Deciding on November

I’ve been busy lately.  I have new responsibilities with the Rancho Cordova River City Concert Band.  I still have projects to complete at work, and due to unfortunate illness, I have one less person to help me complete those projects.  There’s fundraisers to shepherd.  There’s music to learn.  And throughout all of that, I should probably stay in touch with my family.

So, I willingly gave up on Blog-tober.  I had a good head of steam going there for a couple of days, where I was writing on subject matters that meant something to me.  And, to my surprise, people responded.  It felt strange, because people I didn’t think were reading my posts were approaching me about them.  It was satisfying, and humbling, and a bit frightening.

Something had to give, though.  I pulled the plug, took a step back, and tried to catch my breath.  I stated at the beginning of the month that if I couldn’t complete Blog-tober, I didn’t stand a chance of completing NaNoWriMo.  So is that it, then?  Do I give up?

Honestly, I don’t know.  I still have more editing to do.  Maybe I should focus on editing the second draft of The Repossessed Ghost, and not worry about starting a new novel this year.  I already have two other unfinished first drafts weighing on my conscience.  Do I really need a third?

But then again, I’ve been thinking about a science fiction story.  Something involving life on the moon in a big spinning drum.  A story with nearly sentient robots and virtual reality.  A story about an improbable crime, and a man caught in the middle.  He has to figure out what happened before someone else gets hurt.

I don’t know what the right thing to do is.  I have so much on my plate already.  What would I get from trying to write another story in November?  At best, I’d have another first draft that would need editing, and the right to buy another “I won at NaNoWriMo” t-shirt.  At worst, I’d have another start of a story, and all the feelings of failure that come with that.

I enjoy the Sacramento NaNoWriMo community.  I like going to the write-ins, and joining the word wars, and chatting with folks in IRC.  Will I have time for any of that, with everything else that’s going on?

October still has a few days left.  I can think on it a little bit longer.  While I think about it, I should consider the following:

  • I won’t be able to write at all on Mondays and Tuesdays.  Those days are simply too full.
  • I won’t have time to edit The Repossessed Ghost, so that will languish for a month.  I really want to have the next draft finished before the end of the year.
  • The story idea I have in mind is a third person story, and I don’t write in third person very quickly.
  • Assuming Thursdays and Fridays are also too full for writing, I would have 13 days (Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays) to write 50,000 words.  That’s nearly 4,000 words every time I sit down to write in the month of November.

It sounds like a challenge.  But it also sounds like pointless self torture.  How masochistic am I?


No Flying Cars for You

The last couple of days have been exciting, but I need to take a break from the super serious topics for a couple of days.  I have a lot of work to do.  So instead, let’s talk about how people are kind of terrible.

In less than 2 weeks, Marty McFly and Doc Brown will arrive in their modified DeLorean in order to help Marty’s kids. I know this, because I watched the documentary from the 1989, Back to the Future II. It painted a clear picture of what the future would be like. So, we have a few days to put our cars in the air like we just don’t care, to preserve the accuracy of that fine film.

Seriously, though, we don’t have flying cars. We’re probably never going to have flying cars, and we should probably consider that a blessing.

There are a few reasons why flying cars are problematic, but I think I only need to focus on one: people can’t be trusted with them.

While looking into gun violence the last couple of days, I read a few interesting statistics on how we kill each other daily. According to this site, nearly 1.3 million people die each year in car accidents. 20 to 50 million are injured or disabled each year.

Those are vehicles on the ground. They’re not falling out of the sky, crushing whatever is caught underneath. They’re driving on roads, earthbound, typically under 100mph. Cruising velocity for long range flights is over 500mph.

After a long day, you probably go home and relax. It probably never crosses your mind that a vehicle might jump the curb and come crashing into your living room. That kind of accident happens from time to time, but it’s rare. What if the cars weren’t confined to the roads?

The next time you’re negotiating traffic, imagine the people around you suddenly responsible for piloting over residential areas. That guy that can’t be bothered to use his turn signal? Or that person that is too busy looking at their phone to pay attention to traffic? Or how about the impatient jerk that tailgates you, or the timid turtle that insists on driving 10mph below the speed limit? Imagine those folks in flying cars. Over your house.

