Friday, May 27, 2005

WoW: The Flying Dutchman

Gondul has run into trouble. After tidying up a couple of quests in Tirisfal, I decided it was time to take her to Thunder Bluff to learn to use a firearm (stopping by the auction house in Orgrimmar to put some copper for sale en route). I therefore climbed the tower west of Lordaeron and south of Brill to catch a zepplin across the sea.

That turns out to be a big mistake, at least with my computer issues. I boarded the blimp without any difficulty (I even have a screen shot of Gondul standing in the bow), but there's apparently a rather large information exchange that has to take place during the crossing, and that caused me a vast amount of lag. So much lag, in fact, that I never even saw the dismbarkation point at Orgrimmar: the boat stopped and left again before the screen rendered. Gondul never got a chance to move. Nor did she get a chance to disembark back at Lordaeron. She's cursed to an endless cycle of ocean blimp crossings.

I'm not quite sure how to get her out of this fix. I don't think I can do it with my computer. I may have to login from someone else's computer or reveal my login information to someone with a faster machine to break her out of the cycle.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Dancing it Cold

The Kingdom Arts & Sciences event is coming up in a little over a week (June 4th). I've pre-submitted Laccio d'Amore as an entry, but quite frankly Francesca and I haven't had a chance to practice in weeks. Looks like we'll be "cramming" on Friday night to get back into shape.

I also need to take a few more pictures of my charcoal, convert the documentation from html to something more printable, and come up with a nice way to display it.

WoW: Explore Your World

Escovar has now taken the train ride to Ironforge and is now in Loch Modan looking for Stormpike (who wasn't standing out in the street where I thought Darzun found him). I found a surprising amount of herbs during that little walk.

Next time I'm on (which may not be until next week, since I'll be gone for Memorial Day weekend), I'll have to get Gondul on the blip to Orgrimmar, then take the hike to Thunder Bluff.

Thank the Light/Shadow for Hearthstones.

Early Riser

I may have to become a morning person. It has nothing to do with ambition or industriousness; it's just the radical change in my morning commute. Normally I leave the house at 7:00am and get two the office at about 8:15am, but for the last couple of days I've been leaving at 6:00am to score some extra hours so I can leave early for Memorial Day weekend.

Leaving at 6:00, I arrive at 6:45. That's half an hour I don't spend stuck in traffic. While I often slow to a crawl (with frequent complete stops) on the way into town on the interstate at around 7:45, I never slowed below 55 mph in the last two days. It's surprising how much of a difference that one hour of start time makes.

Skeptic's Circle

St. Nate has posted the new Skeptic's Circle on his blog. You'll have to scroll a while for my entry (which you could probably find faster here), but there's a lot of other good skeptical commentary in this edition, so head on over and check it out.

Monday, May 23, 2005

WoW: Neither Here Nor There

I have a couple of interesting quests to workout somehow. Darzun has a quest to pick up some piece of armor or other from a craftsman in Stormwind (the Human capital) for delivery to a dwarf in Loch Modan (Dwarf territory). Escovar, on the other hand, is supposed to go transact some business in Ironforge (the Dwarf capital). The problem for me is that I have no idea how to get from either capital to the other. The route isn't mapped, and such major cities are not known Griffon destinations by default (Griffons being the equivalent of Delta or United in WoW).

The problem goes beyond mere quest fulfillment; there are things you can do in some towns that you can't do in others. Ironforge, for example, has an auction house, but Stormwind does not. This means that when Escovar has some loot or potion products that he'd like to sell at auction, he has to send it to Darzun through the mail system so Darzun can get it to the auction house for him. Tedious.

Gondul is arguably in a worse position. She's affiliated with the Horde (undead, orcs, trolls, and minotaurs), but the closest Horde city is the Undercity, which is on the wrong continent from the rest of the Horde. I've found a zepplin station that could get me to Orgrimmar on the other continent, but that doesn't completely solve the problem. She's an engineer by trade: she can make bombs, ammunition, and eventually firearms. Unfortunately, she doesn't know how to use a firearm, and the only instructor is in Tauren (minotaur) territory.

Excuse me, but isn't that just a wee bit ridiculous? There's only one person in the entire Horde capable of teaching Gondul how to shoot a gun? The mind boggles. There's not even a goblin (the Horde's gadgetry-heavy race) who will teach it. Why did Blizzard decide to make such a basic skill (some characters are proficient with guns from Level 1) so damned difficult to acquire.

