Thursday, July 28, 2005

WoW: Aggressive Pets in Dungeons

I haven't discussed my World of Warcraft activities in a while, so I figured it was about time to bring it up again.

I've engaged in some genuine "instance dungeon" activity since my last post. For those not in the know, instance dungeons are special areas where only your group exists; other groups that go through the entrance end up in their own separate versions of the dungeon. You can therefore never have more than five people in an "instance" at a time. Instances are also extremely tough adventuring, with lots of particularly nasty monsters to encounter, but the rewards tend to be better, too.

Grimbor joined groups that ventured into the Deadmines dungeon a couple of times in the the last week or so. As a Hunter, Grimbor has a pet that accompanies him. The prevailing wisdom for hunters in dungeons seems to be that you should keep your pet on "Passive" behavior, so it doesn't fight unless you specifically tell it to: it won't even defend itself if attacked. This keeps your pet from accidentally drawing more monsters into a fight by running off in response to a ranged attack against the hunter or the pet itself.

I'm inclined to challenge that wisdom, though. I can see a situation in which having an "Aggressive" pet -- one that will spontaneously attack any monster that comes too close -- could be useful, although it will take a good bit of management.

In dungeons, there are patrols -- groups of monsters that wander the dungeon looking for intruders. These never go away completely -- even if you kill them, the dungeon will replace them periodically. Consequently, groups in dungeons always run the risk of being ambushed from behind by a patrol while they're already fighting some other nasty monsters.

This, I think, is where the Aggressive Pet comes into its own. As the hunter, I tell my pet to "stay" somewhere well behind the party and set its behavior to Aggressive. If a patrol does come up behind the group, the pet will attack them, hopefully keeping them occupied until the group takes care of its current situation (if any). Lurking behind the party, the pet also becomes a guardian for the group's more vulnerable members, the priests and mages. If a monster breaks through the group's "front" to attack these vulnerable group members, they can retreat toward the Aggressive Pet, who will attack the monsters as soon as they come within range. My pet, at least, has the ability to draw a monster's attention away from others, providing an additional way to get priests and mages out of trouble.

I'm in search of a group that would be interested in testing this plan in a dungeon, as well as general comments on the idea.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Did it do any good?

That little sitemeter at the bottom of the page reveals some interesting things. Apart from the minor ego boost I got from passing 1000 visits over the weekend, I also noted that someone visited the weblog after searching for "homeopathic treatments for pink eye" on Sitemeter captures the URL of the page that you came from if you follow a link to the Saga, so I was able to see the exact result of my visitor's search.

Amusingly, the Saga came up third for this person's search. From the tiny excerpt of my page that MSN returned in response to the search, this visitor wouldn't be able to tell that my page was a strong denouncement of Similisan in particular and homeopathy in general. Given the nature of the search, this person probably hoped to see a testimonial or endorsement for a particular product.

Sitemeter didn't record the length of the visit, so I don't know if this person read the entire article. The visitor didn't leave any comments either, so I have no idea what he or she thought of it. It would be nice to think that someone followed my advice to avoid homeopathic remedies and seek the help of a real doctor, but I expect that's truly wishful thinking.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


I adjusted the settings in my Blogger template. The content should now expand to the width of your browser window. Complain if you so desire.

Chez Francesca

Just in case you happen to be interested in moving to western Kentucky, you might want to know that Francesca's magnificent estate is for sale. Take the virtual tour.

A Spring Event

So I'm working on a proposal for an event to be held next spring. Fjorleif and I have been bouncing potential titles back and forth, and we've got an assortment of possibilities that we'll pitch to the shire next meeting. We want a good, catchy title for the event that will stick in your mind and be generic enough to use for this event year after year, so we don't want it to pigeon-hole the event's activities.

But it's not the event title that I'm currently writing about. We'll work that out with the shire and all will be well. It's the subtitle that has me in a quandary. Fjorleif came up with a really catchy subtitle for an event: "Dance! Dance! Revolution!" (You saw it here first, don't steal my thunder.) Hey, by now I hope you all realize that I am totally in favor of doing a dance-themed event. The question is whether this event has to be tightly focused on dance or open to a broad range of activities. I rather like the idea of getting out and fencing some as well as dancing, and I know the heavy fighters like to get in their stick-swinging time. Both of those activities are pretty incompatible with a lot of dancing, as people who are on the field are not in a dance class.

So, should I propose that all martial activities take place in the morning and end by lunch? Or should I put the DDR title on hold for an event in more inclement weather, which will discourage fighting and encourage indoor pastimes like dance? I'm putting this question out to my readership to try to get an idea what the general populace will do if presented with an event in which fighting is restricted to half the day, so that dancing and other A&S can have the afternoon. Please use the comments link, my friends (no registration necessary).

Skeptics' Circle 13

Orac has posted the Thirteenth Meeting of the Skeptics' Circle over at Respectful Insolence. Learn to use you mind.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Monday, July 18, 2005

RUM Report

The Royal University of Meridies, like most events, had its ups and downs.