I love people, but I don’t trust us. We are not enlightened enough.

All I’ve eluded to so far is incompetence.  I haven’t even mentioned malice.  How much intentional damage could a person do with a flying vehicle?  People wouldn’t bother taking guns to schools to kill children.  They’d just use their flying car.

I think we all want to be freed from the bonds of gravity and allowed to take to the sky.  The only way I can see it happening is if you take control out of people’s hands, and completely automate flight.  How well is that going so far with earthbound cars?  I know great strides have been made.  How do you feel about giving up driving, putting the responsibility in the hands of computers?  How would you feel about letting a computer fly you and your family, without allowing you any sort of control?

Damn, that was kind of depressing.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll talk about politics, or abortion. You know, to lighten things up a little.


College Shootings and Emotional Responses

We had some more shootings today.  Two of the six top stories in my Google news feed right now are about the recent shootings.  This comes right on top of my post yesterday, where I said that guns aren’t the real problem.  I used figures from the FBI and the CDC, and I built an argument based on facts and rationality, rather than emotions.

But now I’m looking at my news feed, and I’m looking at things people are posting in social media, and I have to wonder if I got it wrong after all.  I want to keep an open mind, and use rational thinking.  But I can feel the pull of the herd, and right now the herd wants to get rid of all the guns, because people are dying.

I’m not the only one that has doubt.  Here’s a link to someone that grew up with guns, that has decided that its his responsibility to destroy the gun he has.  It’s a man that has been responsible with his firearm, keeping it dismantled and locked up so that no one in his household would accidentally hurt themselves.  But he feels that’s not enough, and the only real solution is to destroy the gun completely, and encourage other people to do the same.

That is an emotional response.  Rationally, if he was keeping the weapon dismantled and locked up as he said, that gun wasn’t going to hurt anyone.  The detergent near his washer and dryer was probably a greater danger than the weapon.  The vehicle parked in his driveway has more chance of killing someone.  So destroying that gun isn’t a rational act, it’s an emotional reaction.

Where does this reaction come from?  From what we’re seeing in the news.  From what we’re seeing from our social network, which is picking up the story and amplifying it.  Driving the herd.

This makes me think of Jon Stewart, and what he did for so many years on The Daily Show.  He showed us flaws in the news system, where the story we were seeing wasn’t always grounded in reality or rationality.  It wasn’t just Fox, either, though Fox is the worst culprit.

Right now, we’re focused on tragedy, which is riling our emotions, and emboldening some to take action.  We would be monsters not to feel something.  People are dying.  Innocent kids are being shot, and we need to do something.

What I don’t want to see are more emotional reactions, especially if they are wide-sweeping.  Whatever we do, it needs to be appropriate and thoughtful, and not simply justifiable.

What I wrote yesterday might be wrong.  I haven’t seen anything yet that refutes the facts or reasoning.  I believe I used good sources for my data, and I did not overreach in my assertions.  But I’m willing to have my mind changed, via rational discourse.  Showing me dead college kids is not rational discourse.  All that will do is make me sad.

I have to wonder what other terrible things are going on that we’re not seeing, because we’re focused on gun violence.

I wonder what would happen if we reported every car crash fatality with the same vigor as we report every shooting.  We’d be exhausted very quickly.  A quick Google search tells me that there are 3,287 deaths from car crashes every day, and more than half of those deaths occur to people between the ages 15 to 44.  Another google search tells me that 274 people are shot every day, leading to 86 deaths each day from gun violence.

But let’s not get distracted.  Right now, we’re focused on these kids that have been shot at college.  That’s what everyone’s talking about.  That’s what’s driving the conversation.

So what do we do about it?  What do we do that is actually effective, and not simply reactionary?



Alright, folks.  Buckles your seat belts.  I’m about to talk about gun control.

