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A Year of Starcraft II

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Six Months

The halfway point.  It seems crazy that it has gone by so quickly.  And yet, I feel like I’ve been playing Starcraft II for a looooong time.  My head is packed full of timings, builds, pro games, names, tournaments, and lore.  It has truly become a part of me.  There are very few people in my life to whom I have not mentioned SC2.  Some probably roll their eyes when I bring it up, but I don’t really care.  It feels great to finally have a “thing”, a hobby, a passion.  It is a nightly struggle to turn off GSL, knowing I have to be up for work in eight hours.  My “day off” has turned into a night I look forward to, not to get away from Starcraft, but to be able to watch State of the Game live and in its entirety. I have participated in tournaments (even won a game or two), had coaches, made friends, and been entertained and educated for countless hours (somewhere around 400 I guess).  It’s been great and I’m looking forward to the next six months.  Back to Platinum and beyond (-_-).

It’s been awhile since my last update (I suck, I know), but I’ve been going at it pretty steadily the past week or so, after my vacation.  I have become a bit more addicted to streams and watching games rather than playing them.  It was something I was warned about many times when I started, and I guess it took me a while to finally appreciate the warnings.  I feel like I’m at that point where I can see the differences between great play and my own play.  Rather than getting disgusted at my own games, I watch the pros and higher level players do it all correctly.  I’m attempting to remedy it, playing more games each night, and just letting the streaming take over more of my free time instead of my prescribed playing time.  There has honestly not been a day since I returned where I haven’t watched and played at least 3 hours, usually more.   Take now, for instance.  I have played a couple hours and am getting ready to watch the Blizzard Cup Finals (Awards show is okay, but when are the matches?!?!).  Like I said, I’m loving all of it.

Game wise, I have been feeling a lot better in all of the match-ups, especially ZvZ.  It feels like I’m on my way up, hopefully in this next season.  Once again, I’m trying to focus on droning, with the addition of trying not to spend so much time microing, which was hurting my macro.  It is still hard for me to do many things at the same time and, while I am getting better, it is one of the biggest blocks I have in moving up.  I believe I’ve said this before, but it really is a weird kind of limit I’ve reached on splitting my focus.  I’ve been told it’s something that comes with time and I am better now than I used to be.  It’s just a kind of strange thing I worry I can’t do.  I’ve actually been trying to speed up my play consciously for the last few days and it seems to be working for the most part.  I guess those are the three things I’m keeping at the top of my TO DO list this week: drone, focus and speed.

Goodnight and GLHR.

 

 

Not Sure If…

I’ve failed my year or I can get a one time pass. Hear me out.

My vacation for thanksgiving was probably the biggest drain I have experienced in the last year or so.  I guess spending that much time with family (not necessarily all people I like, but still must love), and doing that much driving was too much for me.  I am, literally, spent.  Add to that giving a giant fuck you to my normal, for me, sleep schedule and I have been unable to drag myself to the computer to play Starcraft.  At first, I thought I would just marathon the hours the next day, then the next.  It adds up quickly.  I then, for a bit, contemplated just giving it up.  Which made me feel even worse.

I mean, how could I stop now?  I’m at basically the half way point.  I can do this, I know I can. More importantly, I want to do this.  Starcraft has become my hobby.  It is the thing I think about, the thing I want to talk about and watch if I’m not playing.  A week off because of outside influences doesn’t seem that horrible when I look at it like this.  But I actually feel pretty bad.  I’ve been beating myself up everyday about it.  It seems so stupid to screw up the thing I set up to keep myself working at something.  And to those of you following me, I’m sorry.  I feel I’ve let you and myself down, but I want to keep going.

So I’m asking for a one time pass on the week, and to add it to the end of my year.  Also, I will not take a day off for two months.  If I don’t get a deluge of “You failed” comments or the like, I’ll go ahead with this and be on track to finish my year on June 15 instead of 8th.

Goodnight and GLHF.

Rectification

Working overnights at work this week has really screwed up my schedule (both sleep and otherwise); I have not been playing as much as I should.  I have probably not played more than 4 hours in the last 3 days (and streamed even less).  I’ve kept up with watching Day9, SoTG, and some streams (it’s infinitely easier to throw one of those on at 6 in the am and watch until I start nodding off than playing for some reason), but I don’t feel like I’ve done enough to hold up my commitment to this year.  So, Tuesday, November 15 I will try to rectify the situation.  Normally my day off (I’m just going to move that to today because it’s my last overnight and I am beat), I will instead be playing and streaming for five hours.  From 7pm to 12am central I’ll be on.  Hopefully it will help me reset my schedule and get back into a rhythm.

