Archive for the “Life Imitates WoW” Category
From the novel and film of the same name, an impossibly difficult choice, especially when forced onto someone. The choice is between two unbearable options, and it’s essentially a no-win situation.
WoW culture received a shock this week in the form of a scathingly critical article on Polygon that pointed out what we had all seen and chose to ignore: Rob Pardo, one of the senior seniors at Blizzard, stating in a talk at MIT that Blizz just didn’t see that it was Blizz’ place to be all that much of an exemplar to people with regards to socially progressive topics.
I wouldn’t say that’s really a value for us. It’s not something that we’re against either, but it’s just not something that’s … something we’re trying to actively do.
– Rob Pardo
In the an article on Rock Paper Shotgun, Harper points out Dustin Browder arguing that Blizzard is "[...] not running for President. We’re not sending a message. No one should look to our game for that."
RPS countered, "let people have fun in an environment where they can feel awesome without being weirded out or even objectified." to which Browder countered,
"Uh-huh. Cool. Totally."
– Dustin Browder, master of artful dodges
All this plays eerily like Nintendo’s earlier comments regarding their game Tomodachi Life, in which relationships are possible, but not if you’re gay. They apologize for this, but state
The relationship options in the game represent a playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation. We hope that all of our fans will see that Tomodachi Life was intended to be a whimsical and quirky game, and that we were absolutely not trying to provide social commentary.
Eerie, because it seems like Blizz is responding to some sort of game developer culture dog whistle here.
All about framing
In an earlier tech scandal this year, Mozilla Corp., better known for browsers than politics, hired a vocally anti-gay CEO, who stepped down a few days later after talk of boycotts, protests, and other general discontent. At the time, Mozilla announced his departure along side a statement that it was "hard to balance free speech and equality".
Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.
This has become a popular idiom as of late; getting ahead of the reader and trying to force the reader to make a decision that they don’t have to make. In the case of Mozilla, they try to make it so that you can only have equality or free speech. But the fact was, nobody’s free speech was at risk here. They made the decision to hire a known homophobe. But they were unprepared to accept the consequences of their actions. The REAL choice was whether or not to stand by their choice, and Eich took the choice out of their hands.
Pardo and Browder both want to do the same; present their decisions as a choice between having fun, and making a "statement" about social issues.
The problem is, of course, that nobody asked them to make that choice. They chose to force that choice.
All about Inclusion
A few years ago, Blizzard muckety and general brodawg Chris Metzen got up in front of Blizzcon and made a speech about what "Geek is". Among them:
Conan the Barbarian
G. I. Joe
Okay, more or less on track. But the thing he missed, the thing he didn’t say, that "Geek is" inclusive. Real, true geeks welcome all into the fold that live by our code. We don’t care if you’re man, woman, child, elder, Eldar, gay, trans*, country, western, Coke, or Pepsi.
If you’ve felt more at home in a library than a soccer pitch, we feel you.
If you’ve stood in line in the rain for a Harry Potter ticket, we get you.
And if you’ve ever felt excluded because what other people like makes you feel sad or weirded out or uncomfortable – we get you. We accept you.
Because GEEK IS … inclusive.
And I imagine Metzen left that out for at least two reasons.
He – and the rest of his dawgs – don’t get that. Don’t understand that.
His company would not be able to deliver on that.
This is not new. This is not sudden. This is baked in to the corporate culture. If you don’t fit their mold, it’s okay if you want to hang out, but if you don’t feel comfortable in their sandbox, they don’t care. Worse than that, they want you to shut up about it.
"Women are okay, I guess. Some of my best friends are women. But this is a boy’s trip. So if they’re not really cool with that, that’s just too bad. We’re not trying to make a social statement here."
A Crisis of Conscience
WoW is in crisis. It’s a crisis that nobody talks about.
It’s not that the alpha isn’t ready to go or that raiders are feeling shafted or that there have been x number of days since the last major content patch.
The crisis is the wave of people that are leaving because they no longer feel like they belong in this game. Every time Blizzard reaffirms this, more leave.
WoW has a unique place in this kind of conundrum.