This is a good follow-up to yesterdays post about mindless memes, and how easy it is to spread ignorance and misinformation through social media.  I mentioned that we don’t do sufficient fact checking, and I mentioned in passing that sometimes it’s because we don’t want our illusions destroyed.  Gun control is one of those subjects where people like to maintain their illusions, so we tend to close our minds as soon as the subject comes up.

I’m not going to reveal my opinion yet.  I will later.  First, I want some facts, so that my opinion can be informed by reality.

According to the FBI, violent crime declined steadily between 2009 and 2013.13violentcrimeoffensefigure

Here is a link to the FBI site where I grabbed this graph.

There are some other statistics on the site that aren’t shown in the graph.  62.3% of the violent crimes in 2013 were assault.  Murder accounted for 1.2%.  Firearms were used in 69% of the murders, and 21.6% of the assaults.


Let’s look at another site.  The CDC has some quick stats on causes of death.  In 2013, about 192,945 people died from injury related deaths.  48,545 deaths were caused by poison.  33,804 deaths involved a motor vehicle.  And 33,636 deaths involved firearms.

The CDC has another page dedicated to stats on homicides.  In 2013, there were 16,121 total homicides, and 11,208 involved firearms.


That’s the data I’m going to use.  I’ve seen some images floating around about Australia.  There are comparisons made between the US and other countries.  I don’t have reliable source information for that, and I’m not even sure it’s applicable.  The culture is different in the US, so what may have worked in Australia might not work here.


What does the data we have from the FBI and the CDC tell us?  First, their numbers don’t quite match, so they’re probably using different sources, different definitions, or both.  The numbers not matching from the two sites is a tempting distraction.  Let’s not get wrapped up in that.

The second thing we notice is the difference in numbers between assault and murder.  Multiplying out the FBI numbers, there were 724,640 assaults in 2013.  In the same year, there were 13,958 murders.  156,522 of the assaults involved firearms.  9,631 of the murders involved firearms.


Now that we have some actual numbers, let’s start thinking about the problem with unrealistic fantasy.  Let’s assume that we pass effective gun control legislation, and the end result is that ALL of the firearm related assaults and murders are eliminated.  We’ll still be looking at 568,118 assaults, and 4,327 murders.  Looking at the CDC numbers, we’d have reduced the total number of injury deaths from 192,945 to 159,309.

Did we solve the problem?  Remember, we’re applying fantasy to real numbers.  This fantasy has removed ALL guns from the equation, even though the reality would be that there would still be guns in the US.  Both legal and illegal.

The reality is that if you manage to take away all of the guns, some of those assaults and murders would still happen, only with fists or knives.  We can’t know how many, and I’m not going to make up numbers on that.  But I think it’s a reasonable assumption that someone angry enough to inflict bodily harm on another will find a way, with or without a firearm.


I saw some posts floating around, proposing that guns should be regulated the same way that cars are.  Then I saw some other people refuting that, saying that right now, guns are more regulated than cars.  I don’t have any data to support either side.  But I do have an opinion.

Changing the way guns are regulated would not have saved that little girl that was killed by a boy, when they were arguing over a puppy.  The boy shouldn’t have had access to the shotgun.  And I wouldn’t blame the government, or the NRA, or anyone else, except the parents of that little boy.

Hell, if I was a cold sonofoabitch, I might even point a finger at the little girl’s parents, too.  I don’t have all of the details of what happened, but it seems like two kids were unattended long enough that they could argue, leading to the boy retrieving a shotgun and bringing it to bear on the girl.  If either child had been under more supervision, then the disaster could have been prevented.

But I’m not that cold.  I feel bad for the parents, of both kids.  One is dead, and the other’s life is ruined.

This event, and the shooting in Oregon, and the shootings before that, bring out emotions and emotional responses.  And with the immediacy of these events, right in our faces, in our news feeds and in our social feeds, we would be monsters not to respond.  If there is something that can be done to prevent this from happening in the future, we should do it.

The argument is whether or not removing guns from the equation will solve the problem.  In the instances that are clear and present in front of us… maybe.  Removing the guns may have helped.

