Absent

The dust rolls through.

I’ve not been visiting Azeroth lately. I’ve been somewhere else and I wasn’t allowed to talk about it. I’m still not, but I am allowed to tell you where I am. Honestly I’m not sure of the planet’s name, but its a place where life is cheap, Battlemech’s aren’t.

For the past two weeks, like most Founder’s Pack purchasers, I’ve been playing the closed Beta for Mechwarrior Online. I can’t talk about what I’ve seen, how it plays, the good, the bad, the awesome. As the post is now on their home screen I assuming that I can tell you I’m in it, but I still can’t talk about it.

But I can tell you that I was massively excited about getting an invite and I’ve been playing it every chance I get. It’s my first time in any Beta and especially a closed one.

Which means no visits to Azeroth. And not much to post here. Until they open the NDA, then you’ll get some posts.

Mists Announced

SEPTEMBER 25 has been announced as the release date for the expansion. I’m sure you’ve read it elsewhere. I’ve preordered a Collectors Edition. I like the mouse pad and am really interested in the artwork, much more than previous expansions. I think Miss 5 who was totally amazed by the MoP video will like it too.

And with about two months to go its time for a PrePandaPrep catch up and checking my goals.

Mabaho

Finished the zones, but not Molten Front. I have to say it was getting a bit repetitive and I was enjoying Mabango’s questing more. And he didn’t get anymore purples, but I think he should be fine for the new zones.

Dasal

Got Tailoring and Enchanting a lot further but have run into a problem of lack of mats for the mid range BC level items. Even the AH is pretty bare. No more purples but I didn’t try. Heroic healing was tough and again, I kinda did concentrate on Mabango’s levelling.

Mabango

76. That’s not too far to go. However I’ve only got until the end of August as I will be away for most of September and unable to play (unless they release an iPad version of WoW before then!) And I have another distraction at the moment too.

So I only have achieved a few of my goals already, but I have moved closer on most of them. And to have Mabango so high already has really surprised me. I do still have two months, so lets see – stranger things have happened.

Shared Topic – Introducing RL Friends

Not sure who suggested it, but this week’s shared topic on Blog Azeroth is

Have you ever tried introducing a real life friend to WoW? If yes, how did it go? If you never have, why not?

I did try to get my wife involved for a month or so. We levelled a couple of toons through Recruit a Friend, she had a Mage and I was originally levelling a Bear, but later switched to Dasal.

She’s not very computer literate and has never been a gamer so she found it very complicated. I think the RaF actually was detrimental as we progressed too quickly and she couldn’t get the hang of the character. She gave up at about level 40ish (I remember we were running endless Maraudon in LFD.

Here we are…. wearing Mr T masks. I can’t remember what this was about? One of the World Events? WoW Birthday (you know, they used to give pets for that)

I recently used her toon to experiment with a Scroll of Resurrection. So its been boosted to 80.

TagongTago

I’ve had better luck breeding gamers, with both kids being very computer literate and Miss 5 can do simple quests and travel around already.

I’ve seen this topic from both sides though, Navimie introduced me to WoW, way back in early 2005, not long after she started playing.

So it’s all her fault ;P

Wait! Mabango gets one too

“Boom” NPCScan goes off (I added NPC Scan after the run of rares I had a couple of months back) and Mabango discovers this lady roaming Grizzly Hills.

Syreian the Bonecarver

I thought she looked pretty cool, loved the face tattoos

Oops too close again!

Got a blue and some mats from her. And Northern Exposure :)

I’ve been through Grizzly Hills now on 2 toons and never seem to end up in here. I must miss a quest chain or something.

The Den

I’ve also run a couple more LFD and dinged 76, so I moved on to Zul’Drak to keep the xp flowing.

Zul’Drak – How far the trolls have fallen.

I ran across this NPC and am very tempted to change my DK to look similar. Really liked it.

Bloodrose Datura

But that would give me 3 BE fems!  And it might set off a chain reaction of toon changes for some of my alts that I haven’t mentioned on here…. like my hunter might become Tauren which means the UD rogue can swap to Troll…. oh dear.