In actual SC2 news, I’m solidly back in the top of my gold league, playing the random platinum.  I feel better, back to where I was before at least, but still not good.  Working on spending my minerals (now that I’m back to droning well) helps a lot, to the point where the games in which I truly focus on it well are won handily.  Macro, Macro, Macro is the mantra, right?  Why do I suck?  Macro.  How do I get better?  Macro.  Why did my opponent win?  Cheese…  Wait, I mean Macro.  I’m going to keep focusing on this for the week, really trying in every game to spend every last mineral as quickly and profitably as possible.

Good Morning and GLHR.

On Making Time

As I have tried to expand my game knowledge of timings and builds, I was struck with how hard I find it to make time for Starcraft II outside of my allotted two hours.  I want to spend more time on teamliquid, learning the prevalent builds, counters and what has been used before and may be worth trying now.  I want to analyze all of my replays, going over them in minute detail to pick out the small and large holes in my game.  I want to study pro games (Nestea, Idra, Sheth, Stephano) in depth and mimic what they do and how they do it.  All of these are things I could and should do, and they would, without a doubt, help me in my effort to become a better SC2 player.  But (yeah, there’s that but), I find myself distracted by the ephemera of the game, and all of those shiny things in life that have longed distracted me from actually working on anything.  Hopping on Reddit for 15 minutes at the end of the night turns into two hours of mindless surfing.  Sleeping in a bit on my day off turns into vegging for a few hours while watching television, dragging my ass out of bed, and then again with the Reddit.

For the first two or three months (not exactly sure where it cut off), I didn’t play any other video games except for SC2.  I feel I made the biggest strides and gained the most knowledge during this time.  But when I started playing other games, I felt like my progression slowed and I wasn’t thinking as much about Starcraft.  It’s not so much that it’s a bad thing to play other games, but that it takes away from what I’m trying to focus on.  I have stopped playing other games, now, as I have been trying to focus more, but, like I said, other things are still getting in the way.  Really, forcing myself to do something is apparently the only way I will actually do it.

So, I’m going to add an hour to my requirement.  An hour of study, be it reading actual game related posts on teamliquid, working on learning builds, studying timings or analyzing replays (both mine and pros).  I have the time.  Shit, I have nothing but time.  I work, go out with friends occasionally, but otherwise don’t have much of anything requiring my attention.  It sounds kind of pathetic, but I actually like it like that.  And it allows me to devote even more of my time to Starcraft.  That desire, to get better, to see this year through to the best of my capabilities, is still there.  I just have to make myself accountable to it.

Goodnight and GLHF.

Learning Still

My week of supply watching has gone well.  Not great, but okay.  I’m getting blocked less and less.  One thing that set me back a bit, but I think will help a lot more in the long run, was turning off the sound error messages.  I can’t hear the “Need More Overlords” anymore.  It took some time to get used to, which shows how much I was using it as a trigger to make overlords.  But since turning it off, I’m down to one or two blocks when I’m not paying attention in a game.  Some games I can go without getting blocked.  I’m going to just keep focusing on it.  Really watch it this week.  I did get distracted with some game issues like build orders and the like, but I really want to get this ingrained to the point where I instinctively look at it all the time.

Watching a Day9 daily routinely has been fun and instructive.  I learn something new from each one.  His video of coaching djWheat was very helpful in showing me how I should be playing.  In particular the not looking at what I’m doing.  Hands and eyes should work independently of each other.  I started trying to do this, and play slower.  “Oh, he’s attacking?  Wait, I have to put these drones into the gas.”  It’s little lessons like these that I think will help me a great deal over the long run.  If nothing else, it’s increasing my game sense, which can only help.  I’m going to keep the schedule of watching one every other day.

