My dad came to me in a dream last night. He was disappointed in me. He wanted to know why I didn’t want to be a man. He and his first son were outraged that I wouldn’t conform, wouldn’t want to be a man like they were.
Then he told me my hair was too long and he demanded I get a haircut from his favorite barber, just like he always did when he hadn’t seen me in a long time. I told him no. No I will not go get my hair cut, I will cut my own hair. Don’t you know that there is a plague still raging out there?
He sort of goggled at the notion of my doing the work myself and after thinking about it for awhile he asked me what I though he should do with his hair. I looked at his hair in my dream. It wasn’t the hair that was on his head on the day he died. That hair was smooth and white. This man’s hair was even patchier than mine has become. I told him I would cut that hair even shorter than he usually wore it. Wear that age with pride, I said.
He cried then and hugged me, and I wondered to myself that if he had only showed that kind of caring and vulnerability more often when I was young and impressionable, I might have been more willing to see myself as a man when I became an adult.
I finally make it to work. I have missed several days. Weeks? Months? I don’t know how long I have been gone. I have been gone so long I have even forgotten what the business I work for does. I have forgotten where the time clock is. I have even forgotten how to read the time clock, how to operate it, and what language the time cards are written in. It took so long to find and to operate the arcane contraption that I am several hours late clocking in. I think to myself “I will be blamed for this.”
The office is decorated in glass and chrome like an 80’s bar. It has swag lamps on chains like someplace straight out of the 70’s. The chairs are overstuffed and upholstered in cream-colored plush leather. The entire room is so bright that I feel like I’m being blinded. Like I’m having vertigo and a visual migraine at the same time. “Is this really an office?” I ask myself as I squint through the glare.
I park myself at a table in an empty chair next to the son of a friend. I hadn’t realized we worked at the same place. I remembered him being in high school. The snooty bastard won’t talk to me in anything more than clipped sentences. I remember that I asked him about clocking in, and he had seemed mad even then. I thought he had been mad because I was late and couldn’t make the simple machine work properly.
He’s probably mad because I stole his mother’s purse. I decide to go visit her to take her back the purloined purse, and so I get on the bus that is in front of me. The bus takes me to a familiar place that is not my friend’s house, but rather to a mall I know that isn’t in the city I think I am in. Thought I was in.
I think to myself “this is weird” as I push through the crowded street making my way to the mall. As I am walking in this bustling crowd of people I look down and realize that I am walking in my stocking feet. There is glass and other debris in the road. I need to put on some shoes if I am going to keep walking.
I stop at a convenience store in the mall to buy some shoes. The aisles are long and narrow and snake everywhere in the mall for no apparent reason. I have to go down several dark hallways to find the only pair of sandals in the place. When I get back to the register to pay they charge me $24 for the retread sandals that I had owned as child. Just as weirdly as finding my own sandals in a mall that shouldn’t be where it is, and then having to pay to keep them, my childhood sandals still fit my adult feet perfectly, even with my socks on.
I am now broke from being overcharged for the sandals that I already owned, but I figure I can make it to my friend’s house on foot now that I am wearing shoes, so I start walking again.
As I am walking I notice that the stolen purse I am carrying is turning inside out. I have to change the way I am carrying it so that it still looks like a giant brown pleather purse and not an animal that has somehow turned inside out at the end of my arm. As I am making the purse look right I stumble across my friend stabbing garbage in her yard with a spiked stick. The spike is a sewing needle on the end of a wooden broom handle. I notice that she is bent and wizened like a cartoonish old woman and when she speaks the voice comes out of her cracked old lips in Natasha’s fake Russian accent.
I ask her “what have you been up to? I haven’t seen you in awhile,” and she replies “I’m being quiet after my honeymoon.” and then cackles at me. I wake up in a sweat. What time is it?
Editor’ note. I recorded some bad audio of me reading this article. It should be visible directly above this note. I will probably replace the bad audio with some other bad audio, but I also might not. I might just make it and most of this editor’s note disappear. Which one of these event will happen is a coin toss away. Audio is harder for me these days than it was when I owned those sandals. I notice that I slur and mutter. I don’t know if I can correct that or not.
I probably owe a hat/tip to this episode of Radiolab,
In which Jad Abumrad and Brooke Gladstone muse about the passing of Joe Frank and what his life meant to the two of them. Meant to all of us. I had never heard of Joe Frank before that episode, and I probably would not have listened to his radio program. The inside of my head is weird enough all on its own. I need my distractions to be more pedestrian than the inside of my own head. Am I as good at creating as Joe Frank was? No. Not on my best day. He had to do what he did every week like clockwork for decades. I’m nowhere near as imaginative as that.
I have the most intense dreams pretty frequently. I had two dreams last night. In the first one I was being run through paramilitary training by Melania Trump, who bore a striking resemblance to Natasha from the Bullwinkle show. The Wife woke me up early and I begged to be allowed to sleep more I was so tired from the dream.
Then I dreamed I was working for some new architect I had never met before, and he kept printing out color palettes on foam rubber, he’d printed so many of them we were virtually swimming on them in the office. After that one I just gave up and got up to start my day anyway.
Posted as a reply on the Meniere’s Worldwide group on Facebook.
I had the weirdest dream last night. When I’m having dizzy spells like I’ve been having all summer, I tend to have really strange dreams, and this one was a doozy.
I was in my maternal grandmother’s house. It was exactly how I remembered it. The lime green living room walls. The floral patterned couches that I used to lay on and trace the patterns with my fingers. When I looked up I noticed that grandmother was crying. I asked her what was wrong? Why was she so upset.
“I’m sorry Tony. We left you a world that was so broken and we never knew how badly we had broken it.”