On the one hand there is a beautiful, wonderful community of bloggers and tweeters and forum posters and such that are supportive, informative, and delightful to be around. On the other hand, there is this seemingly toxic corporate culture that sees no profit from making the game friendly to over half the people in the world. It’s hard to decide between the two.
For a long time, many of us have avoided deciding.
But more and more are deciding. Many major names in WoW blogging have departed lately, and they have stated this toxicity as the reason why. Not all of them are women or LGBT – some are simply sympathetic to the cause, and are leaving in a show of solidarity.
It’s a quiet crisis. We rarely speak of it. Surely, you will not see stalwarts in the WoW community like WoW Insider or WoWHead or MMO Champion reporting on it, because they know better than to antagonize the golden goose too much (But kudos to Matt Rossi for at least addressing the issue behind it, not something I would have expected to see from an AoL property.). Note to said stalwarts: Reporting on this sort of thing is not the same as taking sides – unless, perhaps, Blizzard have made it clear that any mention of it is antagonistic to them. Is it? I have no visibility to it. There is no transparency AT ALL.
But the crisis exists, nevertheless.
And maybe we should make it worse.
Making it an issue
People like Rob Pardo and Chris Metzen are not going to take a threat of financial loss that seriously unless their board beats them up. You can’t really get their attention that way. They hired somebody else to worry about that. Someone to "be the grown-ups" so they could go on being big overgrown kids.
No, what Rob and Chris want more than anything is for you to think they’re cool. They have that word tatoo’d on their tongues. They say it over and over again, like a mantra. Even Greg Street drank that kool-aid. Cool. Cool. CoolCoolCool Coooooooooooooooool.
So kick ‘em in the cool gland. If you have a voice, make it heard. If you decided to unsubscribe, make it clear when you do that you feel that Chris and Rob and Samwise are really uncool people with uncool attitudes towards women and LGBTs and the like. Explain to them that you abhor their attitudes. Tell ‘em to get sensitivity training or something. Tell ‘em to grow up a little (but not too much).
And maybe if enough people iterate on that, they’ll Get It.
I’m not holding my breath. Because entitled schmucks never really Get It until the world crashes down around them, and then they’re more likely to blame everyone else.
Making it Personal
Which brings me to me.
I haven’t played the game in days, ever since this came to light. This incident has poisoned the well, soured the taste to the point where I just can’t ignore this issue any more.
I said in the past that if they showed no progress on this issue, I’d drop my subscription. The fact that I’ve written on this topic before, multiple times, is evidence enough that the problem is baked in to their culture. Last time, in the MoP lead-up, Metzen at least made noises like they were going to try to improve. This time, they’re actually regressing, trying to disavow any responsibility for the effects their culture has on the product. I see little hope of improvement.
I have a couple of weeks left on my subscription, so I have some time to ponder this. And that’s my difficult choice – whether to implicitly underwrite a developer’s toxic culture which chooses to ignore or alienate a bunch of my friends, or to turn my back on a number of friends that are still doggedly sticking around – though far fewer than there used to be – and cast myself into the void, to land I know not where.
While nowhere near the eponymous choice’s difficulty, it’s still a poser.
Well, Wildstar opens in a week. Maybe that’ll tide me over until Elite.
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I’m not going to say this again, so pay attention – I’m totally not harshing on any particular people. I have an alternative viewpoint, and I want to share it.
Blogging often introduces us to new people that we really connect with. A lot of times these connections sink in, wrapping you in a cozy blanket of fellowship. I can’t count how many people have wandered into my orbit, or I into theirs, and we found commonality between us.
Belghast would contend that this is not a “community” per se , but something else that just seems like it. These people whith whom I’ve met, formed connections with both on the blog and outside of it, who’s guilds I’ve joined and with whom I’ve slayed internet dragons – this is not, strictly speaking, in his mind, a community.
Now, to be fair, he’s focusing outside of the WoW “community” (I’ll call it that for the sake of argument). And yet things he points out about the larger “MMO community” ring true for the WoW blogging community as well.
One of his first examples focuses on how so many people on Twitter have stopped following him over the years. I have to wonder why they don’t. I also have to wonder why he didn’t follow up on that, if twitter follows are something of importance. My point, the unfollows themselves are meaningless without context.