NINE levels to go now. And I’ll have THREE level cap toons. What a change.

Follow Up Review – Nike+ and Apple

As I mentioned in my recent review of the VFF that I run in, I would be talking about some of the other things I have been experimenting with. This is the Nike+ gear and website and associated Apple products, almost all of which I happen to have anyway.

After I had switched back to the bush running I prefer, I started to get interested in tracking my performance, mostly distance and time. It can be easy to work really hard, feeling like I had done a workout and come back after only 20 minutes and 1 or 2 kilometres. One of my first steps was to spend some time working out some routes on Google Earth to figure out their distances. But with the multitude of trails available to me, it proved difficult to remember all the legs in my head as I was running. Not helpful.

I remembered from the menu on my iPod and from the Apple website that they had some connection with Nike. I did a bit of research and found that my iPod nano 6th gen (that I scored through a product recall of my 1st gen) included the ability to track my pace. I tried this for a little while and also experimented with the Nike+ website. I found the Nano pretty inaccurate and even calibration didn’t really help.

iPod Nano, 6th Gen

For $20 I could get a Shoe Sensor from Nike. Some Nike shoes have a little pocket in the sole to insert these sensors, which then link to various devices and give a much more accurate reading of when the shoe strikes the ground. As you know I don’t run in Nike, I run in VFF. A tip off youtube and I tried just sliding into my shoes on the top of my foot, just behind my toes. Fits snuggly, isn’t annoying and works fine. I found a significant improvement in the accuracy of the iPod with this, but it got me curious about the other options.

Over to the iPhone. Nike has an app that works with the GPS to track your run. I thought the app was a couple of dollars, but it turns out it was free. Not sure if that’s a permanent price though. I had two concerns… how do I carry my iPhone on my run (holding it in my hand just wouldn’t work) and how well would the GPS work in the gullies and bush I run in. The iPhone app also works with the Shoe Sensor, but it will only use one or the other at a time. The iPhone will also track your pace without either should it lose the GPS signal and you don’t have the sensor.

Nike+ Running on iPhone4S

I’ve since done about 7 runs with the GPS and only lost signal on a whole run once. THat’s pretty good considering some of the steep sided gullies I occasionally find myself in.

All the variations of gadgets I’ve tried have voice feedback, describing how far you’ve run, time taken, average pace (instant pace on iPod). These are at regular intervals, I have them set for every 500m. The summary is also read out to you at the end, and occasionally you get a cheer from some one famous encouraging you. You can also see all of this on the screen during the run.

The second part is the Nike+ website. The iPhone can sync over wifi or 3G, the iPod can sync through iTunes. You then get a record of your runs, along with achievements (fastest, furthest, most calories…) and the opportunity to comment or note terrain, weather and what shoe you ran in. If you’ve used a GPS tracker, then the route is mapped, colour coded to pace. Otherwise you get a graph of distance over time, slope (and colour) giving you pace.

It’s a pretty site and reasonably useful. You can compare yourself to some averages, and earn nikefuel (which doesn’t seem to be anything useful, just a tally).

Problems (It hasn’t all been smooth sailing)

-  The iPod was the least accurate, I think because my pace varies quite a bit over the rough terrain I mostly run in. In the worst case, it had a 5.5km run as 6.6km. It can be calibrated but this had better results on an even track or on a treadmill, but I don’t usually run those. Accuracy did improve with the sensor. Still it was pretty out, a few hundred metres over the 5.5km.

-  When the iPhone lost the GPS signal at the start of one run, the iPhone didn’t alert me apart from a popup which I didn’t notice as it was in it’s armband and I didn’t look at it again until I finished the 5km run. It still recorded my pace and gave me timings etc. But no GPS track.

-  I deleted a bunch of inaccurate runs from the website and now my results (fastest, furthest etc) are all messed up. This may fix itself as I surpass those ones.

