31 December 2011

Happy New Year!

2012 is the year of the Dragon. I found some other great New Year's cards here and here, if you are so inclined!

27 December 2011

One Winter's Veil Morning...

For the Furtive Father Winter event this year, I had the distinct pleasure of receiving a gift from Fannon of Dwarven Battle Medic. If you aren't following his blog for quality writing, insights, and screenshots, correct that now! His lovely gift is below. You can find mine for Amerence at Amerence Love WoW here.


The first rays of the morning sun streamed through the mountain peaks to illuminate the enemy cities of Stormwind and Orgrimmar. It was the morning of Winter Veil, and both cities had a hushed aura of excitement and anticipation hovering over them like the fog over a lake on a crisp, cold morning.

Down among the homes in each of the cities the people hadn’t yet stirred; a stolen moment of peace in a troubled time of war.

At that precise moment though, two children, one an orc and the other a human, awoke in their beds with a start. Despite the fact that they were in separate, very distant cities they moved as one—jumping out of their beds and running out of their rooms to see what brightly wrapped presents Greatfather Winter had left for them underneath the great Winter Veil trees proudly displayed in each home.

The trees were decorated differently, of course, reflecting the very different cultures the two children were from. The human child’s tree was a glorious pine tree that towered above the child’s head. It smelled strongly of the freshness of the mountains and was decorated lavishly with bright, shiny metallic baubles and homemade candies and sparkling trinkets of all types and colours. The orcish child’s tree was no less impressive in size and lustre, but was adorned with beautiful, hand-carved bone artifacts that, while simpler, were crafted with obvious skill and care and attention to detail.

As the early morning sunlight lit the two trees, the children were halted in wonderment. The light shone and sparkled through the branches, causing the trees to seem as if they were aglow with a magical radiance. The children—momentarily distracted from the stacks of alluring packages underneath the branches—gasped in unison at the sheer glorious beauty of what they were seeing.

And for that fleeting instant, as those two children—born as mortal, racial enemies—both looked at the ornaments dangling on the tree branches bathed in that magical light, they felt a mysterious awareness of the other, and a strange, ineffable connection. Though they had never laid eyes on one another, at that moment they knew, although neither understood how, that they would be forever linked their whole lives. And in the event they one day saw each other—be it across a room or across a blood-soaked battlefield in some forsaken land—they knew that they would rush together and embrace as life-long friends.

24 December 2011

Happy Winter Veil!

I am very good at drawing with a tablet.
I don't know about you guys, but my parents (probably still) have a collection of holiday movies that they taped years ago and dug out for me and my brother each Xmas. One such movie was A Charlie Brown Christmas. Hearing the jazzy piano carols is enough to send me right back to childhood. Remember to love and cherish the trees in your life! We all like a little decoratin' once in a while :)

18 December 2011

15 December 2011

Feast of Winter Veil: No, you can't sit on my lap

Celebrate the final month of the year surrounded by red and green festivities! The Feast of Winter Veil runs from December 16 to January 2 and provides players with some relaxed opportunities for quests, achievements, and presents. May your feast of Great-Winter be one merry and bright!

Winter Veil takes its cues from secular Christmas, as evidenced by the various and sundry references to Santa Claus - I mean, uh, Greatfather Winter - and popular holiday movies. Similar to modern-day complaints about missing the "reason for the season," Azeroth has its own contingent of dwarves and tauren calling for a return to the original meaning of the holiday. Being Azeroth, this has nothing to do with the birth of a Christian deity, but rather refers to the original Greatfather Winter, said to walk the lands and bring winter in his wake. It's been supposed that Hodir is the original Greatfather Winter, due to his close associations with cold and the dwarves belief that Greatfather Winter is a titan. The in-game book The Feast of Winter Veil explains this, and also the reason for feasting. Those who share their bounty will find themselves blessed by Greatfather Winter as he travels across Azeroth, so it's best to celebrate big!

Nowadays, Greatfather Winter is represented in Azeroth by a dwarf or an orc, depending on what alliances you hold. He works for Smokywood Pastures, a goblin organization comprised of the Jinglepocket and Copperpinch families. Year-round they can be found selling food and drink to those entering battlegrounds, but during Winter Veil they come to Orgrimmar and Ironforge to sell holiday-specific items, recipes, and treats. Greatfather Winter works hard, and he will ask you for some milk and cookies to tide him over till the end of his shift. Have you ever left out milk and cookies overnight for Santa? (One of my elementary students lamented that he had, but his father ate them all before Santa could get to them!)

The items sold by Smokywood Pastures are staples of the holiday season. Greatfather's Winter Ale (well, he was worshipped by the dwarves!), Candy Cane, Snowballs, and recipes for Gingerbread Cookies and Egg Nog, which will use the Holiday Spices and Holiday Spirits, are all seasonal items. Cooks will receive a recipe for Hot Apple Cider in the mail. If you're looking for an interesting read about the history of holiday food, give this a spin! Long story short, cookies have a long association with holidays, candy canes (and other hard sugar candies) were often taken as medicine for colds and coughs, and egg nog developed out of an old hot drink recipe involving milk, spirits, and spices. Fruitcakes were originally a difficult and involved British specialty, and mincemeat pies did at one point routinely contain meat, along with fruit, sugar, and spices. You'll receive Graccu's Homemade Meat Pie and Graccu's Mince Meat Fruitcake during your quests for Winter Veil! Who Graccu is, however, remains shrouded in mystery.

