Caster's Corner - Livestreaming on Twitch

Monday, April 30, 2018

Clickbait Video Title - Vlog 2018-17

On Youtube, this is entitled "Last Video Ever." Which is technically true, as it's the last video ever, to be shot on my iPhone 6+. Because I've finally decided to upgrade. A short discussion of that, plus some talk about running outside, covers this week's vlog.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Let's Play Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China Mission Eleven - East of Martaban

Not much to say about this one. We're in the home stretch, just one more mission left in the campaign now. This is an interesting little penultimate mission though. A neat mixture of escort, bombing, and ground attack, all taking place during the battle for Burma.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Book Review: Pride And Prejudice And Zombies

Some things just make obviously good combinations. Chocolate and peanut butter, RPG mechanics in shooters, and twisty mountain roads and motorcycles all come to mind. Other combinations are less obvious, but still great when discovered. Peanut butter on hamburgers, and rogue-lite mechanics in shooters come to mind here. A further addition would be Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the unique mash-up of Jane Austen’s classic romance novel into a world filled with zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith. It shouldn’t work at all, but it does.

Given that the book came out in 2009 and already saw a big-screen adaptation in 2016, I’m hardly an early discoverer of this novel. In fact, the book has been sitting in my “To Read” list on Goodreads for at several years, which really just shows how long it takes for something to bubble up to the top of the list. Or something. My reading backlog is only slightly more manageable than my gaming backlog.

At any rate, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, for those unfamiliar with the story, re-imagines the Bennet sisters as trained zombie hunters, defending their little part of England from the shambling menace which has come to threaten all of England. The other characters have been similarly re-imagined, all while keeping their essential characteristics that made the original book such a classic.
In a lot of ways this book is the most well done version of the old Jr. High-school boy routine of re-imagining some boring piece of historical literature to involve more action in some form or another. 

Romeo and Juliet with automatic weapons (okay, that’s one’s been done), or modern day Macbeth (wait, that’s been done too!) All right, let’s just call Pride and Prejudice and Zombies another entry in a long line of remixing the classics.

The point is, it works. The original gist of Austen’s classic story is still there, just with the addition of zombies which the book very properly never names a such, preferring such properly British euphemisms as “Manky Dreadfuls” and “Shambling Menace.” There’s also a particularly well done sword fight between Elizabeth and Lady Catherine which would have been perfectly at home in a piece of Chinese cinema such as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

I can’t speak to the quality (or lack thereof) of the resulting movie adaptation, having not seen it. I expect that, as usual, the book is better than the movie. For the book, at least, I’ll have no qualms handing it to my teenage sons in a few years, if a straight dose of Regency Romance isn’t to their tastes.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Post PAX AAR Part 2 - Vlog 2018-16

A lot more thoughts on PAX East 2018. Definitely a lot of fun and, well, just watch the video.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China Mission Ten - Tigers In The Gorge

As the AVG and their British Allies were forced to retreat away from Burma at the end of April 1942, their Japanese pursuers gave chase.

On May 7th, the Japanese Army began building a pontoon bridge across the upper Salween River, which would have allowed them to move troops and supplies into China and push towards Kunming.

Historically, 2nd Squadron Leader David Lee "Tex" Hill led a flight of four AVG P-40Es into the Salween River Gorge to check the Japanese advance and destroy the bridge. Over the span of four days, the AVG would fly almost around the clock, and the Japanese army would never advance any farther into China.

Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China compresses this four day timeframe into a single mission, and understandably so. It's one of the most exciting moments of the short campaign, even if I did have some difficulty hitting the broad side of a mountain with a bomb.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Flying Tigers Companion - Bristol Blenheim

When we last left our Flying Tigers companion series, we were discussing the almost totally unknown Vickers Vildebeest. We now come to a better known aircraft, the Bristol Blenheim.

