1) The first easy systematic error is regarding your hand size. Every action in the game involves drawing cards (although sometimes you can draw zero of them); and whenever you draw cards, you can keep one of them. But at the end of the action you need to discard down to your hand size, which is just 5 in solo, 3 with two players, and even less with more players.
If you want to do well in the 7th Continent you need to first use the cards in your hand to get below your maximum hand size before you choose any action on a tile. That also means that when choosing cards to keep, the cards you can play quickly are better than those you might only need in certain situations. Think of it that way: Playing a card or discarding a card due to full hand size both end you with the card on the discard pile. But if you played it, you got some useful effect out of it, which is obviously better.
2) Look at the terrain tiles carefully. In the 7th Continent the artwork on the terrain tile is part of the gameplay and not just decoration. Most importantly look out for hidden numbers, which allow you to replace your current tile with one with more options. But other elements like plants can also become important, provided you found the information what that plant is good for. On some of the event cards the artwork is actually the clue to what is the right decision.
3) Hunt as much as possible. If a terrain card has animal tracks and a spot/observe action next to them, that frequently means a hunting ground. Unless your discard pile is empty, you’ll always want to hunt first, explore other stuff later. And of course you should cook the meat you find if at all possible.
These tips should get you started on a successful adventure full of exploration. If you still find the game too hard, you have two options: One is replaying from the start and using previous knowledge to concentrate on the essential stuff (my wife and me did much better on the starting isle the second time around). The other is to modify the rules. You can use the 777 card. Or you can create a save checkpoint, which is not foreseen in the rules: When you reach a card that feels like a major decision point in the game, e.g. a non-terrain card that asks you whether you want to go north, east, or west, you can simply take a notepad and write down the number of that card, as well as list the cards from your satchel/journal. Then if you die, you can restart from there instead of from the beginning, especially if you already did the beginning several times and don’t want to repeat it.
Then do not worry about it. If you are interested in making your own games and don’t know coding then you may be surprised to know that there are many development programs/tools available which do not require any programming or coding skills.
There are software called Game Builders which provide drag and drop facility to create games.But before you start developing your games you must know following things:
- You should decide Narrative of your game and also how your game would look like.
- Decide Rules and Control for the game
- Last but very important Graphics and Music for the game
Following games developed using GameMaker
- Galactic Missile Defense
- Color Switch
- The Line Zen
- Trump On The Run
Interested to learn Android Programming ?
It used to be that any time a product bore the all-too-familiar ‘Made In China’ stamp, it was a sign of poor-quality. How things change. These days, China doesn’t just create cheap toys and the flotsam of the past. Nor does it just assemble devices for Apple, or make clothes for Nike.
China manufactures over 70 percent of all smartphones. Chinese brands accounting for half of the world’s market share. China also produces 80 percent of the world’s solar panels, air conditioners, PCs, and much more. It’s the world’s industrial powerhouse. Block miners in China are even estimated to control around 80 percent of the Bitcoin network hash rate.
There are two regions dominating the digital world and they’re both on the Pacific ocean. The West Coast of the U.S. houses Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Tesla, Illumina, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles. The East Coast of China is home to Tencent, Alibaba, Baidu, and Shenzhen.
Once strictly an importer of foreign technology, China has now become an exporter. The country set the new record for filing the most patents in a year, growing its patent filings more rapidly than any other top 10 country.
The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), together with divisions from Alibaba, Baidu, and Didi, noted in a September report just how fast Chinese tech companies are reaching unicorn status— achieving a valuation of over $1 billion.
According to the report, these companies take just four years to hit the magical $1 billion mark, on average. In comparison, U.S. companies take seven years. 46 percent of these Chinese-founded unicorns get there in two years, compared to just nine percent in the U.S.. The number of unicorns is almost on par, too. Deloitte and China Venture’s sixth Sino-US Unicorn Research Report revealed, China has just under 40 percent of world’s unicorn corporations. The U.S. tops the list with just over 42 percent. Third-place was India, which accounts for only four percent.
China recently set the new record for filing the most patents in a year, growing its patent filings more rapidly than any other top 10 country.
Part of the reason for this is the natural size of the Chinese and U.S. markets, internet user growth rates (increases in which are conducive to the creation of new start-ups), and gaps in the market. While some U.S. tech giants are expanding overseas —Google just announced a new AI research center in Beijing— we’ve yet to see aggressive moves from Chinese giants beyond some moves into India. That appears to be at least partly down to the ongoing development of China’s own market, where internet penetration is just over 53 percent.
