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A Look Back at Cataclysm…

September 24, 2012 Leave a comment

So here we are…less than 24 hours from the launch of the newest World of Warcraft expansion, Mists of Pandaria.

I’m still neutral on a new expansion. I discussed my thoughts at length last night with a guildie and shared that right now, for me, the biggest draw of the new content is going to be the day I step into the new raids. I’m looking forward to strategizing with my cotank, figuring out how we’re going to handle the fights, looking forward to the motivation of downing new content.

But instead of looking forward into the crystal ball at the content I haven’t run yet, let’s look back on Cataclysm in general!

Launch and Tier 11

I don’t really recall Cataclysm’s launch. I wasn’t in an active guild,4 so I wasn’t in any rush to level. I was on a high population realm, Area 52, so I think I actually didn’t bother to log in for a couple days until the initial rush died off. Not to mention that it was in the middle of the holiday season, so I was busy baking and preparing to entertain guests.

I leveled my first Paladin, Valkyrii (my Wrath main), to 85, and then followed up by leveling my hunter, Mirina (my BC main). At some point Raziel was thrown into the mix, along with my Death Knight (Azrael), my Priest (Gabriel), my Mage (Raaena), and my Warlock (Kiiera). To this day, I haven’t leveled the rest of my alts (2 shaman, a warrior, a rogue, another DK (who is now set up for Herald of the Titans), and my druid), because the Cata content got dry very quickly.

I decided that I wanted to go back to raiding (I had taken T9 and T10 off from guild raiding, and instead PuGged through ToC and ICC), so I started looking around. Not seeing many options on realm, I decided to start recruiting. We had almost gotten a solid team, but no one wanted to focus on gearing and I ended up deciding to transfer off the realm.

That’s one of the challenges with large population realms–there’s a ton of people, but there’s also more guilds than you can shake a stick at.

So as Tier 11 approached it’s end, and I still hadn’t started raiding, I began searching off realm for a new home.

I ended up transferring Raz to Drenden to raid with Rades‘ guild, Tsu Tain Guu Faitaa, otherwise known as TTGF!

Tier 12

I ended up joining TTGF to tank full-time in Firelands. Which, looking back on Firelands, was pretty damn fun. Dog tanking on Shannox, chasing adds around on Rhyolith, and eating Decimation strikes on Baleroc (ouch).

Firelands was a fun tier, but I still have heartburn over the fact that we missed the nerf bat by a week on the raid. We had been working so hard on Ragnaros, and almost had him down. But due to our inability to sync schedules for weekend raids, we missed our chance for our pre-nerf kill.

It was a sad day.

We dabbled with some Heroic bosses, but primarily stayed with normal clears through the raid. The bigger challenge for me was our raid times. I was raiding 10p-1a while having to make a weekly client meeting the following morning, requiring me to be about 3 hours after I went to bed (assuming raid wrapped at 1a). My body couldn’t keep up with  the time difference, and I had to look for another place with better aligned raid times (the challenge of raiding with a West Coast guild!).

Firelands was great because I finally got to focus on what I loved doing best, tanking. I had healed in Wrath, dabbling with tanking when my GM was willing to respec to Holy for me tank 5-mans. I was never able to tank in a raid environment (the downside of having a BiS healing set for the time), so Firelands was the first chance I got to fully climb into the tanking driver’s seat and get ready for the ride.

And it was totally worth the lack of sleep to do it!

BlizzCon

BlizzCon fell towards the end of Firelands, and I had a blast! I got the opportunity to meet a ton of the folks I get to talk to on Twitter and to spend some time with some of the great WoW personalities! I even got some time to talk to Ghostcrawler himself about tanking at the Charity Dinner (which was super cool as well)!

While at BlizzCon though, I got to meet a ton of members of my future (and current) guild, Enveloping Shadows! It was fun to be able to sit down, drink, and socialize with a large majority of the officers!

Soon after I returned home, I applied as a healer (hilarious, I know), and was accepted. I transferred over a couple weeks later and dove into Firelands with a 25-man team, trying to wrap my brain around healing. I actually healed for our H. Alysrazor kill!

But there were only a couple weeks left in Firelands, and then we headed into Tier 13…

Tier 13

Tier 13 started with some healing fun, but before Christmas I had swapped back to Prot almost full time. I’d heal as necessary (I do actually have a pretty nice healing set on Raz now…and a pretty nice Ret set…and yea…), when we managed to be short a healer.