Coming up on three months now, of my Starcraft II year, and  I can already see some of the benefits of this in other aspects of my life.  I watch a lot less television now.  I still catch the good stuff with my DVR (Breaking Bad, Daily Show, True Blood- not as many goofy Fairies this season as I thought, and I mean that literally not as a slur), but it’s no longer on constantly in the background from the time I get home until I go to sleep.  I have tried, in the past, to do this on my own, but never got it to stick.  I don’t know exactly when television started to take up so much of my time and thoughts, but it is stupid to watch so much (cue Ooompa-Loompas).

I used to read a lot more, and with the addition of Starcraft and subtraction of a lot of television, I’ve gotten back into it gradually .  In the past three months I’ve probably read five books (Ready Player One is my favorite so far- geeky, funny, a quick read), which is probably two or three more than I would have read awhile ago, but still four or so less than way back when.  If that makes any sense.  All in all, a positive to me.

Video game wise, other than Starcraft II, I hadn’t played anything for the first two months.  A complete black out of all other games.  And then, Deus Ex: HR came out and I wanted to see what my new computer could do (I really did overbuild for Starcraft II.  I could’ve done with half the computer I have now, but I’m still really happy with it).  Whilst on Steam playing that game, I saw that The Witcher 2 came out in August.  I got it and played some of that game, which reminded me of having so much fun with the first few hours of the first Witcher.  I never actually played much of that game because my then computer was a little too slow for it.  It was the first computer I built myself (I still have it.  Is that strange?), and was reaching the end of it’s usefulness when The Witcher came out.  I was given a Mac after that, and never had much luck gaming on it.  Anyways, I decided to start over completely with the first Witcher and am having a blast.  The point of all this, and I’m sorry to have blabbed so much, is that I’m still playing despite how annoyed I get with it at times.  Usually, playing something that challenges me would end up in me quitting and moving on to something else.  I mean, opening a door, four guys jump on me and I’m dead in five seconds is one example of frustrating.  Having no other saves but one from 30 minutes prior to that, is another (and completely my own damn fault).   And while this isn’t that big of a deal, it is a nice reminder that I am bit by bit being changed by my year of Starcraft.

I also want to add that the other things I am doing are not replacing Starcraft in my life.  In addition to the two hours a day, I have not missed a day of turning almost all of the links purple on Screddit (I’m in the middle on text only Screddit.  The discussions about things like hydras and ZvZ games are awesome and I have seen very few of those on there before, at least as in depth as they are going now.  But it seems kind of false to force that on a whole community.  Like I said, in the middle so I’m not worried about it either way.) and have been watching a lot more streams lately.  I sat for a couple hours the other day watching Destiny, CombatEX and some other dude play the Insane AI.  It wasn’t about the game they were playing so much, but about being part of the community of people.  They were talking about the teams, other players, and the general ephemera around Starcraft II.  And then I got to watch Idra play and commentate.  I really enjoyed that and hope to see more. He’s still the guy I root for in the tournaments, so hearing what he thinks as he plays is great.

So it’s not like Starcraft II is fading from view, but more finding a natural place in the order of my life.  Wake up, check Screddit.  Go to work, check Screddit at lunch.  Come home, watch a show (if anything good) or a stream until I’m ready to start playing.  Afterwards, play some games and/or read.  I may be pushing the blog to the side a bit, but, hey, that’s nothing new, right?  Hopefully this giant tome will sate the readers for a couple of days.  Perhaps I should only do a blog post on my day of watching a daily for an hour and playing for one hour.  I’ll try.  Again, I’ll try.

And now that I’ve spent over an hour on my day off writing this, I think I’ll go play some more Witcher.

Goodnight and GLHR.

 

No, Bro (Or, 100 Wins)

I got a couple of comments on the last blog post about where I’ve been, even one slighting my age and how I work in retail because I can’t follow through with anything.  I may not have posted on here in nine days, or streamed in a few, but I have been playing constantly.  Obviously, I haven’t been on the last three days (like I put in the blog post that was commented on) as I was on a mini-vacation after playing through the last three of my “off” days.  I wasn’t exactly pissed about the comment, but annoyed.  I am aware that I suck at life and that a great deal of that has to do with my not following through with things.  But that’s what this year is about , following through with something.  I haven’t given up.  I’m still working at.  I’m sorry if I didn’t make it clear what was going on, but I’m still here.

