Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Anniversary: Being Witty Librarian Online

So near around my birthday back in 2004, I spotted a PC game box on the shelf that had a bunch of superhero characters on it and asked the store clerk "What was this all about?"

That, said the clerk, was one of the newest Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) games called City of Heroes.

I knew what MMOs were. Up until then, they tended to be fantasy-based like Everquest or Runescape, and I wasn't too enthralled about them. I was more into science fiction than fantasy, and more into comic books than either at the time.

Having a superhero based online game was tempting to pass up, though. So I bought it.

And... got addicted to it.

Welcome, to Paragon City!
Don't mind the Level 1s...

Part of it was the gameplay: Relatively simple compared to other MMOs of the time, with different means of crafting boosts (enhancements) to give your character more power and durability in battle. Another part was the roleplay:  A healthy mix of different (Arche)Types to roll made mixing and matching powersets reasonably fun and gave you a chance to build different ATs to test which ones - Blaster (Ranged Damage), Controller (Holders), Defender (Healers), Scrapper (Melee Damage), or Tanker (Meat Shield) - worked best for you.

One of the things about being into superheroes was being into the set universe - DC, Marvel, other - that allowed for fans' imaginations about being a hero in that 'verse. While CoH was its own franchise - and indeed ran into issues stopping players from rolling trademarked builds - fans still have in their heads a stable - entire teams worth - of different types of heroes they'd like to be.

It was common for players to roll multiple alts. The game gave you 10 slots per page (and a ton of pages) to fill, and people would just get about 50 or 60 of them built before maxing any of their levels up (first to 40, then to 50). Altitis (altoholism) is a thing, and CoH contributed to it. New ATs like Brutes, Corruptors, Dominators, Masterminds, and Stalkers added even more addictive appeal.

Say hello to Witty Librarian, on the Homecoming's Excelsior server!

When I first got the game in 2004, it had just finished its Beta testing phase and was actually two-three weeks into gaming. I stumbled around on the various servers before settling on Champion server where I was able to meet people who were willing to team up. One of the things about leveling in-game is that you have to run missions, sometimes story arcs provided by NPC contacts, or Task Forces that doled out bigger item drops. So there's a lot of PvE (teaming) involved. Finding an active Supergroup - think Avengers/Justice League - was a must.

(In terms of PvP - player vs. player - City of Heroes attempted that by adding a new side City of Villains and then created Arenas and shared Hazard Zones where PvP would happen. Two things happened: 1) The developers brought it in too late and the PvP fans weren't interested in the game and 2) Too many people had gotten into the teaming part of CoH/V to where they didn't want to play against each other, so the PvP aspect remains minor)

Soling this mob at Level 8 in Perez Park would be a mess. Find a team first!

Thing about the game, certain ATs played better early on that others. Blasters (think Superman's heat vision or Iron Man's repulsors) were extremely popular early because they were easy to figure out and doled out the most damage. Later updates (Issues) began nerfing or boosting other ATs to where Tankers (think the Hulk) became the preferred type to roll. There was an epic nerfing of armors in Issues 5 and 6 that almost killed the whole game, but the players tolerated it as later Issues course-corrected those mistakes and allowed the game to be more fun.

As I said, Tanker became very popular, to the point where it's one of the often-seen builds in the game. A group in one of the servers began hosting Tanker Tuesdays on a weekly basis, which quickly built a following and a good way to find people to team with on other days of the week. Up above is one of my many Alts, Witty Tanker. Yes, there is a theme. Gamers will tend to name alts after a common nickname/identity. My in-game nickname is Witty, short for Witty Librarian, and so I've rolled numerous Alts with Witty in the name.

You'd be amazed how quickly names can go in-game. When murder hornets hit the newswire late April 2020, I immediately logged in and created a Murder Hornet alt. Within minutes of my doing that, I started receiving in-game text messages from angry players that I had gotten to it first.

Time to GO HUNT, KILL SKULS before there are any

All those screenshots are from last night's Tuesday Tanker run (missions team running high-level door missions to help lower-level builds that are SideKicked can get better XP to level). You can see a lot of different uniforms and costume styles, part of the CoH allure. City of Heroes gained a reputation for one of the most diverse and colorful costuming among all the MMOs - better than Warcraft - and allowed for even more Alts to get built around themed costume designs.

