I will come to your house and fondle your mugs.

Last year on my live journal, I wrote a post about my growing obsession with tea cups and mugs.

I’m one of those women that will turn her head nearly all the way around in the glass or kitchen ware aisles at stores–like men spotting a set of endless, toned, shimmery legs they just need to look at twice–if I find a mug or cup that tickles my fancy.  My cupboard in our modest little apartment has an entire shelf dedicated to mugs already. I definitely have more than one, less than twenty; so more than I need. And yet…I want more.

It’s as if the obsession for shoes had somehow gotten riotously drunk when I was a little girl and skipped across my brain to hit another section all together, muddling ‘cups’ with ‘cute little kitten heels.’ Instead of wanting one pair for every mood, every day, every holiday or event in my life I want a cup.

I want Christmas mugs festooned with sparkles, snow and Santa. I want ridiculous cat mugs that make people pull the are you really going to drink out of that? ….Wait, can you even drink out of that? I want mugs with ROFL and WTF and STFU NEWB, cups with pithy hopeful sayings, strange designs and artisan creations. Something beautiful, something real–a piece of art, cliche, garish or stately to touch and cradle in my palms.

Shoes? Fuck shoes. Give me mugs.

So to celebrate my obsession, I thought that I’d share with you some of the mugs I’m currently making awkward teen-age moon eyes over while adding them to my wish list. Maybe, just maybe, I can spark the same insanity in you too.

Villeroy & Boch New Wave Caffe Mug
This is simply, amazingly, beautiful.

It’s style, design, and beauty without any need for color, pomp, pizazz of HEY! LOOK AT ME! I AM A WITTY SAYING! text all over it. Look at it. Look at it. This is, as they say, is a fierce bitch. She walks into a room, folds herself down on a chair and owns it.

I need two of these in my home. Stat.




Konitz Coffee Collage Snuggle 14-ounce mugs

  • I love coffee.
  • It says right on that mug: coffee. How could I not love that?
  • Uhm, hello? Coffee beans.
  • Artsy-fartsy old style type writer text.
  • I want to lick it.

Contigo Autoseal Elle double wall insulated mug, 14 oz.
Wake up from your asleep! You are of in the future, now!

That’s what this mug says to me. It says it is dangerous for me to go alone out into the age of internets and computers. I must not be bereft of a proper thermos to face the information age.

The fact it’s in pink didn’t also influence my decision to make this a lust after.

No. Not at all. Not one b–stop looking at me like that. I swear it’s true.

Green Frog Froggy Coffee Mug Tea cup.
This is horrendous.

This is really awful. I can imagine this thing staring into my very essence at night,lurking on the edge of my desk top. Unblinking. Waiting, always waiting, whispering:come back to me, Mel. Driiiiink teeeeeeeeeea with me. Ribbit. You want to drink teaaaaaaaaa. Riiiiiiiibbit.

The eyes. The googily eyes. Oh god the EYES.

love this mug. Sign me up for two. Does it come in hot pink?

Bodum Pavina Double-wall thermo glasses.
I cannot look away from these. Like the New Wave coffee mug, these are simplistically, achingly beautiful. They are rounded in such a way that my palm already whispers sweet nothings of warmth from a steaming cup of coffee or tea. The art here, is the drink itself. The glass becomes nothing more than the canvas in which to present it. Gorgeous!

The Tea Spot steeping mug with tea mug infuser & Lid

My grandmother Rawding, my mother’s mother, had a beautiful and delicate flowered mug. Bright, soft pastel pink and white flowers that spanned a warm and aged buttered background, the tea cup came with a lid–and I don’t know why, but when I saw this I thought of my grandmother. I saw her seated in her rocking chair enjoying her tea, something she did multiple times a day. This mug reminds me of that, of her, and that’s why I like it.

Pink graphic art Eco Cup with silicone lid and sleeve

Look at this hot mess. Just look at it. It’s pink. It’s green. It’s red. It’s everything that shouldn’t be and that is why I love it. The more horrible a mug is, the brighter and clashier and more oh my god what is that in her hand? reactions I think I might get from it the more I want it. Lust after it.

