Twas Night Before Blaugust

It’s Almost Time

I know I have said this many times… but I have to say it again.  I am completely overwhelmed by the amount of support I have gotten for the path of madness known as Blaugust.  As of this morning when I compiled the list I will be posting shortly… we had 47 people signed up on the Blaugust Nook.  I absolutely suggest that you get out there and mingle with your fellow Blaugustians, because you are all embarking upon a mission together that will be challenging for many of you.  There is a shared spirit of struggle that binds us all, in our mission of creating thirty one days of content.  These events that we hold serve to galvanize our community, and create cohesion where it may or may not already exist.  More than anything however… this event is about tricking each and every one of you into realizing that you can in fact write content on a schedule.  Inspiration is a fickle muse…  but I am here to tell you that you don’t need her anyways!

The Blaugustians

Victor_Tour Without anymore rambling on my part… I introduce to you the challengers in the second running of the Blaugust games…  may the content ever be in your favor.

This is a pretty damned impressive group of blogs if I do say so myself.  During this years Blaugust I will be taking special note for the folks who also competed last year and will be coming up with some special recognition for repeat winners and survivors.  Remember it is not too late to join in the madness, and you can sign up on the Blaugust Nook thread at any point during the month and play catch up.  Lets make this the best Blaugust yet!

A First Prompt

What are you hoping to get out of Blaugust this year?

To make things a little easier on the Blaugustians I will be providing a writing prompt each day during the month of August in my morning posts.  These are of course completely optional, but if you find yourself stuck you can go to the writing prompt thread and hopefully find some ideas.  I highly suggest that we make the writing prompts a collaborative experience, and if you think of something good even if you are not going to use it yourself…  post it to the thread to help your fellow challengers.  I look forward to seeing all of the awesome stuff you fine folks create tomorrow.  I mentioned this yesterday but I also plan on suggesting some games of the week, in case you are struggling to find purpose.  Nothing creates content like your first time experiencing a new game, or even returning to a game you had forgotten about.  That said I don’t really want to roll these out today, but will instead include them in tomorrows post.

Anook Community Award

Prepping for Blaugust

At this point we are getting super close to the launch of Blaugust, and the sign ups keep coming on the Nook.  There is still time to sign up and be ready for the start of this exciting month.  Also remember there is zero penalty this year for starting late and catching up.  Last year my friend Tamrielo did something absolutely insane and wrote 31 really well formed posts in a 48 hour period.  While I would never suggest anyone do something like that, it is absolutely possible to start a week late and make up the missed progress.  Similarly I know folks will be attending Gamescom or Pax Prime during this month, so it is absolutely a good idea to stage the content ahead of time.  For the WordPress users out there I highly suggest you check out their pretty excellent mobile app (iOS, Android)  that gives you access to your blog on the go, and does a decent job of letting you compose a post on the go.

I tend to be a very pro WordPress person, but blogger is perfectly acceptible as well and while I have never used it there seems to be a mobile blogger client also (iOS, Android).  The primary reason why I tend to suggest WordPress is just that there is a path between WordPress.com free hosted service, and moving to a WordPress.org installation on your own custom hosting.  There are a number of guides out there to help this process along.  What I like so much about this is the fact that it lets someone get their feet wet and decide if this blogging thing is for them… before plunking down the money it takes to rent space on a web host and purchase a domain.  There are lots of people that never make the jump between COM to ORG, but it is nice that there is always that option if you want to do something with your blog that is not supported through the official channels.  There are also guides for going from Blogger to WordPress, but they tend to be far less straight forward.

Anook Community Award

Last night something really cool happened, namely that Lonrem the tirelessly working community manager of Anook.com posted an excellent “best practices” document on the Blaugust Nook.  If the document were not enough in helping people get the most out of their Anook experience… he also slipped a tidbit of information in down at the bottom.  For a few weeks now we had been talking about Anook wanting to sponsor some sort of award.  It was finally decided that the best way to have an Anook reward is to have the users of the website vote on their favorite posts.  Here are the basics of this award posted straight from his document.

I’ll also announce here that Anook is going to support Blaugust with a special prize! I’m going to tally up the Hearts that each blog post gets for each blogger (Blaugger?) and award the top blog with a game code. I’m going to see if I can round up other prizes from some of our friends and partners as well, no promises there! This does give a bit of an incentive to post regularly, start on the first of August, but also to share the link to your blog on Anook! If you’ve got any questions, let me know!

This is really awesome to have our first “real” sponsor…  because my pocket didn’t really count.  Last year when I started this, I decided to host the challenge off of Anook because it is a network that I love.  Lonrem singlehandedly won me over with his devotion, and the features basically keep me from ever having to build yet another custom SMF forum for anything.  So I fly the Anook banner on my stream and mention it on every AggroChat just because I love the site.  I am humbled that the site is returning some of that love and helping us get this challenge started in a bigger and better way this year.  I’ve had an idea through this contest of creating a games of the week where I suggest a handful of free to play games that folks play, and then write about their experience to help get those creative juices flowing.  While I might have been dreading the loss of my free time that Blaugust means…  I am absolutely getting pumped about how much more “real” this whole thing feels for 2015.

Surprise Alex

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-22 20-49-54-61 It is not uncommon for me to log in to Final Fantasy XIV in the evening and hear the all too familiar chime of a group invite before the game has completely loaded.  My guildies are used to ninjaing me into tanking all manner of things, and I assumed that it was yet another case of “daily expert”.  So I accepted the invite without thinking much about it, and found myself shocked when I saw the Alexander loading screen.  To make matters worse the ninja alex was turn 2, which is quite possibly the most frustrating thing for a tank to take on without having a second tank in there that they trust.  The problem being that pugs like to stack all of the mobs together, which makes it impossible for the tanks to effectively hold aggro on them.  What happens instead is that both tanks burn through all of their resources and the mobs spend the entire fight bouncing back and forth between them.  This would be fine and good if it were safe for a single tank to take them on… problem being that in the later phases you have to try and carefully split the damage to even it out.  All of the mobs on one tank is pretty much a certain wipe.

