Since WoW is now dead to me, at least until I totally cave in and resubscribe because I am cracking up and can’t take much more, I have lots of free time on my hands.

I spent some of it tonight fixing my music playlist.

I go to the gym most every morning, and I use my iPhone and the Amazon Cloud Player to manage my music because fuck iTunes.

Some songs get too burned into the brain to keep getting the blood thumping, and others are momentary flashes of fascination before I lose interest, but for right now, this is my absolute ultimate “just hit random and go’ music selection.

Since this is me, I have infested my playlist with my own personal sense of humor and touch of hell. As an example, I derive great joy from making Nickelback rub up against both Rage Against the Machine AND Skrillex. I like to think Nickelback wakes up each morning screaming from my own personal brand of voodoo hoodoo, and that RATM and Skrillex would be getting together and plot some kind of vicious blanket party except, you know, they hate each other too much to drop the fashionable scowls.

See if you can spot some of my other “I may love this song but I’m going to make the artist feel dirty” song arrangements.

It doesn’t matter what order they’re in anyway, I always run my playlist on random, so don’t read anything into which is top or bottom. They’re all evensies.

Keep in mind, I’m an old bastard, and I really don’t care if you like these or approve of MY liking them or what. This shit gets me moving, and at my age, that’s a freaking miracle. Also, I am long past the age where I worry what people would think of my music choices. My music choices should all be grateful I choose to like them, it’s like bestowing a blessing upon them from on high. They’ve been anointed, and that leaves room for more beer.

Do you hit the gym or work out and are on the hunt for something new to freshen your playlist tracks? Something here ought to get it done. If it doesn’t, you’re dead.

Of Monsters and Men – Little Talks
Rihanna – Where Have You Been
Within Temptation – Faster
David Guetta (feat Sia) – Titanium
Rihanna – We Found Love
Lana Del Rey – Summertime Sadness (fast remix)
Nemesea – In Control
Nonono – Fire Without a Flame
Dragonforce – Through the Fire and the Flame
Audioslave – Like A Stone
Agent Provacateur – Red Tape (from the Jackal soundtrack. The Jackal. It was a movie with Bruce Willis, damnit, sue me)
Shakira – She Wolf
David Guetta (feat Sia) – She Wolf
Nonono – Like the Wind
Havana Brown – Warrior
Nonono – Jungle
The Cranberries – Zombie
Kelly Clarkson – Stronger
Lady Gaga – Applause
Skrillex – Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites
Nickelback – Side of a Bullet
Rage Against the Machine – Killing in the Name Of
Avicii – Wake Me Up
Nonono – Pumpin Blood
Christina Aguilera – Fighter
Eminem – Lose Yourself
One Republic – Counting Stars
Avicii – Hey Brother
nicki minaj – Super Bass
Coldplay – Viva La Vida
Of Monsters and Men – King and Lionheart
Katy Perry – Wide Awake
Ke$ha – Die Young
Katy Perry – Roar
Pussycat Dolls  When I Grow Up
Veronicas – Untouched
Vast – Touched
The Crüxshadows – Eye of the Storm
Rihanna – Disturbia
The Offspring – Lightning Rod
Dragonforce – Fury of the Storm
Namie Amuro – Hide & Seek
Concrete Blonde – Tomorrow, Wendy
Johnny Cash – God’s Gonna Cut You Down
The Offspring – the Noose

I put together every one of these that I could find in a shared playlist on Grooveshark, to help make it easier to try them out. Nonono isn’t on there that I could see, and neither was Namie Amuro, who does the song Hide & Seek on the famous Blind Machinima video. I was shocked by how many were, so hopefully the playlist there works for you if you’re interested in listening to any that are unfamiliar to you.

I am always on the hunt for more pounding songs for my workout, so if your personal favorites aren’t here (and I can’t imagine that tehy would be), please share them in the comments or on Twitter.

Have a great weekend!

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The final countdown has begun. I have less than 24 hours remaining before my paid World of Warcraft subscription goes dark.

Cassie frankly doesn’t think it’s going to happen, and I’m kind of curious if I can manage it myself.

A little voice in the back of my head tells me, “You know, you KNOW that a week after your account closes, Blizzard will announce new in-game rewards based on continuous subscription time… and you’ll have gone from ten years to zero. Don’t do it.”

Last night, I decided to log into each of my characters to find that one special place, mount and pet to pose with and take pictures of before logging out for what might be the last time.

