Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Living the Hectic Life

When I moved to Southern Spain, the idea was for a more relaxing lifestyle and a more family focussed standard of living. More time for the family, more time for hobbies. However, there is always a spanner in the works and nothing ever goes how you wish it to. The first big thing is money. My family still need money to live and as such I still have to work. That leads nicely in to the second issue and the fact I am kind of a victim of my own success and now hold a position where I have the money I need, but once again due to the demands of that position I am now once again lacking in time available to spend time with my family and follow my hobbies. Of course, family get first dibs, so ‘other’ stuff has to take a back seat. Hence the tardiness in keeping my blog up to date recently. Don’t get me wrong. I am eternally grateful and aware that I am lucky enough to have full employment during these tumultuous days, I certainly will not moan about that.

So, time has been spent away from the computer recently. The time I do have spare is easy to fill as summer is starting with longer nights and fantastic weather. BBQs have been rather prevalent these last few weeks and gatherings of friends in gardens with kids running round causing chaos, is how I have been spending my time. Oh, I nearly forgot, apart from a brief work trip overseas. I headed to Malta for five days recently with work for a conference and had some work to do at a new office we have opened up over there. It was my first visit to Malta and was a pretty cool trip. I was very busy with work, but did manage to go out and enjoy some of the nightlife and see a bit of Valletta and Sliema. It’s a wonderfully handsome place with history bleeding from every stone. Walking around Valletta is an experience in itself being an intact Baroque city. The architecture is stunning and the whole place has a medieval feel to it. It certainly was a busy trip, but a fun one too. I can certainly see why Malta has a fair few movies filmed there. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping to coincide my next visit whilst filming for series 2 of Game of Thrones is going on over there. One of the guys in our office is regularly an extra when Hollywood drops by and I made him promise that if I manage to get there when it is being filmed that he’ll hook me up with his agent. That would be awesome fun.

I have been spending a little bit of time on EQ2, but most certainly not the level of time I committed to the game before the ‘hack’ incident. I’ve pretty much only been popping on when my brother is about and we’ve been hitting the Kingdom of Sky questlines. We’re currently still battling through the Claymore line. I’d forgotten how long the quests can be and how much running about there is, especially in The Palace of the Awakened. It seems like we are up and down in there more than I remember. That’s not too big an issue though, especially when the zone is so much fun. One thing I have noticed though is that it seems very popular with power levellers and adventurers alike, even still. It kind of reminds me of Sanctum 2.0 in that respect. A couple of times we had to wait around for mobs to spawn as someone had been through and obliterated everything. It wasn’t an issue and not a moaning point as we had plenty of other stuff to do whilst waiting. I can’t really comment on that anyhow seeing as Volt usually does the same. Well, Merecraft will testify on my behalf here I’m sure. I do try and feign death mobs off if we don’t need them as I think it’s a bit cruel to just empty a place out, especially when you are sharing the zone with others.

Aside from the Claymore, we started last night on the arduous trek to find all of the little statues of Knights of the Knights in the Round quest (part of the Swords of Destiny timeline). For those who haven’t done the Swords of destiny questline it was released as part of a game update from what I recall and tracks your quest to get your hands on a rather tasty weapon (Well, back then they were). About half way through the questline you pick up the quest Knights in the Round and you have to head off all round Norrath to find these little statuettes of the Knights. It’s a little like that quest To Speak as a Dragon, where you have to go and collect 26 runes, except there is fifty statuettes to gather and they are not just in the old world, but spread all over the place and in some circumstances in places where you have to complete an instance first before you can get to them. It’s not difficult, just time consuming. Having said it’s not difficult, there were a couple of worrying moments as I ran around Qeynos getting those updates. Thankfully Mere did some scouting for me and I managed to avoid all but one of the epic guards and with the one that caught me I managed to Feign Death before he mushed me. We’ve gathered five or six so far, so not many to go. Gulp.

I still have my aversion to anything Velious (apart from my lovely flying mount) and haven’t been there in an age. I just have no enthusiasm to go there. If Mere ends up playing the game that long and goes, I will go with him as it will be fun learning with another person I’m sure, but solo? Nah, not my cup of tea at the moment.

