Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Comfort Food: Tamales

Howdy y'all!

This will be a short post. So every year around the holiday season my family led by my mother prep to cook another of those amazing additions to cuisine by Mexican culture, Tamales. This year is no different and while some of us have heard of them or maybe think we have had some I'd like to show you guys what tamales are. Basically it is a comfort food made from corn (Maize) masa, fillings of various toppings, wrapped in a corn husk (or banana leaves but that is more South American-Yucatan Peninsula take on traditional tamales. They add a nutty flavor.) and steamed in a pot. Masa is basically mashed up hominy (corn) with added spices and/or seasonings. The fillings can be anything from pork or beef to cheese or vegetables.

Cylindrical (circular) tamales tend to be dessert tamales as they are usually filled with sweeter offerings like raisins and chocolate.

Rectangular tamales are the ones that tend to be filled with your meats, cheese, and other heartier toppings.

Now for a picture for my good friend Duncan Stormthief (and you twizards who do not know).

Merry Christmas one and all!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

At the Top of the World: Mount Lemmon

So as you all know I am really into Nature and all sorts of its but my most favorite environment has to be mountains, valleys, and desert. My homestate of Arizona has them aplenty and these unique natural features truly add a layer of biodiversity to an already unique and multi-layered place of extremes/diversity. Yesterday, I visited one such place that captured my heart the first time I visited it as a young child and it still has the ability to capture my heart, expand my appreciation for nature, and truly leave me in wonder. That place is Mount Lemmon in the Santa Catalina mountains by Tucson, Arizona my hometown. Which I had not visited in 7 years.

Like a lot of Arizona, Mount Lemmon and the Catalinas (as we locals call them) break down stereotypes by being more than you'd expect. At first glimpse it looks a lot like any other desert mountain: barren and full of shrubs, dead trees, and lots of rock. But as we Arizonans know that's just a facade for like our land we are multi-layered. Mount Lemmon is no different and is multi-layered literally.

As you drive up the mountain what you mostly see is dead grass, lots of natural stone features, and cactus. Typical Arizona right? (The views are still breathtaking )This area is about from 0-4-5,000 ft elevation. But as you climb the mountain you start to see less cactus and then none. The stones and features are just as big and just as old but now you start to see lichen growing all over them. Mesquite becomes Fir trees and Creosote Bushes become Oaks and Pines. As we climb, a beautiful view of the mountain valley below comes into view. Lush, green, and the clouds hanging low lent an ethereal look to it all. (7,000 ft elevation)

Of course not all of it was green at the next turn on the winding road up a grim reminder is present. A whole hillside is seemingly barren of all life except pines but they are bare, dead, and act as a reminder of the deadly force of nature that swept through 10 years before. A forest fire. The Aspen Fire of 2003. Which burned for a month and ravaged the area. Burning thousands of acres, destroying over 300 homes and businesses of the nearby village of Summerhaven. But it wasn't all doom and gloom, from death, new life emerges and I could faintly make out new saplings growing on that same hillside. (8,000 ft + elevation)

I forgot to mention one other thing that became present as we climbed higher. Something of legend to people who don't know Arizona well and it's true we (Arizonans) don't expect it much in the valley but in this place all stereotypes go away. Gleaming like radiant silver and diamonds in the sunlight, it's snow! Lots and lots of snow. It covers everything from the tiniest pebble to the tallest pine.

In this place, I remember it like I once did as a child and it's still so strikingly beautiful and fills me with a wonder and joy. As I spent the afternoon playing in the snow with my older brother Chris and our friend Will. I was reminded that life is full of beautiful things if you take the time to look beyond what you see only with your eyes.

Below is a photo collection of some pics

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How Wizard101 changed my life

Oh boy, this post. It's been a long journey and I often muse on how this game, this company has changed my life. It's changed it in so many different ways some big and some very small but all let's start at the beginning.