But looking at the numbers, it isn’t the full answer.  I would argue that it isn’t even the answering the right question.  It answers, “How do we stop people from shooting each other?” What we should be asking is, “How do we stop people from hurting each other?”

I don’t know.  According to the five year trend from the FBI data, the number of violent crimes is decreasing.  What did we do to start that trend?  Is the trend continuing?

I’m not saying we should do nothing, and wait it out.  I’m saying that we should do the right thing, and I’m not convinced that guns are the main problem.

How do I feel about guns?  The same way I feel about abortions.  I encourage people not to get them, but if you need one, I think it should be legal.


Think Before you Meme

It is way too easy to spread misinformation, and be a mindless parrot.

On social media, it takes no time to post a meme.  You can share an image with a pithy saying, and watch it spread like cancer, other people mindlessly sending it to their friends, and so on.  And it is cancer, because most people don’t verify the details.  In just the time it’s taken you to read this post, 18,000 memes with false information have been posted to Facebook, and over 22% of those will go viral.

I completely made up that statistic.  But that’s how easy it is to spread lies.  Especially when you make them sound believable.

We’re spreading misinformation because it isn’t convenient to validate every little thing we see.  And if we’re being honest with ourselves, sometimes we don’t want to verify the claims because that might risk the truths we blindly want to cling to.

I’m not singling out any particular subject.  Vaxers, anti-vaxers, left-wing, right-wing, pro choice, pro life, pro gun, anti-gun… all of us have been pulled into endless conflict, with no hope of resolution.

It’s difficult to keep an open mind in this kind of environment.  When a picture is worth a thousand words, and most of those words are spent loudly and offensively making a passive aggressive point, it is difficult to maintain objectivity.  I do my best, but I still get drawn in.

It gets worse.  It’s not just social media.  Fox News and MSNBC spend a great deal of time broadcasting political spin.  In my opinion, Fox News is the greater offender of those two, but I’m including MSNBC because unlike Fox News, I actually try to be fair and balanced.

Those are the easy targets.  CNN, NBC, and other news outlets spend a great deal of time rebroadcasting social media.  So the misinformation and toxic bitterness that is spread via Twitter and Facebook is making its way into the general news stream, like sewage dumped upstream in the river.

It’s so frustrating.  I have friends, acquaintances, and even family members that perpetuate the ignorance and misinformation.  One of my sisters unfriended me, and really doesn’t like me anymore.  I called her out on some truly racist and vile stuff she was posting.  Stuff that she’d picked up from Fox News.

How do you fight it?  Every time I see a meme posted to my feed of questionable merit, I feel like all of society has turned into lemmings, racing blindly towards a cliff.

Of course, there is no evidence that lemmings actually do that.  When Disney was shooting a documentary called White Wilderness, their production crew ran a pack of the little mammals off a cliff.  It made for good TV, and the myth about those rodents committing suicide has persisted ever since.

See what I did there?


If there is a call to action at the end of this message, it is this: be mindful of what information you spread.

Keep an open mind.  For example, President Obama probably isn’t the worst president we’ve ever had.  He may not be the best president we’ve ever had, either.  Look at his actual record, bearing in mind his humanity, before you post your pro or anti propaganda picture.  Be as critical and as objective as you can, before you take someone else’s word.

And finally: No one has ever changed their mind after looking at a clever meme.


Tomorrow, I’ll probably write about guns.  Won’t that be fun!


Socialist Robots Ending Poverty

I spend a lot of time thinking about technology.  I’m a huge fan.  I love all the state-of-the-art electronic gadgets and tools designed to make life easier or more fun.  For example, I read about the new phones and laptops Microsoft announced today, and I started getting excited like a kid left alone in the toy isle.

Sometimes, after reading about a significant advancement, I think about jobs.  If a computer can do the work that five people used to do, what does that mean for those five people?  It probably doesn’t mean they get a vacation.

On a long enough time line, if we continue to create technology that is able to simplify human labor, or even replace human labor, what do the humans do?