For every character I have leveled to max over the years, I have some special place that springs immediately to mind with images of great battles, raids or fun with friends and family. At least I did until I reached my last character, Chainblade, my poor abandoned Death Knight.

Poor Chainblade. I created my Death Knight to play with my son, and we spent a good bit of time together in Cataclysm on the long march to 85. When Mists of Pandaria came out, many of my other characters traveled on, but Chainblade was left behind. He never took the magic airboat ride.

As my son’s Death Knight Hailsword adventured deep into the mist-shrouded pandaland, Chainblade became a pet battle alt. His duty orders sent him to spend a long, LONG time standing next to Major Payne, where he would briefly appear each day to engage the good Major in pet battle before returning to his tent for the rest of the afternoon.

Chainblade was the character that joined my son in completing the daily missions to gain a Winterspring Frostsaber, so that mount is the one that Chainblade shall always be riding for me. I was happy to see that he still carries with him a photograph of his cub’s first toy. That brought a smile to my face.

But what location resonated with the Death Knight? I could certainly log out next to Major Payne, that would feel proper considering the length of time spent there, but it doesn’t half speak of adventure, now does it?

In fact, Chainblade spent so many months in brief daily battle with Major Payne that I didn’t create a story for him so much as had the head canon build up for me.

You see, once the Lich King was finally defeated, the great wars of Chainblade’s time were over. He had battled valiently and been true to his cause, but once the grand threat was removed, what place could there be for the dead in the lands of the hot blooded and quick?

With his days of glory behind him, Chainblade the worgen Death Knight retired to the Argent Tournament in Icecrown, near to the scenes of his past glories, and there he spends his days lost in his memories of friends and fallen foes from the past, and continuing on from day to day in a kind of timeless, changeless rhythm amidst the comfortable trappings of his life on the front lines.

Chainblade has his tent pitched near to Major Payne’s tower at the Tournament, where he has been for several years now. He’s a familiar sight to the vendors there as he goes about the same time-worn ritual, each day the same as the last.

At midday when the pale sun is at it’s zenith he will emerge from his tent, vigorously sniff the air, and then light one of his foul-smelling Nerubian cigars. Once he has it going well, he pulls out his old campaign chair and sits beside his fire to enjoy the feel of the weak sun on his fur.

As the light slowly begins to move, tracing stark patterns across the face of the Storm Peak mountains, he relaxes in his chair and sips his kungaloosh. He drinks to forget, even as the taste of the kungaloosh mixed with a dash of quinidine bark reminds him of the times he drank it in the hot jungles of Sholozar Valley to keep his undead heart moving slow and sluggish in the quickening hot climate.

When night finally descends in full and the lights of the Tournament are aglow, he gets up and wanders his way over to visit with Major Payne, and watch as a fresh crop of hopeful challengers bring their pets, eager to show off their skills to the master trainer.

He sips his drink and watches through the dusk hours while the natural drama of victory or defeat goes on around him, untouched by it all but still feeling something, some small sense that he could have been any of them, with a bright future ahead, and with a life where such a small thing as a lone pet battle victory or defeat could seem like the most important thing in his entire young life.

Then the day has finally ended, and the youthful challengers all run off to celebrate or drink away their disappointment and tell stories of the grand adventure they have had, and their hopes for more excitement in the days and weeks to come.

Chainblade sets down his drink and cigar upon the steps of the old, cold tower and faces off with the good Major for the last battle of the night, two old warhorses replaying an old and familiar game. He takes his victory with the ease of long practice, using the same tactics as has worked each month and even year that has slipped on by.

Picking up his drink and cigar once more, he gives the Major a long-toothed grin, and retires to his tent, letting the moments of the day slip away to blend into the long line of unchanging and forgotten fallen dawns behind him.

Kind of sad, really. He’s a Death Knight, he shouldn’t be sitting around molding away by a campfire, he should have one last, bright charge against a valiant foe left in him!

I decided to resurrect Chainblade, call him up out of his retirement and make him shake loose the cobwebs from the rut he was in, give him one last hellride through mystery and adventure.

Chainblade had always been Unholy, so it was really time for a change. The tired old wardog needed to learn everything all over again, and what better way than to take a lesson from the new World of Warcraft Crash Course video on Death Knights, and try Frost? Dual Wielding Frost at that, really shake things up!

I watched the video, and I enjoyed it. Then I read the guide for Frost Death Knights at Icy Veins, and thought, “Holy crap, that is a lot more complicated than the Crash Course made it sound!”