Wifey and I borrowed a friend’s X-Box Kinect the other day and have been having some fun on that too. I especially like the adventures game (not sure of real title seeing as I just ripped it out of the box without really looking). I enjoy it a load, but man it does knacker you out some. I found sometimes it’s a bit noisy too, especially when I get to play is past kiddies bed time. Daddy jumping round like a hobbled elephant is not conducive to child sleep apparently. Oh well. It’s a great package, but to be honest even though we have the Kinect, I am spending most of my time on it playing the latest Burnout using the paddle. Not a bad console, but I do prefer the PS3 for racing games. Just seems slicker is all. I think the controller is easier to use also.

Right-o. Time for some more work. I hope to see you sooner rather than later.

Be well.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Power Within comes Without

This is the next installment in the adventures of Merecraft and Udrath. You can find the one prior to this, penned by my Brother here called 'Into the Noose'.


Udrath was skirting the edges of the dull box they were stuck in closely examining the luclinite stonework for flaws. His expert mining skills searching for tiniest imperfection or minute hairline crack. After all, he was a Dwarf and if there was one thing he knew well is was stone. In the centre of the ‘cell’ it took Merecraft a brief moment to regain his composure and as he did so he raised his eyes to stare in to the blank uncaring stare of his daughters gaze and he felt sorrow. With almost a whisper he spoke, “Why? Why would you do this Viota? I trusted you, Udrath trusted you”.

“That’s what made it so easy you fool. I’ve always thought that those who are generally of a good nature always err on the side of trust. It’s quite poetic really if you think about it father. The daughter you knew nothing about suddenly comes in to your extraordinary life and instead of joy, she brings pain and suffering. Much like you abandoned and ruined my mother’s life. Irony, it’s interesting. Perhaps your decisions in life are coming back to haunt you.”

“That’s not how it was Viota, and you know it.” Merecraft shot back, his mind a maelstrom of thoughts about his daughter, her mother and unsurprisingly of their current predicament. Turning away from the Lady Bovich he walked across to Udrath.

“Anything?” he asked of the Dwarf. Udrath stood, his knees creaking with age and turned to his oldest friend, his solemn look saying all that needed to be said. Merecraft placed his hand on Uddys shoulder and closed his eyes trying to force some semblance of calm. He would not be defeated by Dhrak. Not now, not after all this time, after all the borne hardships. Mostly though, he would not allow his closest friend to be drawn in to this fight and have such an ending. His thoughts turned to Udrath and almost immediately the illness that Udrath had that would soon see his end of days. Dammit he thought, if only he had not trusted the poisonous Viota. Now his friend would at least have a painless death and not the searing agony Udrath had been expecting. No! I will not let this be, his thoughts continued. Not like this. You got him in to this Merecraft Oakenheart. You’ll find a way out. He wasn’t sure who he was convincing, but there was nothing else to do. Merecraft moved to the corner of the cell and sat down his back against the wall. Closing his eyes, he let his mind wander free in search of an answer.


Killzum Brakkarg, Warg Wrestler stood sentry. Not the sharpest tool in the box several hours had passed since he had seen the Dwarf, the skinny Human and the Magicker before he started to realise something was wrong. They had not yet come out of the mansion. They had said they would not be long. Several more minutes passed before Killzum came to the conclusion he should do something. But what? Looking at the ornate doorway in to the building and in absence of anything else to do or an imagination to come up with a different plan, Killzum moved to the door and raised his huge plate clad boot and in one motion obliterated the portal into kindling. Drawing his two long serrated hip knives in place of his usual weapon, the massive two handed broad sword strapped to his back he moved in to the dim foyer, stepping over the disintegrated door. All was silent within. Not that this mattered to Killzum. He was not a creature of stealth. In fact Killzum Brakkarg was quite the opposite.

