The Adventures of the Infected

A couple weeks ago, several of us decided it was time to give the Special Task Force Missions (STFs) a try.  This was in part inspired by Trusty Friend Mishy’s adventures with STFs and earning Kewl Loot ™, and in spite of Trusty Friend Kheren’s dire warnings that they were nothing more than respawn nightmares on the order of The Big Dig Fleet action.  I enjoyed The Big Dig about as much as I enjoyed having a tooth abscess last year, so I was in no rush to do an STF like that, much less with PUGs.  
After gaming with Trusty Friends Marconius, Jeff T, Mishy, wildardoc, Ellif, N’Eligahn, and a host of other fleet mates during the feature episodes, and hearing a number of people say “gosh, we should do some STFs together,” I finally decided to take the plunge. After all, we had a lot of fun together slashing our way through the enemies, taking down Romulan ships, earning our Reman bridge officers, and crafting Mark XI purple Vulcan lirpas.  This was (theoretically) a natural progression.  
So, on a weekend morning, after much encouragement from Jeff T for people to join in, I signed on.  Jeff T gets extra points for enthusiasm in teammate recruiting.  Marconius came on board to help out, as did Ellif and N’Eligahn.  Kheren was willing to join, but only if we didn’t have the necessary 5 people. His view is that STFs are about as entertaining as repeatedly head-butting a 10-foot thick concrete wall until one’s brains splatter out, but helping fleet mates was worth the sacrifice nonetheless. I suspect Ellif and N’Eligahn joined the party so that Kheren wouldn’t have to commit ritual suicide. 
 
Anyway, once we got all settled in, we had to decide who would call the shots during the mission.  Jeff T and I were STF virgins and thus not ideally suited for ‘mission leader’.  Ellif didn’t have voice chat.  N’Eligahn likes STFs only slightly better than Kheren does, so Marconius, bless his heart, ended up being the leader, whether he wanted to be or not.  Besides, after about 2 minutes of play we discovered he clearly had his pass to the Clue Bus and knew what the heck he was doing.  
The first task: Take down the transwarp conduit in the Sibiran system.  This involved taking down hordes of Borg Cubes transwarping through the conduit, along with the occasional Borg Tactical Cube. They should be renamed “Tendinitis Cubes”, because that’s what you get after shooting at them so darn long.  After destroying Tendinitis Cubes, you then have the option to shoot at the conduit itself in order to do damage. Why your shots are effective only after destroying Tendinitis Cubes is beyond me. N’Eligahn assured us that our loot drop at the end would be better if we kept all 3 of the doo-dads powering the conduit functioning.  After dealing with far too many Tendinitis Cubes, however, it became clear that unless we wanted to continue shooting at Cubes and the conduit for another 3 hours, we were going to have to sacrifice a little loot to get the STF done sometime that week. We chewed through 2 of the doo-dads and finally did enough damage to the conduit to bring it down.  
The second task: Find Captain Ogden.  This required going through various rooms on Starbase 82, killing many spawning Borg, and being repeatedly killed by many spawning Borg.  Fortunately, Marconius knew all about the Interlink Nodes (aka the Insanely Masochistic Nodes) that created the endlessly spawning Borg. We quickly attacked those.  I discovered that my newly crafted purple Mark XI Vulcan lirpa was awesome and made of win.  It goes right through Borg shields.  I think I only died a couple dozen times in this section, which made it tough on the rest of the team since I was one of the primary healers. Teammates don’t stay alive so well when the healer is sprawled on the ground after she’s forgotten to get the heck out of the way of the Bad Guys.  We made our way to Captain Ogden and discovered that he was a. assimilated beyond repair, and b. surprisingly easy to take down compared to the conduit. This led us to our final room.
The third task: Upload a virus to four computers, find Capt. Simmons, and survive the Perilous Pit of Pervasively Plentiful Plasma. N’Eligahn and Ellif decided to take the center platform, while Marconius, Jeff T, and I would run around uploading viruses to the 4 corner computers.  Jeff and I were admonished ‘not to step in the green stuff or you die instantly’, and that jumping from crate to crate sitting in the middle of this pit was ‘no more difficult than jumping in Mario Brothers’.  I did not point out that the last time I played a Mario game there were still things like video game arcades in shopping malls and that we had to put quarters in the slots to play it.  Then we were told we had exactly 6 minutes to kill the Borg, coordinate the 3 of us in activating each computer, upload the virus, and then hop around like manic Monty Python killer bunnies to the next corner and repeat the process 3 more times. THEN we could kill the final boss in a giant shoot-out.  It’s kind of like golf except less fun. 
Jeff and I quickly discovered that the younger generation is much more adept at jumping than the two of us are.  We confirmed within approximately 2 nanoseconds of trying to jump onto our very first crate that yes, the plasma does indeed kill instantly. We also discovered that jumping back on to the boxes was next to impossible. We then discovered that when you respawn, you do so outside the force field of the room, and you can’t re-enter.  We’re not entirely sure what possessed the developers to design a room with a molten moat in the first place, since the Borg die when you push them into the pit, too.  I suspect Good Drugs were somehow involved. The designers must have been sitting around one day and said “Man, what would be the best way to torture Emmert if he was an ACTUAL officer on this ACTUAL mission? I know! Let’s fill the room full of insta-kill puke-green toxic waste, then make jumping so crazy that he falls into the pit, dies 50 bazillion times, then respawns outside the force field so that the entire party has to suicide in order to re-open the force field to continue. That would be simply AWESOME.”  
At some point, it was determined that either Jeff or I should go to the center platform where jumping insanely into the putrescent pit would not be involved. Jeff was lucky and ended up in the center.  N’Eligahn assured me that I’d only die a few more thousand times before the mission would end, but that he was ‘there for me’ and would be sure to do CPR on my poor dead body as often as needed. I made a socially unacceptable salute to him that he could not see.  
After suiciding/respawning several times, I finally built up enough jumping skill to make it around the area without falling more than a few dozen times, and the final boss spawned. We died trying to kill her. So, in a fit of complete determination and/or masochism, we started over with that room, doing our manic bunny-hop from corner to corner.  Miss Bossy spawned again.  What happened? You guessed it; I fell in that stupid pit yet again.  However, the boss was down to almost no health by then, and the team wisely decided killing the boss was going to be more effective than doing CPR on me, since I’d be resurrected to get my reward anyway once she was dead.  The boss died, I revived, we all got our rewards, and life was good. I actually ended up with 2 Borg engines.  Accepting both the RA and VA versions of the Cure means you get credit for both when you complete the mission once. I think that’s semi-fair for the torture the devs put us all through.
Below: Jae fails at jumping for the zillionth time and ends up buried in the middle of the crate.  Note that rigor mortis has set in amazingly fast.  Fortunately, N’Eligahn knew CPR!