I suppose I shall have to get energetic, take the blimp to Orgrimmar, and seek a guide to help me find the Tauren weapons master.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Beware of Your Email

I received a suspicious email at home yesterday. It claimed to be from eBay, saying that they’d detected some suspicious transactions on my account, so I should check the account and possibly update my password. The message included eBay logos and links to eBay’s home page and fraud pages. It also included a direct link to the page where I could update my account info.

The dead giveaway for me, of course, was that I don’t have an eBay account. A closer look at the header showed that the message wasn’t even addressed to me; it went to a private mailing list I’m on and got forwarded to me. There was definitely someone trying to get access to my (non-existent) eBay account, and it was the sender of this "warning". The sender was "phishing" for information they could use to steal money from me, and this message was the bait. You can get the gorey details of phishing online if you want to get technical, but the moral of the story is never trust email from a corporate entity, even if you do business with them; the email may be a counterfeit from someone else.

As I said, the trick message was full of links to pages on eBay’s site, but there’s no way to be sure how many were genuine. I certainly wasn’t going to click any of them to find out the hard way. The direct link to the "account maintenance" page was undoubtedly a trap that went somewhere other than eBay, but some of the others might have been genuine links to eBay pages, just to keep innocent victims like me guessing.

As I said, I wasn’t going to click any of those links to test them. Any or all of them might have lead to a programmed "exploit page" designed to quietly install evil programs on my computer. Those programs might generate more evil email or host evil web pages on my own computer designed to steal information from others, quietly sending the stolen information to some criminal in a distant land.

eBay does take this kind of thing seriously (as does PayPal and assorted banks that have internet banking facilities), so a quick visit to eBay’s website (by directly typing in my browser rather than following any of those evil links) quickly turned up an abuse address to which I forwarded the message. I don’t know if it will be possible to track down the scumbags who sent it to me, but hopefully they’ll be able to use the information to break up at least part of the criminal network sending them.

It’s possible to do business online safely, but vigilance is definitely needed. Criminals impersonate reputable corporations to rob you, so you need to view any unsolicited message that lands in your mailbox with skepticism. It can save your money, your credit rating, and possibly your reputation.

This post will appear in the Skeptic's Circle of Thursday, May 26th, hosted by Saint Nate.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Politics: Judicial Filibuster Craziness

Here I go again, deviating from my usual themes of swordsmanship, dance, medieval industry, and computer gaming craziness to delve into the sordid depths of American politics.

My US Senator is in the middle of it. I live in Tennessee, so Frist is supposedly looking out for my interests. Unfortunately, he only seems to be looking after his own Presidential ambitions. He’s embracing the Religious Right with every thing he’s got, thinking that they will put him in the White House in 2008.

Which brings us to the controversy over President Bush’s nominees for federal appeals court vacancies. As I recall, he nominated a couple of hundred judges during his last term, and about ten of them were blocked by filibusters in the Senate. Unwilling to be denied, Dubya has started nominating those same candidates again, and the Democrats are promising to block them again. This situation brings us to Frist, who’s promising to change the Senates rules to make it impossible to filibuster a judicial nominee.

I don’t suppose he’s considered what the courts would look like today if the rule he’s proposing had been in place during the Clinton Presidency. The Republicans used the filibuster more than once themselves when Clinton nominated someone that they considered "too far left" to get a lifetime appointment to a federal appeals court, but apparently it becomes "un-American" when the Democrats use it to block someone they think is "too far right".

I don’t know if the "nuclear option" of eliminating the filibuster on judicial nominees will actually happen. Several Senators, including John McCain (one of the few members of Congress that I like almost without reservation) are working on a compromise coalition to keep it from happening. Nonetheless, if the Republicans do make the change, they’ll come to regret it some day. The pendulum swings both ways, and sooner or later the Democrats will be in the majority again, and the Republicans will wish they had some way of blocking a "left-wing activist" nominee from some socially liberal President.

Look before you leap, Frist, or the beast on the end of the party line will come around and bite you.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

WoW: Silly Discoveries

I was knocking about Tirisfal Glades and the Undercity this morning, completing some minor quests, visiting the bank, and smelting some copper, when I made a startling (to me) discovery. It seems that an engineer (like Gondul) can turn "rough stone" into "rough blasting powder". Odd though that may seem, I wasted no time turning all the rough stone in my back pack into blasting powder and then turning that blasting powder into sticks of "rough dynamite".

To quote a good old dwarvish saying (from Warcraft II in fact): "I like blowin' things up!"

Heh, heh.

And then, the technology failed...

