20 Questions with Veneretio (tankingtips.com)

Whenever the Zul’Aman gong has been banged, Matt gets a chance to sit down with a WoW Blogger chosen this week by his Sinister Squashling. Find out a little more about your favourite bloggers as he tries to get to know them a little more!

This week, Veneretio of Tanking Tips lowers his shield long enough for him to answer a few questions.

I didn’t know your blog until a few months ago. I tried to find an about page but I couldn’t! Willing to tellus us a bit more about the blogger behind Tanking Tips?

Well I guess it’d make for a boring 20 questions if I didn’t ;) [Editor’s note: I clearly fail at getting my point and intent across. Oh well. Next time!].

What motivated and jumpstarted you to blog?

What most people probably don’t know is that I started blogging about 4 years ago. I’d say I first was motivated to blog just because I wanted to make a high traffic website and I tried every avenue possible from blogging to running a forum to contests to articles to polls to well you name it. I later found out that just blogging about one’s life wasn’t terribly interesting. And by later I mean 2 years later I found out… >.< Fortunately that taught me a lot of valuable lessons about blogging in general though and it’s why I’ve been able to approach my tanking blog in a professional manner from day 1.

What jump started TankingTips.com can be accredited to leaving my 2nd guild in 3 months. Basically, I knew in leaving that I was about to lose all the discussion surrounding everything I’d wrote in the guild forums for the 2nd time in 3 months. A prospect I wasn’t very happy about to say the least. The motivation came from missing blogging and really enjoying over analyzing every little detail of tanking. I’d read and re-read the works of everything from Ciderhelm and Wanderlei to Satrina and Berginyon. I wanted to create my own tanking reference something that wasn’t going to disappear on me in a few months. (I’m still in the guild I left to upon the creation of TankingTips.com well over a year later)

I notice you play an Orc Warrior (Ew, an Orc!). Why that instead of another tanking class?

Simply put when testing out the toons, I fell in love with Charge at level 4 on my Warrior. As to why I chose an Orc, it was because they looked the coolest and felt the most like a Warrior. As to race, Horde was the only option. Something about playing a fantasy game then being a human never really sat well with me. Not to mention having to see annoying Gnomes, grumpy Dwarves and hot Night Elves all the time would have been a little more than I could take. Ah… then again maybe I could have handled it.

What’s a typical WoW raid night like for you?

Log onto WoW and jump on Ventrilo an hour before raid invites start. Invite the chick that does the healer invites half an hour before raid invites start. Convert the group to a raid. Remember to set the instance to Normal so she doesn’t yell at me. Remember to give her assist so she doesn’t yell at me. Remember to set it to Master Looter so that… well you get the picture. 15 minutes before the raid, start doing pre-invites (ie. the people that I know are coming) and start arguing with Miss Inviter of all Healers except Paladins that we need to get a 2nd paladin into the raid somehow for another round of buffs. This is also the time in which she’ll bring up any and all matters of extreme guild importance that are impossible to discuss in 15 minutes especially while doing invites. 8 minutes before the raid everyone else brings up any and all matters that they think are of extreme guild importance. 5 minutes before the raid the 10 people I wanted to invite 10 minutes ago log on so they aren’t late for the raid.

Raid invites officially open and I’m bombarded with tells. The first wave is easy which really means I’m still inviting people I should have invited 15 minutes ago. I hop channels with Miss anti-Pally buff and Doctor DPS and we start hashing out who the final slots should go to. The conversation basically goes something like this:

Miss AP: I’m taking this person and this person because I need 9 healers.
Me: You can have 7.
Miss AP: 8.
Me: 7 + a Prot Pally
Miss AP: Deal.
*Raid successfully acquires 2nd Paladin Buff*
Me: Any opinions on who else we should bring Doctor DPS?
DD: What? No, whatever. I’m talking to a chick on AIM atm leave me alone.
Miss AP: We need more warlocks.
Me: We already have 3.
Miss AP: I know, we need more.
Me: I’m inviting another rogue.
Miss AP: I’m leaving the raid.
Me: We’ll just heal it with 6 + a Prot Pally I guess.
*Raid successfully fills all Melee Slots*
Me: Okay, so-and-so’s Brother wants to come and so does Guild Member X that’s never raided but been in the guild for 4 years and I don’t have room for either.
Miss AP: Are they Warlocks?
Me: No.
Miss AP: Hmm… do they have the gear?
Me: Everyone has the gear, Blizzard handed everyone the gear. They just have to do like 4 heroics and they’ve got the same gear we had 2 weeks ago.
Miss AP: You sure there aren’t any more Warlocks around?
Me: I’m flipping a coin.
*Flips*
Me: Okay, it’s Ancient Guild Member X
*Checks Armory and notices he doesn’t have the gear*
Me: Uh… we probably should take the Brother. I think he could be a valuable asset in the future.
*Checks Armory and notices he doesn’t have the gear either…*
Me: Then again maybe I should just invite another Warlock.
Miss AP: I knew you’d see it my way.
DD: Huh? Can I bring my rogue yet?
Me & Miss AP: No!

…and somehow this happens everytime taking about 15 to 20 minutes ending with a full raid and plenty of time to spare so that we pull early. (We grant 30 minutes for invites) The raid lasts 2 and a half hours. I start it off by insulting the healers (especially resto-druids for their inability to rez), the rogues, the hunters and women in general. I spend the entire raid thinking of quick replies to shots directed at me because I don’t do something exactly how TankingTips.com says or because I’ve said something “Canadian” all the while desperately trying to hold off over-aggroing Warlocks to the chorus of “Your threat is not fine”. I deflect the banter by giving away Miss AP’s gold, forcing Shadow Priests to pay the raid when they die and of course, making fun of the healers, rogues, hunters and women. Somehow this plus consistent, steady progression fits into every raid night with us usually accomplishing more than we expected and ending early.

What direction do you intend to take your blog to?

I want it to become a stronger reference site while also maintaining the blog aspect of it. It’ll get a new design for WotLK and if I’m really ambitious a 2nd design that you can turn on when you’re at work. (I’ll call it TankLite or something along that lines, it’ll have less branding and load faster and maybe even look like you’re actually doing your job lol) Don’t think it escapes me that traffic is highest weekdays during working hours ;) Overall though, I’m pretty happy with how things are and I’ll be maintaining my strict focus on Warrior Tanking. The podcasts will continue, you’ll probably see a few more slideshows and possibly even the emergence of video content. I’d like to delve into UIs since it’s a completely untapped area for the site and perhaps if I’m really ambitious look into creating an add-on or two. Finally, I’ll continue to watch out for a guest blogger or two especially if I can find one that’s a more involved raider than myself and you’ll eventually actually hear a 2nd voice on the TankingTips.com podcast.

Let’s talk about Wrath. Be honest. What excites you and what disappoints you?

Threat and damage scaling more aggressively with tanking gear is going to be amazing. I’m looking forward to the day that I out dps everyone in a heroic while wearing my conventional tanking gear. The ability to easily AOE tank content that I outgear is very enticing too and I think it is really going to push Warriors to do 5 mans a lot more than they do now. (A step towards the end of raid-only warriors I hope) To be more specific, I get excited a lot just by reading the play by play. Loading up mmo-champion.com every day and just seeing what’s new be it for Warriors or not. In particular, I’m really looking forward to even bigger Shield Slam crits and the fact that I’m going to crit a whole lot more often than I used to. Shockwave looks great, Weapon Throw looks astounding and I can’t help but hope that perhaps with In combat charge than maybe just maybe we’ll see some viable Prot PvP.

The disappointment only comes from parts of the WoW community. There’s a minority of people that just hate everything and it’s really a downer. We get a nerf, they complain. We get a buff, they complain. Most people can’t really put their finger on it, but if they really looked closely at my blog, it’s very rarely negative. (and when it is, it’s almost always in jest) The game is suppose to be fun, entertaining and motivating. For me that extends even to the discussion of it. I’ll always be the guy saying, “Okay, this is what we got, what are we going to do with it?” So for me what’s disappointing is the people that just aren’t giving Blizzard a chance.

Some would say there is a special relationship between a tank and the healer (or a healer and the tank). Fact or fiction?

I’d have to say fact. It’s not by pure accident that I do 95% of my runs with the same healer. It’s also not by accident that I tease the healers in raids the most and always try my best to make them feel good. (haha, somehow those are the same) While tanks don’t have to trust nor respect their healers, I can guarantee when they do and it’s returned in kind that what’s accomplished is far greater than the opposite despite superior strategy, gear and skill. In general though, we’re kinda forced to like your frail kind since our life is in your hands from a very early point in the game. Be it raiding or even PvP, we have to rely on healers and as a result, we naturally create stronger relationships with them.

When it comes to raiding, I feel like that’s where the tank/healer relationship really starts to solidify. While the dpsers are just watching the numbers go up and tracking personal performance against the next guy, Tanks and Healers are actually helping each other’s performances rather than competing.

Do you know where Elvis is?
On the Twisting Nether realm, he is so difficult to accurately located because he is, in fact, 2 entities not 1. They go by the alias’ Commandant and Dalrem. I’ve never talked to them, but reports indicate that Elvis’ Commandant entity is the bigger loser of the two.

If you could change (or add) something to your class, what would it be and why?
Mana Bandages. I want freakin’ Mana Bandages already. I really want everyone to have them, but if I have to change my class, give me those things. Somehow, someway. I hate waiting. Also, I’d like all food to be twice as effective for Warriors.

Let’s say I wanted to start tanking as a Warrior as a fresh 70. What are some of the things I have to do first ( in a nutshell?)

