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Friendses Only

Much of this journal is friends only, as I'm not really down with sharing my personal life with the random public. Leave a comment if you are interested in being friends, and if I know you, or think I may care to, I'll add you.

Yet another new toy.

 About a month ago I decided that it was time to stop wasting energy by using my oven so much to cook simple small items. Not only does my apartment get stupidly hot when I use it so the AC has to run more, it's just a waste of time and energy to cook a chicken breast or a piece of fish in a full sized oven. So I headed to my personal nirvana (Bed, Bath and Beyond) and picked out a De'Longhi convection oven. Besides having a ton of great features on it for a decent price, I seem to remember my friend Anexxia mentioned having that brand and liking it, so I went for it. 

Over the past month I have baked cookies, chicken pot pie, fish, chicken breasts, pizza, biscuits, and a small pie in the oven and have loved it more each time an item comes out of it perfectly done. The only feature I have yet to try is the rotisserie, which I have on my list of things to do over the next few weeks. I have a Cornish Hen in my freezer just waiting for me to give this final feature a try. I love the fact I can still bake but my house doesn't get heated up the way that it used to, and I feel better about knowing I'm using probably a quarter of the energy to use it over my full sized oven. I highly recommend the De'Longhi Rotisserie Convection oven if you have been thinking about getting a toaster oven of any kind.

My Precious

 I was dragged kicking and screaming into 2010 last week when I finally gave up my beloved cell phone for a new smartphone. Which phone did I end up getting? A Droid Eris, and I lurves it. So far I haven't found an app that I have wanted that isn't on the Android Market, plus a bunch of my friends have them, so we spend our lunches together being total dorks and comparing features between our phones and talking about new apps we have found. Everyone who has played with it loves the little scroll bubble at the bottom of the phone and the touch screen is capacitance based so when I toss it in my backpack I'm not making random phone calls to people. I also love being able to edit my phone book  online. So much better than my old flip phone. So far my favorite moment was telling some iPhone users to suck it when their browser didn't like showing links in a forum I administrate. Both the built in Droid browser and Opera 5 were fine. It filled me with childish glee to call them Appholes and to tell them to get better toys.

Asparagus and Tomato Salad

 Summer is very much here and I have been practicing the art of not cooking. When it gets well into the 90's I start to crave lighter foods like salads, fruit, and veggies. One of my favorite new dishes is this Asparagus and Tomato Salad. It's light, crunchy, and to me just says summer all over it.

1 lbs fresh asparagus
1 pint grape tomatos
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper to taste.

Slice the tomatoes lengthwise and set aside. Cut asparagus into 1 1/2 inch pieces and blanch is lightly salted water for a minute or two, just until they are a bit tender. Shock in ice water to stop the cooking. In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients and refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors mingle. 


Mmmmm, ice cream.

Who doesn't like Ice Cream? I'm pretty sure the answer is no one. It's cool, creamy, sweet, and full of childhood memories. It's also not that great for you, which means I can't have it as often as I'd like. Luckily for me I found this recipe in Cooking Light this month. I gave it a shot since the combination of strawberries and rhubarb is impossible for me to resist. It came out great, and the flavor reminds me of the jams and pies I grew up on.

Yield: 10 servings (serving size: about 3/4 cup)
2 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup half-and-half
1 cup sugar, divided
3 large egg yolks
2 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
1/3 cup fruity red wine (such as merlot)
3 cups chopped fresh strawberries (about 1 pound)
1. Combine milk and half-and-half in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Heat milk mixture to 180° or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). Combine 1/2 cup sugar and egg yolks in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until pale yellow. Gradually add half of hot milk mixture to egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Pour the egg yolk mixture into pan with remaining milk mixture; cook over medium-low heat until a thermometer registers 160° (about 2 minutes), stirring constantly. Place pan in a large ice-filled bowl for 20 minutes or until custard cools completely, stirring occasionally.

2. Combine remaining 1/2 cup sugar, rhubarb, and wine in a saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 8 minutes or until rhubarb is tender and liquid is syrupy. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Combine rhubarb mixture and strawberries in a blender; process until smooth. Strain mixture through a sieve over a bowl, pressing with a wooden spoon; discard solids. Stir rhubarb mixture into custard mixture.