These new Chinese unicorns are popping up far quicker and far bigger than U.S.-based ones, and it’s these that will shape the disruptive forces of the future domestically and eventually all over the world.
So how did we get here?
Open-source and sharing of information plays a bigger role in China than in the United States.
In the U.S., patents and copyrights once designed to protect intellectual property (IP) are now often used to aggressively hunt down infringements and seek damages, which stifles creativity and development. The idea of working together and sharing ideas is fostered by students and hobbyists, but not in corporate environments. The open-source world of software hasn’t found much uptake in hardware.
According to Managing Director of Shenzhen-based Hax Hardware Accelerator Duncan Turner, patents aren’t created in China to fight copycats and exert legal pressure, they’re used for trades between companies to share information.
The Chinese counterfeit consumer goods industry, which are known as ‘Shanzhai’ in China, has been a key for domestic skill creation. The industry operates largely in a legal grey area, and a number of serious cases of IP theft has been made it a hot topic for companies, and increasingly political.
Unlike in the US, patents aren’t created in China to fight copycats and exert legal pressure, they’re used for trades between companies to share information.
The Shanzhai industry has showcased the skills of engineers and designers who manufacture near-identical devices to leading brands at far lower costs. Yet as China’s middle class class gains more purchasing power, they are increasingly after genuine brands, which has changed the nature of Shanzhai businesses.
Though the Shanzhai model was once the only way for Chinese entrepreneurs sell devices in their once-poor country, a different path is opening. Moving with the same speed and mindset as before, many of these companies are now focused on the creation of new cutting-edge products and brands, with innovative and increasingly influential ideas. Wired’s 2016 documentary, Inside Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of hardware, featured names like Andrew ‘Bunnie’ Huang, Seeed Studio founder and CEO Eric Pan, David Li, Richard Chiang, and many more, and showed the incredible depth of electronics manufacturing, making, and hacking that made Shenzhen as it is today.
A separate BCG report highlighted ‘customer-to-business’ innovation in China, where product ideas come from customers through feedback, as well as intent and data analysis. These ideas are quickly produced, and can be just as quickly removed if unpopular.
This is different to the traditional model, where US companies create products based on more limited data and hope it will sell. The Chinese tech ecosystem is also far more concentrated and geared toward rapid action. It’s able to turn concepts into prototypes in days or weeks, rather than months.
In 2016, China’s online marketplace users generated 20 million product reviews and 2 million questions about products every day.
The BCG report details the incredible depth of data gathered by major Alibaba ecommerce marketplaces Taobao and Tmall. These sites are different to our familiar Amazon marketplace and focus on a rich experience over efficiency. Where Amazon users favor one-click, fast shipping, Taobao and Tmall offer entertainment, social sharing, and community. Alibaba has insisted it is in the social commerce business, rather than e-commerce.
In 2016, these marketplaces’ users generated 20 million product reviews and 2 million questions about products every day. Users spend much more time on these sites, often visiting them more than seven times a day. This makes them mega-hubs for data in a country with fewer Government restrictions on the collection and use of data. This allows for greater personalization and recommendations, and also helps businesses create and tweak new products based on deeper consumer insights.
Gender diversity is technology is a hot topic. Although not telling the full story, a simple comparison between Uber and Chinese ride-sharing app of choice, Didi Chuxing, offers some insight: At Didi, women occupy over 37 percent of its tech staff. Uber, cruelled by toxic culture claims, sits at just 15 percent.
Alibaba’s founder, Jack Ma, said at a conference earlier in the year that women were the ‘secret sauce’ to the company’s success, while urging firms to copy his playbook and “hire as many women as possible”. More than one-third of Alibaba’s founders are women, and a similar percentage hold senior management roles.
China’s authoritarian regime doesn’t offer a bastion of freedom and open-doors for skilled foreigners to consider immigration, but some laws have changed to fast-track highly-skilled professionals. Hugo Barra’s tenure at Xiaomi helped it grow from being just a domestic Apple-clone company to one with a global presence.
More work needs to be done to welcome more diversity into the workforce, but as many Chinese University students unable to find work, the country has to strike fairly fine balance.
