Microsoft Just Shot the Series X in the Back EDIT: Someone got to a medic in time

UPDATE: As of a short time ago, and due to massive public outcry, Xbox has announce that the Xbox Live Gold price hike is no more. In addition, they’re going to be opening the platform’s online play up more to those who don’t want Gold, including announcing that all F2P games will no longer require Gold. It’s a start! Thank you to everyone who made their unhappiness known!

As for me, I actually passed on buying a Series X during this whole deal (in my cart and everything). So yeah, up front, it cost them a Series X sale. Now that it’s been resolved, well … I’ll start looking again.

Thank you, Xbox folks, for realizing how bad an idea this was, for listening, and for responding,

Original post below:


Well, I didn’t expect to be posting this today. But in fairness, Microsoft has blindsided everyone with this move, from fans to prospective buyers. And in the process, during the launch period of their own console they’ve basically shot it in the back.

Let me explain. Microsoft is one of the juggernauts in the game console space right now, alongside Sony and Nintendo. In December/November of 2020, both Microsoft and Sony launched their newest hardware iterations. Both are vast improvements over the underpowered hardware that the prior generation delivered, and both were high on people’s shopping lists. In fact, until this morning, the Series X was high on mine. Now? I’m not so sure.

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Why You Should Read … The Pinch

Yes, it’s time for another one of these posts. Why You Should Read …, if you’re not familiar with them, are posts where I talk about books other than my own that I have perused, enjoyed for one reason or another, and now recommend to all of you for (probably) those same reasons.

I’m a big proponent of reading—well, not just reading, but thinking and comprehending. Thinking critically. Questioning. Gathering information and then using it to look at the world through a new lens. Comparing lenses and asking why one may work better than another.

I’m also a big proponent of seeking out knowledge. I don’t hold at all with the idea that “what I’ve got is good enough, and I refuse to learn more” (sadly a common concept, I feel, in modern culture). We should, I believe, always be striving to learn new things, new knowledge and new concepts. Again, there’s a way to do that intelligently and with patience, but seeking out and learning new things is one of the blessings of modern society. Well, at least, the capability to do so is. A lot of people, sadly, don’t take advantage of this, then still want to play in the grand sandbox, pitting their toy soldiers of ideas against actual tanks (and often not understanding in the slightest why their plastic memes failed to make a dent in a well-armored, carefully researched opponent).

Basically, Why You Should Read … posts are the occasional recommendation of books that I find worthy of being added to someone’s read shelf, for one reason or another. Some are fiction (because you absolutely can learn a lot from fiction, as many scientific studies are discovering) and some are non-fiction (because understanding the building blocks of the world around us along with its cause and effect is pretty important). Today I’m recommending one of the latter: The Pinch by David Willets. Or, to use it’s less common full title, The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children’s Future — And Why They Should Give it Back.

Yeah. It’s a mouthful. And the longer title isn’t especially popular with some people, as you may guess. After all, it straight up points out an issue and assigns blame right there, and against a particular generation that doesn’t much like being blamed for anything save the good. Which, you might suspect, could be part of the problem.

But David Willets is not intimidated. In fact, he’s a member of that generation (the Boomers). He’s also a British lord and chair of the British Science Association as well as a member of the British Council of the Institute for Fiscal Studies. In other words, he’s not some random individual. Willets is someone who was tasked with studying the economic impact of the largest generation ever, along with a whole wing of the British government and independent research groups. And after a several-decade study, comparing data going all the way back to the late 1800s (and in some cases even earlier), and yes, involving the United States, Willets wrote a book about their findings to try and widen their audience because, well, it’s vitally important that people know what they found out.

And I’m saying that you should read it. Hit the jump.

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Why You Should Play … Subnautica

So, before I get started on today’s post, I have something to say regarding WordPress, the company that I pay to provide hosting and my site’s toolset for writing.


The new block editor is not good. No, it’s worse than that. No intelligent company should have forced this on their users. Block editor follows the “recent” trend of “take functional tools for a user and destroy them in favor of the one user who thinks they’re too complicated or not pretty enough.” Then they hand you something colored in pretty colors and designed for someone who wants to take pictures for instagram rather than use it.