Tier 13 was the first time that I can say that I tanked an entire raid, start to finish, on all difficulties. I got to down Deathwing on Heroic mode several times!

Tier 13 was interesting…I went from 25-man raiding back down to a 10s team. I watched as we were almost barely able to fill a raid towards the end of the tier. I watched people decide to “retire” from raiding, shrinking our pool to the point that we were pulling in non-raiding guild members that we hoped could hit buttons or soak an Hour to pulling in people like Rades once Dragon Soul went RealID wide.

Rades has bailed my ass out repeatedly. Thanks dude!

The Miscellaneous…

Since we got to the point that we were clearing H. Dragon Soul in 2 hours, we had a lot of time to fill. ES took some time to backtrack into Tier 11 and clean house in H. Bastion of Twilight, capturing our first guild Heroic clear and downing Sinestra, to heading to Throne of the Four Winds and cleaning up H. Al’Akir. We went back to play in Blackwing Descent, but still, to this day, H. Nefarian still isn’t playing nice…maybe at 90.

In Conclusion…

Cata, while not the most “thrilling” expansion to me (I still haven’t quested through all the low level content), brought about a lot of changes in my play style. I’m back to raiding full-time, having an integral spot on a raid team, having a raid team that I usually love signing on to hang out with (usually because some nights I’m just not in a mood for people).

As the clock ticks down, I spent time cleaning out Raz’s bank, taking some time to gear my unplayed hunter (she went from 333 ilvl to 375 last night thanks to guildies carrying me through dungeons), and playing around. I haven’t been online much in WoW lately, but the past couple days I wanted to go back and play the content. I pulled people through dungeons, both guildies and PuGs, for the shear fun of seeing how fast we could clear the content before I never set foot in them again. I’ve run ZG, ZA,  and even multiple Deadmines. I even did a full clear of H. Halls of Origination yesterday afternoon!

To me, that’s the perfect send off. Remember what you did in this expansion, and run it with the people who bring you joy in the game world, and in turn, energize yourself for what’s right around the corner.

In less than 15 hours MoP is live…I wish everyone the best with leveling! I’ll see you in Heroics soon!

Gamer Friendly Foods for MoP Leveling

September 23, 2012 Leave a comment

With Mists of Pandaria releasing on Tuesday, many people are trying to figure out how to level as quickly as possible. This means that they might not always be reaching for the healthiest of food options as they search for quick and convenient eats.

One of my big hobbies outside of WoW is cooking. I love entertaining friends and family and cooking memorable meals for their taste buds! I regularly Tweet what I make for dinner (with pictures), so people can live vicariously though them!

That being said, I’m very focused on making meals that are healthy and satisfying.

As I pondered what I would fix for MoP leveling, I decided to share my recipes with everyone for meal ideas!

The recipes below are conducive to making ahead of time, and then are easily able to be pulled out of the fridge or freezer and into the oven. That way, all you have to worry about doing is pulling the food out when it dings!

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do!

Chicken Enchiladas

I grew up on these and they are so good! Lots of flavor! I usually serve them with minute rice and some fat free refried beans. They are great on their own if you don’t want to deal with sides.

  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken (you can shred this too. I usually boil the breasts and let them cool. Then cut them into thirds and shred up the meat)
  • 2 cups light sour cream
  • 1 can Cream of Chicken soup
  • 2 cups (8 oz) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 cups (8 oz) shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 2 Tbsp chopped onion (can be fresh or dried)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup (4 oz) shredded Cheddar cheese
  • Flour tortillas
  1. Combine first 9 ingredients, mix well.
  2. Place a heaping 1/2 cup of chicken mixture inside each tortilla.
  3. Roll and place in baking dish.
  4. Cover and bake at 350° for 20 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle tortillas with remaining 4 oz cheddar and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Notes:

  • I usually get 4 pans of 4 enchiladas out of this. These freeze very well. If frozen, let them defrost in the fridge before baking. Number of enchiladas will be based on how full you fill the tortillas.

Pot Roast

You can never go wrong with a crock pot! Crock pot cooking was my convenient way to make dinners when I knew it would be a long day in the office. Here’s a chance to take advantage of the slow cooking method while you instance or quest your way to 90!

  • 2 lbs chuck roast, fat trimmed
  • Small red potatoes, whole, or if they are larger than bite size, halved
  • 3-4 carrots, peeled and cut into big chunks
  • 2 large onions, peeled and cut into eighths
  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
  • 1 package Lipton Onion Soup Mix
  1. Season chuck roast with salt and pepper. Place in bottom of crock pot
  2. Surround roast with potatoes, carrots, and onions.
  3. Add in Cream of Mushroom soup and Lipton Onion Soup mix packet.
  4. Add a touch of water to crock pot.
  5. Turn on low and let cook 8-10 hours.

