Month: May 2015

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

Media previewFormer Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau probably deserved to be fired.  The strengths of his work ethic, defensive acumen, and player development are largely countered by his poor minutes management and uninspired offensive strategy.  He is one of the most influential coaches in the NBA, but isn’t in its top tier due to his limitations.  I’ve long been a Thibs supporter, and still am, but I can admit this.

The Chicago Bulls fired him today.  It might not be the right move, but from a purely basketball perspective it’s not necessarily a dumb one.  The process is what needs to be measured, not the outcome.  Outcomes can be random.

However, the process is flawed, because the Bulls organization continues to revel in the haughty, arrogant belief that “organizations win championships.”  It shouldn’t come as a surprise; this is the same franchise that was totally OK with letting the best player of all time, one of the best 4 coaches of all time, and two other Hall-of-Fame players just walk.  They thought their “culture” and their “process” and their “organization” was what won them six titles in eight years.  The following eights years proved them very wrong, but clearly no lessons were learned.

Now, organizations can win championships.  San Antonio is a prime example.  Even the Lakers could be counted among that distinction when Dr. Buss was alive.  But while organizations can win championships, the Bulls organization cannot.  They are simply not very good.

Gar Forman and John Paxson have a pretty decent track record when it comes to their chief duties of drafting and player acquisition.  There’s been a few missteps and questionable choices, but by and large their moves in the draft and free agency have been a net positive.  If only the same could be said about the other aspects of their job.

What has occurred today can be considered a debacle.  Not because they fired a good (but not great) coach, but because in the way they fired him.  If there is anyone associated with the league and its players that wasn’t already aware of the Bulls’ front office wankery, they are now.

Jerry Reinsdorf’s aggressive, petty, vindictive press release was meant to throw Thibodeau under the bus.  He wanted to do this because he has escaped rational thought, or because he doesn’t understand that any sane coach would run for the hills before hitching their wagon to Jerry and his cronies.

Their saving grace may be Fred Hoiberg, a reasonably interesting college coach who appears to be the polar opposite of Thibodeau, and also has connections to the Bulls and executive Gar Forman.  If Hoiberg chooses not to leave the college ranks (not an impossibility; he’s had multiple heart surgeries) or goes somewhere else, the Bulls may be in an extremely precarious position.

Alvin Gentry’s name has come up, but he’s on the same coaching staff as Ron Adams (Golden State), who was fired for questioning the front office’s moves in 2012.  I have to imagine Ron’s advice would be akin to “run far away.”

And this sort of position, where everyone now questions your sanity and scruples, was purely avoidable.

But Jerry Reinsdorf, long ago, made this bed.  And he re-made it today, asserting that you will get set on fire and thrown out the window for angering the brain trust.

It’s unprofessional, it’s classless, and it will prevent talent (both of the coaching and playing variety) from feeling good about signing with the Bulls.

The Nexus 6 (VZW): 5 days with a gigantic phone.

So I’m on day 5 with a new Nexus 6, which is one of the biggest phones on the market, with a whopping 5.96″ screen.  This thing isn’t massive.  It’s gigantic.  A freak of nature.  The Shaquille O’Neal of phones.

I’m coming from a Moto X (2013), so the change is particularly jarring, considering that phone was one of the smallest (4.7″) of “high-end” smartphones.

I’ll try to keep my thoughts in bullet points, in respect to brevity:

  • The large screen is delightful.  It makes reading anything a joy.  I haven’t touched either of my tablets (2012 Nexus 7, Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition) since, as this is enough.  I might be going to eBay soon to get rid of them.
  • Lollipop is a breath of fresh air.  Not a device-specific observation here, but worth mentioning.  I’m actually actively trying to get as many Material Design apps in use as they’re just aesthetically pleasing.  Google did a great job here.
  • As should be expected of a large phone, the processing power has been ample thus far.  No skips, random glitches, nothing.  It’s only been 5 days, but I’ve been pushing it on purpose, trying to find the boundaries.  Nothing yet.
  • Battery life is insane.  Turbo-charging is insane.  I get battery anxiety, so this has been wonderful.  Not having to search for a USB port as much is a bigger stress reliever than should be expected.  I’ve gotten 30 hours with 6 hours screen-on time, with WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS on the whole time.  Wowsers.
  • I’m still adjusting to the size.  It’s awkward in my hands.  I miss the feel of the 2013 Moto X a little, which was well-suited to one-hand use.  Though I’m finding that two-handed use isn’t as inconvenient as I thought it might be, and any handling sins are forgiven with that big beautiful screen.
  • I have this paired with a Moto 360 smartwatch, which has made the cumbersome bulk of the Nexus 6 more manageable since I don’t have to dig it out of my pocket as often.  Handling notifications from the watch was nice with the Moto X, but definitely a bigger plus when your phone is this big.
That’s all I have for now.  I’m loving it so far.

Faith No More: Holy Shit, What a Great Band.

Faith No More released their first album in 18 years today.  I was barely through half the album and I was prepared to go and actually purchase a physical copy of it just so I could erect a shrine to its greatness.  Then I finished the album, and I think I have, through sheer happiness and joy, ascended to a higher plane of existence where Mike Patton sings my lullaby’s and rock music is good again.

