Sep 27, 2005

Microchanges in Air Density?

Ok, I know that I've only been doing Ditlog for a few weeks, but my morbid curiosity is welling. Is anyone out there reading? Kindly drop me a comment with any constructive criticism or a quick blurb on what you like.

Sorry to wax self-promotive, but I'm trying to gauge whether my efforts at Technorati are helping my traffic to any extent. I know it's a pain to create a Blogger account to post a comment, but if you're enjoying the blog at all, I'd really appreciate it.

Training Cats and Dogs: Part Deux

Ok, I have to apologize. I'd never intended Ditlog to devolve into a episodic, stream of consciousness journal of the Misadventures of Erilar the Hunter. I mean, who wants to read that? It's like the old geek joke about hanging out at the gaming convention and the slightly disturbingly weird uber-geek who won't stop following one around and talking about his character.

In any case, the point I've been meandering towards is this: Ditlog is still an experiment. To anyone out there that's actually reading this, please hang in there. As I've stated previously, I created Ditlog as a working experiment. At this point, Ditlog is an merely a instrument designed to congeal my muddled thoughts and half-formed ideas about a website by simple evolution.

So, without further befuddlement, I'd like to present this entry as I probably should have the first time through:

I've been spending some of my WoW time lately beefing up my hunter's pet. With the release of patch 1.7, hunters have been blessed not only with the long-awaited revamping of our Talent trees, but also the addition of a bevy of interesting new pet abilities.

Due to the wide variety of choices now available, I've been spending many a lunch hour scheming about the exact combination of abilities I want to train Erilar's trusty nightsaber with. In the process, I stumbled upon two very helpful hunter pet resources.

Petopia is a smashing new website that details the types of trainable beasts available, their individual characteristics and advantages, and an informative top-50 list. Petopia does a great job of outlining all the pet abilities now available, complete with a guide to what animals an aspiring hunter can learn each from. Finally, Petopia has collected a comprehensive collection of images detailing all the different varieties of each species. Truly, a valuable resource for gun- (and bow-) toting Azerothians everywhere.

Not to be outdone, WoW enthusiasts Rocket, Bindar, and Rooke have developed a highly-useful pet training calculator which allows one to plan out the own Stupid Pet Tricks to the nth degree. This web app even customizes the training points and pet skills available to a hunter of a given level. Pink pencil-tip erasers world-wide have issued a press release to the developers thanking then for saving hundreds of their brethren from an untimely and dusty demise.

My recent efforts have snared me two new abilities for Erilar's hunting companion. The first, Dash, has actually been available in-game for some time now, but after some quality Petopia time, I decided that it was for me. Dash allows your pet a brief 15-second burst of speed - from a 40% bonus at lower levels to a whopping 80% at the highest. I'm interested see the skill's utility in chasing down runners, but at this early stage I've been getting a real kick out of seeing my new wolf take off like a rocket towards target mobs, with a satisfying Superman-like woosh, when given the command to attack. Cool factor:10, Usefulness: TBD.

Prowl is one of the new 1.7 pet abilities. It allows pets of the feline variety to enter stealth mode, like a rogue or druid in cat form. Their speed is reduced to 50-60% of normal, but their first hit scored (breaking stealth) yields a total of 120-150% of normal damage. Quite cool. It seems that leaving this ability on autocast will not be practical, as the animal then moves too slowly to keep up with his/her master, but it will be an interesting addition to hunter tactics.

I intend to collect the Furious Howl skill next for my new wolf. This nifty ability imparts a 10-second buff to each party member's next attack. I can't wait to see what Blizzard has in store for the pets that were left out in 1.7 - particularly bears and spiders!

Training Cats and Dogs

Played another great WoW session a few days ago, but didn't have time to blog it. After upgrading my gear, I needed to spend some time on my trusty companion, Zuel the hunting cat.

I first headed down to Stranglethorn, to a little island off the east coast called Jaguero Isle. There lurks an elusive kitty appropriately called the Jaguero Stalker. These black panthers train hunters the new pet skill Prowl 3, so I had to train one for myself to pass the skill on to good ol' Zuel.

I then headed off to the Hinterlands, and snuck into an elite troll fortress called Jintha'Alor. That was pretty thrilling, considering that since I was on a pet taming mission, I didn't have Zuel along to back me up. At level 55, I can't handle too many lvl 49 elite trolls mano-a-trollo, so my stealthy entry was certainly exhilarating. I finally made it to the top of that troll-infested ziggurat and trained myself a Vilebranch Raiding Wolf (51 elite).

This lithe, black canine teaches hunters the Dash 3 pet skill. I'm still currently adventuring with this wolf, now named Wahya, trying to get him loyal enough to teach me his very-cool Dash ability. I really like this pet, and I think I'm going to hang onto him as permanent fixture of my stable.