3. Pour custard into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer; freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Drain ice water from freezer bucket; repack with salt and ice. Cover with kitchen towels, and let stand 1 hour or until firm if using and old fashion ice cream maker. If you are using a newer table top model be sure to freeze the container for a good hour after the machine is done to get the ice cream to the right consistency.

Tanking Basics 101

 This post is inspired by the plethora of horrible tanks I get to enjoy running with while doing my dailies.

1. Situational awareness is your friend.
Getting tunnel vision as a tank is deadly to your group/raid. I generally am swinging my camera around to try to see any incoming patrols or to get a heads up when the hunters pet decides to go off after a random target. I can't stress how important it is to know what is going to happen and be able to see things coming. If you know you are about to get 4 adds, because you saw an errant spell shoot over your shoulder, you will be much better prepared to grab the adds before they can turn your dps, and more importantly the healer, into paste before you. Scroll your camera back and try to get the biggest view of the battlefield as you can.

2. Nameplates are super helpful.
I used to hate nameplates, they made everything ugly, but as a tank knowing where things are at any given time goes back to point number 1. Both Aloft and Tidy Plates are excellent addons that show you your threat on the mobs, but even the default UI nameplates are helpful. I personally rarely turn on the nameplates for my allies, but for certain raid bosses like Rotface, I do use them so I have a better idea of where people are when they running towards me with a goo.

3. Be consistent.
Every time you pull you are going to want to approach it the same way. If you flip the mob so it's back is turned to the group, do it every pull. If you do a little shuffle before you pull for good luck, do it every time. If you are methodical in how you do each and every thing the others in your group will start to see your pattern and be able to anticipate better, whether it's knowing you will gather up 15 mobs before stopping for dps or knowing that you stutter step 3 times before you pull so they don't open up too early and die.

4. Flip the mobs so they don't face your group.
For the love of god, please do this. Especially if it's a dragon or looks like a large lizard that could possibly sprout wings and fly some day. At least 75% of the mobs in Northrend have some sort of frontal AOE/Cone/Cleave attack in front of them. Turning the mobs away from the group tends to make the healers job easier and keeps your dps alive more often, it's also a big clue to you when you've lost aggro on something since you can see it turn to run away from you.

5. Watch your healer's mana.
Nothing will piss off your healer more than you starting a boss fight or pulling that next trash pack when they are low on mana and trying to drink. Your healer is your friend, you have to work together to be successful, pissing them off tends to start that relationship off on the wrong foot.

6. Learn to use unit frames to your advantage.
Every unit frame out there, from the default package to pitbull, to grid, to Vuhdo has the ability to show you who has aggro on an encounter at any given time. As a tank you should be learning to keep an eye on whatever indicator your preferred frame has so you are able to instantly counteract aggro hungry dps. I personally use Grid with Clique bound to my aoe taunt as well as a mouseover macro for my other taunt. The macro looks like:
/cast [target=mouseover, harm][target=mouseovertarget, harm] taunt name here

This allows you to mouse over a person's raid/party frame and taunt their target.

7. You have taunts, use them.
Nothing annoys me faster in a group or raid than seeing dps pull aggro and not seeing the tank taunting the mob back. Yes threat is a 2 way street, but we were given taunts for a reason, and there should never be a time in this AOE heavy environment for a tank to refuse to regain aggro with a taunt if needed. Even more so in a raid, as a raid leader I rage inside when I don't see my little taunt warning addon lighting up and our dps is dying because NONE of the tanks are even trying to get the mobs back. Do your raid leader a favor, we have enough stress, don't add this to our plate.

8. Know what your cooldowns are and how to use them effectively.
Proper use of tank cooldowns can really make or break a raid. Knowing what each cooldown does, and what kind of timer it has on it's reuse is very helpful. Some classes have multiple cooldowns, knowing which one works better in each situation is invaluable. The quickest way to look like a hero on a raid is to pop a cooldown when something has gone wrong. Maybe your healer is off in a corner puking, or stuck in a block of ice, times like this it's essential to do what you can to keep yourself alive while the rest of the raid deals with the "bad thing."

9. Be honest with your group.
If you are having problems with someone pulling aggro, ask them nicely to back off a little. If you don't know what to do on a given encounter, speak up, everyone assumes you know what you are doing, if you don't you will look like a tool more than if you admit you haven't done something before. Same thing if you don't know where you are going. Chances are someone in the group knows what direction you need to be headed in and won't mind leading the way.