In the U.S., many of Silicon Valley’s top companies have been founded or run by immigrants or the children of immigrants. This includes Steve Jobs at Apple, Sergey Brin at Google, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and many more. It’s clear that making your country attractive to the world’s best and brightest is a competitive advantage—as Nadella says himself:
Changes pursued by the Trump administration are putting this advantage at risk.
China: The meteoric rise continues
China’s growth has underpinned the global economy. Its efforts to gain equal footing with the West has spurred a middle class bigger than the entire U.S. population and created tremendous business opportunity.
That same growth is spurring China’s technology and digital firms to go further. As China’s unicorns catch up to those of the United States, the race to become biggest and best is on.
“I’ve just heard that my family home near Carpenteria is literally in flames at this moment,” a friend told me recently. She was particularly worried, she said, because “my mom has MS. She and my dad got the call to evacuate after midnight last night. They were able to grab a few photos, my sister’s childhood teddy bear, and the dog. That’s it. That’s all that’s left.”
My friend’s parents are among the thousands of victims of the 240,000-acre Thomas fire, one of California’s spate of late-season wildfires. Stoked by 80-mile-an-hour Santa Ana winds, plenty of dry fuel, and 8% humidity, such fires are devouring huge swaths of southern California from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara. Months of dry weather and unseasonably warm temperatures have turned the southern part of the state into a tinderbox.
Once again the country watches in horror as firefighters struggle to contain blazes of historic voracity — as we watched only a couple of months ago when at least 250 wildfires spread across the counties north of San Francisco. Even after long-awaited rains brought by an El Niño winter earlier in 2017, years of drought have left my state ready to explode in flames on an increasingly warming planet. All it takes is a spark.
Sort of like the whole world in the age of Donald Trump.
The crazy comes so fast and furious these days, it’s easy to forget some of the smaller brushfires — like the one President Trump lit at the end of November when he retweeted three false and “inflammatory” videos about Muslims that he found on the Twitter feed of the leader of a British ultra-nationalist group.
The president’s next move in the international arena — his “recognition” of Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel — hasn’t yet slipped from memory, in part because of the outrage it evoked around the world. As Moustafa Bayoumi, acclaimed author of How Does It Feel to be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America, wrote in the Guardian, “The entire Middle East, from Palestine to Yemen, appears set to burst into flames after this week.” Not surprisingly, his prediction has already begun to come true with demonstrations in the West Bank, Gaza, and Lebanon, where U.S. flags and posters of President Trump were set alight. We’ve also seen the first rockets fired from Gaza into Israel and the predictable reprisal Israeli air attacks.
Trump’s Jerusalem announcement comes as his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, pursues his so-called Middle East peace initiative. Kushner’s new BFF is Mohammed bin Salman, the heir apparent to the Saudi throne. We don’t know just what the two of them talked about during a late night tête-à-tête as October ended, but it probably involved Salman’s plans to jail hundreds of prominent Saudis, including 11 fellow princes. They undoubtedly also discussed a new, incendiary Israeli-Palestinian “peace plan” that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are reportedly quietly circulating.
Under this proposal, according to the New York Times, “The Palestinians would get a state of their own but only noncontiguous parts of the West Bank and only limited sovereignty over their own territory. The vast majority of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which most of the world considers illegal, would remain. The Palestinians would not be given East Jerusalem as their capital and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.”
If this is the “deal of the century” that President Trump plans to roll out, then it’s no surprise that he’d prepare the way by announcing his plans to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
That move reveals a lot about Trump’s much vaunted deal-making skills when it comes to the international arena. Here he has made a major concession to Israel without receiving a thing in return, except words of praise from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (and from evangelicals in this country). Given that Israel came into possession of the eastern half of Jerusalem through military conquest in 1967, a method of acquiring territory that international law views as illegal, it was quite a concession. The ultimate status of Jersalem is supposed to be a subject for the final stage of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, not a gift to one side before the talks even begin.
Behind this concession, as far as can be seen, lies no strategic intent of any sort, not in the Middle East at least. In fact, President Trump was perfectly clear about just why he was making the announcement: to distinguish himself from his predecessors. (That is, to make himself feel good.) “While previous presidents have made [moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem] a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.”
“Some say,” he added, that his predecessors failed because “they lacked courage.” In point of fact, Trump did not exactly “deliver” either. Just like his predecessors, he promptly signed a semi-annual waiver that once again delayed the actual embassy move for six months.