It was 2009. I was 18 years old, gamer fanatic, and trading card collector. As a younger lad I was enthralled with a game series called Pokemon and since 1998 I've been rolling with Pikachu, Charizard, and the gang. As an adult I was an avid card collector hoping to hoard the rarest cards I could find and trade or sell for the ones I didn't have but where would one find a guide on prices? Where would one find the latest on the Poke-fandom as well? Beckett Pokemon Unofficial Collector Magazine of course! [Little history note; I had actually come upon ads for W101 in 2008 but never paid them any attention]

So here I am purchasing the newest issue of Beckett and as I read the various poke-articles I come upon curious ads for a new(ish) game called Wizard101. I think nothing of it as the main reason I've bought the magazine is for the card price guide. Flip, flip, flip...something catches my eye, an article. "The Worlds of Wizard101" alright, I'll read this. Hmm, seems interesting but it's missing something. Oh, look, free stuff, I'm sold! Thus, Alric Ravensinger, Sorcerer, was born July 26th, 2009.

At this point in my life, I was very much identifying with the gamer/geek group (with a hint of ne'er do well more on that later). I wasn't socially awkward or anything but I didn't have a lot of true friends. Wizard101 would change that as would Pirate101 continue it much more later on in this story. I'll be honest I don't remember a lot about the earliest days but I do remember making good friends fast, like Grace Souldust (a retired PO), Caleb Deathstalker ( a college student), and I started to get involved with a newly formed group called the Mercenaries for Hire on a site called Wizard101 Central. 

My first real entrance into the community at large came from a awesome social site called Diary of a Wizard. I was a member on that site and it helped me not only fully embrace the online community but it put me on a path that would change my life forever. So as I enjoyed my ventures with DOAW I find myself now listening to a podcast called Ravenwood Radio, then going to Meet and Greets, in-game Balls, meeting  and making comics for Friendly Necromancers, Voting for Tenure for Dworgyn, After parties in Nightside, Making friends with Spiritcallers, Battlebloods, Darkhearts and I am having a complete joy ride! Wow! This is great, these people are great, I could stand behind these people, this community.

April, 2010 a new system for pets is coming to the Spiral and the Mercenaries for Hire are planning an ambitious farming event known as the Tri-harvest festival. It's a good time for me. I am now a F2M4H or Friend 2 the Mercenaries for Hire, AKA a potential to join the team as a full mercenary. I've enjoyed helping people complete their quests and farm for their items in my spare time. At this point I start a friendship with an Ice wizard known as Kevin Battleblood. Who will later along with Miguel Wildthorn create The Petnome Project.

At this farming festival (April 24th, 2010), I meet a girl named Briana Mooncloud and my goodness she is a feisty one. (She was Storm after all). Witty, Stubborn, and full of a special something I cannot quite explain. I also meet two other wonderful ladies who will become some of my closest friends, Cassandra Dragonheart and Autumn Blade. Turns out these 3 ladies are Mercenaries. As we all become fast friends I find myself talking to Briana more and more outside of the game. Now I know her by her other name, SorceressMiklai.

As the months pass I find myself completely falling for SorceressMiklai. I write poems for her, read stories about worlds I've created that up until those points no one but me had seen or read them (Some of them are over 10 years old), I find us talking on the phone for hours. While I don't advocate you find someone in what's suppose to be a child-friendly game I can't help but feel that I am meant to be with this person, it was destined. We both definitely did not plan for this to happen. I was a young man just happy in helping people in a new found love for the community. SorceressMiklai was playing for her own reasons. But I can't help but want to meet her, be with her and rid the Spiral of evil until the sun sets for us both.

We meet over time (Both of us traveling over 900 Miles different times and Texas IS big afterall), continue to fall in love, riding the Spiral of evil, and now more 3 years later we are living together in Texas. This Arizonan man and my fiery Texan woman. Now? I'm looking forward to the future. Having our own family someday. Earlier I said there was a hint of ne'er do well but in reality I didn't know what I wanted to do, I was lazy, I was very smart but I was blowing my potential. I had no future, no goals. I was starting involving myself with the wrong crowd doing very bad things. But one day I bought a magazine, that led me to a game, that led me to something more and my life was changed. My goals now? Well I went back to school after dropping out. Got my act together and now I'm planning on doing something with this degree. If that's not life changing I don't know what is. It's definitely been hard at times and there was times I doubted myself but when I did SorceressMiklai and my close friends from Wizard101 reinforced my resolve.