I tried to comfort her. I got her to sit down and I hugged her. But I was only a small boy and so my arms wouldn’t go around her. I couldn’t reach her shoulder to rub it consolingly. I’m thinking to myself “why is she so huge? I’m not a child anymore.” and then I woke up. weird dream.
I’d like to think I won’t owe my children an apology for the world we leave them. Hope springs eternal.
Allergies have been kicking my ass for the last month. The Mother-in-Law has been declining in health for the last three months, requiring The Wife to be away for weeks at a time coordinating her care. This development has laid more burdens on my shoulders, more responsibility than I have had to maintain stress levels under than I have had to endure since going on disability.
The Son is a senior in high school, The Daughter has a job and neither of them drive yet. I have to train them to drive in one direction, getting them to their respective appointments on time in the process, and still be able to drive myself back home without triggering Meniere’s symptoms.
With all of this going on, health of relatives, my health, my children’s demands on my time, etc, I’ve still written more in the last few months than I have in years. You may well ask “why is that?” because I’m writing this article to tell you why that is, even though this is starting to feel like an infomercial from the inside, my writing of this piece. I’m three months into my CPAP experience and I credit my clearly improved outlook to my much improved sleep patterns.
To start from the beginning; I don’t think I’ve ever slept right at any point in my life. I have never gotten up in the morning on my own. It takes me hours to wake up (still does sometimes) to feel as if I am present in the world. Mornings have always been my enemy, and early arrivals have almost always been impossible to attain. The crime here is that I never thought to ask why this was. Not one time.
I accepted the blame for attendance problems, all my life. You are lazy. You need discipline. You need to do this or that fad thing. More light at different times of the day. Take these sleep aids, take this wake up pill, drink coffee in the morning, etc, etc, etc. The list is never ending and all of it has been wrong. All of it.
I used to get by on 4 hours of sleep a night, pretty routinely. Go to bed at 2am, wake up at 7am, go to work. Usually driving in the morning while not really feeling awake, having had to be shaken awake by The (ever faithful) Wife and pushed out the door with a cup of go juice after the mandatory wake up shower. I have always hated naps. I never feel like I wake up from a nap. The lethargy just continues until I succumb to sleep for several hours.
Weekends were sleep catch up times (something which has been demonstrated not to work) we would sleep well into the afternoon most Saturdays and Sundays, and still not feel well rested come Monday morning when the process started all over again.
Then the Meniere’s symptoms got worse, expanding from the Fall and Spring weeks of suffering to the months of suffering to almost every other day suffering. Rotational vertigo every week, sometimes more than once a week. I had to stop working. I had to figure out what went wrong. Why was this happening to me?
When I started paying attention to how I felt, when I started allowing myself to follow my own rhythms rather than the imposed rhythms of modern society; sleep when I was tired, eat when I was hungry, expend effort when I felt strong enough, I started noticing something about my sleep.
I slept way, way too long. I’m not talking about 9 or 10 hours. Sixteen hours was common, sometimes as long as a full 24 hours. At first we chalked this up to the side effects of the anti-nausea drugs for vertigo symptoms. I’ve always been easy to medicate. I’m a lightweight drinker, and generally another person’s half-dose of medication will have the desired effect on me. But the long sleep wasn’t limited to days when I had been taking medication. I also had very, very long periods of intense dreaming sleep. I’ve written about a few of these in the past. Most of them were unintelligible upon waking, but I really enjoyed them while in them.
Finally this year I decided to start looking into my sleep patterns to see if there was something that could actually be done to get me to sleep something like normal hours. Normal in a modern sense, not a historical sense, which is different.
I went to see a sleep specialist on the advice of one of my doctors. The sleep specialist said sleep apnea before I was even scheduled for a test. Well, that wouldn’t do. I’m not going to a doctor to be sold a treatment without a diagnosis. I was raised by a car salesman, I know when I’m being sold something, and this guy was a salesman and a half. Definitely not a doctor. So after getting another doctor, a real doctor (second opinion time) to understand that I actually wanted to be tested first, I did the sleep study. Eight hours of misery with hardly a wink of sleep from my perspective, trussed up like a turkey with wires and monitors the whole time. The technician swore to the fact that I actually did sleep, and that I stopped breathing just under 30 times an hour while I was asleep. Well within the range of needing a CPAP machine to help regulate breathing during sleep. So a second study wearing the CPAP mask was scheduled.
I was very anxious about sleeping with a CPAP mask. Sleeping with a mask on has always horrified me, in an Alien stuck to your face kind of way. Don’t believe me? This was the nightmare I had while waiting to be tested.
May 19, 2016 2:52 pm – Just woke up from another intense dream. Another architecture dream. But the dream wasn’t architecture, the dream was a video game. The particulars of the dream, the game, the architecture in the game, are not important.What is important is the meaning of the dream, the game, the architecture. I awoke with a profound sense of loss. A future fraught with anguish. Is this what my life is now? Am I defined by my abilities to play a game? It’s been 8 years or so since I picked up World of Warcraft. On the one hand it has kept me attached to people, given me a reason to get out of bed even if I didn’t feel like doing anything besides stare at a screen. On the other hand it consumes a lot of time that I increasingly feel should be devoted elsewhere, if only I felt well enough often enough to do something else.
If that is true, that I am defined by my abilities to play a game, then even by that limited measure I’m not doing too good. I cannot see the game well enough to follow the various bits on the screen and know where to move in time to keep myself alive. As a raid healer, that is a serious problem. I not only have to stay alive, I have to keep others alive. When they start telling you “your job is to stay alive” they are including you in their raid out of the kindness of their hearts and not much else.