The positive of getting pulled into Alex like this however is that it took away my normal reluctance to such things, and as of last night I now have three of my four pieces of loot for the week.  All that is left is Turn 1, and quite honestly it is the least stressful for me to pug.  The tanks have clearly defined roles and for the most part they go fairly smoothly now that most people are pretty well geared.  At this point for that final item I want either a chain which would instantly give me a belt, or a pedal… which would also instantly give me an item because I have a second one in my inventory.  I have to say the way gearing works in Alex is a little maddening, but I feel that honestly it is their way of trying to delay people reaching level 190 geared.  With Esoterics in place, I can’t really see going for say the Alexander chest piece since it takes getting a lucky roll four weeks in a row on Turn 4.  My first Esoterics item of course will be the 200 weapon, because for a tank that is the single most useful upgrade.  After that I will probably assess my weakest pieces and go after what I need the most…  which is more than likely going to be my chest piece.  Of course in the mean time Square could do what they seem to always do… and change up the game by taking away loot restrictions.  That said I still think it is a little early in the patch for that to actually happen, and more than likely won’t be until 3.1.

Muscle Memory

Unexpected Happenings

ffxiv 2014-09-14 22-10-22-567 There is a specific moment in my time playing Final Fantasy XIV where I realized that the Cactuar community was something special.  It was the night that we purchased our Free Company house, and all of these neighbors showed up to welcome us to the neighborhood.  Many of those folks welcoming us were from the Howling Moon free company, and over the months of playing I got used to seeing all of these people hanging out at the Marketboard right in front of our house.  Among them the pair that I got closest with was Ayla and Joren Noye.  There were many nights like this one where we did silly things to pass the time between queues.  Then several months ago they disappeared, as did most of the people I had become close with from that Free Company.  I asked around in the guild but no one seemed to know what happened.  It is always hard when friends disappear that you are close with…  but not yet close enough to exchange all of those personal details.

With Heavenward they were back as I had hoped, but started playing a little later than most.  I guess over those months they had some personal stuff to deal with, but I was amped to have them back wandering around in our neighborhood.  Since then at least once a night we exchanged random happy emotes and a flurry of /say conversation as we fiddled with our retainers.  When I got the hint that maybe things were not as wonderful in their guild as they once were, I did the thing that I always do…  offered them a home.  I didn’t really expect them to take me up on the offer, but last night as I was starting my daily hunts… I got a tell out of the blue from Joren.  He told me that things just weren’t the same, and if it was still okay he would like to take my offer.  Needless to say I was absolutely thrilled and delayed a guild dungeon run until they were ready for the invites.  I cannot put into words just how excited I am to have them on board, we may even have to reconvene the council of squishy hats to celebrate.

Muscle Memory

Skyforge 2015-07-25 10-30-27-07 This morning I happened to randomly click through to a re-tweeted blog post from DragonChasers about SkyForge.  On it was a comment from the blogger Jeromai that struck a bit of a chord with me, because I am absolutely the sort of person that would frustrate him.

You know what’s really frustrating to me? People who can do it (whatever it is), but cannot describe or break down or teach exactly -how- they are doing it, beyond “I dunno, I just do it” or “here, just watch a video of me doing it,” or worse, “lol, it wuz easy, I don’t know how come you can’t do it.”

To me, folks who really know what they’re doing can also break down and explain roughly what they’re doing or the tactics they’re using or what they’re keeping track of, even if execution by someone else requires a lot of personal practice.

Sometimes people say that they don’t really know how to explain it, because they don’t want to explain it.  For  me personally I quite literally cannot explain how I do half of the things I do.  Essentially I try and commit as much of the things that I do to muscle memory as I can, so that I can do them… without thinking about them.  So when I tank an instance… I do so many little things that I can’t really break apart the things that I am doing automatically… from the things that I am doing intentionally.  I’ve always been a player that played mostly on instinct and reflex rather than mindful reflection on strategy.  I think this all comes from why I play games.  Ultimately they are a means of relaxation for me, and many times I find myself zoning out into the sublime motion of playing the game without really having to think about it.    This has strengths and weaknesses, and the big problem that I run into particularly is when I have to unlearn my reflexes and replace them with something else.

For example on the Titan Extreme fight in Final Fantasy XIV there is a place where I absolutely have to ignore every instinct I have built up and stop myself from running back into the boss after an attack.  I struggled with that for our first attempts, because I had to commit an exception to the rule to muscle memory knowing that there would be a follow up attack that would kill me if I ran right back in.  The other big weakness is there are so many things that I do on a daily basis that I cannot tell you step by step what I am doing unless I happen to be sitting at the keyboard and doing them.  At work I am awesome at fixing problems and troubleshooting things…  but I am horrible at trying to walk someone else through the process of doing all of these things.  The positive is…  once something has been committed to reflex it stays with you forever.  I fired up F-Zero the other day for likely the first time in two decades… and I still knew every corner and place to use my booster on the tracks and easily got first place.  Same goes for an MMO, I can sit down in front of a game that I have not played in years… and if I set the hot bars up the same way as i had them before I can return to playing the game like no time has passed.

The Final Stretch

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-28 06-12-59-16 My big accomplishment for the night is finally pushing across the line and dinging 59.  I was able to replace the lance that I absolutely hated with this pretty cool one from the Ancient Library dungeon.  This is the point where I realize that I have apparently not run the library as much as I thought I had.  When it came to the level 57 gear, I had most of a set… and apparently do for just about every possible class I would care to level.  The 59 gear however from Library, I have only a small smattering of pieces and next to nothing when it came to lancer gear.  Thankfully I had squirreled away a set of High Quality 58 gear from the quests… since at that point I technically had better gear on my Warrior from running dungeons.  That should more than get me through to 60 before really needing anything else gear wise.  When I hit 60 I have waiting on me a 180 weapon, and a bunch of 170 and 160 pieces that should make up pretty much a full set.

My hope is that I will be able to leap frog to 170 the Alexander requirement pretty quickly.  The thing I need to sort out in the meantime is how to do a better job of maintaining the Blood of the Dragon buff.  The problem that I keep running into is that I will get thrown into a situation where I cannot safely get back to the boss in time to hit either a Fang and Claw proc or Wheeling Thrust.  So my buff drops…  and I have to wait whatever is left of the minute long recast time to throw the buff up again.  I assume that once I hit 60, if there is a situation where I know Blood of the Dragon is about to fall… this is when I mix in a Gierskogul to spend the buff on an attack rather than let it fade completely.  Remember the whole muscle memory thing from above?  I had a previous rotation committed to that swap space… and now have to revise it.  Given some time at 60 I will relearn what I need to do, because honestly I am not looking for the insanity of the optimal dragoon rotation…  but instead looking for something that is “passable”.  I don’t care if I beat our top dps… but I just want to make sure I am not the bottom of the pack either.  I feel like I just don’t have enough of a competitive nature to ever be a truly successful dps player.

