The 12-Week Experiment (Halfway Point)

Once Upon a Time…

I tried to do this 12-week experiment last August when I was about 180 pounds. The idea was to fast for an entire day, one day per week, and get down to around 170, which would mean losing less than one pound per week… incredibly doable. However, I had some unrelated medical things come up that, besides adding stress, led to me having to give up the fasting for a while. Along with new job stress and the holiday season (which seems to begin on Halloween in Tennessee, right?), I got up to about 195 by New Year’s Day 2014. Now, that isn’t obese, but I wasn’t happy with myself. I went back to the 16-hour daily, but I only dropped to 190 by March. Something had to change.

Then, Seven Weeks Ago…

I decided I would return to my roots, to the thing that has always worked for me. It’s also the thing that flabbergasts most people, even when they see the results: I would return to the 1x – 2x per week daily fasting as a way to achieve reasonable weight loss of about 1.5 pounds per week. I also decided that, this time, I would chart my progress on a daily basis so that I could share the changes one a micro- and macro-level. I started thinking about what “progress” would mean for myself, but also for as many different types of people as possible. I settled on a few things to track:

  • weight loss
  • body fat loss
  • strength gained/lost
  • size changes

Weight Loss: This was a no-brainer, but I wanted to track it daily so that I could show others what happens on a daily basis. The results are pretty interesting. One thing that too many people forget is that weight is never static and is never the final indicator for fitness, body fat levels, etc.

Body Fat Loss: This is more complex since I didn’t want to pay for something like submersion analysis or a DEXA scan. I settled on using the 3-, 7-, and 9-point caliper methods along with the Navy and YMCA methods, which involve measuring your waist, chest, etc.

Strength Gained/Lost: One tenet of weight loss is that it is impossible to gain muscle at the same time (unless you’re entirely new to weight lifting) and that it’s likely you’ll lose muscle mass. Muscle mass, per se, isn’t an issue for me. I wanted to look physically better, which didn’t necessarily mean looking bigger. However, measuring strength seemed like a good way to track the effect this has on what mattered to me, which is the numbers in the weight room.

Size Changes: I was measuring for the Navy/YMCA calculations anyway, so I decided to measure some other areas, just to get an idea of how my body was changing, maybe see where the fat was actually dropping.

Data Tracking

As I mentioned, I tracked my data on a daily and weekly basis. Basically, I did the following:

  • weighed myself every morning, usually meaning about six to eight hours after I had gone to bed (I didn’t drink any water, got rid of any “water” that had accumulated while I slept, etc.)
  • measured myself every week, at about the same time
  • did the body fat check using calipers
  • tracked my strength (based on estimated max) for four major lifts: squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press

I collected all of this information and compiled it in Microsoft Excel, which let me do some things that made the process interesting:

  • I was able to go by weekly averages for weight rather than what I happened to weigh on one day. Since weight fluctuates with hormone levels, water retention, the number of carbohydrates you’ve consumed, etc., going by a weekly average seemed like a far more logical (and accurate) method for tracking.
  • I was able to measure daily changes (gains and losses in weight) while seeing an overall pattern of weight loss.
  • I was able to track rough maximum and minimum weight.

Here’s a screenshot to serve as a sample:

From left to right, the columns after the date cover: weight, change from previous day, goal weight, difference between actual and goal weight.

From left to right, the columns after the date cover: weight, change from previous day, goal weight, difference between actual and goal weight.

The red row, by the way, was a goal date. In that case, I was supposed to be at or below 185 pounds on average for that week. I set goal dates for 185, 180, 175, and 170 pounds. So far, I have made the first two. Although being at that weight by the exact date was a secondary goal, the primary goal was for the weekly average to be at or below the number. As you can see, it wasn’t a linear decline in weight. In fact, Sunday 5/18 was disheartening, despite the overall progress, because I was back above 185. Nonetheless, my average for  Week 5 was 183.26 and my average for Week 6 turned out to be 182.94. Only a small difference, but I was still ahead of my goal. And if Week 7 (this current week) is anything like Week 6, the average for the week will be ~179 pounds.