The Blenheim wore a couple of hats over its career. Primarily a light attack bomber, it also served as a heavy fighter, an interim night fighter, and provided the basis for the Beaufort torpedo bomber. In Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China, Blenheim Mk IVs of No. 60 Squadron RAF are represented in several missions, usually placing players in combination scenarios where they play pilot/bombardier, then man a turret to fend off attacks from Japanese fighters.

Blenheims of No. 60 Squadron skimming VERY low over the 
water to attack Japanese shipping. (Wikipedia Public Domain)

Aside from FTSOC, the Blenheim isn’t especially well represented in flight and flight-action games. The Mk IV F version appears in World of Warplanes as a decent Tier IV fighter, and it’s a flyable option in IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover Blitz Edition, but that’s mostly it. In game terms, the Blenheim is largely overlooked in favor of the Beaufighter and Mosquito.

Late model Blenheim Mk IV with dual gun turret from World of Warplanes.

 Surviving Blenheims can be found in a few places in Europe. The sole flying example is technically a Bolingbroke Mk IVT (the name for Canadian manufactured Blenheims built by Fairchild Aircraft and used as coastal reconnaissance/light bombers) rebuilt with a short nose to appear as a Blenheim Mk I, and operated in Britain by the Imperial War Museum Duxford. Static display examples exist in the Aviation Museum of Central Finland (A Finnish Mk IV) and at the Hellenic Air Force Museum (A Mk IVF downed by friendly fire in 1941 and recovered for restoration in 1996).

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Coffee Is For Closers, Episode 10 - Get Outta Gangam

Poor Nata! It took him way longer to get out of Gangam than I thought it would! At least he's gotten away from...

Oh, wait, no he hasn't. It's a new location, but the same angry, phychotic boss. At least there's plenty of enemies to kill!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Around the Web - Castrol EDGE Titanium Gamer Interview

I got to see and do a lot of very cool things during PAX East this year. One of the major highlights was definitely getting to sit down and chat with Luke Woodham and Theo Thomas about their participation in the Castrol EDGE Titanium Gamer challenge.

Gamer vs. Driver
You can read the full article on Marooners' Rock. It's facinating what happened when a pro racing driver and a pro streamer/youtuber specializing in racing titles get tossed into a custom prepped V8 Mustang and given a course to drive.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Post PAX AAR - Part One! Vlog 2018-15

Well, that certainly was a whirlwind event! PAX East 2018 is in the books, and I'm busily working through a massive stack of game previews, games to review, interviews, flight reports, and other fun and exciting things. It looks like I'm going to break the vlog reports into a couple of pieces, lest I make a thirty minute talking head video.

All of the fun will, of course, get aggregated here, along with whatever websites it belongs on. Hold on, the fun is only just starting!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China Mission Nine - Return to Mingaladon

On January 12th, 1942, the Japanese forces launched their Burma campaign. Though significantly outnumbered, the AVG and RAF aircraft based at Mingaladon inflicted outsized losses on the IJAAF attackers. The British radar operating at Mingaladon helped with early warning of incoming attacks.

By mid-February though, only ten P-40s were still operational at Mingaladon. The RAF would begin retreating and pull their radar equipment out by the end of February, forcing the remaining Flying Tigers to withdraw to bases in northern Burma.

This mission has some of the craziest cockpit hopping of anything in the game. Start in a Blenheim coming in for a landing, swap to a Hurricane, jump back into a Blenheim's turret, then finally into a P-40E to finish out. At least there's no shortage of variety.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Book Review - The Pith of the Apocalypse

Having been raised in an Evangelical Christian household during the ‘80s and ‘90s, some things were accepted as “obviously the way it is” when it comes to understanding of difficult Biblical passages. Attending a Fundamentalist Baptist college did little to dissuade some of these notions, though the significant gap (in the eyes of practicing Fundies) between fundamental Christians and Evangelical Christians did certainly force the re-examination of some long-held beliefs. A literal interpretation of Revelation, and a pre-tribulation Rapture (generally known as the “Futurist” interpretation) were not among these re-examined items.
Post college, the topic never really came up. “Hey, what are your thoughts on Revelation?” has never been a particularly popular topic in my gamer and programmer circles. The seeker-friendly church that I attended with my family for years didn’t spend much time on the topic either. A focus on Revelation, whether it’s read literally or figuratively, tends to turn off the average mega-church attendee. Even so, as I would read through the Bible during my own studies, doubts gradually began to crop up about the Futurist view that I’d always heard. Little things that simply didn’t add up, or which would seem to contradict each other.

