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Friday, April 29, 2016

Fleet Friday: How Wargaming Is Making Players Pay Real Money for Update 0.5.5

World of Warships update 0.5.5 is out and I have had no problems with it. I don't run mods in my game client. But that doesn't mean the update hasn't affected me. Quite the contrary, my team was victorious in only one of my first four games in the Kagero on patch day. The first three games I played were losses, and I felt partially to blame.

My first loss was the best game of the losses. I sank one ship and had five torpedo hits on Islands of Ice placing me second in total points on my team. The second game I landed in torpedo hits at all. We were on Northern Lights and I went west and got around behind the enemy's base. The torpedoes I fired were all sighted in plenty enough time to be avoided. They were just too slow in both speed and rearm. The third game was little better as I landed only one torpedo on trap and did more gunboat type play than sneaky Japanese destroyer type play.
Most of my issues came from two things. One, the torpedoes on my Kagero now only go 67 knots instead of 72 knots when using the Torpedo Acceleration captain skill. Yes, I have confirmed they dropped the speed on the 20 kilometer torpedoes by 5 knots. I remember being all excited when they introduced Torpedo Acceleration because I was happy to give up four kilometers of range for the extra five knots of speed.

The second thing is the detection range on those torpedoes. It is now 2.5 kilometers! A New York could get out of the way of those torpedoes! Common Wargaming, I agree the torpedo spam needed dealt with but you've damn near made long range torpedo shots impossible on an open ocean. It's not so bad on maps like Atlantic or Land of Fire, but it's ridiculous on Ocean. I might as well just race in and try to be a gun boat.
Of course, that's exactly what they want us to do. They added a third torpedo option to high tier Japanese destroyers: the Type F3 torpedo. It has a speed of 81 knots with Torpedo Acceleration. It also does 400 more max damage than the Type93 mod. 1 and has a 14 second faster reload for me. The down side? With the loss of 20% to range they only reach out to 6.4 kilometers. That's the same as my Farragut at tier VI. I'd have to give up Torpedo Acceleration to have ab 8 kilometer range while losing five knots of speed.

But you know what bothers me most about this? It isn't the loss of range, or the increased detection range or the forced change to my game play. It's the fact that I am 1634 commander experience, two games at most, from getting my 15th skill point and Wargaming DID NOT give me a free skill point redistribution. 
To redistribute now it'll cost me 350 doubloons, real world money! That's a load of horse shit Wargaming. If you are going to make such a drastic change to a ship that relies so heavily on a commander's build you should at least give us one free redistribution. What you've done now is forced every Japanese destroyer captain to walk away from their ship or pay you to be competitive again. I'm sure there are some that say, "them's the breaks," and they aren't wrong. But it's also not fair to realize a profit from this change.

Now, you can all see I run a premium account and a doubloon surplus. I'll spend the damn money to create a commander build that will work under these nerfs. But not every player can do that, and you are royally screwing everyone who can't redistribute their captain skills. Would it bankrupt the company to give players one free redistribution after updates like this?  I think not. Step up Wargaming, before too many players step out.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sunday Highlight #34: First blood, more blood, blood everywhere.

A a short compilation of ships sunk while fighting my Nicholas class U.S. destroyer in World of Warships. The audio track is Bulls of Poseidon by Audio Masters. I hope you enjoy the action!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Battles on New Maps! (World of Warships Update 0.5.5 Preview)

There are two new maps coming with World of Warships patch 0.5.5: Mountain Range and Trident. I think it is likely they will be adjusted before the patch is published, but here is what they looked like last Friday night when I logged into the test server to try out the update. It also gave me a chance to try out the Benson class U.S. destroyer. I hope you enjoy the battles! I know I did.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Will e-Sport Succeed?

Available on Netflix now at no additional cost is the e-Sport documentary "All Work All Play." I watched it last night. It was interesting and enlightening, giving me insight into the difficulty involved in getting e-Sports off the ground as an industry. It was also exciting if you didn't already know the outcome of last year's Extreme Masters tournament in Katowice, Poland for League of Legends, with which the show mostly concerned itself. It's worth watching if for no other reason than to see the passion, and stress, e-Sport teams go through.

As I watched the show last night, there was one fact flipped up onto the screen that really surprised me.
"More people watched these guys play a video game than watched the highest-rated games of the NBA finals, the NHL finals or Sunday Night Football."
My inner cynic immediately asked, "Really?" I had to verify the numbers of course. My first stop was the ESL News web site to dig up the story on last year's Counter Strike tournament. There's a lengthy infographic provided at the link, but the gist of what it says is, "860,992 fans watched the finals on March the 15th" and there were a total of, "8,785,740 unique visitors and 16 million hours watched." That seems to be for all games played. Here's what Google had to say about the 2015 NBA finals.