The major lesson here is that your weight is dynamic. It changes constantly. It is easy to become discouraged by one reading, which is why most experts will tell you to not worry too much about them if you are sticking to your plan. I did stick to my plan and, so far, it has worked as well as I had hoped. I will have to make some adjustments as more time passes. For one, I have to continue to lower the deficit on days I do eat. As I lose weight, I have to cut my calories lower to experience the same weight loss. I’ll also have to decide a fair question: at what point is the effort not worth the reward? If I wake up at 175 and decide that’s enough, then that’s the end. And I’ll adjust accordingly.

The Plan Itself

It was a really simple plan. My cousin actually does something similar, and he gave it a clever name: The Fastkins Diet. Basically…

  • two days per week of fasting (water only), so, I didn’t eat a single calorie on Monday or Wednesday, which meant I was going beyond 24-hours fasted, usually 30 to 36 hours. To be honest, unless I was at home, this wasn’t a problem.
  • four days per week of being as low carb as possible. I didn’t stress about this too much. Really, it meant that I avoided grains, snacky foods, etc. I still drank a Guinness or Samuel Adams when I wanted one. I don’t know that I would have qualified as low-carb, really, but I did avoid most carbs.
  • one day per week (Fridays… Keli’s Homemade Pizza Night!) when I was free to eat whatever. I didn’t go nuts, usually, but I did consume more calories than I normally would, even if I wasn’t dieting.
  • structure total weekly calories to meet your weight loss goals (assume 3500 calories per pound and figure out your TDEE using several online calculators; subtract the number of calories you require (TDEE x 7) per week from the number of calories you actually take in, and that will give you a goal.?

That’s it. I did some optional things that suit my personality (and possibly help with weight loss), such as

  • work out four times per week (the ol’ upper/lower body split) with exercises designed to maintain muscle and burn as many calories as possible;
  • HIIT (hill sprints, intervals, etc.) two times per week, mainly to improve cardiovascular health, but also to help offset any mistakes in my diet (you still cannot outtrain a bad diet);
  • not eating until 4 PM or later most days (this is personal preference… I like large meals rather than more frequent but smaller meals).

In the interest of maintaining muscle and strength, I tried to make fasted days coincide with HIIT days, but when it wasn’t an option, I went ahead and worked out on the fasted days.

? Note: this is only a way of watching how much you eat… I have rarely found that tracking calories provides an accurate estimate of what you will lose, especially if you use intermittent fasting. I set the daily goals only as a means of knowing what I wanted to come in at:

As you can see, some days didn't go according to plan. And I was eating well two or more days per week.

As you can see, some days didn’t go according to plan. And I was eating well two or more days per week.

The true measure of success was the weekly changes in weight, body fat estimates, and size measurements.

The Results

Monday, 4/21/2014: 190 pounds, 22% body fat, Chest 40.5″, Waist (navel) 36.75″, Deadlift Estimated Max: 289, Bench Press Estimated Max: 252

Wednesday, 5/28/2014: 178 pounds, 16% body fat, Chest 40″, Waist (navel) 35.5″, Deadlift/Bench Press numbers unchanged

That’s 12 pounds lost (9 pounds if you go by weekly average), roughly 6% body fat lost, .5″ from chest, 1.25″ from waist at navel, and no indicated strength loss.

Analysis

First, I’m encouraged because the estimate of lean body mass has stayed within a couple pounds. In other words, 190 * 22% = ~148 LBM while 178 * 16% = ~149 LBM. That’s good because it indicates that (a) the measurements are useful for measuring body fat lost and (b) it indicates I’m not losing much, if any, muscle (which is also supported by the fact that my deadlift and bench press numbers are unchanged.

Second, my overhead press and squat actually improved, but that’s because I had reset the numbers to a very low level in order to work on form. I don’t think that the deadlift/bench press number consistency can be explained by “getting better” at the lifts because I have been doing them for years.

Third, I am losing size around my waist, which is where I tend to store my body fat. On a side note, one reason I decided to include the 9-point caliper method despite the fact that it is generally not used is because it includes “back fat”, which is where I store most of mine. It actually skewed my numbers high, which (I think) offset some low numbers from the 3- and 7-point system.