See, the thing that was missing in this case was effort. And no, before anyone thinks it, I’m not dissing Belghast for being lazy. What I’m saying is that twitter follows are a two-way thing. The person that unfollowed did so for a reason. The person that was unfollowed was unfollowed for a reason. Until those reasons are actually KNOWN, everything else is just empty speculation.
However, Twitter isn’t the best of examples, nor is Facebook or even LiveJournal. What they have in common is a built-in framework that forms a false sense of “community”. You have “followed” ergo you are part of that “community”. The implication here – and an incorrect lesson that many may learn to their misfortune – is that communities are “built” in software and have a tangible “framework” that you can monitor the “health” of. A guild, your follow lists on FB, Twitter, LJ, etc. Your mailing lists. Your PHP-BB site. All of these are constructs that can call themselves “community” by dint of having a “box” within which the “community” is found.
But “community” in the “real world” is a lot harder.
When you move into a new house, you don’t automatically become friends with the people next door and across the street. You can’t go borrow a fiver from Bob next door on your first day. He won’t let you watch his kids while he and Mrs Bob go out for dinner. No, you have to earn each others’ trust and friendship. Your “community” is only geographical on the first look – after that, it’s a web of trust and caring, battles won and lost together, crises managed and averted, and so forth.
And that’s the proper analogy for blogging communities. We don’t just “fall together” into a box marked “WoW Blogger community”. That’s just our “geographical location” in greater Blogostan and says nothing about the web of trust (or distrust) that we have constructed.
And, unlike Twitter, you have no means to find out who’s “following” you (other than that “follow” thing in Blogger, and that’s hardly universal). So, people that you used to “follow” stop blogging, and unless you make the effort to follow up, you’ll never know why.
The question becomes, if a person stops blogging, is that person no longer part of your “community”?
The real world analogy is if your neighbor Bob’s kid grows up and he no longer shows up at the Little League games you umpire for, is Bob no longer part of your community? Well, he lives next door, surely not! But if your only interaction with Bob is at those ball games, you may feel estranged.
Now, in the real world, first links (Little League) forge longer chains. Chances are, if you and Bob connected at the games, you’re probably interacting in other areas as well. As persons, you both put effort into forging a friendship. You do so with many people, and the commonality of it is what forms a very real and lasting community.
And that’s the bottom line of the WoW, or even game blog community. It isn’t that we all play a game and blog about it. That is insufficient to form any real community. But a number of people care enough to reach out and interact and get to know each other. Those people then interact in other areas as well, and form real friendships. In fact, I can say that I consider many former WoW bloggers to be friends. I still consider them to be part of the “community” even if the first link in that chain’s now broken. Other links have taken up the slack.
A blogroll is not a community.
A group of blogs is not a community.
Nor is Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, or Google Groups.
Even Blog Azeroth is not, strictly speaking, a community on its own.
People are what make a community. Nothing else. The people within those frameworks make it work.
If you’re part of a “community” that started or still orbits around a commonality of blogging, so be it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
I like to think communities are an organic thing. You can’t really force them via artificial social networking frameworks. Retweeting your latest blog entry doesn’t enhance anything regarding “community” – that’s just advertising, and that doesn’t help form “communities” either. But it can bring eyes to your site, and that can get the ball rolling.
That’s only the start, of course. Community isn’t a fire-and-forget thing. Your job isn’t done when you hit “publish”. If you have no further interactions, you won’t have a “community”, either.
Belghast may not feel part of a community at this point. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. It’s not automatic, and it can’t be forced. Sometimes even hard work won’t help.
But it won’t happen if you don’t keep trying, either. So keep at it.
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Two years ago today, this little white ball of fur trundled across the parking lot right in front of our car. We stopped and took custody. I named her Jaina in tribute to what I hoped would be the fighting spirit we would see from our own Ms. Proudmoore. Also the white hair kinda brought her to mind.
So today we celebrate Jaina Finding Day!
Cold and alone in the word … no more!
We initially had bad news from the vet; they said she had FIP and had weeks to live at most. We determined that those weeks would have warmth and love in store for her.
