Make Time For What You Love

I was in a meeting Monday night, and one of the gentlemen mentioned that in his morning routine, he no longer reads a bunch of page-a-day books; he reads just one. He and a friend had been talking about daily routines, and his friend asked him: “So, you read so many; do you remember any of them?” This was a valid check, and no, not really. So he changed his routine to just read the one, but to remember it and reflect on it during the day.

I heard this and thought it was an excellent point. I read five page-a-day books (and two bookmarks with a full paragraph each) every morning. Did I remember Monday’s readings? No, I couldn’t say that I had. Perhaps I should change things up a bit.

After the meeting, I went to get dinner: yes, Panda Express. After eating dinner, I read my fortune cookie: Make Time For What You Love

Well, that’s a heck of an admonition. I don’t even know what I love! How am I supposed to make time for it‽

I mean, I know that I’ve been grandiose and too selfish and self-centered. One could argue that this an expression of self-worth, but ultimately, it’s all childish.

Make Time For What You Love – I should figure out what I love.

I love my son. He’s out of the house and becoming his own man – I love him, but I don’t have a ton of interaction with him. I love my mom – but she has her own life, too. I love being helpful to people who struggle with technology I understand, because I’d made it my career and life’s work. But that love of life has mostly faded away since my employer chose to implement newer, crappier technology. I have zero interest in helping make a bad decision less painful.

I love figuring out puzzles / video games / programming: back to that grandiosity, I love the self-congratulatory accomplishment of using my brain well. I’ve always loved learning, and this is an extension of that.

What do I love, that I should make time for?

Tuesday morning, the first (and main) page-a-day book I read had as its topic: Are We Having Fun Yet?

That put a massive grin on my face. I practice gratitude, every morning. Indeed, yes: I am having fun with my life in volunteer service.

Nicely enough, three of the other four page-a-day books I read Tuesday had a similar theme: Are We Having Fun Yet?

Thank you, Lord. Yes, I am having fun with being helpful in volunteer service.

Today’s main page-a-day book had the theme: do things in volunteer service. I’ve been doing that for seven years now, and it’s been good for me.

But back to that important question: what do I love, that I should make time for?

I know that I ought to take better care of my physical body. I should decide that one day a week will be go-to-the-gym day. Okay, that’s a fine goal. Can’t say it thrills me, though. It seems more of an obligation to myself than a desired act with its own gumption because I find it fun.

What I really want to work on is building an interactive programming environment that I had an idea about some forty years ago. The technology for it is almost here. It probably already is, but is still in low resolution with a limited viewport. And really, I aim to flesh this interactive programming environment out in the development of a video game. The video game will have elements from three of my favorite games, and can have the back-story from a particular science fiction book I read some forty years ago.

My plans are to retire from my job, first. At the end of a day at work, I’ve burned a lot of brain sugar. I’m tired, and the last thing I want is to push my brain even harder, when I’m likely to make stupid mistakes because of having exhausted by brain sugar reserves. Once I retire, I want to get into the routine of going to the gym, getting some cardiovascular energy going, and then coming home to work / play on my programming project.

That will be my ideal Make Time For What You Love because yes, I’ll be having fun, finally.

Today, I think I’ll see if I can’t programmatically create a WordPress post from a script. I did take the day off from work today, simply because I wanted to. Are We Having Fun Yet? I hope to, today.

Factorio blueprints

Don’t you just hate getting run over by a train and respawning without your blueprints?

Four belts for a 4 lane bus:

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Underground belts spaced across, to tunnel under a 4 lane bus:

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Split off the left most lane (let’s call it Lane 1) to the right:

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Split off Lane 2 to the right:

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Split off Lane 3 to the right:


Split off Lane 4 to the right:


The Factorio community is amazing, and the guys at Wube should be applauded for an amazing job. One of the particularly insightful things they did was to build an import/export function into the game (not surprising) but then make that available to the community. Perhaps that comes from it’s Minecraft beginnings. Either way, it was a fundamentally wise choice. In the spirit of open source, the community can share their ideas with each other.