Future Plans

I should be at my goal weight (170 pounds) by mid-July. Once I’m there, I will fall back to a 1x per week full fast along with my preferred eating pattern (eat one large meal in the evening). I’ll add a second full fast if a party/event is coming up. Otherwise, I won’t track anything, which I will kind of miss… I have enjoyed playing with the data. The beauty of Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat plan (and read the book… it is worth it) is that it freed me from worrying about all of this. It kept me free from the worry for three years. Hopefully, the next time I face a quarter-life crisis, I won’t abandon the good things I was doing (like fasting) in response.

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Writing | Day 1

Calling yesterday “Day 1″ of my writing is misleading. I can remember the impulse to write an autobiography when I was very young, six or seven, and beginning by making a list of everything I would need to include, so I have been writing for (literally) most of my life. That instinct for outlining and organizing has stayed with me, which is another of the reasons that calling this my first day is a misnomer. I started coalescing the various version of The Story several weeks ago. In sum, I printed off approximately 1200 pages worth of material and began reading through it, highlighting the parts I wanted to keep, noting the conflicts/themes/plot points that were working, and, most of all, learning who these characters were in the beginning, who they became by the end, and who they should be.

Day One

I wrote about six or seven pages of chapter one, which is mainly from Jamison’s point-of-view. It skips in time, which is tricky as hell. Basically, it is an older Jamison recalling the day his story begins, which is when he was twelve. However, the significance of that day requires a trip farther back, to when he was six years old, to the day his mother left. Actually, the entire story is told from the point-of-view of the characters-as-adults, looking back with full knowledge of how the story ends. I did this because I wanted to be able to foreshadow with off-handed comments, as well as to have the characters include something that was said later but was relevant in the moment. For example, when Jamison is discussing his parents, he writes something like

When I was older, Jack Humboldt, my godfather (in my mind, if not in title), said only one thing about my mother and father’s relationship: “Their story was not your story. Don’t you ever believe your story had to be this way. But as for them, there was never any other way their story would end.”

This references a plot point the reader doesn’t know will happen, but since it connects very intimately to this moment, it provides some foreshadowing about what will happen to Jamison.

I have written and re-written this first chapter more than any other. It’s not that I would “start and stop”. However, Dale Ray Phillips once told me something that stuck with me: “I don’t move on until I have the first paragraph perfect.” He was speaking with regard to short stories, but the same seems to apply to me with first chapters of novels. It seems right to me. That first chapter sets the stage for everything that happens to Jamison afterward. Hopefully, it explains (without excusing) why he makes some of the choices he makes.

I have a vision for this story, again. I feel good about where it’s going and I hope to finish the first chapter (in rough draft form) today or tomorrow.

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Warlords of Draenor: Analyzing the Changes

<eats Pandaren Treasure Noodles; flasks up; reforges, gems, enchants; repairs armor; straps on kevlar>

Warlords of Draenor, World of Warcraft’s next expansion, has a lot of changes coming that will directly impact how we experience the game. As usual, the vocal minority is up in arms, whining or trolling all over the interwebs. I have seen scant few logical reasons for complaints and enough fallacious reasoning and completely incorrect understanding presented to make me feel like I’m reading the work of a ten-year old (which, in some cases, I’m certain I am). What follows is

  • An apology for WoD (look up the word apology before you misunderstand);
  • An example of how to argue your point (with logic, examples, etc.)

I posted this on the WoW forums, so it’s likely been unliked into oblivion. Unfortunately for those who love ignorance and delusion, they can’t touch me on my own blog!

Really, the best defense is the simplest: just wait and see how it is, THEN whine about it. All of this prophesying and threatening and whining makes you look foolish. It did before MoP, it will when WoD comes out. That isn’t to say WoD won’t be without issues or drawbacks or things we don’t like (I miss the second Pally taunt, for example), but most of the complaints will be about something unforeseen. You – the gamer who pays for an experience – telling a professional – paid to develop an experience, with tons more knowledge and information than you possess – how their plans will screw up is silly. Occasionally, someone’s prediction comes true. Most of the time, it doesn’t.