I wrote three webpages related to my charcoaling project and uploaded them to the Glaedenfeld site. I'm sure I moved the pictures, too, but for unknown reasons, I see nothing but broken links instead of pictures. The alternative text isn't even displayed. This vexes me... I'm very vexed.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Homeward Tomorrow

Attended the funeral today. No reason to bore everyone with the details, but anyone interested can read the obituary.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Bad News

My grandmother never recovered from her surgery. She died at about 5pm EST today without ever waking up. I'll be driving home tomorrow for the funeral, which will be on Monday.

The Darth Side

If you haven't been following Darth Vader's Weblog, you need to get your browser over there and catch up right away. The diary is fast approaching its inevitable conclusion.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Excavation Accomplished

I finished digging out the charcoal kiln yesterday evening, and Fjorleif helped me sort the actual charcoal from the dirt. There was a surprising amount of actual charcoal in that kiln, maybe a cubic foot or so. Not bad from such a small original stack, so I call it a win.

Documentation, with pictures, in the form of a web page is in progress.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

More Supplies

My good lady Fjorleif picked me up some gloves and plaster yesterday. I now have just about everything I need to start the casting project.

No, I didn't dig out the charcoal kiln yesterday. It was fencing practice, and it was getting dark by the time I got home.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

It's Still Hot

Since I built a rather small stack of wood into my charcoal kiln, I figured it might have finished cooking by yesterday afternoon. So, I got out a rake and shovel and started uncovering it. I got out some nice looking charcoal, but it was still hot and I saw some glowing embers, so I covered it back up again to expire from asphyxiation.

I Have a Bar of Tin

And it has nothing to do with World of Warcraft. The pewter that I ordered has arrived. That means I need to get the rest of my act together and do some pewter casting. I have the face shield and carving tools, but I need some plaster to make preliminary molds (I'll graduate to soapstone when I know what I'm doing.

With my keen hindsight, I realize I should probably have paid the extra to have the pewter cut into smaller pieces. Chopping up that bar (about 8 inches long, 1.5 inches wide, and 1 inch thick) will be problematic.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Website Slowly Recovering

The server seems to be all updated and I've copied the site content files back up. The forums, unfortunately, aren't operational yet, and I still need to re-do all the shire emails. Still, it's progress.

Collier Blues

I have a new appreciation for just how tough life was in the middle ages; I hurt. I spent much of my Sunday digging out a pit, stacking wood in it, recovering said wood with earth, and then dumping burning coals into the stack through a hole at the top. This is my first attempt to create a charcoal kiln; how effective it will be remains to be seen.

Yesterday evening, my good lady Fjorleif noticed a bright orange glow coming from holes around the top of the kiln, which makes me think it was getting too much air. A few extra shovels of dirt eliminated that, but I won't know until I dig it out whether it will contain charcoal or ash. I suspect that the whole thing was rather smaller than it needed to be to make a good kiln, but I didn't want to go overboard on my first try, and the tiny kiln that I made took a lot out of me.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Well, this may be a mistake, but...

I have changed the settings so you don't have to be a Blogger member to post comments. I now tremble in fear of being swamped with spam.

Family Health Issues

I was hoping to be able to do something arts & craftsy this weekend, as well as go shopping for a hot tub with my lovely lady, but I may be heading back to Johnson City, instead. My grandmother is in the hospital with some abdominal issues. From phone conversations it sounds like they're under control, but it would probably help my mother to have someone to vent to.

Assuming I don't leave town, I'll try to be energetic enough to dig a charcoal kiln and cut up some of the trees that are lying about the yard under the pretense of being firewood. That would make two projects I could conceivably submit to kingdom A&S (assuming the charcoal burning finishes quickly).

WoW: Socializing

I decided to retreat from Loch Modan for a little while last night; the monsters there were just too tough, so I headed back into Dun Morogh for a while to finish off a lingering quest. While heading that way I met Lorrax, a nice gnome warlock who helped me whack the oversized Wendigo on the ridge above the ram farm. That is a very nasty beast.

After the Wendigo, we started heading back toward Loch Modan; I figured that having a warlock at my back would make some of those monsters easier to handle. Lorrax had to handle some real-world issues for a bit, so I wandered around just east and south of the ram farm and discovered a quarry with two more quests! I was cheerfully mining and whacking troggs when Lorrax returned, and joined the questing. While we were in the quarry, we met Thazorin, a dwarf priest who joined the fun. Many troggs were smitten by our combined might, and some good loot came out of our cooperation. Those two are now on my friends list for future gaming.

