Friday, April 27, 2012

"The Things That Grow" #1 - Creosote Bush.

Howdy once more friends,

 Today I want to introduce you to a new series of articles I will write based on "Things That Grow". Do not worry I am not making this a nature blog but I think it's important to educate ourselves and our little wizards about our natural world. Sometimes I may choose a subject that has a relation to Wizard101 or Pirate101 sometimes though it will just be information for you. So without further ado I present a plant that is dear to my heart and all who dwell in the Deserts of the American Southwest!

The Creosote Bush!

Latin name: Larrea Tridentata 
Common names: Creosote Bush (Arizona), Little stinker (Arizona), The Rain Plant (Arizona), Goberndora (Mexico), Hediondill (Sonora; same as English name "Little Stinker"), Greasewood.
Kingdom: Plantae
Plant Family: Zygophyllaceae (Bean-Caper, Caltrop)

The Science Scoop:

  The Creosote Bush (Pronounced: : cree'-uh-sote.) or as I like to call it; "The Rain Plant" is a flowering plant that thrives in 3 of the 4 North American deserts. It's a Shrub and likes water but doesn't need it all the time in fact it can survive 2 years without a single insane is that? However it doesn't like high elevations meaning as you go up and up you won't find these hardy long-lived plants. They are a common sight in Arizona but can be found in California, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Mexico, and West Texas.

  These plants are extremely hardy and can live on average for a 100 years or more. In fact there is a Creosote Bush ring in California called  "King Clone" that is estimated to be 11,700 years old! There is another claim to another Creosote ring in California that is estimated to be 12,000 yrs old making them some of the oldest known organisms alive today! They also grow big up to 15 ft and can be like the "King Clone" specimen several yards in diameter (King Clone's ring is 45 ft wide!). So when your in the desert be careful what you cut down or step on a small one only 1 ft high can already be 10 years old or part of a great older ring!

  Although the Creosote grows fruit (Don't eat it! it's gross! it's fuzzy!) and seeds like any other normal plant most of the seeds have a hard time germinating (growing). This is due to the fact the Creosote Bush as a extreme survivor has adapted so well to absorbing whatever water it can get it can kill off it's own seeds and any other plants nearby because there is no water for them to even START growing making them top dogs or erm plants in the desert. They also have a waxy coating on their leaves that helps them preserve water! This is where us as humans need to be careful! A region that of Creosote plants torn down for housing or any other human development definitely cripples the habitat. As mentioned before it's hard for them to come back due to competition from other plants once the plant is removed (Creosote's natural competitor is the Bursage) and Creosote when young need plenty of water to grow which is why germination takes place during wet seasons.

   Another cool thing about these plants is the fact when it gets older (Between 30-90 yrs old and higher) it clones itself from it's crown root as older branches die out news ones form a new plant continuously from the same seed/roots! It is a common sight to see a Creosote with strong branches and green leaves up top and dead branches near the bottom. (Image above) They are also important that many species of animals only feed or live on them such as Millipedes, Beetles, Carpenter Bees, Pocket Mice, and Kangaroo Rats! However it's leaves which taste horrible are hardly ever eaten by any animal the only known animal to eat the leaves are Jack Rabbits and it's reputed that they only do so when there is nothing else to eat! Ok! Ok! if you didn't take the hint in that sentence earlier I have nibbled on the leaves of a Rain Plant before 4 words describe it. IT. IS. EXTREMELY. BITTER.

The Native Use.

   That last note now brings us to the folklore, native, and medicinal uses for the Creosote or as it is known when used a medicinal herb as Chaparral (although this name doesn't apply to the plant). For hundreds of years it has been used a medicinal herb at first it was a "cure-all" but as time went by it came to used specifically for menstrual cramps, cuts, flu, stomach cramps, cancer, coughs, colds, and congestion. It is a known scientific fact that the Creosote Bush contains Nordihydroguaiaretic acid which may explain why the plant lives so long and why it's good as an antiseptic. They even tested NGDA on Mosquitoes and on average the Mosquitoes fed NDGA lived 50% more longer than ones who weren't fed NDGA. (Thank god they did that...that is a long name to pronounce).