Simpler and Easier: Not the Same Thing

I feel like many of the changes coming are not making the game easier, they’re making it simpler. Two separate things. The progression seems to be toward requiring players to be better-skilled, reducing the influence of factors like (a) having more time to play and get better, specific gear; (b) having to spend more time reading and then following specific recommendations to enhance gear; (c) who happens to have more gold. Also, the changes seem designed to allow the devs to make more challenging encounters.

No Flying Until 6.1

Flying Mounts purchased with money are mounts purchased by the player for use in allowed areas. You can’t fly your mount in many places already, but you’d be ridiculed for complaining about it. Draenor is an extension of that. You bought the mount, not the “right to fly” it anywhere you choose.  I understand the emotional reaction stemming from having bought the mount with real world money. However, you

  • have plenty of mounts available to you
  • can still use the mounts as ground mounts or outside of Draenor;
  • sound silly complaining about not being able to use a specific mount, like a kid who won’t get in the car without a cherished stuffed friend.

Not being able to fly one for a while shouldn’t ruin the game in much the same way that buying a car shouldn’t be ruined for you because you can’t drive it on a sidewalk or because you can’t drive as fast as you please. I think I’ve actually talked myself out of my empathy.

 Then there is the issue of in-game work-reward. Some mounts are bought, others are earned via drops, and the flightmaster’s license, as well as increased flying speed, cost several thousand gold in sum. Many of the rebuttals above apply here, but there’s one other: the flightmaster license is good only per continent. Always has been. Completely invalid argument.

Some desperate people have completely forgotten what they purchased with their expansion pack and with their ongoing subscription. You paid and continue to pay for an experience created by the developers. When you don’t like the experience, don’t pay anymore. Vote with your wallet. Making up “customer’s rights” fallacies and posting them just clutters up the interwebs and showcases how little you understand the issue. The idea that you paid for the right to fly is like arguing you paid for the right to solo content. You can solo level 40 raids, so you should be able to solo new content? It’s the same argument. You paid to fly level 40 areas, so you should be able to fly in new content? This one has no legs.

Those who collect mats have argued that their work will suffer, becoming more difficult. This is the only argument that makes any sense, but this argument doesn’t consider other factors. For one, less mats leads to less supply leads to increased price-per-product. One jewel in WoD might be worth five from MoP. For another, there will be less need for lots of mats, it seems, especially for JCing and Enchanting. Finally, we will be able to collect some mats via garrisons. Blizz may be (a) undermining botters (always fantastic) and (b) enabling you to craft meaningful items that sell for value, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time posting 50 stacks of Lapiz Lazuli for 75 silver each. If selling stacks at the Auction House is how you enjoy the game, I don’t have an answer for you… you’re really weird.

Removing Reforge

The concern is that it will change how effective you are in playing the game. That term, effective, is relative. If no one can reforge and if the game is tuned to account for a lack of reforge, then its absence won’t matter. We went a long time without reforging and it was fine.

Customization is important to many players (just look at the amount of time we spend transmogging and talking about specs). However, reforging isn’t really customizing your character. The bottom line is that most players (especially raiders) follow a set priority system. I certainly don’t run around Orgrimmar inspecting other players and then type “/g Hey guys! We got a Intellect-spec Warrior over here! How unique and interesting! I bet he has a fresh take on the game!” In fact, players routinely get ridiculed, even booted from groups, for being poorly reforged (where poorly means “not like everyone else”).

There’s always general anxiety about major changes. Before MoP, so (so, so, so) many people predicted that the new Talent System would be even more cookie cutter than before. At the time, I could envision the angst-ridden, know-it-all immature mind formulating those ignorant, I-know-even-though-I-can’t-possibly-know statements. From a PvE raid perspective, that prediction turned out to be totally wrong. I routinely change my talents between encounters. The only cookie cutter builds I know of belong to PvP. Yes, each boss may have a particular build that works better, but that’s not cookie-cutter, that’s just encounter-specific: “This is what works best in this situation.” Removing reforge will likely be the same. Bonus: we’ll save gold and time, especially when we get a new piece of gear in a raid.