And THAT is what it looks like when your Alt hits a new level up!

Oh no, the abandoned mine map! Veterans of the game
aren't a fan of these (too narrow, and one map has a nasty room
we called the Layer Cake).

While it was fun to play - and needed a few months here and there to step away to keep from getting too addictive - it all came to an end when the game's owner NCSoft decided to end it (in spite of its popularity in the US and Europe, the South Korean company never understood the appeal and wanted to expand newer franchises) by 2012. The outrage back then was intense, even from non-players. Attempts were made to buy up the rights, but they all fell through, and it all ended with fans standing in Atlas Park holding up torches in remembrance.

The Last Night in Paragon City 
November 30, 2012


A number of gamer fans had gained access to the base code, and had begun underground servers to maintain and keep a core set of players going. Due to the illegality of it - NCSoft still owned the rights - they kept it hush-hush as much as possible, inviting back players they knew would keep their damn mouths shut.

(Glances about) (whispers) I got invited to the secret server around 2018.

Until 2019, when someone finally blabbed on a public forum, due to concerns that the game code contained the personal information of those who had paid to play between 2004 through 2012 (some MMOs required full registration for full access, some offer limited access for free, and CoH had both). Immediately, hundreds of thousands clamored to get back on the game, even with the pending legal battle that NCSoft was sure to unleash.


NCSoft decided not to pursue the matter as long as none of the server providers required people to pay (they could donate monthly to help pay for server space/office bills instead). Someone must have explained to the bosses that this was an audience that could - and would - pay down the line if they ever brought it back as a fee-based MMO.

A number of alternative CoH sites sprang up, with Homecoming - formed by the people who ran the secret server - gaining a sizable advantage. Homecoming also made back-room discussions with NCSoft to be the official provider, with all of the talks wrapping up this past January to where the game is officially back.

Whether they will convert the current setup to a pay-to-play model - which could reduce the number of active Alts and the ability to build post-50 Veteran-level Alts - remains to be seen. In the meantime, there are nights when multiple servers on Homecoming are packed, there is ongoing interest in playing the game, and demand for new power sets for more Alts remains constant.

So I may have my Shardtobers back after all! If I can convince people that the gameplay's improved to where we can run those Task Forces in under two hours now.

Witty Librarian in figurine!

And don't even get me started on all the Badge Hunting that happens in-game...

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Anniversary Again: My First Full-Time Job

It's now been thirty years since I started my first full-time job as a librarian.

I wrote this ten years ago for my twentieth anniversary

I had a part-time Library Adjunct position at the St. Pete Junior College Clearwater campus off Drew St. at the time.  It was nice, working the reference desk, helping students get on the CD-ROM databases and look for books in the two-story building.  I had just gotten my Masters degree in Library and Info Sciences at University of South Florida (GO BULLS) and was hoping to find a full-time spot at an academic-level library.

While it wasn't an academic library, I got a call from Broward County Libraries to interview.  The county system was this large, spread-out system that used regional libraries as nexus points for the smaller community libraries that dotted the packed urban/suburban landscape.  They were going with a novel idea at the time of sharing the large regional libraries with the Broward community college campuses.  They were building a brand new building for the BCC North Campus, and needed full-time staff to cover the expanding Reference desk (BCC provided two existing librarians to staff the desk as well)...

There was the rush of driving around the county with dad to find an apartment complex I could rent out within a month.  There was the hassle of figuring out what to pack and carry down.  There was the confusion of figuring out which roads to take and which led to nowhere (if Broward County had one thing going for it, it was that most of the roads were in a grid pattern: figuring out intersections became the easiest thing to do).

And then it was May.  My parents helped me move down from Pinellas County.  May 8th was my birthday (and also Mother's Day, which we celebrated at a nice restaurant, I forget where now) that Sunday.  I was twenty-four years old.  And then Monday May 9th I started my first full-time job at North Regional Library...

In those thirty years since, I'd learned a lot about being a reference librarian, and then the technology training aspects of it as our public services switched from finding things to helping patrons figure out their emails and smartphones.

When I wrote the 20-year remembrance, I had just been hired by Bartow Library after a four-year stint on unemployment. I had hoped then to make it a steady career when I got there, as the upheavals of going from Broward County to University of Florida to Pasco County didn't work out too well. 