I have to interject a great trick here that my 9-yr-old son, also a WoW fanatic, discovered just the other day. A freshly-tamed pet can now immediately be taught the Growl skill, since Growl now costs zero training points. This makes grinding to raise the new pet's loyalty much more enjoyable, compared to constantly struggling with aggro! I might be mistaken, but I'm pretty sure that at some point, Growl used to cost training points and a fresh, new pet was incapable of learning it. Great tip!

One last pet-centric topic. Hunters, be sure to check out the great pet website, Petopia. This site is lovingly-done, and contains all sorts of useful info regarding hunter pets, all wonderfully accompanied by crisp images of each pet type. Anyone "shopping" for a new pet, or wanting to trick out their current pet (pun intended) with some new skills, should definitely check it out.

Next on the agenda: take griffin to Feralas to train a Longtooth Runner to learn Howl 3 for Wahya. What's a wolf without Howl?!?

Sep 22, 2005

The Edges of Blackrock

Well, last night was another great session of WoW (see yesterday's post for even more goodness)! Spent the evening questing in Burning Steppes, and actually finished picking up all of the pre-requisite quests for Blackrock Depths. First endgame dungeon, here I come!

After returning from their successful Zul'Gurub run (in which they took down the two first bosses), Jandari also kindly made me my second Dawn's Edge with the materials I'd sent him. To top it all off with a flourish, I spent about half of the evening's loot on double Demonslaying enchantments for my shiny new axes. See above for a pic of Erilar showing them off. You go, elf!

I know, I know, Demonslaying sucks stat-wise. Well, they look sweet, and I'm actually really saving up for Icy Chill, but each of those enchants costs almost twice what one of these axes does...

Sep 21, 2005

Whirl of Warcraft

I've finally found some time to spend playing WoW the last two nights. I've been working on the house like a dog, and was starting to get twitchy.

Monday night, I tackled my level 52 hunter quest in Azshara - searching for the furbolg hunter trainer out in the sticks, hunting some wild stags for him, and then finally scouring the coastline for a decent spawning ground for the Wavethrasher hydras. The last phase involves killing a green dragon in Sunken Temple, so I hope to hit that with some guildies soon. Not much xp (too much searching around), but got to explore all over Azshara. Those nagas and satyrs need to spruce the place up - the place is a wreck!

Last night was the highlight. I'd finally scraped up the cash and scoured the auction house for the raw materials for my first Dawn's Edge axe, and my awesome guildie Jandari said he would have it made for me and in the mail by the time I returned to Ironforge at the close of the night!

I'm now working on gathering my quests for Blackrock Depths, so I first picked up all the easy ones (Ironforge, Kharanos, and Steamwheedle Port). Then, before heading to the Burning Steppes, I wanted to knock out the series in Searing Gorge.

I had no idea that I was going to have so much fun! I began the night soloing. The questing was a little slow - all drop quests and the mobs were pretty far apart, spawning in discrete lava pools and such. Hint: when working on The Flawless Flame, the Heart of Flame quest items only drop from the fire elementals! The Golem Oil drops from any of the golems or elementals, and can be gathered pretty quickly.

I spent a while bopping around the Cauldron area doing Forging the Shaft, even exploring the vast underground area dug into the side of the Cauldron. Really huge back there - pretty cool. Helped some folks take down an elite dwarf boss called Overseer Maltorius, too. I kept pulling aggro, since I was the highest level dps character, so really had to do some dancing to keep my hide intact! There's a huge golem down there called Obsidianas, or something like that - I need to figure out how to activate that thing so I can duke it out with him!

Finally though, the crowning jewel of the night was The Flame's Casing. It's a rare drop quest, and the enemy are these lvl 47-50 elite Twilight's Hammer cultists. I started out soloing. I could handle the mobs, but the heavily-armored ones were pretty tough to take down since the fights were so long, and my trusty nightsaber companion, Zuel, was having a hard time of it.

So, I gritted my teeth and decided to take a chance and LFG for some companions. My typical experience with a pick-up group involves a frustrating collection of adolescent jokers who play poorly, whine about treasure drops, and make the session a frustrating exercise. To my surprise, I ended up with a group of three other skilled, honorable, and fun players and we had a total blast.

My new post-1.7 talent spec (31 Survival /20 Marksman) is working out great. I'm critting so much more often, but not enough to pull too much aggro - just right. Plus, if I do get the creep's attention, I've got so a great collection of new melee-mitigation and aggro-management powers to bring to bear.

The Symbol of Ragnaros drop turned out to be very rare, and we had to wade through an army of elites to finally find one, but with such a great group, it was a blast. We also discovered a cool, virtually hidden area where an NPC gives out the Prayer to Elune quest. Being an upstanding night elf, Elune and I are tight, so I picked that up, of course! The drop for that quest is also frustratingly rare, but hang in there - you'll get it! There was even a mage handy to teleport me to Darnassus to turn in my Prayer quest.