Fifty Eight Singularity

Blaugust Update

Right now we are three days away from the beginning of Blaugust, and at this point I am happy with the pre-event response.  If my count is correct, we have 35 different people signed up to do the challenge, and as I remember last year we managed to pick up a bunch of people after the start.  This is a bit of a double edged sword for me at least, because while I am amped as hell to see all these fine folks participating…  I am also realizing that in three days time my casual reading of the internet is over.  I flip into stat keeper mode as I tabulate the posts that folks have made on which day to verify that at the end of the month they have in fact made their thirty one posts.

Blaugust is this strange dichotomy in that for most people it has nothing to do with the prizes that will be handed out at the end.  However since I am offering them as an additional carrot…  I feel like I have to perform my due diligence and keep track of everything.  So as we near the start of this event I am a mixture of anticipation and dread.  My hope is that everyone will include the day they are posting for in their post so that I can easily checkmark off a post on a given day.  I struggled so much trying to reconcile timezones last year, and folks proclivity for posting after midnight but meaning it for the previous day.  I remember Joseph Skyrim was amazingly awesome about always including what day he was posting for, which made the whole Australia thing so much easier.  I think in the coming days I will go back through the list of people who did it last year and determine just how many are repeat participants.  Just giving things a summary glance it certainly seems like there are many.

Finally Alex Four

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-22 21-39-55-23 I am just realizing that apparently yesterday… I did not actually have FRAPS running while playing Final Fantasy XIV.  So that means all of the times I thought I was taking a screenshot, I apparently was not.  As a result you are getting a screenshot from Turn 3 of Alexander instead of Turn 4 as I intended.  For the last several weeks I had been hoping to run Alexander will a full guild group, however last Wednesday we struggled a bit on Turn 2 and only managed to get through Turn 3 before running out of time.  Turn 4 is a huge deal, not necessarily because of the fight… but because the quest turn in at the end of it rewards a Gordian Bolt.  For a little over a week now I have been staring at my 170 ring and grimacing because it was my one sub 180 that I still had.  So the drive to get through Alexander Four was pretty strong for me, because it meant I would finally be able to replace that last ring with a shiny new 190 ring.

Yesterday afternoon I finally got the courage to pug it with zero guidance from the guild, and in truth it was not nearly as painful as I had expected.  Firstly the fourth turn is a blast and is one of the few fights where I find the off tank role far more enjoyable than the main tank.  There is a mechanic that works somewhat like C’Thun’s swallow mechanic from World of Warcraft, causing the off tank and another player to get sucked through a series of tubes into another room.  There you have to burn down a “Doll” add within a certain timeframe before getting pulled back into the main room again.  For me personally this meant rationing my cool downs so that I could survive, but also hoping and praying that I got a heal upon exiting…  because you literally get sucked in back to back if the dps is going too slowly.  There was a bard that each time I got paired with her, which is strange because you would think with all of the recent buffs that would have been a great choice to burn the add.  Anyways… it took about four attempts but we managed to get it.  I did both the main tank and off  tank roles, but like I said I absolutely prefer to off tank it simply because seeing my tiny Lalafell self go flying through the air is hilarious.

Fifty Eight Singularity

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-26 20-13-33-56

Yesterday I had a decision to make, and I think I hinted at it in my blog post (truth is I rarely remember what I write from day to day).  Essentially I could either grind out all of the esoterics I needed to cap, or instead I could work on my Dragoon.  In truth I split it down the middle and pushed my Esoterics a little higher, before ultimately retiring for the evening to work on the Dragoon.  I ran a course of three Vaults, and still am coming up short in experience to push across the finish line. As a result as I was starting to get more sluggish right before bed time, I decided to do my first Levequests of the expansion.  One of the strange things about Heavensward is that all Levequests come from an NPC in Foundation just up the ramp from the Aetheryte crystal.  This means that the game freaks out slightly when you attempt to accept the port after finishing one.  In the Dravinian Hinterlands it kept dropping me off at the Bigwest Shortstop instead of actually porting me back to the foundation.  This makes me think that the game initially intended there to be Levequest vendors in every zone, but ended up deciding that they wanted to try a centralized vendor in Foundation instead.

The problem being that Fifty Eight still seems like a hellaciously long level, even with the Armory Bonus firmly in place.  I did a grand total of six level 58 levequests, and each one barely made the xp bar move.  However I was able to whittle it down to just enough that I think by doing my hunts tonight I might actually be able to ding.`  The reason why I want 59 so badly is somewhat stupid…  mainly I am tired of the lance that I am using.  I think it looks ugly as shit… but for the single level I am using it… I cannot bring myself to spend the money to glamour it to something more enjoyable.  Especially when I know that I have a level 59 lance waiting on me.  It is at the very least giving me that added push to get the hell out of this level on onwards to the final push for 60.  I have also gotten a little sick of running the Vault.  It was awesome the first dozen times I was in there, but now the music is grating on my nerves.  I also simply think that the Library is a much more enjoyable dungeon, and does not have a death trap of a boss quite the same way as The Vault does.  I still find that final encounter in Vault to be the hardest in the leveling dungeons, and I feel sorry when I see a healer struggling to keep up with the massive room wide damage.  Hopefully tonight will see me dinging 59, and I can move on to more enjoyable pastures.

Om Nom Dance

A Late Start

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-25 16-00-09-11 I am getting a super late start this morning on my blog post… well because things and reasons.  Last night when we finished recording AggroChat, my wife asked if it was time for bed or if I needed to stay up and edit the podcast.  I thought to myself… that bed sounded like an amazing idea and just straight up crashed.  This meant that this morning however I had to rush around a bit and edit the post while consuming breakfast.  Another thing I noticed is that apparently Final Fantasy XIV patched out their idle kick, because I was still standing in there in the middle of the Dravinian Lowlands afk all night long.  I was apparently similarly lazy in logging out from Teamspeak, which meant as folks started trying to pull things together… I went ahead and agreed to tank a few things.