   In the desert regions the plant is known as "The Rain Plant" as when water touches it's leaves the waxing coating volatilizes with the water to create a unique smell. For many years Native Americans and anyone who settled in The West knew that if one smelt the Creosote it meant one absolutely great thing! RAIN! and let me tell you that rings true today as it did back in the old days. I love to go outside after and sometimes during a Monsoon storm to smell the air. For many of us in the desert we like to call it "The Heavenly Smell of Rain" or "Essence of the Desert". Although not everyone agrees with us which is why the Spanish word Hediondilla came into being it means "Little Stinker".

  It can also be made into a tea which is said like practical applications to help the body and is currently being tested as an Anti-Cancer drug. Although herbalists today discourage using the plant in large amounts as it is said to damage the Liver and Kidneys. Never eat any of the plant! Only drink small cups! Natives also at one point use to smoke the gall of the plant like Tobacco. Eww must taste like junk smoking is a bad habit anyway!

 I hope everyone enjoyed this edition of "Things That Grow", I hope it was informative, and you most importantly learned something cool about our natural world. Hey who knows you might have a new appreciation for that Rain Plant growing in your backyard.  This is my first go at this type of article and I hope I didn't bore everyone. I think it's important that we as humans who have the biggest impact on our world are reminded of how awesome our world is. I have also left links below as references if you'd like to read more on the plants themselves and see where I got some of my facts.

Until next time your friend,
Alric Ravensinger
Captain Justininao


[1] - Tucson Citizen, The Creosote Bush, A Desert Survivor
[2] - National Park Service, Creosote Bush
[3] - Anna's Bee World, Bee Realtor, Bee's habitats (Credit for 2nd Image)
[4] - Wikipedia, Nordihydroguaiaretic Acid

Further reading concerning The Native Legends of the Creosote;
[1] - Texas Beyond History, The Creosote, Pima and Tohono O’odham Legends

Self Imposed Exile

Howdy everyone,

  It goes without saying it's been a long time since I wrote a post on this site or even visited it. Without going into the real meat of it all I took a break for me. I realized that like any other person there are times (as there should be) when real life takes precedent over the gaming "life". I didn't quit playing the game but I took a step back from blogging and all the other activities that stemmed from playing Wizard101.

  In the end I was burning time and energy faster than the sun, I also admit a lack of creativity in my posts. Which is selfish on my end and is not what anyone deserves I was selling whomever still reads this blog and myself short. I still keep a presence via Twitter, In game, and despite me moving to other games Wizard101 still remains my de facto MMORPG to play. I also had the pleasure of spending more time with SorceressMiklai over the past few months and our next meeting should be around early November.

   I am back again though. Not just cause I wanted to, but I felt it was time, that the landscape is changing and there are stories to be told. I probably will not ever go back to blogging 2-3 a day like I have done in the past but expect a post or two every week or two. I plan on doing a lot of thing with this blog and I am so excited for everyone to be a part of it. As you can also tell I have updated the site considerably with a new header, (of which I am proud of) new color scheme, and new updated links. I plan to make this blog about both Wizard101 and Pirate101 once and if I get into Closed Beta.

In case anyone is interested these are the games I have been playing some for over a year and some only for a small amount of time no more than a month or two.

- Wakfu, a new MMORPG from Square Enix who if you have been living under a rock make the well known Final Fantasy series. As The Friendly Necromancer pointed out games like Wakfu are a great way to "mini" prepare for the upcoming Pirate101. It is currently in Open Beta.

- Monkey Quest, believe it or not I had bought the now ended magazine Beckett's Massive Online Gamer or MOG for some Wizard101 articles and free code when I stumbled on an extensive feature article on this game along with a code for a free in game item. It's fun, it's quirky, and unlike Monquistador Monkeys these ones are actually pretty cool.

- Drakensang Online, My darling SorceressMiklai showed me this game. I instantly became interested on the detail of the bestiary (which can be found on the site) as well as the intriguing story. I haven't played it in a few weeks though.

As a final note I do plan to keep true to my promise for a Fame at a Price 2 but it will be in my own timing so there will be no set date and probably no announcement. The mistake I made before was pressuring myself with deadlines and as such I plan to work at this in my own way. I have always been known for drawing good work exceptionally fast but for this? I always make good work but my exceptional work is a thing that requires time. I know this now and knew it then....and I should of known better than to force it.
I also plan to one day in the future make a Pirate101 comic but the same terms apply here. My time. My pace. but I promise you folks....I have stories fleshed out already I think everyone is gonna enjoy what the future has in store.

