Monday, March 28, 2011

Day 1: Fail (Week 13: Major Success!)

Well my first day trying to adhere to my new schedule -- and only a half-day schedule -- was without success. I slept an hour past when I was supposed to, and that pretty much shattered my momentum.

When it comes to food, I've gotten really good about, if I have a bad day or make a bad decision, not letting it completely destroy me. In the past I've been one of those people who tries to diet for a few days and then eats an entire pizza on day 3 and just falls back into old habits from there. This time around, I refuse to do that. One bad meal, day, week . . . hell, I could fall off the wagon for three months . . . but it's still no reason to give up on the rest of my life. I'm going to get this weight off, it's just a matter of how long it takes.

Anyway, I clearly have not yet learned to apply this same principle to other aspects of my life. The "all-or-nothing" mentality prevailed. Considering that my schedule only covers a small portion of the day, you'd think that I could have just moved everything down an hour. Wake up at 8:30, breakfast at 9, workout at 9:30, etc. But of course that's not what happened.

The old me would make excuses for myself. The new me . . . well, I'll still make the excuses, but I at least recognize that it's still 100% my fault (or, without the guilt trip, my CHOICE) that I got nothing done today.

Today's excuse being . . . I hit a major milestone on my weight-loss: 197 lbs! (Yes, I'm using specific numbers now.) Finally, after three months, I've made it under 200 lbs for the first time in years!

For the past two Mondays I've weighed in at 200 lbs exactly, so I knew I was close. Truth be told, I even peeked at the scale and discovered the news late last week, since last Monday's weight was due to a conscious choice not to count my calories for a 4-day span the previous week (long story for another day). So, I didn't know what that scale would say last week. I wasn't surprised that it didn't go down, and was pretty pleased that I'd at least been able to maintain . . . and after a few days back on track, I was just too curious to see if I'd finally made it to 199. Which, turns out, I had!

So technically, I already knew that I'd broken the 200-lb barrier. But it wasn't official until today. So after my weigh in I spent more time than usual online, posting the news in various places, reading responses, replying to said responses . . . all the usual stuff that gets me into trouble, turning 10 minutes at the computer into 2 hours. Between that, and already feeling off due to waking up late . . . yeah. Schedule out the window. Dirty dishes in the sink. Random crap everywhere else.

But . . . tomorrow's a new day. A more productive one, hopefully. Back when I was playing WoW, Tuesday was always my most productive day of the week since the game would usually be down for maintenance. Let's see if I can channel some of that old Tuesday energy.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Behind in EVERYTHING!!!

How is it possible, when you have no solid responsibilities, to feel like you're behind in everything? Actually I think I just answered my own question. Key word: solid. No solid responsibilities. I don't have a job. I don't have a reason to get out of bed and start my day at any given time. I have things I want to accomplish personally (mainly reading and exercising) and things that I need to do to make a contribution to our home (mainly cleaning of various sorts), but again, nothing solid. Nothing with a deadline.

What happens is, I get up, waste time on the computer, get breakfast. Well, then I need something to entertain me while I'm eating. When it comes to entertainment, I'd much rather read than watch TV, but it's hard to read and eat at the same time, so instead I pull up Netflix. A sitcom is about 20 minutes long without commercials, but then I'll usually watch another episode. Or two. Or three. I don't intend to spend all morning in front of the TV, it just happens. And then I think, okay, time to get busy . . . but I just keep getting sidetracked by one thing after another. I try to clean up the living room, but the first thing I pick up reminds me of something else I wanted to do. Or I'll bring it to the room it belongs in, and then see something there that requires my attention. Oh, and should probably start thinking about lunch. I still haven't worked out good lunch ideas for myself, let me check the MFP forums for ideas. An hour and a half later, I still haven't eaten. And, oh right, the kitchen, I was supposed to do dishes. Well, let me just get lunch first. And of course I'll turn the TV back on. Only one episode this time, I swear. Now, there was just something on my mind that I was going to do, why can't I remember what it was? Maybe if I retrace my steps, I'll think of it again. Back at the computer . . .

*keys in the lock* Oh . . . it's 4:00 already?

I'm exaggerating. But only slightly. It's more the laziness than the scatterbrained issue (though there are definitely elements of both).

Leaving aside the long-distance relationship for the moment, the time in my life when I was happiest was when I was in college. I LOVED college. Loved it so much that it breaks my heart a little at the beginning of each semester when people I know are getting ready to begin their classes (and, usually, not too happy about it). Though I would certainly do my share of complaining if I were in their place, I'm sure, I would still be far happier and more satisfied if I were. For many reasons, but what I miss most right now is the structure.