Between the two quests, we fought a great platoon of elites, and my xp showed. I gained half a level to hit 55, and a quarter towards 56 on top - hoody hoo! Even though the drops weren't spectacular, I did earn enough cash to fund the raw materials for my second Dawn's Edge! (All I need now is four affordable Blue Sapphires, but the price has been through the roof lately.) A most excellent night, in all!

Sep 16, 2005

WoW Companion

I wanted to turn folks on to a cool website/program called WoW Companion that lets one upload the data from their World of Warcraft character(s) and display them via the web. WoW Companion uses a Java app to autogenerate (and then host) a webpage that looks like the character pane from WoW.

It even lets you browse their skills, reputation, honor, and even talent choices (the button for talents is at the bottom of the page). My only disappointment was the lack of a character portrait, but still a very neat app for the aspiring and zealous WoW geek. Note that the function to display patch 1.7 data is still in beta, but seems to work just fine.

Check out their installation instructions for the gritty details.

Here's a link to my main toon, Erilar the night elven hunter! Cool...

Sep 13, 2005

One Point Seven!

It's patch day, kiddies, and I'm happy - my main's a hunter!

The GeezerHorde Grows!

Zug, zug! World of Warcraft players from my RL gaming group, along with folks from Geezer Gamers, have started a Horde guild on the Windrunner WoW server. We're up to 9 players and growing, not too bad considering we've only been at this a few days.

We were all looking for a group of players to hang out with when RL friends were not available. Our main characters' guild, Twilight Alliance, is great, but is really geared toward the level 60 endgame, and we were all having trouble finding folks to group with our lower-level alts (or mains!).

Tarrek and I had decided to roll some Tauren to play duo when Zilanderan wasn't around, and Zil was already working on getting a group of the Geezers together for the same goal. (He plays a lot of Halo 2 with those gun-toting geriatrics.) It's all gelled nicely, and we bought our guild charter last night.

We're looking for like-minded members, so if you're of the mature, married, homeowner, parent kind of crowd and are looking for a group of players who will understand that you have to go AFK for a while because the baby woke up, look us up. Again, we're Horde faction on Windrunner. Send a /w to our guild leader, Brrainzz - he's the most likely to be on. The guild name will not be locked in until we get our 10th signature, but I think we're going with GeezerHorde. I'll be starting us a website and forum on GuildPortal just as soon as the name is inked.

Strength and honor!

Sep 9, 2005


After some prodding from my wife and my tech-savvy friends Ken and Jim, I've been getting into listening to podcasts over the last month or so. What a great new technology. I mean, before podcasting, what were the odds of finding a talk radio show about a topic as audience-specific as video games, or sci-fi, or even general technology news?

To feed my latest addiction, I recently spent some time scouring the web for World of Warcraft podcasts, and have checked out all I'd found. Some of it was ok, but the only really good one I ran into is TavernCast. Their shows are done in a roundtable-type format, and the cast of 'casters is diverse and funny. They run some regular focused segments, such as The Dark Corner, which focuses on all things Rogue, and Out of Character, which features topics involving roleplay.

All you WoW players out there looking to get yor fix during the commute or even at work are highly encouraged to check their show out. Note that Episode 1 is a little rough, but 2 and beyond are pretty professional and a good listen.

Their website also features a forum, which is starting to pick up some steam and contains some intelligent WoW discussion (a stark contrast to the whiney complaint-fest that is the official WoW forums).

Dark New Day

While I'm touting music, I have to push one more band - Dark New Day.

Our hometown has a huge annual 10-day music festival called, simply enough, Musikfest. My wife and I had volunteered to work as ushers at several shows, including Seether with Crossfade.

The second opening band turned out to be Dark New Day. Forget about the headliners - these guys blew me away. Describing the music might turn some off, as it could make them sound like another clone of the current radio rock, but hang in there. At times, they remind one of elements of Creed, STP, Alice in Chains, but have no fear - they are their own band.

The music has crunch, but is at the some time very melodic and haunting. Sledgehammer testosterone-laden riffs alternating with flowing, clean bright chord work. The singer has a strong, crisp voice, pushing through intelligent, soulful lyrics, but with a firm rock punch. Bold backup vocal harmonies from the bandmembers seal the deal.

Anyway, check them out at their website - be sure to watch the great video for Brother. It streamed well even on our crappy frame relay connection at work. Their album, Twelve Year Silence, is available from both Amazon and iTunes (where I picked mine up).

Sep 8, 2005

Dali's Dilemma

Last night, my wife and I were watching the first season of Battlestar Galactica on DVD. We'd only seen the miniseries prequel so far, and holy cow! This show does *not* disappoint, or pale in any way compared to all the hype. Give me more!