Also I finally got around to doing my Minotaur Om Nom Nom Dance video voice over.  One of the dungeons that you unlock at 60 is the Fractal Continuum which includes a really strange fight.  At face value the Minotaur works just like pretty much all of the Cyclops encounters you have fought to this point.  He alternates between doing a frontal cone attack that you need to dodge and a full 360 degree sweep attack that you also should avoid.  Where it differs however is he will start channeling a group wipe attack, that you can only break… but essentially feeding him a mob.  While doing this he does a goofy little dance of sorts…  which I have taken to voicing over when I tank the dungeon.  This generally throws Grace into a fit of hysterics laughing… so I decided I should really edit together a video of the “dance”.

AggroChat 67 – The Astebreed Show

Astebreed 2015-07-25 12-08-56-63 This week we record yet another AggroChat Game Club game featuring the game Astebreed, which is an interesting mix of strange Anime Storytelling and Bullet Hell shooter. What makes the game very unique is that you are a mech… with a sword as well as your laser weapons. As far as the story goes, I think several of us were equally confused so we rely on Tam to decode it all for us… because he apparently was able to follow it the entire way. We have a lot of conversation about the tone of the game, the boss fights, the controls that may or may not have worked… and the total package.

Since adding Grace and Thalen to the podcast they were not in the initial rotation of AggroChat picks, so we did the most gamer thing ever… and rolled some dice before the show to graft them into the rotation. That means for the month of August Grace got to pick a title and we will be playing the bird dating sim… Hatoful Boyfriend… and Kodra was happier than I have ever heard him be. He loves this game, and drove us slightly mad with it when he was playing it. Now we are going to get to experience this madness for ourselves, and I am willing to bet that Game Club Seven is going to be one of the more interesting episodes of AggroChat in our history.

In Search of Esoterics

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-20 21-02-13-11 I have been a massive slacker this week when it came to grinding Esoterics, and as such am sitting at around 180.  As a result I need a whole bunch today and tomorrow in order for me to have a shot in hell of hitting the 450 weekly cap.  Generally speaking if you log in every day and run an expert roulette dungeon… you can cap fairly easily.  Guess what I have not been doing at all.  Essentially I have just not been up for group content and as a result I have been playing an awful lot of SkyForge in the meantime which is almost entirely a soloing experience for me.  However after dropping a bunch of stress last night, and finishing the paperwork on our impending home renovations I am starting to feel a little less “under the gun”.  Sure I could stress about it some more, but in my mind the decision process is over and now we just have to wait for everything to happen.

I did however have a nightmare scenario run through my mind this morning, that makes me wonder just how they are going to deal with our cable connection while ripping off the siding.  I really hope I will not be without internet for two weeks.  This afternoon my plan is to sit here and grind expert dungeons for anyone who is willing to run them with me, and as a result whittle away my missing esoterics.  I would really like to be able to get that tasty level 200 weapon within the first three weeks.  If not there is always the next two weeks I can cap to make that happen, but preferably I would like to be getting as many as I can at least until I get a few pieces of gear under my belt.  The rest of the time however I am still working on pushing my Dragoon higher and at this point I am still roughly 3/4 of the way through 58.  It kinda sucks to have dueling priorities, because I would really love to get him at 60 and geared so I have other options than just tanking.

FATE Grinding Go!

Home Improvement is Scary

A good chunk of our week has revolved around planning for some renovations around the house, and I have to say the whole process kind of wigs me out.  I have been acting pretty calm and collected because I know it also stresses my wife out…  but I feel like I am wading out into an ocean that I know very little about.  The long and short of it is that we live in a house with wood siding, which is not exactly ideal for the climate extremes of Oklahoma.  Additionally our climate seems to really be a positive environment for termites…  and when we moved in we knew the house had some issues.  Then a little over a year after moving in… we had our first swarm.  We have been on a termite plan since and it has been nearly a decade of having zero activity, but we know there is some underlying damage in the siding, but other than cosmetic issues we had not really had any problems.

That is of course until recently when we during a particularly hurricane like horizontal rain… we had a very small leak in our kitchen ceiling.  After having the roofers out, they thought it was coming in along the garbage edge of siding and up over the flashing.  This is the point at which we first noticed… just how bad our siding really was.  Throughout the course of the week we had numerous contractors out who gave estimates… and we think we have maybe decided on a company and a product.  Right now we are looking at replacing all of the wood siding with fiber cement, which is this crazy stuff that feels like ceramic tile, but looks like wood.  But this means some major money, which has us also sorting out financing options.  Being an adult is an extremely frustrating thing.  We think we have a plan figured out… but even though I know this is something that really needs to be done… it is a massive decision.  I know things will work out in the end, but this whole process is exceptionally stressful for the moment.

CPUCores

I was asked by someone on my steam friends list last night, if this program worked since I had been running it.  I actually just started testing it last night, even though I purchased it long before it showed up on steam.  I do not remember how much I paid when I bought it, but I want to say it was somewhere around the $10 mark.  It promised to improve your FPS by improving your CPU utilization, and  this is something I had been frustrated by in the past.  The machines I use are quad core or six core… and it always felt like very little of my CPU time was actually being used.  At the time I figured what the hell, purchased it… and then got busy messing with other things.  When they went on steam the developer was nice enough to send me out a Steam key as well, and yesterday I actually started testing it.  Is this digital snake oil?  Well honestly… all I can really offer is a heartfelt shrug.

cpucores_wow_without_30fps I did some testing this morning with World of Warcraft which is one of the most poorly optimized games that I have played when it comes to utilizing multiple cores.  Hell lets me honest, the game itself is horribly optimized in general… but my theory was that this game seems to be extremely CPU limited, so in theory if CPU Core optimization would help any game it should help this one.  The above graph is taken from task manager and shows that for the most part all of the cores are running at around the same amount of load and an overall 36% utilization of my CPU.  In World of Warcraft itself I was standing in my Garrison and setting roughly 30 frames per second.  The latest release of CPU Cores features a “CPU Cores It” button allowing you to scan your current process list and apply  the change to an application that is running.  If you look at the graph below you see that with CPUCores turned on, it is now pegging two of my six cores and as a whole the CPU utilization is now 64%.  In game I was still standing in my Garrison but saw a jump from 30 fps to 40 fps… which is not really earth shattering but still not too shabby and is in line with what a lot of the reports seemed to indicate.