The simple quest chains for the holiday consist of saving Metzen the Reindeer and recovering a stolen shipment of treats from The Abominable Greench. Metzen the Reindeer is a clear reference to Rudolph the Reindeer, both of whom help to guide a sleigh during their respective winter holidays. Although his in-game model does not have a shiny red nose, he appears in Christie Golden's short story "I Got What Yule Need." (note to self: add to kindle list.) Fun facts: Rudolph was created long after Santa's original eight reindeer as a holiday poem to accompany a department store promotional coloring book. It was then adapted into a children's story and a carol.

Both the name Greench and the title of the quest You're a Mean One reference the Dr. Seuss story How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The Greench's model is a yeti, also known as the Abominable Snowman, and plays a role in another children's Christmas movie, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. While you're out in Alterac, be sure to pick up some Holiday Snow or Hardpacked Snow to have a snowball fight with friends! This year, the Greench quest appears to have been made a daily and rewards a random gift.

Crafters receive all sorts of fun recipes during this holiday. Alliance tailors can whip up Red Winter Clothes, Horde tailors learn it in Green, and leatherworkers can make a matching pair of Winter Boots. You can find Red and Green Winter Hats on certain bosses during this season to complete the set! After saving Metzen, there's a chance to get a Green Holiday Shirt pattern in the reward! Wearing your holiday clothes and enjoying a festive fruitcake will grant an achievement, but it doesn't stop there! You can hop in a Winter Wondervolt Machine to be completely transformed into one of Greatfather Winter's helpers, and then wreak holiday havoc on battlegrounds to get your 50 festive honor kills. If you're still in the mood to play dressup after all that holiday slaughterin' Smokywood Pastures will reward you with a Winter Veil Disguise Kit to transform yourself into a stationary snowman. You'll need this in Dalaran for an achievement, not to mention it matches one of the four possible holiday companion pets found in the gifts under the tree.

From December 25 to January 2, gift-quests will appear under the holiday trees in Orgrimmar and Ironforge. Bringing fir trees inside and decorating them during Christmastime began in Germany and was subsequently made popular by Queen Victoria. Tinsel used to be made out of thin strips of actual silver! Presents were originally hung on the tree or placed near the hearth, and as their weight and size increased, they worked their way to the bottom. Orcs have somewhat changed the aesthetic with their skulls and swords, but the spirit remains the same.

Deck the halls with skulls and axes.
WoW players should begin with a Gently Shaken Gift and Carefully Wrapped Present, as they have no level requirements. The Winter Veil Gift and Festive Gift require level 10, the Gaily Wrapped Present level 20, and the Ticking Present level 40. The first two will reward Winter Veil Roast / Egg Nog and Cookies, the Winter Veil Gift contains the year's special limited item, and the Festive Gift contains a Wand of Holiday Cheer, which forces those affected by it to have a good time. Bah, humbug! The Gaily Wrapped Present is my favorite, of course, as it rewards one of four companion pets: Green Helper Box, Red Helper Box, Snowman Kit, and Jingling Bell. The final gift rewards you with a fighting Mechanical Greench, a handful of Preserved Holly to keep your mounts festive year-round, and the chance of another pattern.

Opening and playing with your Winter Veil presents leads to more achievements. The Red Rider Air Rifle puts you right in A Christmas Story, and you don't even have to worry about a bunny suit or having your holiday feast eaten by dogs. Just don't shoot your eye out! This year's gift is rumored to be a Gaudy Winter Veil Sweater, which you can don and go a-wassailing in the opposing faction's cities. "Carol" originally referred to a song sang during a circle dance, and evolved to become associated with Christmas songs in particular. The cheerful songs describing the holiday didn't catch on in somber churches for a while, and were instead sang in public. It's also theorized that the poor would literally sing for their supper, and that going door to door to ask for wassail and other sustenance was a blend of pagan traditions and the Christian carols. Carols were actually banned from 1647 - 1660 by Oliver Cromwell, who thought Christmas was pretty Serious Business. Many of the carols we know today were written in the 1800s.

Should you find yourself under mistletoe, be sure to give the Winter Revelers a /kiss. They'll make it worth your while with a handful of snowflakes, holly, or more mistletoe. Mistletoe is an evergreen parasitic plant originally believed to have miraculous powers to cure illness and protect against evil. It is also considered and aphrodisiac and associated with truces and peacemaking. Originally, when caught in a kiss underneath, one would remove a berry from the plant. When all the berries had been removed, you couldn't use it as an excuse to steal a smooch anymore! The name, unfortunately, comes from "missel," meaning dung, and "tan," meaning twig, as the plant was often seen growing on branches with bird droppings on them! Romance!

If that hasn't got you in the mood, maybe cooking up all the holiday foods will! You can get tips on that and other holiday quests and achievements from WoW Insider and Wowhead's guides. This holiday has a total of 14 achievements for 140 points, rewards the title Merrymaker, and counts towards What a Long, Strange Trip. 

12 December 2011

[Shared Topic] How Do You Measure a Year in the Life

How about love?

Well, if were all a young, hip, conventionally attractive group of New Yorkers harmonizing our way through life, maybe. Instead we're all ages, footsore, battlescarred, and more likely to break out in brawling than in song. Could we measure a year in war? In raid lockouts, certainly.