I think ESL is exaggerating the numbers just a bit when it comes to their comparison with the NBA finals. I'm not sure if you can really equate "unique visitors" to viewership in the traditional television sense. Even if you could, the ESL number is still less than half the viewership given above. Even more people, a record setting 23.57 million on average, watched Sunday Night Football last fall according to The IEM tournament just doesn't compare.

Nevertheless, the numbers are impressive without the comparison. And they were even better this year, coming in at 2 million concurrent viewers. Now you need to remember, this is not a single company running a tournament to promote their game like Blizzard does with the Starcraft II World Championship Series or Riot does with their League of Legends Championship Series. There is a fundamental difference between self-promotion and the promotion of others. It is the difference between Blizzard/Riot and ESL. The game producers really only care about the games they sell. ESL runs e-Sport tournaments for a wide variety of games, and their revenue stream has nothing to do with selling games, but rather the playing of the games as a means unto an end itself . So while Blizzard or Riot could survive if one of their tournaments lost money, ESL does not have that luxury. The show makes that point several times.

That is why I ask, "Will e-Sport Succeed?" I am certain Blizzard and Riot will continue promoting their games until no one plays them any longer. I am more concerned with companies like ESL, who are independents. I do not think e-Sport as an industry can happen until it undergoes the sort of transformation the space industry in the United States is attempting and adopts a business model more like other sports.

So you're asking, "how is e-Sports like the space industry?" NASA is a governmental agency. It's priorities are not set by science as much as they are set by politics. When it comes to e-Sports, they are dominated by companies like Blizzard and Riot. Their priorities are set by their business and that is the business of game development. Though there is a symbiotic relationship between game development and e-Sport, they are not the same industry. It is perhaps true you could say e-Sport grew out of game development like SpaceX and Blue Origin grew out of the U.S. space agency, but it needs to be a distinctly different industry from game development. Just as commercial space flight needs to be free of rancorous political meddling, e-Sports needs to be free of game developers. And just as SpaceX and Blue Origin will only be truly successful if they can exist without NASA launch facilities and contracts, e-Sport will only truly succeed if it can exist without the need for game developer funded tournaments. That is not a call to end game developer tournaments. That would be dumb IMO. But there is a need to end the e-Sport industry's dependency on them.

That will likely only happen when game publishers no longer call the shots in e-Sports. put out an e-Sports Market Report in January that explores the overall potential of the emerging e-Sport industry. They predict e-Sports will be a billion dollar industry by 2020. I really liked this report because it did one thing many other reports did not. It threw out income from e-Sport gambling. Gambling revenue is not reported in traditional sports market reports, and should not be reported for e-Sports. You can bet on anything, and gamblers do. Their concern is not to support the events they bet on. It is simply to bet. The money is not directly tied to the industry of the event they are betting on. They are just making bets. But getting back to e-Sports, Peter Warman, the CEO of Newzoo, had this to say about the future of e-Sport,
"2016 will be pivotal for esports. The initial buzz will settle down and the way forward on several key factors, such as regulations, content rights and involvement of traditional media, will become more clear. The collapse of MLG was a reminder that this market still has a long road to maturity and we need to be realistic about the opportunities it provides."
I have highlighted what I saw as most important in that statement. For those who don't know, Blizzard acquired MLG in January of this year. Specifically Blizzard wanted, MLG's streaming service. So what happened? Basically, MLG never made any money. Yes, they were the leader in independent e-Sports streaming, but you don't stay in business by losing money. After more than a decade of red, their only options were to close shop or sell. They sold, and by doing so confirmed to many that e-Sports could not make it without a publisher. But frankly MLG never really had a chance.

I won't pretend to be an expert on MLG and what it did or didn't do right, but I will say their task was made a lot harder because there were no clear cut rules on how to play the game. In any video game we play, we know exactly what a champion, or a unit, or a ship or a tank is capable of doing. It is constrained by concrete rules we can rely on to plan our strategy and tactics. It is an understatement to simply say it is important for the game to have rules. The rules ARE the game. You can't play the game without them, and that is what MLG tried to do. It doesn't work.