cpucores_wow_with_40fps The confusing thing is however… that it seems like CPUCores is only really using two of my six cores.  There are some settings in there to manually override what cores it is actually using to run things, so I figure I will continue to fiddle with it and see what I can get from it.  I didn’t actually record any of my measurements last night, but I saw a bigger jump when using my laptop.  I actually started to see comparable performance to my desktop which was kinda massive.  The general advice in the community is that this is designed for medium end systems to get some additional performance out of them, and that if you already have an extremely high performance system… it is likely not going to do anything for you.  Normally speaking I run Final Fantasy XIV Heavensward on my laptop around 30-40 fps… but last night with CPUCores running I was seeing 60-70 fps which is a big jump.  Laptops are notoriously bad at CPU utilization because they are designed to safe energy whenever they can.  I feel like maybe that is the magic bullet here for using this application, because honestly the results on my gaming desktop do not warrant the purchase.  I largely bought the app because I was curious if it worked, and for the most part it does seem to do something… because a 10 fps increase is still a 10 fps increase no matter how you chop it.  My hope is that over time it will continue to work better and it seems like they are just now starting to try and optimize for AMD processors.  As always… your mileage may vary and I probably would not have paid the current $20 price tag on steam.

FATE Grinding Go!

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-24 20-12-04-49

So it appears that with 3.0.5 the changes to FATE experience have been noticed by the community.  As I looked at Duty finder it actually scrolled for the first time in a long while, with multiple FATE parties happening in different zones.  I decided to join the train in Dravinian Hinterlands and it seemed like the time spent was worth my time.  I had dinged 58 earlier in the day while running a dungeon with guildies, and after a bit of FATE grinding I managed to get to around the halfway mark to 59.  It is my hope that today I can run some more dungeons and FATEs and make a serious push for 59.  The community seems to have been reinvigorated by the patch, and it is shocking just how good Square Enix is at timing their content.  In the days leading up to this recent patch it felt like there was a slowing down as people finished their Law grind.  Instead now everyone is actively buzzing again as they are trying to get as much Esoterics as they can, so that within three weeks they can get those tasty tasty level 200 weapons.

Skyforge 2015-07-22 23-08-02-51 When I decided that I needed a break from FATE grinding, I opted to pop over into SkyForge and work on finishing unlocking all of the costumes.  After having played the tutorial as every class currently in the game… I have to say they all feel very unique.  You have everything from the mad bomber feel of the Alchemist, to the skill shots of the Archer, to the insane melee flurry that is the Slayer.  The problem is… the three classes that you get to choose from at the start are without a doubt the most generic feeling of all of the classes that I played.  This is rather unfortunate because while I feel it gives people a desire to unlock that class that they really want to play, it makes the initial grind feel meaningless and pointless since you ultimately have to play the lesser of the starter evils to get there.  I feel like this game could benefit from the Marvel Heroes approach to classes, allowing you to play a little of each of them and then after the tutorial choose the one you wanted to unlock.  I feel like eventually they will let us outright purchase these classes, but I have found that option sorely missing from the cash shop.  I would absolutely pay to unlock the Berserker for example or the Slayer…  but since I missed out on the founders packs I have no real way to do that.

Scattered Evening

Orcs Must Die Unchained

SpitfireGame 2015-07-24 06-18-30-01 This morning I am struggling more than a little bit.  The last couple of nights have combined being up fairly late with not really sleeping that terribly well on top of it.  As a result I am significantly more groggy than normal this morning and also more than a little late getting started with the blog post.  A good chunk of this mornings posting time was spent playing the opening tutorial for Orcs Must Die Unchained.  A few weeks back I posted my treatise on exactly what I meant when I said I wanted a PVE MOBA.  One of the first comments came from a friend of mine…  who may or may not work for Robot Entertainment.  He said they were just patching in a new gameplay mode that sounded pretty close to what I was describing.  So yesterday myself and practically everyone I know who signed up for beta…  got into the game and I finally got around to testing it out this morning.

I have to say what I have seen briefly in the tutorial gives me hope that maybe this might fit the bill.  I am going to have to spend more time playing it to really see, but it feels less tower defense and more dungeon keeper which I am okay with.  Granted I did not play Orcs Must Die 2, and I am guessing a lot of the gameplay evolutions come from that title.  The tutorial starts you off playing the sorceress which was a strike against it, but I am sure as soon as I can get my hands on a melee champion I will be just fine.  It seems like there is a lot to figure out as far as trap placement, because I absolutely thought I would stop most of a minion wave… but barely phased them.  There is also an interesting card collecting aspect that allows you to summon specific minions in each “warcamp” which seems pretty interesting as well.  I will spend some more time this weekend playing this to give it a more proper test, but so far it seems interesting.

Astebreed

Astebreed 2015-07-23 18-25-25-16 This weekend is the AggroChat Game Club show devoted to Ashgar’s pick…  Astebreed.  The bulk of my evening was spent playing this and I made it to chapter five before my thumb got sore enough that I wanted to take a break.  I am really really hoping that the game will let me continue where I left off… because I am not really looking forward to playing back through the four chapters to get to the point where I left off.  My opinion of the game is somewhat mixed right now, but hopefully I will get some more play time in before Saturday.  I am not sure how far from the end of the game I really am, but based on some quick googling it looks like the game has six chapters as a total.  The game play has been fun, especially since it lets me win by slashing things to death with a sword…  which is not exactly something that most SHMUPS do.  I wouldn’t really call this a bullet hell shooter, but there are definitely moments where there is a silly amount of stuff on screen that you have to try and navigate.

The biggest positive is the fact that your ship actually has a surprising amount of health.  Usually in a SHMUP you get one or two hits before you lose a life, and in Astebreed you can actually soak up a surprising amount of damage before having to be concerned with death.  Essentially at the end of Chapter 5 I encounter what I would consider the first really hard boss, and quite frankly by that time my thumbs were sore and I was ready to just be done for awhile.  The boss had this super annoying attack that caused you to fly around the screen to avoid it…  which meant you were not putting ANY damage into the boss.  My theory is that you needed to use your missile lock type functionality while flying around to avoid damage…  but I didn’t put in enough attempts to really test this one out.  According to steam I have only actually put in 71 minutes… but it felt like significantly longer.  I did manage to get a very “Bel” achievement called “Too Much Destruction” where I apparently killed 30 of these missile batteries on the boss at the end of Chapter Four.

