Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Five Favorite Books Read in 2019

I'm not saying that these are the best books of 2019, nor that they're my favorites published in 2019, but that they're my top five of books I've read this year.  That's only about seventy books, so it's not a huge pool.  Five is an arbitrary number - I read a lot of good stuff this year.  This list is alphabetical.  Four of these titles I first learned of the author through Twitter.


The Calculating Stars, Mary Robinette Kowal.  This was on my list for about a year before I finally got around to it, and the only upside of waiting so long was I was able to read the second one shortly thereafter.  I really appreciate how Kowal depicts anxiety/mental health issues, besides all the "breaking-into-a-man's-world" bits.

City of Brass, S.A. Chakraborty.  I picked this one up kind of blindly based on a Twitter recommendation, was expecting a historical fiction book based on the first chapter, and then it spins full-on into historical fantasy, which is totally a good thing.  This book made me rediscover my love of hibiscus tea.  This was the second audiobook I listened to, and the narrator (Soneela Nankani) is wonderful - enough so that, despite the frustration of not being able to easily binge the end of the book and needing to Google the map to figure out some of the locations, I read the second one via audio as well.  The third doesn't come out for another several months, and I have been super impatiently awaiting it.  The first one stuck in my head for weeks.

Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly.  This is the non-Twitter title; I (like many others, I'm sure) heard about this book because of the movie.  I was curious about the book partly because I wondered which pieces were changed for the film, and the book was amazing.  This book made me wonder where I'd be if I'd taken the math scholarship I was offered, and whether, if I'd been born a hundred years earlier, if I would have ended up doing math for astronomers.  It also has led to me added a bunch of Black-history-related titles to my to-read list, since I (like many white people) am rather ignorant of large parts of what this country has done to its non-white residents and citizens.

Seven Blades in Black, Sam Sykes.  This was the last book I read in 2019, despite it being the first book I've ever pre-ordered.  And then Google emailed me when it was available, at midnight of its release day, and it was a work night, and I was good and didn't start it.  This was probably a good move, since when I did sit down to finish it after our Christmas trip, I stayed up till 3 a.m.  I will probably pre-order the sequel at some point.  I really appreciated the way Sykes trickled out the pieces of backstory to build up the reason behind the revenge plot.

The Tiger's Daughter, K. Arsenault Rivera.  The narrative structure of this book switches back and forth between a first-person backstory narrative and a third-person present-time perspective, which I found effective similarly to how Sykes used the same kind of structure in Seven Blades in Black, but I'm now really curious how the next two books are structured, based on where the two main characters end up at the end of the first one.  I also want to know so much more about the world Rivera is building in it.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Christmas walks

I have started dealing with too much noise/people at Christmas by going for walks down to the creek midafternoon.  This is also a useful way to walk off some of lunch.  My gramma's place is on one end of an 80-acre plot; the woods you see in the first picture are the other end.

Big Creek was a glacial run-off tributary to the Wabash; it does not have a Wikipedia entry of its own, but it was probably related to the Illinoian glaciation. (There's a book from 1899 if you really want to deep-dive on glacial deposits.)

Anyway, this plot of land (the field to the right and the homestead and woods bookending it) has been in the family probably since the middle of the 1800s - one day I'll poke around to see if it goes back to the 1840s or just the next generation.

The field isn't much to look at, especially in the winter, but it's there and it does field stuff.  The road we're walking on is actually a county road, but the bridge has been gone for more than thirty years now, so they don't really do much with it.

View from the end of the lane

See, bridge gone.  I have the vaguest memories of it existing but I don't know if that's just from seeing pictures of it.  Grampa walked down here with us once when I was a kid to shoot at garbage on the far bank.

Big Creek, where the bridge fell in

Here's the woods from the other side.  The field in the foreground doesn't belong to my family.

View from the creek
It was much less muddy this year than on previous walks, but there were lots of tracks!  I did some Googling for an easy tracks identification guide and found one on... a hiking goods website?  But it seems legit when compared with similar guides.

Here's what we saw evidence of:

Probably turkey (these are big - I thought maybe heron but no back claw)
Deer
Maybe skunk?
Dog or coyote
Probably raccoon
Probably raccoon

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Garden update

So, this is the year that both the tomatoes and the cucumbers went all-in.  I've got somewhere around fifteen pounds of tomatoes on the table right now, and that's after three batches of salsa and one of ketchup.

tomatoes on the dining room table

The ketchup was not a difficult process, just long, and I'm getting a food mill so that when I make sauce I can get all the seeds out.

thickening the ketchup

This was also a summer of squash.  We ate a lot of it, and there's a couple on the counter that we either need to eat or they're going to get composted soonish.

