To my Husband in the New Year.

You are my little planet, my earth. Hard packed from the way my feet pace back and forth in your heart–worrying about the things you’d never think of. Because really, they aren’t things that were meant to be worried about. Do you think I will die first? What will happen if you do? You know, I cannot live without you. I would have to go right after. You watch as I say these things and wring my hands as old women in markets haggling over the price of life. Your earth is soft and cool;  never too hot or baked from Floridian sunrises. I like to bury my toes deep into you, because I know that through you…I will grow.

You are not a rock.  I hope you will  never be a rock.  Rocks are too hard, too tough. They feel stress fractures and before you know it they’ve split and grown harsh edges to cut with.

You are the grass covered hill waiting in the shadow of a sunny day to cool me. So I can lay down in long plants, watch the clouds of your mind take the shapes and forms of  love for me. And I feel nothing but peace. If it rains, I’ll just roll down the hill a little bit, until the worst of it hits the side.

I would have marked you a Knight. But there are problems with Knights, too. So bound up in rigid codes or behaviors. So wrapped up in their armor that sometimes they forget there’s more to see of the world outside the slit of a visor.

You are my little planet. My cool grass. My soft hill. My reason. My husband.

I love you.

The prettiest damn elf at the party – FFXIV

In my life, there’s been a lot of games that I’ve beta tested for that had a lot of great focus in the first few levels and then…nothing later. There have been even more games that started well and turned into a festival of sad poop because of expectations. (Not naming any names.)

But one MMORPG that I have been beta testing the stuffing out of and eye-humping it since I’ve started has been Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. I managed to get myself into Beta 2 and have been gleefully screaming down the fan-girl slide since. Oh–yes; there are issues they need to fix. There is balancing that will need to be done and this game is certainly not a very easy MMORPG. Hell, just figuring out how to do anything in your Square Enix account is a challenge and a half and I don’t even want to talk about the company’s idea of sharing information on the beta forums and in emails.

They screwed up with the last game and they know it. And they set out to fix it. And boy-oh-boy, have they did. Not only have they fixed it, they’ve given us a completely different game. It’s good. It’s very good. I recommend trying it when it goes open beta.

The Sweater

There’s a little sand-golden house down a quiet road. Across from it, the wilds of Florida spike palm-shaped toward the sky, cardinals and their mates wheel over light gray shingled roof and perhaps three, four times a day a car will bumble along the road. Mostly mini-vans that remind the onlooker of chubby honey bees.

The front yard is small but not-too small. There are tall trees with the essence of willow in the way they grow and bow, but decorated with bright red flowers. The lawn is just grass. The drive way is just a drive way. There is a large window in the front beside a screened in door that has flowering honey suckle nested well grown beneath it. Here, real fat-honey bees trundle along; flower to flower searching. The Florida sun is forgiving rarely, harsh often. Stucco, stuffing, wood and air conditioning keep it livable inside.

In the living room there is a cat sprawled out on the back of a brown micro-fiber couch recently cleaned, in the den near a slumbering computer is a black cat resting comfortably. In the dark of the living room with her bare feet on cold tile is a girl inside a woman who walks this new house with the eyes of a child. This is her castle. This is her castle which her knight-turned-King made her, all for her. (And the cats too. But still….mostly here.)

The King sleeps while she travels through her home-castle, a whisper of skin on tile, checking and re-checking every room as if afraid tomorrow it will all disappear and become but a dream. She touched the back of a couch, the ears of her cat, trails her fingertips along a counter top and stops to watch the glow from the microwave light on her glass-top stove surface. The fridge hums and she swears it’s a happy tune. She cannot sleep, but it is the good kind of cannot-sleep. The kind where the excitement for tomorrow and the next day and the next keep your eyes awake.

Then, she sees it. 
First, it is a portrait of a woman that looks just like here. She is thinner in face, thinner in hair, but her smile is the same and her eyes are blue.
Then, she sees another thing.
A sweater several sizes too big for even the girl, that used to belong to the woman smiling in the picture.

The girl feels her eyebrows bunch together in swift emotion. Her eyes wrinkle and a pain ticks behind them that begins a wavering in her sight. The air in her lungs pushes forcefully out as the tears well and she fights them. She touches the sweater. It’s white and it is soft and warm and it was once hers. But it will never be like touching her ever again.