One example: a Futurist reading of Revelation and a pre-Tribulation Rapture (as popularized in the Left Behind book series) essentially requires that some sort of world body pacify the extremist elements in Islam, so that Israel can rebuild a temple in Jerusalem. However, literalists also preach that the Rapture could happen at any time, thereby kicking off the seven-year period of tribulation that a literal interpretation of Revelation covers. These two things simply cannot both be true.

Another, personal conclusion: The Futurist view is wholly Earth centric. All of the signs, wonders, plagues and battles, happen on Earth. Which follows that a Futurist interpretation of Revelation requires that either humanity never establishes colonies on other worlds, or that the Rapture and beginning of the Tribulation obliterate all human life beyond Earth. Alternatively, Revelation must be read less literally, that the things described as happening “On Earth” are actually metaphors happening throughout the universe wherever humans have been. The first option I find too depressing to consider, as I’m a big proponent of space travel and exploration and hope to live long enough to see the first human colony on Mars or the Moon. The second possibility is more plausible, though no less depressing. The third possibility means that we’ve already moved from a literal interpretation of the book to something more figurative.

These issues, and others, led me to question whether the interpretation I’d always heard was really correct. My current church does not shy away from dealing with controversial topics, particularly in the Sunday School classes where doctrine is unapologetically taught, studied, and discussed. It was in one such class where we studied Revelation, that I learned there was another, more sensible (to my mind) way to understand the book.

From Wikipedia, Preterism is an interpretation of Revelation which views the book as referring primarily to the events of the apostolic era, which the churches to which John addressed the letter would have been directly in the middle of. Like the rest of the Epistles, that doesn’t mean that Revelation has no relevancy beyond the timeframe it was written in, but that it should be understood and interpreted not so much as a literal prophecy of things to come, but as metaphors and themes that would be profitable not only to the churches of the time, but also to Christians throughout the ages.
No matter what interpretation
of Revelation you choose to
believe, this series is just
poorly plotted fiction.

And if the plagues, seals, and sundry things pictured in Revelation are more metaphor than literal, well, then that neatly wipes away my questions about timelines and humanity expanding to the stars.

Conveniently, our class teacher, Dr. Paul Rainbow, had published a book a few years ago about the topic called The Pith of the Apocalypse. I do mean conveniently. For all the benefits the class format conveys, there are some drawbacks when dealing with controversial topics and limited time. I was hardly the only member of the class to be somewhat thunderstruck by the idea of a totally non-literal interpretation of Revelation. But that said, the book really helped layout the case well. It’s a short volume, heavily footnoted and sourced, from which my “Further Study” queue grew by at least three or four books. In it, Dr. Rainbow lays out his case, citing a good deal of the historical conditions facing the church in Asia Minor at the close of the First Century A.D. and logically correlating those to much of John’s imagery. Later chapters explain the internal logic and themes of Revelation, and match them to how the imagery would have been perceived and understood by the Jewish believers who would be reading John’s letter and who had a deep understanding already of Old Testament prophecies concerning the end times.