15 Things you can do during MMO "Scheduled Maintenance" besides gripe about it

Dale CarnegieImage via WikipediaToday, I had to be up at Oh-God-hundred to take my son to a school music function.  While I was waiting for him to comb his hair and put on the deodorant (fortunately for me, he had forgotten, so he didn’t have the opportunity to come stick his armpit in my face in glee like he did a few weeks back), I checked over the Star Trek Online forums.  The latest new episode is coming out today, and I wanted to check out the patch notes.  I came across a thread on the scheduled maintenance Cryptic was doing today in preparation for the release of the new quest. 

Anyone who follows the forums of any MMO knows there is one sure thing they’ll see besides trolls.  It’s people who complain about how long it takes for a new patch, server, or update to be installed, thus requiring the MMO company to take the game temporarily offline.  No matter when the downtime happens, it’s going to be in the middle of someone’s gaming time somewhere on the planet.  That’s the nature of living on a rotating sphere–and no, I don’t want to hear from the Flat-Earther people, thank you very much.

Not surprisingly, there were some people QQing about the fact that they had to wait a couple hours for the maintenance to complete.  I decided to reply with my list of things to do while waiting for the server to come back up.  Here are 15 things you can do while waiting for an online game that is down for maintenance.

1. Read the forums

2. Take a nap in anticipation of gaming all night

3. Clean your socks that have been gathering in a stinky pile in the bathroom because you’ve been too busy gaming to wash them.

4. Clean the pile of dirty ramen noodle bowls in the sink because you’ve been too busy gaming to wash them.

5. Clean the toilet that has sadly been neglected for months because you’ve been too busy gaming to clean it.

6. Contemplate the meaning of life.

7. Contemplate a volunteer opportunity with those who are unfortunate enough not to even have a roof over their heads, much less a computer and video game time.

8. Contemplate a volunteer opportunity with those who are stuck in the hospital due to extended illnesses and thus can’t be here to game.

9. Contemplate the fuzz in your navel.

10. Catch up on all the news you’ve been ignoring for the last year playing this game, like, say, the uprising for democracy in Libya.