Read my entire website.

Seriously though, you’d need to have a mic and not be afraid to talk on ventrilo. You have to be able to mark targets. Mostly, you’ve just gotta experience it. Tank 5 mans, a lot. This really is something that needs to start far, far prior to 70 though. Sunken Temple especially should require Warrior’s to tank it before even being able to continue leveling. Finally, you’ve gotta get ready for being called a noob, a lot. Do your research and stick to what you’ve read and keep doing it. Sometimes when you get called a noob, you really are one… sometimes you’re not. Either way, you’re learning.

Overall, good tanks have natural leadership qualities and are able to focus constantly on the task at hand. You can screw up a lot of aspects of tanking if you’ve got those things in your favour from the get go.

Speed questions

When not WoWing, you:

Blog, Work, Watch tons of Movies, Party when I can, Golf on occasion

Favourite beverage of choice when playing WoW
Coke

Tanking is like:

Being the general

Favourite movie

The Matrix, Transformers or whatever is really cool and I just saw in theatres.

Tanking music you recommend:

None, it makes me harder to hear when I’m talking.

Jessica Alba or Jessica Biel?

Alba obviously even if she can’t act.

Most OP tanking class:
Warriors, the way it should be. ;)

Nerf:
Rogues.

Top 5 blogs/sites (doesn’t have to be WoW related)
www.tankspot.com
www.mmo-champion.com
www.smashingmagazine.com
gmail.google.com
www.netvibes.com

Can’t play WoW without my:
Ventrilo

Shoutouts to:
Ibex especially Sioux and Speidel who put up with me the most. Not to mention Rungo and Eclectic that I talk with more now in-game than I do IRL.

Kavtor ala E X A L T E D for being the unofficial co-writer of TankingTips.com
Ciderhelm, the hardest working website owner I know.

My readers, that I fondly like to call “The Comment Community”, they’ve made the site a success. I just tell them what to talk about.

The Tank Bloggers!!!

Thanks again to Veneretio for participating this week! Don’t forget to subscribe to his blog!

20 Questions with Anna

 

Every week, Matt gets a chance to sit down with a WoW Blogger chosen this week by his Piccolo of the Flaming Fire. Find out a little more about your favourite bloggers as he tries to get to know them a little more!

This week, Anna of TooManyAnnas ran out of mana  and had time to answer a few questions.

As an avid RPer, how did you come up with the history of your characters and which one would you consider your most favourite or most like you in some way?

Wow. Well, I don’t really have “favourites”, so much as there are specific things that I like about all of my characters. Each one of them has a little bit of me thrown in there — though they’re all different from me as well. Annalira, the human priest, is the one that is most like Anna the real person, and Aleydis, Berylla, and Brietta are could compete for the silliest, but I feel close to all of my characters.

As to how I came up with their histories, well, that’s a little more complicated. Probably some combination of inspiration, random experiments, planning, and pure dumb luck.

Angoleth has changed the most through these last few years because she was my first character and my first real foray into RP. Her personality has been the same for the most part, but after a few failed stories I learned to let her tell me about her history as she wants to come forward with it. Annalira was a bit of an experiment — can I create a character with a happy family and a happy childhood and still have her be believable and real in WoW’s universe. The answer is, of course, yes, and she’s become a very “real” character that’s easy for me to RP with.

Annorah had, by far, the most research before I created her. Draenei lore is rather sparse, so I actually went to out-of-game lore sources, particularly the novels Rise of the Horde and Lord of the Clans, to learn about Draenei and Shaman lore. Even after all that, she doesn’t have a concrete backstory so much as a basic framework of a history, but I had that background set up before I pushed the Create Character button.

I’ll stop now, since I’m pretty sure you don’t want me going on (and on) about my characters — but this is one of those topics I could probably write several pages about!

How did you get suckered into playing World of Warcraft?

I started playing the spring after release — the guy I was dating had just started playing and set me up with the trial account, which I really enjoyed. I was playing, ironically, a human priest and a troll shaman, but on a PVP server. A few weeks later my best friend and her (now) husband told me they were playing on Feathermoon, and I created Angoleth there, and the rest was, as they say, history!

Let’s talk about Resto Shamans for a bit. Brain Heal has often been cited as the spell that will ruin the careers of holy priests, holy paladins and resto druids. In fact, many of the major cities have suffered riots and strikes. How would you respond to people who suggest that brain heal is far too great a weapon to be used alone?

Try to heal a heroic with it without being overgeared (that is: in pre-Kara and Karazhan gear). Chain heal is *incredibly* powerful in a group, but in solo-healing situations, especially where the tank is taking a lot of damage, it falls behind as I go OOM droping max rank healing wave. My Priest does considerably better in those situations because she has more tricks and the Shaman is not built to be a “bomb” style healer, to the point where, until I was healing tier5 geared groups, I would avoid healing heroics because I knew it’d be a huge headache and very stressful.

And the other side of that coin — I could never do the job that the priests in my raid do. Yes, I can keep a group of scrub rogues and warriors and ret pallies alive until kingdom come, but when it comes to tank healing, there are other classes that just do it better. As a Resto shaman, I can do a few things incredibly well. Group healing? You got it. But successful healing is about balance and working as a team, and the strongest healing teams are the ones that utilize ALL the available classes and tools.

You’re not technically in a Guild per se. Rather, you raid with a set group of people from various other Guilds, is that right? How exactly is this different from a normal Guild and what would some of its strengths and weaknesses be?

Totally Raids, Incorporated is a group of roleplayers that got together back in the earlier days of Warcraft when their guilds were too small to raid or weren’t interested in raiding progression. There are members of all different guilds in the group, at all different “levels” of RP — from avid, active, in-game RP to forum writers to people that are in character simply by not acting in a way that is counter to the Warcraft world. As a rule, our /raid chat is in character. Ventrilo is, of course, out of character. And yes, we do get boss fight explanations IC.

In a lot of ways it’s very similar to a guild: we have a leader, officers in charge of various things (healing lead, loot-master, roster setup, etc) and if there’s a problem we have a chain of command. We have an active forum, sign up threads, strategy posts, and a very active in game chat channel.

One of the biggest advantages to this style of raiding is that you get to have your cake and eat it too. You love your guild — they’re awesome, but they’re a small (in this case, most often roleplaying) guild that doesn’t have the manpower or the desire to do the work and set up a raid. *YOU* want to raid, but you don’t want to leave your guild. With Totally Raids — that’s the norm. There are a few of us that are unguilded (like me, though I am trying a new guild with Annalira right now — shhh!), but the vast majority are people from various guilds.

And at the end of the day, if you have a bad night, are angry with someone, and feel like mashing your face into your keyboard repeatedly… when you leave the raid — you leave the raid. Until next week, you don’t have to have any real interaction with the raid group unless you want to; you’re back in your guild doing what you’ve always done.

The disadvantage is, of course, that we rely heavily on a forum to keep everyone coordinated. Fortunately everyone (at this point) is extremely good about signing up from week to week, and the board has our Karazhan, Zul’Aman, and “etc” signups as well. But if you can’t get people to organize in some way, this kind of a raid corps Just. Won’t. Work. Guilds have the advantage of a message of the day and periodic spam — we don’t have that. But we’ve made it work through a combination of active forum participation and an active chat channel (that’s also a really great way to find 5man groups during the week). I could see how, in another situation you might get people who were more loyal to their guilds and not actually loyal to the raid, but by and large our group is very dedicated to the raid as an entity of itself.

How are you enjoying (or hating) 2.4?

Honestly, I’m doing a little bit of both enjoying and hating.

1 second Totem Global Cooldown = Awesomesauce
New Earthshield = can I have the old one back please?
New dailies = Yay money! Yay badge gear! Boo competition. Boo realm crashes. Double boo to griefing asshats.

I know this is going to be very hard for you. But tell me 1 (one) thing that you think all Resto Shamans should know.

Be flexible. While chain heal is incredibly powerful, other classes can heal (ok — so maybe not as well on groups, but the Alliance was quite successful without Shamans for a long time) — but not every class has the ability to so dramatically alter the groups you’re in. Keep your totems handy, keep an eye on the fight, and be situationally aware. Flexibility is what makes a great Shaman — of any flavor, resto or otherwise.

By sheer luck and awesomeness, you’ve been awarded the ability to create a new spell or ability for the Shaman in Wrath of the Lich King. What nefarious idea would you put into play?

If I’m selfish and think only about resto shaman, a HOT spell, deep in the Resto tree. If we’re talking about shaman in general, the ability to summon a spirit wolf pet. Or that HOT spell… that’d be pretty hawt.

Or maybe the ability, since we’re all into the Elements, to fish without fishing skill. I mean seriously — water = element. Fish in the water. Master of the Elements. Instant fish! Heeeeeeere fishy fishy fishy fishy.

Care to tell us a bit more about the blogger behind the gamer? (IE what you do when not playing WoW)

I’m a girl in real life (OMG no gurlz on teh interweb!), married, with two cats and a balcony garden. I love music and history and am quite passionate about both, as well as about teaching in general.

My career is in a bit of a transition because where I live right now doesn’t have a place that I can do my advanced degrees. Eventually I want to be a professor of (medieval) cultural history. In that vein, I’m learning some living-history activities, including calligraphy and illumination — those really cool paintings in medieval books. In the meantime I’m a substitute teacher and getting ready to start on a Masters of Education. Hopefully I’ll either be teaching history or music.

Spare time wise (lol!) I love to cook, read, and knit, though I don’t get as much time for most of these as I’d like. Except cooking. I do a lot of that.