Scattered Evening

Skyforge 2015-07-23 22-27-16-48 The rest of the evening was significantly less focused, and I think a combination of sleep deprivation and having spent a little over an hour mashing buttons on a controller furiously left me in a bit of a stupor.  I ultimately went downstairs and booted up the laptop, patching things up so that I could do something.  I managed to watch through the first four episodes of the Humans television show, and I am actually enjoying it quite a bit.  It is an excellent mix of creepy and endearing at the same time… and I am happy to see Katherine Parkinson that I know largely from IT Crowd.  I attempted to play some Final Fantasy XIV but ultimately logged out after running a Vault on my Dragoon.  I was feeling super disconnected from the world and my free company, so I slinked off into the shadows and booted up something I could solo without any human contact.  Right now that game is SkyForge, and I spent some time working through another big open area…  and my desire to “complete all the things” is ultimately what lead me to stay up so damned late again… only furthering the zombie like state.

Skyforge 2015-07-23 23-05-01-29

The strangest thing about SkyForge so far is the fact that I do not have a single person on my friends list.  Even in games that I am only thinking of playing for a few minutes…  I still usually have a batch of people on my radar of sorts.  I think this is a side effect of Final Fantasy XIV being my social game right now… and this being a game when I just want to blend into the crowd.  I am not terribly opposed to having people on my friends list and you can find me there as Belghast Sternblade, but this is absolutely not a grouping game for me right now.  I am enjoying poking my way around and soloing the content, and as counter intuitive as it might sound… I am really starting to enjoy the fact that every mission seems to have both solo and grouping options.  Last night I very much felt like my interaction batteries were completely drained, so I just needed to spend some “me time” while slicing enemies with a sword.  All things considered though the more I play of it, the more enjoyment I am getting out of SkyForge.  It seems like just about the perfect foil to Final Fantasy XIV and does a good job at giving me an option to play that doesn’t require a lot out of me.

Begrudging Enjoyment

Even More Clarifications!

Starting to get really amped because two days in we have like two pages worth of signups on the forum thread.  Since I guess I am the grandmaster of ceremonies, I am getting random questions and have been doing my best to assuage fears.  When those questions seem general enough that someone else might have them… I have taken to dumping them in the intro to a morning blog post to help clarify for anyone else reading that might be interested.  One of the interesting questions that I had yesterday was if folks could mix things up a bit.  Since I am opening the door to vlogging, it was wondered if you could do a mix of the two.  The short answer is absolutely!  The long answer is just make sure you post your video embedded in a blog post, and advertise it on the Blaugust Nook with what day it was for, just to make my life less hell when it comes to tracking and tabulating this madness.

Next question is what happens if a given blogger is obligated to be posting every so often on another site?  Do they have to also post something new for that day on their personal blog?  The easy answer here is yes…  but with an asterisk.  If you are posting a bigger entry somewhere else, it is absolutely cool to post a stub on your own blog linking to the bigger post.  Just do a quick synopsis of the post and let folks click through if they want to read more about it.  This way you technically have your daily post, but also are linking to the article that you spent the bulk of your daily writing time working on.  This is maybe a strange case, but I know that several of our bloggers do the occasional long form article for another source.  The important thing is that we need it tracked through the Blaugust Nook so I can give you appropriate credit.

Night of Alex

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-22 21-41-38-05 Pretty much since its inception I have been helping out with the Wednesday night static in our free company.  Initially I had intended it to simply be something that I filled in on, but as I dropped my World of Warcraft raiding… I found that I had time to commit to it more seriously.  So presently with the Monday night crew we are working through Final Coil of Bahamut, and on Wednesday nights we have been working on Normal mode Alexander.  Last night we had every intention of getting through all four wings, but we struggled a bit with turn two due to some changes in how we were dealing with the adds.  As soon as we went back to the way we had previously defeated it, things clicked back into place and we pushed through it fairly easily.  That took us to turn three, a fight that I had not actually seen yet.  Thanks to the expert tutelage of Wulf or as “Wul” as his friends call him…  I was caught up to speed and after the second attempt it started to feel pretty natural.

From here it was just learning this particular dance and getting our dps up high enough to burn through it before we hit the hard enrage.  Right now that seems to be a problem in general with what we are trying to do.  We struggled with the dps check on Bismarck, and struggled again on turn three.  As a  Warrior I am personally swapping to Deliverance stance every single time I am not in the main tank role so I can push a little more dps and also trying to keep up Storm’s Eye as often as possible… largely when I don’t actually need the damage reduction effect of Storm’s Path.  If we can somehow solve the problems we are having on the DPS end however I think we are ready to rock higher content.  The dance part seems to come pretty naturally, however there were still several points last night where folks stood in damage that could have been avoided.  Part of this is learning, but part of this is trying desperately to avoid tunnel vision.

Begrudging Enjoyment

Skyforge 2015-07-22 22-22-05-86 I’ve gone through a strange evolution with SkyForge of having some vague interest, but finding the game play largely unsatisfying for my first few play sessions.  Now that I have unlocked the core abilities of the Paladin, I am actually finding it rather enjoyable.  I think this game suffers from what so many games suffer from…  rationing of abilities.  I know Final Fantasy XIV has this problem where most classes don’t really feel like they should until you are around level 40.  SkyForge for the most part has this problem until you have unlocked your base abilities.  Had I taken the time to really spend much time in the virtual matrix thing that lets you test every class, I would have realized that the rabbit hole was so much deeper than I was giving it credit for.  Another interesting side note… if you finish the training on a given class you unlock the ability to permanently use its class costume.

Skyforge 2015-07-22 23-22-31-75 I booted up SkyForge after the raid last night, with every intention of just poking my head in and then logging right out.  Instead I wound up unlocking three costumes and completing a really cool dungeon like mission on an island full of undead Virds.  With all of my abilities unlocked the fights started feel more purposeful in design, and less about simply repeating the same attack over and over.  There was a boss that required me to intersect one type of beam while avoiding taking the other… and actually dragging the boss into the path of it so that it would take the damage.  This felt fresh and enjoyable, so maybe I simply had not seen the “real” game yet.  This is ultimately the frustration of designs that doll out abilities one at a time, is that you can’t really see what the final result is going to be like until you have invested a serious amount of effort into the game.  Granted this game DID give me an avenue to see how a Paladin or Knight would play…  but I simply did not spend much time doing it.  Tonight I plan on trying to unlock a few more of these class costumes, so I can get a feel for how some of the other options play.  Right now this is shaping up to be an MMO with MOBA character design… and I think I dig this.