I digress though. While watching said delectable sci-fi goodness, I was working at importing the rest of my music CD's into iTunes for eventual transfer to my beloved iPod Photo. I'd only had about 1/3 of my library on the iPod to date, and so at work today I had access to a lot of beloved tunes that I hadn't listened to for a while.

I've got to turn you on to one album in particular: Manifesto for Futurism by Dali's Dilemma. These guys only ever made one album from what I can tell, but *wow* what great stuff. If you like progressive rock - Dream Theater and the like - even a little, I highly encourage you to check this great CD out! Absolutely vibrant tracks, anywhere from blistering to beautiful. Great, great stuff. My good friend Mike had turned me on to them a while back, and so I'm passing on his great recommendation - thanks Mikey!

Here's a link to the album on Amazon, and another at their label Magna Carta. Both sites contain audio samples that you can check out.

The Gamer Me

I'm a gamer. Always have been. You're going to hear a lot on gaming here, so if that topic doesn't interest you, my best suggestion is to run away screaming.

Other than time spent with my family, gaming is what keeps me sane. I guess I'm going to have to analyze this...

To begin, I've grown up with the industry. I was there for Pong, and Atari, and Intellivision. I was the first generation who's mothers had to physically drag their male children past the Space Invaders machine on their way out of a Pizza Hut.

I learned to program on a Radio Shack Trash-80, and spent long afternoons trying to land that damned lunar module on those treacherous, blocky peaks. I blew many a sunny summer Saturday holed up in my basement playing Adventure. Then Zork. Then King's Quest. We continued to grow, and the industry grew and matured with us.

I was the first generation of kids that grew up playing pen & paper Dungeons and Dragons. We imagined, we created, our adventurs were epic, and we remember those early days fondly. Fast forward to the present, and you'll still find me most Friday evenings, dice in hand, at one of my good friends' dining room tables.

Gaming is so many things. It's a social event, a reason to get together with friends with similar interests, to laugh it up, ham it up, and wind down after a busy week.

Gaming is recreational mental exercise, an opportunity to match wits (both the cerebral and humerous varieties), match reflexes, match strategies, and many times, a good opportunity to practice humility.

Gaming is an important vehicle for stress relief. It's down time incarnate. Many people enjoy TV or a movie at the end of a tough day, and I certainly do as well. Wrapping one's self up in a story, however - at least for me - is that much more effective when one can interact with said story.

People are animals - intelligent, complex, and (supposedly) civilized - but animals nonetheless. We retain our primitive urges to fight, to hunt, to mate, to flee, but we don't like to admit to it. I don't mind. Gaming is a healthy outlet for many of those instinctual behaviors. I don't get urges to get in bar fights. In the past week, I have vanquished 45 murlocs, three dozen orcs, and a giant fire elemental. I beat a hopped-up Lancer Evolution to the finish line, and wasted 9/10ths of the Covenant forces. I have no pent-up hormonal agression left to spare on two rude drunks. :)

In short, I'm a gamer.

The House that Frank(enstein) Built

Coming up on two years ago, we bought the townhouse we'd been renting since relocating for this job. This is our first home purchase, and is working out fairly well so far. The place is a fixer-upper, from the standpoint that the decor and some of the exterior need some serious updating. We bought the property for a good price, with the intent of revamping it and reselling it for some degree of profit. As this point, we're doing well equity-wise, and we're happy with the way the projects we've competed have turned out.

We've replaced exterior doors, the downstairs flooring, redecorated our son's bedroom, and are now in the finishing stages of one upstairs bathroom. We needed to replace a tub, and insanely decided that a whirlpool tub would be an addition desirable to the next buyer (oh, and my wife would probably like it as well...). That project has been quite a ride, but we're seeing the end of the tunnel.

Next up, regrouting the shower in the bathroom in our room, some painting in there and replacing the vanity.

Looming on the horizon, like a hungry troll waiting for a billy goat: the kitchen. Ugh.

I am I

As a quick introduction, I'm a 36-yr-old male living in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I'm married (for what - 12 years now - wow!) , and have a wonderful 9-yr-old son. I work as a chemist for a small private company, developing and providing technical service for a line of specialty coatings. I won't go much further down this avenue with the intent of keeping my wife's and son's identity fairly anonymous. (I'm not paranoid. They are out there and they are watching.) :)

The Mission

Welcome to Ditlog. At this stage, this blog is basically an experiment. I'm interested in putting together a blog and website as a "home base" for exploring many of my interests. I expect it to provide an opportunity for recreational writing, serve as a journal, and to provide a platform from which to expand into Podcasting and any other interests that tickle my fancy.

Hopefully, this Blogger site will help me get my thoughts in order and eventually distill them into what Ditlog will become. Given the dynamic nature of the web and emerging technology, perhaps that will never happen in any concrete sense!