so many squash

The cucumbers went hard for about three weeks and then slowed down to a slightly faster than we can eat trickle.  The first thing I made was relish.

sweet relish before adding the vinegar

I ended up making three kinds of pickles besides relish: sweet spears, dill spears, and dill slices.  It took me a while to find reasonably-priced pickle crisp, so only the dill spears got it.

sweet pickle spears

Besides the garden, I moved the planters to the patio this year and put flowers in them.  Apparently monarchs like zinnias?  I'll probably plant more of these next year since they've been pretty prolific and low-maintenance.

zinnias with butterfly

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Classic Molten Core Guide (Retro)

So I was poking around in my WoW folder (not the install folder, where I have all my WoW-related crap) and found the Molten Core guide I had been writing.  I thought I had a full "Pulling Molten Core" guide, but if I did, I can't find it.  So here's how my guild did Molten Core, up through Garr.

A note: for hound packs, we used five tanks; basically three of the warrior DPS had to bring shields, just for those pulls.

Clearing trash


Molten Giants/Destroyers


In matched pairs, Skull/Mark on the left, X on the right.  OT takes Skull, MT takes X.  Wait for 3-5 sunders before DPSing, depending mostly on how much aggro you pull compared to the tank (so, you squishies, wait for 5, or at least wait for 5 to start laying it on thick).  In unmatched pairs, the Giant gets the Skull regardless of right/left; everything else is the same.  If the tank is new, wait for more sunders so he/she has a better chance of holding him.  Destroyers stun, so tanks should try to separate them when they're in pairs to avoid stunning each other.  It's very important to wait for sunders on Destroyers since the tank will be getting stunned while trying to put them on.

Firelords


Wait for 3 sunders.  If they pull in a pair, put a Skull & X on one so that the DPS knows what to focus on first.  Lava Spawns need to go down as soon as they appear, so groups 5-8 should be watching for them.  It is especially important to stay on top of the Spawns if they pull in a pair, to avoid them splitting out of control.

Lava Annihilators

These guys wipe aggro and run all over.  Wait for 1 sunder if needed, but the dude will still run around.  They can be banished if needed during adds or when multiple mobs pulled.

Lava Surgers


Wait for 3 sunders.  Remember the S's:  Surgers = sunders.  These guys will still run around some, but they'll go back to the tank more with sunders.  They can also be banished if needed.

Core Hounds


Wait for 3-5 sunders.  Tanks need to try to turn the Hound away from the rest of the raid because of the fire breath.  The Hounds come in a couple different varieties, basically debuff and disco.  Disco will make people run around for about 3 seconds every few seconds, and the debuff ones will put one of a couple types of debuffs on the raid.  Try to avoid pulling more than one at a time.  LOOT THE DOGS.

Imps

Tanks with challenging shouts up can use that to group them; AOE the buggers.

Hound Packs


Mark at least one Hound; if the tanks are being slow about picking up their targets (sorry guys, but you do that sometimes), mark them with the first five raid icons (starting bottom up, skull & up) and have the tanks pick up the same icon each time.  The tanks will need to hold the Hounds as clumped as possible, and then after waiting about 5-10 seconds for them to get sufficient aggro, AOE the buggers.  Keep an eye on their health; you want them to drop within a few seconds of each other so they don't get back up.  Some of the DPS who aren't AOEing can tab through them to switch to the most alive one if needed.

Lava (Fire) Packs

The Firewalker dies first, so it gets the Skull and the OT; the Fireguard (Flameguard?) gets the X and the MT.  Mark the Lava Elementals with the Square and the Moon so the locks can keep track of them for banishing purposes.  Locks should probably have pick-up banishers set for the packs so that when people gets stunned, there's no confusion about who's picking it up.

Getting to Lucifron

The trash section should cover the how to kill parts - but what do you pull when?

To start, you've got the obvious Giants before the first bridge.  After those, you'll want the Firelord to the left of the bridge on the other side.  There's both a Surger and a Hound that pat almost all the way up to the bridge, so for clearing the first part you'll just want to watch for them and pull after they leave.  After the lone Firelord, go for the two elementals to the right - it may be two Firelords, or one Firelord and a rock dude.  If it's an unmatched pair, banish the rock dude to kill the Firelord first.  There may be some more waiting on the Hound/Surger pat at some point.  You can pull the Giants that are across the bridge next.  After those guys, if you haven't already, move across the bridge and take whichever pat comes back first.  If they come at the same time, just banish the rock dude.

Moving past the first bridge are a couple elemental pulls - sometimes Firelords, sometimes Annihilators or Surgers.  Sometimes the first two will pull one at a time, and sometimes they won't.  The Hound pats through the part just past the elemental are irritating - you just need to watch where they're going so you can take them when you want them and not while you're trying to clear something else.  The Giants east of the bridge to Lucifron and everything along that edge can be left alive.  Take the Core Hound that pats just across the bridge before going for the elementals (Firelords, Annihilators) across the bridge.