She didn’t act like she was dying. Within a short period of time, she was Airborne Kitty, flying through the air to attack what she might consider attackable (such as crotches and fingers), and terrorizing all the other cats.
Surprise Finger Noms!
Over time she showed no sign of slowing down, and by the end of the first year she was flourishing. Her white fur had given way to a more chocolately hue, but it was soft as kitten down still. And she had plenty of it.
Over time, she’s developed a cuddly side, especially with whoever is on the couch. The couch is her favorite place.
We don’t even try to keep her off of it.
Here we are at the end of her second year with us. We know her second birthday was probably around 10 weeks ago, but this is the day we celebrate, because it’s when we found her.
Happy 2nd Jaina Finding Day!
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Something said at Be MOP reminded me of somewhere else that I had read of a hat-based business model.
So this probably happened at Blizz:
Note: this webcomic is by the same team that does Penny Arcade, plus one, which may turn some people off. So, avoid if you are ethically inclined to do so.
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So, back in August I posted a little piece about the latest addition to casa de Grimmtooth, a little kitten that we named Jaina, who had been diagnosed with a deadly disease and yet persisted in living la vida loca long past the projected, um, deadline. Here’s a little update.
We’ve had her to our regular vet to be spayed, and there was no evidence of FIP from the vet. Still, we worried. She still has a rather chunky bod, and she was so active that I just didn’t think it was due to overeating. So I kept researching.
One day I found this looking back at me.
It was as if I was looking at a picture of our little lady, but it wasn’t a Tonkinese – it was a Birman. As I read up on the Birman breed, I mentally checked off all the boxes but one – the little gloves that a Birman is supposed to have, but Jaina does not.
The most important trait from my perspective is the body shape. While tonks tend to be slender, Birmans are not. They have what is described largely as "a square body shape." Another was the voice. She has a sweet, mellow voice, not a brassy Siamese twang, which Tonks are said to have.
So what gives me hope is that Jaina is actually a Birman cross, not a Tonk cross, and her size and shape is perfectly normal for a cat of her lineage.
She continues to be healthy and active and keeps us on our toes. She’s also developing a more affectionate demeanor as she matures. When she wants attention she still goes and gets her favorite toy and starts to sing. She loves the long hallway in he new place and will spend a lot of time zooming up and down it, often behind some unfortunate other cat that was just ambushed.
So, we’re feeling very hopeful.
Oh, one correction from the original post – I’m calling it Fire with Arcane offspec, not the other way around.
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The Topic: "Have you ever named a pet after a WoW NPC?" Oddly, this topic also came up last night while running randoms with some friends. I could swear I had posted about it here, but apparently it was only Twitter. Let’s fix that.
The answer, as you probably guessed, is "yes." This past January, we rescued a tiny Tonkinese kitten from our apartment’s parking lot. She was slow. She was listless. Her little belly was swollen. We took her in, and within a couple of days the was scaling anything scalable to be with her new peoples. She was fierce. None of the other cats were safe from her epic pounces. And she’d steal my pillow from me as I slept.
We named her Jaina (that’s her to the left).
A couple of weeks later, we took her to the doc, and the prognosis was grim. FIP is not a treatable disease. Fortunately, it’s only usually communicable to very young and very old kitties, so our other four cats were probably not at risk. We were told, it was a matter or weeks. We took her home, and decided that her last weeks on Earth would be good ones, until she showed signs of slowing down we’d love her.
So, here we are in August. She’s grown into a lovely young lady; still as spritely and fierce as ever. She has a favorite toy, which she will drop at your feet and then pat you on the elbow as if to say, "Please play with me." She’s possibly the smartest cat I’ve ever seen. She pretty much runs things around here as far as the other cats are concerned.
We’re keenly hoping that prognosis was wrong; FIP is a hard thing to diagnose, and the symptoms that she had may have been due to malnourishment than anything else.
So, yes, WoW Insider, we have, but since I had to show her off a little, I answered here.
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Maybe, like myself, you’re a fan of the BBC series Top Gear, and, out of affection for that show, watched the spin-off, Richard Hammond’s Crash Course. In which case, you’ve seen this.
The other day, on my secret Gnome Warlock, I encountered this.
"I think you can see where this is going."