It’s not a good alternative. It’s slower to load, lacks basic functionality, and is all around terrible. Oh, and as a cherry on top, when I accidentally contacted customer support to complain about being unable to go back to the old version as a default, they shoved some “trademarked” level canned responses at me and then closed the channel.

And to top it all off, you can set the old editor as a default with a plugin that has—already—over 5 million downloads. However, you can’t use this plugin unless you pay WordPress for the exclusive ability to use plugins. Which is $300 a year. EDIT: And just clicking the button to see what that premium thing was added it to my cart and put me one click away from accidentally billing myself. That’d be alike any Amazon product adding itself to your cart because you looked at it. Not cool.

Which seems like a case of deliberately hobbling the product people are already paying you for in order to try and “coerce” them into giving up more money.

I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising to me that several of these new “blocks” in the block editor are dedicated to money.

Anyway, sorry to interrupt what would have started off as simply a post on Subnautica, but upon loading my site today, I discovered that I no longer had a choice between the functional “classic” editor and this new garbage the company is determined to shove down everyone’s throats because why would any of their customers know what they wanted or needed to do? They’re just semi-ambulatory money sources, right? It’s not like they use the tools or anything? Right?

Look, I get that there may have been improvements on the backend or new tools that someone wanted to introduce, but right now, in order to do something that used to be a single click of the mouse, I have to click a “block ediotr” (or whatever it’s called) open, then do a seach, an actual text-based search, for the same thing, find it in the search results, and then click it. That’s four steps instead of the old one step.

Or as people with intelligence call it: steps back.


Now, my rant on this new editor will now be put on hold until the next post, at which point I shall mock and ridicule WordPress once more (because this is seriously bad). Because I want to talk about Subnautica, and why you should play it.

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Op-Ed: How Covid-19’s Impact Might Be Good for the United States

Hello readers! I’m going to start this post with a bit of a disclaimer. Two, actually.

First, I know Covid-19 has been bad for a lot of people. It’s caused a lot of deaths, and a lot of disruption. There are people who have lost family members and friends because of this, or jobs and livelihoods. At the time of this writing, the global death toll was about 140,000. The goal of this post isn’t to say that Covid-19 (AKA Coronavirus) is good, it’s unmistakably a situation which we should take very seriously. But the impact it’s left on the other claw, could be good. Much in the way an early architectural disaster arising due to unknown elements can lead to a greater understanding of building stresses and safer buildings overall (this has indeed happened).

Second, this post is really only concerned with the United States of America. Because it’s where I happen to live, and where therefore I’m both most familiar with the structure of things as well as the effects Covid-19 has had on that structure. If you’re one of my many readers from outside the US (shoutout to Europe, including Sweden, Norway, Spain, and Finland, New Zealand, Brazil, and even Africa!) then this post may not be quite as relevant except maybe as a curious thought exercise or puzzlement or another opinion piece on how the US functions (or in this case, doesn’t function, as we’re about to discuss).

So, with both those things said, then, let’s move on to today’s post, and how Covid-19’s impact could be good for the US … if we’re aware enough to make it happen.

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Why You Should Read … The War on Normal People

Yes, I realize this is somewhat of a weird post. After all, Jungle came out just two weeks ago. If anything, I should be pushing you to read that.

And, well, I still am. Today’s post doesn’t really take away from that. The title I’m recommending today, for instance, is non-fiction. As opposed to Jungle, which is fiction. It does, however, discuss some issues that Jungle explores and even addresses, elements that were underlying themes even in Colony.

But before we get too into that, what is Why You Should Read …? Pretty simple, actually. It’s a recommendation post. Something I’ve always been a big proponent of, both on this site and in person, is that people should read more. Read as much as possible. It’s a vital part of being a good writer yourself, exposing yourself to other ideas and approaches. Even outside of writing, it’s good for the mind to introduce yourself to new concepts, ideas, or perspectives that you may not have thought about.

So, with offering that mindset I also have to live it, and one thing I enjoy doing a lot of when I’m not working is reading. Usually Sci-Fi or Fantasy (you can learn from those too) or the occasional non-fiction book when I get curious about something. Occasionally, I’ll come across a book that I think is worth recommending for one reason or another, and so I’ll bring it up and do one of these posts on it.

