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Ashur Blog

My feelings on the redesign.

Chances are you probably don't care about my feelings towards anything. Nevertheless, it is likely you are bored and needing of something to do; so what, then, is better than reading the perspicacious musings of the great khan Ashur? If you answered, "Nothing, oh Great Khan of Life and Dignity," then you would be resoundingly correct.

Anyway, enough jargon. I have been anticipating the redesign because I felt the old one was lacking in cohesion. It seemed too cluttered. As soon as you logged onto the page, it was a Roman blitzkrieg of information: small text, overbearing feature graphics, boxes galore - it was a mess. A lot of great articles, reviews, previews, and features went unnoticed because they were too tucked away into the undulations of data.

Now, however, things seem more tightly weaved together. Articles and features are more streamlined. The community plays a more prominent role in the website, instead of being a secluded area [as it was before]. Reviews are more clearly showcased and content is more easily accessible. Areas that lacked refine and polish now possess a professional phosphorescence.

I think in both the short and long runs, the redesign turned out to be a resounding success. I applaud those web designers and coders who put their time and effort into breathing new vigor into the site.


Currently...

Things I am currently doing:

Reading: The Geometry of Fractal Sets (Falconer), Enchiridion (Epictetus), Livy: History of Rome Book III (Livy)
Listening To: Late Registration (Kanye West), Hot Fuss (The Killers)
Obsessed With: Jessica Alba
Studying: Astrophysics, double-integral wedge calculus, fractal geometry, immunohistochemistry
Enjoying: Winning in stud tournaments

EverQuest II: The Best Massively Multiplayer Game Ever

I have been in the beta before you punks (joke) got in with this GameSpot Complete Giveaway, and let me just reconfirm what everyone has been saying, but as an experienced massively multiplayer online role-playing game player. Firstly, the graphics are amazing; they are completely unmatched by any game in the field, be it EVE: The Second Genesis, Asheron's Call 2: Fallen Kings, or World of Warcraft. The water, the particle effects, the high fantasy architecture (which is amazing), the rolling plains, the flora, the coastlines, the sky; it's all beautiful in the most sincere regard.

When you start off, you are on a ship called the Far Journey, owned by the Far Seas Trading Company, which takes refugees from a cataclysmic event known as The Shattering that ripped the continents apart and left only an archipelago-styled world. You arrive at the Far Seas Trading Company outpost, an island known as the Isle of Refuge, which is defending itself from a goblin inroad. After learning the fundamentals of the game on the Far Journey, you begin to experience what EverQuest II has to offer on the Isle of Refuge. You are given tasks to prove your worth, such as killing a number of goblins (known as "gruttooths"), but then the quests get a little more detailed. For example, you are tasked with disrupting the goblin supply chain by destroying five supply crates in the inner spheres of the goblin camp.

Eventually your official task ends with you killing the catalyst of these events, a feared orc pirate. The way this is done is great, because you do not have to wait for him to "respawn" (when you kill a special figure in a persistant world, usually you have to wait for him to spawn again) like you would in World of Warcraft, Asheron's Call, EverQuest Classic, or such. Sony Online Entertainment uses instanced zones to do special events so you do not have to sit around waiting for guys to respawn. You can go in, slay whoever you need to, and get out.

You also have other sidequests that can take quite a while. I spent six hours on the Isle of Refuge myself. Some quests include killing a goblin siege master, and he will drop a book. Read the book and you will learn a nefarious band of goblin saboteurs are going to do some mischevious deed. You are tasked, not by anyone but good morals, to go slay them. If you do, you get a spiffy helmet. I was a mage though, so I just sold it to the local merchant for some coin. Other things include collecting seashells, feathers, learning the intricacies of the goblin, creating new things in the forge under Malvonicus' Tower, and killing the shark Bladefin and doing an aquatic research quest; just for the record, there are more things, but I don't want to list all nineteen quests.

Then it comes time to speak to the ambassadors of the two remaining cities: the human stronghold of Freeport, headed by the fallen Paladin Lucan D'Lere, and the beacon of light under the benevolent leadership of Antonia Bayle, Qeynos. In some cases, if you are an Ogre for example, you cannot become a citizen of Qeynos, at least from the start. However, if you are an Ogre with a knack for the light side, you can eventually do a series of difficult loyalty quests to become a Qeynos citizen. I chose Qeynos because I am an Erudite and the warmongers of Freeport do not want my mastery of the arcane arts. Good, I don't like dark places anyway.

