Beauty in the eye

Game: Beholder

Developer: Warm Lamp Games

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer Blizzard Entertainment. These are my rambling notes to myself as I play the game. I respect and appreciate the hard work of all game developers.

Notes:

Played on Trainee mode – I think this is Easy Mode

I don’t enjoy when games do the “Charlie Brown” voice instead of real VO. I’d prefer no VO and just have subtitles. It’s distracting.

The game stresses me out and I can’t really explain why. I’m managing to complete all my quests on time, plenty of time actually, and I have plenty of downtime but I feel like I’m always under pressure.

The game is oppressive, but I think it’s meant to be.

Despite it’s dark nature, the graphics or characters or something about the art style almost feels lighthearted. I do really like the style though.

My strategy feels mostly like just keep talking to everyone until something happens. I don’t feel like I have clear clues on what to do or how to make progress and I’m just kind of reacting to things.

I appreciate the pause feature just to feel like I can prevent the anxiety of time moving on.

Getting government directives all the time also stresses me out. I feel like there’s a growing mental burden that I’m not keeping up with.

It seems like there are quests that are just money sinks to make my family happy. Not sure what the mechanic or decision is there – but then I’m playing on easy mode and have a huge surplus of money.

I’m trying to play as a nice guy and not just be a jerk to my tenants. Maybe it’s a totally different experience when playing as an agent of the government?

It seems like the money situation is rapidly deteriorating. Makes me kind of hate my family and never want to talk to them! I’m starting to make decisions around the need for money but it doesn’t feel like there are direct consequences of doing so. Maybe they’re just not obvious consequences.

I think I’m doing quite a lot of stuff that’s illegal but I can’t be sure if it’s hurting me. Maybe it comes back to haunt me later?

The suspense of wanting to know what’s next is a pretty good draw – there’s a part of me that always just wants to do one more quest.

Never really took advantage of the surveillance cameras or searching apartments. I was always afraid of being found out in someone’s apartment. Not sure what even happens if you get found out.

Tarun Khaitan has my vote.

Podcast: Democracy

By: Philosophy 24/7

Link: http://philosophy247.org/podcasts/democracy/

Notes:

Some countries like Hungary, Turkey, and Poland have greatly eroded their democratic institutions in recent years.

Others like the US, India, Israel, and South Africa, are following similar strategies.

Democracy’s success in the late 20th century set the stage for some of the problems it’s now facing. As the only game in town, those who are interested in eroding it have to come from within, often pitching themselves as the only ones who can save it. They’re attacking some of the institutions that keep democracy in check, such as the courts, the opposition party, and the free media.

A lot of the limitations on autocratic takeover are unwritten rules that can be taken advantage of to seize authority without actually breaking any laws. It’s very difficult to write laws for everything into a constitutional document, but the more a government relies on these unwritten rules to keep power in check, the more vulnerable they are.

Some things liberal democracies can do to weaken the risk of autocratic takeover:

  • Preferential Voting (Ranked Voting) to empower the centrists and weaken the radicals of each party
  • Revive the discourse on opposition rights and reduce any winner take all situations.
  • Campaign finance reform.
  • Empowering and entrenching the fourth branch institutions, things like anti corruption bodies, electoral commissions. Non partisan offices that seek to protect democracy.

Glad I wasn’t on that voyage

Game: Return of the Obra Dinn

Developer: Lucas Pope

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer Blizzard Entertainment. These are my rambling notes to myself as I play the game. I respect and appreciate the hard work of all game developers.

Notes:

Had some trouble figuring out what to do and how to interact with anything. Walked around the ship quite a bit before anything happened. Seems like a deliberate tutorial style choice.

The mystery aspect of this is already compelling.

The concept of identifying bodies and identities and causes of death is pretty interesting. But opening that book and seeing all the blank pages is somewhat intimidating.

Getting enough clues to make the first few guesses was a good early win. Maybe I can do this after all.