This week, inspired by Rioriel of Postcards from Azeroth's question "Other than the general passing of years, there's no defined calendar in Azeroth. What would you name the months?" Danslate of Danslayers asks Blog Azeroth:
Time passes, in real life and in WoW. But except for how long a day and a year are, we know virtually nothing about the calendar in Azeroth. Are there also twelve months in Azeroth as there are here? How long are they? Only because February is 28 days long in the calendars of Western civilizations doesn't mean Azeroth's February has to have the same length.
As there are many different civilizations with their own languages spread throughout Azeroth, what names might the days and months have?
For convenience, Azeroth's year mysteriously adheres to 12 months in familiarly unequal lengths. Even without January, February, etc, I don't think it's impossible for Azerothians to have their own named months. However, their geographical location (or isolation) and lifespan likely led to them developing separate types of measurements for time.

The night elves have been around for a long time. I can see them following a lunar calendar, keeping track of Elune/the moon's phases and visages as the year progresses. On Earth, humans named each full moon according to what was occurring in nature at the time, resulting in names like Snow Moon, Flower Moon, and Harvest Moon. I can definitely see the night elves tying this in with their personification of the moon as Elune. White Face Moon for a clear winter month, Wisp Moon when the Teldrassil wisps are active, Nightsaber Moon when the nightsabers give birth.

In contrast, tauren worship the Earthmother and nomadically follow the hunt, so they would keep track of the seasons closely. The year might be divided more widely into 3rds or 4ths, with the Great Hunt while following their food, Wandering for their migration, and Herdsmeet when they settle in a new location.

Humans, and by extension, Forsaken and worgen, celebrate a host of harvest festivals, so not only do they keep close track of the seasons, but also how that affects their crops. They would likely have seasons like Sowing and Harvest.

Orcs live in an unchanging desert; I think we can assume that whatever system they followed on Draenor has been replaced. As such, they likely turned to the tauren for inspiration. I suspect the draenei did the same with humans.

Trolls live all over Azeroth, and are supposedly related to night elves, so they may pay closer attention to the moon than other Horde races. However, since allying with the Horde, they may follow an agricultural calendar instead.

Gnomes, dwarves, and even goblins all fall into the same category for me. When you're making gold, inventing new ways to get blown up, or mining deep in the earth, what use do you have for the movements of the moon or the changing of the weather? I imagine each race would have its own set of peculiar holidays to base its year around. The different types of materials available / in demand during each season might result in names like Goldlinks, Windfall, and Lightpocket (goblin) and Blastbrows, Silvergear, and Refueling (gnomes). The dwarves' mining might be affected by seasonal changes like snowfall and flooding, leading to names like Tinlichen in wet months or Deep Earth in dry.

As far as the passage of years, it's likely that spring, or its equivalent, would be the start of the year, and people would measure their own age based on how many of X season they had experienced. Major events, especially war, would be good points of reference as well for races that had experienced them. Forsaken likely count from Sylvanas' rebellion, draenei from their various arrivals on planets, humans, orcs, & night elves from their many skirmishes. I like to think that goblins and gnomes divide eras based on their current leader, like the emperor in Japan. Of course, each race may have a unique calendar, but they likely follow the dominant culture in their faction for consistency.

09 December 2011

Goblin Journal: Paladins in the Plaguelands

The first thing I noticed across the bridge separating the two plaguelands was the stench. I mean, the western plaguelands are not particularly rosy, but the mostly-reclaimed areas are tolerable, maybe even pleasant. The eastern ones, less so. They are brown. I was gonna say dead, but that's too generous. They are rotten. There's a rank humidity in the air only slightly alleviated by the winter chill. The grass practically squishes when you walk over it. Okay, gonna stop now. I'm grossing myself out.

Anyway, the Cenarion Circle druids recommended that I seek my fortune traveling with a worgen woman on her caravan. Fiona works her way around the plaguelands, buying and selling her wares throughout the season. I was lucky to catch her as she stopped at the western border of the plaguelands, on the Thorondril River. She was reloading her stock, and I signed on for the journey. She seemed easy going enough, once I got past the face of gleaming-sharp teeth. I thought about talking shop, but she was so busy that she sent me off to collect her other passengers, a pair of gung-ho paladins.

I found one of them killing spiders nearby. Tarenar was a tall, leggy blood elf, but overall tolerable, for a paladin. And a blood elf. The other fellow was a bit harder to locate - I tracked him all the way north along the coast, made easier to follow by the long path of still-twitching spider bodies. He had gotten himself into trouble and was trussed up in a web tighter than a debtor behind on his dues. I cut him loose and discovered a dwarf only a little taller than me. I practiced my Common with him until we reached Fiona's caravan, and then it was time to push off.

Turns out Tarenar's Common was better than mine, and he launched into an animated conversation with Gidwin - that's the dwarf - as soon as we were moving. I gave up trying to follow after a few minutes. Talk about an odd couple! Fiona knew a little bit of Orcish from her trading, so we cobbled together a conversation after some effort.

Our first stop was an outpost for the Argent Crusade. They've purified some of the old watchtowers in the region, and you can practically feel the slime in the air dissipate as you enter the sacred ground. After a lively haggle, I convinced Fiona to inexpensively loan me a trinket from her caravan so I could quest easier while she did business with the outpost.

The paladin pair (I had taken to calling them Storky and Stumpy in my head by this point) took off just as soon as they could, practically frothing at the chance to kill more Scourge. I followed them for a while, but ended up doing some odd jobs in the area instead.