My health is deteriorating further. The dreams are a signal. They have become more intense and lengthy as my health has worsened. I can fall asleep one day and wake up almost a full day later and not feel as if I have rested. How is this even possible? The notion that someone who used to brag about being able to get by on 4 (and one half. Most important bit that last half) hours of sleep a night could sleep 9, 10, 12, 16, 28 hours and not feel rested is baffling.
So I’m seeing sleep specialists now. Sleep specialists who are hinting that my sleep has probably never been normal. That I have a problem with sleeping that they can fix. Should I let them fix it? The dreams are all I have anymore. If they make the dreams go away, what will be left that is mine?
So the anguished dream I just woke up from?
I know I am real, but the characters in the dream, they are movie characters even though they stand in for caricatures of my bosses from the past. Frank Gaffney is in charge of the firm. Grace Ripley (blonde in a blue wig?) runs all the operations. The game is part of the business, the architecture of the story. The game mirrors the events that occur in the ‘reality’ of the job, serving as an oracle for what happens next. Except that the dream, the reality, is coming to an end. The game is bugged and can’t be completed. It has to be reset. It resets reality. The characters reform in different roles and the game/reality starts over.
Without my dreams, what am I? If my dreams directed me to take up architecture, informed my designs and my goals, will fixing the sleep problem I’ve apparently had all my life destroy the creative side of my life? Will I finally fully wake up and discover all of it was a dream? The certificates and licenses? The rolls of drawings? The wife and children? What is real? What is the dream? I don’t think I can tell anymore.
I am stuck. Stuck in a cycle that has to be ended. I have to figure out what is ailing me so that I can get back to some sense of normality. I cannot continue to sleep for extended periods and marvel at the texture of the dreams. I guess it is time to really wake up. Hope I see everyone on the other side of treatment. Would hate to lose anyone to a reset.
These were my thoughts about the dream, and the dream itself, before going in for the CPAP test. You are being over dramatic, The Wife objected. Don’t publish that right now. Do the test first. See what happens. So I decided to quash my fears until after the test was completed. Let them remain unvoiced for the time being. But I did vow to start this article at the time. I would record my thoughts about my CPAP experience during and after the diagnosis and treatment. I wanted to at least do that much. Record my fears. The facehugger nightmares. The vague fears that life is passing me by and I can’t do a thing about it. But also to record my experiences with the treatment just as they occurred.
The weird part is, once I tried sleeping with the mask on, I knew I was hooked. Right away. The first test was torture. The wires woke me up. The sensors woke me up. I tossed and turned all night. The second test, the test with the mask on, was the best sleep I had had in years. Years. Longer than I could even remember. Never even noticed the wires and sensors until the next morning. Breakfast was ecstasy. My mind bounced everywhere.
I quite literally could not wait to get a machine for the house so that I could try it out regularly in an environment that I felt was comfortable. That process took a few weeks. Medicare pays, but it isn’t fast about doing it. Eventually I did get a machine for the house and that is when the actual work with the machine, the company that supplied the machine, started.
From the first night I realized that I needed to get something to hold my mouth closed at night. I would wake up with my mouth dry as a bone. The chin strap they sent me was of cheap manufacture, but The Wife is the granddaughter of a seamstress, so there was a remedy for that cheap chinstrap that fell apart problem.
Getting the supplies from the machine supplier is probably the most worrisome part of this process. They are completely unwilling to give you extra parts just in case you might need to swap out straps or masks or filters or anything.
Other than that process, dealing with insurers and medical aid suppliers, the experience with the machine has been pretty smooth sailing so far. I put on my flight mask at night and “ascend to 15,000 feet.” I am in my third month with the machine and although I still sleep as much as twelve or 13 hours on occasion (especially when the allergies trigger Meniere’s. Like today) I can get up in the morning when I need to, for the first time since early in my career as a draftsman. Get The Son to school on time with more regularity than we’ve probably done in his entire life.
I haven’t had time to play many games, what with all the other problems that have had to be dealt with this summer. I think I only managed to go swimming one time, which is a record for me. I generally spend days at a time in the pool. Not this summer. There was definitely no time to start the new version of World of Warcraft, even if I had wanted to (luckily I didn’t) and I still haven’t finished the one game I wanted to play, Skyrim.
I have done some writing though, a lot more writing than I really felt I could pull off. I’m still working on some other articles that I have to publish before the election ends, but I have little fear I’ll get to those too, as well as pick up some articles I’ve left laying around for far too long.
Best of all, the dreams continue. I don’t know why I have these extended dream periods, but I am thankful for them. They are more hopeful these days, at least. Not fraught with horrors and endings like they had been for the last decade or so. Still pretty grim, but a better shade of grim. I’ll take that.
At 10:40 am on January 28th 1986 the space shuttle Challenger was issued the command “go for throttle up” and the subsequent explosion ended space’s age of innocence. I remember where I was that day. Like most of our memories of those kinds of events, it is probably full of holes and exaggerations. But I do remember it. I also remember honoring the Challenger crew’s sacrifice with the crew of the (can you remember the name before you read it?) Columbia. For quite some time my personal page at ranthonysteele.com had a memorial page for the Columbia and Challenger as a tribute to the sacrifice of both crews.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of wheeled and soared and swung High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there, I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung My eager craft through footless falls of air… Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace Where never lark, nor eer eagle flew– And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod The high, untrespassed sanctity of space, Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
The above was found in a particularly moving article by Nigel Rees (on another now dead website) describing how the poem came to prominence and caught the attention of Ronald Reagan (or one of his speechwriters) who later remembered it and uttered it in memoriam for the Challenger crew. It was the words of Columbia commander Rick Husband that caused me to go looking for the poem back in 2003, when he unknowingly foreshadowed his impending death by observing;
It is today that we remember and honor the crews of Apollo 1 and Challenger. They made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives and service to their country and for all mankind
Four days later, his shuttle burned up on re-entry. I was awakened from an uneasy sleep that Saturday morning, by the ringing of the phone. One of our fellow space enthusiast friends calling to tell us to turn on the news. Columbia had been destroyed.
Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia, whose crews were all killed within the space of a week on the calendar, if over 36 years in elapsed time. That is the way it has been for ten years and more for me. I’ve kept notations on my calendar since the Columbia disaster, so that I could remember these crews and their sacrifices on the anniversaries of their deaths.
The space program means a lot to the Wife and I. She’s become so heartbroken that we still don’t have a permanent lunar base for her to immigrate to that she refuses to discuss the subject of space in any other form than as a betrayal by the US government of the people of the nation, especially people like she and I who dreamed of going to space someday. My balance issues convinced me long before I became disabled that I would never have made it to space anyway, so I don’t take the betrayal personally. But it is hard to argue that we weren’t lied to when the ISS is a shadow of its promised size and scope, and that moon vacations still aren’t a thing we can experience. Not to mention the complete abdication of NASA’s involvement in space as it pertains to getting supplies to and from the ISS, the reliance on Russia to transfer astronauts to and from the station via 1960’s Soyuz technology. These are dark days for space enthusiasts when it comes to manned space missions.
So I was a little surprised that I hadn’t noted that today was Challenger day until listening to the BBC World News podcast. As I frequently do, I paused the program and went over to the browser on my phone and inquired about current articles on the Challenger disaster that might be worth sharing.
Top of the list was this piece over at Gawker. It is probably worth mentioning that I have a love/hate relationship with Gawker, the name of the website itself recalls miles of freeway made impassable by hundreds if not thousands of people who just have to look at automobile accidents. Maybe I’m weird, but I can still summon up images from my high school drivers education classes, so I don’t need a refresher on just how we lemmings die encased in steel on US freeways.
The subject of the article was even more enraging than a freeway pile-up that keeps you from getting where you need to be until several hours late, though:
…after the disaster, over time, a different and more horrible story took shape: The Challenger made it through the spectacular eruption of its external fuel tank with its cabin more or less intact. Rather than being carried to Heaven in an instant, the crippled vessel kept sailing upward for another three miles before its momentum gave out, then plunged 12 miles to the ocean. The crew was, in all likelihood, conscious for the full two and a half minutes until it hit the water.
This particular bit of conspiratorial fantasy really isn’t news. The briefest perusal of the wiki entry on the subject of the Challenger disaster will reveal that it has been premised that the astronauts survived the initial breakup. It isn’t even controversial anymore. There is little evidence either way on the subject, and knowing they survived (or that the crew of the just as tragic Columbia disaster survived) the initial breakup only to be killed later really doesn’t prove anything, or provide any great insight into either tragedy.
I remember picking up at least one supermarket tabloid in the months after Challenger went down that purported to have written transcripts of the last moments of the crew as preserved on the flight recorder. That concoction was a total fantasy, beneath even the satirical minds of the writers of the Onion today; and the grisly nature of interest in the last moments of the life of a person about to die tragically is something that I’ve never had the stomach for. That there would have been panic from trained military flyers even in the face of certain doom is very doubtful. As more than one pilot has mentioned to me over the years, the most common last words on flight recorders is oh, shit. That is because trained pilots are too busy working the problem to realize that ultimate failure is about to kill them until the last moment. When it is too late to panic and have that panic recorded for posterity.
The pilots of Challenger and Columbia were both powerless to save themselves and their crews. That is the true nature of these tragedies. The decisions that cost their lives were made by people above them in authority, people who were willing to risk the lives of others even when the engineers who designed those systems stood solidly against launching under the weather conditions present at the time.
Failure of the O-rings caused the Challenger disaster. It is doubtful that a parachute system or some other secondary contingency could have worked in the specific scenario that evolved in that launch. There was a way to decouple the shuttle from the tank and glide home, but that contingency failed with the explosion of the central fuel tank.
Ice and foam chunks damaged the leading edge of the wing of Columbia during its last launch. There was no way to rescue the crew once they were in space without risking another crew flying under similar conditions, if the next shuttle could have even been made ready in time. Thinking back to the steely-eyed missile men who brought Apollo 13 back home, one wonders what they might have done if they had still been in charge when Columbia was in space. Would they have risked an EVA to check the wing? Probably. Would they have found a way to get a rescue mission up to Columbia in time to get the crew off? Maybe. Was there some way to seal the wing in space so it could survive re-entry? People familiar with the mission said no, still say no.
Hindsight is always 20/20. There would have been no need for a parachute contingency (and the added weight/cost) had NASA listened to its own engineers in 1986, because they recommended a scrub and were overruled on the subject. A similar discussion occurred just prior to the launch of Columbia as well.
If you really want to understand just how stupidly large human systems fail, read that book. You will come away with a completely different view on history and on current events. The failures of the shuttle missions in particular remain haunting to the American psyche in ways that so many of our other failures do not. Perhaps this is because they touch on the hopes and dreams of so many. Perhaps because they remain the most visible black marks on the aspirations of this country.
Personally they represent the end of manned space exploration missions in my lifetime. That is what I think of most bitterly when I recall the aftermath of the Challenger disaster. I remember the teacher Christa McAuliffe and her brave, hopeful words. Her energetic wave as she boarded the transport heading for the shuttle. I remember thinking upon hearing of the shuttle’s destruction there goes my chance to get into space. Because that is what it meant, what the tragedy still means to me to this day. The end of hope for a brighter future. With that knowledge comes acceptance of our limitations as human animals and a greater understanding of just how fragile we creatures are. How fragile our home is.
