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23 August
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Manchester United captaincy race is between Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney …

Wayne Rooney

Having deputised for others on several occasions, serving as the de facto captain would be a role that Wayne Rooney would relish. Approached with the proper attitude the responsibility could carry him to the next level in his development as a player, building confidence within him, and transforming what has become a tarnished image without. Earning the new manager’s trust, and leading United back into the Premier League title race would also bolster his credentials for the recently-vacated England captaincy.

Rooneys previous contract maneuverings, with rumours that he was pushing for a move to City in 2010, and Chelsea last summer, are the same type of dissension in which Van Persie engaged with Moyes. There are also the troubles with his fitness and accusations regarding an off-season regimen erring on the side of light. Van Gaal surely knows about these issues, and will wish to see nothing less than a full commitment to training, and to the club, before he is willing to trust the face of Manchester United with its future. Such a commitment, however, will have supporters looking eagerly towards his ascension up the venerated clubs all-time goal-scoring list, on which his 216 trail only Denis Laws 237 and Sir Bobby Charltons 249.

It is said that Moyes had intended to hand the captaincy to Rooney this season, with Nemanja Vidics retirement to San Siro completed, but, at this point, the United universe is past caring the least what Moyes plans were. For his own betterment, Rooney should be, as well.

23 August
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The Virtue of Being a Generalist, Part 1

The United States Navy’s surface fleet finds itself in dynamic times. The standard length for deployments continues to rise, numerous hulls are on the chopping block, maintenance is battling to keep up with a harried operational tempo, and as ever, its leaders Surface Warfare Officers, or SWO’s are struggling to both improve, and in fact define, the community’s identity. Whether it is the uniforms we wear, our training pipelines, or our often-mocked culture, the community seems to lack a firm grasp on who we are, what we stand for, and how we do business. Over a series of three articles, I intend to first analyze a few counterparts the Royal Navy, US Naval Aviation, and US Navy surface nuclear officers and then explore some proposals meant to solidify the officers who take the worlds most powerful ships to sea.

Just Another Day at the Office

After working alongside the Royal Navy, most American surface warriors walk away immensely impressed by the impeccable professionalism of their British counterparts. When SWO’s talk about improving their community, the Royal Navy’s practices inevitably come up. “We should do it like the Brits,” is a common theme. Few truly appreciate what that statement means, though. The Surface Warriors of the US and Royal Navies are different: in size, mission sets, tempos, training, and priorities. There is not always a one-for-one correlation between the two. Before analyzing proposals or judging the merits of each side, let us simply gather some information by comparing the lifestyles of Sub Lieutenant Snodgrass, RN, and Ensign Timmy, USN.

The first area of comparison is training and path to qualification. All Royal Navy officer cadets spend between six and eleven months at Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC), where students receive military indoctrination and learn the ins and outs of the naval profession through a standardized curriculum. Upon graduation from BRNC, the young surface officer proceeds on to a training track for Warfare Officers or Engineers. The prospective engineers endure a rigorous 20-month pipeline of practical and theoretical training.

Our Sub Lieutenant Snodgrass is a Warfare Officer, which is the career track most comparable to an American SWO’s. He and his comrades train for an additional 18-months. First, they attend three months of advanced seamanship theory training, followed by an intense year of practical bridge watch standing under instruction. If they are successful to this point, they stand for a week of individual bridge simulator assessments. Students must achieve passing marks on these assessments to proceed on to a final three months of advanced seamanship and navigation training. Upon graduation, they report aboard their first ship as an Officer-of-the-Watch (OOW) with a well-earned Navigational Watch Certificate. Within a month or so, SLt Snodgrass has earned his Commanding Officer’s Platform Endorsement akin to a SWO’s Officer-of-the-Deck Underway Letter and is entrusted with operating the ship unsupervised. While some Warfare Officers attend a 4-month long course and become navigators after gaining at least 4 years experience as an OOW, the next major pipeline for now-LT Snodgrass is the Principal Warfare Officer (PWO) Course and occurs at the nine-year point. Thirteen months long, the PWO Course trains Royal Navy surface officers to be the Commanding Officer’s advisor on either “Above Water” or “Under Water” Warfare, and can see up to 40 percent attrition.