Rather than serving a larger Middle East strategy, Trump’s Jerusalem announcement served mainly his own ego. It gave him the usual warm bath of adulation from his base and another burst of the pleasure he derives from seeing his name in the headlines.
In his daily behavior, in fact, Trump acts less like a shrewd dealmaker than a child with pyromania, one who relieves anxiety and draws attention by starting fires. How else to explain his tendency every time there’s a lull in the coverage of him, to post something incendiary on Twitter? Each time, just imagine him striking another match, lighting another fuse, and then sitting back to watch the pyrotechnics.
Here is the grim reality of this American moment: whoever has access to the president also has a good shot at pointing this human flamethrower wherever he or she chooses, whether at “Little Rocket Man” in North Korea or Doug Jones in Alabama (although that flame turned out to be, as they British say, a damp squib).
The Middle East has hardly been the only part of the world our president has taken visible pleasure in threatening to send up in flames. Consider the situation on the Korean peninsula, which remains the greatest danger the world faces today. Who could forget the way he stoked the already glowing embers of the Korean crisis in August by threatening to rain “fire and fury like the world has never seen” — an obvious nuclear reference — on North Korea? And ever since it’s only gotten worse. In recent weeks, for instance, not only Trump but his coterie have continued to ramp up the rhetoric against that country. Earlier this month, for instance, National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster renewed the threat of military action, saying ominously, “There are ways to address this problem short of armed conflict, but it is a race because [North Korean leader Kim Jong-un]’s getting closer and closer [to having a nuclear capacity to hit the United States], and there’s not much time left.”
In September, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, reinforced this message in an interview with CNN. “If North Korea keeps on with this reckless behavior, if the United States has to defend itself or defend its allies in any way, North Korea will be destroyed.”
Indeed, Vipin Narang, a nuclear nonproliferation specialist at MIT, thinks the Trump administration may already have accepted the inevitability of such a war and the near-guarantee that South Korea and Japan will be devastated as well — as long as it comes before North Korea can effectively launch a nuclear strike on the U.S. mainland. “There are a lot of people who argue that there’s still a window to stop North Korea from getting an ICBM with a nuclear warhead to use against the United States,” he commented to the Washington Post. “They’re telling themselves that if they strike now, worst-case scenario: only Japan and South Korea will eat a nuclear weapon.”
You don’t exactly have to be an admirer of Kim Jong-un and his sad outcast regime to imagine why he might be reluctant to relinquish his nuclear arsenal. North Korea remains the designated U.S. enemy in a war that, almost seven decades later, has never officially ended. It’s situated on a peninsula where the most powerful nation in the world holds military exercises twice a year. And Kim has had ample opportunity to observe how Washington has treated other leaders (Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi) who gave up their nuclear programs. Certainly, threats of fire and fury are not going to make him surrender his arsenal, but they may still make Donald Trump feel like a real commander-in-chief.
Home Fires Burning
It’s not only in the international arena that Trump’s been burning things up. He’s failed — for now — to destroy the Affordable Care Act (though not for lack of striking matches), but the GOP has successfully aimed the Trump flamethrower at any vestiges of progressive taxation at the federal level. And now that the House and Senate are close to reconciling their versions of tax legislation, the Republicans have made it clear just why they’re so delighted to pass a bill that will increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion dollars. It gives them a “reason” to put to flames what still remains of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s and President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society of the 1960s.
House Speaker Paul Ryan gave a vivid sense of where that presidential flamethrower could be aimed soon when he told radio host Ross Kaminsky, “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit.” The goal? Cutting appropriations for Medicare and Medicaid, programs shepherded through Congress in the mid-1960s by Lyndon Johnson. These achievements helped realize his vision of the United States as a Great Society, one that provides for the basic needs of all its citizens.
Meanwhile, when it comes to setting the American social environment on fire, President Trump has already announced his post-tax-bill target du jour: welfare “reform.”
Welfare reform? Not a subject he even mentioned on the campaign trail in 2016, but different people are aiming that flamethrower now. The Hill reports the scene as Trump talked to a group of lawmakers in the Capitol basement:
“Ticking through a number of upcoming legislative priorities, Trump briefly mentioned welfare reform, sources in the room said. “‘We need to do that. I want to do that,’ Trump told rank-and-file lawmakers in a conference room in the basement of the Capitol. The welfare line got a big applause, with one lawmaker describing it as an ‘off-the-charts’ reception.”
