A potpourri of student drinking songs

My last-minute impulsive decision to insert a clip from The Student Prince into the previous blog post reminded me of Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture, so I’m making the rest of you listen to it as well:

And, for those of you who would like some background, here’s the description, copied and pasted verbatim from the YouTube description:

This is Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80 (Akademische Festouvertüre), a much lighter counterpart to his Tragic Overture. He composed it in 1880 when he received an honourary doctorate from the University of Breslau (now Wroclaw), as a musical show of gratitude. The music is very light-hearted, warm and humorous, but Brahms uses the occasion as a tour-de-force in contrapuntal symphonic writing. The orchestra whisks through several pulsing, boisterous melodies, which Brahms described as a “potpourri of student drinking songs,” subtly mocking the academic institution for which he composed the piece. [Towards the end] the orchestra erupts into a joyous rendition of “Gaudeamus igitur” (“So let us rejoice,” a.k.a. “On the shortness of life”), a popular Latin graduation hymn which was originally a beer-drinking song.

The recording is by Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The images are of Solti, Brahms, the University of Wroclaw, and the beautiful old city of Wroclaw, Poland.

It’s beer o’clock!

Those who know me know that I enjoy a good drink every now and then.  Those who have the misfortune of living with me experience this all the time (and then, they decide to bring out the Penalty Shot at a whim, but that’s going off on a bit of a tangent for this post).  I blame my Rhodesian heritage: back in that long-lost culture, having a daily glass of wine, typically when returning from a hard day’s work, was considered the norm.  (My mother frequently cites this as the reason for Rhodesia having far less of a drinking problem than South Africa, because people there were “taught to drink responsibly”.  Or at least, it was that way in the 1970s… well before my time though.)

That kind of still lives on: some office environments find that the occasional drink at work stimulates social interaction, and can actually result in some decent ideas and brainstorming being thrown around.  (It does depend on the working environment: informal ones, such as your typical IT company, would do just fine with this, but don’t try this in the manufacturing sector, the petrochemical sector, or — worst of all — in government.)  This is actually one reason why there’s usually beer supplied at our company-wide meetings and catch-up sessions (the other reason is that it’s the only way to entice the Development Department to actually attend these).  In fact, some places are taking this a step further and are offering free wine to customers on Fridays, though, as much as I would like to take them up on their offer, boutique stores are not my kind of thing — and I will reach though my laptop and slap the first person who suggests that “that’s how guys roll in the Cape”!  (The other reason involves someone who I sadly parted ways with somewhat acrimoniously, but of that, I will say no more.)

But that’s not what prompted this blog post.  What did prompt it was this morning’s run to the Vida in the office park for my morning cappuccino.   For the first time after their recent renovations, I noticed this:

Beer on tap!

Yes, that is indeed beer on tap.

And no, absolutely no idea why I didn’t notice it earlier — I guess I’m still half-asleep whenever I wander into there.  (No, you may NOT ask me how I negotiate the R27 every morning, because apart from heading through there after the majority of the traffic, I honestly can’t give you an answer to that!)

Perfect for your typical developer.  Now, the challenge: how to keep this particular one functioning at the Ballmer Peak

(Mandatory disclaimer: there is a difference between drinking responsibly and drinking irresponsibly, and the latter is definitely not condoned within this context.  If you don’t know said difference, rather don’t try to find it in the first place.)

Far over the Misty Mountains cold

This coming weekend happens to be the weekend of Little Sister’s day of birth — and, in celebration, she and her husband have organised a weekend away in the Cederberg for a whole group of us.  Of course, with me being family and all, I was first on the invite list — and the majority of this blog’s readership should know that I don’t turn down such opportunities!

Advance warning: expect a massive photo post around this time next week.  Won’t happen while I’m there though: there ain’t no mobile phone signal in those parts (which is actually part of the appeal in the first place).

Now for some reason, I have Tolkien looping around in my head:

Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To seek the pale enchanted gold.

The pines were roaring on the height,
The winds were moaning in the night.
The fire was red, it flaming spread;
The trees like torches blazed with light.

What is worth fighting for?