About the missing blog posts:  This is really the most difficult part of the year.  It wasn’t a stipulation of success, and I originally said I would do it semi-daily as a way for those of you out there to check up on me.  I have been doing it regularly for the most part, but the last week or so has been a little taxing AFK, so I decided to stop for a bit.  Getting to sleep before 4am, usually, was better than 5am or later after finishing a blog post.  I am throwing myself back into it tomorrow, so daily posts will return.

I finally made it to 100 wins on Thursday night.  This had became my new goal before my vacation after I realized that the leader of my league had 1600+ points and there was no way I could best that in four days, even with my bonus pool. It felt great to hit this milestone, and while playing mostly silvers, with some high bronzes thrown in.  My mechanics are getting better, APM is hovering around 65, which is up from around 45, and the wins are a lot more satisfying.

I have been trying to make myself tech up quicker, and farther, while still playing without a specific build order.  I worked on the Ice Fisher (or Spanishiwa) build for a few days with a coach, but didn’t think it worked well where I’m at and vs. the opponents I face.  I can see the benefits, and will most likely return to it later, but playing more of a counter game has worked well for me.  Generally speaking, this means lings/banes, with mutas and, later, broodlords vs Terran, and ling/roach, corruptor (screw you, Collossi) and broodlord vs. Protoss.  Zerg is more of a crap shoot right now.  I will play an earlier pool and generally base what I do on what I’m facing.  Vs. a faster zerg (like quick mutas) this results in losses if I don’t pay enough attention.

I’d like to go ahead and have particular builds, but need to do more research to figure out what the best for each race would be for where I’m at right now.  I think I’m ready, and will start looking in the next week.  I foresee a lot of TL browsing.

I’ll most likely play tonight, so look for a stream later if you’re interested.

Goodnight and GLHF.

Reflections On A Month Of Starcraft II

I’ve been trying to write this post for a few days.  I’m sorry about the delay.  I’m actually, as of now, three days over a month.  Writing this blog, without a doubt, has been the most difficult part of the month.  It is hard to put into words what I’m experiencing in a way that’s not boring as hell.  And it takes upwards of an hour to write, so most nights I’m still working on it past 4am after playing all night.  In the interest of keeping myself sane and getting sleep, I’ve decided to alternate days with blog posts straight about what I’ve been doing and the next day a replay that I go over briefly to illustrate what I was thinking in a game and how I think I can improve.

On the actual Starcraft side of things, I’m having a blast.  There’s so much to the game, that I have yet to find myself bored.  I even skipped last week’s day off because I wasn’t thinking about it and simply wanted to play.  All of my in-game friends and those who watch the stream have been nothing but helpful.  I am actually surprised.  People told me that posting my character code was a bad idea and that I would be spammed or trolled.  But only a little bit of stream troll chatter is all I’ve seen of it.  And even that was kind of eh.  I’m almost disappointed.

There are a number of people who I’ve played games with and are a big part of making every night I play a blast.  Espera is a great 2v2 partner and always there with a word of encouragement on the stream and in game.  Lucidburrito (one of my favorite names) is another who’s always watching the stream and helping and playing in the couple of 1v1 observer matches I’ve played.  OSJP has also been a lot of help with practice games and tips as I’m playing.  RNA, Combust, Lykkin, Justice, Skitzor, HTMC, Krispy and a lot of other people have helped and played with me over the month.  I thank all of you for making this an incredibly easy and fun month.

Razer, my coach, has been the biggest help by far.  Since I began playing online, he has been online almost constantly watching my stream and giving me tips as I go and telling me what I missed on my goals.  His progression of things to work on and teach me has worked better than I could have hoped.  After only working on mechanics and macro for a few weeks, I believe I’m headed out of bronze (I’ve begun playing silvers and golds).  I was sorry to hear today that he won’t be on as much in the future, and  it feels strange to say this about someone I met online only recently, but honestly this makes me sad.  To celebrate with or knock me back down when I thought I was hot shit, and just someone to talk to, Razer was always there.  He’s not gone completely, but I just wanted to say how much his help and friendship has meant.

All of this is just part of what I’ve gotten out of letting Reddit pick my hobby for a year.  I also feel excitement about something again.  Even if I’ve not had a good day, I’m looking forward to playing.  Not just to play a game and escape, but to improve and work at it.  I’ve had to hold myself back from trying to learn everything all at once and instead focus on my goals.  Here is the passion I was looking for.  Like I said originally, I wanted to focus on something and luckily the thing chosen was exactly what I needed.