Then I read the small section on simplified Frost DPS, and saw that it was about the same as the Crash Course, only you know, Icy Veins talks about things like Army of the Dead and glyphs and what kind of Runeforging enchants to put on weapons and all that stuff. Whew! A ton of stuff to take in.

Chainblade finally took his first steps into Stormwind in years, and was summoned to a visit with the King. He was directed to take a magic airship ride to discover what had happened to the fleet and the White Pawn, and stepped once more into adventure.

Two words: Holy shit!

I have played through the starting Jade Forest Alliance zone as every character class now.

I can say, without reservation, that I have NEVER before blown through that zone like an unstoppable juggernaut the way the Frost Death Knight did.

Just, holy shit!

I know I should be popping some of my short duration cooldowns, but I didn’t have time, because even when swarmed by adds like Hozen I just destroyed them. I never even bothered with Obliterate, I never had to.

I will say that the combination of summoning my pet on a 2 minute cooldown, and then using the talent that takes half of my pet’s health away to heal ME for half of MY health on a 2 minute cooldown was awesome. If I got swarmed by more than four or five things, I’d wait until I was finally below half health (and most of the mobs were dead anyway), then pop my pet and my healing Talent and boom! Back at full health AND with a pet to help finish them all off.

Felt overpowered while leveling, and that’s no lie. I never died, and I took on swarms of Hozen. I pulled the Hozen camp where Admiral Taylor is found right before you rescue him and take him to the fishie people, and it was nothing but a thing. Just pull the camp, kill them all and loot enough keys in one go to finish it all up. And then get the skulls easy because everything’s dead.

Never, ever felt anything like the god-like power of the Frost DK in that area.

I think I only ever summoned Army of the Dead once, and that was when I started feeling guilty killing swarms of adds without it, like I was being a fail DK. Army, damnit! I’m supposed to use that.

One last night to go. Tonight will be the last one.

Chainblade is level 86 already, and he’s remembering why he had to drink that kungaloosh to make it through a hot forest full of things that wanted to eat him in the first place.

Even if he finds himself retiring there among the fish people, he’ll at least have had the pleasure of one last hurrah, and the knowledge that yes, even in this modern age, an old wardog can learn one more trick, and be a total badass while doing it.

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I long for the day World of Warcraft openly embraces being an Event Driven game.

The early promise of World of Warcraft for me was an online persistent fantasy world to adventure in.

Raiding didn’t enter into it. Raiding as a thing wasn’t part of my lexicon, it wasn’t what everyone talked about.

Everyone talked about the races you could play as. The character classes you could be. The way you could get quests from characters in the game that weren’t controlled by a GM or other players, and whenever you played, what you had done in the past carried on in the world to be shared with others. Persistent.

I remember in the early days talking with my friends Manny and James about World of Warcraft and the potential of games like it. Back when the idea was new and fresh and who knew what the future of such games might hold?

We’d talk about what new things online games might bring, like player-created quests and storylines with XP and rewards, or monster NPCs controlled by other players when taking a break from their player characters.  Or smaller-scale MMO games with special events where live GMs might be in control of key main NPCs or commanders, and you could join their army as a player character and fight in one of these vast wars as the GM-controlled commanders led you forward into battle.

Early days full of promise, where the main draw of World of Warcraft and other MMOs was in how similar they were to tabletop pen and paper role playing games, and not in how they were different.

In every game where there are levels and experience points, there comes a time when you have to address… what do you do when you hit the level cap?

In tabletop games, at least in my experience, you either retire the characters and make new ones (usually in a new game system that just came out), try a few runs in a world where your old characters are now the new high power NPCs that rule the area your new players play in, or nuke the game from orbit and reduce everyone in power from some calamity, it’s the only way to be sure.

In a programmed always-online persistent world, the level cap happened, and it made us stop, look around, and go… so, what now? Where has the story gone? What do we do when the quests have all been done and there is no GM across the table to improvise?

The response was to have raids. Big raids. Raids with lots of players against static content, one big battle that you fight over and over and over. Every week, over and over.

Why? Loot. Upgrades. Shinies. More power.

If we’re capped, then what difference does that make?

Ah! What comes next. The big question. Are we done, or is there more to come?

And so a game that lured me (and my friends) in with a lush fantasy world, leveling, questing, rich story and familiar classes and races where the point was to adventure in new lands and meet new peoples became a game where I waited for the next scheduled event to begin. We began playing the waiting game, spending time on alts and pvp waiting for the next new event that would move the story forward one chapter at a time, adding new raid battles.