Let’s consider a farmer.  I know almost nothing about farming, but I feel like I can imagine it sufficiently to use it as an example.  Let’s say the farmer works 12 hours every day, working his land, harvesting crops, preparing his products for sale at the market, etc.  Then he acquires a robot that’s able to work the land for him.  He still has to harvest and do other farming tasks, but now he only has to work 6 hours every day.

The next year, the robot is upgraded so that it not only can work the land, it can also harvest the crops, and prepare the crops for sale.  Now all the farmer has to do is take his product to market.  He’s again reduced the amount of labor required of him.

The year after that, he installs a system that ships his product for him, after the products have been purchased online.  Another robot comes along and picks up the bundles for shipping.  Now what does the farmer do?  Is he even still a farmer?  Or is he just a land owner?

On a long enough time line, the farmer’s needs have been met by technology.  He can go fishing now, if he wants.  Or maybe start a novel.  Or work on his music.

“But the robots will require maintenance!” you say. “The labor and responsibility hasn’t been eliminated, just shifted!”

Then the farmer acquires a pair of redundant repair robots, designed to fix other robots.  We’re talking science fiction, at this point, but it’s a science fiction that seems achievable in the near future.  With recent advances we’ve seen in robots as well as 3D printing, it is very easy for me to imagine reaching this level of technology within my life time.

Actually, this type of automation has been happening for a long time.  Computers have grown more powerful, and smaller, and cheaper.  In addition, they’ve grown easier to use and configure.  The internet has made the world a smaller place, which makes it easier to traverse and connect with people we otherwise wouldn’t have any contact with.  The work force has already changed significantly within my life time.

Far enough into the future, what jobs will we eliminate with our technology, and what will become of the people that do those jobs?

Honestly, I think this has been happening for a long time.  I think that the gap between the super rich and the super poor can only continue to grow, because the rich are equivalent to the land owners in my farmer example.  They are the ones that can reap the most benefit from technology, while the poor have more and more of their useful assets reduced.  How much will human labor be worth when super strong robots can do their job for free?

I know I’m not the first person to think along these lines.  I wonder if there’s anything that can be done about it.

In a sufficiently advanced society, basic human needs should be free.  That is: food, water, clothing, and shelter.  I read somewhere that there are 3 times more empty houses in the US than there are homeless.  It seems like homelessness should be a solvable problem.

Of course, now I’m starting to sound like a dirty socialist.  But maybe that’s not so bad?  If more Americans thought along these lines, we’d be giving up some profit margins, but we’d be taking care of people.

With enough time and technology, we could eliminate poverty, and give people time to pursue truly human endeavors.  Art.  Science.  Creativity.  We could be living in a Star Trek society.

That is, if we’re not lazy.  I don’t know.  If you didn’t have to work to make a living, and all your basic needs were provided for, what would you do?  Would you do something creative, or would you veg out on the couch?


NaNoWriMo Worries

Of all the things I should be worried about right now, my addled brain is focused on something that’s nearly a month away.  The National Novel Writing Month.

I shouldn’t worry about it.  In fact, I shouldn’t even participate this year.  It’s just one more plate to try to spin with all the others.  I don’t think I can do it.

But then, that’s kind of the point.  Lots of people don’t think they can write 50,000 words in a month.  You just have to put your butt in the chair, hands on the keyboard, and do your best.  And maybe you’ll surprise yourself.

This year would be my fourth attempt.  I’ve only succeeded once, and that was when I started The Repossessed Ghost.

The first year, I sort of cheated.  You’re supposed to start a brand new novel, but I chose to work on A Clean Slate, which already had about 1,100 words.  I chose poorly, regardless.  A Clean Slate is about a group of adventurers that are reanimated from stone, and have no memory of how they were petrified in the first place.  They’re sent on a journey to save the kingdom, and along the way, discover that they might not be the good guys.  It’s a bit of Bourne Identity plus The Dirty Dozen in a low fantasy setting.  It’s a complicated story, and I was a fool to think I could rush it out in 30 days.  I only managed about 12,000 words or so.