-  I can’t find a way to match the routes I record on my runs, with the routes I construct on the My Routes page. Neither can I seem to match runs that I’ve recorded with each other, so have to search about to decide which was the fastest run for that route.

But other than that it’s been pretty good.

Future Plans

I still think running with the phone is a bit much and I’d like to go back to the Nano, but it’s widely inaccurate, so I had been considering the Nike+ Sportwatch which can use both the Sensor and its own inbuilt GPS at the same time. I’ve heard fairly mixed reports of the watch, but the local Nike shops can’t seem to keep them in stock so they’re either wildly popular amongst runners here, or there are a lot of “cool kids” buying them because they’re Nike watches….

Nike+ Sportwatch GPS

Last Minute Update – Just purchased the watch today. All set up and ready to run on Monday.

Do you remember when we used to post “Ding”

Did everyone do that? I remember until achievements people would pop up with a Ding in guild chat as they levelled, with the hearty congratulations of the guild. I even remember the excited guildies counting down Mabaho’s climb to 80 in WotLK over the weeks it took.

Mabango questing whilst waiting for LFD to pop.

Ding! Mabango has made 74 now. I’ve said it before, the LFD runs are making a significant difference. This morning I did a Utgarde Keep and her first run through Azjol-Nerub. The only drama came at the last boss in AN as half the DPS stepped back out of the circle as the tank pulled, leaving me, the tank and one heals to deal with the boss. It wasn’t some kind of nasty trick, just a little confusion at the pull.

Which was probably slower than it needed to be, but not really a problem. A good thing about the toons outside is that they intercepted some of the adds during the underground phases.

Getting all Grizzly

After what seems about 4 quests, and about 3 runs through the Nexus, Mabango was tasked to report to Conquest Hold in Grizzly Hills. She had made level 73 now and is resting up at CH ready for more.

Grizzly Hills always makes me think of those acres of pine forests in NW N. America.

The LFD runs have been mostly smooth. A couple more Utgarde Keep, before continuous Nexus runs. The first Nexus was amusing as we had three BE (a priest, a mage and me) and we’re all in the Ancestral gear, what a fashion disaster. After Anomalus everyone I know skips the ramp and leaps down, avoiding the chasm below. However on run one I noticed someone just making the jump, they’d leapt of a slightly different edge of the platform above.

The next round we had the same priest. This time as I landed I watched as she leapt again and fell just a fraction short. Was a classic moment that I would have loved to have sent to Azeroth’s Funniest Home Videos (hmm… there’s an idea!). I didn’t know who it was at the time and the tank proceeded to lay into the next group of trash.

People were dying all over the place and I was the last standing on about 15%, probably due to my demon pet. The big scary guys were headed my way when I used, for the first time, my Infernal, to distract them whilst I healed up. Saved myself and a Mass Res to revive the party.

Except the healer.

So I tried to summon, having not ever used that spell (as Tome says, it’s kinda unused these days) and not really understanding its limitations. Didn’t work of course.

A summon is attempted

But it was a fun interlude into what becomes a fairly repetitive Random selection.

Life is cheap, Battlemechs aren’t

I signed up for a founders pack for Mechwarrior Online. Its the latest game in the long history of this franchise. This might drag me away from WoW, at least initially. There’s a couple of reasons that

- I’ve been a fan of the franchise for a very long time.
– I’ve played and loved pretty  much every PC game (I even have them all still stashed away)
– its the kind of game I played before wow and I really like the way the game is shaping up.

However I remember how positive I was about the SWTOR release. And how much I didn’t like it. August 7 opens up the Beta, so I guess we’ll see.

Shared Topic – Starstruck

The shared topic is from (our new guildie) Dragonray. Thought I’d add to the feast of posts on my blog over the past few days (and get back on topic) with my own thoughts.

Are you starstruck by anyone? Does someone in the community respond to a post or a tweet and get you all speechless because they actually responded? Is there anyone you are waiting to have respond directly to you? Is there someone that you would like to chat to, but are too chicken? Am I the only one who puts other bloggers on a pedestal?