Let's get the downs out of the way, since they were minor: the feast hall was really crowded, it was beastly hot outside, and the chicken dish at dinner came out at about room temperature (which is a bit scary from a food safety standpoint).

Now, on to the fun stuff. Having taken Friday off to go to the event, Fjorlief and I arrived way early. We used that time to help the staff rearrange the bunks in the dorms to accomodate people better. That conveniently allowed us to set up our own room to our liking and reserve one for Corbin, Ysabel, and company, who were several hours behind us.

With our sleeping arrangements completed, we were ready to dress and commence with the Friday night amusements. I set up my stereo in the pavilion, and Francesca and I soon managed to draw a pretty good dance crowd.

Saturday morning I learned to juggle (a little) and make Aztec hot chocolate (which isn't bad). I also learned a little about period Middle Eastern games (and kicked Svana's butt at Qirkat, heh heh).

Saturday afternoon I took a class on Norse games which has inspired some activities for events (although some adjustments will be required for safety; the Norse were quite fond of hazardous sports). After that, I taught Intermediate English Country Dance and 16th Century Italian Dance. I had planned on teaching ECD for sets of three couples, but I didn't have three couples in my class (probably due to the heat), so we just improvised (I taught Cuckolds All a Row and Amoroso, which isn't ECD but was requested). 16th Century Italian was a bit better attended, and I taught both Contrapasso and Laccio d'Amore.

After the very crowded feast, we had the "official" dance revel out in the pavilion. Pure improvisation, but fun none-the-less.

A pretty decent event all-in-all. One important thing to remember, though. If I ever go to an event at Camp Riversprings in McKenzie, AL again, I'm going to pre-reserve well in advance to get the deluxe accomodations: those hotel rooms are nice!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Papa on the Mend

For those readers who have expressed concern for my father, he is doing well. He didn't get to go to the rehab center he wanted to, but he will be going to a somewhat less intensive rehab program this week. There have been no major complications from the surgery, and his primary problem now is boredom.

Taking Up Space

One of the nice things about my new computer is that it's hard disk has about ten times as much storage space as my previous computer. I had my doubts that I would ever find a way to use all that storage space, but just as Demand will always rise to exceed Supply, I think I've discovered a way to eat disk space quickly.

Having discovered that one of my Renaissance Dance CDs had gone bad (a spot of oxidation or something in the disk), I decided that I needed to back them up. One dance track can take up several megabytes of storage as an MP3 file. While it doesn't look like much yet, I suspect that MP3 files could quickly become the primary occupiers of my disk space.

WoW: A New Beginning

I'm thoroughly enjoying playing World of Warcraft on my new computer. It's so much easier to get things done that I was running into a problem with Grimbor. In WoW, your character can "rest" in a city or at an inn, and a rested character gains extra experience for a while when he or she goes back into the field. It was so easy to work quests with the new computer that Grimbor was quickly using up all of his "bonus bubbles".

Now, it's certainly not necessary to be "rested" to progress in WoW, but it somehow offended me that I was getting less experience than I could. Besides, I wanted to create a Tauren character, and this was a great excuse.

Hence, the birth of Haokan, a Tauren Shaman. He's already up to level 8, and he has learned Skinning, Leatherworking, and all of the secondary skills (except Fishing, haven't found a trainer for that yet).

So now I can alternate between the two, letting one build up "rest" in an inn while I play the other.

I also got my first opportunity to participate in "player versus player" or PvP combat over the weekend. A couple of Horde players apparently thought it would be fun to harass the Alliance settlement of Sentinel Hill. Grimbor joined in the fight against them, helping put down a level 23 Tauren Druid a couple of times, but getting smacked himself by an Undead Rogue of such high level that I couldn't even determine it (he could take me out with one swing). I look forward to more productive PvP action in the future.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Homeopathic Similasan

A commercial I heard on the radio got me started on this one.

Similasan is a brand of homeopathic “medication” that comes in various types. Various eye drop products advertised on their website treat Pink Eye, allergies, cataracts, and dryness. I can think of one (and only one) of these conditions that the product may actually help.

For those unfamiliar with homeopathic remedies, the website provides an explanation. “Similasan products stimulate the body to heal itself by utilizing ‘microdilutions’ of the active ingredients.” Homeopathic solutions are generally described with an X-factor that describes the order of magnitude of dilution. For example, a 6X homeopathic solution has been diluted so that it only contains one part per million of active ingredient.

This homeopathic mode of action is similar in theory to a conventional allergy or flu shot, yet the active ingredients in homeopathic products are much more dilute, and are therefore safe for all ages without known side effects.
Well, they’re half right. The homeopathic “mode of action” is in no way similar to a conventional allergy shot. It is, however, safe to administer and side-effect free; not surprising since there’s really nothing there but water.

