WoW Factor

I have taken the plunge into World of Warcraft. My character is HerculesRoot, a Rogue of the Night Elf race, which is part of the Alliance. I have been online for about 10 minutes. This might be a good time to turn back.

Joel has a great new post confessing his WoW habit, and this statement in particular makes me wonder: "WoW reduces satisfaction to a formula where time spent = moral and spiritual superiority." If I follow his thinking, he suggests this is different than the rules of the "real" world, but I don't think so. I believe that anything, within broad moral limits, that you spend time on will bring you moral and spiritual superiority. This explains the excellence of my friend Kes Woodward's art. If this rule is true, and I think it is, why would I be tempted to put hours and days into learning a totally created video world? Why not put that amount of time increasing my Level as a husband, as a member of my family and my community?

Well, why read novels? Why become an connoisseur of classical music? These might all take away from the "real" world in terms of hours and days. If Darlene had a meter on the time she spends reading fiction, it would no doubt rival Joel's impressive numbers. For me, it would be simple time banging away at the computer. I feel as if I am trying to make a case for something I have already decided to do.

The simple fact is that I am fascinated by this massive creation, from the lush graphics to the sense of hundreds of thousands of people participating. I have only the most rudimentary control of my character, but already I can walk through the woods and encounter the image of another player. Who is he or she? Are they mousing through WoW three blocks away from me, or on another continent? I've tried chatting a couple of times but received no reply. The 200-page manual lures me today more than the quality novel I'm reading, Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry. I want to learn about Azeroth. Here's a tidbit:

At one time in Azeroth's past, the Horde was a force of evil, and the Alliance was a bastion of good. However, in today's war-torn Azeroth, such black and white distinctions are gone. Both factions are simply fighting to preserve their way of life in the wake of the Chaos War.

Well, that sounds as if it had been written by someone who reads The Financial Times. I'm curious. Very curious. I want to log on again and see if the Game Master answered my question about how to save an image of HerculesRoot for the blog.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Zen Center of Denver at dawn.

Crime Story

Corporal Scott E. Murphy of the Denver Police Department fills out a report this morning in our apartment.

I was robbed today.

It was a simple little heist at Paris on the Platte, up till now my favorite spot for Thursday's weekly cigarette. I arrived there serene from the Zen Center, eager to settle in with a Gauloise Blonde, when I realized I'd forgotten to bring the pack. I walked to the back of the cafe to buy a new pack, taking my pouch with money and credit cards, but leaving on the table my scone, my coffee, my cap, my fountain pen, and my $400 Hewlett-Packard iPAQ containing all of my personal data. While I was waiting, a man dressed all in black with a large knapsack slung over his shoulder came in, stood in line for a while, then left without ordering. I noticed that as he headed for the door he seemed too close to my table. I forgot about the cigarettes, walked quickly to the table and could not find the Pocket PC. Had I really brought it with me? I called Darlene on my cell phone as I walked out the door, looking for the guy. She couldn't find it in my den. He was gone. So was my iPAQ.

I drove around the neighborhood in the Volvo for a while, looking for the perp. My plan was to offer to buy the iPAQ back for $40 which is all I thought he would get at a pawn shop. Although I had my pocket Swiss Army knife with me, I did not plan on getting into a foolish confrontation, which was where Darlene feared I was headed. I came home, switched to the Segway and roamed the neighborhood for another hour, quickly giving up hope of finding the man.

I mainly turned my attention to the pawn shops near Coors Field. "They should start cutting off the hands of people who do shit like that," a petite woman at one shop offered as she wrote down my name and number. A man at another establishment said he would confiscate the item if someone brought it in and call me. At Jumping Jack Cash on Larimer Street, Pete said that such confiscations weren't really his line of work, but he wrote down details that would be entered in his computer. Pete explained that a pawn shop has to hold an item like mine for 30 days before selling it, which provides enough time to match stolen property with police reports.