I returned to the tower just as Fiona was getting ready to leave. I don't think she would have left without me, but I'm glad I showed up at that time all the same. I couldn't imagine wandering through the putrid zone all by my onesies!

We followed what was left of the old royal road and for the most part avoided the sickly things that terrorize the forests, but it got a bit dicey when we went through Corin's Crossing. They tell me it used to be a wealthy trading town, but now it's little more than dilapidated houses and enterprising Scourge. They set upon us just as soon as we passed the first house, and to no one's surprise the paladin pair leaped into the fray and smote holy justice on everything they could reach. For my part, I climbed on top of the caravan and rained ice on the monsters to slow them and keep them from pursuing us.

Fiona was much easier to barter with after that little scrape. Who said brawling ain't good business sense? Her good mood also meant that she graciously translated what Storky and Stumpy were saying for my benefit. They talk big, and bicker constantly, but they're clearly good friends! Even Fiona looks after them, even though she's only just met them.

We stopped at the next tower, much to the paladin pair's distress. Fiona wanted to recruit another paying passenger, so I barked our caravan around for her and stumbled upon a wrinkled old human. He's a member of the Argent Crusade, and told me he'd sign on if I killed some of the plagued beasts that were threatening the road. While I was doing that, however, both Storky and Stumpy ran off to Light's Hope Chapel! Only me, Fiona, and this Argus fellow continued on in the wagon.

Argus spoke fluent Orcish, so we had a nice chat about the Crusade. He didn't try to sell it to me, not really, and I suspect they want only truly devoted members in their ranks, but I found myself impressed with his speech anyway. When we arrived at Light's Hope, I headed to the Chapel and met up with the paladins. Coasting on their collective excitement, I pledged to help out the Crusade, and before long we were killing Scourge in a nearby village.

Things went into the red when Tarenar wanted to take a detour. I didn't think anything of it and went along, but when we returned from our expedition Gidwin had ran on ahead, alone and into the heart of a Scourge town! We followed him, but all we could find were signs of a struggle and Gidwin's abandoned prayerbook. The look on Tarenar's face...he looked like he'd lost a fortune. We met Fiona and Argus at the nearest tower, and Argus advised us to search the Plaguewood and Stratholme. Fiona whipped the horses up and we raced to the tower on the edge of the Plaguewood.

Tarenar argued with Fiona in Common, berated himself in Orcish, and muttered to himself in Thalassian so quietly that we couldn't hope to understand. He vaulted off the wagon before we had even arrived at the watchtower and tore into the trees, looking for Scourge to slaughter. At Argus' suggestion, I searched the nearby Scourge outposts and managed to beat some information out of the engineers I found there. Then I went into the Plaguewood, looking for Tarenar.

If I thought just being in the Plaguelands was stomach-turningly disgusting, the Plaguewood was worse. The stench of rotting is like a physical barrier and half the time I felt as if I were slogging through soup. The plants are striped with mold and beaded with a thick, blood-like sweat. My boots may never be clean. I followed the path to Stratholme, trying to avoid Scourge patrols that might sound an alarm. Tarenar was just outside the bridge leading to the overrun city, surrounded by an impressive mountain of skeletons and dessicated flesh. He looked torn between rage and despair and couldn't stop pacing, so I told him what I had learned right away.

He took off, and together we tracked the abductors to a slaughterhouse. Inside, we found Gidwin, looking tired and hungry and miserable, and the Baroness Anastari, about to perform the atrocious ritual that would raise him as a death knight. We made quick work of her, or rather, Tarenar did, looking everything like a paladin should with his holy light and flashing sword. The Baroness didn't stand a chance. When her specter faded into nothingness, Tarenar ripped off the ropes holding Gidwin and swept the unprotesting dwarf off the altar and into his arms. Gidwin, who was still pretty weak, just patted Tarenar's back and kicked his legs feebly where they hung above the ground.

The scene was comically incongruous, but also oddly intimate, so I silently excused myself and met them outside. Gidwin was walking very slowly, having been marched to the Plaguewood and held without food, but between me and Tarenar we got him safely back to the tower. Fiona knelt to hug him - I don't suppose she can lift a full grown dwarf in plate mail. Frankly, neither can I.

Tarenar packed Gidwin into the wagon soon after, insisting that Gidwin needed to rest at Light's Hope. If he looked like he lost a fortune before, now he looked like he had made back triple his investment. Argus asked me to escort him to the final tower for his repairwork, so Gidwin lent me his hearthstone so I could return quickly to Light's Hope and meet up with them.

06 December 2011

The Land Down Under

Well, it's been a month since I actually went to Australia and met my amazing guildies, but I am going to talk about it and it will be wonderful! Have you ever met your guildies in person? I realize that not all guilds, or people, really inspire that sort of longing, but I'm happy to say that Cadence is the kind of place where I want to hang with my guildies in meatspace, too.

sup cuties
I left on Saturday at 4PM, after bagels and coffee in Namba Parks. I arrived at Guangzhou, waited for 4 hours, then hopped on another plane to Melbourne. As an aside, do not fly China Southern Airlines! They didn't once replace the paper in the toilet on a nine hour flight. That, and not all of the flight attendants speak Japanese, and they look annoyed when you talk to them in English. Gaahhh! Just give me a glass of shui please.