11. Go cook some real healthy food instead of ramen noodles.

12. Clean the collection of 3 month old empty coke cans off your desk. The ants need something fresh to crawl through.

13. Clean the cat/dog/people hair off your keyboard.

14. Give some attention to your beloved, your kids, your family, or your friends.

15. If you have none of those listed in 14, go read the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie to get some.

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Preparing for Hospital stays, Geek Style, Part 1

It’s been a crazy few months for us, and even Geeky Moms have their limits in what they can handle without needing to escape to game, chat with Trusty Friends and fellow church members via Skype/Facebook, podcast about E3, rock out to Skillet’s new album ‘Awake’, or role-play, which is what I’ve done. I’ve played Dragon Age, Star Trek Online, Pokemon (don’t laugh until you’ve tried it. It’s gaming crack, that’s all I can say), and D&D online via Skype. I also role-played in some of the RP stories on Lotus Fleet, did simulcasts with Trusty Friends Lynk and leXX during E3 presentations, and chatted. I’ve learned more about Andorian birthing than I ever thought was possible given that it’s an imaginary alien species from a 44 year old TV show. Still, I had a good time role-playing how my ship’s doctor helped save a pregnant zhen, and the pleasant diversions are very welcome. This may sound totally corny and tremendously Geeky, but some of my online friends are as close, if not closer, than some of my local friends. You all have helped me in many ways with prayers, good wishes, and warm thoughts, and I treasure you all.

My sister’s cancer diagnosis has been rough on the entire family, complete with all the attendant emotional ups and downs that come with such a devastating diagnosis. The good news is that the chemotherapy has been tremendously effective, and her prognosis has improved from ‘about 5 years’ to ‘you’ll get to see your children grow up’.

We’re still dealing with the roller coaster of feelings, and the family dynamic challenges. Trust me, when you get a cancer diagnosis in the family, the dynamics NEVER improve. The best you can do is keep them from going down the crapper completely and creating the family equivalent of Mt. Vesuvius, and/or something that belongs on the latest hot TV reality show.

In more cancer news, we learned a few weeks back that my sister-in-law, Glenda, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. They caught hers very early, and she did fantastic in her surgery last week. She had no lymph node involvement on initial pathology results, and we’re waiting to hear for the final results, but all indications are that she’ll have a complete cure. She says she’s very glad to be rid of the cancer.

We have also had the challenge of dealing with my daughter’s ADHD diagnosis and different medication changes associated with that. This is one of the Parental Challenges of the Century. At one point, we were trying a dose of medicine that was way too low and just made the symptoms worse, and by worse I mean, “if the pediatrician doesn’t fix it Right Now, the house will explode.” I told the pediatrician “I don’t know who you’re going to have to peel off the ceiling first–her or me.” I briefly thought banshee training would be of great benefit to her as a career choice. I spoke with the Banshee College of Shrieks, and after they listened to her one time, they determined she’d test out of their PhD program and asked if in fact they could invite her for a guest lectureship. The medium dose of the medication seem to be working better, however, so I think we’ll hold off on any career scream plans for the time being. Just to add to the fun, we also learned yesterday that she’s still allergic to dairy after all, and also allergic to soy. Ever try to find margarine or shortening with no dairy or soy in a conventional store? Good luck with that. Soy and dairy are 2 of the 8 top food allergies. You think some major margarine manufacturer execs somewhere would say to themselves, “Hmm, maybe we should make something without dairy and soy and sell it in major groceries. We could make a ton of money from the people who have these allergy issues.” Nope. It hasn’t happened, though I have been assured by Earth Balance that I can find their soy and dairy-free spread at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods Market if I am willing to drive 35 miles.

Some good news–we found an absolutely delightful dog at Safe Harbor Humane Society, who we have named Sparky. We missed Lucas, we all needed a new dog in our lives, and the shelter had several available. His previous owner had to relinquish him because he lost his job and had to move to an apartment that wouldn’t allow dogs. I don’t know who the previous owner is, and I’m sure he was heartbroken at giving up such a wonderful dog after having him as part of the family for 5 years. I’m proud of him for doing the right thing and not just throwing the dog out on the street for animal control to find. I just wish I could let him know how happy his dog is with us and how we’re working hard to take good care of him and love him.

Sparky

Sparky is mostly a black Labrador retriever, possibly with a bit of pit bull or boxer in him, since he’s got a massive head, very strong jaw, and quite stocky body. He’s collapsed 3 tennis balls since we got him, so we finally got smart and bought Kong toys, which are much tougher. He takes tremendous joy in playing ‘fetch’, and we now take tremendous joy in playing ‘throw’. He has a very sweet temperament and adores tummy rubs. He did well in his introduction to our cat, Joey. The two now sniff each other often. I suspect they’ll be doing some playing in a few more weeks as they learn each others’ boundaries.