This is just the tip of the ice burg. There are people out there, studious, clever people designing more amazing, crazy mugs all the time. I’m sure there’ll be another post some day in the future.

Until then, I think I’ll have a cup of chocolate tea and fondle one of my own mugs.

P.S. Nope, this post was not sponsored, I was not paid to do it, cajoled into doing it, black mailed or anything else. I really do love cups and mugs. A lot. Too much.

Letting go of perfect.

My first home happens to be a one bedroom apartment. For Shawn and I, we who have children that are feathered and furred instead of human–this fits us perfectly. For the longest time, with our bad financial decisions when we first got together + the way the economy was going, I dreaded that we would become one of those couples. Stuck forever living in a room within his parents house feeling ridiculously uncomfortable for living in a home where two people should not be having to live with their son and his wife at this age and please put some pants on, Mel, next time. The neighbors have been writing us letters. Angry letters.

Now that we have our own place, I can wear no pants and no one will be frightened.

Except maybe Shawn, but he doesn’t count because I married him.

My kitchen is small. There’s enough room on the faded hip pressed board covered in hard plastic 80’s white counter top with faux beige marbling to roll out a loaf of bread. A batch of cookies, chop up veggies and fixin’s for supper. My stove is off-white, my cabinets are pressed wood and water damaged. Sometimes bits of them fall apart but they open and close. My kitchen floor is swept daily but there’ll always be a piece of dry cat food hiding somewhere because a cat can never eat very lady like no matter how many times I tell her not to crunch with her mouth full. Whomever lived here before dinged up the floor in one spot near the stove, too. I imagine it must have been the stove itself being pulled out or maybe even delivered.

The carpet in the living room? I vacuum it every other day now. I have five birds and birds are even messier eaters than cats. Pieces of pellets as well as brightly colored pellet dust fling everywhere.  Carefully placed blankets to collect bird pewp and to protect said carpet don’t always work. You can’t always predict where a bird will hike tail and let it fly, y’know? So a spritz bottle of vinegar and a cloth rag handy helps.  But there’ll always be a piece of whatever here or there–the millet I use to train them with is light as air and tinier than lady bugs. It’s always all over my desk and around my chair.

My living room walls were pop corned by some genius who decided that cheap texture would be fabulous to hide crooked and uneven walls. On them are the tapestries of Rohan and Gondor, a red dragon mirror, a map of middle earth and photographs I’ve taken of our cats, cards given to me by my online friends, a street sign my husband stole with his friends in college hangs proudly over our door. Flounder, it shines dimly at night by my computer desk’s light.

On the counter that divides the kitchen and the living room a tiny rock water fountain burbles. My bed is a california king memory foam and lately I get up and I make it everyday.

At 32 my life has finally become my life. My home is finally my home. It isn’t a room in my mother-in-law’s house that makes me feel awful because we can’t give them any privacy and it is hard for them to give it to us. My house is cluttered in the way lived in things should be cluttered. There are notes on the fridge, there are magnets with pithy sayings. My desk has pieces of paper with love and sayings scribbled on them. This is a home, it is everything that reflects who I am and who he is–who we are together.

It’s flawed, perfectly.

And yet in the back of my mind sits a woman I don’t rarely like speaking to. She is dour and squatting amidst the chaos, frowning the entire time. She reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s despair, except she isn’t naked–she is clothed in the best, neatest clothing without any cooking stains or bird dander or cat fur and doesn’t cut herself with a ring. She cuts herself with words instead. Words like: Not good enough, and, what a mess you are, and, it’s not clean enough, as well as, it’s not a perfect house. And she laughs in a manner I can only say cruel, showing me pictures of mansions and little new york apartments with summer-bright color schemes and oh-muh-gawd to die for decor. She points at them and says, see? These are clean. These are perfect. You will never have this.

My apartment isn’t the only place she shows up. She’s there when I write. She is there when I draw. She is there when I pass by my reflection in a mirror, when I do my make up; mocking and whispering, pointing out everything that’s wrong. She is there with every single thing I do, trying to hammer home that it isn’t perfect. And if it isn’t perfect than there’s no point in even doing it anymore.