So, I've decided to make myself a schedule. I've only got my mornings mapped out right now, but I really think it will help. Here's what I've got so far:

Alarm goes off at 7:30 - allowing half an hour for waking up and morning internet routine
8:00 - breakfast + ONE episode on Netflix
8:30 - short morning workout
9:00 - shower (unless I'm going to the Y later, in which case I'd skip it and shower after that)
9:30 - clean (do dishes, clean counters, minor tidying . . . I'll probably make a day-by-day list of what rooms/tasks to focus on)
10:30 - snack + free time (probably internet)
11:00 - main workout OR if it's not a workout day, read

That's all I've got so far. I figure I'll try it for a couple days and see how it goes. There are just so many things that I do that are time sinks and I don't realize it. For example, this blog entry, I think I've been working on for about half an hour now. (Sad, isn't it? This is no great masterwork, after all.) Or getting sucked into "just one more episode" on Netflix. Or reading "just one more forum thread" on MFP. But really, any time I write anything, whether it's a blog post, or a book review on GR, or a forum post on MFP . . . because I put far more thought into my words than I probably should.

With that in mind, I'm not going to come up with a good way to end this, but rather just hit "publish" and go to bed.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Quick WoW Update

Blusummers is my main focus for raiding. My plan is to play as Arcane while keeping a frost build as backup for specific places. The adds on Magmaw and those goblins in Throne of the Tides come to mind. I still need to get a new wand, but otherwise he's doing pretty well as far as gear is concerned. The guild has taken down the first boss in both Blackrock Depths and Bastion of Twilight as well as the PvP boss in Baradin Hold. It's been a lot of fun so far and we've got lots more raid content to go. kind of taking a bit of a back seat right now. I decided when this expansion started that I would only "focus" on 2 of my characters at a time. I've got a pretty much full server of alts, but if I tried to focus on any more than that none of them would get anywhere. This doesn't mean that I wouldn't play any of my other toons, but I just wouldn't really focus on gearing or in-depth play-style. Well, I originally intended to keep Squirrelz fairly well geared once I got Blu raid ready. Then this other guy showed up and stole my attention.

Steelblu is now my secondary focus. I really enjoy PvP as Arms and tanking in my Prot spec. This was the toon that I started with Charleen's Priest in order to level through PvP and Dungeons. Well, after the newness of the expansion wore out. Charleen pretty much got burned out on WoW. I'm pretty sure her account has even expired by now. She still plans to come back and play every now and again when the bug bites her, but it'll probably be a while. Anyway, I've been continuing along leveling through PvP and tanking in the dungeon finder and I'm having a blast. He's level 44 now and in the long term, I'm looking forward to getting to 85 to get into some arenas and rated battlegrounds with some other folks in my guild. For right now though, my sights are set on level 49 when I'll be able to charge in combat and will finally be able to say hi to those darn hunters after they disengage away from me...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Who is Blusummers?

This is a very long Warcraft post. You have been warned.

Blusummers is having a bit of an identity crisis at the moment. I don’t know if I want to spec primarily Arcane or Frost. Blu has pretty much always been a frost mage so I never thought I’d really have to worry about this decision, but Deathwing’s emergence shook up a lot more than just the landscape. Bear with me as I try to organize my thoughts.

As I said, Blu has almost always been a frost mage. Leveling, all through Burning Crusade, and for the beginning of WotLK. Once the guild I was in started peeking into raids in Wrath, I switched to arcane because there was a massive difference in DPS between frost and arcane. Frost was not raid viable at that time. It just wasn’t. I don’t remember, but I think fire may have not been doing so well either.

What I took away from that time was that overall, frost was more fun for me, but so crippled that I was hurting the group if I didn’t spec arcane. I say overall it was more fun, but there were a couple things I liked about arcane. I liked that it had more of a rotation than frost. (At the time frost’s rotation was frostbolt followed by more frostbolt, thrilling huh?) I also liked that arcane had different rotations to fit the situation. I don’t mean AoE vs single target, I mean that the highest DPS rotation was also the worst DPM meaning that if the fight was only going to last another 30 seconds, you switched to your highest damage rotation and could end up oom at the end of the fight knowing that you did what you could to use all your mana up to put out as much damage as possible. I still liked frost for the control it had for soloing and I liked it best, but arcane wasn’t so bad.