The US Navy SWO training pipeline has seen several iterations over the past 12 years. Before 2003, newly commissioned Surface Warfare Officer Trainees attended the six month-long Division Officer’s Course. SWOSDOC, as the course was called, taught the basics of ship handling, navigation, shipboard maintenance, damage control, leadership, and divisional administration. The objective of the course was to give all ensigns the tools necessary to immediately contribute to their wardrooms and a foundation from which to qualify aboard their ship. This course was disbanded in 2003 and for approximately nine years, new officers reported directly to their ships, took over their divisions, completed computer-based modules, and received on-the-job training as they progressed through their qualifications. The current training model sees new officers attending an 8-week Basic Division Officer Course (BDOC) in their Fleet Concentration Area, where they delve into many of the topics found in the old SWOSDOC program.

Upon completion of BDOC, ensigns report to their ships and are assigned a division of anywhere between 10 and 30 Sailors to lead and the associated responsibility of the maintenance of their division’s systems. Concurrent with their division officer duties, they embark on a journey to earn their Surface Warfare Officer designation and pin. This journey, nominally 18-months long, entails qualifying in a series of watch stations namely, Officer-of-the-Deck In-Port, Small Boat Officer, Combat Information Center Watch Officer, Helm and Aft-Steering Safety Officer, and ultimately, Officer-of-the-Deck Underway through the completion of Professional Qualification Standards (PQS) books and various oral boards. The milestone pre-requisite to the SWO Pin is the Officer-of-the-Deck Underway letter similar to the Royal Navy’s Platform Endorsement and usually comes after about a year aboard the ship and ultimately represents the Captain’s trust in the officer to safely and professionally operate the ship in their stead.

Typically, our Ensign Timmy will accumulate another six months of experience leading his bridge watch team, his division, and learning the catch-all nature of his chosen trade before sitting for his “SWO Board.” The SWO Board is a memorable event and involves the candidate sitting across from what, at the time, seems like a firing squad made up all of the department heads, the executive officer, and the Captain. While there is no formal, written or otherwise, fleet standard (outside of the pre-requisite watch stations) and no tangible result (aside from the pin), the SWO qualification represents a junior officer’s journeyman-level grasp of the surface, naval, and joint profession. Topics covered range far-and-wide: from logistics matters to amphibious landings and missile engagements, to personnel records, geography, ship and aircraft capabilities, emergency procedures, and naval justice fundamentals to meteorology. Now, with a pin and new officer designator, Lieutenant Junior Grade Timmy completes his first tour and attends approximately 1-2 months of job specific training before reporting to his next ship for a two year tour as Navigator, Auxiliaries officer, Main Propulsion Assistant, Fire Control Officer, Training Officer, Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer, or Force Protection Officer.

At the 8-year point, prospective SWO Department Heads attend up to nine weeks of intensive training in combat systems fundamentals, followed by 6-months in the Department Head Course, which includes three months dedicated to maritime warfare, and three months dedicated to administration, maintenance, damage control, and topics unique to the officer’s future billet.

The next point of comparison is more overt and was touched on briefly above. In the Royal Navy, recruits select and compete for a specialization before attending the Royal Navy College. They attend training either for Warfare Officers, Marine Engineers, Weapon Engineers, or Air Engineers. Warfare Officers are first responsible for bridge watch standing and safe navigation, and later in their careers for the tactical employment of the ship’s combat systems. Their engineers are responsible for leading the ship’s technicians and the upkeep of their respective kit or in US Navy terms, the preventative and corrective maintenance of their assigned shipboard systems. SLt Snodgrass, our Royal Navy Warfare Officer, will start his career with three tours as a bridge watch keeper. Later on, he serves two tours as a Principal Warfare Officer. His engineer counterparts either marine or weapon leave their training and serve a tour as a shipboard Deputy Head of Department, where they ultimately sit a professional board qualifying them as capable of leading a department. After engineering focused “shore drafts,” those who qualify return to sea as Heads of Department.