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Just a very short post about a very short post that happened to include, much to my surprise and delight, a nice little sketch done by the lovely and talented Vidyala at Manalicious. All the other toons are going to be so jealous.
I love how a talented artist can breathe life into even a black and white sketch. It’s like looking in a mirror! In a sketchy world!
Vid, you are teh awesome. Thank you SO much! <3
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No, not the event itself, but the book leading up to it: The Shattering: Prelude to Cataclysm.
In the context of the game, “The Shattering” was actually when the cataclysm took place, so you are excused a moment to scratch your heads. I know, right?
OK, brass tacks time.
WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOR THE BOOK AS WELL AS THE SHATTERING – IF YOU HAVE SOMEHOW AVOIDED IT.
This book tells the story of the run-up to the cataclysm from three main viewpoints: Thrall, Warchief of the Horde; Cairne/Baine Bloodhoof, Chieftain of the Tauren (both are noted, as one takes over from the other 2/3 the way through), and Anduin Lothar Wrynn, Crown Prince of Stomwind.
The Thrall plotline follows Thrall’s Vision Quest to shattered Draenor, as he tries to determine the best path forward to resolve Elemental issues on Azeroth. It covers how he meets Aggra, and how he came to be a simple shaman in the expansion.
It also explains how Clefthoof-dung-for-brains came to be in charge.
The Cairne/Baine plotline follows the arc of how Baine came to be the Chieftain of the Tauren, how Thunder Bluff got its new coat of paint, and why the Grimtotem are where they are now.
The Anduin plotline provides us with a more or less first-hand view of the events transpiring in Ironforge, including what happened to Magni, and why Moira is now one of the three Dwarves on the Throne. It does not, however, explain the presence of the Wildhammer Fact Checker. That one you’ll have to dig up yourself.
Style and Substance
In general, this books reads like your basic movie novelization or franchise book. The tracks have been laid, the author is there to translate the plot elements of those tracks into a story. There are some pretty horrible examples of this sort of book out there, including most Star Trek movie novelizations (at one point I actually /ragequit Star Trek novels entirely over one of these, and have never gone back). This is not among those, but it certainly doesn’t have the gripping power of your average grade-school adhesive, either.
There are brief, shining moments within in which real character-driven emotion is expressed, where you just want to step into the page and give someone a hug. This almost makes up for the clunkers, of which there are a few.
And plenty of it. This was the main reason to read the book, for me, to understand the changes that were coming. We see the changes to the Horde and Alliance power structures more than anything else, though we do gain insight into what is becoming of Azeroth. The stakes are high. While nobody knows who is behind it, it looks like Azeroth is about to become like Draenor itself.
What is NOT covered are the events that reshaped the world in other ways. Nothing within this book explains, for example the massive changes to Stormwind or the way that the zones are re-arranged themselves, for example.
The other reason I read this book was to get more inside the heads of our heroes in the world of Azeroth. This turned out to be very hit and miss.
- Thrall – While we spend a lot of time in his head, he comes across as very one-dimensional, even when he finds Twue Wuve. He made me neither angry, sad, happy, or impassioned in any way. Thrall Go. Thrall Learn. Thrall Find Girlfriend. Thrall Forgive. Thrall Quit. Thrall Sail Away.
- Garrosh Hellscream – Again, this guy had one dimension – the dimension of growl. In many ways I can see Q teasing him and hearing him howl impotently at the deeper waters all around him. Oh, the text says this: “Garrosh is an arrogant, prideful and yet powerful warrior that learns that matters of State are not as simple as they appear from outside the War Chief’s hall. In the end he has much to ponder and a newfound respect for Baine”. But I don’t really get into it.
- Cairne Bloodhoof / Baine Bloodhoof – Put together, the two almost obtain depth. The two put together almost appear to be the same character with different fur. Heck, you don’t actually ever see them together, forcing one to consider they they are actually the same character. Honorable Tauren smoke peace pipe. Ug. My advice to Golden would be spend less time talking about honor and more time demonstrating it. (This applies to Garrosh as well)
- King Varian Wrynn – I hate to say it, but they’re setting this guy up to be some sort of Alliance-ish version of Garrosh, and one or both may come a-tumbling down before 5.0 rolls. Golden resorts to the dual nature of the King to explain his wild and uncontrollable temper, as in “he has not yet reconciled the two halves of him that were re-merged prior to 3.0.” It would be far better to just say he’s a giant prick and be done with it if you cannot offer a gameplay-consistent explanation.