Supposedly the active ingredient is some substance that would actually cause the symptoms that the medication treats. The concentration is supposedly so low that it won’t cause symptoms, but the mere presence of this undetectable quantity of the material will stimulate your immune system to heal any condition that causes the same symptoms. In their words…

For example, a microdilution of honey bee will trigger the body to fight symptoms such as burning, stinging and swelling. In many cases, the cause of such symptoms is an allergy, therefore the ingredient apis (honey bee) is used to treat allergies.

That’s right. They expect you to believe that a virtually non-existent dose of “honey bee” that your immune system can’t detect in order to produce an allergic reaction (assuming you would have a reaction in the first place) will stimulate your immune system to counter any allergen.

Talk about self-contradictory.

Generally speaking, homeopathic remedies of any type are like the Wine Clip: useless but harmless. The problem is that some people might use a homeopathic remedy to treat a serious ailment instead of seeing a real physician. That’s when homeopathy can become dangerous.

I find the following disclaimer for their Pink Eye remedy somewhat enlightening:

Stop use and ask a doctor if:
  • Symptoms worsen or persist for more than 72 hours.

  • Changes in vision occur.

  • You might have a serious underlying medical cause for the infection.

That’s the escape clause. They know that many minor conditions will clear up on their own without a physician’s assistance, so they send you to a doctor if their “treatment” hasn’t “cured” you within three days or if you already know that you’ve got a “serious underlying medical cause” for you condition.

I call that legalese for “this stuff doesn’t treat real infections.”

It goes without saying that there's no sign of a clinical trial for any of these treatments anywhere on the website.

Don’t waste your money on this stuff people. It’s just water.

A Little Class

Only Brad and Natalie made it to dance class last night, but it turned out okay anyway. Of course, only having two students means they will have to learn lots of Italian dances (since English Country typically requires at least four dancers).

Amoroso, Ly Bens Distony, Petite Riens, and Black Alman were the main activities. Some of them were reviews, others were new (at least to these students). Brad catches on to these things pretty easily, but Natalie struggles a bit. We can't all be naturals of course; she'll get the hang of it if she keeps practicing.

Now I actually get a two-week break before the next class; or not. My next event is the Royal University of Meridies, and I'm supposed to teach a class. Of course, I don't know what needs teaching. Lord Andrew didn't have any suggestions, so I've emailed Lady Peryn about it. She's the one who asked originally asked me to teach "something" at RUM when we spoke at Border Raids. I believe a bit more advanced planning is required, here...

Thursday, July 07, 2005

I Have the Power

For those who remember me talking about getting a new computer in the last few weeks, it has arrived. Last night I played WoW in "real time" for the first time. I visited the auction house in Ironforge without a moment's lag. I went into an "instance dungeon" without fear of lag death (and was promptly smacked down by elite monsters, anyway). I've got the graphic detail levels turned up to max, and it hums right along. My geek side is pleased.

Another 30 Seconds of Fame

The latest Skeptic's Circle is up. I guess submitting articles for it is becoming habit-forming.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Tough Week

Sometimes when it rains, it pours. Actually, I'm not sure that isn't the standard.

I spent the holiday weekend in east Tennessee, assisting my parents. My father went to the hospital for hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, and not a moment too soon. The joint had gone so bad he was barely able to get in and out of a wheelchair by Monday.

Of course, that's not the end of it. To add to that stress, my wife's horse chose this weekend to come down with colic. For those unfamiliar with horses, that's a life-threatening blockage of the small intestine. Unfortunately, in this case, it did more than threaten, and poor Rutger didn't make it.

So, no, I can't say I had a particularly pleasant holiday. I hope nothing serious happened in the two days I took off from work, because I couldn't even summon up the energy to remotely connect. I'll just have to get whatever needs doing done tomorrow.

I hope you, my handful of readers, had a better time.

Tomorrow I'll hopefully have something more cheerful to report.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Another Good Night

Dance practice went quite well again this week. I was unsure how many people would attend, given the confusion of the dates. We normally practice on the first and third Thursday of each month, and this was the fifth Thursday of June. Unfortunately, I'd told everyone to come back "in two weeks" at the previous practice, so I didn't want anyone to get to the school and find us absent.

Francesca arrived first (as is often the case) and we started by reviewing Contrapasso, which we hadn't danced in months. About the time we had relearned it to our satisfaction, Iohann arrived, and I took the opportunity to put Francesca on the spot and make her teach it. About the time she got him through it, Gyre and Stephanie arrived, which gave each of us another partner to teach it to.

From there, we moved on to Hearts Ease, Rufty Tufty, Ly Bens Distony, and a review of Amoroso, which I taught at the last class. Now I have to come up with a plan for next week, which will be the first Thursday of the month, and get us back on schedule.

The Royal University of Meridies is coming up in July, and Peryn has asked me to teach a class there, too. A dance geek's work is never done...