Which lead to Factorio Prints (later re-written and hosted at Factorio School). And then someone came up with FBE: Factorio Blueprint Editor.

Particularly, I like Square Mall (see it here: FBE Square Mall) and Early Game Smelting (FBE: Early Game Smelting)

XCOM2 is great

I don’t yet have any of the DLC, so I’m playing plain vanilla. But man vanilla is a wonderful flavor! 😀

It’s kind of funny – I didn’t really take to XCOM(1). I’d tried installing it on Steam on Linux, and wow did the mouse control ever not work. Just impossible, so I turned my back on it and muttered under my breath “stupid game” and patted myself on the back for avoiding the trouble.

A couple posts back, I talked about other strategy video games that I tried or liked. Stellaris was definitely a disappointment; so I was looking. Because I was looking for something I liked better than Endless Space and Stellaris, I was going through some game review sites. There was some mention of XCOM2 as “Best Game of 2016” somewhere.

Steam happened to have XCOM2 on sale.

I can tell you are shocked. 😉

Man, this game is good.

The only downside seems to be that it it a little buggy. Sometimes screens just fail, and there is rarely a way to see why or an ability to recover. So I completely understand where people use the Bronzeman mod, because Ironman would make me swear off all games forever if they trashed my game on the final scene. Which, by the way, XCOM2 did. Thankfully, I was able to load the most recent savegame, and then play my way through the ending again. This time, it turns out there are a four page statistics summary that was interesting.

I also see two almost completely black screens where cut-screens ought to go. But there are tiny little dots of white, and sometimes some swirly stuff going on. I kind of wish I knew someone on X Box or Playstation with the game so I could see if there really is supposed to be something there.

But bugs aside, the game play is great. The game is challenging. It is also interesting to try out different strategies and methods. There is a large variety of scenarios, and the timed ones add pressure. The game is just great. 😀

What I would suggest for Fireaxis / Take-Two for XCOM3 is to enhance the character modification process so that I can customize my character faces to look exactly like myself or people I know. So do the whole face customization thing, with 18 face shapes from oval to square to round; let me pinch or spread eyes, ditto the relation between eyes and end of nose, end of nose to centerline on mouth. Twelve different nose styles with 50% – 200% size scale, and yes, even for the mouth, there should be styles (including RBF). Gobs of eyebrow styles, and a better selection of hair colors. BTW, I’m pretty bald, but I don’t shave my head completely. Could that be an option? For the eyes, there should be the ability to set the eyeballs deeper in to, or out of their sockets. Turns out that’s a primary skull difference between females and males: the skull ridge above the eyes. So, can we get that customization? I want to take a picture of myself, and be comparing it to the face sculptor in XCOM3 and keep tweaking the settings until it looks exactly like me.

That would be wonderful.

Civ6 versus Tropico 6 versus Endless Space2 versus Stellaris

Civ6 is my current favorite, although I haven’t been playing it much, because it takes so long to finish a game, and seems a little too much like work.

Tropico was my favorite for a really long time. Early on, the humor in it was great. It still manages to be a funny once in a while. The combination of humor with discovery worked really well. When Penultimo yells at you “Presidente! The people are starving!!!” it really motivates you to figure out What is going wrong‽ How do I fix it‽‽‽

But recently, Tropico has been a bummer. Okay, watching a YouTube video helped me figure out why my previously winning strategy is now a losing one; but, the secret seems to be that unless one executes a perfect strategy of all the upgrades, one loses. I’m not perfect, and this is not fun.

So, I started looking for alternatives. The two I have tried are Endless Space2 and Stellaris.

Endless Space2 is gorgeous. The music is superb. The screen is responsive and smooth. And best of all, there was an excellent tutorial. I played 115 hours of it before looking for something else. Eventually, it seemed to me that I was not going to be able to win, ever. There seem to be two problems:

  • If the Grand Random Number Generator in the Sky took a disliking to you, there was absolutely nothing you could do to fix the problem. Time to quit and start over. This isn’t generally a problem with Civ6; if by mid-game one strategy isn’t working out, you can (usually) switch strategy and still pull out a win. Endless Space2 takes a while to figure out that the initial roll was poor – like 30 minutes. 🙁
  • Rather like Tropico, even with good RNG placement, execution needs to be perfect in order to not lose. I never did win a single game.