The final reason reforge is going away probably has to do with other changes that are being made. The “one armor type for all” paradigm would be complicated by reforge. If I’m tank-specced and reforged for haste, then I swap to heals, how does that work? Do reforges drop off? I could easily see some people have to reforge several times a night.

The Time Travel Expansion

I don’t know what to say about this one. It is time travel in the sense that we do go back in time 30 years, but it isn’t in the “maintain or change our present” sense. There are all kinds of reasons time travel will likely always be impossible for us, thus making the game “less realistic”, but then again, I’d be arguing this point while a giant hammer slowly twirls as it descends above my head, healing me as I drop yellow holiness on the ground all around us.

I look at it like this:

  • it’s a storytelling device that lets us journey with some characters who existed only in the RTS and in lore. As someone who played the RTS series growing up, I’m stoked.
  • it’s a way to introduce newer players to some of the background.
  • it allows the players to see Draenor, which plays such a huge role in lore, in an entirely new light.
  • it adds tantalizing possibilities, such as (a) a portal to 30-years-ago Azeroth, with no Scourge; (b) the concept of interactions among different universes, such as in Heroes of the Storm; and (c) another possibility for connecting to the Burning Legion.
  • I just mass ressurected twenty four people after a huge dinosaur stepped on all of us. I’m really worried about realism?

As for those of you arguing that the storyline is silly or that it sucks: you’ve been wrong before. Why? Because you only have snippets of information. You’re assuming too much with too little (information, thought, etc.)

Profession Changes

I’m nervous about this one because I’ll probably have to learn how to maximize profits again. Currently, I like how much gold I can make thanks to professions. However, I don’t know how the changes will really play out. You don’t either. You can pay for the expansion and a month of game time to find out, then unsubscribe, or you can keep your money. It’s the same with any game, movie, vacation, etc.: you can pay to try or not. Also, apparently Blizzard no longer designs games just to make me wealthier.

Item Squish

Some of you need to math more.

If you have size issues, Blizz can’t help you. Fortunately, there are out-of-game professionals who can.

You wanted to hit for 10 million one day. As Bertrand Russell wrote “[T]o be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.”
                               

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Warlords of Draenor: Why This Expansion Changes Everything

There was a time when, culturally, people didn’t think much about how time travel worked in terms of its effects on reality. I’m thinking of

    Back to the Future

as one example. In the last couple decades, however and for whatever reason, people have become much more savvy about time travel, even though it’s probably not a possibility. The most recent thinking about time travel that I have come across has been the Universe A and Universe B solution. Basically, Universe A discovers time travel, goes back, someone changes something, but instead of altering Universe A (which is where things get really sticky for storytellers), it creates a Universe B, which is the same as Universe A up until the point at which something was changed by time travel. Now, this solution is much, much cleaner than the alternative, but it still has its problems- all of which are complex, lengthy, and likely to bore or confuse the average reader. So let’s assume the Universe A/Universe B theory is what is happening in Warlords of Draenor and see why this can lead to some interesting possibilities:

  • What Hasn’t Changed? First, the basic rules of magic, science, etc. haven’t changed thanks to the expansion. We’re going back in time to an alternate universe (Universe B), one in which the Burning Legion failed to pollute the orcs, but in which Garrosh succeeds in rallying them to a common cause. Second, the orcs still come through a portal, but this portal takes them to post-Pandaria Azeroth (Universe A). We beat them back, but we go in after Garrosh and who-knows-why-else, so now we are in Universe B with a connection to Universe A… and the same basic rules of the universe.
  • Draenor Can Still Connect to Azeroth. Draenor is actually now a crossroads, when you think about it. It connects Azeroth of Universe A (ruined by Scourge, filled with awesome Pandas, etc.) to the Azeroth of Universe B (I’ll call it “AR-Azeroth”: no Scourge, theoretically no Paladins, no contact between Tauren and Human, etc.) The only thing stopping us from getting to AR-Azeroth is a big ol’ portal.
  • We Need a Crazy-Powerful (Crazy) Mage.
  • If only we could find a mage whose power is ridiculous, whose past is filled with bitterness and loss, and whose abandonment of the ethos that she once represented seems to be drawing nigh. If only such a person existed, that person might be tottering on the razor thin edge that was once the tightrope of Illidan and Ner’zhul and Arthas; that person might be standing on the precipice at the edge of cataclysmic change. Of course, they’d need a push… every tragic figure does (just ask Macbeth).