I arrived after lunch on Sunday and was picked up by my former guildies Dragons, Thysan, and her husband Pern. It was perfect, in that there was basically no awkwardness with meeting in person. They even made me a little welcome sign, although I missed it because I came out of another doorway! We drove back to their house and talked and relaxed. I was extremely jetlagged, so when they offered to show me some fun TV they had...acquired, I was really glad to take it easy. We watched Sherlock (I am a convert) and an episode of Eureka, and then ate meat pies and chips (not fries!).

The following day we met my RL Grae, his girlfriend Bel, and Dahakha. Yay!!! We got burgers (with chips - not fries) and I had about 30 seconds of “where are my potato chips” before I remembered IT IS A DIFFERENT THING. Then we went to the beach, but because the weather hates me it was bitterly cold and windy and we stood there for about 5 minutes before deciding to go inside and eat some ice cream.

From there, me, Dragons, and Dah had quite a drive to get over to the penguin parade! There is a small, adorable, huggable colony of Little Penguins living in Melbourne, and if you sit on the beach at sunset you can see them come home for the evening! The park has a building to sit and wait with not one but two gift shops and a restaurant. I got a Three Penguin Moon thermometer magnet (too funny to pass up) and ate fish (and chips! ...not fries). Then we bundled up and went to sit on towels in the sand and wait for it to get dark. A nice park ranger came out and talked to us about penguins and despite the fact that I hear Aussies and Kiwis talk all the time, I couldn't help but think “Teehee! Accent!” What is wrong with me? And as an aside, is there anyone in the world – native English speakers, that is – who actively likes, or fetishizes American English?

Anyway, once it got dark we started to see masses of penguins gather at the shoreline and make their way across the beach. Sometimes they get cold feet, and halfway to the grass turn around and scamper back into the water. We weren't allowed to take pictures because the flash scares them, which sucks because they were so cute! After the march across the beach, you can stand on the wooden path above the dunes and watch them toddle back into their huts. I think it's human nature to narrate the actions and thoughts of adorable animals, so we did that for a while.

I should add that on the way to the penguin parade we came across a real life chocolate factory and stopped there for great justice! All the things I bought there were either given away as gifts or eaten within days of returning home. It was delicious.

On Tuesday was the Melbourne Cup. My friends actually live fairly close to the grounds where it's held, but we got together at their house for eating and drinking. We met Thysan's boss and their mutual friend Shan. Dragons introduced him to me in what I think was the defining phrase of the week: “He's our people.” It was good. We ate cheese and crackers, delicious burgers and sausages grilled by Pern, and dove headfirst into sugar comas with pavlova, lammingtons, chocolate ripple cake, and jelly squares. Dragons and I split cider, which is fortunately an acceptable beer substitute. I just got weird looks when I said I liked to drink chu-hai...

On Wednesday we went to the zoo by tram. We were joined by Katz and Dah, and spent the day harassing the poor creatures gathered for our viewing pleasure. Some of the animals I had already seen at the Tennoji Zoo, but there were others that even Japan didn't put on display! The insect display was the worst. Why are stick bugs so awful? So hideous? So terrifying??

Afterwards we met up with the greater group, including Spanky, at a pub and scarfed some stew-in-bread. I've had bread bowls at Panera before, but this was seriously a freaking loaf of bread filled to the brim with beef and sauce. I got about halfway through mine before declaring it a loss, but Pern not only finished his, but even ate the layer of mashed potatoes hidden under the bread! Hard mode stew-in-bread! People gradually peaced out as the night wore on, and in the end it was me, Dragons, Spanky, and Katz drinking in a booth. At some point the bartender came by and threw a free tshirt at us, which I got because it was a small shirt. Beer shirt! We stumbled back to Dragons' place, then watched The Castle. It's such a sweet movie! Spanky giggled through the whole thing in anticipation of his favorite jokes. He's a cute drunk :P

The next day was really nice, in that we woke up late and spent the day idly window shopping downtown. There are so many little shops and boutiques! It reminded me of Winter Park in FL. I was introduced to the completely perfect concept of a chocolate cafe, where you can go to get some hot chocolate, or maybe some chocolate on a plate, or other form of heavenly sustenance. We visited Dragons' local comic shop, and I got volume 3 of Gunnerkrigg Court! (If you aren't reading it, get your ass over there noooow) For dinner, we went to the Veggie Bar and I had a burrito. You guys. Burrito. It was incredible.

We were joined at dinner by Bek, her brother Mattid, and Mr. and Ms. Mojo. They aren't actually married, and Ms. Mojo doesn't play WoW, but the name sticks! Mojo is one of the regular raiders, so it was nice to finally put a friendly face to the voice. From dinner we went to the Mana Bar, a gamer-friendly bar. The walls were covered in flatscreens, each with a different Sonic game and the accompanying controller on a nearby table. The menu was all puns (I had a health pot!). Even the bathroom was covered in nerdy graffiti: “The cake is a lie!” “Thralls balls!” and the like.

The following day, I hit up the Queen Victoria markets with Dragons, Thysan, and Katz. We had delightful jelly donuts for breakfast, then wandered the stalls looking for gaudy silver rings for Katz. After a delicious lunch of pizza (REAL PIZZA. YOU GUYS.) we parted ways with Katz and continued on to the Botanical Gardens. The first thing we saw was an arch straight out of Throne of the Four Winds. Dragons is the boss, Thysan is the tank. Several hundred flower pictures later, we met Katz again in Chinatown for dinner, then went to the Old Melbourne Gaol for a ghost tour!