We may be stuck on this rock for awhile yet, so we probably should figure out how to keep it safe for the time being. Try to avoid that next big thing heading our way. What is it? Only the future knows.
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
Back on September 2, 2008 a good friend of mine asked a favor of me. Really, it was probably the only favor he ever asked of me, and to me it seemed like such a small thing, I didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t help him. He’d been playing World of Warcraft for a few years at that point, and he was having trouble getting groups together to complete content; not to mention that they were giving away mounts for recruiting friends, and they were really sweet Zhevras.
I had played Blizzard games many times over the years (I would have said I preferred the Real Time Strategy games if you asked me) I liked playing head to head with family, a pastime (and a blog article I’ve been working on) that went back years. Diablo II was a favorite in the house and when World of Warcraft was announced at the end of Warcraft III I hoped it would be something like that game in execution. The cheapskate that I am refused to even entertain the idea of paying for a game on a monthly basis, so I dismissed it as a possibility even if it was something I might like.
A few years later, and a lot more time on my hands spent indoors fighting the symptoms of Meniere’s, made the idea of spending a few dollars a month for game access seem like a bargain. I’d be doing my friend a favor, and I had already asked him to shave my head earlier that year as a symbol of support for his going through chemotherapy again. A request to join him in a game I secretly wanted to play anyway was easy in comparison.
So we started playing. Almost from the beginning I got off on the wrong foot in the game. I had no idea that the two factions could not talk to each other or play together. I created Horde toons (a Tauren Warrior & Undead Warlock) on a server he was playing as Alliance (in fact, he only played Alliance) so he had to make new toons to play with me. My daughter only wanted to play Night Elves (her favorite race from WC3) and she had already created a toon on another server that I just had to join her in playing. Being fond of Rogues from Diablo, I created a NElf Rogue (female, of course. All rogues are female) to play alongside her druid. I quickly created a whole slew of NElf characters with the intention of playing all classes as NElf, only to discover that not all classes could be played in all races. That lead to the Gnome mage Brenelbur and his evil warlock twin, but that was when the plan got out of control.
I hatched a scheme to level one toon (character) of each class, and I would do this for both factions, with a genuine attempt to play all races and both sexes for each race with at least one toon. When I mapped this all out, there were nine classes, which Blizzard expanded to ten with Wrath of the Lich King and eleven with Mists of Pandaria. There were also fewer races, with Worgen and Goblins being added as playable races in Cataclysm (Draenei &Blood Elves having been added in Burning Crusade, along with Alliance Shaman and Horde Paladins. I started playing at the end of this expansion of the game) so I had to skip a few race/sex combinations. This was made easier on the alliance side, because I saw no need to play humans in a fantasy game. I could play that in real life by turning off the computer.
When I started this quest, this scheme of mine, I really thought it would be no sweat to complete. A few months playing, and all done. Then the new classes and races were added, and the levels increased, and I began to wonder if I had even been sane when I came up with this crazy idea.
With the announcement of the release of Warlords of Draenorin November 2013, I knew the time to finish this quest of mine was now or never. Ten more levels on 22 toons would probably be more than I was interested in doing, and I really didn’t want to fail. So, earlier today (August 14th, 2014) I finally leveled my twenty-second toon to endgame, level ninety. A birthday present for myself, and a nice way to close out the favor I started for a dear friend whologged offa few years after we started playing. I’d like to offer a heartfelt thanks to Bear, wherever he is, for making me take up this silly game. I think it has kept me sane, if this is sanity.
One of the things that has improved over the years I’ve played this game has been the website. The last time I tried to do a toons & servers update, I had to clip photos from screenshots for each toon. This version may be more boring to read, because I won’t be adding photos for all twenty-two toons, but it will be significantly easier to write. The links for each name will lead to the stat page for each of my toons. Better than clipped art, it is proof that the toon exists and represents an example of how it is set up, and what it looks like currently.
My main Horde toons are still on Terenas, although the server is really a backwater in the game and it limits my ability to play content that is limited to the home server. Blizzard has been working to combine servers and content, so this might not be a problem much longer. Of course, I could just level new toons on other servers, and that process technically has already begun. However, these are the eleven I count as main Horde:
Olaventa – OrcShaman (Herbalism, Inscription) from the lowly also-ran who started out as a male with a different name, this toon has graduated into becoming my raider. Shaman are excellent healers, and when your secondary talent is Elemental (not as much DPS as enhancement, but respectable) you can essentially use the same gear to level as damage & healing and not feel that you are letting anyone down by doing so. Olaventa as a character had a serious crush on Thrall when he was warchief of the horde. She’s not forgiven him yet for leaving us with Garrosh as a leader. My scribes both wanted the Loremaster title, so they each completed every quest for their faction up to Mists of Pandaria. This toon has also completed all the quests for that Expansion, making her the most played, most experienced toon that I have.
Uroga –OrcHunter (Skinning, Leatherworking) Both my hunters I play just for fun. I collect pets with them, and not much else, although their professions are part of my overall scheme to explore different class/prof combinations.
Rakudaga – TrollDruid (Herbalism, Alchemy) I deleted the character I started with this name and created a new one of the same name (the name fit a Troll better anyway) for the new racial combination of Troll/Druid that was offered in Cataclysm. Druids are my second favorite class after shaman these days, and some of the best tanks in the game. Still, I don’t tank with them, I take the same minimalist tack with them as with other classes, combining balance and restoration which allows me to double up gear for leveling. I used to hate male Trolls in game until Mists of Pandaria and Vol’Jin. Now I’m starting to like them.