Notes:

  • If you’ve got the time, gently coat the roast in flour, salt, and pepper and sear in oil in a pan on all sides before adding it to the crock pot. This will create a nice crust on the meat.
  • If you don’t have a crock pot, sear the roast (as outlined in the first bullet) and place into a dutch oven type pan. Add ingredients as listed and cook at 350° for 4-5 hours.
  • The soup gives a creamy gravy for the meat. I like my roasts done this way, but if you aren’t interested in a creamy sauce, feel free to skip and add in beef broth in place of the water (use a touch more due to lack of moisture). Same with the Lipton packet, use if you like!

Cream Cheese Chicken

Courtesy of my cotank, this recipe is sure to be a winner! Lots of flavor and another convenient meal from your crock pot!

  • 4 chicken breasts brushed with butter or lightly coated with cooking spray
  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
  • 1/2 cup sherry
  • 2 Tbsp Italian Dressing mix (Good Seasons)
  • 1 package light cream cheese
  1. Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker.
  2. Cook on low 6-7 hours.

Notes:

  • This can be served over rice or egg noodles–since we’re looking for quick and easy cooking, I’d probably fall back on Minute Rice because I don’t have to babysit it once the water boils.

Chicken/Pork Rice Casserole

Another old family recipe, I’ll be making this Monday night in preparation for dinner on Tuesday night!

  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
  • 1 package Lipton Onion Soup mix
  • 1 soup can full milk
  • 1 soup can uncooked long grain rice
  • 4 chicken legs/thighs or 4 bone-in pork chops
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and butter a 9×9″ pan.
  2. Mix up first 4 ingredients in pan.
  3. Place meat on top of mixture and cover dish with aluminum foil.
  4. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Begin checking regularly at 45 minute mark for doneness.

Notes: I’m making mine with pork chops! This would go great with some fresh green beans and a hot roll!

Meatball Subs

This is probably my laziest recipe on here! But you can never go wrong with a meatball sub!

  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp McCormick Italian Seasoning
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 lb 80% lean ground beef
  • Spaghetti sauce (homemade or bought)
  • Fresh sub rolls
  • Sliced mozzarella cheese

Meatballs:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°.
  2. Add panko, eggs, water, cheese, garlic, parsley, seasoning, salt, and pepper to large bowl; stir to combine. Add beef, mix by hand until just combined.
  3. Scoop up 3 Tbsp of meat mixture to form balls; smooth by rolling in cupped hands. Arrange meatballs on baking sheet, about 1 1/2″ apart.
  4. Bake 15-17 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160°.

Subs:

  1. Heat meatballs in spaghetti sauce over low heat (or put them into a small crock pot with the sauce to warm on low).
  2. Cut open sub rolls, leaving half of the sub roll attached and line with a piece of cheese (I fold mine in half).
  3. Spoon meatballs with a little bit of sauce into bread.

Notes:

  • The meatball recipe is courtesy of Wegmans! They are a great grocery store with lots of fabulous recipes and foods! Feel free to poke around their site and gather lots of other yummy meal ideas!

Black Bean, Sweet Potato, and Quinoa Chili, adapted from Bon Appétit

This recipe came to me from Nyx! It sounds delicious and I can’t wait to try it.

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 14.5 oz can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1/2 lb dried black beans, rinsed well
  • 1 chipotle chile from a can of chipotle chiles in adobo, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup  quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Green onions, chropped (optional)
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
  1. Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and beginning to brown, 6-7 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, and coriander and stir. Cook together for 1 minutes.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, beans, chipotle pepper, and oregano. Add 5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer until beans are flavorful and tender, anywhere from 2-4 hours.
  3. After 1 1/2 hours of cooking, add the sweet potatoes, quinoa, and salt. Place the pot’s lid back on slightly ajar and allow to simmer on low hear until the beans are soft and the sweet potatoes and quinoa are cooked through. Add more water if the chili becomes too thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with sour cream, cilantro, and green onion.

Notes:

  • Can be made two days ahead. Can be frozen!

In Conclusion

Just because you’re leveling to 90 doesn’t mean you need to eat poorly! I hope you enjoy these recipes and find them good enough to add to your collections! Happy dining!