Bellowing at the top of his voice, the walls shook with the thunderous sound as he called out his challenge cry. At first there was no response, then his eyes caught movement on the stairs in the room to his right. Striding directly through the rounded doorway to the room to investigate, Killzum was met by a quick moving shadow that dropped down on to him as he passed underneath the doorframe. Without breaking a stride he sheathed one of his blades and reached up over his shoulder with a gauntleted fist grabbing his assailant, a small war goblin who was promptly trying to poke a needle knife down the gap in his neck guard. Trying to disarm the slippery little creature would have been futile, so Killzum simply pulled the Goblin closer in to his armour and then with a sickening popping sound impaled the creatures face on one of his long shoulder spikes. Leaving the Goblins corpse to dangle, its life blood dribbling down his breastplate in a gruesome display of laziness, Killzum drew his sheathed blade again and continued to the shadowy stairwell. Meeting no further resistance he broached the top of the stairs and entered the room. It was empty. Shaking his head, Killzum moved on continuing his search. In a short time due to his lack of subtlety he had swiftly searched the whole mansion and disappointingly still only had one Goblin trophy to brag of. There was no sign of the comrades he had arrived with. Completely confused now, Killzum removed his helm and sat heavily on a bench in the reception hall trying to muster some sort of plan. Emitting a low grumble he began to rub his brow. This would not be easy and thinking usually made his head hurt and even worse his stomach grumble with a terrible hunger. This would not be easy at all.


Udrath sat in silence absently toying with his axe, its butterfly shaped shining blades resting on the ground of the cell . Out of the corner his eye he could see Mere meditating, obviously off somewhere trying to find an answer to their current dilemma. Across the other side of the room sat Viota, looking almost smug but lost in deep thought. He knew the lass was wild sometimes, indeed crazy even, but never in a hundred years did he think she would stoop to the low levels she had. By Brell! What is the world coming too? he thought. Maybe she’s hurting too considering the mess her life has become. He was not concerned overly about his own plight. Udrath knew he was dying and nothing could be done about that. If he were here alone he would spend his remaining time draining the cask attached to his pack and slipping in to a peaceful sleep. But Merecraft was here and that lad needed him now, not his melancholy or his illness.

He tried to put his mind to the problem at hand. Udrath knew he wasn’t considered by many as a cerebral person but the fact of the matter was, when he wasn’t out crushing skulls he spent a good deal of his time nowadays scouring old tomes, indulging in many subjects that interested him. It was a way to fill the time and not think about Megan. As usual as soon as his thoughts touched upon her his chest constricted in emotional pain and he felt unbidden tears start to form in his eyes. Damn how I miss you Megan, he mused thumping the hard floor of the cell. If only you were here now, you always knew just the right piece of advice to give my sweet, you were my rock.... then it struck him like an Ogres backhand. A conversation many hundreds of years ago. The right advice. He cast his mind back, picturing it as if it were yesterday trying to recall each and every detail, making sure he got it right.


Merecraft came out of his meditation, gently willing himself back to consciousness. Opening his eyes he saw Udrath sitting in a similar manner to himself, his eyes red and his head deeply bowed, eyes closed. Looking across to his daughter he cleared his throat and stood, approaching her.

“It really wasn’t like that you know. With your mother I mean. We were happy for a time, then...then life just happened. I planned nothing but love and care for her you know.” He paused swamping painful memories with his force of will and said in a quieter, almost whispering tone, “I need you to believe me Viota. I would never have hurt her intentionally. Nor would I hurt you, despite what you have done.”

“And what have I ‘done’ father? What exactly is it that I have done to you? Abandoned you with child? Never even checking to see if you were still alive or well or needed money? No. The things you have done to me and my mother are a constant pain and to see you righteously correcting the worlds wrongs with your stupid sidekick seems almost pathetic now. You needed teaching a lesson ‘Father’ and it’s rather delightful that your daughter is here to make you learn.”

“By killing me? By killing Uddy? What has he ever done to you? You like him, you know you do. And to throw away his life on a selfish revenge laden whim is nothing short of sick Viota and you know it. How do you plan on escaping yourself anyhow?”

“Well, that’s not something I had even considered. You have no idea the pain your emergence has caused me. The memories, the stabbing sharp painful memories it has raised from the dead. I just want them to end.” She finished and looked directly in to Merecrafts eyes this time with no blank uncaring stare but instead with a deep sadness there. “I am prepared for them to end.”

Merecraft was horrified. Not only was his brother in arms in a huge mess because of him, now his daughter wished to throw away her own life because of the unintentional pain he had caused her and her mother. This was a black day, a day to be forgotten. The sad thing was, it would be forgotten and forgotten soon if they could not work out a way to get themselves out of there.

At that moment Uddy burst upright from his sitting position and exclaimed loudly “I’ve got it Mere! I’ve bloody well got it lad!” Mere and Viota looked at the bouncing Dwarf like he was crazy sporting a huge grin just about visible beneath his huge beard that was swaying rhythmically.