“Mom,” she says quietly in her house. The King snores, a cat meows, a fridge hums. “Mom–can you see? Can you see what’s happened and where I am? Do you know how loved I am? Did you know that everything was going to be all right and okay?”  She needs a moment as she looks up to her ceiling fan. It’s turned off for the night. “Mom…I wish you’d made it. I wish you were here. I wish you could see how I truly ended up. How proud you would have been of me and of Shawn. And I wish you could have seen my friends. The love in my life right now.

She picks up the sweater and folds it neatly. Reverently. A garment of memories from a little child’s legend long past. She lays it against the side-corner of the couch in a way that seems as if the owner of the sweater just set it down on her way through. That perhaps she forgot it and would come back for it.

“Mom,” the little girl says. “I miss you.”

The Phat Cave

Once upon a time there were two phat geeks. They met and fell in love in a magical way over a series of ensorcelled tubes before meeting face to face. Their life was filled with cats, birds and the Land of Internet. They lived humbly for a long time with their parents and dreamed simple dreams. When they were able to, they rented a small space away from their parents in a hot and treacherous jungle named BugLandia, occasionally called Florida. The space was fine at first, but then they found three little green and blue feathered souls that needed rescuing and then the space wasn’t so much space as it was living in a giant bird cage with bird cages within it.

They dreamed of a place of their own with just a little more space. Not much. Just a bit. They never ever in their wildest dreams thought they could afford anything really nice, like some of the other castles and fortresses in BugLandia, so when they began looking the looked at rustic little cottages that needed much roof-thatching and rebuilding.

They had an awfully hard time of it. Every choice was either too much expense to fix or missing important things like…toilets…entire kitchens. Walls.

It was a long journey on Sundays Untold for what seemed like forever–three–months and they kept saying, “Maybe,” to the magical lady who showed them these places but ultimately it turned into no.

And then one day the planets aligned an a unicorn came down from the misty heavens leaving a trail of sparkles and those little marshmallows from that cereal with the leprechaun that has a lot of issues with his charms.  The sun parted and harps played and they found The One. 

They found a place to call home. Something far beyond their wildest dreams and perfect for them.

With the enchantment of their own pudgy feet they moved from their tiny place to the castle.

And they called this land, “The Phat Cave.” There were no sudden or inevitable betrayals.

They lived weirdly and phatly ever after.

[box type=”info”] On April 25th 2013 we finalized an offer on a home and moved out of our apartment. I am so happy and tired and tirappy I could explode into glitter bombs. [/box]

 

Beautiful Gold Spam: Age of Wushu

Quick and Dirty, ladies and gents–a why and why for, about Age of Wushu: a free to play world PVP kung-fu MMORPG.
(Immature giggling goes here)

Does this dress make my flowers look big?

Does this dress make my flowers look big?

Why you should play Age of Wushu

  • If you are a fan of ancient china, chinese mythologies, the ancient kung-fu movies or wuxia dramas then you are going to enjoy looking at Age of Wushu.
  • Despite being run on a graphics engine a bit out of date enough to rely on bloom, it’s still gorgeous and many places feel as if they sprung out of painted scenes.
  • One of the better kung-fu/Martial arts F2P out there
  • World PVP (after a certain level) adding an edge to danger to everything
  • Crafting is a viable source of income and helpful to progress
  • Team Practice your Kung-Fu with fellow Kung-fu practicioneers to ‘speed’ the experience of your deadly arts
  • Belong to a school (Wudang, Emei, Shaolin, Beggars, Royal Guards and so on) and enjoy benefits from belonging to a group
  • Spy on enemy/different schools and earn rewards and experience.
  • Be evil: Kidnap people and sell them, all while maniacally laughing and stroking your whiskers.
  • Pay for being evil: repent your sins (if you are part of a good aligned school) at the temple or go to jail to pay for your crimes of PKing and kidnapping!
  • Pick up the arts: learn calligraphy, learn painting, learn chess, poetry or music
  • Protect and escort supplies between important families or individuals of import
  • Save the girl or guy
  • Win friends
  • Farm, mine, fish, chop wood, skin animals, cook food, make poisons, heal through herbs, weave clothe, make legendary weapons
  • Find a guild: go to war, make an alliance, group up and roll out
  • There is never nothing to do.
I could, like, sit here all day, man