After the static elementals across the bridge, the first two Surgers in the Imp area need to be pulled.  Putting a Skull on the first one makes it much easier for the hunter or whoever's shooting it to watch it; they need to shoot it as it's going to the right so they don't get the imps too.  If you *do* get the Imps, banish the Surger till the Imps have been AOEed to death.  The second Surger is a little harder to pull because he goes out of range so easily, so the Skull icon makes it *much* easier to watch him.  Once the first two Surgers are gone, you can run into the first pocket on the right - be careful not to pull the Imps.  The third Surger is often pulled by the tank who will be tanking it, and it gets pulled back into the pocket where the raid is.  (Not sure offhand on the 4th (& 5th?) Surgers, but they're done similarly after each Imp killing, I think - this area is visually confusing to me since I usually end up looking at a bunch of Taurens' backs for most of it).  The Imp packs on the right hand side of the path through are killed in standard Imp manner.  Once you get through the Imp area, you kill just the first Hound Pack before killing Lucifron.

Lucifron


Lucifron has some mean curse debuffs - Curse of Doom and another 5 minute one.  Put the Skull on one of his guards, the X on the other, and the Square on Luci if you think marking Luci is really necessary.  The MT tanks Luci on the wall north of the cluster of stalagmites (smokestacks, plumes, other misc. terms) while his guards are killed in the pocket south of the door.  STAY AWAY FROM THE SCARY DOOR.  People get mind-controlled during this fight, and fear can send them into the Imps.  Kill the guards in the pocket south of the door where everyone's out of range of Luci's curses.  Once the guards are dead, you can move in on Luci.  Ranged can try to stay out of range of his curses - if the boss mods are up and broadcasting, you can try to back up at just the strategic times if you're otherwise in his curse range; melee may need to back up out of curse range and bandage if the healers/decursers get too busy keeping the tank and themselves up.

If that very minimal description gets you through Luci okay, you just kill through the Hound Packs until you get up to Magmadar.

Magmadar

Mag is basically a big Core Hound with Frenzy and AOE Fear.  The tank can "stance dance" in and out of Berserker to try to dodge the Fear (helps if boss mods are up & broadcasting).  If possible, the tank should get Mag far enough away from the north wall that healers can stand there and be out of range of Mag's fire breath, as well as trying to turn him to face north.  Hopefully you'll have more than one hunter with tranq shot, since it's got a bit of a cooldown and he can Frenzy before it's ready again.  The Frenzy makes him hit really hard, so hunters will need to pay attention and get it off.  If someone else got it first, your tranq shot won't shoot, so you won't waste the cooldown.  Some of the ranged (and healers) should be able to stand outside his AOE Fear.  He also throws a fireball-conflag, so you need to move out of it pretty quickly and bandage/heal if it lands on you.  These last for a while, and you can get feared into them; there are usually several up at a time once things get going, though they do eventually burn back out.  If the tank can hold him without getting feared much or at all, he pretty much is just a DPS-him-down fight.

After Mag, you have to get back through the Imp packs.  The Surgers (and the Core Hounds on the other side) have respawned by now, so it may or may not be faster to strip and die than to try fighting back through.  If you do try to fight back through, it may be smoother to kill a couple of Surgers in Luci's area, and you'll probably have to AOE a pack of Imps there, as well.

Either way, you're back to clearing trash up to Gehennes.  Watch for the Core Hound pats.  You can go down the west (right) side of the tunnel towards Gehennes and not touch anything on the left side of the columns.  You're actually going to come at Gehennes from the north, so when you get to the north end of the tunnel you're going to switch to the elementals spawned on the left side by the rim of the lava pool (probably after the Core Hound).  If you're worried about adds while killing Gehennes's guards, you'll want to clear all the Giants and elementals south of (not in) Garr's room.

Gehennes

Gehennes is done much like Luci, though he has a different arsenal of debuffs and damage spells.  He flings shadowbolts and a rain of fire type AOE.  His guards are pulled to the north, between the column and the wall, while the tank and his healers/decursers take Gehennes to the east towards where the elementals were.  Mark one guard with Skull and one with X; hunter pull at least the guards, and Gehennes can as well be if needed.  As with Luci, decursing the MT is a large part of surviving this fight.

Once you're done with Gehennes, there's not much trash left before Garr.  There's a Core Hound in the tunnel you'll want to keep an eye on; he pats at inconvenient times and you may have to have a hunter run him down to grab him when you want him.  The Core Hound closest to Garr needs to be pulled from behind the stalagmites to the right of the tunnel to avoid pulling Garr with him.