In the last week, I finally got a new desk and chair.  I’m playing in a correct position and my hands don’t hurt after playing for hours.  I have also ordered a new CPU cooler, which should cool the computer down a lot.  A headset with mic is next.  I was going to just buy a crappy one, but decided against it and want a nicer wireless headset with mic, hoping it makes the dubstep I’ve been listening to sound even better.  Also on the to purchase list: a mechanical keyboard (everyone talking about click heaven has convinced me), perhaps a new monitor (not sure if I really need one), and a Starcraft II poster to complete the battle center I’ve got going.

Looking forward, I hope to keep progressing steadily.  I could put a goal out there, like Masters by the end of the year, but I don’t know if it would help or hurt.  Putting a final destination doesn’t seem like it would do much other than to make me feel bad if I failed to accomplish it, but there’s always a possibility it would spur me to work harder.   I will at least continue to work hard and try for this.  If nothing else, I can say I tried.  As it is, at the end of the year I’m sure I will keep playing.

Goodnight and GLHR.

 

On Lava, Challenges, and Leaving Work Early To Play Starcraft

Sometimes, work is just annoying.  I mean, there’s only so many times I can call somebody an asshole in my head as I smile at them and give them what they want.  And with the holiday day this pay period, I wasn’t losing anything by leaving early.  So, with Starcraft II on the brain, I left and figured I could get home early and play my two hours in time to get some sleep.  Hah!  About four hours later, and the only reason I quit was because my arm hurt.

I seriously think I do need a desk and chair.  The weird position I play in was more noticeable today because I was trying to use the hotkeys (4s 4sz 1a, etc.).   Too many days of that and carpal tunnel here I come.  Although perhaps it is just the muscle I need to build up, since it is my left forearm…

On to the game:

I started off with two games vs. the AI.  I played as random, which were me as Terran and the computer as Protoss for the first and me as Zerg vs. computer Zerg for the second.

I won the Terran vs. Protoss game the same way I did the last time (bunkers + marines and tanks).  The only thing that was really different, I think, was the timing.  I felt quicker, and as soon as the Protoss force was repelled by the mix of tanks and marines in bunkers, I launched the army and took out their base.  It was good to win, and improve a bit, but not very satisfying to play the same game.  It will be hard not to just do that if the match comes up again.  I am left wondering what a Protoss force in the multi would do and how I would counter it.

The Zerg vs. Zerg game was a fun one.  I employed extensive use of the hotkeys in that game (thanks for the tips in the comments), popping out drones and zerglings like I had been doing it for months instead of two days.  But it took me a while to realize I needed to make different units.  I only started making roaches after my first three zergling attacks didn’t yield any results.  I also started using queens to inject larvae so I could have more units to make.  That is a very interesting and, it seems to me, very useful ability.  Someone mentioned Zerg’s ability to not make many units until you actually see a rush coming, at which point you can start popping out your units (that’s what she said).  The injecting skill must be what they were talking about.  I believe my lack of variety of units is the reason I lost.  After expanding, plus having an extra lair in my main base (I hit the wrong key and didn’t realize until it was already finished), I should have been making some of the air units.  That was what defeated me, at least.  My three queens couldn’t hold them off, and those plus roaches destroyed my base.  I definitely felt much better about playing Zerg that game, though.  It wasn’t so alien.

After that, I decided to play the challenges, as a few people had suggested them to me as a way to learn the countering units.  I enjoyed this part of the game a lot.  Setting up different mixes of units and seeing how they fared against the others was challenging and very interesting.  I lost repeatedly on the first one of Terran vs. Zerg.  I kept sending my tanks against the Ultralisk, thinking it needed that much firepower.  But, no, it turns out the Marines, with the stim ability, are better against those.  I probably should have expected that, seeing as how the ranged Zerg unit kept killing my marines over and over again.  However, it never occurred to me that the range vs. range was the correct thing to do. At least, not until I finally looked at the hint.

The Protoss vs. Terran challenges were easier, and I liked using the psionic powers of the High Templar.   Although the Protoss Carriers don’t seem to be very powerful.  I had a hard time with those vs. the Terran Battlecruisers.  But all in all it was a relatively quick challenge.