Rasmuerta – TrollDeath Knight (Mining, Blacksmithing)I’ve had a problem motivating myself to play Death Knights after Wrath of the Lich King. I mean, what is their motivation as characters? “OK, life (or death) goals achieved, now what?” Still, they remain one of my favorite classes, and the only class I’m comfortable tanking with.
Tanath – Blood ElfMage (Mining, Jewelcrafting) My only Blood Elf. I just couldn’t get into the story behind the Blood Elves. They remain my least favorite race in the game, weirdly. They are amongst the most frequently played by other players. Mage is one of my favorite classes, but this mage doesn’t get played very often. Just enough to get her to level 90.
Creavishop– UndeadWarlock (Tailoring, Enchanting) The third toon I ever made, and still my secondary raider for this server, because he is my enchanter and I’m always looking for materials for his work. Warlocks are liberating to play. Demon summoners and associated with evil in the lore for the game, they remain essential for any well-rounded raid group. Still making containers for all the toons on the server, and not getting enough gold for his work as far as he is concerned. His plans to take over the world are taking longer than he thought.
Eugennah – UndeadRogue (Mining, Engineering)Rogues, which were amongst my most looked-forward-to classes to play, have not turned out to be one of my favorite classes. Now that locks have been removed from regular game play (no more keyring) their essential role in-game has been left behind. Pick-pocketing isn’t nearly as much fun as it used to be, with more and more NPC’s in game reporting back as having no pockets to pick. Bummer. Eugennah hates her bony elbows and knees, and doesn’t like Undercity at all. She took over Engineering from Uroga so I could see how that might assist a Rogue in play. Her survivability in encounters seems better than Eieloris, my other Rogue.
Raspallia – TaurenPaladin (Blacksmithing, Jewelcrafting) This toon was created as an experiment testing out the benefits of combining creation professions and their extra-beneficial perks. I also discovered the joy of PvP healing as a Holy Paladin. There really isn’t a better class to play as healer in a PvP situation, and survivability for this paladin is much better than the other Paladin who combines Blacksmithing and Mining. Those perks are rumored to be disappearing in the next expansion pack.
Tharthurm – TaurenPriest (Tailoring, Alchemy) Tharthurm was the name of my first toon; but I really wanted my warriors for both factions to be small females, so the Tauren warrior was deleted, and I gave his name and look to the priest that I could make as a Tauren for the first time in Cataclysm. Tauren are my favorite race, in theory. In practice I don’t like the movements that Blizzard created for the models. I want to like and play them, here’s hoping the improved modeling in Warlords will make that more pleasant.
Rastarsha – GoblinWarrior (Mining, Engineering) The addition of Goblins as a playable race created a quandary and a opportunity for me. I could finally actually have a Goblin engineer and could have a warrior on the horde side that would echo the stature of my alliance warrior. But I had to delete my first toon to do it, and I had to decide on either female or male, since I couldn’t do both. Pigtails decided me, although you can’t see them on this toon. Goblins, like Gnomes, are amusing. That is why you play them.
Jainrasig – PandarenMonk (Skinning, Leatherworking) All my monks are Pandas, and all of them are named Jain. There was a Bodhisattva of a similar name, and what Firefly fan can resist naming a character Jayne? RAS is for me. I’ve looked forward to playing as a Panda since I first started playing World of Warcraft, having loved the heroic character that was available in WC3. They took long enough to give them too us. The Pandaren lore is some of best World of Warcraft, in my opinion. I’m going to miss playing Mists of Pandaria come November.
Muradin server was home for several years, even though I started out playing on Terenas. Because my family and friends were playing Alliance, my toons there were developed much faster than the Horde toons. We found a welcoming guild on the server named “of the Emerald Dream” and were happy there until one of the raid healers took exception to my allowing my daughter to play the game while she was still drugged from having her wisdom teeth out (of all the things to pick a fight over) so we left and created our own guild, which I still run (on several servers, just not very successfully) even though I’m almost the only player left in the guild, now. Frosty Wyrm Riders is max level (25) on Muradin, I just don’t raid with that guild.
Tarashal –Night ElfDruid (Herbalism, Alchemy) This is the toon I keep coming back to. I started out focused in Mists of Pandaria with my Horde toons, determined to level and raid first as Horde with my adopted guild there. Before the year was out I was no longer raiding with them although still in the guild, three different raid teams having formed and dissolved in the process. Raiding in Mists is far harder than any other expansion pack, and this has shown through in the rapid dissolution of formerly sound raiding teams that had lasted through Wrath and Cataclysm. Even the raiding guild that I was part of on this server lost several players we had relied on for years. Because I had started out with a different guild and faction, this toon did not make it into the raiding group which is most advanced in the content for this expansion. Still, he has the best gear of any of my toons, and has completed more of the content than any other toon except for Olaventa.
Eieloris – Night ElfRogue (Skinning, Leatherworking) With her fondness for Dwarves, which she deems “Just the right height”, Eieloris still has more ‘backstory’ than any of my other toons. That only matters to me in the end; still, I really do enjoy playing this toon and would play her more if I hadn’t discovered how much I like to PvP heal as a Paladin.