In addition, The Pith of the Apocalypse lays out one of the most compelling side arguments for a Preterist view, which doesn’t rely on the text itself: benefit to the modern readers. What I mean is this: a Preterist interpretation of Revelation makes the book a prescription for how we should live now, with a glorious reminder of an ultimate, victorious future. The Futurist interpretation, on the other hand, promotes fatalism, and an optimistic hope where none is warranted – “The Rapture could be tomorrow” is a close cousin to the optimistic POW’s attitude that “Rescue could arrive at any time.” It was the observation of [NAME] that in Vietnam, optimistic prisoners rarely survived, because eventually, optimism falters and dies, leading to depression. The same kind of faltering hope and depression can and does happen in dedicated Futurist believers.

I’m certainly not going to look askance at any of my brothers or sisters in Christ who hold to a Futurist view of Revelation. That’s the thing about Biblical prophecy, it’s tough to interpret, save in hindsight. It’s possible that the Preterist view is wrong, but I doubt it. Even if this interpretation is wrong, it’s a better path to daily living, and if it’s incorrect, nothing of value in my life is lost.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Coffee is for Closers- Episode 9 - Nata Lot of Progress

You'd think I could get a character out of the starting zone a little faster than this, but then you'd be wrong.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Around the Web: Make Sail Preview

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
- Sea Fever (first verse) by John Masefield
 I remember memorizing this poem for my SP101 class more than two decades ago as a college freshman. I chose it because there wasn't anything in our poetry selection options about longing for the sky, but the mariners of old always seem to be the ancient forefathers of the modern aviators. So it fit.

Rarely do I come across a game that can convey the kind of longing and loneliness that sailing or flying both answers and creates, but Make Sail comes close. Now in Steam Early Access, it's well worth taking the time to check out.

Read the full preview on Marooners' Rock!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Post PAX Pondering - Vlog 2018-14

Random musings on a PAX East visit that hadn't, as of when the video was shot, happened yet. But such is the nature of content planning.

I think I'm going to make myself a theme song...

Friday, April 6, 2018

Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China Mission Eight - The Hump

A semi-historical mission, flying "The Hump", the aerial resupply line from India to China, was the most dangerous cargo route of World War II.

When Japanese military success in the SBI effectively closed the only land resupply route into China, American forces had to find another way to supply operations in China. The only option was a long, dangerous flight over the Himalayan mountain range. The game mission suffers from a bit of an anachronism, in that the C-46 Commando transports did not begin operating on the route until 1943, while the mission is clearly intended to have taken place in 1942 when the AVG was still operating.

Details, what are you going to do?

An additional note of interest is the quote at the end of the mission. While it may sound a bit corny to modern ears, this is very close to a direct quotation from Dayne Kline, an engineer on the C-87 transports which also flew The Hump. His direct quote is as follows:
"Let there be no question about it! Flying the Hump was risky business. The air route led first over the Himalayan foothills and finally to the mountains, between north Burma and west China, airspace where turbulence and abominable weather was the norm. Judge for yourself: one of the peaks they flew over translated into English as "Elephant Head Gouge Mountain," because "when elephants use a game trail on its side, at one place they have to turn such a sharp corner that their tusks scrape grooves into the rock."

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Flying Tigers Companion: Vickers Vildebeest

Some planes just can’t catch a break. Aviation history is littered with aircraft that beat or matched some other aircraft on paper, but in reality, due to market forces, poor circumstances, or just simply bad luck, one falls into obscurity while the other gets well known. So it is with the Vickers Vildebeest.
A Vildebeest in flying. (Wikipedia)

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Introducing the Gryphon, A New Way To Do Household Internet Security

I had the chance to sit down for a half-hour chat with John Wu, co-creator of the Gryphon, a new WiFi router that aims to simplify security and content management for homes and small businesses.

The full article is over at Marooners' Rock, but in short, I was very impressed by what he said, and the specifications of the device itself. It looks like this is very likely to find a place at Casa De La Giddings in the next few months.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Monday Vlogging - PAX Eastbound!

It's almost time! The bags are packed (well, okay, I'll be packing them tomorrow), the schedule has been plotted, and all that's left now is to board the Big Metal Birds and get hurtled to Boston!

PAX East, here I come!