Merecraft raised his eyebrows and looked quizzically at Uddy. “What exactly do you have my friend? You know how to get out of here?” he asked.

“I know how to get out of here. Yes!. But more laddy, a damn sight more. I know how to kill that damned Shadowknight!” he whooped and did a small jig grinning madly all the time.

Patiently Merecraft nodded his head then waited a few moments. “So? The answer is?” he offered to the still dancing Dwarf.

Uddy stopped his prancing and his face took on a more serious look. “OK, this is how it goes laddy.” Then he turned and looked at Viota. “Cast a spell lass” he ordered. Viota looked at him like he was insane. “I’ve already told you Udrath. Magic will not work here.” she stated.

“Aye lass, but humour an old man. Now if you please.” He said, indicating with his hand he was still expecting the spell he had asked for. Shaking her head Viota slowly went through a quick spell, she knew it would not work as soon as she started. As she said the words she felt no building of power, nothing. The spell failed. Udrath seemed delighted and smiling turned towards Merecraft. “Now you lad”. Merecraft inwardly sighed. There would be no telling the Dwarf, the easiest way to would be to show him magic would not work here. So, Merecraft chose a simple one and began his prayers. To his complete shock a loaf of bread appeared in his hands. “Wha...” he exclaimed. Viota looked completely in shock and Udrath had taken on a more serious demeanour. “Right, now use one to get us out of here lad.” Merecraft did not hesitate and summoning his prayers once more, they all disappeared to reappear in the foyer of the mansion once more and were greeted by a startling sight to behold.

Killzum was sat cross legged on the floor, surrounded by three pig carcasses and a cows head, his distended stomach straining against his tunic, his discarded breastplate laid off to the side and animal fat dribbling down his chin. As they appeared he looked up at them and watched them staring at him in disbelief. “Wut?” he responded to the stares. “Meez wuz dooun sumz finkinz!”.


A short time later the four were sat in Irontoes in North Qeynos. Killzum was again testing his amazing stamina by devouring several mugs of broth and at least four tankards of ale. Viota was sat off to the side, quiet and in thought.

Merecraft looked across to Udrath who was nursing a firewater short, having hardly touched it. “I have to ask Uddy. How did you know?” The Dwarf raised his gaze to look at his most dear companion, his face full of sorrow. “Megan told me laddy.” He said simply. Merecraft did not point out the obvious but waited. He knew Udrath would tell him in his own time.

Minutes passed then Udrath drained his glass in one and wiping his beard looked again at Mere. “A long time ago my friend we had new recruits for me to train at Stormguard Hall. One of the lads, my, he was a feisty character, had strength and girth worthy of the finest Dwarvern Warrior. But skill, he had none. During standard drills he would drop his axe, trip his units left guard and be an all round burden on everyone else. But I knew there was more. If I could just get him to train! Well, I posed the question to Megan. She always knew what to do. Ye know what she told me? Aye, ye don’t of course, but I’ll tell ye laddy. She told me to take him under my wing. To give him special training, not just normal drills with all the other lads. When I asked her why, all she said was, ‘Some have power within and use that, others have power but must gain it from without. It is you where that must come from. You must teach him that power’ and that Mere is how I knew.”

Merecraft sat and thought for a moment, eventually his eyes widening and slamming his fist down on the table in delight. “Uddy, you’re a rare one! You knew that Viotas power being a Magicker came from within and was summoned, but mine comes from prayer, from the Blessed Tunare. A power from the outside. When I cast a spell, I don’t really cast a spell. I pray for Tunare to deliver the power for me. The spell came from Tunares magic, from outside the cage!” Shaking his head in disbelief and laughing, slowly his mirth faded and he placed his hand over Uddys, resting on the tavern table. Looking in to his friends eyes, Merecraft said softly “I miss her too my friend. There was never a finer woman”.