Rasputing – DraeneiPaladin (Mining, Blacksmithing) Also the name of my Monk character in Diablo III, the Wife named this toon when I created it, the first in a long line of RAS characters. I really didn’t like Paladins at all until this expansion pack, and it was only when I took the Tauren Paladin into Battlegrounds that I discovered how much fun it was to PvP heal as one. By that point I had leveled this toon to 90, and he had a hard time getting the gear he needed to match her in PvP. Now that they are almost equal, I really can see a benefit in combining creation professions as I did with her. I’ll have to wait and see what Blizzard does with Professions in the next expansion. Draenei are, in my opinion, the only good thing introduced in Burning Crusade; I tend to skip that entire area of the game when I level characters (easily achieved by taking up archeology at level 60) but the Draenei move the way the Tauren should move.
Raslinda – DraeneiShaman (Mining, Jewelcrafting) I try to remind myself that the game is fantasy when presented with differences between the sexes like are present in the male and female Draenei. Split hooves vs. solid hooves? Looks more feminine, only represents a million years or so of evolution. She does look good moving, and the action animations for the female Draenei are some of my favorites.
Rasmortis – WorgenDeath Knight (Jewelcrafting, Blacksmithing) Worgen represent the race I’m most ambivalent about. I like the animations, but I never understood why they had to be added to the Alliance, other than as a race to balance out adding Goblins to the Horde. Having said that, adding them gave me an excuse to change Mortis from human, so there went my only human character. I really do like the way he looks in his black PvP armor transmog. If I had more time, I’d play this class more often.
Hellice – WorgenWarlock (Tailoring, Alchemy) This is actually my second Worgen Warlock named Hellice. I leveled one to 85 for my son at the end of Cataclysm, and gave it to him as a present. I like the name, icy-damnation. Perfect for a warlock. This was the last toon to level to 90, because she had to start from one at the same time as my Pandas, and they were going to be leveled before she was. Warlocks are just fun. That’s all there is to it. Mind if I suck out your soul and use it as a weapon on you? Doesn’t matter, she’ll do it anyway. Worgen are damned to start with, that is the nature of their affliction. Why not warlock as well?
Juverna – DwarfHunter (Mining, Engineering)Named for Ireland; he, like my Horde hunter just collects pets. I know, I know, they are great DPS machines in this version of the game. I don’t care, hunters are solitary. That is why their best friends are animals.
Keslingra – DwarfPriest (Herbalism, Inscription) Just between you and me, this toon I specifically made to resemble the wife, giving her the red hair I know she really keeps hidden under the blonde; and I say that just because when she reads this she’ll be furious and there’s nothing I enjoy more than having her angry at me. This toon taught me the value of playing a priest, which I never expected to enjoy playing. Shadow Priest has finally turned into a DPS specification worthy of the designation, and priest healers are the strongest healers in the game. Since she is also a scribe, that means I completely every quest with her for the Loremaster title just as I did with Olaventa. Lots of experience playing this toon. She is the current guild master for Frosty Wyrm Riders.
Brenelbur – GnomeMage (Tailoring, Enchanting) This was my fifth toon created (after Tarashal) and I blame/credit him with starting me off on this crazy venture. He wanted to be a NElf and I resisted changing him to one after that race/class combo became available; but it was the frustration of not being able to make NElf mages that set me on the course of approaching the game the way I have. He is my secondary raider on Muradin (enchanting materials, yet again) and the character I play most often after the druid and shaman. Still love the Gnome laugh after all these years. Joke all you want about Gnome punting, after taking this mage into battlegrounds recently, I have to say that mages have a ridiculous ability to keep other players frozen almost indefinitely. Try punting me when you are frozen in place, you big green monster. I’ll just laugh and blink away.
Rasmillia – GnomeWarrior (Mining, Engineering) Watching making of documentaries for films that I’m a fan of, I hear comments like “it was my favorite scene, but it just didn’t make it to the cut” a lot. This toon started out as a male named for one of my favorite SF characters. But he needed to be a she, and she had to have a different name. I should have just duped the name Rastarsha, but I stole Starsha from a guildmate and I didn’t want to go flouncing around her server with her name tacked on to one of my toons; so millia for warrior (Milly for short) never mind that another guild mate now has a toon named Milly. I think she’ll understand. I really, really wanted her to have the pink pigtails. That was a must; that and dual wielding two-handed weapons. I admit it, I am easily amused.
Jainrasig – PandarenMonk (Skinning, Leatherworking)Yeah, same class/profession combination as my other Monk, breaking my changing pattern. I really hadn’t expected to have an eleventh class to have to deal with. When it came down to brass tacks, they both needed to make their own leveling gear, so they both ended up as skinning leatherworkers. The daily quest that is available to Monks makes leveling much faster. The Monk class itself is quite different from the other classes. I can’t say I know what I think of it yet; which is too bad, because it will be different soon. Classes always change with each expansion.
I will really miss Pandaria, even though I haven’t enjoyed raiding through it very much. Chen Stormstout was my go to hero for Warcraft III. If I could hire him in a map, he was on my team. His quests in the Valley of the Four Winds are essential for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in the lore of Warcraft. Unfortunately they have taken out the additional quests relating to him that were part of intermediate expansion content; but that is why it is important to play through the game as it is offered, and not as it exists as preserved as part of future content. I do wonder how they will include Garrosh in quest lines that used to rely on him, since he will no longer be the warchief of the horde after this expansion. A good portion of those quests will have to be truncated, or they will simply be left alone to stick out like sore thumbs calling attention to content that should have been updated but was not.
It has been a fun five plus years playing the game so far. I have been invited to the beta for Warlords of Draenor and have done some minor fiddling with it, but I really wanted to hit this milestone before allowing myself to be diverted. The long quest has been completed. On to the next one.