Which brings me to Corporal Murphy. He arrived within a half hour of my call, said he had already had coffee, thanks, and went right to work taking down the information. Luckily I had backed up all my data last night, so I had everything on my desktop computer, including the Serial Number. "That's good," Corporal Murphy said. I asked if it would be okay to take his photo for the blog, and he said it would be a lot better than the last time his image appeared on the internet, on a "Kill the Cop" web site set up by someone who was unhappy with the Corporal's handling of a case. Corporal Murphy has been on the force for 21 years. He is also a founding member and the "unrelenting" bass player of a rock group called the Jump Street Band. I thanked him for his quick response to the theft and promised to link to his site, so if you are looking for a good contemproary classic rock 'n' roll band for a gig, please check out Jump Street here.

After the corporal left, I began to worry about identity theft. One document on the iPAQ contains Darlene's Social Security number, without her last name. This exposure led me to enter a fraud alert at the three national credit bureaus, so no one can take out any new cards using that SSN without triggering a phone call to us. For the usernames and passwords to our credit card web sites, I changed all the passwords. Since the actual card numbers do not appear anywhere on the iPAQ, the companies said there was no need to cancel the cards and issue new numbers.

With all the doable details taken care of, an abstract feeling of violation arrived later in the day. I loved that little iPAQ and used it to look at photos of my family, read books, plan my day according to David Allen's "Getting Things Done" program, and even look at web pages and e-mail if there is a Wi-Fi connection. I have journal entries in there and all kinds of personal stuff. The idea that someone could just walk off with it has left me dazed. This is the first such incident I've ever experienced in Denver, and it changes my way of being in the city. I feel incredibly stupid for having left something of such importance to me lying on a table in a public place. I have also felt unwanted empathy for the thief, imagining it must take a pretty desperate life circumstance for someone to end up pulling such a stunt. All of these emotions have ebbed and flowed against the backdrop of Katrina, making me feel that my little loss was nothing compared to families who lost every single possession in the hurricane. It also seems like a light-weight Yuppie sort of violation. "Omigod, they stole your rx-3115! That's unbelievable! Off with their heads!"

On my Segway hunt, I cruised by the Phoenix Concept, a halfway house where I attend meetings from time to time. A couple of the guys I know were out on the sidewalk and recognized me, so I stopped to visit. "How's your day going, man?" one asked. So I told him. He didn't snicker, come to think of it, at a guy on a Segway all shook up because someone had stolen his PDA. "That sucks, man," he said, and I could tell he meant it. "Try Jumping Jack Cash. I know a guy there and he'll help you out."

Usually blogging about a little crisis helps resolve it, but the story-telling trick doesn't seem to be working tonight. I don't feel I've gained any control over these events by shaping them with words. But I did want to get the facts down while they're fresh. I know I will recognize that guy if I run into him again. I've already begun shopping for a replacement, and this time I will definitely use the password feature that I ignored on the last one.

My quote from the AA Big Book today was, "We are careful never to pray for our own selfish ends." So when I finally smoked my weekly Gauloise Blonde in a doorway on Larimer Street across from Jumping Jack's, I said a bunch of prayers for everyone I could think of. It did make a difference.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Blogger Buddy

I had lunch today at India House with Joel, an enlightened blogger pal from the Zen Center of Denver. It was an odd and pleasant intersection of virtual and "real" life, because he and I read each other's blogs regularly, but this is only the second time we've met for an extended visit in person. I found myself telling him something and realizing by his slightly glazed look that he probably had already read that particular bit on my blog.

Joel is the second young man in a week who has confessed to an obsession with the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft. The first was Eli, the son of my painter friend Kes Woodward. As we walked to the 16th Street Mall shuttle, Joel warned me of the danger of trying out the game, and he wasn't kidding. The last time he checked, he had spent eight full (as in 24 hours each) days playing the game in the past five months, and he hasn't dared check the tally lately. I looked over Eli's shoulder at the scene he was playing on his laptop in La Conner, and I was intrigued. Now comes Joel telling of his experiences in the same elaborately fabricated world. I know I will ignore his warning and begin my own explorations at the first opportunity.

Monday, September 19, 2005

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