Garr

How many of Garr's baby elementals you need to kill before him depends mostly on how many locks you have.  Put a raid icon on each of the babies and assign a lock or tank to each; start the tanks on the Skull end of the icon list since we're used to killing Skull-X-etc. first; the MT of course is on Garr.  Garr gets ice-block pulled by a mage, at which point the locks need to banish and the tanks pick up their targets so that the killing can get started.  Kill all of the baby elementals that have tanks one at a time first; they blow up when they die, so anyone close will need to back off it.  If the tanks can pull them to emptier areas without pulling them too far away from the ranged DPS they should; you don't want to kill the MT or a lock with the baby elementals you're killing.  Garr gets stronger for every baby you kill, so you don't want to have to kill any of the banished ones.  Once you've DPSed Garr down, you can do the banished babies one at a time.

After Garr, there's at most a Surger in the tunnel before you get to the Lava Packs.  You need to do three before you can take Baron Geddon and Shazzrah:  the closest one, the one in the middle, and one hidden to the right, which can be marked through the wall if you wander your mouse over the area.  Watch for Geddon's pats as you're pulling the packs.

Glossery

  • SHP - Straw Hat Pirates, the guild I'm in
  • MC - the Molten Core, the first of the 40-man raid dungeons in the game
  • raid - a group bigger than 5 people
  • CT_raidassist - an add-on to the game that helps with managing things in a raid group
  • Ventrilo - a voice chat program (usually refered to as Vent)
  • Boss Mods - another CT produced add-on that notifies a player about the bosses' special abilities
  • SK - Suicide Kings, the loot system the guild uses; it involves lists which you 'suicide' to the bottom of when you win a piece of loot
  • master looter (ML) - the person distributing loot
  • tank - generally a warrior, but basically someone with good armor and a lot of hit points; they come in main tank (MT) and off tank (OT) varieties; the main tank is generally your best-equipped warrior, and the off-tanks deal with the weaker monsters; a tank's job is to hold the monster's attention while the DPS kills it
  • DPS - actually, damage per second with regards to weapons, but in a group it refers to classes whose job is to do damage; this generally comes in two types, melee (warriors and rogues) and ranged (hunters and casters (mages, warlocks))
  • healers - the last main type of job in a group; they heal
  • decurse - to remove negative affects off the raid; generally done by healers and casters
  • buffs/debuffs - buffs are positive affects on your character; debuffs are the negative ones
  • main puller - usually a hunter; they shoot trash mobs to pull them over to the raid
  • boss - a unique monster in a dungeon with good loot
  • trash - the monsters in the dungeon encountered outside boss fights
  • raid icons - the skull, X, square, circle, triangle, star, diamond, and moon I refer to a lot are raid icons to distinguish monsters
  • aggro - originally short for aggressive, it generally means when something goes to attack something else; if you pull aggro, the mob will be hitting you
  • AOE - area of effect spells, generally damage
  • DOT - damage over time spells
  • pat - short for patrol
  • zerg - a Starcraft race, which has come to mean running en masse at something 

Bosses not in my old document

  • Baron Geddon - we would clear enough trash packs in and past the tunnel for someone to grab Geddon and pull him back into Garr's room.  Bomb players were supposed to run to the side of the room closer to Gehenne's spawn point where the ceiling was shorter.  Priests might try to levitate bomb targets.  Mana burn dispelling was important.
  • Shazzrah - we pulled Shazzrah with a hunter pet and Eyes of the Beast back into Garr's room, where the raid would have formed up into a circle around the room.  Everyone ranged DPS Shazzrah.  Everyone.  When he would blink and arcane explosion, that part of the ring would run away and then reform.
  • Golemagg - lots of trash to get to Golemagg; we'd pull him up closer to the door to the room and have two off tanks hold the dogs down at the far end, ignore the dogs, and kill Golemagg.  This was a fight that readily employed bandages (for the random fireballs) and feigning to drink halfway through.
  • Sulfuron Harbinger -we'd keep Sulfuron at his spawn point and pull his healer adds one at a time out of heal range of the others, with rogues and warriors interrupting their heals as we killed them one at a time.  After all the healers were dead, you could burn down Sulfuron.
  • Majordomo Executus - this fight involved crowd controlling as many of the adds as possible, killing the casters (I think) first one at a time and then the melee ones.  What I remember most about the Domo fight was my brother's laptop's video card literally burning out just before we pulled one night.
  • Ragnaros - the tanks would start off on the middle island, with the healers on ring behind them, and the ranged dps and some of the healers perpendicular to them where there's a kind of backstop on the middle ring.  Melee dps would swim/jump over to the spot behind Rags after he came up.  For the Sons intermission, we'd gather them up and AOE them.