While just a good album shouldn’t necessarily be a crowning achievement, it feels that way considering the context.  Most bands who reunite after a long hiatus end up sounding like a shadow of their former selves, both falling short of previous quality and exceeding a level of self-reference that makes the band essentially a caricature of itself.

However, Faith No More has managed to create an album different from their previous work that manages to still sound like the band that left us almost two decades ago.  Hard rock/metal riffs interwoven with eclectic asides and a sprinkling of insanity; the “formula” is still there, but it’s just more of it.  It’s as if they all stepped into a time machine.

It’s excellent.

It’s miraculous.

I still can’t believe we have an excellent Faith No More album in 2015.  It’s like Christmas and Easter gave birth to a new holiday, who then married Halloween and invited Thanksgiving to live with them.

I feel like I’m just gushing at this point, but it’s always near-intoxicating when there are high expectations and they’re then shattered without doubt.

Faith No More is back, everyone.  And they’ll probably make us wait another 18 years again.  I can be okay with that.

p.s. It’s still early since I’m still fully digesting the new album, but with a gun to my head I put Sol Invictus as their third-best, behind King for a Day and Angel Dust.  Though ranking Faith No More albums is like trying to rank candy; it’s all sweet, people.

Bullshit in MMORPGs: An ongoing series

I’ve played too many MMORPGs.  This is an unassailable fact.  I don’t know the exact number that constitutes “too many,” but whatever it might be I am assuredly over that number.  I think the term “most” would be used if asked “How many have you played?”

I don’t play any now for a variety of reasons.  Even if the perfect (for me; I understand that this is very subjective) one came along I’m not entirely sure I would have the time for it.  That might be a good thing, to be honest.  My life certainly feels more open without the pressure to play a game I potentially pay a monthly subscription for.
Anyways, there’s a lot of bullshit most of this genre is guilty of, and I’d like to take multiple moments to bitch about said bullshit.  It will likely fall on deaf ears (or no ears, as it were), but it’ll at least make me feel better to some degree.  At least I’m writing (er, typing) again.
So: Bullshit Thing #1: crafting.
Crafting is something that some degree of attention is paid to in most RPGs.  Crafting is universally bad.  I have not found a single crafting system engaging, fun, or worthwhile.  Yes, I used an Oxford comma.  I will not apologize.
What’s fascinating about crafting, however, is that game companies find new and hilarious methods on making crafting terrible.  It almost boggles the mind; if we as a race were as good at space travel as game companies are at making terrible crafting systems, I would be typing this from Jupiter’s third moon whilst eating a space cheeseburger.  I don’t know what a space cheeseburger is but it sure sounds delicious.
Let’s go over some of these shitty, shitty systems:
The disease of “not fucking worth it”: I have seen some crafting systems be engaging and even a little fun; and then they’re invariably ruined by the fact that nothing that’s crafted is truly worthwhile.  Either the gear is sorely underpowered compared to other modes of item procurement, or the requirements to create good items are gotten from the same place where other good items come from.  This is dumb.  Crafting should yield unique, good-in-their-own-right items that can be procured without dungeon-running or even any combat prowess.  Too often crafting is used as just another (and invariably more irritating) path from A to B.  The path should go to C.
The plague of “HOW DOES THIS FUCKING WORK”: Some crafting systems manage to have unique yields, but are then sadly inundated with some sort of flowchart singularity that makes people’s brains hurt more than trigonometry.  Somebody probably thought this was “realistic” or “rewardingly complex,” when in reality those are just buzz words for “over-complicated” and “not fun at all.”  If we wanted “realistic” we would go buy a pickaxe and become the salt of the earth ourselves.
The numbing pain of “here’s a crafting system, now fuck off”: Sometimes there’s nothing rewarding.  Sometimes the crafting system in a game is just there, tacked onto the wall like an employee’s rights bulletin required by state law.  Sometimes it’s clear that developers just put in a crafting system for the sake of saying they have a crafting system.  All of the time, this is lazy and poopy.
On top of the above issues, there’s also the argument that a combat-oriented character (re: 90-100% of players) have no business possessing crafting skills.  Real-life blacksmiths dedicate their entire lives to their craft.  Some adventurer just having blacksmithing as a fucking hobby shouldn’t be capable of creating Sword of Anal Bleeding +5 in their spare time between cave-sniffing.  Want realism?  Don’t craft at all, honestly.
So, in the end, I just wish MMORPGs would just not have crafting.  The closest thing to a quality crafting system was in games that had more open-ended character development, where a character could subsist and survive purely on gathering and crafting alone.  Ultima Online was sort of close, but their crafting system devolved in endlessly rolling dice, essentially (for also what was often “not good enough” compared to loot or artifacts).  Some other games have struck chords that could be woven into a melody of a good crafting system, but fell short in other critical areas.
Some of you might be thinking “well then just don’t fucking craft then.”  Well, I’m a bit of a completionist, which makes me anal-retentive in having all the skills.  Luckily, I don’t play any MMORPGs right now so I don’t have to worry.
Final statement: Engineering in World of Warcraft is cool.  I’ll admit that.