I could, like, sit here all day, man

Why you shouldn’t play Age of Wushu

  • It’s a free to play game and so some of the unique issues that always seem to crop up in f2p’s do.
  • Gold spam everywhere. In all the channels so far except school channels (as far as I have observed). You can put them on ignore (add them to blacklist) but that gets full in a day. That solution isn’t viable.
  • Punks everywhere: f2p seems to bring out the best and the worst more so than anything else. You will get punked at sometime, anytime, especially by yourself. There will always be those guys that smell new player from a mile away and swoop in on their epics and kill you in one click thinking they all that and a bag of tea.
  • With that in mind: if you get upset easily by being pk’ed by kids or people having a bad day, right off the bat “open pvp world,” should turn you away.
  • The cash shop isn’t pay to win–it’s pay to level faster basically. Mounts, bags, extra warehouse, all of this isn’t permanent. Mounts and bags last a set amount of days (100, for example.) Bags currently are purchased from players or picked up from drops only, mounts are cash shop or random quest rewards (as far as I can tell), and the only current way to get extra warehouse space (bank space) is to pay Snail Games real cash money dollar bills for in game gold to become a VIP member to expand it. Plus, as a VIP member, you “cultivate,” your Kung-fu off line and faster than those who play free. (Cultivate = experience = level it up, pretty much.) Right now, there aren’t any pills, buffs, exp medicines or the like in the shop either. So like I said, it’s not so much pay-to-win as it is pay-to-get-to-win-faster. (I could be wrong! Feel free to let me know in comments!)
  • Solo play is going to be difficult. Without a guild to help you with instances or fighting off random player killing, the casual gamer or gamer who likes to explore all the areas and things might find it a challenge.
  • Grind fest. No matter how fun everything is–or how fun I find it–I know it’s going to be a grind to get it anywhere better. I know it, and the game doesn’t even bother to hide how many hours of repetition I’m gonna put into it to get it there. I guess it’s almost a positive the game doesn’t hide it?
  • Lost in translation: I believe that some of the better aspects of the game may have been lost in the translation from Chinese to English. Quest descriptions are abrupt and in some cases appear to have nothing to do with the quest they are giving you. Your quest tracker and the ability to click-auto-path is going to be awesome for some.
Within the school of Emei

Within the school of Emei

So should I try it or not?

It’s a free game that despite it’s very real and very obvious flaws to an American market; is trying its best to carry its weight. And it’s doing okay. I think that Age of Wushu is one of those free-to-play games that fits a niche market and not a broad one to appeal to everyone. And that’s okay, I think that there needs be more games happier to cater to a wildly loyal few than try and appeal to a broad mass and fail. Whether Age of Wushu will collapse under it’s gold spam and free to play is something we will have to see. As it stands, I think it’s a remarkable game for free to play and Martial Arts and one that it cannot hurt to be tried.

A Letter II

IMG_6465

Do you remember how many times you had to tell me to shut up? To be quiet? To shhhh? Do you remember the nights which you’d put me to bed as soon as the sunset and you’d tell me in your mommy-is-serious-voice, “No singing, no

talking, no getting out of bed, all right?” And you would tuck me in, kiss my brow and leave the door half shut. (Because I was afraid of the dark.) But your words never made it through my head as I lay down in the half-dark and began dreaming of things from other worlds and other places, or playing out scenes in my head of things I’d wished I’d said or had happened. I’d talk and tell a story with my hands barely seen before my face in the glow of the half open door and see magic, see ghosts, see lands–I would see stories.

I always had words. I had too many words. When I grew up to me a teen I learned the wrong words, too. I learned the hurting, the angering and the cutting words that broke a parent’s heart and scarred a fellow child for life with their cruelty and heartlessness. I learned bigger words and newer words to hand-write into a drawer full of plastic binders packed with stories that (thankfully) would never see the light. And, I had a lot of yelling words. Between us, there was a lot of crying words.

It wasn’t until I grew older that our words softened and we began to speak–if not the same words–words that pretty much meant the same. We spoke gently, with smiles on our lips and apologies in our eyes. We learned to use these words to know one another. Years later, there were no more cutting or yelling or hurting words. They were just noises meant for mother and daughter.

And then you died.