Sometime in my life this woman moved into my head when I wasn’t paying too close attention. Was it when I was just sixteen and realizing boys weren’t gross? When I looked in the mirror and instead of not caring what I saw–I started comparing myself to magazines and girls on television? Was it when I was younger and something was said to me? Did she move in then, when as a child I was too busy day dreaming and, like a starving spider, grew year after year, fat and bitter on the suger-spun dreams of a little girl who thought the whole world would bend to her?

I don’t know. I don’t think the when is so much as important as to the how to get rid of her.

When did perfection in my life mean so much? Especially since I am a creature made of so many flaws? How could I ever start listening to her and expect such an unobtainable goal? How could I let her take away my pride and my joy in all of the beautiful things I already have in my life?

As I sit here writing this, I look around me. My flawed kitchen is lit by the blue and white glow of LED icicle lights, flickering merrily. My husband, a man who I would literally fall apart and cease to be without him sleeps soundly not a room away. My children, who happen to have feathers sleep covered in cages while the furred ones sleep sprawled out on the floor in various cat-yoga sleep shapes. I am alive. I am writing this. I am still creating art. Come Febuary, I will have my very first short story ever published along with several other talented writers in a collection. I was literally exploding into glitter and small puppies when I learned this. I am here, and I have so much more than I ever dreamed I ever could.

I cannot be that woman. I cannot be a creature that seeks perfection at every corner. In it, lies my true heart break. The search for perfection has brought me my blackest depressions and has made me hurt myself far more deeply than anyone ever could have.  I cannot be the Martha Stewart of organization. There will never be labels on all the drawers in my head or my life. I will lose my keys. I will forget where we parked the car. I will occasionally throw my pants on the floor before going to bed and leave them there until tomorrow. Or maybe the next day.

I have to let go of perfection.

I have to let go of perfection to let go of all of my imperfections.

2PG reviews Rift, a MMORPG by Trion currently in Beta.

Things to keep in mind while reading this review:
This review was written during the second closed Beta Event right before the NDA was lifted. Changes have been made to the “soul tree,” system to tweak points wise and I’ve tried to update sections where I could. Remember however, this is my personal impressions of a game in beta.

Rift: What is it?

Rift is a Fantasy MMORPG (Massively Multi player Online Role Playing Game) set in a land called Telara. Telara is a place of gods, goddess’, rebirth of the soul, Guardians and Defiants. Something happened to tear the peaceful barriers between Telara and other planets however, causing places on the planet to become weak and tear. In this places, rifts appear, allowed denizens from other far off places to flood Telara and cause destruction and chaos.

It is your duty as a reborn soul of a great hero to protect Telara, defend the citizens and last great cities from these strange creatures pouring out of rifts; as well as defend them from the opposing faction.

Combat

Let’s start off with the usual: combat.

Combat itself is actually generic. I’m not sure what’s going on with a lot of other sites giving Rift raving reviews in this area, because in all honesty this is one place that they haven’t done anything new. If you’ve played any MMO in the last eight years, Rift’s combat style won’t be a steep learning curve for anyone. Essentially, you’ll be granted skills as you pour points into your Soultree’s (skill trees) and as you level up you’ll also visit your trainer to purchase level appropriate damage upgrades to these skills. Drag your attacks to the action bar and you can choose to hit the keys they are assigned too or click them. Target an enemy, hit keys or click on them if you

prefer: rinse and repeat until your enemy is dead. Gear that gives you bonus to your class specific stats will help you.

Sanc

Sanctum, the home city of the Guardians

For the Beta 2 event I chose a Cleric/Sentinel, which is basically pure big heals and a little holy damage over time. Later on I was given the choice to pick a second healing subclass and I went with Warden, which is mainly heal over time. Beta 2 didn’t hand out enough points, in my opinion, to make it worth while to divy them up between Sentinel and Warden, so I chose to pour my points into Sent. Beta 3 even, the Devs changed the point system a littl

e bit. We were given more points per level, however we could only spend a certain amount in any one given tree per level, meaning there was always a point or two available to split into a secondary Soultree, making multi-classing more feasible.