A few weeks ago, I completed the Isle of Thunder storyline in World of Warcraft.  It picks up after events already documented, with Lor’themar Theron’s Sunreaver Onslaught and Jaina Proudmoore’s Kirin Tor Offensive working with the neutral Shado-Pan Assault to (1) bring down the Thunder King (which is what my raid team is trying to do, if only we weren’t stuck on Horridon) and (2) procure ancient artefacts that they could use against Garrosh when the time to depose him finally comes.

The climax of the storyline involved Taran Zhu (leader of the Shado-Pan) defusing the conflict between Theron and Proudmoore:

I see now why your Alliance and Horde cannot stop fighting. Every reprisal is itself an act of aggression, and every act of aggression triggers immediate reprisal.

The cycle ends when you, Regent Lord, and you, Lady Proudmoore, turn from one another. And walk. Away.

I didn’t think much of that at the time, certainly not from outside the game universe.  But then we had the Boston Marathon bombings, and while I only maintain a passing interest in current affairs, something about that attack and the Isle of Thunder questline seemed connected, somehow.

If we take a look at the global war on terror, there’s a clear pattern of aggression and reprisal.  We can look at the 9/11 attacks, and events on either side of it for a clear example.  al-Qaeda felt aggrieved by the U.S. millitary presence in Saudi Arabia, their backing of Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and probably countless other things, so they took out the World Trade Center in an act of reprisal, which triggered the United States to strike at al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, which led to a massive conflict in Iraq, continued U.S. drone strikes, continued terrorist attacks… basically, it’s one whole vicious cycle of reprisal and aggression.  Just as what’s happening in the World of Warcraft universe at the moment — in a way, it’s almost eerie of how it mirrors global, real-life events.  (As of me writing this, the perpetrators of the Boston attack are believed to have close ties with Chechnya — I’m unaware of any hostile connection between Chechnya and the U.S., so if someone would fill me in, it would be much appreciated.)

As someone not involved, and hence as a neutral observer, I don’t believe that it’s my place to take any side here but, like Taran Zhu, I have to ask the question: can all of those in this global conflict turn from each other and walk away?  Right now, I feel that that’s improbable, to say the least.  As things stand at the moment, there’s too much fanaticism, hatred, indoctrination and the like on both sides that suggest that either side, much less both, are capable of doing this at this point in time.  Perhaps future generations will be able to break out of this cycle.  One can always hope for that.

Granted, it’s difficult to do, and I speak from personal experience here.  I’ve been in more conflicts than I’d like to admit where relations have deteriorated into such a cycle, and every time, I’ve struggled to even realise that such a cycle exists, and then struggled even harder to break it.  (Some such cycles, I’ve yet to break.)  That’s not to say it’s impossible.  It’s definitely possible.  But if I have so much difficulty with this on a personal level, I wonder just how long it would take on a global level.  Maybe for those involved, as it is for me, some form of virtual escapism is the answer.

Maybe we should ask the question from back in the Mists of Pandaria trailer: what is worth fighting for?

Screwy system authorization

When the latest xkcd deals with this, you know that our system authorization design may just be ever so slightly on the screwed-up side of the fence…

Mouseover on the original: “Before you say anything, no, I know not to leave my computer sitting out logged in to all my accounts. I have it set up so after a few minutes of inactivity it automatically switches to my brother’s.”

Winter has come

And back to real life: here in Cape Town, winter has come.  (Apologies to the Starks.)  It’s at this time of year that those of us living here realise that we’re on a tiny peninsula on the southern tip of Africa with nothing between us and the Antarctic.

While Tim (my housemate) posted on how his office park became a raging torrent, I came across photos on how the persistent winter rain caused a section of Lover’s Walk (just below the university) to collapse.

Dammit — I used to stay right around the corner from there…

What if: every class in World of Warcraft had an additional spec?

Back in the earliest days of World of Warcraft, every class in the game had three specializations, and had to choose one of them.  Some specializations had the same role but different flavours to it (e.g. hunters are pure damage dealers, but with very different playstyles based on whether they choose the beast mastery, marksmanship or survival specs), and others had different roles entirely (e.g. paladins have protection for tanking, holy for healing, and retribution for dishing out damage).  Of course, some had been badly broken (shamans before the Burning Crusade expansion being a really good example), but over time, things have been balanced quite well (and even more so when we were able to choose a secondary spec as well in Wrath of the Lich King).  However, with the newest Mists of Pandaria expansion, Blizzard realised that with druids, combining melee damage dealing and tanking into one specialization was far too difficult to balance properly, so they split it out, making druids the only class in the game with a fourth spec.

