Musical Salute to Doctor Who

I grew up watching the imported science fiction show, Doctor Who. The Doctor is a time-traveling alien who has an affinity for Earth, and a penchant for running into trouble and setting things right in every episode.

Part of what set the tone and character of the show was its eerie theme song, and it is something that vies for “that song that runs through your head all the time”.

The process spearheaded by Delia Derbyshire in recording this theme song was a long and groundbreaking one. Considering the sort of equipment they were working with, the result sounds utterly unlike anything that can be done with a regular or synthesized instrument. The work that went into even one second worth of the recording and the conscious attention to every detail makes it a masterpiece.

[edit: changed video to one that works]

Guilds and taxes

Where it comes to World of Warcraft economics, the Greedy Goblin resonates the strongest with my thinking. He posted recently on guild “taxes”. I put taxes in square quotes because there’s a major difference in what a guild does to collect these “taxes” versus what a government does to get money out of their citizens.

A guild is a voluntary association, set up in the game by using the various amenities that Blizzard provides to guild leaders to provide for pooling of resources. A government is “an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area.” The guild leader can enforce his rules by restricting a person’s access to these pooled resources, or to even kick the offending player out of the guild. A government can use its police powers to extract a person’s property and worse.

So if a player doesn’t pay their “tax”, the worst that can happen is they are not in the guild anymore. Calling it a “tax” confuses the difference between a guild and a government.

As far as what it takes to fund a government, I can tell you what I learned in the way to get my economics degree. Along the way, I took a course that discussed and analyzed taxation. The fixed fee, “head tax”, is the economically best means of taxation.

The reason why the head tax is considered best, economically, is that other taxation schemes influence and distort individuals’ economic behavior. Flat taxes, sales taxes, VAT, progressive taxes, you name it—all these give people a reason to reevaluate their consumption and labor choices.

In the case of a guild, similar reasoning applies, but you have to keep in mind the voluntary nature of a guild, the nature of raiding, and also personal motivation. It is a travesty that a commenter on that Greedy Goblin post has mentioned along the way that BoE greens, blues, and epics all go to the guild bank instead of being put up to a roll for the raid participants, yet requiries that raid participants bring their own consumables. Another commenter said his guild bank is sitting on a cash pile worth 32K g, plus tons of enchanting mats. These are the spoils of raiding, but they’re not going to the raiders.

Raiding does have a cost, and people prefer that the costs be more predictable than not. If there is a “fee” that covers a base amount of consumables and provides insurance for repair costs, that is preferable to having everyone suffering huge losses due to repeatedly wiping. Everybody in the raid is there for that next piece of gear and the badges serve as a good consolation prize, and every extra bit of loot a player can bring home from the raid is a return on their investment for their own consumables, so what I will call guild bank communism won’t work to keep the best players around. Having a voluntary system in place that lets people smooth out their raiding expenses will.

This is your retirement on government bailout drugs

Here’s a visual metaphor of what government intervention in the economy will do to your life savings.

How could a reasonable person who has found their way into this country’s legislature be for any of this, if they had a sliver of sense left knocking around in their skulls? Forget about any moral questions that it’s the role of a government to protect individual rights, that is, only acting to defend its citizens against predators in human clothing. Ignore the fact that one of the first things you learn in a macroeconomics course is that public spending crowds out private investment. Pretend that the mounting public debt has deleterious effects on everyone in the world. The driving idea here is that the individual is not important, the group takes precedence, and that if the individual must be sacrificed for the sake of the group, sacrificed by way of forcible taxation and inflation of the currency. And the politicians reflect this in their campaign strategies and promises, all so they can kiss babies and get reelected, all while standing on the grave of individual rights, personal responsibility, and the growth of the free market.

This all goes to show that unless there is a deeper change in the ideas that people hold in this culture, this country will continue to be legislated into the grave, and the rest of the world will go down with it.

On Randomness and “Easy” Achievements

After a weekend of dutifully checking in on my toons every hour on the hour, I got the last pieces of random loot that I needed to earn my Love Fool title.

Others have not been so lucky. And luck has a lot to do with it. Aside from that bag of candy requirement, the only other annoying part of the achievement was to run an Arathi Basin battleground so I could finish out I Pitied the Fool. The PvP requirements are my least favorite parts of these achievements. I can handle the randomness aspect—it is the great equalizer.

While I’m not in a guild that runs 25-man content, I consider myself to be a hardcore player. If anything, this achievement system allows me to earn the rewards that were once available to the loners in the game who lack the urge for the twitch-fest that is arena. These achievements take prolonged effort to earn, and reward determination over raw twitch skills, which is what I’m in the game for.

With all that said and done, I’m happy I got that achievement done and over with. The next title-earning achievement coming up is Midsummer. Happy hunting!