What inspired you to begin blogging?

I stumbled across BigRedKitty one day and was blown away by the idea of someone actually writing about Warcraft — especially hunters! Yay! Followed a long link train and ended up in BlogAzeroth. Curiosity was piqued, and I started a wordpress.com blog that transitioned to Too Many Annas about a month later. Turns out I rather like writing about Warcraft!

Just how many Annas is considered too many?

When I have to take off my shoes and socks so I have enough digits to count them, it’s too many.  For the record, I’ve not reached too many yet (though I’ve been told by others that I have), and I do have characters whose names are *not* Anna. …if they were all Annas, I’d definitely have too many.

Speed Questions

Have you ever found Waldo?

No, but if you find him, let me know. He’s been undercutting me on the AH all week.

Most annoying aspect of World of Warcraft

u wanna join my new riad gild were starting kara and hav a bank and tabard?
u run me thru SM?

Can’t raid without my _____:

Annorah: Chain Heal!
Annalira: Icefin Bluefish, Golden Fishsticks, and Zangarian Sporefish
Angoleth: 24 slot quiver.
TheRealAnna: Something to drink. Depending on the night, adult additives may be necessary.

*Chain* Healing is like ______:

A monkey flinging poo. You never know for sure who it’s going to hit, but so long as you get someone, it’s ok. And it splatters.

Favourite encounter in the game:

Any meeting that leads to an in character conversation, particularly if it’s just two people chatting and going about their daily business.

Any fight where I get to put my full arsenal of abilities to use. Karathress, Tidewalker, and Vashj are coming to mind (though I also hate Vashj with much hating because she refuses to die).

3 pieces of advice for new raiders:

Know your stuff.
Pay attention.
Don’t be a dick.

Favourite in game holiday: 

Hallows End.

What kills you the most?

Going OOM.

Matt needs to ____:

QQ less about shamans. It’s not our fault that the raid encounters have the entire raid taking damage ALL THE TIME. Or that we’re, you know, designed for that kind of healing. (Editor’s note: The QQness will never stop!)

Shout outs to:

  • All the folks at Blog Azeroth, especially the gang in the BA Chat, for keeping me motivated and always being a source of inspiration.

  • My fellow Feathermooninites, for being post fodder for me without complaining… or without knowing about it.

  • Totally Raids, Incorporated, for giving me a chance to raid and being an awesome group of creative people that I love to hang out with even when we’re not raiding.

Thanks again to Anna for participating this week! Don’t forget to subscribe to her blog!

20 Questions with Temerity-Jane

20 Questions with Temerity-Jane

Every week, Matt gets a chance to sit down with a WoW Blogger chosen this week by Haris Pilton. Find out a little more about your favourite bloggers as he tries to get to know them a little more!

This week, TJ of her self titled blog Temerity-Jane dot com somehow miraculously found enough time to answer a few questions.

So how did temerity-jane.com come into being anyway and what motivated you behind it?

I’ve been blogging on and off for about 10 years now – the first site was one of those site builder AOL jobbers back in 1998 or something, followed by pitas, livejournal, and eventually a self-hosted site. I kept up with the self-hosted site for a long time, until the demands of writing, responding to comments, answering emails, IMs, and even hate mail, just became way too much and I quit in a fit of rage. Ok, actually I just stopped writing it. Between my last self-hosted site and this one, I still found myself blogging – on my myspace page, or even just emails to friends, and when the whole graduating college-getting a job-becoming a real live adult thing had settled, I figured, "Well, I guess I might as well do this again." I never really stopped, through the whole 10 years. Even at points where I didn’t have a blog online, there are notebooks full of stuff that I wrote – and oddly, none of it is personal – I mean like, personal diary entries about my feelings. (Haha, feelings.) Even when I was writing stuff that only I would see, I would write like I was trying to amuse someone. Why waste me on just me! Seriously, though, I have mentioned once or twice on my own site that I have a disorder, and because of that, I find it a lot easier to communicate through text than I do in my day to day real live life, and blogging, for me, is mostly selfish. It’s kind of a validation that I can be interesting, smart and funny, when I don’t really feel like I come off that way at all on a day to day basis.

tj-2

Think the Druids are going to be mad at you for killing so many trees?

I’ve been trying to lay low in Aetherial Circle, otherwise known as "Druidial Circle." A raid in our guild is not complete unless it’s 42% druid. Now I’m probably going to have nightmares of being beaten to death by the limbs of a heard of trees, like those mean ones in the Wizard of Oz, remember those?

Which came first in terms of WoW? BRK or TJ?

In terms of WoW? I believe I’ve been playing longer than BRK, but his blog has existed longer than TJ.com has existed.

Speaking of WoW, what’s a clear officeholic like you playing that highly addicting game anyway?

A few years ago, in the fall of 2005, I got really sick. Not like, the flu – I mean really, long term, in bad shape overall kind of sick. Even when I started to recover, I was too tired to leave my house and dealing with bad pain in my legs that made it so that once I got up to my attic bedroom (where I lived with my cats, no joke), I wasn’t coming back down until I had to. So, for the most part, I was pretty much homebound for a few months there. I’m not a hugely social person in general, but anyone will go a little nuts confined to their home long term. I was playing a lot of StarCraft at the time, but the people I played with weren’t always available – mostly college students who had to do crap like "class" and "studying" and "drinking lots of beer" and couldn’t always be around to keep me entertained. Someone suggested World of Warcraft as an alternative to keep me busy until I was up and about again, and said "But look out, it’s addictive." I rolled my eyes like, "Yeah, right," – like anything was going to take me away from my StarCraft addiction. I did pick up the game, though, and installed it on a Saturday afternoon, and the next time I looked up, it was dark. Whoops. Guess they were right, huh?

What is the history of the demonic ponytail? Has it been holy at one point?

The demonic ponytail is actually a Fio creation. We were chatting on gtalk one day, and, having seen the Mr. T commercial and been unreasonably tickled by it, I demanded Fio make a guild rank, just for me – Night Elf Mohawk. Fio, being the reasonable and logical type, said, "But you’re neither a night elf, nor a mohawk." NOT THE POINT, I told him, and continued to insist. Must be NIGHT ELF MOHAWK! "Human afro?," he suggested? NO! MOHAWK! "Demonic ponytail?" "NO! It– oooh! Demonic ponytail! YESSSS!"

Ever thought about writing a book?

Kakalaki asked me the same question a couple of days ago, to which I replied "Ha!" No, not at all. What would I even write about? And could anyone really tolerate me for a few hundred pages? Highly unlikely.

You mentioned to me earlier that you were entering a temporary hiatus from WoW due to work issues. Any plans on when you will be returning to Azeroth and the Outlands?

Work is keeping me pretty busy. It’s not even that the hours have been so long this year, thanks to some great part time help (not including Saturdays and the occasional Sundays) but the pace is so stepped up and the stress is running so high that I’m just exhausted all the time when I get home. My main, a 70 lock that I had been raiding with, has pretty much been shelved for the time being. I just can’t muster up the energy I need to not only last a whole raid, but actually, you know, contribute. However, I haven’t been completely absent from WoW – I picked up work on my priest alt, he just hit 61. Leveling is all right – I can log in and play for a couple of hours, or for 15 minutes if I’m just too worn out. I’ve also been playing with the Pox Arcanum people, though my schedule has lead to me dipping out on them twice in a row now and I feel like a total buttface. But that’s also been a lot of fun and a pretty cool experiment, and I’ve enjoyed a couple of hours with them here and there as we plan it. As far as raiding goes, you can see from the blogs of Doom, BRK, Brigin and more that AC has been plowing through the bosses, and I’ve not been there. My main is also sorely lacking in badges for any kind of badgey gear, so I’m just falling behind and falling behind. Busy season is over in a month, and after that, I’ll have to see where the guild stands and where my toon stands to know what’s going to happen from that point on.

Have you thought about taking any pre-emptive measures to minimize meeting random guys in traffic intersections from happening? I hear the KGB has some great tips like randomizing your route to work.

Just moments ago, Doom was helping me with knife shopping. It’s not that I think that this particular guy is a threat of any kind – he’s probably just an overly friendly guy. The thing is, these overly friendly guys don’t realize how they come off to women sometimes – if I’m alone in my car, or in a parking lot, or any place that’s not bright with lots of people around, I’m generally going to be really on guard if approached by someone. I don’t know if all women are like that, but I’m willing to bet that I’m not totally alone in that. I know the Guy in Car story is funny, I wouldn’t have told it if it wasn’t, but the truth is, I certainly didn’t enjoy the whole experience and do plan on buying a sharp object of some kind – not to defend against this specific guy, as I said, but because this kind of stuff – that is, being approached by strangers when I’m alone – happens to me and a lot of women on a reasonably regular basis. Certainly a lot more than I’d like, anyway. I don’t plan to stab anyone, but the whole Guy in Car thing made me realize I’d like to invest in a little more personal security, if you get my drift.

tj-1Several weeks ago, you suffered an attack upon your very own principles. It appeared that your belief in Pirates over Ninjas was beginning to waiver. What has transpired since then? Are you still wrestling with your own inner demons about them?

You know, I’ve really tried to be alone with my thoughts on this matter, after broadcasting my internal dilemma for the whole internet to chime in on. I still feel I strongly identify with pirates. I don’t feel as close to ninjas. However, looking at the two, pirates are starting to look less and less badass to me, and more like drunk crusty old men, whereas ninjas are the ultimate in badass. Not being very badass myself, you can see how I would be a bit intimidated by the ninja crowd. The allure is strong, though. 