Events that had a beginning, a middle, and a definite ending.

We played World of Warcraft one way at the beginning, and a different way at the level cap. We had to, once at the level cap our actions to grow our characters were complete.

Do you remember when the majority of players only had one main character, and those with alts were few, and mostly those that couldn’t stick with one thing long enough to max out?

An Event Driven game does not keep you in with long and exciting questing adventures, it keeps you in by having a timed event that you must take part in while it is active to gain the rewards.

While an event is going on, you have filler content, preparations, small quests or gathering to do, but the focus is the big battles, and each event includes it’s own end because if you fight a big battle, once you’ve won, you know how that story ends. The only question remaining is how many times you’ll have to repeat that same battle until the timed event is over, and everyone has been given a reasonable chance to finish it before the next event comes out to push the story forward one more chapter.

That is what World of Warcraft really IS now. It’s not the subscription based role playing game that I at least still think of.

It’s an event driven game, and how engaging the game is can be traced directly to how long it’s been since a new event was released to take part in and stir the senses anew.

Each event brings new rewards for taking part, new parts to the ever-growing story, new bits and pieces of shiny things like mounts or armor or titles. Or achievements.

The death of an Event Driven game is lack of events. You’ve got to have a new event ready to go as soon as the last one gets stale.

There is a point to this, and it’s one that has been bothering me with every ‘expansion’.

Blizzard does not act as though they realize what kind of game we’re playing. They act as though we continue to play World of Warcraft as a questing and leveling experience, even as more shortcuts to max level are baked into the core experience.

You have to ride the wave of new events to keep the players pumping quarters into the change slot. If you distract us with new shinies, we keep collecting them.

I want to collect them. I need to collect them. if you give me more shinies to chase, nobody will get hurt.

There is an interesting series of articles at Venture Beat that Albert Reed, the CEO and co-founder of Demiurge Studios has been writing about their extremely successful game, Marvel Puzzle Quest.

This is a series that you should take some notice of, because this is welcome candor from a man that is focused on how to separate a player from his money, and what methods he has used to become ever more successful at it.

The third chapter (there are eight so far, and each one is extremely good reading) discusses how Marvel Puzzle Quest has really taken off by embracing being an Event Driven game. If you read it and other articles in the series and really think about what is being discussed, there are a lot of similar elements going on in World of Warcraft, but they’re not shown the same level of awareness.

They’re not even close to being the same kind of game, but we are all video game players, and most of us seem to respond to the things that an Event Driven game offers, and that World of Warcraft gives us in spurts and false starts.

World of Warcraft expansions and content patches give us a new chapter to the story, and the main instrument in that chapter to advance the story are multiplayer raids with ever-higher power loot items as rewards.

The catch is, of course, when there are no events… we are all left flailing around looking for something to do to fill that time, and I at least usually feel as though somehow I am to blame for not being able to find something fun to do in the game.

That moment, that point in the game at the end of a content patch or game chapter where I have completely exhausted the raiding by doing the same ones thirty or more times, repeatedly, is exactly the moment when a new event should begin.

The lesson that Marvel Puzzle Quest and other games is teaching us, is that those events do not all have to be major battles or world-shaking story arcs. They can be smaller stories, told on a more personal scale, with smaller rewards of a more cosmetic or even temporary nature, but because they are new to us, they keep us engaged.

World of Warcraft had that same awareness, once upon a time. There was a time, a long, long, LONG time ago, when the seasonal events in game were something new to look forward to.

The problem is, once released they have been abandoned, and rarely get refreshed for a new year.

For several years now, the only question we have is, “Did they bump up the power of the drops from last years event? No? Pfft. Well, maybe my 8th alt can use a mole machine to get to BRD.”

I get the feeling from Blizzard that they’re not looking at the upcoming calendar year and discussing what content will be released at what time to space things out right, and have plans in place to provide filler events at key droughts.

Or, worse yet, they are planning it by the week, but they are including out-of-game Blizzard events like the release of a Diablo 3 expansion as WoW content.

Content from a company that is not actually in the game is not content, it’s competition.

Break my immersion in your game with a different game and you have no assurance I’ll ever return.