Edit 2009.02.20: updated link to Ferarro’s blog

Another month, another WoW title to earn

Late January brought us The Lunar Festival, and now at the tail end of it, we have Love is in the Air. While I don’t expect to be able to raid much on my rogue, I still consider that toon my main, and my achievement sponge, in spite of some achievements being easier to get on my healz priest.

So far, I have completed the Winter’s Veil and the aforementioned Lunar Festival title, and I’m not planning on losing momentum with this next one, in spite of the short period in which it’s available.

Kel’thuzad Downed!

This week was the first week that my guild had even made it to Sapphiron in 10-man Naxxramas, and only my second week raiding on my discipline-specced priest. After a frustrating night of wipes to the dragon, we managed to get together after the Super Bowl last night for another go at him, and downed him in two shots. It helped that each of us had a piece of frost-resist gear.

Afterwards, we tried Kel’thuzad, and downed him on the 4th attempt. It’s one thing to read up on the boss descriptions and to watch the boss kill videos, but nothing beats the experience of going through the fight.

I also got the opportunity to raid 25-man Naxxramas in another guild’s run leading a PUG. Many of the people I was with didn’t step foot in even 10-man Naxx before, and we could only down the Arachnid Quarter bosses. I felt vindicated in not wanting to start my Wrath raiding career with this experience of a lack of focus to the tasks at hand. It only goes to show that attitude and determination trump luck with gear.

Since I was a healing-specced priest, I had plenty of opportunities to raid in Naxx before I joined my current guild, but I declined each invitation firmly. I did not want to raid with a bunch of strangers in a PUG, I wanted to learn the fights in the team environment offered by a guild. I had not been able to do that before now because of the scheduling problems of a PST player in a largely EST guild, or not being able to tolerate nasty high-ranking guildies.

Of all the people who say that the current endgame is “too easy”, I wonder how many of them are comparing the current experience of being able to even attempt Naxx in questing greens and blues and the sheer drudgery of gearing up for Karazhan in the days of the Burning Crusade. Naxxramas may seem “easy” to a person who has experience with the sort of group coordination it takes to down bosses in the hardest heroic instances, and has already experienced raids. Once again, attitude and determination trump luck with gearing, and a Blizzard had made sure that a determined and focused group of raiders can more easily meet the requirements posed by the challenges in a raid instance.

My Main Time Sink

I am still reeling from financial burdens left over last marriage was, and I find myself with a lot of time, but not a lot of money to spend on things that make it “worthwhile”. I know it may seem shallow, but all the really enjoyable solo and social activities that I find also come with a pricetag attached, like watching movies, going out to dinners, picking up a hobby—which means buying materials to pursue that hobby. All that is going to cover paying my part of the mortgage and my rent.

As shallow for me to say this, but money does buy love. What relationships can start off without the courting phase that brings with it the bearing of little gifts, exquisite meals, and time lavished upon the woman would be monopolizing my attentions?

When I’m not working, I’m usually at home playing World of Warcraft, a game I started playing in March of last year. I have an addon that tells me how long I’ve played on all my characters, and it’s already over 100 days, so that means that nearly one third of my time, almost half my waking hours, have been spent in that game.

In all this time, I have 12 characters, or toons, on 3 different servers, 2 of which are at level 80. Of my level 80 toons, my favorite is my first, a female undead rogue, on which I collect as many achievements as I can get. My other level 80 is a female troll priest, specced for discipline—for some reason, I tend to raid and PUG more on the priest. Who wants to run with some stinky ol’ rogue when you can have a healer?

At the moment, I am experiencing the Wrath of the Lich King endgame content, and enjoying it. The guild I’m in is running 10-man Naxxramas weekly, and I get to run it on my priest. When I’m not raiding, I try to PUG heroics on my rogue, and grind out reputation with various factions, partly so I can collect mounts, pets, and titles. At level 80, the various outland factions are dead easy to work on, and the factions in Wrath have plenty of dailies in addition to the tabard system, which means I can have more and more time to devote to my lower-level toons.

So all in all, I am enjoying my timesink, and the guild I’m in is pretty laid back and easy going, so I do get plenty of social contact, if not being the face-to-face kind.

Indie Is Dead, Long Live Indie

My favorite radio station, Indie 103.1 just announced that they will soon cease broadcasting over the airwaves, and instead broadcast over the internet via SHOUTcast. I have noticed a shift in their playlists to less quirky styles of music, and a cutback on some of their more eclectic programming and changes in personnel. David Lynch was no longer delivering the weather forecasts, and Joe Escalanté had stepped down from being the morning show DJ to focus on an expanded Entertainment Legal Advice Radio Show.

According to Ars Technica, station representatives have not released further word about their intentions for future programming.

I’ve listened to their stream for part of the day, and the quirky and energetic playlist is back, but I have yet to hear anything from a live DJ.