Until next time your friend,
Alric Ravensinger
Captain Justininao

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The art of disappearing

Hey all,

[Warning: I was a bit upset when I wrote this it's just a thing I feel strongly about so you may encounter grammatical and spelling errors]

This is gonna be a short and passionate post about something I feel needs to be saved. In our present world a lot of things take precedence one of the major thing is simplifying. Making things for easier for us or at least having us do less. Less is more. Sometimes less is worse. Sometimes technology is a double-edged sword.

Books and Magazines - With technology that's out now reading actual books is becoming more and more rare (I believe in general reading is more rare especially among minority and young groups). It's obvious how obvious? Look at our world places like Borders closed out as well as many independently owned bookstores. Point is why go to the book store when I can just download it all to my E-reader. Even Barnes and Noble the top dog (for now) is still having issues. It's future is still uncertain now and even more at risk in the future. Here is the problem I have with E-readers first off it's mechanical and machines eventually break down or need repairs. What if your internet goes out? Oops no downloading for you but me? I'll take my book and be on my merry way to a porch or windowsill enjoy a read for a few hours. Books can be destroyed too and they do get brittle over time. But it's like an antique you see it's age in the pages...the story can tell it's own story. I can leave a legacy with my book; Here you go son I read this when I was little.....Now I might have to say: Here you go son this is my old what? Point is my son is gonna loose out on the experience of physically having the book something that was personal to me and perhaps him. waste wise my book can be recycled but your plastic and metal? It takes more money to recycle plastics and metals. Tom also made a great case for magazines and books (in my opinion) with information reaching people in an instant magazines are becoming obsolete the same can be said for books leaked illegally on the internet.

Games - A recent article on IGN left me it the author implies gamers don't wanna go to the store and pick up a game. His alternative: instantly downloading games into our consoles. I also read the comments of the article and I can firmly say not all of us see it that way. Again it's the commodity going to the store and picking up the game (and Often talking to fellow gamers) is just as part of the fun as when you first pop in the disk. Do I want less and more substantial patches into my games? Yes. Do I want to download my games? No. It goes onto the same way I feel about books nothing beats having the book and in my opinion nothing beats having that disk and case...especially collector's editions. Also this instant download option also kills another thing.....bonus items I can tell you now I rather have a physical game world map than a virtual item within the game. Don't believe me? Well that's your prerogative....(Looks at my 4 game maps of Skyrim, Cyrodiil, Morrowind, Mournhold, and Shivering Isles as well as my Pokemon figurines and stylus)

You can agree with me or disagree point is...what will you think when in 50 years from now none of these things exist anymore.

Until next time your friend,
Alric Ravensinger

Monday, December 12, 2011

Wizard101: Lore potential? Wizard101: Origins!

Hey all!

Wow! It's been awhile since my last post and I am sorry for that. It's been a busy month or so first off SorceressMiklai - my dear love visited me for Thanksgiving and stayed with me for 3 weeks. It was simply amazing and it was such a great experience to have her in my neck of the...erm....cactus. I don't think Sorceress will mind that I say this but she isn't accustomed to large families nor gatherings and it was a dream for me to see her finally get her wish if only for awhile fulfilled by being in a family - all our craziness and bickering included.

 Anyway this post is about something I have always been interested in: Lore. Ask any of my friends in KT and they will tell you of how I annoy them (Jk!) with my constant deciphering of Wizard101's lore as well as other games. (I'm looking at you: Pokemon and Elder Scrolls) I've had countless discussions with Ronan Dawn, Luke Goldhorn, and many others. All these discussions lead me to believe in one absolute truth: there is no established lore in Wizard101. I know what your rebuttal is going to be of course there is established lore.

The creation of the Spiral and all it's inhabitants are skeletons of stories at best. The books in game only provide basic overlays of past events that have shaped the great worlds of The Spiral. What we need is a chance to see what REALLY went down back then. I don't know about you folks but I'd love to see stories on how the Dogs and Cats of Marleybone became civilized. I'd like to see the wars past that shaped Dragonspyre into a militant power before the Dragon Titan came. I WANT to see the stories of past emperors who fought the ancient Oni demons.

There is signs of hope however. Zafaria is one of the first worlds I seen where the story is based on what happened. Morganthe at one point ruled Zafaria or at least it was a seat of her power. It took the Council of Light as well as the People of Zafaria to stop her. The new animated history quest paints a picture (literally) of this past conflict foreshadowing her return to Zafaria. This is great it is old and ties into the new. The past directly telling a story to the present about what was and what can be once again.