We know that getting “big applause” guarantees that a Trump line will also get repeated.
At a time when “entitlement” has become a dirty word, we’d do well to remember that not so long ago it wasn’t crazy to think that the government existed to help people do collectively what they couldn’t do as individuals. As a friend said to me recently, taxes are a more organized way of crowd-funding human needs.
Who even remembers that ancient time when candidate Trump, not yet an arsonist on the home front, promised to protect Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security? President Trump is a different matter.
It seems likely, however, that at least for now the Republicans won’t push him on Social Security because, as Paul Ryan told the Washington Post’s “Wonkblog,” the Republicans don’t have enough votes to overcome a Senate filibuster and the program is too popular back home for a super-majority of Republicans to go after it.
Why can they pass a tax “reform” bill with only a simple majority, but not Social Security cuts? The tax bill is being rushed through Congress using the “reconciliation” process by which differences in the Senate and House versions are smoothed over to produce a single bill. This only requires a simple majority to pass in each house. The Senate’s “Byrd Rule,” adopted in 1974, prohibits the use of the reconciliation process to make changes to Social Security. Thank you, former West Virginia senator Robert Byrd!
In addition to the programs that made up Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” he also signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is already hard at work setting fire to the latter, as the president continues to demand evidence for his absurd claim that he won the popular vote in the 2016 election. He must be having an effect. At least half of all Republicans now seem to believe that he indeed did win that vote.
And before we leave the subject, just a couple of final notes on literal fires in the Trump era. His Department of Transportation has been quietly at work making those more likely, too. In a move supported by fans of train fires everywhere, that department has quietly reversed an Obama-era rule requiring that trains carrying crude oil deploy, as Reuters reports, “an advanced braking system designed to prevent fiery derailments… The requirement to install so-called electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes was included in a package of safety reforms unveiled by the Obama administration in 2015 in response to a series of deadly derailments that grew out of the U.S. shale boom.”
Government data shows there have been 17 such derailments of trains carrying crude oil or ethanol in the U.S. since 2006.
Then there’s the fire that has probably destroyed my friend’s house in southern California even as I wrote this. Donald Trump can hardly be blamed for that one. The climate in this part of the world has already grown hotter and drier. We can certainly blame him, however, for turning up the heat on planet Earth by announcing plans to pull the United States out of the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change, overseeing the slashing of tax incentives for alternative energy (amid a bonanza of favors for the fossil fuel industry), and working to assert an oil, gas, and coal version of American “energy dominance” globally. From the world’s leading economic power, there may be no larger “match” on the planet.
A Flame of Hope
What hope is there of quenching the Trumpian fires?
There is the fact that much of the world is standing up to him. At this month’s climate accord follow-up meeting in Paris, billionaires Bill Gates and Richard Branson announced “a dozen international projects emerging from the summit that will inject money into efforts to curb climate change.” The head of the World Bank insisted that the institution would stop funding fossil fuel programs within the next two years. Former American officials spoke up, too, as U.S. News & World Report observed:
“One by one, officials including former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, billionaire [and former New York City mayor] Michael Bloomberg, and former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry insisted the world will shift to cleaner fuels and reduce emissions regardless of whether the Trump administration pitches in.
I take comfort, too, in the extraordinary achievements of international civil society. Consider, for example, the work of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), this year’s recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. This summer, as a result of a campaign it led, two-thirds of the world’s nations — 122 of them — signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which outlaws the use, production, and possession of nuclear arms. That treaty — and the Nobel that rewarded its organizers — didn’t get a lot of coverage in the United States, perhaps because, predictably, we didn’t sign it.
In fact, none of the existing nuclear powers signed it, but the treaty remains significant nonetheless. We should not underestimate the moral power of international agreements like this one. Few of us remember the 1928 Kellogg-Briand pact, which outlawed recourse to war for the resolution of international disputes. Nevertheless, that treaty formed the basis for the conviction of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg for their crimes against peace. By implication, the Kellogg-Briand treaty also legalized a whole set of non-military actions nations can now take, including the use of economic sanctions against countries that violate international norms or laws.