After I had leveled 22 toon through the expansion that followed Mists of Pandaria; and after I had quit playing World of Warcraft for an entire year as a protest against the way the developers were manipulating the player base with their programming shortcut of adding and removing flying from the game with each expansion; I decided to change the way that I would play World of Warcraft. If I was going to continue playing the game I was not going to be leveling any more toons than were absolutely essential to provide the support I needed to continue raiding and not burning out while raiding.
To that end, I deleted all but four of my Horde toons and moved the remaining four to Nordrassil, a shared server with Muradin. The Terenas server that they had been on was later added to the group of servers that makes up the Muradin server, so I could have left my toons on Terenas and still been on the same server as my Alliance toons. But I wanted a clean break from the server and the negative experiences I had on Terenas trying to raid with Crimson Retribution and other raiding guilds there. So in the end, I don’t regret spending the cash it took to move those four toons. I definitely don’t regret deleting any of them. I contemplate deleting more toons every time I start to obsess about playing all the toons I have left all the time through everything.
I deleted several Alliance toons as part of the process of forcing myself to change the habits of play that I had found so chafing while playing Warlords of Draenor. I have pointed the links that used to to go toons that no longer exist to the new toons location on Nordrassil, and removed the links for the ones that simply no longer exist. My experience of returning to World of Warcraft with the 8.3 release of Legion was interesting in several ways, and a let down in others. I was not able to catch up to my friends on Muradin until the Battle for Azeroth expansion went live, and because of my experience of missing out on raiding through Legion, I decided to just purchase Shadowlands and roll with the changes this time. I think it was the right move, even though the content is still not quite what I would call satisfying. The guilds I created are populated only by me and the ghosts of the friends who used to play but are either not with us anymore, or are playing other games now. World of Warcraft is not what it was, but then nothing remains the same in this world, especially not the games we play.
We have World of Warcraft Classic now; but much like Coke Classic when compared to the memories of those green glass bottle sodas of yesteryear, it isn’t the same experience as it was playing the game back in 2008. The expansion I miss the most is Wrath of the Lich King, not classic World of Warcraft, and I know that there is no returning to that time because the people will not be the same people they were when Wrath of the Lich King was all the rage, and everyone was playing the game. There are new games and new people and frankly it is only a matter of time before I move to a new game and meet new people. That time is not yet now.
This is posted here and now because I went trolling back through the drafts today looking for something completely different and found it. Oh, the treasures you find in the back alleyways of your long forgotten notes.
Woke up from a nightmare a few minutes ago. In my nightmare, something was discovered in the desert that was said to answer the question “is there a god?” to look at this thing causes instant death, but in the moment of death it is said that you will know the answer to this question.
Well respected leaders of various factions go to see this thing, only to die (pick your favorite names out of a hat in descending order) with the last words “it’s true” on their lips. Both groups, skeptics and believers alike, claiming that this thing confirms their belief. That there isn’t a god. That there is a god.
Do you go look? People are dying by the thousands on the belief that this thing answers the question. Does it matter?
I just don’t understand why it matters enough to spend money on the subject. If the world ends tomorrow, will god care that you gave money to the right organizations? Really? Of all of this, I find that assertion hardest to believe. This is bad news for the religious organizations hoping to part me from my money, when it comes to the subject of the (latest) predictions of doomsday.
I got a comment from a poster over at dancarlin.com suggesting that this sounded like a Twilight Zone episode; how would I complete it? Thinking I might engage in a creative writing experiment, and see how many endings could be spawned, I wrote this paragraph;
You choose to make the trek, to take the hajj. After weeks of travel, you find yourself in the remote location that your guide tells you the object can be found in (he smirks when you pay him his final fee. Why is that?) traveling the final few feet to the location seems to take as long as the journey up to this point has taken. In front of you is a mound of stinking corpses which conceals the mystical object; a tribute to the common man’s need. Apparently you must climb the pile. A final indignity to be suffered before gaining the knowledge you seek.
Apparently there aren’t any creative writing types on the Dan Carlin boards; or maybe they just don’t hang out on a thread titled Atheism is not a Belief System. In any case, I gave it a week or so, then completed the story in the fashion that came to me in the shower a few days after having the dream;
You climb the stinking pile of bodies. As you step on the face of what was once probably an attractive woman; someones cherished child, perhaps a loving wife and mother, before she became just anther corpse in a pile of tribute, you realize that you are mere inches from the top. Mere inches from the cherished knowledge, the answer to that most important of questions, is there a god?
For one last instant you pause. Even in the reeking atmosphere it feels so good to breath, to feel the pulse in your veins. But the knowledge. The knowledge will be worth the sacrifice. The task must be completed.
You struggle the last disgusting few inches, and your head crests the top of the pile. Suddenly you realize that the object is before you. Your first thought is “that’s it?” but the thought is erased by the agony of your heart convulsing in your chest. The pain is unbearable and you release your grisly handhold in the hair of the last person to gaze upon the object, but this causes you to loose your footing and you topple back down to the bottom of the pile.
The thought occurs to you that you are dying, and you still don’t have your answer. You rage at the injustice of it all, to come so far only to be robbed of the promise. The whispers all said that the answer would be given. Where was your answer. But your rage is impotent, the pain is flowing out of your body, and you vision begins to cloud.
Laying there gazing into the dimming distance, you see a figure approaching you. Could it be?
As the figure begins to form from the haze, you notice that it is crowned with horns, and is shaped as a satyr, but reddish in color. The demon chuckles softly to itself and speaks. “You were a fool to sacrifice the greatest gift in the universe, the gift of life, for such fleeting knowledge. Little good will it do you now” He reaches down for you.
Your last breath comes out as a whisper. “it’s true”
Editor’s note. This partial outline of a story is now a page on the blog named the Godstone. I’m still looking for feedback.