The game plays very well, and there is a lot of things to appreciate. First off, you can get special titles by doing deeds, such as killing a number of goblins: I got the title "Hunter of Goblins" for my persistence at killing the little rascals. The system of branching is also very nice. As an Erudite, I figured I wanted to be a mage, so at level four I chose to be a mage. But when I reached level ten, I was given a variety of choices of where to specialize in. Would I be a sorceror, an enchanter, or a summoner? And at level twenty I will have to choose again from the two subclasses of a sorceror (the profession I chose), the warlock and wizard.

The graphics are undeniably beautiful. I cannot describe the complexities of my statement because there is just too much to describe. The music is epic; any fan of fantastical music will love this game. Intense battle themes play when you enter a combat situation, serene tones play on the rolling hills and cliffsides of Antonica; it is just a fantastic experience.

Will EverQuest II be better than World of Warcraft? Most definetly so. Having experienced both games, I would definetly bank my money in the EverQuest II vaults, and if you look down at some of my previous journal entries, I enjoyed World of Warcraft a lot.

Check this out.

My brother, who is a junior in high school, was just over and we were going over a PSAT workbook because he has them some time this weekend, specifically writing skills and such. So, we are looking this over (Peterson's PSAT Success) and it was talking about common grammar and usage problems, and the final one was:
  • Faulty use of transitions: Ashur was small, likewise strong. (Likewise indicates that the two elements are similar. To indicate a contrast, write: Ashur was small but strong.)
I'm not saying whoever got that was from me, not even suggesting it, just Ashur is kind of a peculiar name to have in there. Pretty interesting.

Politica Codex III

Approximately twenty two minutes ago, the second presidential debate ended. The debate was in a different format, where a consortium of townspeople congregated at Washington University to ask a handful of moderator-selected questions to presidential hopeful Senator John Kerry and president George W. Bush. Politics is very interesting right now, espicially with all the debates. First, I am going to comment on the Vice Presidential Debate of vice-presidential hopeful Senator John Edwards and current vice president Dick Cheney.

I like frankness over wordiness. To me, Senator John Edwards was too verbose, he spoke too much, and didn't know when to quit. He used all of his time, just like his running mate Senator John Kerry did in the first and second presidential debates. I'm not saying this is necessarily bad if you have something to say, but I liked the frankness of Dick Cheney. He said what he said, and he wasn't going to ramble on for a few minutes monotonously reiterating his point. Also, he wasn't some vigilant "Defender of the American People" like Senator John Kerry, and for fairness's sake but to a lesser extent, George W. Bush is. He is certainly an experienced politician.

Now, onto the second presidential debate, which began at 9:00 E.S.T. and ended at 10:30 E.S.T. For record's sake, I thought both Senator John Kerry and President George W. Bush did good in the first debate, but Senator John Kerry had the edge because he was more fluid and coherent. This time, however, I think George W. Bush came out on top. One of Bush's mistakes in the first debate was constant reiteration, espicially of motifs such as "It's hard work." This time, George W. Bush seemed, at least to me, a little more comfortable in the forum and it allowed him to be both enthusiastic and convincing.

I'll admit it, I cringed a little every time Senator John Kerry came up to speak. I just thought, "Wow, here is another long complaint." Senator John Kerry is a guy who is like all talk and no show. He has twenty years in the United States Senate and yet he can show very little. He tries to counteract people calling him wishy-washy by procclaiming he is resolute and firm, but it's pretty obvious he isn't, and wasn't. Senators don't really govern people either, they raise funds for the most part, governors govern. George W. Bush was a governor, Bill Clinton was a governor.

I think that these debates should put a little more weight behind the president's argument, and that is good. I really can't imagine a United States of America under Senator John Kerry. Like it or not, George W. Bush has convinced me that he is too easily swayed by the Court of Public Opinion to really stand as a pillar of cause. Some may argue that it is better to realize mistakes than stay firm down a path of mistake, but I personally don't think Iraq was a mistake. As of these debates, my vote still lies with George W. Bush.

Rest in Peace, Rodney.

Rodney Dangerfield, the best comedian ever as far as I am concerned (Carlin takes a second only to this man), passed away at the age of eighty two. Frankly, when I heard the news, I just kind of sat there in disbelief. As far as a star is concerned, I've never had that kind of feeling of a loss. When Aaliyah died, I just kind of went "that's unfortunate", because I don't really like her music or never followed her activities. But Rodney, I mean, the guy was like a father to America. He was that fun loving guy that in movies like Back to School and stuff you kind of looked at with appreciation. He was accessible, highly accessible.