In the US Navy, Surface Warfare Officers do not formally specialize in their billets. The community prides itself in producing Jacks-of-all-Trades. Ensign Timmy starts his career as a SWO by serving two division officer tours. He has little to no say in what his first billet will be he could just as easily serve as the Electrical Officer as he could the Gunnery or Communications Officer. When proceeding to his next tour, his desires and performance are taken into account along with the ever-present needs of the Navy. En route to his second ship, LTJG Timmy receives his first formalized billet training. His second division officer tour may or may not fall under the same department as his first. After four years ashore, now-LT Timmy serves two 18-month Department Head tours. While his desires are given heavy weight, his assignment will not necessarily be to a department in which he previously served. The career experiences, training, and development of SWO’s is designed to ensure that they are notionally plug-and-play able to serve in any capacity at a moment’s notice. The US Navy does not have a direct comparison to the Royal Navy’s Marine and Weapons Engineers, though in our system, they would most closely be seen as a mix of our Limited Duty Officers and Department Heads.

A final point of comparison is the Royal Navy’s focus on watch-standing over billets in their Warfare Officer community. On a typical Type-23 Frigate, their Warfare Officers will fill the roles of the four Officers-of-the-Watch, Navigator, PWO Underwater, PWO Abovewater, Operations Officer, Executive Officer, and Captain. Other billets, including Weapon Engineer Officer, Marine Engineer Officer, and their deputies, are filled by specialized engineering officers.

The primary duty of SLt Snodgrass, as an assigned Officer-of-the-Watch and later a Principal Warfare Officer, is watch keeping. Officers-of-the-Watch are also assigned secondary duties like Classified Books Officer, Intelligence Officer, and XO’s Assistant. They are also responsible for the pastoral care of a group of Sailors. While leadership and special duties are a reality for the Warfare Officer, it is a fact of life that they come second to their job as professional watch standers. This fact was driven home to me by one Royal Naval Officer who said, “an OOW is a prime target for secondary duties then we encounter an incident, and a casual factor is found to be that the OOW was distracted from their core task of watch-keeping, and an admiral directs a high-pressure blast getting rid of many of them (secondary duties).” Junior PWO serve as their Captain’s advisors on warfare and as the lead watch-stander in their Operations Room. When not standing watch and serving as a warfare advisor, they serve as shipboard staff, execute event planning, and serve in what the US Navy might consider a special projects officer capacity, in addition to the pastoral care of the junior officers in their wardroom.

Surface Warfare Officers are detailed, or assigned, to a specific shipboard billet. This billet is not only on their orders, but also serves as their very identity aboard the ship. They are the Gunnery Officer GUNNO or the Chief Engineer CHENG. As a division officer, Ensign Timmy spends his day seeing to his division’s Sailors, equipment, and operations, while also standing roughly ten hours of watch per day, whether that be on the bridge, in Combat, or in the engineering plant. Later on, Lieutenant Timmy leads a department of approximately three divisions. While serving as a Department Head, he qualifies and stands watch as Tactical Action Officer, leading the watch team tasked with employing the ship’s sensors and weapons and serving as the senior watch stander aboard the ship. Watches are not collateral for SWO’s, yet their professional bias is most certainly towards their billet and their people.

One key difference between the two navies that creates this disparity in bias is their respective approaches to duties covered by officers specialists or not vice enlisted Sailors. In the Royal Navy, most of the day-to-day upkeep of a division’s personnel and spaces is delegated to a senior petty officer. The Royal Navy also uses officers in many watch stations, like Quartermaster-of-the-Watch (duties considered a core competency of an RN OOW), Air Intercept Controller (Fighter Director in the RN), and Anti-Air Warfare Coordinator, that the US Navy either mans with senior petty officers and chiefs, or splits between enlisted and commissioned watch standers. As a Royal Navy PWO broke it down for me, “tactical advice on Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) is my job as PWO(U), planning ASW matters is my chief’s job, looking after the ASW ratings is my petty officer’s job with direction from the two levels above, and maintenance of the ASW kit is the Deputy Weapon Engineering Officer’s job.” In the US Navy, while surface Sailors are certainly empowered through delegation, a division officer or department head would have their hands in all of those levels in the execution of their assigned billet, while also concurrently standing watch throughout a given day.