I made the mistake of once asking this to BBB several weeks ago. Seeing as you’re not in the military, I think I’m in the clear this time around. Might you have a favourite WoW or a story involving BRK that no one knows about?

A favorite WoW story or a story involving BRK that no one knows about… well, my WoW life is, for the most part, pretty uneventful. As far as stories involving BRK, the only ones I can think of involve me shrieking "AND YOU CAN’T PUT THIS ON YOUR BLOG!" at the end. So I’m certainly not going to get into those.

Speed Questions

Hilary or Obama?

Heh. No comment.

Favourite drink:

Diet anything. Except Diet Dr. Pepper. Tastes too much like regular Dr. Pepper. Which I do like. But I want my diet soda to taste like diet soda.

Favourite WoW encounter:

I have a love/hate relationship with Molten Core, since the best times I had in the game were there, but gaaaah Molten Core. I did like the Magmadar fight quite a bit though, and the Baron was just a good time. I like any encounter that makes me feel confident, like I can handle it. Right now, I would say the Black Morass event right now. It’s so orderly.

When stressed, you ___:

Cling to routine.

If you could have ONE of your in game class abilities in real life what would it be and why?

The ability to summon minions. They don’t have to shoot fire at anyone, or chop someone up with their big axe. Maybe just fetch me a diet soda every now and then as needed.

tj-3 Sports? Hobbies?

I don’t play any sports, but I like to watch baseball and hockey. As for hobbies, is reading a hobby? I do a lot of that. And I work. I don’t know if work is a hobby, but if I tell myself it is, I don’t feel so soul-crushed after a 12 hour day. I also like to play poker. I am a better poker player than I have any right to be since, technically – by the book, considering odds and chances and risks and such – I suck. I’m bad. I make bad moves, risky moves, overly conservative moves, based on nothing but the whim of the moment. And I win more than I lose. 

Top 3 TV Shows

House, seaQuest DSV and… I honestly don’t watch TV much right now. I catch some episodes of things online when I remember to, and just watched all the episodes of MacGyver, Due South, Bones and Scrubs over the last few months. As far as current TV shows, I’m sadly out of the loop. And I’m not one of those snobby pseudo-intellectual types that likes to talk about how they don’t watch TV by inserting it into conversation at every possible opportunity – I love TV. I would marry TV. I am obsessed with TV. To dangerous levels, even. But I’m also lazy, as is my roommate, and we never hooked the TV in my bedroom to the cable. 

As a veteran blogger, can you share some blogging tips and ideas?

I really wish a lot of bloggers, in the WoW type area especially, would be more aware of what is being written around them. The WoW blog thing has really exploded lately, and it’s a pretty saturated market. When patch notes are released, I can pretty much bet on the fact that my feed reader is going to fill up with people posting the patch notes. Over and over and over. Thing is, you’ve got to look at what other blogs out there are doing – the bigger, more established ones for each class or niche are most likely going to write about these patch notes as well – a site you probably even read. Why would you duplicate that? I wish more bloggers would realize that the reason they’re not getting as many hits as they want, the reason they’re not getting the feedback they’d like to see, is because someone is already doing exactly what you’re doing and they have been doing it longer, and possibly better. In a subject area like WoW-blogs, you’ve really got to do SOMEthing to set yourself apart. The day to day leveling and questing experiences in WoW aren’t that interesting since we all do them, but Ratshag manages to make it interesting. That kind of thing – intentionally or not, most times you’re just copying the same information that’s going around and around and around. If you can’t say anything new, at least say it differently.

 

Most ridiculous fantasy ever:

Isn’t this a family blog? Aside from the usual connotations when someone asks about a fantasy, I mostly think about normal people things. Winning the lottery, maybe. And even then, my fantasies don’t get wild – I’d pay off my student loans, send my brother to college to cut my parents a break. I’m even boring in my own wildest dreams.

You were once a student. Any tips for Matt on successful time management? Or pulling all nighters. One of the two. Or both.

1. Honest and realistic priorities – for example, it’s nice to say "school work comes first, always and forever, amen" but for a WoW player, it’s not necessarily honest or realistic.
2. Don’t pull all nighters. It always ends badly. Develop good sleep habits and everything comes easier.
3. Schedule your days down to the minute until you develop a more natural habit and routine and can loosen up a bit.

Shout outs to:

All my jackals, who I am hoping will count this as a post from me for the day.

TJ’s Blog: Although it’s not entirely WoW related, she has a sharp yet entertaining wit all the same. Don’t forget to subscribe!

Weekly Digest: Gorefiend in the Crosshairs, WPDesigner, and Criticism

What’s Happening in WoW

Not much in the way of progression so far. Our Tuesday involved getting down 4/5 Hyjal and on Thursday we cleaned up Shade of Akama in under 3 hours. This means Sunday will be a real progression night and a test to see if we have that guy in the raid or not. I sincerely hope not. But I will have the cameras running for the Carnage highlight reel.

And shout outs to that Warlock who messaged me the other day to pick off a White Remedy Cape (I think) off of me as well as to the Druid who I partied with in doing Heroic Slave Pens. I forgot your guys’ names but thanks for reading. You’re like the only two players I know of on Ner’Zuhl who read my blog. Other then my Guildies of course. I’ve somehow attracted the attention of Blori, the worst warrior on the server. I’ll have to watch what I write more carefully.

What’s Happening with the Blog

Interested in getting some new themes for your WordPress blog? I’m running a give away courtesy of WPDesigner. Check out this post for more details and bring your RP skills.

Latest Blog Posts

5 Barriers of a Raid Healer

My 5 part series for this month looks at the problems that new raid healers may come across.

  1. Indecisivity is Bad
  2. Dealing With Criticism

20 Questions by Matticus

I couldn’t find any victims last week. But this week, I found one! Nightravyn, one of the lurkers on the BA chatroom, sat on the hot seat.

Past Hits

Past columns I have written that still hold true to this day.

Blog Spotlight

Too Many Annas – Most of this blogger’s characters start with An. I haven’t come across many blogging Shamans yet. There are some notable ones out there, of course. But a Resto one is rare. Then again, maybe I’m not searching hard enough.

Matt likes: Raiding and the Resto Shaman. What? You mean there’s more to healing as a Resto Shaman then spamming brain heal?

20 Questions with Siha

Every week, Matt gets a chance to sit down with a WoW Blogger chosen by Matt’s right wing. Find out a little more about your favourite bloggers as he tries to get to know them a little more!

This week, Siha of the Banana Shoulders was awesome enough to stop healing for a few minutes to answer a few questions.

Tell us a bit more about yourself and how you got into gaming and World of Warcraft.

In the real world, I’m a very geeky girl living in Brisbane, Australia. I’ve always been into geeky pursuits, and I’ve been a roleplaying gamer (i.e. pen-and-paper/tabletop gaming, particularly Shadowrun, Exalted and Dungeons & Dragons) for fifteen or sixteen years. I first got into MMOs with Ultima Online – a bunch of my workmates were playing, it sounded awesome, I picked it up… and loved it, until they all fled UO for EQ and somehow I missed the MMO memo. I came back to MMOs with SWG (Star Wars Galaxies) and that led me to EQ2… and then WoW.

How did you come to power in your Guild?

Well, my guild – Southern Wardens – was formed in 2003, as an Aussie guild in Star Wars Galaxies. In mid-04 people started getting excited about the upcoming EQ2 and WoW releases. Most of the guild went to EQ2, and I was guild leader for the EQ2 section of the guild, but over time people started trickling across to WoW as it was frankly much more fun. Eventually I went with the flow, picked up WoW in early ’05 to check it out… and I don’t think I ever logged into EQ2 again. I became an officer in SW fairly quickly; I’d been an officer in SWG and guild leader in EQ2, and the guys knew I’m an organiseaholic (and therefore good for delegating stuff to!) We had three previous guild leaders in WoW, but all had to stop playing or drop back to very casual hours for RL reasons; I tended to work very closely with the previous incumbent, so when he had to stop playing, I was the obvious choice. The short version, of course, is "because no other lazy sod would do the damn job when I tried to give it away". :)

I asked Kestrel if he had any advice for up and coming GM’s. I’m going to ask you something similar. What is one mistake that you’ve learned the most from throughout your time as GM?

Not communicating things quickly enough. Good lines of communication are essential with your guild; if your guild trusts that the officer crew are managing things equitably and transparently, they’re more willing to accept that the decisions you make are for the good of the guild, and more willing to speak up calmly about problems instead of causing storms of drama. And, of course, you stand a better chance of actually keeping your guildies satisfied.

What are your initial impressions of 2.4?

I really like it. I think some of the high-level raid decisions by Blizzard are fairly insane – like taking stamina off a lot of the T6 pieces in Sunwell Plateau, or adding T6-equivalent badge loot – but I think the world event is going to be much more fun (and less server- destroying) than the AQ40 and Naxx world events. The Shattered Sun quests are a great expansion to the dailies, and overall I’m just happy with it. Plus there are some great specific additions – the ability to link spells and quests in chat channels like you can now with items, for instance, or the badges of justice that will be dropping from many 25-man raid bosses. Thumbs up.

What made you pick a Paladin over the other 3 healing classes?

I like healers, and always have. My SWG main was a Master Doctor/Teras Kasi Master (TK being the unarmed martial arts in SWG); my EQ2 main was a Templar (a plate-wearing cleric)… the ‘healer who can take a melee beating’ is just a fun archetype. To be honest, though, I didn’t really realize I was picking a main I’d still be playing and raiding with three years later!