Be well!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Spending most our lives livin' in a Hacker's Paradise

I guess you already know that I haven’t been playing EQ2 recently. Or come to think of it, any SoE game. Playing my Playstation3 hasn’t been an issue as I have never hooked up to the net on it. So, what to think/say about the SoE/Sony hack fun recently? I’m not so sure I can say anything that hasn’t already been said, especially on sites like EQ2Flames where they have covered the sensible logical analytical approach to understanding the issue to plain old abuse of others whilst they try and understand the issue. I do know I am missing playing the game and that surprised me. Quite a bit actually. So, I got to thinking about why I miss it so much and it obviously isn’t my need to play in the Velious expansion as I dislike it and won’t be heading there again unless forced. Even if I wanted to, I am so far behind my guildies in respect of equipment/adornments/faction armour etc that the slog to catch up would be arduous indeed. I spoke to my nine year old daughter about this subject the other night when I found her crying in bed because she hasn’t been able to log in to Free Realms since the hack. She told me she missed seeing her friends and simply exploring. “No other game I like lets me wander round another world exploring”, oh, she also added “and Bin Weevils is rubbish”.

Part of it is obviously addiction. It’s what we are used to doing with our time and when that is taken away not through a choice of our own, it smarts a bit. You actually can physically miss and for want of a better word ‘ache’ for what you are missing. I haven’t quite got to that stage with EQ2, I simply miss playing, especially meetin up with my Bro. I haven’t been spending my time yearning to play and have found other stuff to do quite easily. It would just be nice to go smash a few mobs with Merecraft again.

So, anything else to say about the SoE thing? I guess one thing I would like to say is I’m getting a little fed up of the moaners. I am fed up of them moaning that SoE is crap, they should have done more, etc etc. Yeah, Sony dropped the ball. They should have had better protection in place. But, the real offenders? Those logging in and placing their personal details on a server thousands of miles away under trust. Trusting that they won’t accidentally send your info to a marketing company, trusting they won’t get hacked, trusting they don’t piss off the one client who has already developed a string of deadly computer viruses, trusting they treat their staff well so one particularly clever but pissed off employee does not ruin or steal everything. I guess the point I am trying to make is that when you put your data on the internet, wherever it may be, Ebay, Amazon, Easyjet, Financial Times registration, it really matters not. Anywhere you have placed your information on the net is a vulnerability.

Yes, Sony should have had better security in place, but even if they did, would this have stopped the attack? Maybe, maybe not. Our subs every month state on our behalf that we think Sony should at least tried and had those measures in place, but they did not. When you have folks who can hack in to the Pentagon (this place gets over 100 malicious attacks a day) or the Space Program of course there are going to be those with the know how to hack pretty much anywhere they choose. We really know too little about it to comment on that, but if someone wanted to do what has happened to Sony, I’m pretty sure they would have done so without too much trouble with or without the new security. We don’t even know why. If it was a simple crime, hacking for credit and personal info then it could have been anyone. If it was a revenge attack it’s likely to be an employee or customer of theirs. If it was a simple crime, maybe the enhanced security would have meant they moved on to our neighbours instead (just like the effect the alarm box has on your house), but if it was a planned, ordered or a revenge attack then nothing, not even new security would have helped. Revenge will have been obtained somehow no matter the security.

Whatever the reasons, whatever the ‘what ifs’, I personally believe this is unavoidable if you operate on the net. At some point your information IS going to get stolen. It may have already been stolen and just be sitting there unused. When the 7/7 attacks took place in the UK, MI5 raided all current suspects they were trailing. One property they searched had a filing cabinet in it with over 37,000 credit card details there including supporting documentation ready for use. The offenders had used just a couple of them to purchase camping equipment. The information had been gained from phishing. Look at the picture below.

This is just a random one I pulled off the net, but I have a hundred other examples much much worse than this one in my work folder. Some forums even have the cards, how long they have been stolen, the credit limits, types of card, advice on which cash points to use, batches of thousands of cards each split in to type, and so so much more. The point I am trying to make here is that your info’s on the net, get ready to cancel your cards at some point. It’s that simple. You should also stay on top of your credit rating. It is so easy to steal some ones identity then start to build up a wealth of debt with it and the actual person never even knows until they try to get a loan or mortgage.

Check out the below video from one of my heroes in my industry, native New Yorker Jeffrey Robinson. It really hammers the point home about how folks are willing to put information out there that they would not be happy to tell someone in the street. Interesting stuff.

Anyhow, what’s done is done and currently I’m hoping that EQ2 is not going to be offline for too long. I miss hanging with my Bro, flying my griffon, completing old questlines.

Be well.