Now, before we move on, I want to make something clear: I get nothing out of recommending this book. No compensation, no ad revenue, no under-the-table wads of dollar bills or public/private recognition. I found this book, read it, and decided there was something in it worth gaining that made it worth recommending. I don’t get any compensation from talking about this book.

The only exception being if you, as a wanderer of the web, wend your way over to my books page and buy one of my own titles. But that’s one of my own books, and not in any way affiliated with the title I’ll be discussing today. If you grab one of those, you’re just grabbing one of those. If you go out of your way to pick up a copy of The War on Normal people, I don’t see a penny, because that’s not the point of these posts. There’s no compensation anywhere for me talking about why you should read it.

That said, I’ve talked enough about what this post is. How about we dive right in and talk about why I believe you should read The War on Normal People, by Andrew Yang.

Oh, and no worries about spoilers. This isn’t the type of book to have a spoiler warning.

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The Shifting Tide of Employment – Follow Up

Hey there readers! Sorry for the lateness of this post. I just wanted to get a bit more work done on Axtara: Banking and Finance before I had a work shift tonight. But speaking of work, remember that post I made about two weeks ago about how employment as we know it is soon going to shift completely as increasing automation quickly overtakes everything? The one where I pointed out it’s already happening and only accelerating, and we need to figure out how we’re going to adapt to it?

If you don’t, or haven’t read it, than you really should. Not just because it’ll give some needed context to this post, but because it may bring to light some things you didn’t know or realize and should probably be thinking about. It was called The Shifting Tide of Employment – The Sci-Fi Future is Already Here. It produced a lot of talk in comments here and on other sites where it was linked, because most people don’t realize how swiftly this change is moving. It’s not “when will it come” because it’s already here. Which is kind of the point of the post, along with a note that in my personal opinion, as a culture and a society we are not prepared in the slightest for the magnitude of change this will bring.

And then yesterday, things shifted again. In my first post, or at least in one of the comments, I compared the coming of automation to be an avalanche that’s already started. We can’t stop it, but we need to figure out how we’re going to weather it. It can be a good thing, or a bad thing, but we need to make those decision now, not later. A video someone mentioned in the comments (and I’ll link it again in this post for good measure) compares us to horses looking at the car and wondering if it’ll ever replace us.

Yes. The answer is yes. And this week, we moved a step closer. Take a look at this video from Boston Dynamics:

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The Shifting Tide of Employment – The Sci-Fi Future is Already Here

Alright, I’m gonna preface this with the note that I hadn’t planned on writing this post today, but employment and job-related issues are on my mind since my part time job is, well, no longer any-time. Which means financially, I’m about to hit … well, I wouldn’t call it a speed bump. How about a guardrail? Or just the ditch?

Basically, I really appreciate those book sales, Kindle Unlimited reads, and Patreon Supporters right now. In the meantime, I’m digging around for similar part-time work or gigs and selling off a few unneeded items.

That’s all I’ll say on the matter, but it has put the context of this post in mind. Which has been one I’ve been meaning to write for a while now. Because, well, what was Science Fiction a decade ago is right now becoming Science Fact (or already is), and in some cases I worry too many aren’t noticing.

All right, I’ll back up. What really sparked the genesis of this post was a post I read about six-seven months ago on someone else’s site that was, though I don’t remember the exact title,  basically “Automation is a Paper Tiger.” This article, from a fellow Sci-Fi author, mind you, was basically a giant opinion piece against automation (and in this context, we mean the broad-scale rollout of AIs and robots to replace most human workers).

If you’re thinking ahead and wondering “Hey, what happens to all those workers?” you’re on the right track. But let me get back to that.

This was, the article writer declared, impossible. Not only was it decades, maybe centuries away, it was a pipe dream. Companies will always need human employees, and robots couldn’t possibly do a job that a human did. They offered examples of jobs they (and commentators) believed were impossible for a machine to take over, like trucking (18-wheeler shipping). They were adamant that it was all just fearmonging, that no one had any cause to be worried about their job disappearing, it was all hearsay, etc etc.

I believe they were wrong. Actually, no, they are wrong. Why? Well, for starters, some of the very jobs they offered as examples of jobs that couldn’t be replaced by robots? Well …

Yeah, they’re already being replaced.