I tried to at least get silver on one of the challenges, but couldn’t do it.  I may end up going back to them, but not until I finish the others.

On the campaign side, that lava level kicked my ass.  I made it about twenty minutes in and didn’t have more than 500 of the 8000 resources I needed, so I stopped for the night.  I couldn’t get the hang of moving everything around.  I just sat there, as the resources dwindled, building units (which wasted the resources I needed to complete the level) when I should have scouted more. That would have allowed me to  find the other spots with resources and keep moving as the resources were depleted.  Hopefully this works when I try it tomorrow.

I really, really want to try the multiplayer, but I know if I do I will never come back to the campaign.  So I’m gong to finish the campaign and the challenges before moving on.  I have kind of skirted around this, saying I would play the campaign for a week or so before moving on, but I do think I should finish it.  Someone said that after the first five, and learning the basics, it’s really not that important.  I think that perhaps this is partially right and while the campaign won’t make me any better at the tactics of the game, I will have a greater grasp of the controls when I finish.

All of the offers of games are very tempting, though.

I almost didn’t update this blog tonight, but it felt wrong not to write.  There’s something to be said for going over everything I’ve done, and most of the examining and realizing what I did wrong happens when I’m trying to explain my play here.  So, I will try to keep this an every day thing.

For tomorrow, more challenges and I will at least finish the lava level, if not one more.

About Me

So, who exactly is this guy that’s going to devote a year of his life to Starcraft 2?

To start with, I am a 28 year old living in the US.  I work in retail, as a manager of a store in a large chain.  It’s a good job, I’m relatively young for a manager and I can make my own schedule (I work nights, so I don’t have to wake up before noon).  I’m a college graduate, albeit with a worthless degree in the arts.

Video game wise, I’ve played on almost everything since the original Nintendo, a notable exception being PlayStation 2.   However, I’ve never actually beaten a game save for one.  Contra.  This caused some questions when I mentioned it before, something along the lines of that it was impressive if I did it without the code.  Well, I did, but the only reason I did that was because I could never remember the damn code, which is embarrassing considering how prevalent it is today.  I tried the damn code, I tried it every way I could think of.  But I never got it to work.  So I played the game over and over until I beat it.  I have never played a strategy game like Starcraft, instead spending much of my time with shooters and rpgs.  I also lost a few months to WoW.  Lately I’ve been playing on the 360 a bit, mostly RPGs like Dragon Age (made it about half way through) and some Call of Duty when friends are on.

Most of my time, as far back as I can remember, has been spent reading.  Since I was a kid I would read anything I could get my hands on.  From John Grisham to Paul Auster, I didn’t care what it was, so long as the story was interesting and the writing wasn’t shit.  I have just recently discovered the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin.  It is an excellent read.

On the Starcraft II front, I chose a setup for my computer, with r/buildapc‘s help.  The parts are on the way, and I will be building either Monday or Tuesday.  Just in time to start the year of Starcraft. I will post pictures of the build and write up the process.  It should be interesting.  I’ve only done this once before, and it was about 8 years ago.

I have also been watching some of the MLG Starcraft 2 tournament.  I was surprised with how much I enjoyed watching the matches.  It looks like a lot of fun.  June 8th is getting closer and I’m getting excited to start playing some Starcraft II!

About This Blog

On June 1, 2011 I submitted a request to r/askreddit, asking the hive-mind to select something to which I would devote two hours a day, six days a week for a year.

You see, I have a problem focusing on things.  And while reddit is perhaps part of this problem, I thought it could help me with a solution.  To force myself to work at something, I put myself out there with this request, thinking that the shame and the penalty ($1000 to a charity of reddit’s choosing) of not going through with it would give me the push to complete a year of work, no matter what that work would entail.

I had no way of knowing what would be chosen, but I thought I had an idea.  An instrument or a language, perhaps.  And as I went to work, about 8 hours after posting the request, sure enough learning to play the piano was the top voted suggestion.  Hah.  The hive-mind had other ideas.

With over 1300 more votes than the next choice, Starcraft II will be my focus for a year.

A strange idea at first, but the comments and obvious dedication of the subreddit point to something that sounds like a lot of fun, with some excellent people to learn with. I have never played a strategy game like this, but I have seen a few videos. So, I will start with a clean slate.

I will begin on June 8th, 2011, and update my progress on this blog.