  • M is for Motive.
  • I’m sure you know who we need to step into the spotlight: Jaina Proudmoore, erstwhile rule of Theramoore, lover of Arthas, etc. Opening such a portal would allow her to see all the people she’s lost: daddy, lover boy, protege, mentor, etc. She is a nostalgic woman who has lost much. Now, she’s one huge portal away from returning to them.

  • It Sounds Crazy But…
  • Two angles here: lore and gaming. Lorewise, this opens up an entirely new world whose ancient past is already known to us, but whose recent past and future have gone in a different direction from our own. From a gaming perspective, it’s a chance to revisit places with which many players are familiar, but they’re also very different: Northrend ruled by the Aqir, the Blue Dragons, Ice Trolls, etc; the High Elves in their untouched homeland; the nomadic Tauren and ever-warring Trolls; Gilneas before the Worgen and Lordaeron pre-Scourge! I don’t know if it’s possible to really play out. It would be a massive expansion… a WoW 2.0 in a lot of ways.

    I’m not predicting this sort of future for WoW. For one, they have a lot of content in Universe A that we all want to uncover. Moreover, I don’t know if Blizzard has jitters after the Cataclysm expansion, the only real flaw of which was that there wasn’t a new world (like Pandaria or Northrend or Outland). For another, it’s clear that Blizzard is interested in crossing over as many of their games as possible (

      Heroes of the Storm

    strikes me as a renamed

      Project Titan

    that seeks to begin the process of integration. Imagine a gaming reality in which Starcraft players could affect WoW players even if they don’t play WoW. Would it be possibly to integrate, in some way, the two games? I don’t know. It would be complicated as hell.

    Just to tease that theory out, imagine you’re a Starcraft player. You really do things in a macro-sort of way, right? Everything you do is big and epic and has far-ranging consequences. Meanwhile, I’m a WoW player. I join in one big events, but it’s really a micro-view of the world. Could those two ways of going about missions be integrated in some other universe?

      Project TItan

    always seemed like the perfect cover name for a game that sought to do what Blizzard’s TItans did: create worlds and connect them together.

    Anyway, it’s just a theory.

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    WoW and the Married, Careered Adult

    This is in response to a post in r/wow. OP is coming back to WoW and wants to know how to balance family and work and the game. I don’t think I have the best solution, but what I do works for me and for the people who rely on me in-game. I love playing WoW (as my wife can attest) so this isn’t a casual player’s guide to playing twice a week. Also, caveat, I have a wife who has her own interests and understands that this silly game means a lot to me, making me luckier than a lot of guys. Here’s how I roll:

    IN REAL LIFE

    1) Make Time for Others. If you don’t like your wife or your kids, I can’t help you. I love mine. I try to only be in the game when they’re otherwise occupied. I don’t get into committed activities (raids, dungeons, scenarios, etc.) if they may suddenly come home or suddenly start playing a family game or whatever. I recognize my situation (see below… and it’s a damn good situation) and I play around that. Making others work around your playing is when you run into trouble. Are there times I really want to play but I’m committed to watching a family movie? Yes. Do what’s right. The game will be there longer than your kids will be this age.