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Being a Better Writer: Building a Brand and Establishing Your Audience

Afternoon readers! I know it’s a bit late today. Sorry! I had an appointment that split my morning.

Now, I’ll admit I was tempted to do a bit on horror, since it is Halloween in two days (trick or treaters, huzzah!) but since this is the last topic on Topic List XI … I kind of wanted to clear it off. Besides, this is a topic I’ve avoided for years, and with good reasons that now aren’t quite as valid anymore.

That might have sounded a little confusing for some of you, so let me clarify. Since I published my first book and started writing Being a Better Writer, over five years ago now, I’ve had folks ask me about this topic. “How do you go about setting up a brand?” “How do you find an audience?” Etc etc. And you know what?

I couldn’t answer them! How could I? I had one book out! I didn’t have a brand at that point. I had a single published book that was making me snack money. There was no “audience” at that point which I could call my own. There were “people who liked my book,” “people who didn’t like my book,” and “people that had never read my book or heard of me.”

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Being a Better Writer: Cover Art

Hello readers! Welcome back to a Monday edition of Being a Better Writer! I know, it’s almost sad that I have to celebrate the posting of a Monday-centric series on a Monday, but my other job lately has been nuts. As in, I could write an entire post about how it’s an example of the dumpster fire that corporate America has created/become. I sort of want to, for my sanity as well, because … well, that’s a tale for another time. Or day.

Thankfully, things with this job are going pretty awesome. How so? Well, you might have missed it if these posts are the only ones you ever check out, but Shadow of an Empire (the snazzy cover you saw in the featured image) is available for pre-order! That’s right! It comes out June 1st, and joins my slowly-but-ever-expanding roster of adventures. If you’ve been reading Being a Better Writer but haven’t checked out any of my books yet, this is the point where I tell you that you definitely should. You’ll get to see all of the topics, elements, etc, that I talk about in these BaBW posts on display in some awesome fiction.

Also, if you haven’t, this week’s News Post is pretty packed-full of cool news and updates. Price drops, Reddit AMAs … check it out!

Okay, news and stuff out of the way! Let’s talk about a really tricky, often dividing topic among authors and writers: Book covers.

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Hunt: Showdown is like a 1890s Monster Hunter International Game

I’ve been a fan of Crytek’s video game offerings every since they burst onto the scene in 2004 with the ambitious and impressive Far Cry, a game that boasted impressive AI and vast, colorful maps famous for giving the player a wealth of options and choices, as well as a graphical fidelity that pushed modern systems to their limit—both things that would become a staple of their games moving forward. Selling off the Far Cry license to another publisher, Crytek then went on to create 2007’s Crysis, a game that built upon the foundation of designs laid in Far Cry while simultaneously spawning the meme “But will it run Crysis?” due to the game’s incredibly demanding system requirements. But despite those astronomical requirements—so high that computing groups around the world, from NASA to China, began using the game as a benchmark for testing the newest and most powerful computers—Crysis was an impressive game at its core, boasting advanced AI, physics, a draw distance most games couldn’t even match a tenth of, and open gameplay brought about by player abilities that led to a wide range of playstyles and tactics.

Then it all went downhill. Emboldened by the sales of Crysis, Crytek got ahead of itself. Determined to bring their titles to console, the studio slimmed down the sequels to Crysis, creating games that didn’t so much push the envelope as they did constrict it. Dropping the linear maps, advanced AI, and most of the gameplay options led to games that could release on the vastly weaker hardware of consoles … but also that weren’t nearly as fun to play. Crytek, counting on the graphical fidelity of their engine to sell engine licenses as well as games, also woke the sleeping giant of Epic. As Epic’s Unreal Engine began making serious strides to both price itself competitively and catch up with Crytek’s own CryEngine, Crytek found that they’d overreached themselves, and faced cutbacks, closing of projects, and other issues. And, for a time, the studio became fairly silent.

Now, having spent the last few years relatively silent save for market deals and behind-the-scenes operations that really aren’t so exciting to the general public, Crytek is back, and they’re finally letting their new project see the light of day. The dismal, dark, moody light of day that steeps Hunt: Showdown from top to bottom.

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