I lost my words then. I didn’t know where to find them anymore. I lost more than my words, actually, and did not think they were important in the face of losing you. At least, I didn’t think they were important until I tried to tell the wo

rld about you, about us, about the things we said and where we were and what had happened. I realized that I had lost the words when I lost you. They quietly took up their skirts and made a funeral line to the back of my head and sat. They would not move.

You were my words. You were the reason why I wrote them. Yes, I wanted the world to read them–but I wanted the world to read them and understand that my words were for you. For my mother. And I wanted you to be here to read them and love them and be proud of me. I wanted you to open a book and cry happily when you first read the words, “For my mother, for all the stories she told me and all the words we’ve shared.”

But you were gone. And so were the words.
For a very long time, at least.Now I hear them. They are buzzing quietly at the back of my head. They want me to hear them but I do nothing about them. I don’t write the things they say and I don’t capture the imagines I daydream about. What’s the point? I think. You cannot hear them.

At night, I always dream of you. You are always chiding me for something: I didn’t do something–fold the laundry, wake up in time for the bus, clean the floor right–every dream you are chiding me for not doing something and I wonder if these are your words. Your last words to me–to listen. To listen, and to write.

How to bribe a vet: Estates, houses, and grrrrl, is that a cherry blossom couch?

Seven years.

Seven years ago Shawn and I beta tested a little game called Everquest 2. Years before that, Shawn had beta tested a game called Everquest and said to me, “I liked it–but at the time I felt like the game and what it was trying to do was limited by technology at that time, and thought that in a couple of years it would really shine.”

Well. Then they made EQ2. And we were hooked.

EQ2_000042

Purple angry unicorn with wings? HELL YEAH!

When we played, we were crafters by heart. Without a group, there was very little content that could be soloed for some of the classes–Of course, I was a Templar and he a conjurer. He had better luck at it than I would, so gathering and crafting called to us much stronger.  We played before there was imbuing, gems, and during the time that any crafting station–the stove, forge, engravers table and so on could kill you if you screwed up. Crafters were entirely dependent on one another too. A carpenter couldn’t make certain things without nails and metal parts. These were made by armor or weapon smiths. Nobody could make anything without the help of an Alchemist–which is what my husband was.

Then EQ II changed that. For a while there, being an alchemist was worthless. Everyone could now make all the parts they needed for themselves and no longer did they need to depend on one another. They were phasing out the being-ship-wrecked-on-an-island-everyone starting as either warrior-mage-priest thing, and it was painful for us. We stopped for a while.

Then, of course, with age? Things, in my humble opinion, got better. Yes, even moving to F2P seemed like an improvement–for even though general chat was always a lot like Barrens chat–there are still people everywhere in that game, seven years later.

And that’s how long we’ve been playing, off and on, too. Though EQ II sweetened the deal for me by handing me an entire Mistmoore Estate for my 7 year anniversary. Let me tell you, there is nothing better to bribe me into coming back, or playing a game forever, than giving me something I can decorate myself, make unique. Housing, mounts, clothing, decorations….this is the way to worm money out of me. Pay attention games! I logged in, looked at my vet rewards, squealed like I’d just been given a unicorn and ran to claim it. Now I have a huge estate with nothing in it. Now I have to run around the game trying to find the just right things I want in it. Some of it I will craft myself (being a carpenter), others I will have to level in order to get it from certain quests and or as drops from dungeons.

See what u did thar, EQ II.

And, it worked.

Mistmoore

Facing front door: Mistmoore Estate OH GOD HOW DO I DECORATE

I think that EQ2 finally found the perfect balance for all kinds of gamers finally. Do you want to craft? Great, go for it. Do you want to craft and solo adventure? No problem, there’s a quest for that. You want to ignore crafting and power level and just get All The Things? No problem. You want to do all of this, at any given time, and just spend a day collecting shiny things to play the market? Go for it. And now–you want to design your own in game object and earn real life cash money money dollar bills from it? Yep. Do that too.

So–I’ve been having fun with my Dirge, Ssinjin, and her guild since ’04 (Queens Guard, hoooo!) exploring new regions I never got around to, quests that are fun and frustrating. Gathering shinies and resources. And it’s funny, because, I have also had my time eaten up by searching for my own home. In real life. Yes–the husbanator 2000 (That’s Shawn, or bariguy, by the way) and I have finally decided that no better time than now to take advantage of things and try for a home. It is both awesome and frightening. Wish us luck.

P.S. If you know any epic quest lines that will help us furnish it….