It wasn't all that scary, but it was appropriately eerie and the history was very interesting. The tour guide was a really good spieler and had sharp comebacks for his audience participation. I was surprised to learn about the fine art of hanging (it involves equations – important if you don't want the head to pop right off) and creeped out by the death masks made after executions.

The last day started off right, with pancakes and bacon, courtesy of Pern. We were joined by Mojo and a very hungover Spanky. Then, we piled on the tram to go to the ~guild meetup~!!! We had a proper lunch in the restaurant side of the pub and were joined by Sas and EM. Sas I didn't know when he was raiding regularly, but he brought his kids and Dragons christened his infant son Arthas. Appropriate? You tell me. EM is our Kiwi RL. I had chicken parma (with chips!) and drank more cider. When we moved into the pub, we were joined by Cyo and finally Scorp, who showed up 30 minutes before I had to go to the airport! At least I got to talk to him for a little while.

Dragons took me to the airport, and I was so sure I would cry! I managed to get my eyes satisfactorily dry by the time I hit the ticket counter. The guy did not believe I was returning home to Japan so I flashed my visa and all was well. Then I got frisked because I only had the one carry-on. Learn to travel light! On impulse, I got some gummis and chewies for my Aussie friends in Japan, and they loved it. It's weird to me, because I've always gravitated towards chocolate when it comes to candy, but they were so pleased!

I know that there are still outdated ideas about what sort of people are playing video games, but it's stories like this that will hopefully help to change that stereotype. My guildies are my friends, and they are just as balanced as I am. I think I got really lucky to find this guild, and I'll be so sad to leave it when I go back to the US. Being able to visit them, and see a part of Australia at the same time, was the best possible outcome. Even my mom was totally cool when I told her I was going to visit my friends from WoW!

I didn't just feel comfortable being with my friends, either. I've become so used to being stared at when I go out that it was honestly surprising to not have that happen. There were times where I felt almost stealthy, walking around in plain sight without anyone realizing I was there! Contrastingly, I was reminded of just how small I am. In Japan I fit in height-wise, and am typically wider and rounder than other people, but in Australia I was positively petite! Grae even picked me up (for which he will never be forgiven =_=).

So I'm home again, 300 pictures, 600gig of TV, and innumerable good experiences later. Have you ever met your WoW friends in meatspace?

03 December 2011

The Leatherworkers [Tier 13]

“This is just ridiculous,” grumbled the orc, dropping her trowel in the mud. Her gloves were coated in a thick, stinking layer of algae and mud, as was her entire lower half.

“You know how particular druids are,” replied her companion. “Always looking for new ways to commune with nature.” He continued to dig in the mud.

“Yes, but mushrooms? From the Outlands?” She peered at one of the fist-sized, glowing blue fungi she had extricated from the marshy lakebed. “They don't look so special to me.”

“Eat one and find out,” suggested the tauren. He only laughed when the orc flicked mud at him. “What I wanna know,” he said, sitting back on his heels and gesturing with his trowel,” is how they incorporate the plant matter into the leather so that it changes when the druids shapeshift.”

The orc stabbed into the mud, rooting for another mushroom. “Whatever it is, it's more magic than I could muster. That's why I'm just a gatherer.”

The tauren waded into the shallows to wash off the mushrooms he had collected. He exchanged them with the orc, who handed him her haul to rinse while she wrapped the cleaned mushrooms in waxed cloth.

The orc swung the bundle on her back. “Let's go check the trap.”

They set off across the perpetually damp, spongy ground, weaving among the comically tall mushroom trees and glowing foliage. As they approached the clearing where they had set the trap that morning, the tauren motioned for the orc to hang back, then snuck on ahead.

Although the tauren was taller and wider than her, the orc was again struck with how quietly he could move. It was with roguelike, almost delicate steps that he crept to the edge of the clearing to check on their quarry.

The tauren motioned the orc forward, and she went to his side. In the clearing was a sporebat, placidly eating from the mound of food they had set and completely missing the fact that it was now entangled in their trap. The orc readied her materials – a pouch of soft, rubbery material and a length of cord.

Before the sporebat could register what was happening, the tauren had grabbed it and deftly flipped it upside down. At his companion's questioning look, he explained, “It makes them sleepy.” True to his word, the panicked thrashing soon resided into minute tremors. The orc took hold of the sporebat's twin tails and held them over the open mouth of her pouch.

“Let 'er rip,” she instructed the tauren. He began to tickle the sporebat on the glowing sphere of its underbelly, and in response, glittering spores puffed out of its tail and into the waiting bag. “I'm curious as to how you discovered this...method,” the orc said conversationally, trying to keep a smirk off her face.

The tauren had moved on to the pointed tips of the sporebat's tiny wings. The spores changed color. “The locals keep sporebats as pets. Apparently they are quite ticklish.”

When the sporebat was all tickled out, the orc carefully closed the pouch and stowed it along with the mushrooms. The tauren righted the sporebat and gently cut it free of their trap, then fed it a cracker before it floated away.

The orc watched this with amusement, then summoned her wind rider, which gave her an appreciative sniff. “I could do with a shower and a drink, how about you?”

30 November 2011

Furtive Father Winter Event!

