Teaching

I can no longer remember his name, but for two years, where I attended East Middle School in my home town, I regularly took Industrial Arts classes with a guy that made a real difference in my life. I can’t recall his name, but I can clearly see him in my mind’s eye. He was tall, lanky and perpetually wore a beard and safety glasses. He also taught me how to turn a lath, pour molten metal using a couple of casting techniques, as well as several sorts of welding.

Back then I was in love with learning, mostly because of its nature. Concept applied to things I could understand or wanted to know more about. Each semester I had to come up with a new project for that Industrial Arts program and I can recall it consuming me even before the classes began.

My friend Michael Glane is teaching some heavy concepts through demonstration. I watched this video and felt moved to experiment myself.

Bite Me Apple

Last night, during a typical Pacific Northwestern wind storm, the transformer for our neighborhood popped and power has been subsequently out of service for the duration. Fortunately, I was awake to witness the power outage and then turned off all my devices which I had recently charged.

This morning, after locating a coffee shop with juice and wi-fi, I came back home intending to top everything off using my handy dandy Suntactics sCharger-12 High Performance Solar Charger. I opened some blinds, plugged my standard issue Apple certified lightning cable into the PV panel and my iPhone 5s and was surprised when, for the first time ever, iOS 8 let me know that I wasn’t using a certified cord.

Just to be perfectly clear, the chord in question **is** an Apple product. The cord came in the box with the phone. The problem is likely the product of their proprietary MFi chip detecting a voltage drop specific to the PV panel or fluctuation caused by periodic cloud cover. But here in lies the biggest problem with black box bullshit development. Someone at Apple decided that they could make a bit more money to add to their heaps of the stuff if they embedded a fairly stupid method of ensuring that you only charge your phone using their proprietary system.

The license is for the cable, not the power source. Their detection method is too dumb to know the difference and thus it pushes good people (like me) into a situation where they have to do bad things. Right now I’m looking for ways to hack the fuck out of this system so that I am no longer subject to its ridiculousness. I’m doing this on a limited charge, doing my best MattGyver impression, in the hope that I can bump my battery while the sun still shines. Here comes the next big, mean, dark cloud.

Two Wrongs

Paul Krugman, an economist I usually find myself agreeing with and a dude whom I maintain a cache of respect for, has been getting a lot of author traction on the internets of late. Why? His recent opinion piece in the New York Times Amazon’s Monopsony Is Not O.K.

This morning no less than five author-peers reposted or reblogged Krugman’s opinion. Paul’s point “Amazon.com, the giant online retailer, has too much power, and it uses that power in ways that hurt America” is arguably a valid point. Arguably as there have been a number of well reasoned collections of words published of late which completely justify what Amazon is and has been doing in its ongoing struggle with Hachette. It’s arguable that Amazon is a monopsony (go ahead I had to look it up). It too is arguable that in a battle where the limits are drawn by the boundaries of the publishing industry that the suggestion of breaking up the whole company using heavy handed FTC tactics is justified. It is even arguable who, exactly is getting hurt in this interminable struggle.

America, really? Seems a bit over the top to me. Let’s take a brief moment and identify specifically who is being hurt right now. That demographic is authors and more specifically authors who publish through the publishing giant Hachette in one way or another.

People who publish through groups that are not Hachette are not harmed. Consumers who buy books through Amazon or any other distributer are not harmed. The only people taking a physical hit for this are unwitting leverage. Most likely they woke up one morning to find that their books weren’t where they thought they’d be on a list or release day and are arguably pissed they’re not getting their promised place of prominence.

Do I feel bad for someone who published through a Hachette imprint only to discover their master work subject to a “new” gate on its way to the consumer? Yeah sure, traditional publishing has occupied the role of tastemaker time out of mind. Who wouldn’t enter a publishing agreement with a company assuming that they could pull all the strings necessary to build all that delectable buzz. And Krugman has it right, Amazon is being a colossal buzz kill. So when I see statements like this from the esteemed Chuck Wendig I have to stop and think.

Well, even without the facetiousness, I get it — I’d rather be done with this topic, too. But here’s the reality: Amazon is hurting authors. Maybe they’re doing good business for themselves and no, I don’t think they’re evil or unjustified. But I don’t care, either, because authors are getting fucked over. And, to be selfish, given some of my future publishers, no reason to think that this fight isn’t coming down to come of MY books, too. I have friends here who are hurting, and it may hurt me in the future, so fuck all of that.

I don’t believe that it is possible to take note of how bad Amazon is being to these authors without also commenting on the ease with which Hachette sacrifices these people to this fate. For the better part of a year now these two business entities have been causing too much friction in publishing, hurting authors and for what? The right to determine who is and is not successful within the publishing industry. This battle isn’t about margins or money it is about who gets to play tastemaker in the medium. Amazon has been successfully usurping that role from traditional publishers for a while and Hachette is jealous of it’s loss. Jealous, but unwilling to alter it’s own behavior in the same way that Amazon can and has.

And what of the rest of us? Those seemingly few who went with a different imprint or turned the whole row on their own? I’m not in possession of any numbers here, but four of the Big Five and all the world’s independent publishers use Amazon for distribution still and with some success. It is possible that Hachette published authors represent a minority of of those who write.

If Amazon is to be blamed and/or reprimanded for anything than equal sanction should be imposed on Hachette. Krugman is right when he draws parallels between Amazon and Standard Oil, but only in as much as they are big, powerful companies in possession of weight to throw around. Rather, they are all very large business entities behaving badly.

Comrade Vladimir

Vladimir is a retribution melee caster (magic tank) who waits for targets to come to him before metering out spine crushing damage. He is built to soak up everything the opposition can give him and pound them for trying.

Lore: Comrade Vladimir was a naval infantry hero of the Red Rustok-Nestra conflict who became first among equals by crushing all enemy resistance. After the war Red Rustok scientists took advantage of the great bear’s physique and used their cutting edge science to augment him for the Greater Glory of the People’s State.

Vladimir has journeyed to the Fields of Strife to demonstrate to the galaxy the State’s unquestionable superiority. With augmentation of ice, fire, and his own brand of bone crushing might he will best all those who oppose the Red Rustok State.

Early test sketch of Vladimir

Q: Freeze and Thaw (90)

Vladimir swipes ice with his right paw and fire with his left. This attack hits targets within a 180º radius in front of him. Targets are momentarily slowed as the ice chills them to the bone and then their movement speed is increased slightly when the fire paw hits them.

Damage 100/110/120/140%

Cool down: 11 seconds

W: Panic Roar (100)

The great bear roars and all targets in his immediate vicinity temporally are struck with fear. NPCs cannot move or fight, heroes afflicted cannot move, but can still attack.

Panic: 1.5/2.0/2.2/3.0

Cool down: 15 seconds

E: Furnace of Rage (50)

The gray bear drops a barrier of brimstone from his furnace which surrounds him in protective fire. All incoming damage is reduced by 35% for the duration. Enemies that attack Vladimir while the barrier is active take 50/60/70/90 damage and suffer movement slow. Additional hits incur progressive 5% damage increase.

Cool down: 16 seconds

R: Red Blizzard (130)

A large area around Vladimir is engulfed in a momentary blizzard. Targeted area deals 140/185/230 physical damage and applied a 70% movement slow.

Enemies that hit Vladimir during this time receive an additional 75/100/125 damage and bonus slow. Additional hits incur progressive 5% damage increase.

Cool down: 90 seconds