Also, the games MLG focused on did not really interest me. People don't watch what doesn't interest them. That is why there are much smaller audiences for Curling than Hockey. To make it big, the sport needs to appeal to a lot of people. That's why League of Legends tournaments set simultaneous view records and EVE Online tournaments do not. I'm not assigning blame here. It's no one's fault if a company can't generate enough interest in their product to make a go at it. But to make it as an e-Sport broadcaster, you have to broadcast what is popular before you branch off into less popular games. Unfortunately Riot owns the rights to all things League of Legends. They get final say, and if they say no there is no recourse. No one owns football. No one owns basketball. But in our current gaming environment, these games are most certainly owned by those playing them as with other sports. That's big a problem. If your business is predicated on using games others can sue you for using in a way they don't like, you will fail.

There is another issue at play here too, though not as big an issue in my mind. It seems to me e-Sport fans are a bit cheap. They want to watch for free without commercial interruptions and are loath to pay for the stream. They will pay to go into an arena, but generating funds from the stream is still a hard thing. In the key facts listed in the Newzoo report was the fact that e-Sports generate only a quarter of the money per fan as traditional sports. That right there illustrates why MLG did not succeed as much as picking the wrong game. But then again, a more mature industry could generate more money per fan simply by dint of having a broader reach and better defined rules and regulations. If you can reach more potential fans, and have a well structured profit sharing structure, you'll make money, and as the hype grows your revenue per fan will increase. But without revenue, you can't afford the cost of reaching more fans, or the infrastructure to establish and oversee fair and equitable regulations. It's a classic Catch-22.

So how do traditional sports do it? Looking at a standard NBA broadcast, the advertisers don't pay for the athletes and the teams. The advertisers only pay for the broadcasting company, which employs the broadcasters, which is done by a different company then owns the team. In other sports, stadiums and arenas are provided by the "home" team under a separate business arrangement with the hosting municipalities. The teams themselves are individually owned, with their own licensing rights, etc., and aren't represented by the broadcaster or the municipalities, but rather an association unaffiliated with either. The athletes and the teams, as well as the association, make their money from licensing, which includes the fees the broadcaster pays for the right to broadcast the teams. It is a much more segregated and regulated industry.

What I am seeing with ESL in the documentary is they contract for the arena. ESL provides the broadcasters. ESL invites the teams. ESL arranges everything. They are on the hook for everything. ESPN is not responsible, nor do they take the blame, if the power goes out in an arena, as happened to ESL in the movie. ESL takes the fall if anything goes wrong. In short, ESL does everything and is responsible for everything. That's untenable. I don't think that's ever going to work as a business model, and it concerns me greatly. Does it concern you? Can this model ever work? Am I just mumbling about things of no import? Let's have a discussion in the comments.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sunday Highlight #33: Nicholas Carry

It's cliche, but it is true: never give up; never surrender. We were so far behind for most of this match despair was plainly obvious in chat. They of little faith... Some may say I was too aggressive at the end of this game. That I should have stopped their cap sooner. But the Kongo is a fast battleship and should not be underestimated. I needed to push him out of position and allow our New York to arrive before doing what needed done. And I was successful. There's no need for second guesses. I thought I'd become jaded about winning or losing at this point, but there was a fist pump and a, "Yeah!" at the end of this one.

Friday, April 15, 2016

What Does the Fox Say?

What does the Fox say? In Armored Warfare, the fox says, "Kill it!" Spotting enemy targets and painting them with a laser for max damage is the name of the game in the FV721 "Fox" armored fighting vehicle. But don't let the name fool you. The Fox has no armor. Extreme speed and its small size keep it alive on the modern battlefield. Here are my two best games to date in the Fox.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

In a commute heavy week, I have managed to finish the 17 hour and 44 minute Audible book Uprooted by Naomi Novik. As always, let's begin with the publisher's summary.

"“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose."

Let me start on the worst aspect of this book. Sit back, close your eyes, and think about sword and magic fantasy for a minute. Such fantasy has knights, kings, wizards and war. There are horrendous monsters that threaten the hard working villagers in such stories, and it is up to the hero - or in this case heroine - to save them. But evil and politics must be overcome, and things get extremely grim towards the end. How can the heroine ever prevail against such odds? That is exactly what Uprooted is like. It is the very definition of swords and magic fantasy. It is trope, from start to finish. It borders on the cliché, and often mounts raids across that border. This book sticks to the tried and true and doesn't try anything out of the ordinary.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let me state unequivocally it makes not a damn bit of difference. Uprooted is one the best written fantasy novels I have had the pleasure to listen to in a very long time. It was gripping. I was pulled into the world instantly. It hugely succeeds as both a written work of art and as a story.