I’d like to think that the developers lift their heads from the gorgeous art they are creating and the quests and NPCs and zone terrain, and have a team meeting where someone breaks down the upcoming year one week at a time.
“Okay, now we’ve got 52 weeks in the year, we’re on week 22. What do we have going on that week. How many weeks since the last new thing to do? What, 8 weeks since a big content patch with raids and Tier armor? Two months, that’s a long time to be hitting the raids for progression, people will be needing a palate cleanser. What do we have new coming to break it up? yeah, Tim, what do you have?”

“Maybe we could have a one week event where we use that great design work that went into the Argent Tournament and jousting. How about we make that week a new max-level jousting tournament? Phase the argent tournament area for max level characters only with a bread crumb from the faction leaders, add a new questline, update the vendors with some new rewards with a new currency token that expires just like other seasonal currencies. Players can joust against familiar NPC opponents that will be exciting if we tweak them right, or PvP against other players. They can use the tokens to maybe buy pieces for a transmog set of jousting armor without stats, something that will look neat for roleplayers, and a new armored mount as the most expensive reward to keep people tilting all week. By the time the event is over, people will see raiding as a fresh break from the tournament, and an opportunity to show off their new pets or mount of armor look.”

“Okay, what about week 23? The week after a jousting tournament, do we want to give folks time to recover after spending a week playing more than average to try and earn those tokens?”

It just makes sense to me that you as a game designer, maintaining a game where time played is your number one asset, would be looking at the content in your game on a week-by-week basis to make sure you have planned for each week to have something that will keep players engaged and looking forward to logging in, but not feel like it is their job to have to log in and clock in those hours each day.

So you have planned events with just enough time for the majority of players to complete everything, and then you move on to something else, and some events be intense battles and major upheavals and others be story builders and setups for the events to come.

An event doesn’t have to be the release of a full raid tier. An event cane be a fresh week of seasonal content that is actually fresh. It can be a small quest chain that is newly added that leads you to search places around the world seeking treasure, such as the treasure maps of old.

What an event has to do is give you something fresh to do, have the chance to offer you a reward no matter how small it is, and be something that breaks you free from a daily grind if only for a little while.

Sometimes, like in the first half of Mists of Pandaria, it seems Blizzard does everything right. And then we come to where we are today, and look around, and wonder… “Are they playing the same game we are? Or are they playing the alpha and have forgotten we’re stuck in the Timeless Isle, and all we want is to grab the skipper and Maryann and get the hell off?”

However World of Warcraft started, whatever the original goal, it’s event driven now.

As much as the game has grown and matured over the years, the philosophy behind content scheduling seems to be lagging a bit behind. I hope that the planning improves soon, because I’ve seen some of the new competition coming up, and while there is no such thing as a ‘WoW Killer’, there are certainly some developers who seem to be chomping at the bit to entice players away by promising them frequent content updates.

Remember, it doesn’t matter how big the content update, because when you’ve had nothing new to do for a half a year, anything starts looking pretty damn good.

If you be standing still while the lean and hungry go racing around you, maybe you be moving too slow, mon. And maybe you be the meal they waiting to eat.

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Welcome one and all to my raiding recruitment post for World of Warcraft!

Bear with me, this recruiting thing is new to me. But this is serious.

Are you excited about raiding (on Alliance side) once Warlords of Draenor is released, but you’re concerned with the changes coming to raid team sizes? Do you really want to raid, but you don’t yet have a team?

Why not consider joining Team Wanda and the Band of Misfits (Azuremyst-US)?

Team Wanda has had consistent success raiding in World of Warcraft, both normal and heroic modes, for years now but always as a ten person team.

Team Wanda is a progression raid team that is serious about killing bosses and completing achievements, but on a limited weekly raiding schedule. Balance!

With the changes coming to raid team sizes in Mythic, Team Wanda is looking to expand it’s roster with some determined, skilled raiders who are willing to work with others as part of a team, put forth a ton of effort and concentration into each boss attempt, and can consistently be on time and prepared.

Have I scared you off yet, or are you still interested?

Here is the plan.

During this summer, in less than a month, Team Wanda will be expanding from the current 10 person team to a 25 team, and begin raiding normal Siege of Orgrimmar. The first 25-person raid is planned for Wednesday, June 4th.

The purpose of starting the 25 team now is to take advantage of being able to play current content cross-server so that the new 25 person raiders can shake out, get used to working as a team, and give prospective new players from other servers a chance to get to know Team Wanda (and vice versa) and decide in advance whether server transferring to Azuremyst-US and the Band of Misfits guild for WoD raiding will work for you.