PSA: The Internet and You

September 11, 2012 3 comments

An interesting read came across my Twitter feed this morning, called “Looking Inside Your Screenshots.” The theory is simple: Blizzard is applying watermarks to your screenshots storing “personal” information. In this case, the author states that your account ID, a timestamp, and your server IP are captured.

Part of me was intrigued, and I did some reading on the discussion (get your tinfoil hats ready), and part of me shook my head. This blog post is around the thoughts that sprung to mind as I watched the commentary fly by about the whole topic, and my thoughts as I read the post.

Who Are You Really?

One of the fascinating things about the internet is that you can be anyone you want to be. I say that with a casual attitude, and only some succeed at it, but let’s walk through this.

Most people, WoW players, guild mates, even Twitter pals, exist as you know them. They are male, they are female, they are tall, they are short. You may know this because you’ve heard their voices in chat, you may know what they look like because of a picture thread on your guild forums, or maybe you’ve even met them in person! You may know if they are married, or if they have kids. What their pets look like, what their favorite pair of shoes is. You can learn a lot about a person, or even people, if you just step back and listen.

But there are other people; individuals who go to great lengths to hide their identities. They may only provide their voice in chat, but you know nothing about them. Some people choose to not even speak. They could be a stranger you see at the bus stop each morning on your way to work. They could be the classmate sitting beside you in lecture.

But you really don’t know, because they don’t want you to know.

I’ve been told I share a lot with the world. In the grand scheme, I probably do. That said, there is much that I don’t share. I shape a personality, an image, that I want you to perceive when you think about me. But who I really am, most people will never know. I can smoke screen through a lot of things–the only people who can truly see through it are the people who play the same mental games I do.

Social Engineering 101

Social Engineering, as defined by Wikipedia:

Social Engineering, in the context of security, is understood to mean the art of manipulating people into performing actions or divulging confidential information.

And it’s so easy to do.

Wiki’s definition is a bit too tight for me. I’d paint it a touch broader that social engineering is the art of manipulating people to gain information or perform actions which they might not be inclined to do otherwise.

I was going to use Twitter as a prime example, but I think that it would hit too close to home for many, so I’m choosing to shy away from it. It’s a rabbit hole that if I went down would probably make people a touch uncomfortable around me, but it’s how my mind works…

The long and short of it is that I don’t need much information to build a picture about my Twitter followers. You’ve given me a lot of information, and with just a few nuggets, I can do some digging and build a complete picture that you probably don’t even realize.

Social engineering is, to put it bluntly, “creative use of real life mechanics.” It’s taking bits of information and seeding the rest to gather what you need. It’s asking very basic questions about a topic of interest, about your personal life, and then taking that information back into (in some cases) readily accessible tools to learn about someone.

Let’s take a step back in time in Miri’s life. I shared this in a very early blog post, but I’m going to flesh it out to give perspective on how easy it is to manipulate people. In this case, I manipulated my peers for my own success…

Social Engineering in Action

One of the courses I was required to take for my degree was in Information Warfare (my degree is in NetSec).  The course description:

This course will examine and assess the role of information technology as a tool of warfare. Topics will be discussed from both a defensive and offensive perspective and will include: physical attacks, cyber-terrorism, espionage, psyops, biometrics, Network Centric Warfare, and applications of encryption technology.

Our final project was an information war, where we picked sides and were told about our alignments with other groups (enemies and allies).

My team took the challenge a touch further. We were, after all, the hackers. Loyal to no one, but hell bent on our own desire to win. But how were we going to defeat the other 10-11 teams? We sat together one day in the atrium at school, our laptops balanced in our laps, our cans of soda on the tables beside us, as we argued and debated our points to win. And then one of our teammates spoke. “What if we turned each team against each other? What if we played the ultimate war game?” Intrigued, we all leaned in. At that moment, we had decided to take one hell of a giant step, sidestepping the line of ethics, a scheme beginning to flesh itself out.

My teammate proposed an idea, and we began to weave the fabric that would completely change the game. We would pretend to be our professor, the current Assistant Dean of our school. We would communicate with our fellow classmates, planting seeds of misinformation to spin the game in our favor.

We had months of email communication from our professor. We knew her writing style, her greeting and her closing methods, her sentence structure. So we began drafting our communications, our misinformation. We knew who was on each team–their email addresses were published in an a course tool that everyone had access to. We sat on the school network, and spoofed our professor’s email address. We sent out email after email, each a touch different than the first, updating other players in the “war.”