Even so, one thing carried through out Event 2 and 3: monotonous button mashing. While I am not surprised or even too bothered by it, I am a little disappointed given how all of Rift’s videos seem to be trying to tout itself as a ground breaking game when there really isn’t anything amazingly new in it. It IS a good game, yes. But the Developers really should have steered themselves away from calling it NEW and INNOVATIVE and NEVER SEEN BEFORE when trying to describe Rift. I went in blind to the beta expecting combat to have at least something unusual to make it stand out from others. D&DO had you clicking the mouse for every sword stroke, Aion had characters who could fly, Age of Conan had special finishing moves that beheaded people and blood on the screen. Rift has….everything we’ve already seen before.

Did that make combat lame? Not at all. It just wasn’t something I could possibly say stood out from any other of the many MMORPG’s I’ve played so far. Find enemy. Press bewton. Collect lewts.

Enemy Spawns and Rifts

Rift character, with, well--rift in background.

Jahanya, my beta Defiant with an open Rift in background.

The one thing they DESPERATELY have to work on during closed beta is spawn rates. They are nutty at the moment. You can clear a spawn and have two repop in place well before you’re half way finished with one. Spawns in some areas are so tightly packed and return so quickly that finishing quests in some areas just isn’t a good idea currently. This also made exploration really difficult.

Rifts in Telara are places where the veils between all the different worlds and planes have become thin, and the various other creatures, magics and invaders try and use these rifts to invade as well as attack Telarans. Rifts, or their beginnings can be spotted on the player map or indicated on the mini map. The kinds of Rifts and creatures I encountered in Beta were: Earth, Water, Fire, Death. I’m sure there were more, but these are what I remember and come to me off the top of my head. Rifts are the defining factor that makes Rift, the game, stand out. They’re everywhere at any given time and they WILL attack towns and villages you and other people need to finish quests. The land around a rift is affected strongly by what plane or what creature comes from within it. Earth Rifts bring grasses to spread across the land, Fire brings well, burning and FIRE as well as hot deadly lava, death darkens and kills the land it touches.

As a reborn heroic soul in Telaran, you will also be given the ability to open a Rift should you be the first to encounter a tear. By participating in killing creatures from a Rift and successful closing it, you ARE rewarded various things, such as stones, collectibles and even in some cases–rare and epic gear. The catch is that it depends entirely on how much damage/healing you do, if I remember correctly. Exactly how the game factors this I never got into nor spent too much time getting into.

I really enjoyed the Rifts! I think the one thing that made them something awesome for me, and the strongest part of the game that stuck out in my mind was the fact it drew so many players together at any given time. The one annoyance I am not sure I like is how many times a rift can open on a single town–if you’re trying to craft or turn in quests during a rift invasion, during beta this could get frustrating due to frequency. I’m hoping during release these will be timed better.

Graphics

During the Beta Event 2 screen tearing was a constant and the seam which fit zones together (I don’t know the technical terms) the seam where zones fit together and the anti aliasing doesn’t seem to work completely yet.

Those aside? The game environments are gorgeous. Lush forests, stately and elegant buildings, quaint villages, misty bogs and sparkling oceans–it’s on par and a little bit shinier than Lord of the Rings. Character model textures and details are very good as well. I found myself enjoying the scenery a lot, as is my habit when I’m in a gorgeous game. I like the looks of everything so far honestly, graphic wise and can’t wait to see what the game will look like when closer to release.

Since this IS a newer game, you will need a semi-decent rig to run it. Something that is older than four years old will probably not be able to run it with any kind of high end detail. If your drivers are out of date, the game will notify you of this and remind you to update them.

Classes

There are only four main classes in Rift. Cleric, mage, warrior and rogue. These archetypes split into several “souls.” These “Souls” are generally your subclasses.