Let’s be honest, it also gives a new raider from another server a chance to make a new alt on Azuremyst, level up to max and get geared out before WoD is released, so the cost of a server transfer can be avoided if that’s a problem.

Team Wanda’s raid schedule is;

Wednesdays at 6 -8 server (PST)
Sundays 4-8 server (PST)
Occasional Saturdays 4-8 (PST) (during progression)

All schedules will be up on in-game calendar at least a month in advance, so you can plan for raids accordingly.

Team Wanda still needs about 7 full time raiders to fill out the Mythic team. 

One sad note… we’re full on Hunters. I know! But what can I say, Hunters are a popular class.

We would prefer to also have at least 3-4 more players to be part of the team that would be comfortable being rotated in/out on a weekly basis. This is called a bench, we would need it to ensure raids every week when a few people might have real life conflicts. So if you are serious about wanting to raid and giving your all, but you just can’t commit to raiding two or three nights every single week, you could choose to join the guild and be one of the members of the bench.  You’d obviously need to try to absolutely max out your raiding main so that when you are needed off the bench, you’re ready to go. Swapping in and out will help keep the gear up there.

So. Interested?

If you’d like to join and give it a try, contact Alkeehol#2134 (Tom, Team Wanda’s raid leader and Band of Misfits guild leader) for further details. Remember, our first 25 person raid is scheduled for Wednesday, June 4th.

Tom says he will be making himself available in the coming weeks for any inquiries. Remember, cross-server raiding is available until we get closer to the actual expansion, when it will be fish or cut bait time. Or server-transferring time, anyway.

Tom says that your current gear level is not a big issue, as we are building a team primarily for Warlords and not for Siege of Orgrimmar. Siege normal (and eventually heroic) is just our training ground for the new expansion.

You should be willing to start on the legendary cloak quest if you do not already have one on the character you are planning to raid with, as the buffs to drops coming later in the expansion will make it much easier to obtain.  With that in mind, green level gear will NOT be acceptable, there is an island full of free purples to get you started. This isn’t planned as a carrying service, even though it is pre-expansion raiding. There is an expectation of wanting to progress, which means putting in the work to do so, on both a team level and on an individual level.

Loot? I bet you have questions on loot.

Suicide Kings is currently the leading candidate for the 25 person Mythic loot system, however that isn’t set in stone just yet. Tier pieces are on a separate loot table and will be dealt with on a case by case. A majority of the raiders in our current team are fairly well geared in heroic gear, so gearing new players isn’t going to take a long time with the abundant drops that come from 25 mans.

Speaking for myself, BigBearButt’s raiding main, Ursinerate, has a decent smattering of heroic gear and I’m one of the bench players for the 10 person team. So when Tom says the current team is fairly well geared, he’s not kidding.

Yes, we’re serious.

I know the idea of expanding a raid team at the start of summer may sound strange, but if you think about it, when better to begin preparing, trying out new players and getting a team nailed down before the expansion comes out?

Currently the plan is to just tighten up and focus the team in advance of Warlords raiding, running as a 25 person normal Siege of Orgrimmar team and getting all the kinks worked out.

HOWEVER, that does not preclude any existing heroic raid progression.  Our current 10 man team clears Malkorok heroic weekly, and we would like to be able to get back to that if not PAST that point with our newly expanded 25 man squad in the days before Warlords of Draenor.

Wait, Bear. I thought you freaking quit?

Um.

Well, I haven’t yet. At this time I have canceled my account, but there are still 13 days active before it shuts down, and I really don’t know if I am going to be able to break the WoW habit or not, especially in the face of Team Wanda raiding. Maybe I’ll renew for the summer, maybe I won’t.

You should keep in mind that this isn’t about raiding with BigBearButt, I may or not be there, and if I’m not there over the summer I probably won’t have earned a spot in the team once Warlords of Draenor comes out.

If you talk to Tom, you should do so because you want to be part of the most kick ass and fun team full of upbeat energy and ‘can do’ attitude without whining or bitching I’ve ever seen. A team that doesn’t suffer fools gladly, or at all.

If I came, would I feel welcome?

It’s a sad commentary on our times (or on what I see on the internet, anyway) but it’s important to me to say that this is not an all frat-boy college-age raid team. There are people from all walks of life in this team right now, of all ages and sexes, and they are joined by a burning desire to kill some freaking internet dragons.

Don’t come expecting a problem and hoping to find something to offend you, and don’t bring your own problems with you to slop on other people. Respect goes both ways.