Undoubtedly, each country could take something positive away from the other for their own betterment. Our unique cultures and operational commitments, as well as our relative sizes, certainly drive our respective methods. Now that we have a better understanding of how the Royal Navy does business, we can draw rough comparisons to the American Surface Warfare Officer community and start to imagine elements we might adopt as we endeavor for self-improvement. Before exploring specific proposals, though, my next piece in this series will again seek to inform by comparing the professional standards, training mindset and approach to attrition of the SWO community with that of both Naval Aviation and nuclear trained officers.

Lieutenant Jon Paris is a US Navy Surface Warfare Officer. At sea, he has served aboard both a destroyer and cruiser, in both Weapons and Navigation Department. Ashore he has served as a Navigation Instructor at the US Naval Academy and as a Flag Aide. He is a prospective destroyer Operations Officer. His opinions and generalizations are his own and do not reflect official stances or policy of the US Navy.

23 August
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President Obama Heads Back to DC, Takes Brief Break From “Vacation From Hell”

It seems President Barack Obama is giving up, no longer trying to pretend that he is able to have any kind of a normal vacation during his planned break in Marthas Vineyard. Obama wanted to catch a two-week break with his family in what has become a vacation from hell, as one CNN analyst famously called it. Obama is heading back to the White House Sunday night and will hold meetings on Monday and Tuesday before returning to Marthas Vineyard. What he will do in Washington remains mostly a mystery, with the White House only saying that Obama will be meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and other advisers, reports the Associated Press.

23 August
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President Obama returns to family vacation

As President Obama boarded Air Force One to go back to his vacation on Marthas Vineyard on Tuesday afternoon, there was still no concrete explanation from the White House as to why the President had scheduled a return to work in Washington, DC as part of his summer break.

Before Mr. Obama left on his trip, reporters tried to get some insight from the White House on why the President was returning  for meetings, but White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest would only say the get togethers were not of an emergency nature.

(T)his is an opportunity for the President to do some in-person meetings here at the White House just for a day or two before he returns to Martha’s Vineyard, Earnest told reporters at a briefing on August 7.

Any detail on who those in-person meetings might be with? one reporter pressed.

Not at this point, said the spokesman.

Aides denied that these two days were about finalizing major executive actions on immigration reform; there was nothing on his public schedule related to that matter.

The President had two meetings on his schedule on Monday – one about Iraq, the other about the troubles in Ferguson, Missouri.

On Tuesday, other than the regular intelligence briefing, the Presidents only event was a closed door meeting with his economic team.

Mr. Obama also had a five hour dinner on Monday evening with Sam Kass, the White House chef, who also sports the title of senior policy adviser of nutrition.

But still unsolved was why the President was even back in DC, instead of with his family on vacation.

And it left some political types in DC wondering, like Jim Manley, a former top aide for both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA).

Still a mystery, tweeted Mike Viqueira in response, the White House correspondent for Al Jazeera America, who made clear he and others have been asking why the President broke his vacation in two.

22 August
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TML 8/12: Reds have 44 games to … what?

A lot of this and that today, Mobsters. The Morning Mans brain is scattered like buckshot for some reason. It happens.

THE REDS HAVE 44 GAMES LEFT. Thats it. This numbing, hamster-wheel season is in its stretch run. They are 5.5 games out of 1st place, 2.5 behind in the WC, with only two teams to jump.

I said a few months ago that 88 Ws would equal October in this parity-rampant year. That means 28-16 the rest of the way. Viewed through that lens, it seems almost impossible The Club will make the postseason. Thats .636 baseball.

But no one is pulling away. No one is making a move. Could it be possible that, say 85 wins will make it, or 86?

At 85, the Reds would need to finish 25-19. Thats doable.

With their top-of-the-rotation excellence, and the Brox-Chappy combo anchoring the back end, getting in could mean making noise. Of course, theyll be seeing better pitching, and their success w/that isnt good. DDBP will return in the near future; Joey Votto will return when he feels like it.

Will that be enough?