Why are protection Paladins so freakin’ hard to kill and what is their one weakness?

Hard to kill: like any other tank, they have great armor, stamina and survivability. They’re hard to kill in PvE content, too – just ask the raid bosses who die at their feet every week. ;) Plus from a PvP perspective it’s particularly tough for melee classes to take them on; the mechanics of tankadins means that they specialise in reflected damage (from Holy Shield, Retribution Aura, Blessing of Sanctuary and some gear choices) so any meleer who’s trying to beat on a prot pally is more likely to kill themselves than the pally. Weakness: can’t kill a damn thing? Does that count? More seriously: everything a paladin will use in PvP (unless they’re a Ret pally) is a Holy spell. Lock down their holy school with interrupts, counterspells, slams and the like and they can’t do _anything_ – no Holy Shield, no bubble, no heals, no nuffin’.

Have you ever been treated differently as a female gamer by other > players?

Never, actually. I wish all female gamers were as fortunate.

So with all that healing gear you have on, how is levelling in the expansion going to be?

Just fiiiiiiiine, thanks to the change in 2.3 where healing gear adds spell damage. For a healer/offtank-specced character, I can put out some decent DPS – I’m not going to be winning any contests, but it’s fine for most questing. I’ll likely respec to 40/0/21 shockadin spec for some heftier DPS (sacrificing my ability to offtank, which doesn’t matter for levelling) and I’m not anticipating any problems at all.

You have your own domain and webhosting for your blog so I can see > you’re fairly committed to the blogging enterprise. Your 2.4 notes have been terrific and insightful. What can readers expect to see from Banana Shoulders in the next year?

I’m hoping to have time to get deeper into analysis and some light theorycrafting about paladins and general game mechanics. I also enjoy writing guides, like my guides to the daily quests or to holy paladin tanking, so there will be more of those if I see a subject that needs writing about. And finally, I’m really hoping to get into the WotLK beta (as I did for the TBC beta) so you can expect a lot of WotLK blogging if that happens. In particular, I wrote a popular jewelcrafting levelling guide during the TBC beta ("Siya’s Jewelcrafting Guide" for those of you that used it), and I’d like to provide a similar service for Inscription (and, of course, Jewelcrafting 376+).

What would the 51 point holy talent be?

I’m not actually sure, to be honest. My initial response would be "please god, some kind of multi-target heal" but I’m not entirely sure that’s appropriate. That one needs some thought. So for now I’ll just say "a multi-target heal, please!". :) >

Speed questions

Being a successful raid healer requires:

Situational awareness and focus.

Best way to wipe:

The very first time a hunter discovers that pets path funny when he jumps down from a high ledge. Hellooooo, half of BRD, we’re very pleased to see you!

Most common excuse for your tank dying:

On Teamspeak: "Uh, guys, WoW crashed. Have you pulled yet?"

Buff:

Mages.

Favourite non-combat pet:

The Robotic Homing Chicken, from a loot card in the WoW Trading Card Game.

Favourite non-WoW related stress releasing activity:

Watching escapist TV – current favourites for that category are NCIS, Family Guy, Scrubs or Burn Notice.

I can’t heal without my:

background music.

Name of your 2H DPS mace (all Paladins have one, don’t lie):

That Thing In Bank Bag #6 That I Don’t Have Room For In My Bags. (Actually, it’s a Hammer of the Naaru off Maulgar.)

Best way to say no to a guild member:

Make my 2IC do it. (We’re good cop, bad cop.) …I kid. Mostly. The best way is to be firm but fair, and try and suggest an alternative that might meet their needs.

3 things you want to see more of on other blogs:

  • Well-written guides that make information accessible (eg Dwarf Priest’s guide to priests in PvP, Big Bear Butt’s guide to feral tanking, etc.)
  • Universally-useful information – for example, not just "we killed Gruul today!" (though that’s great), but "we killed Gruul today, and here’s a new strat we developed that works really well for that fight if you don’t have enough healers!"
  • Links to me! ;-)

Special thanks to:

My 2IC Alinden for all the hard work he puts into helping run the guild and coordinate our raids. My guild as a whole for being so damn awesome (four first kills in four weeks, hooray!). And the folks in the Blog Azeroth chatroom – especially Valenna, Nightravyn, TJ, Bear, Bellwether, Phae, Megan and your good self – who have all provided lots of good company (albeit at weird hours, you strange Northern Hemisphere people, you!) and an inspiration to be a better blogger.

Banana Shoulders is an excellent resource for Holy Paladins and authored by a terrific person! While you’re visiting, don’t forget to subscribe to Siha’s blog!

20 Questions With Big Bear Butt

20 Questions by Matticus

Every week, Matt gets a chance to sit down with a WoW Blogger chosen by his Worg Pup. Find out a little more about your favourite bloggers as he tries to get to know them a little more!

This week, Big Bear Butt of his self titled Big Bear Butt Blogger was cool enough to kick back and set aside some time in his beary busy schedule to answer a few questions.

This has got to be the most important question I’ll ever ask and I just wanted to get it out of the way. Why Big Bear Butt?

Well, I wanted to choose a name that told people that came what they were getting themselves in for.

I play a feral druid, I spend a lot of time tanking in bear form, and when you’re in a narrow instance or up against a wall, your view is pretty much all bear butt. At least, until you swivel your viewpoint around.

Add to it is the fact that I’m a pretty big guy. I was in the US Marines for 8 years, and I was one of the guys that would have to hump the 80 pound mortar plate on the march… okay, you probably have no idea what that means. Ummm…. I ain’t short or narrow, and my bench press is fairly hefty. But I’ve been out of the service now for, oh, wow. 13 years now. It’s been a while. :) So anyway, visits to the gym or not, sitting at a desk playing wow has taken it’s toll on the size of my butt. So I’m a big bear of a man in real life, with a big bearish butt.

And I like to think I have a wacky Monty Python lovin’, Wierd Al and Dr. Demento enjoying sense of humor. So I thought Big Bear Butt Blogger pretty much said it all.

A couple of weeks ago, the first Blog Azeroth community topic was “What did you like most about the class you played”. I’m going to go out on a limb and ask you what you hate most about the class that is your main (in this case, your Druid).

The one thing I hate the most about the Druid, and yes, I do hate it, is the utter lack of individuality amongst Druids in forms. Every Night Elf Druid in cat form looks exactly like every other. Doesn’t matter the level, or the gear.

Deepest and darkest secret about BBB?

I’ve been writing for WOW Insider’s Shifting Perspectives druid column, and they put my real name up there… but it’s not the name I was born with. When I got married, I actually took my wifes’ last name.

There were a lot of reasons for it. Mainly, though, is the fact that I am from another state than Minnesota, and the product of a home that’s not just broken, but pretty shattered. My wife, on the other hand, is Minnesota born and bred, and her entire family, with dozens of close relatives, brothers and sisters and all their extended families, are all right here. Now. Local. And for every special occasion, everyone gets together as one big squabbling but basically happy family.

So I thought nothing whatsoever of casting aside my old name, breaking the chains, and launching myself into a happy life with my new extended family.

And okay, you know me well enough to figure out, I LOVE to see the looks on people’s faces when I tell them what my name is… and my wifes’ name… and my mother-in-laws’ name. Hee hee hee.

When you started your blog, what was your goal? Do you think you have achieved it?

Well, my goal was mainly to have a forum to get up on my soapbox and sound off on whatever in the game I was all worked up about.

My secondary goals were to write posts with helpful tips and suggestions that I’d wish I’d known when I started playing my druid back in the day. And also, I wanted to develop my writing skills through lots and lots and lots of writing. I’ve heard it said by authors I admire that the way to develop your own writing style is to write your ass off. So I am. These days, my main goals are to write frequently, to entertain, and to inform. If I accomplish just one of those, I figure I’m good.
That would be why I post so often. :)

Where were you when 9/11 occurred?

Well, I was long out of the military by then. I was actually at work as an engineer in a PCB manufacturing plant at the time. Not the same one as now. Coincidentally enough, I’d been re-reading Red Cell by Richard Marcinko right around that time, a book by a former Seal Team 6 commander fictionalizing his teams’ exploits as they accomplished theri assigned mission; simulate terrorist atacks agaisnt military and civilian airports around the world to test their security.
From the results of 9/11, you don’t need to guess what his analysis was, years before the actual real event proved him right. I will say, don’t believe anyone that tells you that no one knew the vulnerabilities of our airport security systems that ‘came as a complete shock’.

You’d have to understand that, when it happened, TVs were wheeled into break rooms, and we all gathered around. There was hysteria on the TV, and people both in the plant and on TV were sobbing and saying they couldn’t believe it was possible.

And the only surprise I felt was that it hadn’t been a backpack nuke or bio/chemical attack.

I know that sounds callous as all heck, but it’s true. But I come by it honestly.

I entered the Marines in 1986, and I was raised on films such as the Missing in Action series with Chuck Norris, the original Rambo series, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, Hamburger Hill, the list goes on and on. Most people think those movies glorify warfare as a living action film full of fun, but to me as a teen growing up watching them, the message I got was that war was a horrible, violent chaotic mess, filled with human frailty, but that it was a necessary thing for an armed force to exist with strong, willing, capable volunteers, to help those who cannot help themselves and to actively work to preserve peace and liberate the oppressed. And that the previous generations of men and women in my country had done their part to step forward, to serve, and to suffer for their principals and stand firm. I felt it was my duty to do the same. With no illusions as to how ‘glamorous’ or ‘exciting’ it would be. Glamorous. HAH!