That said, one YouTuber said that Endless Space2’s use of the right mouse click as the {back} key is brilliant, and I agree. The game was a pleasure to play, even though I never won. But that I never would win, caused me to give up and look elsewhere.

Enter Stellaris. Although it says it got great scores by people for being a great game, it didn’t work for me.

I did love that Stellaris used the mouse to move the map around by nudging the edges. I had noticed that this was missing from Endless Space2, and found that first interaction with Stellaris pleasing. But nothing after that worked for me.

On one hand, I like Real Time Strategy (RTS) games. Indeed the most exhilarating game I ever played was a LAN game of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 against one of my boys. Thrilling!

And Tropico is an RTS, too, and I like it okay. Perhaps Tropico works for me as a game because the clock runs pretty slow. There isn’t a constant pressure to perform or die. If anything, once you’ve got things set up, then I want to speed the clock up, to see how things are holding together (or not).

I’m old, so Turn Based Strategy (TBS) are more my speed. Civ6 and Endless Space2 are both TBS games.

Although my first interaction with Stellaris was really nice, it quickly gave me two things that annoyed me greatly – first impressions and all that.

  • Wow this game needs a keyboard.
  • The tutorial is terrible.

The need for a keyboard, oh so much keyboard, was not what I wanted. I have a big monitor that I can pull a recliner in front of, and play video games. This works best when the game is mostly mouse driven. I’ve got a Logitech Wireless Trackball Mouse. I don’t have to move the mouse; my thumb moves the trackball. It’s wireless, so I can use it on the arm of the chair, or my leg, or my belly, or even my chest. Needing a keyboard is cumbersome. That first poking around at the interface showed that Stellaris really wants to be driven by a keyboard. Civ6, Tropico, and Endless Space2 all work fine with mouse-only.

The user interface wasn’t great for me, either. They picked a font that has readability problems; the letter “t” for example, barely has any width to the crossbar. Is that a “t” or an “l”? Hard to tell. The text was small, and my eyes are old. Endless Space2 had larger, more legible text, which made it more enjoyable.

If I have to squint to read the screen, that is frustrating and takes me out of just enjoying the game.

The tutorial is terrible:

  • The robotic voice: let’s take the recording of a perfectly fine voice-actor, and muddle it through a robotizing filter so that it is difficult to hear the words. “But it’s so cool!” No, it isn’t. It was like I needed to squint, but with my ears. Well this is unpleasant.
  • Instead of a guided tour, the “tutorial” was nothing except a voicing of the button name. Well that’s unfair: it was a voicing of the button name, and some explanation that this is where the very important (button name) stuff is done. None of the text shown in the tutorial text linked to the related item that was mentioned. (So why color the text differently if it isn’t a hyperlink?) I’ll admit: I had never watched a single YouTube video on Stellaris, never read the subreddit, never opened a Readme doc if there is one. I installed the game and said Yes to the tutorial. And it lead me nowhere. About six or eight steps into the game, it just stopped. So what do I do now? No clue. Well, there was one big clue: the words “PAUSED (space bar)”. Huh.

I figure out that the tutorial was to click on every button and hear the the name of the button. Somehow, I managed to click the speed-up button a couple times (while paused) (which doesn’t have tutorial speech for it) (it is a filled circle with a plus, next to the same with a minus; for all I could tell, I was adding a something to a something else). Eventually I un-pause the game, and it’s throwing an awful lot at me with no time to process it. And … my scientist is dead.

Well this is just peachy keen. Not.

I asked Steam for a refund, which they granted me. I’d only played about two hours of it, and could clearly tell that I wasn’t going to be playing any more of it.

If I wanted to sit at my desk computer and drive the game with the mouse and keyboard, then it probably would have worked. But I work at this desk. I don’t want to play here. And the play machine has a more comfortable chair with no place for a keyboard.

So I’m back to looking for a TBS game which is mouse primary and has a guide-through tutorial. Suggestions?