I'm not asking for KingsIsle to establish lore like Elder Scrolls a series that prides itself on it's expansive lore so large I've only seen one other series with such a large volume of lore and that's the epic fantasy the Lord of The Rings. All I am wanting is a definitive story or collection of stories. Recently the Elder Scrolls employed Author Greg Keyes to write 2 novels to Re-establish the world of Tamriel after the Oblivion Crisis.  Yes they are game novels.  Darn good ones too as they tell of a chaotic time after the Oblivon Crisis where the Empire is crumbling, Vvardenfell has been destroyed, and murder is everywhere. (Books are intended for adults)

What Keyes did for the series is refreshed the palette of the TES universe while using established lore from previous games to tell a compelling story. What if KingsIsle contracted someone? To write a series of novels?
Wizard101: Origins! A comprehensive series on the chaotic times that shaped The Spiral. I'm not asking for books like Keyes' novels but a dang good set of stories that make us cry, hate, and love characters past that helped craft this amazing world. I want to see younger Morganthe and Merle. Perhaps we can see the old kings and queens of Zafaria as they fought for their lands.

All of these are just wants of course but maybe one dream will come true until then I will remain vigilant and hopeful. For The Spiral!

Until next time your friend,
Alric Ravensinger

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

MMORPG unveils....

Good Morning/afternoon wizards!

Seems like only yesterday I gave everyone another new teaser that KI have so graciously given the community to get us excited for the coming of a new world. Oh wait I did do that only yesterday so in a shocking move KI has released a new picture today. This time has been selected to be the bearer of sceenshot news! It just confirmed my original intentions on the previous post. That we would see Middle or a race/species that have involvement in the story line. Who? You might ask....well it's Morganthe's critters of terror --- the Shadow Weavers! Hopefully this time KI does them justice and we get an actual story on the Shadow Weavers. In fact just more cowbell in general on Morganthe and her dark army. Please KI? People like me love to delve into the mythos of a world -- give us a treat not a trick?

Once again Team Kev-Kat have deciphered the message in record time. Great job guys! You rock! This time the message says: "Find her there" Now it's all full cirlce as the mystery of the message has been solved.
"Down in the depths, At the top of the world, find her there"
Find who? Perhaps Morganthe? That seems to be the popular theory. Only time will tell but I'm sure the wizard community is right on the money....we usually have good instincts. 

The picture title says graveyard at first I admit I thought it was a temple of some sort perhaps of worship. I do believe this new world and in this image particularly is above water. The sky DOES look like sort of underwater but honestly it looks more stormy as in a storm is about to break out. Further on the far left we see some vine growth. Vines don't grow like that when in water so it leads me to believe they are above it. Again though only time will tell if I am right or wrong.

What are your theories?

Until next time your friend,
Alric Ravensinger

Monday, October 24, 2011

ZAM unveils....

Howdy again!

Fresh off the ZAM site. A new teaser again Team Kev-Kat have deciphered it in record time....again. 3 points for them personally and 2 points for KT/ Wizard-kind.

New's link: ZAM's Teaser Post.

According to Team KK this hidden message says "At the top of the world"
So now we have..... "Down in the depths, At the top of the world, _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _"
Bring it on KI! I know my friends will have your messages deciphered!
(If you notice btw the message correlates to something in the image i.e. depths; Oni's seem to be at docks of some sort. Monkey men seem to be at the top of the world literally in some treetop village of some sort)
My guess is we will see middle since we have low and high. Or a major character/race/species within the storyline whether they help the player or are possibly villainous.

Your thoughts and insight are welcomed and appreciated!

Until next time your friend,
Alric Ravensinger

Friday, October 21, 2011

Massively unveils...

Earlier today Massively gave us a sneak peek at new content coming to Wizard101.
Check it out! Massively teaser post. I will also provide the image below!
 KTers (Kinky Twizards don't know take a look at who they are here: KTwizards Who they are!) Kevin Battleblood and Katherine Light deciphered the message! It says "Down in the depths" Not bad by my count they got it before anyone! It's good to have smart friends eh? Anyway look forward to more upcoming images in the coming week!

This is so exciting hopefully we have new content on the way for Legendary wizards! We need some story and level progression already! What are your thoughts?

Until next time your friend,
Alric Ravensinger