In the years since, with all the traveling I’ve done in cultures around the world, I think I’ve developed an awareness of how precious and precarious stability can be. And how blessed we have been to have the stability of Canada and Mexico to our North and South, and the massive barriers of the ocean to our East and West to make bringing war directly to our shores a difficult process requiring massive investment of resources.

But when others hate you, for whatever reason, and weapons exist in the world that require little in the way of resources to deploy, well….

When 9/11 happened, my state of mind was; “Praise God that, so far, nuclear, biological and checmical weapons weren’t involved. Thank god.” Followed closely by, “I wonder if those attacks will soon follow. Are they done? And if they do, where?”

I hope that I answered the spirit of your question.

Your blog states that you served in the US Marines. You willing to share any good/humorous stories during your time there?

I assume that the statute of limitations still covers… yeah, okay, so those are out. Hold on, let me think. What can I say that wouldn’t incur legal fines or liability?

Right, okay.

I’ll be nice and limit myself to a Marine story, and not include the subcategories of drinking, practical jokes, drinking, crazy physical stunts… oh, wait, that reminds me. Okay, I’ve got one. And I don’t think I can be arrested for anything in it.

So, I’m in the barracks with some friends, in the desert of Twenty-Nine Palms, California. And there are a bunch of us, and we’re bored, and it’s Saturday morning.

One of the guys has a car, which when you’re all PFCs or Lance Corporals, is a BIG thing. So someone suggests we get a shitload of alcohol, bundle some camping crap into the car, and head for Yucca Valley National Monument for some serious drinking and barbequeing, maybe stay over for the night.

Now, at the time I was the ringleader of our little clan, the resident Game Master of our gaming group. (Hell yes, Marines play role playing games. Best groups I’ve ever had in my entire life were with Jarheads. Intelligent men and women, tactically proficient and possessed of wondrous imaginations and low and evil cunning. God, I miss gaming in the service. Oh heck, where the hell was I? Oh, right.)

Right, I was the ringleader. And I usually organized games on the weekend, followed by everyone drinking, listening to Dr. Demento, and then having a steak and lobster tail barbeque in the beer garden outside. Beer garden? Don’t ask.

So I get us all organized, sort out who is going to bring what, then we hit the package store (where you buy your alcohol on base) and off we go out into the High Desert.

And we drive for miles, and miles, and miles. When we finally approach a likely looking campsite near some particularly fine rock formations, we are waaaaay out there.

As the car rolls up to where we’re gonna park, the engine makes some knocking noises… and then with a loud bang! we watch the hood of the car lift up with the force of a massive blow. The car stops. And I mean, right then and there.

So, we look at each other in the back seat, and then we look at the owner of the car. With a deadpan emotionless tone of voice, I say, “Engine threw a rod, Mark.”

He says, equally emotionlessly, “Yep. Looks that way.”

I say, “It’s a hell of a long walk back to the main road, man.”

He says, “Yep.”

I tell him, “Better carry a case with you when you go. And carry a bag. No littering in Yucca.”

He says, “Yep. Damn it.”

So off he went, with a case of wine coolers, to go flag down a ranger. Which he did, eventually.

In the meantime, heck, we had food, alcohol, and lots of free time. This was years before cell phones, so nobody had any way of getting the word out but by walking. Fortunately, it was Saturday, so we had two days to figure out how to get back to base before we’d be missing a movement, namely Monday morning formation. No worries.

Well, at the time I fancied myself a fair free rock climber. I went out fairly often, and enjoyed taking a camera with me to take shots from “How the hell did you get there” angles. I didn’t have any gear with me, but some of the rocks out there were pretty easy grades for a novice. I left the other guys to their drinking, and headed into the rocks.

So I went on in a little valley twixt the steep walls of rock, picked an approach, and started climbing. And the rock out there is nice, there are frequent and easy to reach handholds, indentations, fissures, you name it. I was just climbing to have fun, stretch out a bit. I was wearing jeans, combat boots, and no shirt, because I thought I was quite studdly, and I wanted to get some Sun for a tan.

I am sliding around a steep grade, feet inching sideways on a narrow crack as I work my way over to where I can see the way up is going to be easier. I’m a long way up, but it’s cool. I am pressed flat against the rock, arms spread wide and hands out, kissing the rock good and close, just kinda inching my way sideways.

As I go across this flat steep face, the rock is pretty gritty, and it’s suddenly smooth. It’s like sandstone, with a very fine grade of loose grit on the surface. And I start to slide down.
I force my body closer against the rock, I’m desperate for the rock to love me long time. I mean, I am seriously bear hugging this rock in a way that should require a marriage license and a hotel room.

And as I slowly slide down, I can feel a tugging on my pants as my belt is scraping along the rock. And then, suddenly, hella pain. Somehow, I make myself stop dead, possibly through heretofore unknown psychic powers, I don’t know.

What happened is, the belt buckle post grabbed on the rock, and my belt worked itself free, and the buckle, looped through the belt, came out of the sheath, but was still caught in the belt, all tangled up.

Oh, did I forget to mention that I was an amateur real-life leatherworker, and I’d hand-stitched my woven belt? And I’d used a belt-buckle palm dagger (what is known as a push knife) as the buckle with a sewn in sheath? Sorry, that must have slipped my mind.

Yeah, so the belt buckle came undone, grabbed on the rock, twisted on the leather looped through it, and pointed itself up… into my stomach. Braced agasint the rock.

And I was slowly sliding DOWN the rock face.

Yep, paints a pretty picture, doesn’t it?

So, let’s recap, shall we? I’m way up a rock face, I’ve got a dagger sticking into my stomach, I’m wearing no shirt, and I’m starting to slide down. And as I slide, the dagger is digging deeper.

Now, I calmly access the situation. I am not panicking, but I am 100% aware that I am the stupidest person on the face of the planet, and I’m about to die, die by being stuck with the dagger I myself spent hours crafting into a belt, and the worst part is I have 6 Fosters Oil Cans at the camp that I’ll never get to drink.

Such are the thoughts of a single Marine. Just so you know.

Obviously, I didn’t die. Sorry to break the suspense, but I thought I should mention that, just in case you were getting worried.

Instead, I kept on hugging the rock face fiercely. I slowed my rate of descent, kind of hoisted myself by the skin of my forearms straight UP and then inched the rest of the way onwards to my destination, since I had traveled a hard way up, and then eased my way back down to the bottom of the gulley.

When my feet touched down on soft desert sand at the foot of the rock, I gently pulled the dagger from my stomach, I unthreaded my belt from my pants, and then I threw the entire damn thing with all of my might as deep into the rocks as I could possibly get it.

I assessed my injuries. I had a nicely bleeding, seeping really, hole in my stomach, and the skin on my inner arms, from my wrists to my elbows, was gone. Sinmply gone. my inner forearms were raw exposed meat from being abraded against the rock to stop my slide.

So.

I walked calmly back to camp, and I’ll be perfectly honest here… I derived a certain sense of satisfaction, knowing that my reputation as a bad ass was going to be ramped up a few notches by walking out of the desert covered in blood. Kind of a consolation prize for being a galactically stupid moron.

I proceeded to borrow a buddies’ shirt to wrap up my arms and stomach, after pouring beer all over my arms to try and wash away sand. I’m intentionally trying not to think about how bad that hurt.
I kicked back, had a steak grilled over an open fire, and drank Fosters for the next 8 hours or so, until Mark came back in a park ranger truck, and we carried our happy butts back out of the desert, and I made my way to the base sick bay.

And as I walked into sick bay on that Saturday night, contemplating how to possibly spin what happened so I wouldn’t look like such an incredible dumbass on the inevitable after action report… some corpsmen rushed a guy past me into sick bay on a gurney. And the guy’s mouth was covered in dried blood.

It looked like the guy took a punch in the mouth, but the corpsmen seemed VERY anxious to work on him, so naturally I asked at the counter what was up with him.

Turns out he’d been drinking with his buddies in the desert (surprise), saw a rattlesnake, and decided to show what a badass he was by biting the head of the snake off.

Except the snake chomped his tongue GOOD. And even though he succeeded in biting the snakes’ head off, the fangs wouldn’t release.

I stopped worrying about the reception my story was going to get. Apparently, on a base full of Marines in the desert on a Saturday night, my story wasn’t even gonna make the top three.

What is the one addition or change you would like Blizzard to see done to Druids in general?

I touched on this earlier. I’d love to see Blizzard introduce the ability to expand the appearance of our forms. There are so many different ways it could be done, like simply having different basic skins available from your trainer to choose from when you can train the basic shapeshift skill, and make you have to respec to change your appearance. Or allow us to choose to display some kind of morphed armor, an admittedly difficult thing to do that I would hold out no hope for. In a perfect world, we would be able to choose our tribal Druid tattoo in forms, and customize our appearance in terms of mane/hair style, bulkiness of body frame, and then choose from colors, patterns and eyes.

Whose teddy bear is that in your blogger profile?

Why, that would be mine, thank you. That is mine. My wife asked me for a list of things I wanted for Christmas a long time ago, and one of the things I found was that bear on a cafepress store, and I told her I wanted it. I don’t know if you can see, but the shirt says “I’m in Bear form”. It sits on my headboard. When I made my Blogger profile, I needed a photo, and I immediately grabbed my bear. Cassie took the picture.

What’s in store for readers of BBB in the upcoming year?