That means people won’t be talking racist or sexist crap, but at the same time there may very well be tons of jokes about how drunk some people (including the raid leader) may be during off night raids, because all walks of life are welcome, INCLUDING the hard drinking dragon slayer.

Long post, but we’re kicking it into high gear and hoping to fill out the team before the first raid on June 4th.

Interested?  Contact Alkeehol#2134 through Battle.net or send me an email with your questions to thebigbearbutt@gmail.com and put “Team Wanda” in the header.

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I saw a friend mention on Twitter today that he was about to embark on the wonderful journey that is treating Sleep Apnea.

Welcome to CPAP.

I’ve been using CPAP to treat sleep apnea myself for over a decade now, so I know there can be a lot to wonder about in the early weeks.

I didn’t know I had sleep apnea myself. I went in to be checked out because I snore. Like a hibernating bear. We had heard that some treatments for sleep apnea could help reduce or eliminate snoring, so I went in to have a sleep study done.

It was either I do that, or one fine morning Cassie would have had enough and slit my throat in my sleep.

As an amusing anecdote, my snoring was bad enough that one night while we were vacationing in a hotel up in the north woods, Cassie fled the room, went to the bathroom and fell asleep in the empty hot tub, huddled in blankets to try and escape the racket.

Sometimes, sleep apnea can be more life threatening than you realize. I’m telling you, she was gonna shank me for real.

Anyway, so I had a sleep study done and sure enough, I was diagnosed with fairly severe sleep apnea, and the use of a CPAP machine was prescribed.

I sat down and this was the conversation I had about my options afterwards.

“So here are two machines you can choose from, and here is the durable medical provider you will be using for everything, and here are a few mask styles, pick one.”
“But… how do I know what kind of mask I should use?”
“Just pick one.”
“How do I know what size to get?”
“Just pick one, try it, and if it doesn’t fit you’ll have to buy a different size.”
“Can’t I try some different sizes? Or get fitted or something… like, scientific?”
“No, if you put a mask on your face it can’t be resold so you have to buy it before you can try it on.”
“But… that’s got to cost a fortune.”
“That’s okay, your insurance company is paying for it.”
“But what about the machine, isn’t that expensive too?”
“Oh, you’ll be renting that and your insurance company will be paying the monthly rental fee.”
“For how long?”
“For however long you’re on the treatment.”

I’m not joking. And it hasn’t gotten much better, since it’s in the interest of durable medical equipment providers to do this, because hey, it’s not you that’s paying so what should you care if the rental fee for a CPAP machine, for three months, is more than it would cost you to BUY your own machine outright. Right?

Well, some of us do care.

The first thing you should know is, so long as you have your prescription for your CPAP equipment, specifying the pressure settings, you do not have to use any of the equipment providers most clinics try to guide you to. You can be a smart consumer.

I started with a small company called Midwest Medical, and they made a LOT of money off of my insurance company before I switched to a different one called Apria, which also got ridiculous amounts of money until I finally did my research and bought my own machine.

Since then, I use two online retailers of durable medical equipment, CPAP.com and CPAPxchange.com. I have most recently been using CPAPxchange for my equipment, masks, mask repair parts, hose covers, mask wipes, and I just bought a new machine last October from them, because they’ve been pretty outstanding in both price and service. I had one water reservoir arrived with the seal not quite right, and they shipped me a replacement instantly.

I don’t get any kickbacks from them, by the way. This isn’t a paid advertisement. I’m telling you about them because the Auto-CPAP machine with heated humidity I purchased last October cost me, total, $510, the Icon+. It’s been very good, except it’s loud. And I have to unplug it every morning, because the power supply transformer is under the water reservoir, so it heats the water in the chamber up just enough for condensation to form in the hose during the day. But I wanted an Auto-CPAP that was small, cheap, and had a heated humidifier with heated hose. All things considered, it’s outstanding.

Anyway, so for both those websites you can upload your prescription, they keep it on file, and you can purchase your equipment from them.

Also, while even to this day local medical equipment providers refuse to let you try on masks, these website stores have a policy where you can try it and return it if it doesn’t fit. You’re not stuck with a big bill on equipment you can’t use.

The online stores also have resources for many of their masks for fitting charts you can download, print out, cut out of paper and hold up to your face to figure out the right size before you order.

So, buy your gear wherever you want, but be smart. If someone tells you to rent for three months, and it’s going to be more than $500, why not just buy the damn thing? Then you’ve got it for years.