As a written work of art, this book constantly satisfies. Characters are real and natural even if they are trope. In the end they are people driven by understandable emotions. They are not stereotypes. Descriptions are rich and detailed without being laborious or over winded. The prose is clean and uncomplicated making it a pleasure to consume. At no point in the audio did I have to backtrack because I didn't understand the language. The writing is strong and clear, and it brings a vibrant life to the story matching it's nature theme.

But the prose isn't the only part of the writer's art Naomi Novik nails in this story. She shows a keen understanding of not only how to tell a story, but how to do so in a naturally flowing manner that is not contrived or forced. Scenes flow smoothly one into another. There is a logical progression to the story making it real, and selling it as truth rather than wishful thinking. And the tools of the writer's art are well deployed in the story's formation, from simile and metaphor to highly effective foreshadowing and flashbacks. It is a joy to take in.

As to the story, while preparing this review I came across one critic's comment comparing Uprooted to a brothers Grimm tale. I can agree with that assessment. Though the story has the trappings of a fairy tale, it is deadly serious. The fairy tale ruse is made even stronger by narrator Julia Emelin's Russian accent. I found the fairy tale versus reality aspect of the story to be a delicious contrast as I processed it. In many ways the story seemed very innocent and naive, like the fairy tale version of Little Red Riding Hood that ends in the wolf's death at the hands of the woodsman. But in the original Grimm, Little Red Riding Hood is a cautionary tale. She, not her grandmother, is eaten by the wolf. That's her comeuppance for not staying on the trail as told. There was no woodsman to save her, and she paid the ultimate price for not listening to her elders. I found myself thinking about that several times while listening to Uprooted. I never confused Agnieszka with Little Red Riding Hood, but I often wondered if there would be anyone to save her, or would the creatures of the woods eat her? I won't give any spoilers here, but let me say the answer is both and neither, and it was well worth waiting until the very satisfying end to find out.

This is the second to the last novel I've reviewed from the 2015 Nebula Nominee list. Up until this point The Fifth Season  by N.K. Jemisin has been my front runner for the award. That decision was a certainty. Uprooted challenges my certainty. There are many positives recommending both novels. My ultimate decision will come down to what deserves recognition: the new and bold but perhaps not as well written or the incredibly well written tried and true. It's not an easy choice. Both authors deserve recognition, but in the end only one can receive the award.

Fortunately I don't have to decide right now. I've still got The Grace of Kings: The Dandelion Dynasty to listen to before I have to make a choice. At 21 hours and 37 minutes long, I'll have weeks to think about it. Thank goodness!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday Highlight #32: Wickes Teaches a Lesson

Another match in my Tier III U.S. Destroyer Wickes from about a month ago. In it I teach a valuable lesson about what it means when you see a destroyer. I also discuss various ship tactics, and why they do and don't work. Mostly though I just have a good time.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Falcon has Landed!

After several less than successful attempts, Space X finally landed a Falcon 9 first stage on their recover ship. This is another historic first for Space X and humanity. Some of you may wonder why this is such a big deal. Mainly it's because the rocket costs millions to build and the fuel only costs a couple hundred thousand to burn. Most of the cost of a space launch is the hardware, and we have always thrown that away. It makes putting satellites into orbit very expensive. Having the ability to reuse the hardware will drop that cost like a rock into a black hole. Okay, that's a bit much in the hyperbole department, but it will go a long way towards making commercial space flight viable.

In my opinion, it's the first step toward the next economic revolution. A bit over a century ago humans figured out how to build big things quickly and, more importantly, cheaply. We call that discover the industrial revolution. A few decades ago we began learning how to make things smaller and much more efficient. We started turning from mechanical devices to electronic devices. Perhaps that's not as significant historically as going from agrarian to industrial, it is nonetheless not hyperbole to say the electronic revolution has shaped our society in ways every bit as significant as the industrial revolution.

Now that we are deep, deep into the electronic revolution, the question has become, "What's next." It's not the information revolution. That's really nothing new. It's simply something made much easier to manipulate by the electronic revolution like the industrial revolution made clocks easier to produce. Information is still used in basically the same way as it was 100 years ago, just like clocks perform the same function today they did 500 years ago. So no, information is not the next revolution.