I've been there now 11 years, the longest stint at one place I've done (North Regional was 6-plus years). Many of the staff who were there in 2013 when I joined have retired or moved on to other jobs. I'm the veteran of the place... which is still an unnerving sensation for me.

I still think of myself as starting out, still 24 years old, still learning the skill sets, still thinking I'm a rookie at all this librarianship when I'm really a 54-year-old survivor of the Midnight In the Garden of Good And EvilWhere The Crawdads Sing Shelf Wars.

My role as a reference librarian is coming to an end. There's little call for research assistance at the public library level when everyone can Google(tm) search it; and yet the need for experience research skills are greater because the information out there is no longer accurately vetted.

Where my expertise matter now is dealing with the adult patrons who still have tech issues and need training on the ever-changing personal devices we all have now (no jetpacks, but pocket phone cameras with computer processing power). We've gone from 3.5 inch floppies to CD-Recordable to USB flash to microSD card to straight-up wireless streaming.

We've even gone to where people would line up for hours to get on the public library computers - I can remember using clipboard sign-up sheets to manager 60-minute usage for patrons back in 1994, and people getting into fights over cutting in line - and then a ton of users getting online during the 2007-08 start of the Great Recession trying to get their unemployment benefits signed up. And then by 2015, the number of computer users just... dropping as the job market steadied, and the demand just... settled to normal.

We're still recovering from the COVID shutdown, it's been 4 years and only now have some of the Bartow regulars returned to check out books again. Sadly, some of the older ones - and our Friends volunteers - have passed on over the years. My awareness of my time as a librarian is drawing near to a close. I'm closer to my own retirement than to my own beginning...

Saturday, May 4, 2024

May The 4th Be With You On This Free Comic Book Day!

Every first Saturday of May is Free Comic Book Day.

It just happens to fall on May 4th, which is May The 4th Be With You.

So it's gonna be a busy day here at Bartow Library.

Yeah, the hoodie is a little TOO big.

Just be wary of the Revenge of the Sixth

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Getting Published: Notice a Trend

Well, after a few hurdles I got the blogging essay collection uploaded to Kindle Direct (I wanted to try IngramSpark as a comparison but wasn't in the mood at the moment)...

Notice a Trend: 17 Years of Prime Blogging is now for sale!

All because I had award-winning blog articles from the Florida Writers Association's Royal Palm Awards - see the gold sticker! - and needed a print book to put the award stickers.

The hurdles involved as always: 

1) hiring someone to make the book cover. I went to Fiverr again and found cover designer Olinart who suggested a different approach that looked cleaner and fit the theme of the book better.

2) hiring someone to format the book for publication, because in spite of my years of writing and my background in journalism I still can't get the damn margins and book gutters (that space between printed pages where the bindery keeps it all together) figured out to a 6" x 9" alignment. PLUS getting the footnotes squeezed into the PDF was a headache, and this book on blogging - where the links to articles backing up your arguments normally go - won't go anywhere without proper citing.

Formatting to publication for fiction works seems pretty straightforward as a lot of designers offer to do that. Formatting non-fiction was a harder get, so I ended up going to a site called Reedsy where I sent out requests and got one back from Michael Vito T. who got the margins done, spaced pages to make it fit, and tweaked the fonts.

It still costs out of pocket to get these things done, but it's a far better - and more budget-friendly - method than dealing with Print-On-Demand services.

The eBook on Kindle is ready to go. The print paperback will take another three days for market. I'll amend this article when I'm sure the ISBN numbers are set.

Maybe with a fiction book I will attempt to publish via IngramSpark that way and test how that goes.

P.S. Funny Locations is doing well and I hope to find more short story fans! 

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Being an Author at Lake Wales Public Library 2024

With it being National Library Week, Lake Wales Public Library asked me to present as a local author, to talk about the writing process and getting self-published.

It was a small turnout, maybe because it was still early - 10:00 AM - and early in the week. Hopefully the other local authors will see bigger attendance.

Got to talk about what I feel are key elements to writing - Time, and Inspiration - and discussed my more popular stories like "...All Others Pay Cash" and "War of the Murder Hornets".


Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Local Author Event at Lake Wales Public Library April 9 2024

Every second week of April is National Library Week, and each public library - city or county system - will have special events to encourage our communities to show up and read out.

