game, but there's no release date yet so we're hoping to get a little taste of what the gameplay will be like. We're also hoping to be able to find some more new games to stock the house with. That was where we spent the most time last year, looking through all the vendor booths for fun games we'd never seen before.

As an added bonus to GenCon, there are going to be quite a few of our Playground friends there to hang out with. And it looks like we're going to get to meet a few more this year. How cool is that? I love meeting these people. I've yet to not have fun at one of these meetups and this one will be no different. We're going to have a few of our closest Playground friends staying in our room this year too, which will up the fun level quite a bit.

3.) I've decided to work on my education some more. Alarra's inspired me to go on for a Masters degree of my own. I did a lot of looking around and have decided on getting a Masters in Information Technology with a focus on Information Assurance from the University of Maryland, University College. Now I just need to work out how I'm going to pay for it, but I think that'll work itself out okay between Tuition Assistance from work and what remains of my GI Bill. I've gotten a little bit of grief on my choice for the course work, but in relooking it, I think it's still what I want to do. I need to get some paperwork through to people in order to get it going though. And I'm kind of running low on time. Guh. Why am I always running low on time?

4.) And least importantly, Alarra and I are doing this simple little game on MySpace called Mafia/Dragon Wars and we can use all of the allies we can get. So if you happen to have a MySpace page and want to help us out, we'd sure be okay with adding you to our friends!

Okay, that's all for now.

Zeb, Out

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Withdrawal symptoms

Well, it's a darned good thing that many of you I care about read my blog and have blogs of your own. The forums where I tend to spend a LOT of time (the Giant in the Playground place that I have linked right over there ->) have been down for a few days and it's driving me crazy.

I mean, at first Alarra and I thought it would be funny to come back and say "Haha, thanks, Rich, for taking down the forums while we're on our honeymoon so that we didn't miss anything!" But now I just want my threads back. I feel a need to keep in touch with this Playground, MY playground. Because even the people I don't care for, I care about.

Besides, I have a couple of other jokes I've been working on that I'm dying to play on them all. (mwa ha ha ha haaaa). Okay, they're not mean or anything, but Alarra and I find them amusing and I think my friends over there will too.

It's nice that I have a little bit of inside knowledge as to why the boards are down right now, but that's not helping me to understand why they aren't back up. As an IT person myself, I'm trying to imagine a scenario where the disaster recovery tools implemented by the crack staff over there wouldn't have had the server back online within 24 hours. It's my understanding that the previous server was hacked and those whose accounts were compromised were let know right away, and that this is what led to the unplanned server move. And as a part of this attack some more stringent security measures are going to be employed. I understand that enabling these measures will take some additional time on top of simply restoring the forum software on a new box. I just can't imagine what's taking so-o-o-o-o-o-o long.

I also wish that I could help. I'm a smart guy with a not insignificant amount of knowledge about servers in general and disaster recovery in particular and I'm confident that if I were given the opportunity I could help to speed the process. I'd be willing to be that there's no shortage of other Playgrounders that can/would/do say the same thing.

So, if any of you Playgrounders are reading this, HI! I miss you! For anyone else reading this that has no idea what I'm talking aboot, I apologize for this seemingly senseless interlude. I love you guys too.

Zeb, Out