Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Stars, Like Dust

I read this for the first time the other day. It is the part of the Galactic Empire series of novels, set in the same universe as the Foundation series, but at an earlier time period. The backdrop for the story is a group of kingdoms being oppressed by a tyrannical empire, named surprisingly Tyrann. The protagonist is a young man, whose father is executed for being part of the conspiracy to overthrow Tyrann rule of the Kingdoms. Earth appears to be mostly a wasteland as the result of nuclear warfare in an earlier age, but there is still some settlements there. The story opens with the protagonist studying at a university on earth, and someone apparently trying to kill him with a radiation bomb. What ensues is his trying to figure out who tried to kill him, finding out who is responsible for the death of his father, and eventually a search for a mysterious rebellion world. Overall, an entertaining if simple story. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Monday, August 16, 2010

100 Days: Memoirs of the Falklands Battle Group Commander


This past weekend I finished reading Admiral Sandy Woodward’s book covering the operations in the South Atlantic. It is one of the better military memoirs I have read, and did a great job of providing insight into just how difficult an operation it was to take back the Falklands. In addition to fighting the Argentinians, they were in a race with Mother Nature as winter was fast approaching in the Southern hemisphere. My guess is that General Galtieri thought the British wouldn’t be able to react quickly enough before winter arrived allowing the Argentinians time to consolidate their positions.

One thing that surprised me in the book was how unreliable the Argentinian bombs were, and how unreliable the British anti-air systems were. It seemed like in the majority of cases, the bombs that the Argentinians managed to hit ships with didn’t detonate. For the British there were many technical problems with both the Sea Dart and the Sea Wolf systems getting confused and refusing to prosecute incoming targets.

Woodward does a good job highlighting the difficult decisions a commander must make that will effect the lives of many people, and how they have to shrug off events that have taken place and carry on. I would highly recommend the book to anyone with interest in the subject, or in naval matters. I plan on getting a copy of Commodore Clapp’s book on the landings at San Carlos Water, and will be looking for a book that goes into greater detail over the land campaign.

Monday, August 9, 2010

NCAA Football 2011 for the PS3

So this past July I finally broke down and bought a PS3 in order to play NCAA Football 2011 with a couple of my buddies from my days in the Army. In addition to that I have been wanting to try M.A.G. with the people on the QT3 forums. We last played NCAA football while all living together in Scottsdale back in the 2001-2002 timeframe on the PS2. Now we could play in a dynasty and be scattered around the country. I grabbed my alma mater Iowa. Mark grabbed where he went to law school, Texas Tech, and Dave grabbed Pittsburgh. We initially started on the varsity level, but quickly jumped up to All-American which was a better challenge.

The Online dynasty works easily enough. Each player does their own thing, and when everyone is ready the commissioner advances the game to the next week. Your weekly routine mainly consists of recruiting high school players, and playing your scheduled game. We only had 1 online game between any of us, which was Dave and myself playing for the national championship. Our first attempt disconnected, and in our second attempt Dave was experiencing horrible lag, but didn’t realize I wasn’t and played out the game which was a 19-17 victory for Iowa. The offseason consists of 12 phases, which includes a bunch of recruiting, convincing players leaving early or transferring to not leave, changing players positions, and redshirting players. One odd quirk we found was that unless everyone is online the commissioner can not advance successive weeks within 20 minutes of each other. We also ran into a bug where everyone was showing ready during the last offseason phase when they weren’t ready, which resulted in the game being advanced without getting their players redshirted.

I also played through a career in the Road to Glory mode. In this mode you take on the role of a high school player playing in the state championships. From what I can tell, how far you go in the state championships determines how many stars your player has. After the state championships, you sign with a school, and start your career as a college athlete. You don’t have to do much with academics. You can sim through practice, but I would actually do the practice sessions (run through 10 plays) until you break into a starting position. You also get bonus points to your attributes when you participate in the practice instead of simming. The thing tended to not sim though were the evening sessions. You get bonuses to your attributes each week, but they reset after the week is over. You also can go to the library to study in your evening session to up your GPA so you don’t get held out of football for poor grades. When in a game you can sim through until you get to a play that you are involved in. So this mode moves along pretty quickly once you you have broken into the starting lineup. One thing I would caution when choosing a school to play for is to look at what kind of system they run and see how it fits with the position you are playing. I went to USC because I could be a 2nd string HB to start out instead way down the depth chart at other top schools, but USC seemed to focus a lot on passing, so later in my career it was hard to compete for the Heisman. I did snare the Maxwell and Walker awards 2 years in a row and became a campus legend.

The graphics are pretty nice, but nothing spectacular. I am used to my crossfired 4850s on my desktop system though. It does look nice though on the 1080p television and sitting/lounging on a comfortable couch feels much better than sitting in my current chair at my desk (time for an way overdue upgrade there). I will say that the perspective you are seeing the game at in the Road to Glory mode looks better than when you are coaching a team.

The game did seem to stutter at certain points, mostly at points that didn’t effect the actual game though. It also seems to have issues keeping track of things like trophies you have won, or your ESPN Instant Classics. They will show up in your trophy room or the classics page, but leaving the game and coming back later shows them to be missing. This has happened a few times with the ESPN classics, and also happened to my Big 10 Championship trophy, my National Championship trophy for Iowa, and good old Floyd of Rosedale. Hopefully they will get those things worked out at some point so it isn’t so flaky.

It has been a fun game though and a good edition to step back into the game after being away for 8 years.