Warrior:

    Champion
    Rever
    Paladin
    Warlord
    Paragon
    Riftlblade

Cleric:

    Purifier
    Inquisitor
    Sentinel
    Jusicar
    Shaman
    Warden

Rogue:

    Nightblade
    Ranger
    Blade dancer
    Assassin
    Riftstalker
    Marksmen

Mage:

    Elementalist
    Warlock
    Pyromancer
    Storm Caller
    Archon
    Necromancer

Once you pick your archetype however, you can pick up two additional “souls” within your archetype. Souls in Rift are a nifty way to re-name sub-classes, or talent trees within your archetype. To give you an example to hopefully clarify: I chose the archetype cleric. But for my “souls,” I picked Sentinel and Warden. Choosing your “souls,” open up “soul trees.” If you’re familiar with WoW or any other game that uses the talent-tree for specs, this is pretty much the same thing.

At its core, the “souls” isn’t anything too new we seasoned MMORPG’ers haven’t seen before, either. But Rift does bring its own element into the talent tree/soul tree aspect in that right from the get-go within the first 1-10 levels you’re offered two talent trees to play with. You can choose to split your points between two classes and dual class, or you can choose to pour all your points in one or the other, paying a fee to your trainer when you can afford it to switch between these roles at any time.

If you thought having two soul trees to play with with two different classes immediately is a lot of fun, there’s a third “soul” spot available for later and then apparently even a forth. This third spot purportedly won’t be restricted by your class. If I remember correctly, it means, for example that I as a cleric with two healing trees could slap a warrior sub-class into the third soul if I like. Or rogue. Or mage or anything I’d like, making the talent tree aspect of Rift something I do feel is truly diverse.

If that’s not enough, there are 2 parts to each soul tree (talent tree) as well. You have the upper ‘branches,’ to which you pour your points into it. These talents can either grant you new spells and abilities, or increase the damage/effectiveness of abilities you already have. Below the branches are the soul trees “roots.” These are ‘free’ talents and abilities that you are granted, no point cost, just by pouring points into the upper branches of your chosen soul tree.

Since this was a Beta event, we were limited to level 20. Rumor has it that the official level cap for the game at release will be 50 and I am sure that means there will be plenty of talents.

Anthy

Anthracite, my Guardian Dwarf Rogue/ranger

Character customization

Another personal big disappointment on my end was the lack of ability to make my character look different.

In the character creation screen, you have one face. You have a slider that will make that one face thinner, thicker, or give your characters face different definitions–but no matter where you move it, it is still only one face for that chosen race and sex. You can choose to up tilt or down tilt your nose, widen mouth, change eye color, change hair color, change eye tilt up or down, change eyebrow shape, facial hair if male, face markings, face marking color, height and hair style but the choices there are limited and I find myself in game staring at 239238293829382392 other carbon copies of my own character. The only difference I can see is that I appear to be the only elf so far to choose bright purple hair. Go figure.

This doesn’t mean the characters aren’t pretty (and I’ll have some screen shots below for you to check out ). They are actually very well done and remind me of a smattering of Lineage, Final Fantasy and Aion. Character female models aren’t going to poke you in the eye with MASSIVE BOOB WEAPONS and can range between cute looking, serious, formidable and pretty fierce. Males look manly (even the male elves) and the detail as well as textures on clothing/armor are fantastic. It’s just that…There are fifty million characters out there that look just like you, generally will have the same armor too. That’s kind of depressing but I have simply come to the conclusion that this is one area most MMORPG game developers choose to overlook in order to focus their resources elsewhere.

Game Play – Questing, Collections & Crafting

Questing
Questing in Rift isn’t anything we seasoned MMORPGer’s haven’t seen before, either: Go here. Kill 10 of these, return to me when you are done and Go here, Kill this Named, return to me for a reward when you are done. I don’t really mind this type of question because the alternative, straight out grinding would drive me to drinking. (And is the sole reason why I dropped Aion like a hot potato.) Yet, masking the grind with endless Kill this many whatsits and return to me can become as mind numbing and monotonous as the outright grind.

Still, making it to level 13 on my cleric– in spite of the cookie-cutter questing system–was moderately fun. Early levels won’t feel like a grind fest as they come quick and easy in the 1-20 phase. Of course, doing quests in one town will often lead you on the trail to the next town, the next set of generally level appropriate quests and so on and so forth. What I found the most interesting truthfully was the amount of Lore given by each quest giver. Rift has some how perfected the talent of making reading Lore given with quests quick and easy as well as interesting.