As for my community life? Well, I got to see the rise of the community and see Wizard101 propel from an indie game that was shaking up the MMO world to now a major game and guess what? 30 + Million players later Wizard101 and Pirate101 are as groundbreaking as ever! I tearfully saw some friends leave the game like Kevin, Autumn, and Heather. Friends I lost contact with like Caleb and Ronan Dawn. I saw some sites close down like the beloved Diary of a Wizard. I had people who once might not of liked me at one point like John Lifeglen (Through the eyes of a Sorcerer) turn into friends. I found myself becoming a Mercenary for Hire (Retiring some time later). I found myself becoming the new owner of the Petnome Project after Kevin departed in 2012, The Friendly Necromancer become Community Manager of Pirate101, Making friends all across the United States and then around the world (Serbia, Canada, UK, Japan, Caribbean, Greece), and I have now seen a new generation of fansites emerge.

While there certainly been many ups and downs in the community and I have questioned: "Maybe I should step down" one thing has remained true. This community is still worth standing behind and I can never say thank you enough for all the life long friends I've made, experiences I've had, and for the best gift of all; giving me someone special to spend my life with. Love is a powerful thing and I am quite certain these games and this community was built up by it. People with a passion and love for community, family, and fun. How has Wizard101 changed my life? In many ways and all of them I am thankful for.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

All Hallow's Eve decorating!

So every year my parent's home is in a constant state of change whether my mother is rearranging for no reason at all or she's decorating for the next biggest holiday (Yes my mother decorates for all major holidays and cultural ones)...decorating has been a tradition in my home since before I was born. Halloween is an especially celebrated holiday for us and I'd like to share some pictures! Be warned they aren't the best quality.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Obeah, man.

Howdy folks! For this first installment of Spiral Detective I wanted to focus on a character in the game of Pirate101 that introduced me to a rather ancient and murky branch of Shamanistic...let's say Magic called Obeah...

 I first came onto Obeah while playing Pirate101. Now, if you've been following me on Twitter you know I've been playing through the game on my Buccaneer character, Robert Younger (currently Lv 54 as of this post). You'll also know I have a certain weakness for buying companions for my Pirates. Robert is no different and early on when I made him many moons ago I had decided to buy him on a thrill of the moment purchase a Witchdoctor named Uga Buga.

Now I know what some of you are thinking...why would I buy a Witchdoctor on a Melee character? I'd reply why not? Who is gonna make my Yumba Potions if not my Witchdoctor? Joking aside, my Uga Buga has been extremely useful to me. He's the Magic to my Mayhem, Physical Mayhem, so much so he's in my top 2 rows even above Old Scratch. 

Now before I go on I want to list Uga Buga's promotions since he is the central character to this story.

He costs 5,995 Crowns or about 6$ and is a "copy" of Mormo the other Water Mole Witchdoctor given to Witchdoctor pirates.

You do not want to touch my Yum staff, OK?

Uga Buga as a Water Mole Spiritcaller (above).

Water Mole Witchdoctor 

[Comes with Coward's Bane and Hoodoo Touch]
Water Mole Spiritcaller 
-Promotes to this at Lv 15-
[Obtains Vulture's Gift +2 Movement to target for 3 rounds +2 Epics]
Waler Mole Obeah 
-Final promotion as of now promotes to this at Lv 37-
[Hoodoo Touch becomes Mutineer's Grasp and +1 Epic]

Now that you see what he is like let's move on to what this post is actually about. As you can see Uga Buga becomes an Obeah at his final promotion. I was curious what the heck is a Obeah? At first I thought it was simply a title but soon I discovered something entirely different.