I'm sure I've missed about 100 other little nuances about tanking, but this is a good starting place for any new tank. 
With the advent of ICC, everything you knew about tanking is dead! Ok not really, but there have been some changes to how we look at gearing. In previous tiers of raiding there was a need for higher avoidance since the bosses hit so hard. Of course our avoidance got so high that bosses had to hit super hard and the cycle continued, until ICC was released. With the new boss design of fast, lower damage hits, the gearing concept has changed. No longer do we care about not getting hit. With the Aura of Suck in ICC, avoidance has been severely nerfed, now we rely on massive health pools and large amounts of armor to mitigate the damage down to laughable levels. Ok not really, but this will make your healers happier.

• Austere Earthsiege Diamond - Best MT Meta
• Eternal Earthsiege Diamond - Trash killing Meta

Solid Majestic Zircon

Purple Gems:

• Shifting Dreadstone EH & Agil/Stam. Probably your best red MT gem.
• Regal Dreadstone Dodge/Stam. Agility version is probably better.
• Sovereign Dreadstone Str/Stam. Agility version IS better.

Orange Gems:
• Stalwart Flawless Ametrine Avoidance Dodge/Defense. A great option if you are needing the defense.

Enchanting is where it gets a little weird. Blizzard has a penchant for putting little bombs out there, that if you aren't aware of can really hurt you and your raid. I'll go over your best choices and potential worst choices slot by slot.

•+26 Agility - This is a good all around enchant. It's not too expensive, and gives you a nice balance of armor, dodge, and crit.

•Mongoose - Probably the all around best option for threat as a tank, the proc is pretty steady, the downside is it's a proc and it's expensive.

•Titanium Weapon Chain - Again more of a threat enchant, it's dirt cheap and if your hit is horrible missing a taunt could wreck your raid on Saurfang or Festergut type fights.

•Blade Ward - A very good enchant, also very expensive. I really like this as parry is much more useful in ICC, however it can be hard to find and is probably best saved for your personal BiS weapon.

•Blood Draining - And here is the little bomb. In theory this is a great enchant, however due to it's mechanics it is risky to use. Imagine you are tanking Festergut. You take a nasty shot from him, that would normally drop you into Ardent Defender range, however Blood Draining procs. Now you aren't getting the benefits of your damage reduction and your healers have to work much harder. There are even reports of Blood Draining procing and interfering with the life save portion of Ardent Defender. Is it probable? No. Can it happen? Yes, and it does. Rumor has it this has changed in 3.3 but until I stop seeing reports of it wiping raids I'll pass on this one.

Helm - Arcanum of the Stalwart Protector.

Shoulders - Greater Inscription of the Pinnacle, or the +30 stamina pvp enchant. I use the latter.

Cloak: Mighty Armor is better than Titanweave once you are past the defense minimum, +22 agility is also a viable option. I am using agility currently, but will be getting Mighty Armor when I remember to find an enchanter to do it.

Chest: Greater Defence, Super Health, Powerful Stats, it's up to you based on your needs.

Wrist: 40 stam enchant

Gloves: Glove Reinforcements are best for melee heavy bosses, Heavy Borean Armor Kit for spell caster bosses. Armsman for your threat-set gloves, if you have them. I use the armor kit.

Legs: 22 agil / 55 stam leg patch.

Feet: 22 stam.

And finally when looking at all the amazing gear for Tier 10, it can get a little overwhelming. Personally before I get any tier gear I have gotten 4 items that filled some sore spots in my gear. My first purchase was the Sentinel's Winter Cloak. This thing is amazing and is probably an upgrade to anyone who isn't clearing ToGC25. Second I got the Verdigris Chain Belt. Again, an amazing piece of gear, close to BiS for everyone. Third I bought the Corroded Skeleton Key, this is a nice trinket, but in retrospect if your trinkets aren't horrid, like mine were you should think about picking up the Gauntlets of the Kraken first. The gloves are terrific, and a much better value for the 60 emblems than the trinket. My next purchase is a solid 95 emblems away and will probably be a replacement for my chest, but we'll see what my needs are when I finally get that amount saved up.

A birthday dessert.