So, we’re currently having a hypothetical discussion on Maintankadin: if all classes currently in the game had a fourth spec, what would that spec be?  (The key word is “hypothetical”, because druids were a bit of a fringe case, and it’s unlikely that Blizzard would do this — in fact, I vaguely recall that they explicitly mentioned that this would probably never happen — but hey, it’s great to let minds wander from time to time!)

(Disclaimer: although some of these ideas are my own, not all of them are.  Credit to the various posters over at Maintankadin where credit is due.)

Death Knights

What they have:  Blood is the tanking spec.  Frost and Unholy are damage dealing (in game, we call them “DPS” specs, for “damage per second”) with different attributes:  Frost players can either equip two one-handed weapons and dual-wield them for fast melee strikes or a two-handed weapon for slower, harder-hitting strikes, whereas unholy resolves around putting diseases on the target and letting the damage-over-time effects do the dirty work.

What they could get:  Pretty much the unanimous suggestion so far is to split Unholy.  Unholy also has a “pet” component, where the Death Knight can summon an undead minion to do his master’s bidding, so split this out, flesh it out, and then have a “necromatic spellcaster” spec that would stay at range and decay their enemies with unholy power.  (This fits into death knight lore, as the death knight units back in WarCraft 2 would do this.)  And hey, it would also mean that there would be another use for intellect plate gear besides holy paladins.

Druids

Well, as already mentioned, druids already have four specs: Restoration for healing, Balance for ranged DPS, Feral for melee DPS and Guardian for tanking.  And that’s all that I’m going to say about druids.

Hunters

What they have: the Hunter is a pure ranged damage-dealing class.  Beast Mastery puts the emphasis on the hunter’s pet, Marksmanship puts the emphasis on the hunter’s weapons, and Survival puts the emphasis on the hunter’s survival skills (well, doh).

What they could get:  There’s two main schools of thought here.  The one that I belong to advocates giving the hunter a melee spec.  In fact, back in ye olde days, Survival was intended to be a melee spec — this didn’t turn out very well, but if Blizzard put some thought and effort into it, hey, it could work.  The other school of thought would be to give them a healing spec, the inspiration coming from Aragon’s healing powers in The Lord Of The Rings — though, personally, I struggle to match this up with existing in-game hunter lore.

Mages

What they have: Arcane, Fire and Frost.  According to one of my friends who plays a mage, pretty much all mage abilities revolve around (1) blasting your target before it can get to within melee range of you, and (2) getting the hell out of dodge if you failed at doing that.  The three specs just do this in different ways.

What they could get: We came up with a very unique healing specialisation (since mages are effectively wizards, it would make sense that they could have some healing capability).  They wouldn’t be able to call on nature like a druid, on holy powers like a priest and that sort of thing, but since they’re magical in nature, we came up with the idea of a mage healer that would heal by magically altering time itself.  Anyone who’s experienced the hourglass mechanic on Muruzond in the End Time dungeon has an idea of what I’m getting at.

We even fleshed this out further and came up with some example abilities for this:

  • Freeze Time: Places an area-of-effect bubble within 20 yards of the caster.  All buffs on friendly units will have their time to expire frozen, but will still continue to operate (heals over time would keep on ticking).  Very useful raid cooldown.
  • Time Capture: Saves the current status of a player that allows the mage to “reset” a player’s buffs/health/mana later in the fight (sort of like a combination of the aforementioned hourglass mechanic and the paladin’s Lay On Hands ability).
  • Reverse Time: A channelled heal that “reverses” all damage received in the last X seconds (say a tank takes hits for 50K, 100K, 80K over 5 seconds, Reverse Time would heal for 80K, 100K, 50K over 5 seconds, which could be sped up with haste).

Of course, this is so unique and radical that it’s impossibly likely that we’ll see this in the game — the effort to design and balance this would be immense.  But it’s still fun to think about.

Monk

What they have: Brewmaster for avoidance-based tanking, Mistweaver for healing (with a bit of melee thrown in), Windwalker for melee DPS.

What they could get: a caster DPS spec.  Quite possibly with a healing component, but more focus around doing damage (damage done would heal you, but it would be supplementary healing and wouldn’t replace someone else dedicated to healing).  Pretty much the inverse of Mistweaver.