Obeah is said to have originated in Central-West Africa or Nigeria and traveled down to Jamaica. Thus, we have our reason or strong possibility why Kingsisle may have used this term. It fits in with the whole tribal aspect of the Water Moles. However, I've always felt the Water Moles were more or less Polynesian/Pacific Islander influenced rather than African or Jamaican. An Obeah man (The term is used for both genders although some say a woman practitioner is also known as a Wise-Woman) can interpret the wishes of the dead, cast spells, and make elixirs. The Obeah man were renowned for his or her skill with herbal medicine and poisons.

Obeah, the word in it's many translations had me confused. One source claims the word is derived from a African word meaning "To put in the ground" in this context the source says it's being used as "To put in the ground [as in a burying a charm or talisman]. Sound familiar? Well we know sometimes Santeria and Voodoo also use this practice but it's usually reserved for curses and other ill intended things. So, is Obeah evil? That all depends on perspective.

Continuing on, we see another possible meaning for Obeah means "Morally Neutral" and in this context it means Obeah can be employed for both good and bad. Aha! So depending on your Obeah man (Which is the term used to call a practitioner of this ancient art) he can do both bad and good things. This is how it's tied together. He can be bad OR good. Although most saw Obeah as bad. This is interesting compared to other practices such as Wicca which follow a strict "Do good" policy because we all know if will something bad or without consent it comes back to you 3 fold. While I am sure there were "bad" Obeah men I think they simply got bad rep and it just spiraled out of control from there. 

In fact though throughout it's history Obeah and the Obeah man has been seen as a negative or evil force. So much so that in 1898 Jamaica passed " The Obeah Law" outlawing it's practice and soon after in 1904, the Leeward Islands followed in Jamaica's footsteps and banned it as well. Why so much hate towards Obeah? One source points out that during these times Jamaica was ruled by the British and we know this as fact that from the 1600s the British ruled and established many colonies as well as converted many to Christianity. 

The British of course didn't accept these types of practices and saw them as Witchcraft and works of the Devil, soon outlawed them. But is that it? Of course not. The Obeah man also had trouble in the form of another branch of folk magic, Myal. While most saw Obeah as "evil" many saw Myal as "good" and so when the Obeah practice was outlawed and even before, the Myal were advocates and sometimes even came to blows with rival Obeah men. This went so far that a Myal was sometimes considered a Obeah Hunter. They would be employed to counter whatever one suspected was an Obeah man's doing. Such as counter spells and curses.

This didn't save the Myal either though from the British and the rise of Christianity and soon Myal was also outlawed and considered Taboo as the population left behind the folk magic of it's ancestors. 

So what did we learn? We learned things always have a deeper meaning, all you have to do is look. We learned about 2 old practices of magic that while greatly diminished still live on through the few who practice it today and through popular culture. Does this mean Uga Buga is a bad evil companion? Of course not! Remember it's all about perspective! I think it's safe to assume that Uga Buga is on the "good" side of things. I'd hate to think of it if he was working for an evil force! Like the Armada. So rest easy tonight no one is casting curse at you and if they were Old Scratch and Uga Buga or Mormo have your back! 

Comments are appreciated and welcomed!

Captain Sam Laveer

[1] - Obeah and Myal
[2] - Obeah History
[3] - The Obeah Act, 1904
[4] - The Obeah Law, 1898

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A little bit about me...

So tonight I wanted to make a simple post and it's simply about things I like and love. I had thought about making this for a few days but I just never really had the time to do so until now. So without further delay let's go.