This week I am at my parents house helping my Mom celebrate her birthday. Last night I cooked her dinner and dessert. All of us were pretty happy with how it tasted.

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 Recently I was chosen by the officers in my guild to be the new 25 man progression night raid leader. After I had a minor panic attack, I stepped up and got right too it. As in, that very night. Luckily I also have a co-raid leader who deals with the first night of ICC25 and another officer who helps me make the decisions. I also thank god they are both healers, because I have no way to evaluate what is going wrong with the healing other than me dying. Not to mention, the Raid Leader chat is funny and helps us all keep our sanity through the 12 wipe nights. 

I think the job of  raid leader comes down to a few key things; Preparation, Execution, and Review.

I'm a big fan of the phrase "Proper previous planning prevents piss poor performance" otherwise known as the 7P's rule. We use it a lot in the entertainment industry, and I try to apply it to the raids I'm leading. I generally have a plan for how the night is going to go, what boss strategies I need to review, what classes we have, and in general what to expect from the raid that night. Some of this is done in the scheduling stage, when we decide how stacked we want to make the raid, or if we are going to be somewhat casual and see what happens. I have a subscription to TankSpot so I can download their videos, and have them all on my second computer, right at hand in case I need to review a visual. I also have all the fights pulled up on Bosskillers, Wowwiki, and Maintankadin, again just in case I need to review. Finally, I pull up the "official" SHP strat that we use each week for each boss. This is the strat I outline if I have to describe it for the group, and it's generally a mix of the strats from all the other sites plus what has worked for us in the past. I also talk with my fellow raid leader crew about the healer mix to get an idea of how many we will need to take each raid, and then decide who the tanks will be and who will be dpsing.

Execution of the raid generally means I'll talk people through the fights, do my best to call the fights, and try to keep my eye on everyone to make sure they are doing their jobs. Part of this is made easier with addons such as RaidStatusBuff which is kind of like a big brother addon to make sure your people aren't slacking on flasks, and debuffs/buffs. Trying to keep up with everything going on is the most difficult part of this, but it is essential so that I am able to make changes to what we are doing on the fly. Having someone else you trust in the raid is helpful with this because they can let you know if someone isn't doing their job, the problem comes when you have too many people trying to be helpful and your chat box becomes a mash of pink text from multiple sources. I've found the best way to deal with this is to thank people for their help, but let them know you are aware of the issue already. Don't be afraid to radically change your strategy mid stream if what you are doing isn't working. I know it can be frustrating to a raid to  change strats every few wipes, but explaining your thinking usually goes a long way towards settling people down.

Finally is the after raid review. For every 25 man raid we do I both discuss the raid with my fellow raid leader and officer liason, and review the logs. I check to make sure that the healers were healing who they were supposed to. I look to see if tanks are using taunts and cooldown effectively. I also check to see why people were dying. Was it something the tank did wrong, or was it something that could have been prevented by controlling aggro better. I check to see if the dps is swapping to adds, and if their dps was low what the cause was. I compare rotations and skill usage to both the top players in the raid of their same class, as well as the top players of their class with similar gear. If we weren't successful, which isn't the same thing as not killing something, I try to figure out where I went wrong as the leader, because at the end of the day it's my responsibility to make sure I give the raid the very best chance at success.

I've found that I spend much more time playing the WoW meta-game rather than actually playing WoW the past few weeks. I sit in Dalaran and talk to the other raid leaders about our future, our present and our past to try to get a better understanding of where we have been, so we know how to proceed. I spend hours pouring over EJ, Wowwiki, and other resources to try to give us the best chance in each of our raids. While I may not actually get to play my characters as much as I used to, I find I really enjoy the theorycrafting, math, and meta part of my new job and it has breathed fresh life into something that was getting a bit stale.

Pumpkin Soup

Recently it's been cold down here in Florida. Weather like this calls for comfort food. Soup is one of my favorite things when it's cold. The other day I was digging around in my pantry to see what I could make and I found some canned pumpkin and some chicken stock. This made me think of Butternut Squash soup, so I decided to give it a try. I made two batches, one that was very simple and just had a little cream and nutmeg in it, and the other was a sweet and spicy soup with ginger, garlic, honey and cream. Both of them turned out awesome. I love it when I get inspired by random ingredients in my pantry, and come up with something worth making again.




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August 2010


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