Then the cataclysm hit. Talent trees got refined and mastery was added to the game. Frost’s mastery increases damage against frozen targets. To me this smelled suspiciously like it was designed for PvP, but it does apply to deep freeze, ice lance, and frostfire bolt damage when you’re using the fingers of frost proc (notice that frostbolt, frost’s main nuke, is left out of this). So I stuck with it through 5 mans. I liked hitting bosses for big deep freeze crits (once every 30 seconds) and using deep freeze for control on multi-mob trash pulls to help reduce tank damage for a few seconds. The problem I had came once we started getting more into heroics. I was constantly last on the dps charts and when the bosses hit an enrage phase where the key was to dps them down before the healers went oom from the massive group damage they were doing. I didn’t like how dependant my spec seemed to be on procs for “reliable” dps, and I was holding groups back. There were several times that I feel that if we had had more dps, we wouldn’t have wiped. This was a very different thing from Wrath where all more dps did was make the fights shorter.

So, I decided to give Cataclysm’s version of arcane a try. I did a little research, came up with a spec I liked and went to the test dummies (before I even bothered with glyphs). My sustained dps was around 2k dps higher than it was with frost. My burn phase dps was about 4k higher.

Quick overview of how arcane works. It’s split up into 2 phases. A burn phase and a conserve phase. Due to the way arcane’s mastery works, you deal more damage (all spells) the more mana you have. It’s completely percentage based. So, if your mastery on your gear gives you up to 10% extra damage based on mana, then at 100% mana, your spells will hit 10% harder, at 90% mana, they’ll hit 9% harder. The burn phase kind of ignores mastery and goes into a simple rotation of arcane blast spam. This will go through all of your mana in about 15-30 seconds depending on your mana pool and how many times you get a free spell from clearcasting. You do this when you’ve got evocation off cooldown, or when the fight is almost over. The conserve phase is where you try to stay at 90% mana or higher by alternating a couple of arcane blasts and then a free arcane missile or an arcane barrage to get rid of the AB debuff.

Anyway, I loved the new arcane. It was a fun little mana management game that changed with your gear so no one could tell you what the ideal rotation was. You had to figure it out based on what was going on with the fight. It was all the things I enjoyed about arcane before, with a new twist. (The big damage numbers I was putting up didn’t hurt either). For heroics, this was the ideal spec. Boss fights weren’t too long and didn’t require much movement. Most bosses, I could go through a burn phase, evocate to get my mana back, and go through a burn phase again and the boss would be dead. The dps output was crazy, I was having a lot of fun with it, and I didn’t feel like a strain on the group.

Then we started raiding. First up was Magmaw in Blackwing Descent. I read up on the strategies. It seemed like it basically came down to dps the boss, deal with the adds, get back to the boss, and then there would be a burn phase where the boss would take double damage (ideal for arcane’s burn phase). This would be fun. And it was fun because I was raiding again. However, my spec didn’t seem to be doing so hot. While the burn phase numbers were nice, the real threat to the raid wasn’t the boss, it was the adds. As long as we could keep the adds under control, the boss would eventually go down. I didn’t quite get just how bad an idea it was to stand anywhere near the mobs from reading the strats. When our raid leader explained the fight, it sunk in. I wasn’t going to be able to use my spec’s aoe on the adds for 2 reasons: it would require me to be near the adds who would possibly notice the mage spamming arcane explosion in their faces, and it would require me to be away from the rest of the raid. The second reason is the real killer. Talented arcane explosion has its threat reduced by 80% so it’s possible that as long as the adds weren’t rooted, I’d be safe, but the boss does a targeted damage spell that is split with your group members nearby. If I was hit with this while I was out by my lonesome, there’s a good chance that I’d be 1-shotted. Dead mage = 0 dps. There was also the problem that we didn’t have a great way to slow and keep the adds slowed before they could get to the raid. For most of the night I kept thinking how this fight would go a lot more smoothly if I had blizzard with a slow on it.