Things I like/love:
- All manner of spicy things. Spicy food, Spicy snacks, Spicy candy etc etc.
- I like Sour as well but not as much as Spicy.
- Seafood; and when I say this I don't mean Shrimp and the occasional fish fillet. I mean I like to eat Crabs, Crawdads, Lobster, Shrimp, Octopus, Squid, Clams, Osyters, Mussels, Scallops, and Fish of all varieties. (This makes SorceressMiklai cringe btw)
- I like to Grill but I love to cook in general.
- I like to watch Football....but only during the Playoffs and Super Bowl.
- I love Role Playing Games in general.
- I like Action-Adventure games in general
- I love writing. Especially Lore and Myth/Creation stories. Think Tolkien's Silmarillion.
- I love maps.
- I love making maps especially for my own made-up worlds
- I love History and Mythology (Guy thing, right?)
- I love Nature in general. While I do question how I treat our planet because I can and have been wasteful I try to do my best to be respectful of our natural world.
- I love studying and learning about the Occult and Paranormal.
- I love taking pictures.
- I love SorceressMiklai <3
- I love taking walks in the early morning around the area or land I live on and just soaking up the "Newness" of the day. An ideal example would be walking around in the morning 5-6 am while it's cloudy but the sun is peeking through the clouds with a nice cool breeze. I don't get to do this often but when I  do get a chance I love it. Sometimes I won't even walk I'll just sit on the porch and watch the sun rise.
- I love the smell of the Creosote Bush when it is wet.
- I love the smell of a brand new book and the smell of new cards (Playing cards, Trading cards like Pokemon etc)
- I absolutely love the smell of damp Earth after a storm BUT especially a Summer Monsoon storm.
- I love the smell and taste of Coriander Leaves of course to me it is known as Cilantro.
- I love the smell of Bay Leaves and Peppercorn, especially in cooking. (Like using them in a spice mix for slow cooked meats).
- I like Pepper
- I love Dr. Pepper, Squirt, Ruby Red Squirt, RC, Cherry RC, Ginger Ale, and sometimes Sprite.
- I love Tea in general. Some of my favorites though are Cinnamon, Lemon Grass, Chamomile.
- Reading. Duh.
- I like Cashews and Pistachios. I don't like Walnuts.
- I love candied fruit and dried fruit. Of course regular fruit is good too. :-D
- I love Beef Jerky. (Another guy thing, right?)
- I like Romaine Lettuce and Iceberg Lettuce.
- I LOVE LOVE LOVE Salsa. With White Corn Tortilla chips. :-D
- I love steamed and/or grilled vegetables.
- I love watching old Westerns and war movies. You know? Like back when Reagan was an actor.
- I love Comedy, Action-Adventure, Mystery, Thriller/Suspense, and Documentary movies. I'll watch anything though.

This is all for now I am sure I'll think of other things. Now you know a bit about what I like/love. Now for just some extras.

I'm an Aries. (Yep, I'm passionate, a born leader, and yes I can be very hasty and impatient :-p)
My favorite color is Green.
I like certain things to be uniform and orderly. For example; if there is a theme to a room. I don't like conflicting things to whatever theme it is. Otherwise I can be sloppy. But I don't try to be.
I'm left-handed.
I have Light Brown eyes.
I like long wavy hair (Good thing Sorceress has long wavy hair :-p)
I'm a 4th generation Arizonan and American.
My roots are Spanish, American Indian (Mexico), and a tiny morsel of French.
My real name is composed of a French first name and Spanish last name.
I use to do Amateur Ghost Hunting.

So hopefully I didn't bore you with my post and I hope you learned a bit about me. :-)

Comments are appreciated.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Advanced Pets: Pirate101

Hi, all! Brave Sam Laveer here and today I wanted to discuss the possibilities for ADV Pirate101 pets and how to avoid pets from becoming overpowered.

First off, for this let's assume that Pirate101 decides to go a similar route to Wizard101 pets. Each pet has a predetermined sets of skills that can benefit the pet or the player. There are levels to this Baby, Teen, Adult, Ancient, Epic. 

It's no surprise of course to those who have come from Wizard101 that pets no longer are the cute fashion statements they were in 2008 to 2010. Pets now are an essential part of a character's build whether you PVP or not. Resist, Dmg, Extra healing, all these have made pets better.....and worse for the players of the game. Thankfully Pirate101 can learn from it and make pets a viable option but not so overpowered they become a required "gear item". 

No 1. Don't make Epics available to the player.
By this I mean if a pet like the Golden Stingtail has Cheap Shot and "manifests" at adult Relentless that Epic ability/power shouldn't be available to the player. This will maintain a balance so that a melee character like a Buccaneer with a Stingtail with Cheap Shot and Relentless isn't benefiting from it. The epics should only apply to the pet. This help turn your pet into a more powerful "Ally" for those who don't know Allies are units that help you during combat but that you do not have direct control over like your companion units. 