The next year, I succeeded with The Repossessed Ghost, though I didn’t know that was the title at the time.  Heck, the title still might change.  Nothing is set in stone with that story.  Inspired by The Dresden Files, and with a main character I already knew from playing him in a roleplaying game, I managed to get 50,000 words written with a few hours to spare.  In fact, I wrote around 25,000 words in just the last three days.  It was insane.  And I’m still working on that story, polishing and revising.  I think it might actually be publishable.

Last year, I tried a different story.  It’s one I’d thought about writing for about 15 years.  Again, I focused on a main character that I’d played in a game.  The game was a MUSH, so really, I’d written thousands and thousands of words using this character.  I thought that would give me an advantage.  But it wasn’t enough.

The problem last year was the world building.  Oh heavens.  I built the culture, the religion, the naming patterns that they use, from birth to adulthood.  I mapped out the main character’s family tree.  I came up with details for their social hierarchy.  And somewhere in the midst of all that world building, I lost track of the story.  I’m not sure how many words I managed to write last year.  Under 20,000 I think.  A pitiful showing.

I don’t know what I’m going to write this year.  I have a couple of novel ideas, but I’m not sure they’re things I want to attempt under the pressure of NaNoWriMo.  And with everything else going on in my life, it’s hard to stop and focus on something new.

Editing The Repossessed Ghost is comparatively easy.

I should come up with something simple.  Maybe sketch out a basic plot outline.  Then discover the characters on November 1st when I try to write them.  Maybe I should try science fiction instead of fantasy?  Maybe I should try to write a story in Arthur Kane’s world?  Arthur Kane is the main character of the first novel I completed, which will never see the light of day for how terrible it is.  But maybe I could write in that setting.  I wouldn’t have to do a bunch of world building, then, so I’d avoid that trap.

I don’t know.  And I don’t know how I’m going to find the time.

We’ll just have to see.  If I can keep up with Blogtober, maybe I’ll be able to keep up with NaNoWriMo.


No Man’s Sky and Four Gamer Types

A game by the name of No Man’s Sky is coming out “soon,” and I’m really excited about it.  I may be borderline obsessed, actually.  I haven’t been this excited for a game since I was a teenager.

Here’s a trailer video:


My enthusiasm for this game has been so great, in fact, that I’ve been frequenting the No Man’s Sky subreddit.  That’s a sign of true obsession, really.

The idea of No Man’s sky was presented a couple of years ago, and has been shown at E3 for the last two years.  It’s gained a lot of attention, and the anticipation is acute to the point of being painful.  The game is being created by Hello Games, with lead programmer Sean Murray at the helm.  Sony is treating the game like it’s a triple A title, but Hello Games remains in full control of the production and release schedule for the game.  And, they’re playing many of the details of the game close to the chest, including the release date.

Let me try to describe the environment in the subreddit.  A game featuring 18 quintillion, procedurally generated, beautiful worlds has been teased to gamers that are hungry for this kind of entertainment.  The news cycle for the game ebbs and flows, so the fans are wound up, then disappointed, over and over.  This last weekend, Sean Murray was a guest on Stephen Colbert’s show.  He also presented the game in Tech@Fest in New York.  Hopes were high that we would get a release date, if not the game itself.  That didn’t come to pass, and some people were noticeably frustrated.

I decided to post something there a little more substantive than the different variations of lamentations over a lack of a release date.  I wrote about Bartle’s Four Types of gamers, and how I think it might apply to No Man’s Sky.  At my wife’s suggestion, I’m cleaning it up and reposting it here.


In 1996, a man named Richard Bartle devised a theory and a test for classifying gamers. The test was specifically targeted at classifying players of MUDs, but has been applied to other games. Some argue that it doesn’t apply to all game types. Others continue to keep it in mind when designing their games.

While it is a simplification, I believe it is a handy guide to gauge what type of player is going to enjoy or be engaged by a game.

According to the theory, every gamer can be placed on a chart. The opposites ends of the first axis is “players” versus “world”. The opposite ends of the other axis is “acting” versus “interacting”. For purposes of this discussion, “acting” can be thought of as conflicting, and “interacting” can be thought of as cooperating. This forms four quadrants, or player types, which every gamer falls into: Killers, Achievers, Socializers, and Explorers.