Again, Questing in Rift is pretty much cut and dry. If you’ve played any MMORPG in the last ten years, Rift won’t throw anything at you to hurt your brain in this area.

Collections
Hello my fellow Ever Quest II players. This for you won’t be strange at all. In Rift, there are various bits, baubles, books and other things cluttered about the ground all over and these are called collectibles. Just like in EQII, you can discover a collectible by noticing a very bright white shimmering dot on the ground. Picking it up will reveal either a book, trinket, or piece of history that you can click-add to a collection. Collections when finished can be turned into a Collection vendor, granting you EXP and small rewards. So far the rewards outside of EXP have been potions and stat increase scrolls, but I assume I have handed in newb collector quests so get newb like rewards.

Crafting
Gather supplies. Make mats. Make item. Congrats, you’re done.

No. Serious. That’s all there is to it. If you’ve crafted in World of Warcraft you’ve crafted in Rift. You run our and gather things that match up whatever crafting class you’re after, pick them up off the ground, fashion them into the mats (materials) needed to craft and then open the crafting panel, click on what you want, mark how many you want aaaaaaaaand….Sit back and do nothing until done, reaping in the rewards of earning more xp to learn more recipes to go back and stand around a crafting area for another six hours. Do I sound a little bitter about crafting? Maybe. I love crafting. I do and I think it’s one aspect of a game that tends to get neglected so much. Rift’s crafting is terribly, horribly neglected and I am sad to see it that way.

On the flip side, you can choose 3 professions in gathering/crafting. Once those three are taken, you have to unlearn one to change. I did choose instead to take up all of the gathering professions–which is nice for a change–and skipped out on doing any crafting past the basic smelting tin ore into tin bars, for example.

Not much else to report on this front. Perhaps in the future they’ll make crafting a bit more interesting and worth while.

Jah

Jahnya, my Cleric/Sentinal elven Guardian

PVP

I chose a PVE-RP server out of choice, but noticed there was a PVP faction rewards NPC area, a hand in reward that teleports you to the other sides starting area, and a PVP NPC who could transport you into Solo or group PVP situations. Alas, those aren’t implemented nor ready yet and could not test them. And because I generally have little to no interest in PVP I didn’t even try this area of the game out–sorry PVP enthusiasts.

Summary and Overall impression?

Would Mel recommend this game?
As it stands? With all of its glitches and weak points and in the middle of beginning beta? If you have nothing better to play?

Yes.

And I’ll tell you why I say yes: MMORPG gamers are bored as hell. If you listen to the mass of us, zombie shuffling to our computers day after to say to get our MMORPG fix, you’ll hear us mumbling the same things over and over again. “Woooorllld ooooof Warrrrcrrraaaft,” or insert some other game that has been going on for years and people return to it because frankly there’s NOTHING NEW TO PLAY OUT THERE. Until Star Wars: The Old Republic comes out (or anything that isn’t World of Warcraft) gamers are having to go back to the same old game, over and over again to get their fix while the majority of companies pump out cookie-cutter MMORPG’s in a desperate bid to cash in on WoW’s success.

A little change of scenery in the midst of boredom is good. Rift is definitely a change in scenery and I believe the fact it’s something different is half the reason Rift’s getting the glowing reviews and warm reception it is. If Rift can keep up the questing, improve crafting, smooth the graphic glitches and not follow in the footsteps of several games that failed horrifically–I can see Rift becoming a contender.

Do I think Rift will become a game that will stand the test of time? As the game stands right now? No. Rift is good, don’t get me wrong. I like the game and, should miracles come to pass and it’s released before SW:tOR and I have $50 I want to shoot into the wind? I’ll probably get a copy of it. But there’s nothing that Rift offers that Warhammer, WoW, Aion, Tabula Rasa and several other games haven’t already offered us. It’s everything we liked about those games repackaged in a new, shiny world.

Rift is undeniably fun for a non-serious, casual gamer. If you’re a hardcore gamer that demands a lot from your game to entertain you, Rift probably isn’t for you.

If your bored as hell however and have money to waste, when it comes out I’d recommend giving it a try.