Ironically, Cincinnatis least impressive club in five years has as good a chance as any to scare someone in the WC and then, the division series.

No one has ever accused me of being optimistic. The Bengals of the 90s bled that out of me. Is any optimism warranted here? Any at all?

22 August
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Family loses camera, vacation memories, but good Samaritan puts them back in …

Reunited with camera.
The Riling family had left their camera with all their vacation pictures loaded on a train recently. A man found the camera and investigated who it might belong to. They received their camera back Tuesday, complete with pictures. From left are mom Sunny, Evy, age 8, dad Bob, and Billy, age 10. (Robert Duyos / Sun Sentinel /August 19, 2014)

22 August
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A simmering rivalry: Mayors’ Healthy Cookoff promotes better eating

CONCORD — Although Walnut Creeks Mac and Cheese minus the Mac was impressive, it was Antiochs charred chicken and stone fruit gazpacho that won the blue ribbon at the sixth annual Contra Costa County Mayors Healthy Cookoff July 31.

On a day when temperatures and 3-grain tempeh boiled — even without portable hotplates — top chefs selected and assisted by city officials from Antioch, Clayton, Concord, Danville, Martinez, Moraga, Pleasant Hill, San Pablo and Walnut Creek competed in an Iron Chef-style event.

Graduates of Mt. Diablo High Schools Sustainable Hospitality Pathway program served as sous chefs, joining the friendly rivalry at Todos Santos Plaza in Concord and furthering the outreach of Cindy Gershens Wellness City Challenge.

Gershen, a well-known East Bay restaurateur, teacher and healthy-eating advocate, said each team had been given the same ingredients — chicken, tofu or tempeh, yogurt, various grains, EVO olive oil and produce and herbs from the Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association.

Going from cooking station to cooking station, Gershen provided colorful commentary (Its tempeh, instead of pasta, in the Mac and Cheese!) and significance (Educating children is changing the way the next generation will live) as the teams feverishly baked, grilled and charred to meet the 6 oclock deadline.

Were trying to finish. I cut up things, Concord Mayor Tim Grayson said, describing his role. I was the official stirrer.

Sous chef Hector Medina said the experience was both grand and fleeting, Learning to cook changed my life, but getting everything done at once was a blur.

Under the Moraga tent, the sous chef was awol, but the atmosphere was cool. Councilman Mike Metcalf downplayed his culinary disabilities and said, If my wife knew I was cooking anything other than boiled water, shed lose it. Unperturbed by his assistants humor, Saint Marys College Chef Gabriel Kinney of Sodexo Campus Services said his menu featured flavors that speak to summertime.

Sous Chef Carissa Urbina gave up soda after learning in Gershens class about the amount of sugar in her daily beverage. She and Walnut Creek Mayor Kristina Lawson assisted Sunol Ridge chef Frank Jordan — with Urbina deftly stirring the cheese sauce and Lawson offering what she called quality control.

Judges for the competition included Will Schaub, a biologist who years ago,certified Gershens first garden for her Sunrise Cafe amp; Bakery, and Kish Rajan, director of the Governors Office of Business and Economic Development for the State of California and a former Walnut Creek City Council member.

Ive seen tremendous traction in the farm-to-fork movement and awareness of the agricultural corridor with local produce throughout (the county), Schaub said.

Were here to improve the economy, Rajan said. Ive followed Cindy for years and its wonderful to see community and healthy food coming together. The best economic sector for growth in this area centers on agriculture and food production.

Rajan said he had prepared for the judging by restricting his intake earlier in the day. Judges five-point criteria included healthiness, taste, creativity, presentation and overall. After an hour of tasting, the Antioch team of chef Jonathan Hork of Lone Tree Golf and Event Center, Councilman Tony Tiscareno and sous chef Esperanza Ramirez were the overall winners, with top scores for presentation and creativity.

The polenta with poblano chili peppers: thats one Ill remember, Tiscareno said, perhaps explaining the victory.