No 2. Stats talents work in Pirate101!
The worst nightmare for some people in Wizard101 is getting a stat boosting talent or a "passive" as it is known as in the community. What's another man's bane is another's salvation. Talents that boost Will, Agility, Strength, Intellect, and Power. The way I'd like to see it work is let's say we have 2 Will talents manifested on an Ebon Spectre pet. Ebon Spectres fight using Will. Now for the sake of this we will call Talent 1, Wisdom (+5 Will) and Talent 2, Persevere (+10 Will). Now if this was W101 that's an additional +15 Will to the player. In the hands of a Witchdoctor most who have 80-100+ Will already this is a terrible sight.
But I have a two-fold solution. 

1. Stat boosting talents that are applied to a Pirate's stats are half their value. Meaning that that +15 Will becomes +8 Will for the player. Much more fair, not too overpowered, and still an extra viable source of stat boosting. Meaning that instead of +3% more dmg (Every +5 of a stat equals +1 dmg) it's almost +2.

2. The pet since they have such a lower attack range benefit from the stat boosting talents 100%.  So your Lv 70 Ebon Spectre with 80 Will gets up to 95 Will. Let's say that the average dmg is 100-150 with the +15 it would become 100-153.

3. Now moving on where do Intellect and Power come into this? Well those stats are the ones that affect talents that deal in Accuracy, Dodge, and Health. But there is a catch.

No 3. Put caps on certain talents to prevent them from being too overpowered.
When we left off at 2 I was talking about Accuracy, Dodge, and Health. Power and Intellect would govern these. But these stats are a little more different than a little extra damage. +10 Dodge and Accuracy or later on when more talents are introduced +15 Dodge (Snipers and Dealers in Wizard101, anyone?) is a downright scary thought. I suggest a cap of 5, yes 5 is sufficient enough. That means a Dodge and Accuracy talent couldn't get above +5. An Armor and Resist talent +5 only as well. +5 DMG. For health it's not as big an issue as with Dodge, Acc, Armor, and Resist. But I think a range of the Talent Health Bounty in Wizard101 would be appropriate, that is +150 Health MAX. The reason for this is to maintain balance in PVE and of course PVP (should it expand) in Pirate101.

Let's look at a mock pet in Wizard101 and Pirate101.

W101 Epic Pet -
+6% DMG
+5% Resist
+10% Resist
+Additional healing (Spritely)
+6% DMG, 15% Resist in addition to any gear bonuses

P101 Epic Pet -
Cheap Shot (start, only affects pet)(Baby)
Relentless (again only works for pet)(Teen)
+5 Armor (Adult)
+5 Dodge (Ancient)
+150 Health (to player) (Epic)

Which pet looks more overpowered to you?

A Lv 1 Wizard can have free healing, +15% resist, and +6% DMG right out of the door. That's extremely beneficial and yet it IS overpowered. Pets play the long game. When that Wizard is Lv 90. He can have over 50% resist. 60+% DMG etc etc.

A Lv 1 Pirate has a more useful ally, A little cushion for physical attacks, can dodge a bit better, and gets a nice free bonus of +150 Health. Now let's go to Lv 65. I'll use my own Privateer for this.

Brave Sam has 103 Armor, 36 Resist, 2,951 Health, 111 Acc, 121 Dodge
With his pet he has 108 Armor, 126 Dodge, and 3,101 Health.

Are my stats overpowered by my pet? But are they enough to be beneficial? I think so.

So in conclusion, I am sure whatever the folks Pirate101 do there will be folks who love or hate it. Being a pet fanatic I am sure I will love it no matter what. But I think it's a good idea to consider these ideas as a way to power up the pet as an Ally and benefit the player without them being so overpowered they are required to thoroughly enjoy the game. To maintain the balance between PVE and of course PVP.

Like my ideas? Hate them? Wanna tweak them? Sound off in the comments section!

Captain Sam Laveer, Privateer
Alric Ravensinger, The Petnome Project
"Privateers will rule the Spiral, and it will be beautiful!"