The monster attack is pretty cool.

It’s somewhat difficult to jump back into this after a few days of not playing it. There’s quite a lot of “wait, what is happening here”

I have some confusion about the transitions, sometimes it fades to black quickly in the scenes other times it doesn’t. Seems somewhat related to looking at all the others present?

I’m starting to learn some of the rules about when I need to press A to get to the next corpse, and then do it back in the “real world” to see the trail to it. But it’s still not totally clear to me.

I’m at a point where I’m now looking at scenes from the monster attack and the escape and the mutiny and holding it all in my head is kind of stressful and I haven’t made any good deductions. Doesn’t feel great. Feels stressful.

I really feel like I need more easy wins early in the game. I think it was three hours in before I got my second three solves. That’s too long, definitely discouraging.

As much as I’m frustrated, I do keep playing to try to figure out the next thing. The story is interesting to me, and learning more about it and discovering more is keeping me going.

I don’t understand why sometimes there’s a door and it unlocks after I look at the book.

I wish doors would stop closing behind me!

Keeping Calm

Book: It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work

Authors: Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Notes:

There are two main reasons it gets crazy at work:

  • The work day is being sliced into tiny fleeting work movements in an onslaught of distractions
  • An unhealthy obsession with growth at any cost sets unrealistic expectations

Sustained exhaustion is not a badge of honor. It’s a mark of stupidity.

The answer isn’t more hours. Concentrate on less waste not more production. Create an environment with fewer distractions.

Your company is a product and if you want to make a product better you have to keep tweaking revising and iterating. Ask what are the bugs and problems with your company. Work on fixing the bugs.

You’re not very likely to find that key insight or breakthrough idea north of the 14th hour in the day. Creativity progress and impact do not yield to brute force.

There is a fixation on market share. What matters is that you have a healthy business with solid economics that work for you – costs under control and profitable sales.

Revenue goals are fake. They’re artificial targets for the sake of setting targets. It’s an arbitrary number that looms over everything. Nothing ever stops at the quarterly win. The quarter is only the most important goal until the next quarter.

Often morality, honesty, and integrity are compromised to reach these fake numbers.

If you stick with short-term planning you get to change your mind often and that can be a good thing. Planning too far out isn’t worthwhile because the world changes so fast. Adherence to the plan can cause bad decisions and anxiety.

It can be valuable to listen to your discomfort and back off from what’s causing it. Going outside of comfort zone isn’t necessarily a good thing. Depth can be as valuable as breath.

A 40-hour work week doesn’t seem like enough time because we’re not spending the time doing the right things.

People work best when given long uninterrupted blocks of time.

Concentrate on being effective more than being productive. Do the correct work, not the busy work.

The office environment is filled with interruptions that prevent people from doing work. Especially open offices.

Subject matter experts are interrupted frequently with questions in an unpredictable manner. Explorer using office hours for them to handle these interruptions in a predictable manner.

People schedules at Basecamp are private with the idea that taking someone else’s time should be a pain in the ass. Meetings should be a last resort. People need to own the vast majority of their time to do good work.

The green presence icon on chat is an invitation for interruption. We should interpret green as Do Not Disturb.

The expectation of an immediate response is an unreasonable expectation. If someone doesn’t get back to you immediately it’s probably because they’re working.

People need to be able to focus on the work at hand without being interrupted by every little detail that’s going on.

Your company is not your family. The best companies are the ones that help you spend time with your real family.

Leaders need to set good examples of work-life balance. Self-sacrifice trickles down the hierarchy and creates dread and fear.

Every relationship between two people has a trust battery that can either be charged or drained with every interaction.

Bosses shouldn’t expect people to come to them with issues. They need to ask pointed questions like:

  • What’s something nobody dares to talk about
  • Are you afraid of anything at work
  • What do you think we could have done differently to succeed
  • What advice would you give before we start on this big project.