Hello Blogosphere! This year I would like to host a Furtive Father Winter gift exchange. It is open to anyone with an email address, a blog, and some winter cheer. Because the holiday season can be quite hectic, the concept is simple:

  1. Between now and December 15th, please email me using the comment form in my sidebar, OR leave a comment on this post or the Blog Azeroth thread to state your interest to participate. (You can also try twitter but it doesn't always alert me -_-)
  2. On December 16th, I will pair up participants and contact everyone with the name and email address of their gift recipient.
  3. Gift givers should then learn about their recipient and create a [holiday-themed] post using prose, poetry, music, graphic art, screenshots, or anything else of their choosing. There is no quantity requirement; just make something you might like to receive as a gift!
  4. Between December 20th and 31st, please deliver your post to its recipient, and publish your gift on your blog! Be sure to give credit to the gift-giver so we can appreciate your creativity!

Please try to send accessible files, for instance .zip instead of .rar, and MS Office documents compatible with 2000/XP rather than 2007 only.

Feel free to nab the lazy graphic I cobbled together and spread the word! Happy Winter Veil!

Gift posts are being posted! Thank you to everyone for participating!
AmerenceAmerence Love WoW - from red cow rise
LialaDisciplinary Action - from The Golden Crusade
KamaliaKamalia et Alia - from Disciplinary Action
WindsoarJaded Alt - from Effraeti's RP
DraccusA Druid's Doodling - from Flinthammer Hall
NavimieThe Daily Frostwolf - from Heroically Random
Cymre - Bubbles of Mischief - from Fel Concentration
BeruthielFalling Leaves and Wings - from The Bossy Pally
OphelieThe Bossy Pally - from Raiding After Dark
Akabekored cow rise - from Dwarven Battle Medic
MiaChronicles of Mia - from Bubbles of Mischief
EffraetiEffraeti's RP - from Bravetank
AnslymBag Overflow - from The Daily Frostwolf
GladlyThe Ready Check - from Children of Wrath
PoneriaFel Concentration - from Altaholic Warcraft
Thespius - Healer by Nature - from AmerPriest
RenaissanceMan - Children of Wrath - from The Reluctant Raider
Morrighan - Caer Morrighan - from The Ready Check
Xsinthis - The Golden Crusade - from Kamalia et Alia
Saif - Raiding After Dark - from Chronicles of Mia
Angelya - Revive and Rejuvenate - from Falling Leaves and Wings
Karegina - The Reluctant Raider - from A Druid's Doodling
Oestrus - The Stories of O - from Resto is Epic
Dreamy - Drunkard's Regalia - from Jaded Alt
Rilandune - Heroically Random - from The Stories of O
Bravetank - Bravetank - from Bag Overflow
Ringo Flinthammer - Flinthammer Hall - from Caer Morrighan
Fannon - Dwarven Battle Medic - from Healer By Nature
Katarnas - Resto Is Epic - from Revive and Rejuvenate
Nightwill - Info about WoW from the Altaholic - from Drunkard's Regalia

27 November 2011

IntPiPoMo: Red Leaves!

My final installment for IntPiPoMo 2011 is a series of photos from a recent trip to the Philosopher's Path in Kyoto. I had actually never walked it, and hadn't even been to Ginkakuji which marks the end of the path, so it was a new experience to boot! This is the time of year when the leaves go red and momiji are particularly vibrant. Sunny days and bright colors in nature always make me feel overwhelmed with...I don't know, inspiration? Creativity? Joy? I find myself wanting to inhale all the color and fill my lungs with it, or drink it into my eyes and let it drip through my whole body. Consequently, I end up with all these awkward, shapeless photos of directionless color if I'm not extremely conscientious of what I'm doing. Hopefully these pictures can give you some idea of the riotous color explosion.

Nearly 20 pictures, so I've hidden them behind a cut. As always, best viewed on the website using Blogger's lightbox.

25 November 2011

IntPiPoMo: Night Elf Deco

Today for IntPiPoMo I have an offering of various night elf trinkets from Darkshore and Teldrassil. Best viewed on the site using the Blogger lightbox.


23 November 2011

Give thanks!

Amerence of Amerence Love WoW has come up with a wonderful event for this year's Pilgrim's Bounty. She's encouraging bloggers to give thanks, be it with a picture, story, or short note, to their fellow bloggers during the week of November 19th. Giving has its own rewards, as well, because a team of judges will pick the top three posts and distribute some wonderful prizes! Get all the important details here at her site; there's still time to participate!

I sort of dread calling people out by name, because inevitably someone will be left out and I'll feel terrible, so just assume that if you are on the list at the right or have ever commented on my blog, YOU ARE APPRECIATED AND LOVED. That having been said!

Thank you to Windsoar and Ophelie and Amerence for working so hard on Blog Azeroth and its community. Thank you to Beru and Fimlys and Hydra for your work on Twisted Nether, promoting and supporting the blogosphere. Thank you to Kamalia and Jamin and Draccus and Navi, whose comments I tuck away close to my heart. Thank you to the folks at Flavor Text Lore, to Rades, and to Saz for bringing me good stories. Thank you to my DURID FRIENDS Khizzara, Jasyla, Icedragon, FeralTree, Glowberry, Solitudeone, ElfiJar, Lisanna, Angelya, Syrco, Lara, Arielle, Reesi, Tzufit, Keeva, Keredria, and Juvenate, for massaging your grey matter so I don't have to. Thank you to Edenvale, even if you always make me hungry at work! Thank you to the lads and lasses of All Things Azeroth, The Instance, and Girls Gone WoW, for making me laugh and keeping me up to date on news. Telさんにもありがとうございます!日本語でおもしろいWOWのブログを読んで、勉強になっています!