Time passed, and we continued to develop our battle plan. We composed the final documents to present to our classmates, and showed up to class, completely calm, and more than a little curious to see if we actually succeeded in our game.

We chose to be the last team to present, and we watched as each team went to the front of the room, and pulled up their PowerPoint decks. We listened as they presented their list of allies, and their list of enemies. And we watched as they wove in our “information”–stating how they changed their allies and enemies list based on additional information that was provided to them during the course of the battle.

We watched our professor’s face contort into a frown, but she never spoke. The presentations continued, each one building on the last.

And then it was our turn.

I took center stage in the front of the room, and displayed the following image on the screen:

I watched the class’s facial expressions change. First they were confused, and I’ll admit, I smirked. My team’s ultimate goal had succeeded.

And then I spoke. I stated that we had no allies, and that everyone was an enemy. And I thanked them for their participation in our little scheme.

And the looks of confusion turned to anger.

I took a casual posture, leaning up against a table at the front of the room, my arms crossed in front of my chest, my face only illuminated by the projector showing the image behind me.

I asked my classmates who sent them the emails with the “additional information.” I asked that they point to the sender.

And I waited.

My classmates shifted in their seats and pointed to our professor, who looked even more confused. My fellow students studied our instructor as their looks turned to horror as they faced me once again.

I changed slides and sat back on the table, my legs crossed at the ankle, my hands casually resting on the table as I leaned forward to impart my final words of wisdom.

“You just spent a semester learning how wars can be fought online. You learned the ways that social engineering can be used to manipulate outcomes. And yet, you fell for everything you were taught to watch out for. Let this be a lesson–that things aren’t always what they seem.”

And with those final words, I blanked the screen and walked back to my seat.

Once my professor was able to get over her shock–her realization that we had completely manipulated a project she had assigned us, she polled the class on who won the war.

I did.

What You’ve Given Blizzard…

I got to watch people go “OMG my privacies!” about this whole watermarking scenario. I’ve watched people wave the BS flag, and I’ve watched people step back and wait for more findings.

My stance on the whole thing was “I don’t really care.”

If you are so worried about what’s in your screenshot, then take the time to step back and think about what you’ve given Blizzard.

Here’s a quickly compiled list:

  • Name (Real or not, hope you never have to recover your account)
  • Email Address
  • Mailing Address
  • Credit Card w/ expiration and secure code
  • Buying history
  • IP Address
  • Computer specifications

When you’re logged into Blizzard’s servers, they have records of everything. A quick list, once again:

  • Your IP
  • Your character’s location in their world
  • What’s in your bags/bank/mail
  • Your addons
  • Your conversations

If Blizzard wants information, they don’t need to store it in a screenshot; you’ve already given it to them when you sign on to their realms.

They didn’t need to socially engineer you for that information–you gave it readily.

Protecting Yourself

So  how do you protect yourself in light of this “finding”?

According to the author of the screenshots post, they think that “someone could use this to identify which account holds which characters and perhaps stalk and annoy its user, or help perpetrators choose their phishing victims with a more targeted approach.”

Some things I’d like to note:

  • The account ID that is shown is not your Battle.net account ID, nor is it your BattleTag. It’s apparently the name that your account started with (think before we merged into Battle.net). The only person who knows that is the person who signs into the account (if you have multiple accounts and have to select which account to sign in).
  • A time stamp. Well, in my screenshots, my clock is showing. You can see the HH:MM in my lower right hand corner if you care. And if you want to look at a screenshot where I hid my UI? Please let me know what time I took it in case I can’t find it again.
  • My realm IP. As was noted to me earlier, it could be a dozen different IPs on any given night. Your realm IP, your dungeon server IP (remember, dungeons are on a different server), your raid server IP. And let’s not even open the can of worms that is CRZ–you’re bouncing to (or from) various realms all night now if you’re in low level zones. Have at it Blizzard. If anything, it would be intriguing for me to learn what the dungeon/raid server IPs are.

If you can go to the Armory, you can figure out what realm I’m on. Hell, it’s in my blog header. It’s on my Twitter account. I publish that information so people can find me.

If someone wants to exert the effort to extract that information from a picture, have at it.

In Conclusion

There’s a lot of information already available thanks to search engines, standard “friendly” commentary, and ourselves.

Protect yourself by limiting what you say and share. You can help control the amount of information that the world can use against you.

But you have to make intelligent decisions to protect yourself. Don’t expect anyone else to do it for you.

Your safety and security starts with you.

Categories: About Me, Opinion, Twitter, Warcraft
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