Revolutions must fundamentally change the nature of a society, and I'll add for the better. Now you can argue all you want about the industrial revolution being a catastrophe for our planet, and I will not argue with you. But from the human perspective, it has made the life of almost every human being on the planet immeasurably better. For example, before the industrial revolution more than half of all humans born died before reaching adolescence. That's how hard life was. I don't think you can say the same for the electronic revolution, but it has certainly made our lives easier in many ways. So what does that next?

In my book, that's space. From supporting an orbiting infrastructure to actually living and producing things in space, I see that as the next great revolution in human existence. There are many companies keen on acquiring the resources even one small asteroid (of the correct type of course) contains. A moon base is not out of the question, and is certainly a lot easier to establish than a Mars base will ever be. Instead of pulling our resources out of a struggling earth, we could get them from outside our own ecosystem. We could stop shitting in our own nest.

Of course that can't happen over night. It likely won't happen in the time left to me on this rock we call home. And it will never happen IMO if the simplest of launches cost tens of millions of dollars. It's not economically feasible. This landing today changes that equation. Now, there is a long way to go yet. It has to be done reliably and frequently. But this is the proof of concept. It's the what-are-we-waiting-for moment.

Now, do I believe for one moment it'll transform the naysayers overnight? No, that'll take more successful landings. But it should get the majority of people who want to pursue space industry, and have the means, moving a little faster. Before I get too much older I want to see an asteroid return mission and not by NASA. I'd like to see a moon base before I die, and not by NASA. They can do it too mind you, but NASA really isn't the future. We've grown beyond that. I believe space belongs to all of us, not just one agency or nation. But hey, I'm an optimist. YMMV.

Oh, and to pull this back to reality a bit more, there is another question you may be asking. Why do they have to land on a barge? After all, they landed a first stage on the ground successfully the first time just a few months ago. Why not just do that every time? Well, it has to do with the Delta V needed to get to a given altitude. In order to get the Dragon Capsule to the International Space Station, or a satellite into geosynchronous orbit, the first stage has to burn well out over the Atlantic. And it has to go very fast. Those two things together are what make Delta V. If  the required Delta V is too high, the rocket can't return to it's launch point with the fuel left in it. So it has to land at sea. And now it has for the first time. Congratulations Space X; big bites tonight!

(Updated 4/10/16)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) by N.K. Jemisin

ASIN B012H8111O
Continuing with my reviews of the 2015 Nebula Award nominees, we come to "The Fifth Season" by N.K. Jemisin, narrated by Robin Miles in the selection to which I listened. Let's begin with the publisher's summary.
This is the way the world ends. Again. 
Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze -- the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization's bedrock for a thousand years -- collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman's vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She'll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

I have to be very, very careful in this review not to provide any spoilers whatsoever. And it is a hard thing to do. This book was full of so much goodness... it is hard to keep it to myself. But for your sake I will do it, because as much as I'd like to rave about the twists and turns in this story I want even more for you to enjoy them as much as I did.

This is NOT the book you think it is. It is much better than that book. This is not the simple story of a woman trying to save her daughter. If you think this book would follow such a narrow trope you'll be wonderfully surprised. There are stereotypes and tropes in this book, but they are not story confining as sometimes (often?) happens. The way in which N.K. Jemisin brings them to life gets to the very heart of why such tropes exist. Many writers can use tropes as a vehicle to move a story down the highway of conclusion. It is rare to find an author who seems to understand the engine of that vehicle, and I think more importantly, the fuel that makes such journeys inevitable.

For example, it is possible for an author to write about the tropes associated with racism and bigotry without understanding how racism and bigotry shapes the people subjected to it. In this book I was very quickly convinced that not only does N.K. Jemisin grok such things, but I am certain she writes of them from a position of superior understanding. That's a euphemism for she's been subjected to racism and bigotry personally if you need it spelled out. Being in a position of social privilege myself, I do not have the life experience to understand how a person subjected to bigotry is shaped by it. But through authors like N.K. Jemisin, I get a glimmer of how such treatment affects those subjected to it. It's makes me thoughtful, and that is not a bad thing.

Another thing I loved about this book is it is a story as much about geology as it is about social inequality. And for those that don't know, I am a geo-nerd extreme. I love all things geology. The history of the earth as told by the stones under our feet are as real to me as any history written by people. And this book is all about geology. When N.K. Jemisin does world building, she does so very literally. I've never read about a world like this one, and I like to believe that's saying something. The Stillness (her name for the world) is unique in my experience, and I revelled in every "shake" and every "blow."