In addition to all that, I’ve been dealing with my long-term knee problem, and I’m actually having a total knee replacement for it next week, which brings me to the actual point of this post–how Geeks prepare for a hospital stay. As a Geeky Mom, this involves multiple things, not the least of which is blogging about it.

First, you’ll be happy to know that not only does my surgeon do nothing but knee and hip replacements, he also has a website, and he’s actually tweeted a surgery. I suspect that actually someone typed for him while he did the surgery. I’ll ask him next week for sure. Inquiring minds want to know.

I have a list of things needing to get done around the house prior to surgery because I’ll be maneuvering on a walker and/or crutches for several weeks after I get home from the 3 day incarceration in the hospital. I’m hoping for crutches, because walkers really make me feel old beyond my permanent 29-ness. In fact, I informed the ortho that I would use it if he forced me, but I would feel the urge to decorate it with visually obnoxious items, such as pinwheels, a loud shiny horn, and neon reflective Jar-Jar Binks stickers.

Anyway, the list of tasks includes:

1. Asking my hubby for the 9th time to please put the back seat back in the van. I have been asking this since, oh, last March. I’m tired of chasing cans of kidney beans around the back of the van when they roll out of the bags. Here’s a hint for those of you guys who hate being nagged: if you do something you say you’ll do the first time, we’ll never have to ask you again to do it. Just a pro-tip for husbands, there.

2. Not killing my daughter when she does her best banshee impression about having to clean up the mess in her room.

3. Playing STO and doing RP in the supreme effort to put off serious house-cleaning to the very last minute.

4. Creating playlists in iTunes in the supreme effort to put off serious house-cleaning to the very last minute.

5. Teaching Trusty Friend jovani how to use Audacity in the supreme effort to put off serious house-cleaning to the very last minute.

6. Making a long list of things I need to bring to the hospital in the supreme effort to put off serious house-cleaning to the very last minute.

7. Obtaining a raised toilet seat per doctor’s orders. This adds to my feeling of youth about as much as a walker does.

8. Getting the dog neutered and my daughter tested for allergies the week before surgery, because I don’t have enough stress in life, and I’m making the supreme effort to put off serious house-cleaning to the very last minute.

9. Mourning over the fact that Trusty Friend N’Eligahn is not going to be hosting a D&D session this Saturday, thus preventing me from making the supreme effort to put off serious house-cleaning to the very last minute. Never fear, however, I’ll find something to do instead, perhaps play more STO, write another RP post, blog, or jam with the family on Lego Rock Band. I’m very creative in avoiding house-cleaning.

10. Preparing menus and doing a mass cooking marathon in the supreme effort to put off serious house-cleaning to the very last minute.

One of the things I did today was check out the hospital website to get information on my stay there. I found out important things like “as a patient you’ll be given a gown to wear” (more like a half a toga), “no cell phones” (yeah, right), and “we have 24 hour security” (so the psych patients stay in psych). Since I’m going to be an inmate for 3 days, and living without internet is not my idea of A Good Time, I decided that one of the first things I, as a dedicated Geeky Mom, should do is check out internet availability. To my great delight, I found out the hospital has this cool thing called Skylight Access Interactive Patient system. It comes complete with a “wide array of services” such as cable tv, INTERNET, health videos (that’ll put me to sleep for sure), ‘healing music’ (read, New Age interpretations of bad elevator music versions of Simon & Garfunkel songs), INTERNET, the ability to order my meals from the kitchen and extra toilet paper from housekeeping, and, INTERNET. The internet includes a wireless keyboard. My guess on why the keyboard is wireless is Skylight’s lawyers feared that those of us under the influence of Good Drugs might do something with the cord that would involve lawsuits against them. This is in spite of the fact that someone like me will be a. attached to a machine that will move my knee around pretty much all the time, and b. we’re all attached to IVs and assorted other medical things with odd, unintelligible Greco-Roman names.

Now, you may ask why on earth I’d want to be on the internet hours after having chunks carved out of my thigh and leg bones and pieces of titanium hammered into them for my new ‘bionic robo-knee’, as Trusty Friend Dath Max calls it. I mean, we’re talking power-tool heaven for Mr. Fix-It types here. The answer: Because that’s what Geeky Moms do. I may only be online for about 2 minutes the first night, provided I’m not drugged into oblivion by pain killers, and for limited times the next day or two after that, but by God, I actually have the opportunity, and that’s the important thing.

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