A Small Patch

Blaugust Clarifications

Yesterday I had a handful of questions about Blaugust that I thought I should address this morning, just in case anyone else had it.  Firstly it is absolutely okay to write content ahead of time and stage it to release over the course of the month.  With both Pax Prime and Gamescom happening during the month of August, this is more than likely going to cut into some writers schedules.  I know last year there were several folks doing great… and then they went to Gamescom and dropped off the face of the planet.  Being able to cover schedule irregularities is a necessary coping skill to deal with keeping a schedule.  While I personally prefer not to schedule posts ahead of time, quite literally everyone else does this.  So for the purpose of Blaugust this still absolutely counts towards your thirty one posts.

Another question that I had is whether or not it is cool to tell a story in thirty one parts.  This is also absolutely fine, and like I said yesterday this is a challenge about longevity and regularity…  not necessarily what you are writing about.  A prime example of this is during my NaNoWriMo run in 2013… I knew that I could not do it and blog at the same time.  So instead I just posted my nightly words each day as my blog post.  So over the course of the month I essentially broadcast the draft of my story to the world.  In the case of the person who asked me yesterday, they wanted to write the back story of their primary game character over the course of the month.  That seems completely valid, and at the same time something that would be extremely awesome.  The constraints of this contest are about producing thirty one posts during the month, and so long as those posts mean the constraints of the challenge you are doing just fine.

A Small Patch

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-22 06-32-08-08 I have a good friend Rylacus who is going to be starting Final Fantasy XIV soon.  Over the year plus I have been contiguously playing this game I have talked to him about the patching schedule.  I mentioned that about once a quarter we get a big patch, and usually more than once a month we get little minor patches.  The problem being that he had no real frame of reference as to what I meant by those two things.  Yesterday 3.0.5 was released and this is absolutely what I would call a “small patch” by FFXIV standards.  When I linked him the patch notes he was completely floored by the fact that we call that a minor patch.  A lot of things happened yesterday, not the least of which is the introduction of the Esoterics tier of Tomestones.  I keep thinking at some point they are going to run out of goofy names to call these, but they seem to have a limitless fount of them.  This allows players to purchase item level 200 items, and returns us to the state of the weekly tomestone cap of 450.  The weapons once again are priced just enough to force players to hit that cap three weeks in a row to get them.

Yesterday was also another significant moment for me and my Warrior as I finished upgrading all of my gear to level 180 (other than the Alexander ring that I should be getting tonight… ).  This means I am essentially “done” gearing with Law and can now start diverting that to my Dragoon who is roughly halfway to level 58.  I was reaching this point where running dungeons was not nearly as important for me as it had been in the past, and then bam… a small patch releases and once again I am infused with this desire to hit the dungeons every single day.  This time around Expert Roulette is going to be my key focus, and we have learned in the past that through running a single roulette every day for several days in a row.. you can cap your tomestones without doing anything terribly insane.  What I marvel at however is the timing of their content.  Quite literally just as we started slowing down our dungeon running fervor… they launched yet another tier of gear giving us even more reason to get excited about running dungeons again.  This game is absolutely phenomenal at figuring out the right mix of carrot and stick.

Final Coil

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-20 20-27-08-11 Another huge thing yesterday is that Savage Alexander opened and now the bleeding edge of Final Fantasy XIV raiders can throw themselves against that content.  As of this morning it seems like only a handful of free companies have defeated the first turn, and only one or two have managed to defeat the second.  So it seems like it will take folks a good deal of time to actually conquer this raid.  For our guild however, we are still very much in the gearing process and have yet to be able to field a reliable “normal” Alexander run on a regular basis.  What our Monday night group has been working on instead is finishing out the Final Coil of Bahamut.  I realize we are quite literally “months behind” as the saying goes, but I am still very much enjoying myself.  We managed to take down Turn 12 on Monday night and made what I feel is significant progress on Turn 13.  Ultimately it will probably take us a few more weeks, which is good… because we still only have one geared tank for the Monday raid.

As a result… I ended up solo tanking turn 13… which is quite possibly the most hectic thing I have done in a long time.  My world became entirely centered around making sure I had five stacks of wrath at the right moment… so I could hit Inner Beast plus another cooldown… in order to survive the tankbuster…  which of note means that it literally does enough damage to decimate my 25,000 hit points.  The worst timing however was on the pull when quite literally I was hitting my fifth ability and gaining my fifth stack of wrath… as the attack was casting that I needed Inner Beast for.  Needless to say that night stressed me the hell out… but hopefully we can down him soon.  I would love if the axe dropped, because it is super amazing looking.  What I really hope however is that we can finish gearing and start work on Bismarck Extreme, Ravana Extreme and Alexander for gear.

The Revenge of Blaugust

What is Blaugust?

A few years ago I started down this path of madness that I have referred to as my Grand Experiment, where I started blogging every single day.  It has been a grueling experience at times, but also something I would not trade for the world.  I learned a lot of things about myself because when you are writing that many posts… something interesting happens.  At some point in the process you break down the walls you are holding up between you and your readers and start being completely and often brutally honest with them.  I sit down at the keyboard each morning and share a chunk of myself, and this bond I have developed with my readers is something pretty special.  Last year I wanted to channel just a little bit of this with the rest of the blogosphere and started the Blaugust challenge.  The idea is simple… during the month of August blog something every single day.  If you succeed in thirty one days of posts… you are a Blaugust winner.

I had this idea that the only folks that would participate were seasoned bloggers.  You know folks like me with years of blogging under their belts.  The reality however is that a lot of new bloggers took up this banner as their own and produced some amazing stuff as a part of it.  As such Blaugust has become this strange event that allows a lot of folks to essentially rededicate themselves to the craft of writing.  After last year I was uncertain if I would be doing another one of these, but I was not so subtly urged by my readers that they were expecting it to happen once more.  Last year we had 28 Challenge Winners that managed to make it through the month without missing a post, and another 21 Challenge Survivors that participated in the contest.  I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of participation… but in the tradition of all internet things…  lets make this year even bigger.