The higher you go in an organization the less you’ll know what it’s really like for those doing most of the work.

The higher you go in an organization the more weight your suggestions have. It takes restraint to not lob ideas at direct reports that will cause them to focus on the idea more than they really should.

Don’t let people sacrifice sleep for sustained long hours. Doing so will hurt productivity and increase stress over time.

Work-life balance means that if work can claim hours after 5 p.m. then life can claim hours before 5 p.m. It doesn’t mean that work will try not to claim hours after 5 p.m. but it still will sometimes.

Hiring should focus on:

  • good people that other people can work with
  • people different than the type of people they already have hired
  • paying someone $1,500 to do a week of example work and then judge the work.

New hires have a ramp up time even when hired into a similar position as their last one. Companies processes and work are all different and there will be a ramp up time

It’s better to nurture and grow your own talent than to try to plunder it from somewhere else. There’s no guarantee that hiring a superstar from another company will yield a superstar at your company.

All people at the same position at Basecamp are paid the same salary, regardless of tenure.

Many so-called benefits of working at companies are bribes to keep you at work longer. For example, catered meals, gyms, fitness programs. Why not just give employees stipends for meals or the gym and let them do it on their own time away from work?

If you’re going to have an open office plan you should have library rules. Full volume conversation should be done elsewhere. If this seems like a big step, try doing it for a single day every week.

Work should not be able to intrude on your vacations

Unlimited vacation policies wind up with people taking fewer vacations. Have limits but be flexible enough to allow people to go over the limits if they need to.

It’s important to clearly communicate to everyone why someone was let go so people don’t make up stories about it. Every time a person leaves Basecamp they or their manager get to send out an email detailing why they are leaving.

Always on chat programs can be a huge distraction. People feel like if they’re not constantly paying attention they’re missing out on something important. If everyone needs to see it don’t chat about it write it up instead.

Deadlines should always be fixed and not move but the scope of them can be downsized at the request of the team working on it. People don’t trust deadlines that constantly move. But they trust being able to narrow the scope and move unfinished things to the next deadline.

Consider not pitching new ideas at meetings but in documents that are sent out to everyone. You’re more likely to get well-considered feedback than knee-jerk reactions.

Consider breaking feature dependencies and shipping individual features when they’re ready and not bundling them with unrelated things.

Don’t try to achieve consensus on everything. Someone should make the decision, explain it, and everybody commits and move forward.

Don’t try to be indiscriminately great at everything. Understand where you can compromise on quality.

Once initial exploration of an idea is over, every week should be closer to it being done not further from it. The amount of questions and unknowns over time should be decreasing not increasing.

Sometimes the right answer is to do nothing and not to force a bunch of changes on people who might be comfortable with the existing system.

It’s important to be able to draw the line at what is enough and not have the opinion that it’s never enough.

Sometimes best practices are not what they claim to be. It’s good to treat them like training wheels and to always question and consider them.

Don’t commit to do things whatever it takes. Have a conversation about what it will take.

Always be on the lookout for getting rid of work that doesn’t need to be done.

You can debate and agonize over an idea forever or you can ship it and see how your customers actually react. We live in a world of iteration.

Avoid making promises for future work. It piles up obligations that drag down everything else.

Imagine every time a customer has trouble there are two tokens that can be taken:

  • one says no big deal
  • one says this is the end of the world.

For whichever token you don’t take the customer will take the other. You want to take the this is the end of the world token so the customer takes the other.

If you don’t have the power to make change at the company level make the change at your local level.

We should only be contemptuous of contempt itself.

Opinion Piece: Our Culture of Contempt

Written By: Arthur C. Brooks

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/02/opinion/sunday/political-polarization.html?fbclid=IwAR3WsJZp4LgQJP5X0WaYAyTGEObWyvfA-DkVB0angtM7CWOegr5ZNuga6QY

Notes:

We make an assumption that our ideology is based in benevolence and love and our opponents is based in hate and evil.