ICAN leaders Beatrice Fihn and Setsuko Thurlow (herself a Hiroshima survivor) believe that, over time, the treaty will change how the world thinks about nuclear weapons, transforming them from a necessary evil to an unthinkable one, and so will ultimately lead to their elimination. As Fihn told the BBC’s Stephen Sackur, “If you’re uncomfortable with nuclear weapons under Donald Trump, you’re probably uncomfortable with nuclear weapons” in general. In other words, the idea of Trump’s tiny fingers on the nuclear trigger is enough to start a person wondering whether anybody’s fingers should be on that trigger.
The world’s reaction in Paris and ICAN’s passionate, rational belief in the moral power of international law are like a cool drink of water on a very hot day.
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- YouTube recently signed deals with Universal Music Group and Sony Music Group.
- Warner Music Group agreed to a deal back in May.
- The deals with the three big labels pave the way for a new music streaming service.
The rumors of YouTube’s new music streaming service appear to be coming true. Earlier this month we told you about rumblings that the streaming platform would roll out a new subscription streaming service. Now, Bloomberg is reporting that YouTube has secured the necessary deals to make it happen.
According to the report, YouTube has just agreed to deals with Universal Music Group and Sony Music Group. Warner Music Group, the last of the big three music labels, agreed to a deal with YouTube earlier this year.
Universal confirmed that the agreement with YouTube will give artists more flexibility and better pay. In addition to the better royalty rates for rights holders, some songs and videos will only be available through this new paid service, according to a Bloomberg source. That source also indicated that earlier this year, Universal was able to take control of ad-supported channels. It also asked YouTube to improve the technology that scans for user-uploaded videos for copyrighted content.
YouTube is currently one of the most popular platforms on the internet to stream music. Users can currently stream music for free, and the only revenue that rights holders see are from ad-based payouts and what channels see from YouTube Red subscriptions. This is in contrast to subscription-based services like Google Play Music, Spotify, and Apple Music that generate more revenue for music labels. The lack of revenue and approach toward protecting copyrighted material lead to friction between the streaming giant and music labels. But, this deal appears to sort out all of their issues.
Details on the new streaming service are nil right now. We expect that it will launch sometime in 2018, but we don’t have details yet on what it will cost or what it will include. If YouTube expects to turn users into paying customers, it’ll have to provide an incentive for them to pay up. Hopefully, that isn’t by restricting content that is currently free to stream.
What do you think YouTube’s new music streaming service will look like? What features would you want and how much would you be willing to pay?
Thundertree is an abandoned village a day’s travel from Neverwinter. The eruption of Mount Hotenow, which caused quite a catastrophe for Neverwinter half a century ago, destroyed the village of Thundertree. Erdan, the druid of the group who is prone to visions and nightmares, dreamed that the eruption of Hotenow was caused by a group of chanting fire cultists, but probably didn’t go as planned, as the cultists were killed in the event. What remained in Thundertree was mostly abandoned houses, with a population of ash zombies and twig blights. The group had gone to Thundertree to meet the druid Reidoth, who was supposed to know the location of Cragmaw Castle. Their “pet goblin” Droop also claimed to be able to find the way from Thundertree to Cragmaw Castle. They met Reidoth, who was able to provide a safe haven in the village, as well as the directions needed.
After clearing out most of the village from monsters, the group came across another group which likewise was engaged in fighting twig blights. That group was wearing blue armor and white robes, beset with feathers. They explained that they were from a club of aerial enthusiasts, and were in Thundertree to try to tame a griffon nesting here, or get eggs from his nest to raise as aerial mounts. The heroes agreed to accompany them to the griffon’s lair in the highest tower of Thundertree. But once there the air cultists tried to becalm the griffon by offering the adventurers up as sacrifice, so the group ended up killing both the cultists and the griffon. They were able to make the link between a symbol the cultists carried and the same symbol they had seen on a letter to Glasstaff in Phandalin.
On the way to Cragmaw Castle the group tried to question Droop for information about the castle. That was somewhat complicated by the fact that Droop could only count to 3, and used “3” as an answer to any question about numbers in which the answer exceeded 2. Not trusting the goblin’s offer to negotiate safe entry into the castle, they knocked him out and attached him to a tree, guarded by the paladin (the player was absent that session). Instead they built a camouflage out of branches and approached the less guarded south side of the castle at night. From there they could see into the banquet hall, but the goblins there didn’t look out the arrow slits. So they managed after a few attempts to unlock the side door. But they didn’t like the idea of advancing with the goblins in the hall behind them, so they decided to attack there.