So, we decided that we would take another crack at the boss 2 days later. In the meantime, I respected one of my dual specs to frost. I also started looking a lot more into my single target dps for frost. I discovered a few things. One was that they had made some adjustments to frost and pumped up frostbolt damage and taken down some of the frozen target damage. The other thing I discovered was just how reliant frost dps is on crits and just how low my crit was. After some serious reforging to squeeze every last bit of crit out of my gear at the cost of haste and mastery, I managed to get up to 20% crit. Add the glyph of molten armor and that spell gives me an extra 5% crit. There are 2 raid buffs that provide 5% crit each. The magic number frost needs to aim for is about 33% crit when fully buffed. I had 25% self buffed and boy did that make a difference. I could put up fairly respectable numbers and when we got to Magmaw the next night, ignoring one accidental pull from one of our hunters :), we one-shot it. Now, I’m not going to be all pompous and claim that it was all me. It wasn’t. The break had given others in the raid time to notice some things about when the tank was dying and that made a big difference. However, having a permanent slow on all the adds while doing damage to them did make a significant difference in my opinion. We weren’t killing them extremely fast, but they weren’t getting to the raid, and that made me feel like I was really making a contribution to the raid’s success despite my frost damage numbers not being quite as high as arcane.

So now we get to my dilemma. Frost and Arcane are both “viable” specs for raid damage. Arcane’s damage is higher, but frost’s is acceptable. Frost currently has better AoE especially for fights like Magmaw where I can’t be anywhere near the AoE mobs. For adds that I can get near, and need to be slowed, I still have cone of cold as an arcane mage. As we progress, I’m betting that we’ll run into more bosses with hard enrage timers where dps does matter. Those are the fact based decision makers.

As far as play what you want to play…I’m not sure. I think I’m leaning towards Arcane, but I feel reluctant. I’m not sure if I think arcane is more fun right now because I like the new mechanics and it’s more reliable instead of proc based, or if I just like seeing the big numbers and being at the top of the chart. The other issue is that I may be reluctant because I’ve always played frost. Blu has always been a frost mage and I feel weird with that not necessarily being the case anymore.

I think my decision for now is to go with arcane, but to keep a frost off-spec. I’ll reforge my gear for arcane so that when I want to do as much damage as possible I can. Unfortunately this will hurt frost (arcane’s worst secondary stat is crit, frost’s best), but hopefully the damage won’t matter too much on the fights where frost’s control is needed most.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

For Wulfa!

So that my good friend Wulfa has something to read today . . .

1) Diet/exercise still going well. Up to 11 lbs lost (as of Monday).

2) Possibly related to #1 but possibly not . . . I have been UBER tired lately. I have an alarm set for 7am so that I don't sleep in too bad, and this morning I just shut it up, and rolled over back to sleep for another hour. Which wouldn't be so bad, except that I went to bed at like 10:00 last night. You'd think that 9 hours of sleep would be plenty. It always was, for me, to the point where I would sleep almost EXACTLY 9 hours, no alarm clock needed. If I went to bed at 10, I'd be up at 7. If I stayed up till midnight, I'd wake up at 9. It didn't seem to matter to my body when those 9 hours started or stopped, as long as I got them. (Of course, the later I stayed up one night, the later I slept in . . . which meant that I stayed up late that night because I wasn't tired early enough . . . and it would just snowball from there until I was sleeping 2-11am on a regular basis. Hence the alarm.) So, I don't know if my body is just more exhausted than normal because of the exercise, or not getting as much food, or both. Or if it's completely unrelated, because I've been doing this for a couple months now, and only started having issues ignoring my alarm in the last week or so.

3) I've hit a reading slump. In January I read 8 books. In February I read only 2. I don't know why I haven't felt like reading lately. I've had to return a whole bunch of books to the library without reading them. It's just been really weird for me. The last time I hit a reading slump was when we moved, I got thrown off my normal routine, and it just took a while to get back into it. This seemed to come out of nowhere.

4) I haven't been playing WoW recently either. My account actually is expiring sometime this month (don't remember exactly when, though I should find out because there's some "housekeeping" stuff I want to do before that happens). After I leveled to 85 and finished questing through all the new areas, I just sort of lost interest. And since that happened right around the same time that I started getting more active, it just seemed a waste to sit for hours in front of the computer if it wasn't something I was really invested in. The funny thing is that there really was a lot more I wanted to do before I quit again (like quest through all the OLD areas, which are now new . . . that makes sense to anyone who plays the game). I can definitely see myself coming back, just for a month at a time, because when I am into it I am really gung-ho into it . . . but it's not something I can really do casually, just a couple hours a week. And even if I could, from a financial standpoint, I just couldn't really justify continuing to spend $15 a month for something I may or may not feel like playing at any given time. So, if in a couple months I decide I want to come back, I probably will start my account up again, play like crazy for a few weeks, and then let it expire again.

5) Slider (our cat) is a total goofball. That's about all I have on that subject.

6) I've now been up for an hour and haven't eaten anything or done my morning workout, so I'd best get to that.