Killers want conflict with players. Socializers want cooperation with players. Achievers want conflict with the game world. Explorers want interaction with the world.

Again, this is an oversimplification, and gamers can shift type. In general, gamers have a dominant preference, but it’s not unusual for someone that typically enjoys social interaction in their games to also enjoy PVP elements from time to time.

What does this have to do with No Man’s Sky?

I’ve watched all of the footage, and I’ve lurked on the subreddit for awhile, and I can confidently say that No Man’s Sky will appeal to a gamer type that is not usually targeted: The Explorer.

Console games are typically targeted at Killers and Socializers. Killers are going to gravitate towards games like Call of Duty for the rich PvP elements. Whenever these games have a co-op mode, Socializers will find appeal, working with their friends against a common goal.

Achievers can be found across all genres, but I think the games that target Achievers the most are the “casual” games. Farmville, Animal Crossing, most of the games that were popular for a while on Facebook. Achievers want to acquire badges and unlock content. They also like the single player campaigns in games like Metal Gear.

Explorers want to, well, explore. Sandbox games are where you’ll find explorers. And they’ll do things that seem a little crazy, like drive around the streets in Grand Theft Auto without any apparent goal. Explorers are the ones wandering off into the wilderness in sandbox games and MMOs, just to see what’s there.

No Man’s Sky is unique, in that it caters to the Explorer gamer type first, and the others second. Socializers and Killers won’t even see the point of the game. They’re going to ask questions about meeting up with players. They’re going to ask questions about how to destroy a planet, so that it impacts other people. Socializers and Killers are not well served by No Man’s Sky.

Achievers may be well served. The creatures and sentinels that we run into may serve the need to find conflict with the world.

It’s Explorers that are served first and foremost, and that’s rare. There will always be another horizon to reach for the Explorer in this game. There will always be more places to go, new things to discover, something else to see.

Will the game be fun? If you can enjoy being an Explorer type, then absolutely. If you are most comfortable as a Socializer or a Killer, then you probably won’t find much fun in this game. This isn’t going to scratch the same itch as Call of Duty. Socializers aren’t going to feel connected in this game, the way they do in an MMO.

As for me, I think I’m going to have fun. I’ll need other games, because sometimes I need to be a Socializer or an Achiever. But this is the first game that I’ve seen where being an Explorer comes first, and that alone makes it revolutionary.


My Review of The Three Body Problem

I just finished The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu.  This is the most recent Hugo winner for best novel, and stands out historically for being the first translated work to receive such an honor.  I listened to the audio book, which I will link here.

The Three Body Problem is a science fiction novel about first contact with an alien species, and how humanity responds to this contact.  It is also about the importance of science and morality, spanning forty years of human history.

Before I start sharing my opinions, let me first say that when I read books for enjoyment as I read this one, I don’t read with critical focus.  The opinions I will be expressing are simply the impressions left on me by the story.  I don’t have the education or background to be a true critic.

I enjoyed the way the story was told.  Its focus changed throughout, zooming in to minute, sometimes gory details in a moment, and pulling back to broader, transitory levels when traversing longer periods of time.  The story follows several characters, giving greater attention to two in particular: Ye Wenjie and Wang Miao.  The tale is not spun out in chronological order.

Characterization seemed a bit thin, in my opinion.  Three female characters stand out to me as being nearly identical: Ye Winjie, Yang Dong, and Shen Yufei.  The latter two weren’t visible in the narrative often, but when they were, they all seemed to have the same qualities as Ye Winjie: they were all three fiercely intelligent, driven women, that were quiet, cold, and distant.  The men in the story came in two main varieties: those like Wang Miao, and those like Shi Qiang.  Those like Wang Miao were intelligent, but fearful, and usually passive.  Those like Shi Qiang, on the other hand, were men of action, proud, and willful.  Colonel Stanton and Mike Evans were in this category of characterization.