And through that dynamic world geology, we come to know the people who control it. They use orogeny, a mental talent I can only describe as some form of telekinesis taken to extremity. It literally has the power to move mountains, or raise them, or level them. You get the picture. The Sanze Empire calls these people orogenes, but almost everyone calls them rogga when they are not around, and often when they are. If you replace the first two letters of that word with the first consonant and last vowel of the author's full name, you'll understand perfectly the nature of the word. And because of the awesome power they possess, these "cursed" people, for that is how they view themselves, are tightly controlled to the point of being told with whom they must breed; 'nuf said.

For all the glowy gushing words I've written about this story, it is not perfect. The first problem is it is very difficult to start. It isn't that what happens is so horrifying, because it is. This is after all a dystopian world. It's that the story is seriously disjointed and doesn't seem to make sense. The author does no hand holding. The narrators, for there is more than one point of view trough most of the book and it's not easy to tell when changes happen, simply tell you what is happening without a sense of how the story arc got there and why it's important - or even how it relates to anything else in the story. The "confusion" lasts for at least a third of the book. It took me that long to figure out what was going on and why the story was written as it was. In hindsight, it was pure brilliance. The entire book is an analogy, an explanation if you would, and that's all I'll say about it. Anything more is a spoiler. Just read the words for what they are and trust me when I say N.K. Jemisin is leading you down a wonderful literary trail.

The other problem with this book is it's only a beginning. You'll have to read the entire series to get the conclusion, and it could be a long time coming. I don't have an issue with this. After all I'm still waiting for the conclusion of The Psalms of Isaak. But there are those who may resent having to slog through 17 plus hours of introduction with no closure in the end. Not even a little. You will end the book with more questions than answers in fact. If that drives you crazy, consider yourself warned.

The last thing I'll say is neither a positive or a negative about the book, but an acknowledgement that I live in an imperfect society populated by people with whom I would share a beer. To wit, if you are not accepting of alternative lifestyles in the real world, skip this book. It's not for you. Also, I cannot recommend it for children. Teenagers are probably okay to read this book, but only if they have above average maturity. Let me put it another way: this book is not work safe. It is real. It is gritty. It is horrible. It is outrageous. It may even be controversial (not an opinion I share BTW.) And it would probably be banned from school libraries in Texas if those prudes read books like this. But it is an accurate reflection of humanity whether you want to accept that or not. And if not, skip the book.

That said, if none of that bothers you read The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) by N.K. Jemisin. Of the five books on the Nebula nominee list I've listened to, this is currently my favorite to win the award. It is not the one I've gotten the most fun from hearing. That goes to Raising Caine. However, The Fifth Season has been the most rewarding book to listen to from more serious angles, and that makes it outstanding in my opinion.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Sunday Highlight #31: The Wily Wickes

About a month ago I started the U.S. Destroyer tree in World of Warships. I started with the Wickes at tier III, and after 28 battles I moved on to the Clemson. Here's one of my best games in the Wickes. I found the Wickes so fun to play I made it an Elite ship and just kept playing it until my destroyer captain had 9 skill points allocated to Situational Awareness, Last Stand, Expert Marksman, and Superintendent. My victory rate in the Wickes is currently 64.29% with a survival rate of 57.14%. It's a keeper!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Spring Fever

This week has turned out to be gorgeous thanks to the first truly warm, clear weather pattern we've experienced here this year. I mean, just have a look at that picture which I took this morning out my office window! That's a 120+ year old Crab Apple tree blooming its heart out in the foreground. The plants are just knocking themselves out. The birds are in full color riot too. To say I don't want to be cooped up in an office right now is to commit an understatement of biblical proportions.

That also means I don't feel like sitting in front of a computer and blogging on a day like today. I'd rather be out there walking in the sunshine. Besides, what am I going to say other than what simply amounts to, "I'm still playing computer games." I mean I could tell you about my World of Warship win rate being 50.95% right now after 1050 battles. I could tell you I'm still level 11 in The Division because I haven't played in two weeks. I've also made no progress in XCOM 2 in those two weeks.

I have, however, determined that putting an Earth sized body in orbit around a pulsar and neutron star binary system will result in planetary ejection most of the time, nova occasionally, and once in a great while a semi-stable trinary system, but it almost never results in a permanently stable system - and I'm not certain about the almost part. Here, see for yourself.

And there is not much else to say, other than it's still incredibly beautiful outside. I think I'll wander out into the sunshine. I really should BBQ something. I hope wherever you are it is just as lovely a day. And I really do thank you for reading the post, but perhaps you should consider getting out into the real world some yourself. It does the soul good. Catch you all later.