The Topic

First off let me get this out of the way.  This contest is all about longevity and frequency and not necessarily about what you are writing.  The idea is to get folks in the habit of regular posting, so that after a month of posting every single day… they can settle into a more reasonable schedule after August and do regular posts a few times a week.  So as far as your blog goes… you can tell us whatever you feel like.  These can be game posts, post about some other hobby you are really interested in, or just posts about your life.  Somewhere along my path to madness I reached a point where I am essentially immune to writers block when it comes to Tales of the Aggronaut.  I can sit down at the keyboard and start writing without any preparation and within a paragraph a theme starts to form and I am up and running with a new blog post.  Inspiration is a fickle thing, and essentially I brute forced my way around it.  The plan is to make you realize that you don’t need some magical muse to crank out interesting posts.  Everything you say is already interesting so long as it is genuine and comes from your personality, and the rest is just simply taking notes.

The Guidelines

Last year… the month of August was a blur for me, and it was honestly hell for me to go through.  When you had as many people blogging as we did, a good chunk of my morning was spent tabulating who blogged and who didn’t.  Then when you factor in the international nature of this competition it was extremely hard to actually determine what day a given post was supposed to represent.  As such this year I am going to be quite a bit more strict on the guidelines, because I would really like to exit the month of August with at least some bit of my sanity intact.  I love you guys dearly… but I really need your help on this.

  1. Write a new blog post of no less than ten sentences in length.  This is essentially two large paragraphs and is a good solid minimum size.  If you are doing a screenshot/photo blog just make sure your description explaining what the image is all about fits this constraint.
  2. Include a link back to the 2015 Blaugust Initiative Page.  My hope is that this will allow other people to join in the challenge and play catch up.
  3. Advertise the post on the Blaugust Nook.  When you join the nook I will be elevating everyone to “Blogger” access to do this.  This is extremely key this year, because this is going to be how I log all posts, and if you do not do this you are not going to get proper credit.
  4. Either in the title of your post or the first heading inside of your actual post.. please denote which day this post is for.  Something like “Blaugust Day 21” just to make sure that I am giving everyone credit for the correct day, and this should help to stop the oddities of folks in vastly different time zones getting dumped into the wrong slot.
  5. If you advertise the post on social media, please include the #Blaugust hashtag.  Again we are trying to help spread the word and get folks to join in process… and at very least get folks reading the posts.
  6. Over the course of the month, write 31 posts.
  7. ????
  8. Profit!

The Vlogger Clause

Since this contest is far more about longevity and doing things on a schedule… I thought I would open it up to a slightly different audience this year.  Blogging is awesome, and I love it dearly… but Vlogging is also awesome.  Being willing to put yourself out there, and on camera…  on a regular basis is quite the daunting task.  As such I wanted to open this up to folks who are vlogging, and essentially allow them to count a daily vlog as a valid post for the month.  As such I am going to throw some loose requirements around it.

  1. Vlog must be at least five minutes in length.
  2. Include a link back to the 2015 Blaugust Initiative Page in your videos “dooblidoo” and mention the Blaugust initiative at least once during the video.
  3. Advertise the vlog post on the Blaugust Nook.  When you join the nook I will be elevating everyone to “Blogger” access to do this.  This is extremely key this year, because this is going to be how I log all posts, and if you do not do this you are not going to get proper credit.
  4. Inside the “dooblidoo” mention what day you are posting for.  Something like “Blaugust Day 21” just to make sure that I am giving everyone credit for the correct day, and this should help to stop the oddities of folks in vastly different time zones getting dumped into the wrong slot.
  5. If you advertise the post on social media, please include the #Blaugust hashtag.  Again we are trying to help spread the word and get folks to join in process… and at very least get folks reading the posts.
  6. Over the course of the month, write 31 posts.
  7. ????
  8. Profit!

Some Revisions

Last year I did some madness that I won’t be doing this year.  Essentially the deck was stacked against anyone who was not ready to go on day one.  Inevitably there were folks that started one or two days late, that got knocked out of the running for the big prize for not being there from day one.  I didn’t really feel like this was fair, because ultimately they put the same amount of effort in during the course of the event, it was just that they had to play catch up a bit.  As such I basically have three categories that I am going to be dividing people up into.

  • Challenge Winners – Anyone who makes thirty one blog posts during the month of August.  I will be tallying the Results on September 2nd as to allow for all possible time zone strangeness.
  • Challenge Survivors – Anyone who makes at least  fifteen blog posts during the month of August is going to be considered a “survivor”.
  • Challenge Participant – Anyone who did not quite make it to fifteen is still awesome in my book and deserves some recognition for showing up and joining in the fun.

The Rewards

As with last year I will be keeping track of these things in my big spreadsheet of blaugust, and at the end of the month on September 2nd I will be tabulating the results.  From the contest winners I will be doing a drawing for several prize packages.  I hope you enjoy games, and want to acquire more of them…  because that is what we are going to do.  Last year someone summed up the contest as “write awesome stuff and get games!”.  Over the course of the years I have acquired a bunch of spare game download keys, so I will be dipping into this grab bag of awesome to get some prizes for folks.  I will be using a secure dice roller to determine one Grand Prize winner and three additional prize winners from the pool of Contest winners.

  • Grand Prize!

    I hope you follow me on Steam, because I will be picking a game off of your Steam Wishlist and purchasing it for you.   Nice and simple.  If there is something you have been craving like a special store mount or something of the sort from your favorite MMO, we can probably work that in instead.

  • Three Also-Awesomes

    Additionally to a grand prize winner I will be picking three other individuals to get to choose something from the grab bag of awesome.  May the odds ever be in your favor… because once again I will be relying on the dice roller to determine who gets first picking order from the grab bag.

  • All Participants

    All participants are going to get sidebar badges to denote that they participated in Blaugust 2015 with special versions for the Survivors and Winners.

If there are any companies that would like to sweeten this pot, contact me because I would most certainly love to give everyone who participates in this contest something for doing this challenge.

The Sign-Up

In order to participate you need a few things.  Firstly you need go over to the forums on the Blaugust nook and post your intention to participate in this handy forum thread I have created.  This is going to help me prepare to start reading your posts during the month (if you are not already in my blog reader).  Then as the month goes on post your new entries to the Blaugust Nook so that you get proper credit for them.  The nook also serves as a jumping off place for the Blaugust community that builds up around this event.  Share your struggles and your victories, and lean on each other for ideas.  We are all in this together, and the hope is that at the end of the month each of us is stronger for the participation.  As always if you have any questions feel free to pop me a line on any of the many avenues that I leave available for folks to contact me.  Lets have an awesome August and a truly phenomenal Blaugust!