From there they moved clockwise room by room. That enabled them to eliminate most guards in small groups. However it did move them more towards the entrance of the castle, instead towards the throne room. The toughest fight was against a group of hobgoblins. Popée the sorceress used a web spell on them, but between succeeded saving throws initially and later the web wasn’t all that effective. Then they tried to burn the web, but in 5E that deals only 2d4 damage, and the player rolled double 1s, so the spell wasn’t really a big success. The hobgoblins however had an ability with which they dealt an extra 2d6 damage if next to an ally. And two of them rolled critical hits, which doubles the number of dice on all damage, knocking the druid out of his bear form. After another fight in the central chapel of the castle the group had enough and decided to go back into the woods to take a long rest.
Returning to the castle they found that the bugbear King Grol had obviously noticed that the group had raided his castle and killed most of the goblinoids in there. So King Grol has gathered all the remaining defenders in the chapel, including a priest from the air cult. That ended up being a tough fight, with Theren being knocked down to zero health, but then rescued. The air cultist priest was a real menace, with a dust devil spell that prevented the archers and casters from sniping from the back. But Popée used a scroll of lightning bolt on King Grol and his pet wolf, killing the wolf and seriously damaging the bugbear. Soon after all the bugbears were dead. The priest tried to transform into gaseous form and flee, but didn’t make it out of the arrow slit in one round and concentrated fire killed him before his next round. At this point it had gotten rather late, and we ended the session.
Both Google and Verizon Wireless are making a last minute holiday sales push for the recently launched Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Over at the Google Store, you can get the 64 GB version Pixel 2 for $599 unlocked, or $699 for the 128 GB model, which is a $50 discount from its normal price. Pixel 2 XL buyers can get the 64 GB version for $774, or for $874 for the 128 GB version, which knocks off $75 from its normal price. There’s no word on how long this sales promotion will last.
If you want to save even more money and don’t mind being locked into one carrier, Target is selling the Verizon version of the 64 GB Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, or the 128 GB Just Black version of the 2 XL, for an even bigger discount. From now until December 24, you can get a free $250 Target gift card when you purchase the Verizon version of those phones from the retailer. The gift card is for customers who are either activating a new line or service or upgrading an current line with Verizon on a payment plan. In addition, you can also get $300 off all those Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL phones from Target until December 31, which will be applied as a monthly credit over 24 months.
Target and Verizon are also offering a $200 gift card for the purchase of the original 32 GB Google Pixel until December 24, if you’d rather go for last year’s flagship.
Right now, two heavyweights are vying for control of your living room. Google and Amazon are battling it out with their smart speakers, and so far, consumers are the winners.
The smart speaker war is the topic of a new report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. The report is bringing some surprising findings, like the total number of smart speakers sold and just how dominant Amazon has been so far. As of September 2017, Google has shipped 7 million Google Home products, whereas Amazon has shipped almost three times (20 million) as many Echo devices. Keep in mind that these numbers are just through September and don’t take into account the holiday shopping season.
The question is why? Why is there such a disparity between the two companies? What is Amazon doing so well that Google isn’t?
One of the biggest reasons for Amazon’s healthy lead is that it was on the market first. When people think of smart speakers, the Echo lineup is likely what they think of first simply because it has been around longer and they have had more exposure to it. The first generation Echo hit the market in June 2015 and Google didn’t release the Home until November of 2016, giving Amazon almost a year and a half head start.
That head start gave Amazon time to come up with other products too. When it added the Echo Dot to its lineup in March of 2016, it gave customers a much cheaper way to get a smart home speaker. The results speak for themselves: the Echo Dot has been Amazon’s biggest seller. That’s despite not going on sale for more than a year after the original Echo.
The lessons Amazon learned with the Echo Dot have spread to the rest of its lineup. Products like the second-generation Echo are cheaper than ever before. You can now get an Echo for as little as $79, even though they were upwards of $180 when they launched. Temporary price reductions are also getting more extreme, like the Echo Show which you can get for $80 off its normal asking price.
Google is doing its best to keep up. It dropped the price of the Google Home Mini, which competes with the Dot, to $29 for the holiday season. It also slashed the price of the original Google Home down to $79 for the same period. To fill out its lineup, it finally released the Google Home Max that it announced earlier this year. The Home Max is a $399 smart speaker that offers all of the functionality of the Google Home or Home Mini but with a premium audio experience. Amazon currently has no competitor for the Home Max.