    2) Have a Routine. My wife got me believing in the power of routines (which is strange, because I am such a regimented person by nature) to keep life sane. I take care of my “To Do” list (see below) while she cooks and the girls play, then I get in the kitchen to help get food out, finish homework, clean up, etc. If there’s laundry to be done or floors to be swept, I do that while the girls eat. I’m not off by myself ignoring everyone (that comes later). I read the girls to sleep, then Keli and I eat (if she hasn’t finished cooking, I log in and mess around… she enjoys cooking and watching a show, so no time lost between us). Then, she and I hang out, eat, watch a show, laugh, and so on. Usually, it’s from 8 – 10 PM. Sometimes, it’s less time. Sometimes, it’s more. Sometimes, she says she has something else to work on. Whatever happens, I let her make the call, because that’s her time.

    3) Have Other Interests. If you’re skipping out on watching a game with friends or going to a book reading or camping with family because of WoW, you’re not being realistic about your situation. And that will cause your situation to change- usually for the worse. See below about this, but you need to understand your situation, decide why you’re here, and prioritize your time.

    TIME MANAGEMENT IN-GAME

    1) Recognize Your Situation. I’m not a teenager with nothing but homework. I’m not a college kid with free afternoons to get my studying done. I’m not even a single adult with a job and an empty house at night. I’m a father with a career and a wife that supersede the game. I also enjoy working out and writing. WoW is part of my identity, but these other things are also part of me- and I want to be a complete person. I recognize my situation and that, in-game, I won’t have time to be the guy with six level 90 alts, the highest item level, the coolest pets or mounts, all the transmog outfits, 750k gold, and so on. In the two years I’ve been playing, I’ve amassed some rare pets (the Hyacinth Macaw being the rarest drop), some cool mounts (I found a Green Proto-Drake), some cool Transmog pieces (mostly weapons… I purposely make my outfits as hideously mismatched as possible, to horrify guildies), and so on. I keep 100k gold at all times, fluctuating from 100 to 150, but I rarely see something I can’t buy and want.

    2) Know Why You’re Here. I like raiding. I enjoy PvP, but not as much as raiding (and yes, I gave it a fair shot). I won’t get into the reasons, but if I couldn’t raid, I wouldn’t enjoy the game as much. I might even not play. The point, I don’t try to raid, PvP, have alts, make tons of gold, get every achievement, etc. That’s what people do who have more time (and that’s fine… it’s not like watching a football game or a sitcom or playing a board game is more meaningful) and I admire that they have the tenacity and opportunity. But I’m here to raid. So I found a way to do it: a guild with like-minded people in similar situations whose schedule and goals fit mine. We raid twice per week for three hours each time. We clear content and are in Heroic mode before the patch is over. I can go into LFR or Flex and be above or equal to most of the players. That’s why I’m here. Why are you here?

    3) Prioritize Your In-game Time. Knowing why you’re here makes this easier. As soon as I log in, I take care of the “To Do” list. For me, this means picking Motes of Harmony from the farm at Halfhill, doing the Ironpaw token quest, doing the Noodle Time (and Bonus Noodle Time) senario, and making the two MoP bars that have daily CDs. Then, I repeat on my alt. It takes me about 20-30 minutes, less if I focus and knock it out. After that, it depends. Some days, that’s all I do. Some days, I have enough time to move on to the “Responsibilities”, the things I need to do that keep me raiding. At the moment, that means having my gear right (gems, enchants, etc.), getting VP capped, and spending VP on upgrades. Again, I’m all about simplicity. I chain Heroic Scenarios with other high item level players. In an hour or so, I can get 300 VP, sometimes more. This, combined with the occasional LFR/Flex and the guild runs keeps me maxed out. And if I don’t have time that week, here’s a secret: not standing in stuff > having all your gear upgraded.

    Closing Thoughts

    I’m probably in a unique situation. I’m in a great guild that suits my goals and timeframe (these aren’t difficult to find, I’m told) and I have a work schedule that doesn’t have weird hours. I’m also a plate tank in a raid that only has one or two other toons who are competing with me for loot. But even so, most of what I’m able to do in the game is the result of the strategies I listed above. The bottom line is this: make sure your family and your career know they’re ahead of the game. Take a week off from playing during vacation; take a night off every so often; play when it’s convenient, don’t make it convenient to play (odds are you’re only making i convenient for yourself); and don’t treat the game like something you have to hide- if you’re honest about playing it, most people who care about you will respect that.

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