I don’t think you’re going to like my answer and it’s terribly boring, but no not really. It’s just not really in my nature. The main reason I got motivated to blog (again) is my close friend Navi and it’d be a bit weird to be starstruck about her*.

I enjoy several of your blogs out there but I have to admit, I don’t relate to much of it as a lot is end game, PvP or mogging, none of which I really get involved in. In part that means I haven’t got any “idol” bloggers, but also feel a bit of an outsider.

However I really do feel (dammit, forgotten the word I want to use, it’s on the tip of my tongue) honoured, happy, umm surprised (none of those are the word, but close) (appreciated… no….) when ANYONE comments or follows my blog. (so drop by anytime)

Except spam of course. Or advertisers trying to link random garbage.

*That’s not to say I don’t love her blog, I do, and I really appreciate the Navi spam I collect here, but come on, I’ve known her since high school! I’m hardly going to OMG it’s Navi! I might go OMG Navi what are you thinking! But that’s different :)  :P

Random Review – Minimalist Running in Vibram Five Fingers

Random, nearly unrelated picture of stuff – morning fog across the Sydney basin… there’s a city of 4 million hiding under this which stretches right to the coast, about 60km away

Ok, first up… this isn’t about WoW (or any computer thing), my girls or my bikes, (breaking my own rules here) but I wanted to review these and this is the best forum I have. It’s also a pretty long post.

So what are they? Vibram Five Fingers are a range of shoes that have no padding in the sole and most noticeably, have pockets for your toes. Pictures will help..

My Vibram KSO Treks (this is the colour scheme I have)

The KSO Trek sole

I’ve never been much into fitness (as Navi will attest) however my employer requires me to maintain a certain standard, office job or not, so running is something I am almost required to do. In my current workplace we have access to several forested areas that really break up the boredom of road running, something that I really don’t enjoy. There’s some photos of the bush further down.

I had been investigating shoe options as I was having trouble with sore feet, heels especially, after my runs. I had read several good articles (a couple of very well balanced ones as well) which started me thinking about these kinds of shoes.

Then I met a work colleague who had some Five Fingers (though not this model) who was very happy with them. Eventually I got into the city where I knew there was a shop so that I could try them on. I described my kind of running, lots of bush, trails and the like and the shop recommended the KSO Trek model as it has a thicker sole and more pronounced tread.

The shoes do take some training and practice before you can get back to your old running distances. Vibram have a lot of detail on this and I expect even the fittest people should pay attention to it. Walk before you run, literally, and make sure you give yourself recovery time at first. Also don’t swap to these shoes a week before some critical run/walk etc. I was limping about for a day with very very sore calves after my first longish run/walk.

6 months later I don’t get sore feet even in some pretty rough bush. I am enjoying my running in them and that’s a big step to ensuring that I keep doing it. You can feel the surface beneath your feet, which is quite a cool feeling. Another advantage is their small size, meaning that with a t-shirt and a pair of shorts I can pack my running gear on trips without taking a lot of space. I also see me using them when travelling as a regular walking shoe.

Disadvantages are mainly cost and smell. They start to smell quite quickly but can be thrown in the washing machine (in one of those care bag things that girls put their bras and expensive knickers). They are also a talking point (which could be an advantage or a disadvantage). They can also be expensive with this pair costing AU$200 retail.

Overall I am very very happy with the shoes. I have run on roads, on treadmills, walked the streets, chased the kids in the park and run the trails that surround my workplace. Here are some photos of the types of trails I’ve run on.

A nice smooth trail here.

Trail along top of the railway tunnel wall.

Trail at Tunnel Gully exit, through old railway cutting

Up to Old Quarry Lookout

I would definitely recommend them for others to consider, though if you were just running on roads, or treadmills, other models may be more suitable. I am planning to stick to them for running, but get a less treaded pair for gym work. I’m still not sure that I am convinced about the whole, its the way we were built to run science, but I find the VFF very comfortable and enjoy running in them.

I apologise in advance, but I’m going to post a review of some Nike+ gear and the website that I have been using to track my running sometime in the near future.