Why is Amazon so intent on beating Google to the bottom? It all has to do with getting people into the Amazon ecosystem. You might be shocked to learn that the Amazon doesn’t make much off the products it sells. It currently sits at a 3% operating margin, whereas Google is at 26% and Apple 27% this fiscal year.
The Echo Dot is an opportunity for Amazon to sell even more products, and thus, make more money. Discounting it to $30 entices shoppers to throw it in their cart since its so cheap. Once the Dot is in their home, they’re more likely to subscribe to Amazon Prime for things like music streaming or to purchase more items from Amazon’s marketplace.
See also: Echo vs Dot vs Tap vs Show: Which is right for you?
While the two companies are sitting pretty with almost 100% of the market share right now, Apple is coming. The HomePod was announced earlier this year and will start shipping early in 2018.
The speaker will be priced at $350 and compete with the Home Max for the premium smart speaker crown. With Apple customers willing to pay more for the company’s products, can it challenge for control of the living room or will its lack of competition for the at the low end of the price range hurt its chances? We’ve yet to hear plans for a cheaper speaker that would compete with the Dot/Home Mini or the Echo/Home.
If you’re looking to pick up a smart speaker for yourself or a loved one this holiday season, check out the links below.
- Amazon Echo – $79.99
- Amazon Echo Dot – $29.99
- Amazon Echo Show – $149.99
- Google Home – $79
- Google Home Mini – $29
- Google Home Max – $399
A review of 57 years of international scientific evidence may help change the perception of kratom and restore its potential as a public health tool that deserves more research.
As the nation grapples for solutions to the opioid epidemic—now claiming more than 33,000 American lives each year—the potential of the psychoactive plant kratom to become a useful tool in the battle has been the subject of hot debate.
While some in the medical field and many in the general public attest to kratom’s ability to help curb opioid addiction and relieve pain, governmental agencies continue to warn against its dangers to mental health, citing links to psychosis and addiction. In 2016, the DEA briefly recommended criminalizing kratom possession and distribution, before withdrawing the proposal.
The study not only points to the potential benefits of kratom as a safer substitute for opioids, but also suggests the plant’s potential to reduce negative mood and relieve anxiety. Published online this week in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, it represents the largest systematic review of the scientific literature on kratom use and mental health.
“There is a lot of confusing information about kratom in the media that makes it difficult for clinicians and the public to make informed choices,” says lead author Marc T. Swogger, associate professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center’s psychiatry department. “This study clarifies that there is no good scientific basis for claims that kratom causes psychosis, suicide, or violence, and the available data do not indicate that kratom is a significant public health problem.”
Coauthor Zach Walsh, associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia notes that current approaches to addressing the opioid epidemic are leaving large numbers of high-need individuals without effective treatment.
“We need to explore all options, and our findings suggest it’s time to carefully examine the potential of this ancient plant,” says Walsh.
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Swogger and Walsh reviewed the combined results of 13 studies conducted between January 1960 and July 2017, using data from 28,745 individuals.
“There is a clear need for more rigorous, well-controlled, prospective studies to support a sophisticated, nuanced understanding of the plant,” says Swogger. “But data across cultures indicated that kratom has a legitimate role to play in mitigating harms associated with opioid dependence. The bulk of the available research supports kratom’s benefits as a milder, less addictive, and less-dangerous substance than opioids, and one that appears far less likely to cause fatal overdose.”
Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa; also known as krathom or ketum) is part of the coffee family and has been used medicinally for centuries in Southeast Asia to relieve symptoms of opioid withdrawal, to relieve pain, diarrhea, and cough, and increase stamina and energy. People chew raw leaves of the kratom plant, boil them to serve as tea, smoke, or vaporize them.
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In recent years, kratom’s use has expanded beyond Asia, and its leaves, powders, gums, capsules, and extracts are widely accessed through retail outlets and the internet in North America and Europe.
“We need more and better research to be able to outline the risks and benefits of kratom in greater detail,” Swogger says. “Only through well-controlled studies can we elucidate kratom’s potential for good and harm, and give the public, policy makers, and health care professionals the information needed to make informed decisions.”
Source: University of Rochester
Original Study DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.10.012
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