Paladin

What they have: Protection for tanking (this is what I play as!), Holy for healing, Retribution for melee DPS (this is what I try — and fail — at playing as when I’m not tanking!).

What they could have: A caster based DPS spec.  Back in the pre-Cataclysm era where players could mix and match from different specializations, some adventurous players actually tried this (bringing about the “shockadin” concept) — of course, it was a “jack of both trades, master of none” character build and never officially supported, but apparently was loads of fun.  And of course, it adds another use for intellect plate to the game.  This is another idea that’s pretty much unanimous.

Priest

What they have: two healing specs, Holy and Discipline.  Both have totally different styles: Holy is more “traditional” healing, while Discipline focuses on damage absorbtion.  The third spec, Shadow, is a damage-over-time spec.

What they could have: a second DPS spec, but more around “smite DPS” than damage over time.  It’s kind of already in the game with Atonement, but making it into a full-blown spec on its own would give the damage-dealing priest a choice in how to deal damage.

Rogue

What they have: Assassination, Combat and Subtlety.  All themed around being extremely sneaky with regards to killing their target before their target knows that they’re dead.

What they could have: since rogues are sneaky, slippery and sly little buggers, give them a ranged “Sniper” spec (they could “borrow” weapons from hunters in sneaky, slippery and sly ways — and by that, I mean they’d give the hunters some loot competition).  I pity the poor Blizzard employee who has to balance this for player vs. player though.

Shaman

What they have: Elemental for caster DPS, Enhancement for melee DPS, Restoration for healing.

What they could have: since shamans can equip shields (along with paladins and warriors), they could conceivably have a tank spec.  As in the case of the “shockadin” I mentioned earlier, this was something that adventurous players tried back in the day, and it would be great to see this officially supported.  Once again, we have almost unanimous agreement on this.

Warlocks

What they have do: destroy their opponents with use of the Dark Arts.  That’s pretty much all I know about warlocks.

What they could have: since warlocks can summon demons and have a connection with the demonic side of things, here’s an idea — have a tank spec where the warlock can transform into a demon himself.

However, there’s one problem with this, and it comes from a lore perspective.  There are characters that can temporarily metamorphosize into a demon, but those are Demon Hunters, not warlocks (Illidan being the most famous example).  And quite honestly, I think that we’ll be having a massive showdown with the Burning Legion in a future expansion (after all, Sargeras is still out there somewhere, and Wrathion seems to know that some massive event along these lines is on its way), and when that expansion hits, Demon Hunters would become a separate playable class.

It’s still nice to think about though, particularly that I haven’t seen any better ideas and can’t think up any myself.  Mind you, what I know about warlocks is dangerous, so maybe it’s a good thing that I don’t think too hard about this one.

Warriors

What they have: Protection for tanking, Arms and Fury for the “RAWR, I HULK SMASH PUNY GOD OPPONENT WITH WEAPONS!” brigade.

What they could have: There’s two ideas there.  One would be to give them a second tank spec (much like priests have two healing specs) — only, while Protection focuses on damage avoidance, this second tank spec would be based on mitigating damage by regeneration effects and sheer bloody-mindedness.  We’ve seen these concepts in Dungeons and Dragons over the years: the barbarian dumping armour and relying on sheer hit points, the frenzied berserker that just won’t die as long as he’s raging… something like that.

Alternatively, Fury has two distinct playstyles within the specialisation: Titan’s Grip for dual-wielding two handers, and “single-minded fury”, for, you know, being that frenzied berserker in a damage-dealing role.  It can (and has) been argued that warriors already do have four specs, but they’ve been too pre-occupied with aforementioned hulk smashing to have realised it just yet…

Need to relax?

Hit up the “Play” button if you need to relax for a bit.

Marconi Union is a British musical trio specialising in ambient music, and Weightless was produced in conjunction with the British Academy of Sound Therapy (back in October 2011) to be one of the most relaxing songs ever heard. With guitar, piano and electronic samples of “natural soundscapes”, one would kind of expect it to be somewhat relaxing… but, they were so successful (scientists measured a 65% reduction in anxiety and a 35% reduction in heart rate) that motorists have actually been warned not to listen to this while driving.

And yes, it works quite well on me too.