Lake Wales Public Library plans on hosting a week-long Local Authors appearances, and I've been invited to present my recent work Funny Locations this coming Tuesday April 9th at 10:00 am.

If you can't see the link to the library calendar, let me post the info:

April 9, 2024
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM

Library Lobby

290 Cypress Garden Lane
Lake WalesFL 33853

They would like for you to sign up so they can track the turnout, thank you.

Lake Wales should be getting a decent showing of local authors - several of my fellow members of the Writers 4 All Seasons group were invited, along with some from the Lakeland Writers chapter of FWA - all week long, so please if you're in the area do show up and support your public library and your local authors!

If you're not in the Polk County / Central Florida area, still check out your local library during the week of April 8th through the 13th for your library's activities!

(mutters to self) Now I gotta find that Florida tie I wear for library events...

Sunday, March 17, 2024

It's Quiet Man Time 2024 Edition

It's Saint Patrick's Day!

Time to dye the Chicago River green!

Time to eat Bangers And Mash!

What the hell's Bangers and Mash?

Time to figure out where Kate Middleton is doing all her own Photoshopping! Wait, that should go to my political blog...

Time to watch The Quiet Man!!!


Sunday, February 4, 2024

Ten Years Now with Mal the Krazy Kat

Officially, this weekend is Mal - that black panfurr, that feline of ferociousness, that tailwagger of terror - being ten years old.

It's been that long ago when I rescued mama cat Ocean from the mean streets of that Bartow apartment complex, with the warning that she might be pregnant, and then finding out YES SHE WAS when she started giving birth at the start of the Fourth Quarter Super Bowl between Denver and Seattle.

Ocean gave birth to six kittehs that night, but I held off on naming most of them until I could determine which ones were which and name them to the characters of the TV show Firefly. Until they opened their eyes, and I took them in to the vet to have them checked out. And then I waited to see which of them was the bravest - or craziest - of the lot to where I would name him Mal (two of the tuxedo kittehs were River and Simon, obviously as River was the daughter to Ocean and so the male tuxedo was Simon, the pretty grey female was Inara (almost Kaylee), the remaining male black kitteh was Jayne and the female black kitteh Zoe).

I wanted to keep one kitteh so I could feel okay about one of Ocean's babies growing up well - the animal rescue I took the remaining kittehs would not allow me to share contact info with their future forever home adoptees - and so I kept Mal thinking he would be the friendliest and fearless of the lot. Instead, Mal turned into a scaredy cat around my parents - essentially the only ones who've visited me over the years as my domicile isn't well-meant for hosting a lot of things (sigh) - and well that's how it turned out.

To ANYONE who adopted Inara, Zoe, Jayne, River and/or Simon, I can only hope they are still with us and that they've enjoyed loving homes.

In the meantime, I got stuck with THIS guy.

Happy birthday, Mal!

Ten years old. In hooman years
that means he's getting AARP mailings.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Time for more Royal Palm Submissions 2024 edition

So I'm submitting more work to the annual Florida Writers Association's Royal Palm Literary Awards for 2024.

I've put in four of my blog articles from the other site to see how they fare.

I tried uploading my short story anthology for the Anthology - Prose category, but that submission page didn't provide an "upload file" option. Could be a few bugs in the submission process as they've just opened it today. I'll try tomorrow.

Update: MOTHERF--- I just found out this morning when I logged back in that FWA is limiting the number of total submissions to FOUR now. It was FIVE the last couple of years, and now they've... mutter grumble... I can't remove one of my blog articles now, since I've paid for the submissions and there's no refunds on them.

I will have to remember to submit Funny Locations for NEXT year, and also see about arguing to get the max limit back to FIVE. /rage

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Next Up For 2024: Getting Published to IngramSpark

Okay, as you know I've published a book through Amazon Kindle Direct. As a librarian who teaches computer skills classes especially one on self-publishing, I need to understand the process for getting published through the OTHER market through IngramSpark, so my next project is getting my blogging article collection set up through THAT.

So I will be distracted by getting this done over the next month or so, including making an order for a book cover - what should a non-fiction book cover look like? - and then making sure the formatting is done proper (Ingram seems to use different formatting than Amazon).

I will update when I can. In the meantime, PLEASE tell your friends about Funny Locations and get them to buy copies and leave reviews! Danke.