A Very Beko Thanksgiving and bonus materials behind the cut!

20 November 2011

Pilgrim's Bounty: Share Plentiful Food

I know you guys have been thinking "Ok, we already had a harvest festival, and then another harvest festival, but when are we gonna have a harvest festival?" Fear not, for Pilgrim's Bounty is here! "It's time to reflect on your journeys and good fortune, share plentiful food, and stories with friends." This holiday is obviously based on the USian Thanksgiving holiday, leaving out most of the juicy historical bits in order to emphasize EATING.

The in-game holiday itself is very straightforward. Get together, reflect, eat. The original concept of "thanks-giving" was similarly nebulous, and New England colonists frequently celebrated with religious ceremonies and feasting after a successful harvest, a military victory, or an end of a drought. In fact, Thanksgiving did not become an official, set holiday until declared so by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Before then, Presidents Washington, Adams, and Madison, along with many governors, had declared days of thanks-giving at different points throughout the year. President Roosevelt caused trouble in 1939 when he declared the fourth Thursday, rather than the last Thursday of November, Thanksgiving. In light of The Great Depression, he had been advised to make the holiday earlier in order to extend the Christmas shopping season. (At the time, it was inappropriate to advertise Xmas-related things before Thanksgiving. What I wouldn't give for that same sensibility now...) Half of the nation agreed to this change, the other half did not, and some states simply took both Thursdays as holidays. Good choice!

Azeroth skips over the history behind the holiday, avoiding messy explanations of religious persecution, fleeing to a new and potentially inhospitable land, making friends with the locals, and having a 3 day food extravaganza (the kids' version!). The only remnant of the Plymouth Pilgrim story is in the attire you can get as daily quest rewards: Pilgrim's Hat, Pilgrim's Dress, Pilgrim's Attire, Pilgrim's Boots, and incongruously, Pilgrim's Robe. Some fun facts about pilgrims: The word pilgrim describes a traveler who is on a journey to a holy place. William Bradford used the term first in 1620, intentionally calling to mind the religious associations. It was not used again until he was quoted by historians 50 years later, and again in 1793 at a Forefather's observance, and finally by Daniel Webster in 1820 in his Plymouth bicentennial address, when the term stuck. Despite the fact that images of pilgrims today feature harsh black and white clothing accented with dapper gold buckles, pilgrims dressed themselves in all colors that could be found in natural dye. They used simple laces in their clothing, as buckles were expensive. The so-called pilgrim fashion was based on what was popular in England at the time!

Blizzard has also removed other staples of the holiday, namely parades and sporting events, in favor of more amusing pursuits. Players are first directed to enjoy 5 helpings of every dish at the feast, earning them the Spirit of Sharing buff. There's an achievement for politely passing the food, but there's also one for chucking it at your dinner guests! If you get really hungry, you can even visit the opposing faction's feast tables to partake. Be sure to throw on your best pilgrim duds to get another achievement! While your at it, pack a couple one-time use Turkey Shooters to nab any rogues you happen across. "You tweachewous miscweant!"

Thanksgiving is a huge travel weekend, when people trek across the nation to be with family and friends on the holiday. You'll be traveling in game as well, but not so you can relax at your destination! The in-game quest chain and resulting dailies keep players going round and round their capital cities, cooking up Spice Bread Stuffing, Pumpkin Pie, Cranberry Chutney, Candied Sweet Potatoes, and Slow-Roasted Turkeys, which you can learn from a Bountiful Cookbook. All of these foods are native to the Americas, along with other staples like sweet corn and squash. This holiday is the absolute best way to level your cooking from 1-350, so long as you have coin to buy the seasonal mats and the patience to visit every capital city each day. In that regard, it is very similar to the real-world holiday. Being the cook for Thanksgiving is brutal! After preparing your dishes, you can use a Bountiful Basket to combine them into a Bountiful Feast. Modern-day cornucopias are depicted as wicker baskets, but the original cornucopia is a horn, broken off from either a goat or a river god. They are closely associated with the harvest and Thanksgiving - do you still have yours from Harvest Festival?

Naturally, there is a cooking achievement. Of course, you'll have to gather your mats, some of which cannot be purchased from vendors! Wild Turkeys roam the forests of Elwynn and Tirisfal, waiting to be mercilessly slaughtered for our tables. If you're quick enough, you can even achieve Turkey Triumph and become The Turkinator. In post Civil-War New England, celebrants used to hold shooting matches aiming for - you guessed it - turkeys. I feel so authentic! Did you know that since the mid-20th century, the National Turkey Federation presents the president with 1 live and 2 dressed turkeys on Thanksgiving? A tradition since 1989, the president has officially pardoned the turkey, allowing it to live out its remaining years on a quiet farm. I always preferred ham anyway.

This holiday is NOT REQUIRED for What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been! However, you can get a sweet title and self-sacrificing minipet, should you complete the 10 associated achievements, earning 100 points. You can find WoW Insider's guide here and Wowhead's compilation here. A good guide for using this holiday to level cooking can be found here. If you're feeling snacky, head over to The Gamer's Fridge and cook up something nice for yourself!