I purchased a domain, www.thebigbearbutt.com, and I’m planning at some point to go to a self-hosted site using WordPress as the framework. I’m moving ahead slowly on getting some t-shirt designs worked on, and I’m going to continue to write in the exact same way as I always have. At this stage in my life, I regret that I may be unable to change. If my readers are hoping for maturity and growth in the next year… I’m sorry. Ain’t happening.

Considering the weird crap you throw up on your blog, why do you think people still bother to come back? (Thanks to BBB for suggesting this question when I was stuck on number 20)

Well, I think it’s because I post regularly, I say what I think, I try and have a sense of humor, I do try and post informative info scattered amongst the jokes and ramblings, and I’m honest about what’s going on with me and Cassie and the game.

Also, I actually do see the people who come to my site as friends, and I think that comes through. I’m not running a business, although I certainly wouldn’t mind making enough money to support the blog, as long as I can do it on my terms. No gold sellers! Grrr! I do this for fun. That being the case, I assume people who are coming to read what I’m writing are, themselves, in some sick way, having fun.

Or, and this might be just as true… I am insane, and you are all natural-born enablers. Shame on you.

Either way, I’m damn happy with the people that read, and especially the people that comment. I have some of the smartest, coolest commenters on the planet. My Addon article alone, I had TONS of helpful suggestions of addons that improved my game experience immensely. So much for me teaching anyone else something.

Speed Questions

Imperial or US Pint?
If it’s a Guinness, any pint will do.

Biggest criticism you always hear as a player:
You tank so well I’m getting bored.

Bears should be able to sport visual armor: Agree or disagree?
Agree, damn straight.

As a Druid, the next animal form you want is to be able to shift into:
A Mount for other players to ride. Seriously! Unicorn FTW!

Most annoying nickname:
Wow, I got some great ones. BBB, Tri-B, B^3. Love em all.

In your opinion, AWOL stands for:
A Waste of Life. “Doomilias is AWOL again”. “No, Doomilias is AWOL, still.”

Guns don’t kill people, but ______________ do:

“Guns don’t kill people, but I do”.

But Matt, that is just filling in your blanks, that’s not letting me tell you the real version.

“US Marines. You can run, but you’ll just die tired.” There. That’s better.

One thing you wish you knew about blogging before you started blogging:

How many people were going to expect me to come up with pretty pictures for every damn post. And screw the damn word count, that’s the truth.

David Letterman, Jay Leno, or John Stewart?
Jay is an awesome car guy, but Stewart is evil.

Rejected tag line for Big Bear Butt Blogger:

“This is not the gay porn site you were looking for.”

Shout outs to:

My readers, who leave comments that are frequently better than my posts. Thank you! You guys rock.

Again, go check out the Big Bear Butt’s feral druid blog for tanking goodness and all things feral!

20 Questions with Kestrel

20 Questions with Matticus

Every week, Matt gets a chance to sit down with a WoW Blogger chosen by his Worg Pup. Find out a little more about your favourite bloggers as he tries to get to know them a little more!

To kick off this weekly feature, Kestrel of Kestrel’s Aerie was awesome enough to set aside some time in his schedule to answer a few questions.

I noticed you have an affinity for birds. Where did it come from?

The answer to this question dovetails (like that?) with the answer to the second. So let me explain…

Several years ago, I read a fantastic Mercedes Lackey series, “Bardic Voices.” Among the titles are The Lark and the Wren and The Robin and the Kestrel. Searching for a new character name when Asheron’s Call II was released (I’d gone by Earendil, from The Silmarillion, for many, many years), “Kestrel” fit perfectly: Back in my role-playing days (Shadows of Yserbius, on the ImagiNation Network, né The Sierra Network), I fancied myself a bardic type–never mind that I can’t play the lute or mandolin, nor can I carry a tune. See the next answer for the rest!

What’s the background behind your character’s names? (Kestrel, Osprey, Talonis)

When it came time to name alts (and yes, I’m an altoholic–explains 4, almost 5, level 70s on one server!), I stuck with the birds of prey theme. Currently, my characters include Kestrel, Osprey, Talonis (from Talon, which is always taken as a character name, but is the name of Talonis’ hunter pet), Sparverius (from the Latin for hawk), Owlhawk, Falken (German origin), Falconer, Raptor. Oh…and Earendil is my little-used Dranei Paladin.

What’s a typical day in the life of Kestrel like?

Pretty dull! Weekdays, I get up just before 6:30, get ready for work, eat a bowl of cereal while Auctioneer Advanced is performing my daily scan of the AH. Usually, I have time to do a daily quest, and I also review the Aerie for new comments, as well as check the feed reader and Blog Azeroth very quickly. I’m a human resources manager in a call center, so I generally have time during the day to catch up on blogs (sometimes, even my own if there aren’t too many interruptions).

I go home for lunch each day, so I’ll log into the game, check on auctions, maybe hit another daily. After work, my wife and I generally have dinner fairly soon after I get home (and after I spend a little bit on my bike exerciser; in nicer weather, we go for a walk or bike ride 3 or 4 times a week). We usually watch a travel show or cooking program from the DVR while eating.

Then, it’s up to the computer room and an evening of WoW. I may delay my login if I have an article I want to finish for the blog, and I generally have Google Reader open on my second monitor to peruse on longer gryphon flights.

Most people around your age tend to not care about video games and consider them a waste of time. How did you get into gaming and WoW?

For the uninformed, I’m in my mid-50s. That already may be TMI for some people. *grin*

When I was a young captain in the Air Force in the mid-70s, I was an instructor for Minuteman missile crews. The computer that operated our simulators was a DEC PDP-11 minicomputer. In the observation cab, we had small 11″ monitors, and a couple of the more enterprising technicians had installed a game called “Dungeon” (I think). It was a very simple maze-like layout with typographic characters–letters and symbols–representing characters, monsters (this was before the term “mob” entered the lexicon) and treasure. I was hooked.

This was also about the time I started playing D&D 2ed with co-workers. Then one day, a coworker brought an Atari brochure into the office. Within a year, I was the very proud (and much poorer) owner of an Atari 800–still the most comfortable keyboard I have ever used, including the classic IBM Selectric.

From there, it was an easy evolution to cassette- and 5.25″-floppy disc-based games. A few years later (1986, to be precise) I upgraded to my first IBM-compatible PC (and I splurged on a huge 30MB hard drive!). “Bard’s Tale” and the D&D Gold Box collection, King’s Quest, Ultima IV, and my favorite, the Wizardry series. Time passed, I discovered The Sierra Network and Shadows of Yserbius. Eventually I got involved in Asheron’s Call, a teeny bit of EverQuest, and so on, culminating with World of Warcraft.

Your long lost cousin happens to find your blog and manages to get in touch with you. To your amazement, you find out he works at Blizzard as a lead designer. As a birthday present, he allows you to include another playable race in the game. What would you choose and why?

Oh my… what a great question! There are so many reasonable possibilities. Unfortunately, I’m not a lore master by any stretch–I never played the Warcraft series, or even Diablo. So whatever I say may make zero sense from a lore standpoint. But let me throw out a few ideas, then I’ll settle on my #1 choice. What about Arrakoa? And if you put them on the Alliance side, maybe Ogres on the Horde side? Of course, one could argue for Murlocs on the Horde side, to balance out Gnomes? Or how about an elemental race? Scratch that…no one wants to see eleventy-seven variations on Thing as a character name. But the romantic in me would probably go for High Elves (I completely lost it the first time the High Elf female in Allerian Outpost haughtily informs you she’s NOT a Blood Elf). And how about this: High Elves on both sides of the conflict, Horde and Alliance? If nothing else, the lorefiends would have a field day!

You have your own Guild. Tell us about them and the direction you are steering them.

Originally, the guild was just four of us who left Icecrown and our (large raiding) guild there because we had a lot of problems logging in to the realm. We picked up a few other friends who entered the game, but we have always been rather small and close-knit. Unfortunately, we lost several members a couple months ago who wanted to progress faster than the guild was currently moving. That’s how I inherited the GM mantle. Right now, we’re trying to get everyone (almost everyone in the guild has at least one 70) through the Outland 5-man instances. Several of us just finished off the Gronns this week, so we can start doing Ogri’La dailies, and we want to get everyone else who’d like to, through that. We have a couple druids (my two remaining co-founders) who want to get their epic flight form, so Heroic Sethekk is definitely coming up in the near term. And, I’d like to help everyone get attuned for Karazhan. We may have to pug it or join with another guild to get into Kara itself, but by ourselves, we can at least finish the attunements. And at some point, I expect we’ll have to address the question of whether to expand our membership.

What’s the most important piece of advice you can give to a new and aspiring GM?

Just so you understand, this isn’t my first stint at being a GM. I was a realm GM for a couple years in Shadows of Yserbius (at that time, if not the largest, one of the largest online guilds in the world), and in Asheron’s Call II and Horizons, I was the #2 person in one of the largest guilds in both games (we moved from AC2 to Horizons). So I’m not exactly a rookie. :)

Thus, the one thing I would tell any GM is, “You can’t do it all.” Don’t even try. Have trusted lieutenants, delegate responsibility AND authority. But don’t forget that YOU are the Guild LEADER. When a tough call has to be made, discipline, or /gkick, then the GM has to be the one to make the call. But being a GM isn’t a power trip: /gquit is even easier to do than /gkick.

Seeing as you are clearly a bird enthusiast, do you have any ethical objections to the use of Gryphons by the Alliance for their day to day purposes?