Now, CPAP fixed level or Auto.

Simple answer… auto CPAP will adjust to your pressure needs, and as long as you MAKE DAMN SURE your prescription specifies a high enough top level pressure range to suit your needs… even if your prescription changes over the next few years, it will adjust to you and keep your treatment at the right level. If you get a fixed pressure system and your prescription changes over time you’ll need to take the machine in for maintenance.

I would strongly advise you get a system that has a heated humidifier built in. A CPAP machine is going to be blowing air under pressure down your passages all night long. A heated humidifier will keep you from drying out, and that is very important. If your gums get too dry consistently, it can cause serious dental problems. Not to mention feeling like someone is sandpapering your throat.

I personally use a heated humidifier, and I also have a hose with a heating coil running through it, and I have a hose cover (an insulating blankie) wrapped around my hose. I’ve found that it all helps prevent the humidity from condensing in a cold room and becoming water once it reaches you. Yes, in Minnesota on cold winter nights, it has been known to get cold in a bedroom and condensation in your face sucks.

Your mileage, of course, may vary. I think I could do without the heated hose, since I’m using the hose cover.

All of this stuff can be bought online, by the way. I LOVE the hose cover, because it also helps protect the hose from getting kinked/crimped/crushed. Cheap too.

Okay, so mask sizing, online buying, know where you can find options, heated humidty, check.

Now the quality of life stuff.

I hate having stuff shoved up my nose. Some masks are designed with nasal pillows, a fancy way of saying they’re gonna shove stuff up your nose. I hate those things, so I use a full face mask. Also, that way if my mouth falls open while I’m sleeping, I still get my treatment. And I mostly don’t snore. I like a full face mask, but you should try what seems good for you. My personal favorite is the Quattro. Great cushioning, good headgear, and the mask itself is very quiet. believe it or not, the air leaving the vent holes/exhaust holes can get quite loud on some masks.

But the machine… what do you do if your machine is noisy? My current machine sounds like a jet turbine on takeoff.

What I did was make a sound chamber.

soundbox-closed

soundbox-open

It’s stupid simple to make one.

You need a cardboard box, a knife, and a box of sound absorbing acoustic panels from a home improvement store. They sell them in tile sizes so you can mount them on walls to absorb echoes. And you should be able to find them in a store for cheaper than most of the online places I saw that wanted an arm, a leg, and the mortgage to your house for some foam. I think the box of foam tiles I bought was around $30, the link above is to the pack I bought at the time. What price silence?

I cut a hole in the front of the cardboard box, cut the acoustic tiles to line every surface (with a matching hole in the front, of course) and made sure there was plenty of space all around the machine on the inside of the box for air flow. Air comes in through the hole in the front, has to move around the machine to the intake at the rear, and then into the machine and up through the hose. There are so many acoustic absorbing surfaces any noise would have to pass through, the thing runs dead silent.

None of it is glued, by the way. I trimmed the tiles so they all just fit together fine. The foam is stiff enough not to flop around.

It’s perfect, as long as you don’t mind having a machine in a cardboard box.

Oh, and since it’s just loose panels and a box, I can take it apart and stick it all flat in a suitcase when we travel. This box has been all over the place.

Then there is hose management.

One thing that always drove me crazy was having the hose pulling at the mask on my face.

So, I built a little handy-dandy hose hangar.

hosestand-placed

hosestand

It’s as simple as can be. A piece of wood big enough to slide between mattress and box spring. Some standard pipe pieces from a hardware store. I believe that’s a 1/2″ flange at the bottom with a threaded socket mounted on the board, 1/2″ pipe up to a reducer, a 1/2″ to 3/8″ reducer, then 3/8″ pipe up to a 45 degree bend and a T fitting. I started with 1/2″ for strength at the base and went to 3/8″ cause CHEAPER. And I used a S-carabiner that fit into the T fitting, that happened to have a big enough hook for the hose to slide in, but you could use rope or any sort of thing you cobble together as a hammock or sling for the CPAP hose to rest in.

The key thing for this is, the hose is hanging directly over my head, so no matter which way I turn in the night, nothing gets tangled, and nothing pulls on the mask.

Hmm. I think that’s all the tips I can think of for now. If you have questions, please by all means ask. This stuff is expensive, and you’re going to be spending a LOT of time sleeping with it on your face. It’s best if the stuff works for you.

Thanks for your time.

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