There is a little detail in the story that stands out to me, and I wonder if it is just a difference between American and Chinese cultures.  It had to do with families.  Wang Miao, for example, had a wife and child, but he frequently ignored them in order to focus on problems that he didn’t bother explaining to his family.  As the story continued, he was out in the wee hours of the morning, and didn’t seem to give any consideration to his family at home.  Later in the story, it’s as though they never existed.  His family isn’t even mentioned again.

Ye Winjie is the only person in the story that seems to have a strong familial attachment, and that is to her father.  We don’t ever get to see their relationship.  We just see her reaction to his death at the beginning, and the way that influences her decisions throughout her life.

For the most part, I enjoyed the pacing.  There was a bit at the end that seemed slow, so it seemed to drag on longer than I wanted.  Other than that part at the end, I was engaged in the story the whole time.

I mentioned that characterization seemed a bit weak, but there were characters I enjoyed.  I liked Shi Qiang, because he seemed to have more wisdom than intelligence.  And Wei Chang stood out as well, though he was the most passive character in the whole story, by design.  Those two characters had the most “flavor” and stood out from the others.

The premise was interesting, and the science sounded plausible to me.  There was a bit of Flatland to it at one point, which I enjoyed.

I enjoyed the book, but I wasn’t so hooked that it consumed me.  I listened to it in the car when driving, as I do most audio books.  But unlike books that have really drawn me in, I didn’t spend much time listening to the story out of my car.  I listened to the last 45 minutes last night at my computer, not because I needed to know what was next, but because I wanted to have the whole thing finished before writing this review.

I don’t think the book being translated had anything to do with my level of enjoyment.  This isn’t the first translated book I’ve read.  I thoroughly enjoyed The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.  It’s a translated work that pulled me in and kept me pulled in.  It’s also a different genre, and I’m not going to compare apples to oranges.  I just don’t think that translation detracted or enhanced my enjoyment of The Three Body Problem.

This is a Hugo award winning book, and I feel a need to comment on that.  If someone told me that it won the Hugo after I’d read it instead of before, I probably would have pursed my lips, nodded slowly, and said, “Okay.” It didn’t capture my imagination the way Heinlein and Asimov have in the past, but it was serviceable.  I don’t regret reading it.

So, this is not a glowing review, but it’s not a bad review, either.  Would I recommend others read it?  Sure.  It’s good enough for that, and perhaps other people would enjoy it more than I did.  I thought it was okay, but I’m not in any hurry to read the sequel.


Blogtober 2015 – Maybe?

A couple years ago, I accepted the challenge of posting something every day in the month of October.  I didn’t find out about it until October 2nd, so I wound up posting 2 posts on October 31st.  I considered it a moral victory.

This year, I’m once again starting on October 2nd.  But I’m not sure I’m going to be able to succeed with the challenge this time.

The reality is that I probably don’t have the time.  Music is a big part of my life right now, and I’m taking on responsibilities that I never thought I’d take on.  With my time as limited as it is, how am I going to commit to something every day?

But I don’t want to give up on Blogtober, because if I don’t have time for this, how am I going to have time for NaNoWriMo?

This month is going to be challenging.  I may be a juror on a big case.  Work is as busy as it’s ever been.  Both River City Concert Band and RC Swing are active, and need my attention.  And I’m involved with the Sacramento Valley Symphonic Band Association.  Plus, my family might want to see me from time to time.  How am I going to find the time to write something every day?

I think I need to try.  If I’m going to continue to take my writing seriously, then I’m going to need to learn to manage my time, and hit my deadlines.  Maybe I should go back to packing lunches, so that I can dedicate some time in the middle of my work day for writing.  Maybe I should do like Michael and get up really early in the morning.  Okay, that last one isn’t going to happen, but it’s an idea.

So this month, starting today, I’m going to try and post something every day.  If I’m successful, great!  I’ll take it as encouragement for NaNoWriMo.

But if I’m unable to find the time, I’m not going to beat myself up.

Speaking of NaNoWriMo, if I’m going to participate this year, I need to start thinking about what novel I’m going to start.  Maybe do some outlining.

Tomorrow, I’m going to write about translated books, like The Three Body Problem.