- Speaking of which, anyone notice that the Stormwind citizens were referring to Varian as “La’Gosh” during the Elemental Invasion? What’s the lore behind that?
- Jaina Proudmoore – Finally, someone does something to redeem this poor woman’s reputation. After years of being treated as a flighty, weepy girl by the powers that be in the WoW design office, Golden gave her back her brain and her spine. The Jaina in this book is the Jaina I want to see leading the Humans of Theramore. This is the Jaina that had to make the choice between her father and her people. Not the Jaina that got all weepy when Varian showed compassion to an honorable foe. We need more of this Jaina. Hell, giver her the 3.1 nose back. I thought big-nosed Jaina was perfect.
- Anyway. The one thing that alarms me is how much her involvement with Arthas has been retconned to more than it used to be. Frozen Throne Jaina and Arthas were lovers, nothing more. Shattering Jaina and Arthas are soulmates, separated by his willingness to give everything for his people (and what a mistake that turned out to be, is the message here, I guess).
- Anduin Lothar Wrynn – The son of Varian Wrynn rides close to the Mary Sue borderline without totally crossing it. But it’s a close thing. What does save it from that is that Anduin is indeed already a player in the story, and his character does get some serious development in this book. Most notably, I hope they follow through on his affinity for the Light. That’s also scary: what would Blizzard do with a kingdom lead by, say, a Paladin or Priest as its King? Still, he was a major part of this story, and, if not for him, the throne room of Ironforge – if not the entire composition of the Alliance – might be very different.
- Magni Bronzebeard – Of all the second-tier characters in this game, Magni turned out to get far more fleshing out than I expected, to the point that he had as much depth and personality as Jaina did. His gift to Anduin was especially appropriate and touching, and was one of those rare moments in the book that conveyed real emotion.
- Princess Moira Bronzebeard Thaurissan – She was a bitch in Vanilla, and this book gives the Bitch a Red Bull and a cup of coffee to boot. Her motives are rather simple and trite, her plan rather sinister, her humanity lost in all the moustache-twirling – and she doesn’t even have one! While Varian’s reasons for Regicide were insubstantial, I was still rooting for him to swing that damned sword – screw the kid, screw the possibility of war. Just, please, get that bad dialog out of my life. Anyhoo, Anduin seems convinced that she has valid points and a good heart (which he says, more or less identically, at least four times in the book), but he must have spent time with her off-screen because the short time we get to see her, she’s too busy fishing for new innuendoes to describe Anduin’s plight and laughing at him.
- Aerin – OK, I had to include her because I couldn’t help wondering at the implications of replacing the ‘n’ with an ‘s’. Is this as cheap as it looks?
The lore enrichment offered is substantial, and the characters do get some essential, if not exactly inspiring, backstory and character development. A great literary work, it is not. And while you won’t hate yourself for reading it, you won’t love yourself for it, either.
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Us Hunters get fairly well attached to our pets, and for good reason, as they are a major contributor to our success in any fight, whether it’s a bear tank helping us tear through the countryside without a scratch, or a cunning raptor snipping apart opponents in PvP, or a sleek and powerful cat slicing and dicing from the shadows before anyone even knows what hit them. Our pets are our hallmarks. Even melee hunters!
In “real life”, Meta is a bit on the “allergic” side of the spectrum when it comes to most pets, including kitties, and yet around 15 years ago, he was adopted by a sweet, opinionated, loving kitty named “Kaley”. She was the queen of the house, the Boss, She Who Must Be Obeyed, and yet she rewarded those that accepted her supremacy with cuddles, purrs, and overall cuteness.
No doubt you noticed the past tense. This weekend, she passed away in my sweetie’s arms. To borrow one of my favorite lines from Red Dwarf, Alexander the Great’s mouser has gone to join her master.
So he better look out.
PS: that is NOT my Hello Kitty poster. Just so’s we’re clear on that.
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