That isn't to say my life, or day even, is ending because Rodney is dead, but it is like you feel bad not only for family and friends of him, but just for the whole world. I mean, come on, when you saw or heard Rodney, you couldn't help but laughing. Either because he was telling hilarious jokes or because just seeing him conjured up classic Rodney lines and phrases. I still have a ton of casettes with old recordings of him which I can listen to, and probably have, a thousand times and just cried laughing.

Some Rodney one-liners:

"I tell ya I get no respect from anyone. I bought a cemetery plot. The guy said, 'There goes the neighborhood!'"

"When I was born, I was so ugly that the doctor slapped my mother."

When my parents got divorced, there was a custody fight over me. ... and no one showed up."

"I never got girls when I was a kid. One girl told me, `Come on over, there's nobody home.' I went over. There was nobody home."

"With my wife, I don't get no respect. The other night there was a knock on the front door. My wife told me to hide in the closet."

Requiescat in pace, Rodney, you will definetly be missed, and were one of the most influential comics ever.

Stocks

Well, my stocks are doing good. Check this out: Amazon (AMZN) stock is right now at $40.92, it did fall a bit, but my return is still 369.89% on it. It's a stock that has longevity, something I can always rely on. In other news, the stock market was a little weird today. For example, Midway (MWY), which has performed extremely well for me, was down 2.48% today. Western Digital (WDC) did pretty bad too, down 0.85%. My newcomer, Apple Computing (AAPL), did very good, up 1.50%, which is tremendous. Intel Corporation (INTC), which I have lost about seventy thousand dollars on (to be exact, I am down $76,209.65), has been climbing back up there. About a week ago I was down some $88,000, but I decided that it was on the rise, and lo and behold, today it continued to climb consecutively for the past while up 0.90%.

Yahoo! and eBay are great stocks, well, if you got them a while ago. eBay is at $93.87 right now, which isn't too inviting, but I've made a 218.47% return on the stock, and it was up 0.23% today. Yahoo! was also up despite a shaky performance yesterday 0.14%, nothing extraordinary, but still up. I'm a little sad to see my 'middle stocks' go into negatives (as far as today) the first time in a while. Abercrombie & Fitch Co., which you might scoff at me for owning, but I've made a 60.04% return on the $32.20 stock, was down 0.59% today. So was SAF, which you probably don't know (it's Scudder New Asia Fund), down 0.94%. That's the stock market, right?

I was kind of hesitant about buying Spacedev (SPDV) stock, and it hit me pretty tough when it was down almost 10% yesterday, but today it is climbing back, up 4.23%. However, my hopes with Crosstex Energy, Inc. (XTEX), haven't been so succesful, it down yet again, this time 1.29%. However, General Maritime (GMR) has been a constant performer since I bought it, up today again at 2.19%, and so has United Industrial (UIC), though the stock was down today 0.49%. Viacom (VIA) has been doing well, but it was down today, just a meager 0.06% though. Finally, go Oracle (ORCL), up 2.86% today at a cool $12.21.

Anyway, just was looking on the stocks and figured I'd make a report for no reason at all!

Evil Genius Impressions

I've been playing Sierra Entertainment and Elixir Studios' Evil Genius and it is very fun, though I haven't managed to get far enough to where it was stimulating. Basically you start off with some money and build a large underground base to conduct your nefarious operations. You recruit minions to come to your base and build. The building system works great, and inside each room you can choose to place objects that correspond to that certain room. For example, in the storeroom you have a briefcase rack, which stores money. In the barracks, you have lockers and bunk beds, in the control room you have control panels, time clocks, memory banks, among others.

You start your international espionage, laundering, and plotting missions from the 'world map,' which basically gives you a breakdown of the nations. The game is very Austin Powers-ish, and the game seems to be placed in the 1970s and 1980s, as it features the Soviet Union. The area is broken up into large regions that all have one common thing (if not more): their defense organization. These larger regions are further broken up into sub-regions where you can assign workers to go and simply hide, plot to do an evil mission such as rescue an imprisoned worker, capture a civilian for interrogation, etc. or steal some of the region's income, which is transferred to you.

So far I am enjoying it and I hope to get more in depth as I continue to play.
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