Another great question. Having done the Hinterlands quests and having become acquainted with some of the Gryphon elders, I think they appreciate the service they do for the Alliance. After all, I’ve never seen a tether on one of them; they can leave any time, or simply drop us in the Twisting Nether if they liked. However, I think we, as riders, should have the opportunity to maybe slip them a tasty treat occasionally. Then, they might be persuaded to take a more direct route once in awhile. After all, have you SEEN the route they fly from Shattrath to, say Area 52??

Tell us more about your blog like the background and history and your future plans and goals for it:

Like so many of us, I caught the blogging bug after reading BigRedKitty in WoW Insider, then checking out his blog. I went from there to several others–Vonya’s Egotistical Priest, since Osprey was in his mid- to late-60s and about to really get into the healing business, as well as Kirk’s Priestly Endeavors.

And as I read their blogrolls, my horizons expanded quickly. The one thing I didn’t see too much of at the time (early August) were blogs by non-raiding types, yet I know that raiders make up a relatively small part of the WoW population. So I thought I could help to fill that void. I’m not sure I’ve met that precise aim, but my readership is growing, so something is working! My biggest problem is finding the time to do all I want to do with the blog: I’d rather play! (But that’s about the only thing I prefer to writing, so I hope I can find more balance between the two going forward).

While I’ve been playing since beta, I really am a pretty casual player, in terms of what content I’ve experienced. But I am getting more experience, and I feel pretty confident in my expertise in some areas. So I expect to post some “how-to” articles in the future. I also want to get back to reviewing UI add-ons. But I’ll still keep the stories, the rants, and the shout-outs to exceptional bloggers in the mix.

Where do you see yourself in 10 months in WoW?

Oh, maybe 1/3 of the way to level 71? But on about 6 characters. *laugh* I hope by the end of this year, I’ll have downed all the bosses in Kara. I’d also like to complete all the Heroic Outland instances. But one thing I’m sure of: I’ll be logging into Wrath of the Lich King on Day 1!

Speed Questions

Most cliche’d excuse in the game:

“Sorry…I hit the wrong button.”

Nerf:

Fear. I hate Hate HATE being Feared!

First thing you do in the morning:

Take a shower. THEN I log into WoW.

Blogging is like:

Eating chocolate – all the flavors are good!

I like to play WoW in my:

Sweatpants and quilted flannel shirt.

Most hated zone:

Oh… tough one; I like ‘em all. Swamp of Sorrows.

Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rockies, Denver Broncos, or Denver Nuggets?

Avalanche! Take that, Matt! ;) (Dodgers, Rams, Lakers in case anyone’s curious)

5 things that annoy you in WoW:

1. Trade channel spam (i.e., non-trade chat; it’s the new General channel!)
2. Duels in Iron Forge
3. Roundabout Gryphon rides (fly in a STRAIGHT line, dammit!)
4. W-A-S-D
5. The UI–SO hard to simply move or resize elements.

Matt needs to:

Send more people to Kestrel’s Aerie!

Thanks for taking the time to sit down and answer my questions. Shout outs to?

BRK for opening my eyes to blogging, and to the BM spec. Vonya and Kirk for the blogging inspiration and the encouragement to keep growing my Priest. Galadria, Pelides and Mania for the blogging encouragement. Phaelia and Matticus for their friendship through this blogventure. Phaelia and Valenna for kick-starting Blog Azeroth.

20 Questions with Phaelia (Resto4Life)

20 Questions by Matticus

Every week, Matt gets a chance to sit down with a WoW Blogger chosen from a hat. Find out a little more about your favourite bloggers as he tries to get to know them a little more!

To kick off this weekly feature, Phaelia of Resto4Life was gracious enough to set aside some time in her schedule to answer a few questions.

Image of Phaelia from her About page

1: Where did the name Phaelia come from?

When I was much, much younger I started a fantasy book. “Phaelia” was the name of its main character. I later used the name when I created my Ranger in EverQuest I, but I don’t think I was aware where I’d pulled it from. It was only years later that I found an old 3.5″ floppy with the aforementioned book on it that I realized where I’d originally used the name.

2: You picked a Druid as your class. How come?

So, why a druid?

I originally created a Hunter in the first phase of the open beta since it was the class that most closely corresponded with the Ranger from EverQuest. But then Mr. Phae decided that he wanted to play a Hunter as his main. Knowing how much he’d end up “showing me up” if we played the same class, I chose the “next best” thing, the Druid. The Druid also had a strong affiliation with nature, and the video where the beautiful Night Elf shapeshifts into a sleek purple panther didn’t hurt either. Little did I know I would NOT be playing Feral.

Phaelia was my first real healing character, and I was fortunate enough to have the leisure to spec Restoration since I was levelling with my husband’s Retribution-specced Paladin. I’ve since discovered a real love for it and think I’ve found my calling. I doubt I could play any other role long-term and be as happy.

3: How did you get your start in World of Warcraft or gaming in general?

Like many, I’ve been gaming since the early days of the NES. I used to watch my older brother play Mario Brothers and get so excited that I’d kick the Reset button on the front of the console. He’d subsequently ban me from his room for the morning/afternoon.

I started playing EverQuest when I was in college, initially atracted to the pretty picture of Firiona Vie on the box cover. I had an extremely hard time levelling up and spent an inordinate amount of time in zones that were far too low for me for fear of dying. I had the opportunity to experience all aspects of the game over the course of 5 years: guild leadership, RPing, in-game marriages, and finally a raiding guild lead by a certain female High Elf Enchanter. I remember being so disappointed to find out that “she” was actually a “he.” I eventually got over it, though, and the two of us are approaching our 3-year anniversary this July.

4: Aside from WoW and blogging, what’re your other interests and hobbies?

As if I have time for other hobbies! =) I’ve been a long-time fan of X-Men comics, especially the two characters Rogue and Gambit. I also enjoy web design and development, movies, tabletop roleplaying, and cooking. I am the quintessential geeky girl.

5: If you could shape shift into ANY other form or animal, what would it be and why?

A unicorn … no, a pegasus. No, a PEGACORN!! Scratch that. I’ll take a Pegacorn and shift into a bunny rabbit instead. They’re sooooo cute. Druids definitely need an ambient form.

6: If you could change or add an ability to your class what would it be?

Out of combat resurrection. The lack makes me angry enough to spit tree sap.

7: Let’s hypothetically assume Blizzard goes out of business and decides to shut down their servers and WoW for good. You have 5 hours before the server shutdown is permanent. What would you do in 5 hours?

First of all, I’d port to Moonglade and purchase the Formal Dangui dress I’ve been eyeing since beta (it’s 50 GOLD!). Then I’d go buy a hippogryph from Cenarion Expedition and fly around fishing in far off, dangerous places until the world (of Warcraft) came to an end.

8: Blog Azeroth: Success or not quite there yet?

Success!! Lots of people have commended me on how well it’s doing, but — as my husband has pointed out — what did I expect would happen when I put together 100+ people who like to write on the Internet?

9: What’s in store for 2008 in terms of Resto4life?

I’ve been resistant to doing an HEP analysis (one that allows you to break down every item in terms of the raw +Healing it provides), but it would be pretty useful. So that’s a big project I’m looking at doing long term. I also have some plans to create Restoration Druid-based t-shirts and even have an artist friend who’s interested in splitting profits with me. I’m really hoping that can help offset some of the cost of hosting so that this becomes more of a recreational hobby than an additional expense! Other than that, I just hope that I can continue to grow my readership by delivering quality content that is either easily applied to everyday gaming or just consumed for its entertainment value.

And now for the speed questions.

10: Coffee or energy drinks?

Coffee. Red bull tastes like liquid sweet tarts mixed with cough medicine.

11: Raiding or blogging?

Blogging while I raid.

12: Overpowered: Rogues or Warlocks?

Oh, tough call. I’d have said Warlocks, but from what I understand of Season 3, Rogues are pretty much the bane of a Restoration Druid.

13: The White Tree of Gondor or the Tree of Nordrassil?

If you’re asking if I prefer the Lore of Warcraft to the Lore of Middle Earth, I’d have to go with Middle Earth. My knowledge of Azerothian lore is disappointly lacking.

14: If I weren’t a Druid, I would’ve rolled:

Priest without a doubt. I’ve actually played a Priest to 60 before and, while I didn’t enjoy their style of healing nearly as much as that of a Druid, I know I’d have to play a healer and they DO get the best looking armor sets in the game. /jealous

15: Mining, Skinning, or Tailoring?

Tailoring!! Without a doubt, tailoring is the most enjoyable tradeskill I’ve ever levelled. And I’ve done so on three different characters.

16: Aldor Rise needs an escalator: Agree or disagree?

I have insta-cast flight form. My favorite thing in the world is to run past someone waiting patiently for the elevator, flip off the edge, pop birdie form, and laugh at the /whisper of “!” NO ESCALATOR!

17: Given the opportunity, you would rather write a WoW blog for: WoW Insider or NY Times

I’d not like to write for anyone, really. I enjoy my freedom of expression and design. But if I had to choose, I’d go with WoW Insider; the audience there seems much more appropriate.

18: The road to success is paved with:

Well, I’m guessing it isn’t “Chardonnay” but it should be. Let’s go with “Passion”. The most successful and HAPPY (more important) people are those who are passionate about what it is they do.

19: Matthew Perry, Matthew McConaughey, or Matt Damon?

Matt Damon; he seems to me to be the most intelligent of the three.

20: Thanks for the interview. Shouts to?

Mr. Phae for all his support and help; Valenna for his friendship; Kestrel for his kindness; Vonya, Amanna, and Kirk for the inspiration; and to all the Druid authors out there that make our mini-blogosphere such a wonderful, welcoming, and warm place to be!