Back by myself in Loch Modan this morning, I found that I'm now able to handle the bears and spiders on my own as long as I don't get mobbed. Checking my mail, I discovered that the leather pattern I put up for auction sold for almost 50 silver... SWEET! There are some castles or something on high cliffs around here that I really want to investigate, but I haven't found a path to them yet. There also seem to be plenty of mining spots, but they tend to be near Splinterskull Trogg camps, and I can't handle more than one of those beasties at a time; I'll have to group with somebody to get those.

BTW: Thelsarma is officially not so lame. There is a forge there, it's just in a weird location where you don't look for it and don't spot it immediately.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Dance Languishes On

Well, it still seems that no one can get away from mundania long enough for a dance class for one reason or another. School, work, and high-fuel prices seem to have everyone thoroughly tied up on Thursday nights. Well, I've reached the point where I don't get uptight about it anymore. I'm still wanting to go up to Murray to teach them some more dances; they're a good group, and I was sorry to miss their event a couple of weeks back. When is always the question. I need to check my calendar. Memorial Day weekend I'll be in Mobile; I wonder if the Barony of Osprey has anything interesting going on that weekend.

WoW: Ouchies galore...

Darzun took a griffon to Ironforge to conduct business this morning. I put a leather pattern he had in his bank box up for auction, then did some smelting and forging at the Great Forge. I have a quest to make some copper axes and copper chain belts; gotta get that belt pattern from a smith trainer. Darzun's not skilled enough to use the cooking recipe in his deposit box, so that stays for a while. Guess it's fire-building to build skill for a while.

Back in Thelsarma, Darzun decided to try some more mining and maybe hack down some of the local beasties with his new, self-made copper axe to build skill with it. Not such a good idea. The roaming beasties of Loch Modan are harsh on a Level 10 Paladin. Maybe he'll just go back to Dun Morogh for a little while before working those Loch Modan quests...

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

WoW: What's wrong with this picture?

So, after a bit of wandering, Darzun managed to find the road to Loch Modan and eventually ended up in the the village of Thelsarna (Is that spelled right? Whatever!). Along the way, he filled his spare bag with copper ore and stone, figuring to use the forge in the village to smelt out some copper bars.

BZZZZZT! Bad plan. It appears that this dwarven village doesn't have a forge! That is just wrong on many levels. Fortunately I have some business to conduct in Ironforge, and there's a griffon station in this otherwise under-equipped village, so I'll find a forge in the city to do my smelting.

Arts & Sciences

The pewter has not yet arrived. Just as well, I need to get plaster for cheap, practice molds and a face shield, still. Hopefully this weekend will be the weekend of my first pewter-casting efforts.

I still need to dig a charcoal kiln and cut up some wood for it. That project has been languishing for a while. Of course, finding a place where I can dig a sufficiently deep pit without hitting rock will be an interesting challenge in my yard...

Maybe Next Spring?

Well, it appears that Henry Horton is booked for November 19th, so if I were to bid for Iris Fair, it would probably have to be at Cumberland Centre. Not a bad site, but not one of my favorites for November weather. I could check with some other parks, I suppose, but frankly I'd prefer to have this event at a warmer time anyway. I guess I'll plan it for next spring sometime.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Iris Fair, Border Raids, and A&S

Well, the next weekend on the Kingdom calendar that I consider open enough to attempt is November 19th. That could be a very cold event. On the other hand, it might be perfectly comfortable. You never know in middle Tennessee. I've seen at inquiry to see if Henry Horton State Park is available that weekend; it would at least give people the option of retreating indoors (big hall, conference rooms, motel rooms, and/or cabins) if the weather was bad, and it's not really a bad site for an event (although the restaurant leaves a bit to be desired). Failing November, I'd say the next real opportunity is next April.

Border Raids is coming up down in Delvingrim, and I think we're going to set up a House Optimus camp. It should be interesting to see how well Cumberland Center handles such a large event. I will also be interesting to see how many Midrealmers make the trip. I don't see that it's a lot farther south of their border than Fort Knox is north of ours, but rumor has it they'll have poor numbers this year. Next year, of course, is the Midrealm's year to host, and the shire is considering bidding for it the year after (2007). I think we should, but whether the rest of the shire will go for it remains to be seen.

I put in my order for a bar of pewter last Friday; I expect it will probably arrive sometime this week. Then I have to get off my buttocks and start being crafty. First project is an Argent Comet medallion which I can hopefully turn out in bulk and donate to the Kingdom (less one for myself, of course).