Contempt makes political compromise and progress impossible, and also increases anxiety, depression, and sadness. It also stimulates stress hormones in the contemptuous person.

Large majorities of Americans will privately say they’re tired of how divided we are and that compromise is important.

Disagreement is not contempt. We need to disagree, but disagree better.

When you find yourself hating something, someone is making money or winning elections off of your contempt. Unless a leader is actually teaching you something you didn’t know or expanding your worldview, you are being used.

Make a commitment to never treat others with contempt. Contempt makes persuasion impossible – no one has ever been hated into agreement.

To address this, we need to se contempt as an opportunity, not a threat. When treated with contempt, respond with warmheartedness and good humor.

Not Udder Bull

Podcast: Soy, Almond, Oat Milks: Are They Udder Bull?

By: Science Vs.

Link: https://gimletmedia.com/shows/science-vs/5whmzx/soy-almond-oat-milks-are-they-udder-bull

Notes:

In terms of environmental impact, dairy milk is the worst compared to all other types.

Globally, dairy cows graze an area the size of Brazil.

On average, it takes 9 times more land to produce dairy milk compare to the others.

Almond milk requires a lot of water, and most of Americans almonds are produced in California where there’s already a lot of water pressure. It can take 4 times as much water as the other non-dairy types.

Rice milk production emits the most greenhouse gasses in the form of methane. Flooded rice paddies are filled with methane-creating bacteria. Also fertilizer runoff can be a big problem with rice.

Soy and oat milk both require more land than the other non-dairy types. Also a lot of Soy milk is grown near or in the Amazon.

There is no clear winner among the four non-dairy types. But they’re all very low impact compared to dairy.

If everyone in the world switched from dairy to soy, it would save half a billion hectares of land, a billion tons of greenhouse gases, and the same amount of water as if everyone in the world stopped having showers or baths for a year.

 

That’s an intimidating Talent Tree

Game: Path of Exile

Developer: Grinding Gear Games

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer Blizzard Entertainment. These are my rambling notes to myself as I play the game. I respect and appreciate the hard work of all game developers.

Notes:

I like the “Flask” concept, how you use charges and they refill when you go back to town. Feels pretty streamlined, but maybe a little complicated for someone unfamiliar with the genre?

That skill tree is imposing. It’s big enough where I’m not curious to explore it – feels like too much to worry about and i’ll just spend points one at a time as I get them without making a plan.

Socketing spells into weapons feels kind of cool initially, will re-evaulate after I get another weapon.

Looks like socketed gems gain experience? Maybe they get stronger? Kind of an interesting idea, need to watch it.

Support gems is kind of a cool idea too, giving up more attacks for utility maybe?

I get notifications to level up my gems. I’m not sure why I wouldn’t do this? What is the decision I’m making here?

It seems cool that my gems level up, but I’m wondering what happens if I’m high level and get gem drops. Do they level up super fast, or start at a reasonable level compared to me? Will have to see.

I can’t help but wonder if there’s a better balance between wanting to start the game off simple so players can learn, but not being bland/boring. I want to start off already as a badass, and get even more badass. Having just one spell and it’s simple and bland isn’t a great way to get hooked.

I feel so limited by inventory space. Not enjoying that aspect of the game.

I feel like there’s good pacing of getting levels, or gem levels up, or new gear. I’m not sure if it feels significant though, no individual event is making me feel more powerful although i’m gaining in power.

The Lord’s Labyrinth spike trap thing is an interesting idea. Difficult though! Ok maybe not that difficult.

There are some really satisfying explosions of monsters at times.

Lots of junk items. Doesn’t feel great seeing so much junk drop. Not sure if I’m supposed to be picking all this up.

I don’t understand the vendoring system. There’s no money? Just materials?

I like the ability to toggle between the overlay map and the minimap in the upper right corner.