Danvilles team of Esins and Rebels chef Tim Perkins, Mayor Robert Storer and sous chef Diana Aguayo captured healthiness and taste titles for their Chicken Under a Brick and Quinoa Cakes. Pleasant Hill came in third with a cornucopia of produce-laden dishes created by chef Oscar El Aguila of El Aquila Mexican Cuisine, assisted by Mayor Timothy Flaherty and sous chef Christian Torres.

Pamela Singh, Executive Director of Wellness City Challenge, said having city leaders supporting the model of eating healthy meals made with locally produced or grown ingredients was vitally important. The three top winners will head for a showdown with three finalists from Alameda County in October.

22 August
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College Education or College Degree?

What do students want in exchange for all of the money that they pay for college? Is it a degree or an education?

Gather any group of college professors in any discipline in any part of the country, and most (if not all) have noticed a mindset affecting many college students in which they seem to value their degree more than their education.

As an example of how this mindset manifests itself, college professors can almost certainly count on the following question being asked most every semester (usually by multiple students):

What grade do I need to earn on my next assessment in order to have a grade of X in the course?

As a mathematics professor, this is disturbing for several reasons, not the least of which is that college-level students should possess the mathematical skills needed to determine the answer to the question for themselves. Students enrolled in College Algebra, Statistics, Calculus and above should already know how to use the weights provided in a syllabus together with their known grades in the course to answer their own question.

An even more disturbing consequence of such a question is the eagerness to know the minimum performance necessary to achieve the desired grade. This mentality focuses on how little the student must learn rather than how much the student can learn.

This certainly seems to be an indication that the end result (degree) is more valuable than the journey (education).

Does it matter if a student knows the grade he needs to earn on the next test in order to make an A in a course, for example? Does knowing the answer to this question really affect a students performance?

  • First, if the answer to the question is beyond what the student feels he can achieve, then he will likely not even prepare for the assessment.
  • Similarly, if the required performance is less than what the student feels that he can achieve with little to no effort, then he will also likely not prepare for the assessment.
  • Finally, if the student feels that he can attain the desired grade with a reasonable amount of preparation, then the student may prepare, but knowing the needed grade should not influence the amount of preparation.

Since full-time students must manage their time and resources between multiple courses, it is logical to conclude that each course may not receive the same level of attention as other courses. Knowing the required performance on a particular assessment may influence the amount of time spent preparing for each course, but determining the minimum preparation time for each course is an extremely complicated problem.

It is difficult to determine the minimum effort needed to please parents with decent grades or to pass courses so as to simply not have to retake them. Therefore, the pertinent question that students should be asking themselves should be:

Is a grade in a course, which leads to a degree, less or more important than the knowledge acquired from the course, which leads to an education?

How students answer this question demonstrates whether they place more emphasis on the short-term goal of a college degree or the long-term value of an education.

22 August
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Disconnect with a Mental Vacation Before Taking the Real Thing

Vacation time is limited and you want it to be stress-free. But an overworked brain cant seamlessly start relaxing immediately, writes Harvard Business Review. Try things to reduce noise, like turning your smartphone off for an hour or switching off the radio on your commute:

If you want to maximize your chances of a restful holiday, its critical to practice vacationing by shutting off a little each working day. These moments of quiet and disconnection help your brain realize that you can have that separation and still have that productivity and happiness, says Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage.

22 August
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Sierra reboots with new ‘King’s Quest’ and ‘Geometry Wars’…

Were very proud of what we created all those years ago.

Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions, meanwhile, will be the first entry in the insanely addictive abstract shooter series since a mobile version was released in 2010. While Bizarre Creations, the original creator of the series, has since shut down, the new game will be developed by a studio called Lucid Games, comprised of former Bizarre employees. The previous incarnation of Sierra published the 2007 Nintendo Wii and DS title Geometry Wars Galaxies. Geometry Wars 3 is due to launch later this year, though no platform details have been revealed.

No other projects were announced, but it likely wont be long before we hear about other classic Sierra properties being revived. The new version of the game company will serve as a publishing arm of Activision Blizzard, focusing on smaller projects by indie studios, including ones that utilize Sierra IP. Were very proud of what we created all those years ago with Sierra Online, says original Sierra founder Ken WIlliams, and todays news about carrying Sierra forward as an indie-specific brand is very encouraging.