Learning to not care

So I’ve been really busy trying to knock out my thesis proposal. For some strange reason, I used to be a pretty good writer up to when I started work. I never had any problems writing essays in school, although I do write pretty slowly so sometimes I didn’t finish all the questions in stuff like geography exams where you’re supposed to absolutely regurgitate PARAGRAPHS of stuff. But somehow in my first job, I started developing hangups when writing papers. I worried about whether I was doing it the “right way”, whether I had the proper subsections, or formatting. I worried about whether my boss would like the way I was phrasing things. I worried about whether I needed more supporting data.

In hindsight this may have contributed quite a bit to why I did not particularly like my job. It paid decently and I think I had a decent reputation amongst management (having received a scholarship from the company obviously helps). But I just hated writing papers. I always felt unhappy for perceived criticisms from my bosses about my papers, sometimes over obviously niggling details. Amongst us we used to joke that this was just the way all bosses were, they had to “value-add” otherwise their job would be redundant if all they said was “OK looks good”. But even though I knew this I think I still felt a little bit unhappy, particularly if I actually respected the management.

So fast forward to the past few weeks (months?) where I’ve been trying to knock out this proposal. It sounded so simple and yet it was taking me so long to do it. I worried about whether I had enough references. I worried about whether I was making statements that were just plain false and I was too ignorant to know it. I worried about the formatting and structure of a proposal. I worried about my datasets and what kind of tests I needed to do. Writing this proposal has been horrendously painful, and for no real reason. It got to the point where there were actually things I wanted to blog about, but the mere thought of writing would put me off. Kinda ironic considering I retook up blogging to help me in my thesis writing. I worried about making my posts interesting, finding pictures etc.

Then after a conversation with my wife one night, she decided to help my son make me a sign that now sits right on my desk. It’s written on plain white paper, with lots of random stickers on it (there’s a pickup truck, a red sports car, baby Lion King and… a butterfly). And it says “Write for Yourself”. Of course underneath it is a scraggly letter “S” written in yellow crayon by my son, with explanatory note that “S is for stencil”.

So now I try to remind myself not to care about what others are going to think of my paper, and just write what I want. If I need more data, I’ll go get some. If my advisor thinks I need more references, I’ll put more in. If it’s just plain bad then I’ll work on it some more. I don’t have to get it done right the first time and it’s ok to get criticised.

As a corollary, I’ve actually resumed playing a bit of World of Tanks. WoT and EVE have this love-hate tango going on where basically I seem to play one or the other, but never both at the same time. I guess they satisfy similar yet subtly different itches. They both have that collector aspect of driving/flying different tanks/ships, and making ISK in EVE is as rewarding as getting credits in WoT. However, WoT satisfies a bit more of a PVP itch and in fact I wish EVE had 15 v 15 battles rather than random ganks where one side is normally hugely outnumbered. Of course ganks are actually much more realistic but… When I get tired of mindless PVP, EVE starts looking attractive because of the complexity of the universe and the multitude of options, rather than just fighting in the same maps over and over.

So I actually quit about a year ago, and a large portion of that was that I felt that I was performing poorly in the game. There is a mod called XVM that measures players according to various metrics, such as win/loss ratio and other arcane formulae such as efficiency and WIN8 (some kind of weighted index of damage dealt, spotting, etc etc basically being useful). According to those metrics, I was a fair to good player at about 54% win rate. I had tanks of all tiers but at that point I was playing the E-75 German Tier 9 heavy tank and the Object 704 Russian Tier 9 tank destroyer, both of which were supposed to be pretty good tanks.

And I was (am?) horrible at them. Even now my E-75 has a 46% win rate, I think the Obj 704 is 47%. I actually performed decently well with their tier 8 predecessors (50% in the Tiger II, 52% in the ISU-152 respectively) so I was getting so frustrated that I was sucking at their supposedly better versions. I guess I found out that tier 9 is markedly more difficult as tanks start getting a lot more armor and their guns start doing ridiculous damage, so any mistake (like showing your ass to them…) gets punished extremely severely. My stats started taking a nosedive and I started getting frustrated playing instead of enjoying the matches.

In retrospect, a very large problem was also that I was trying to get better, funny as that sounds. I had read a lot of guides by very good players on strategic moves to pull, like trying to move into a position near the middle of the map early on. This gives you the highest chance to do the most damage to the enemy team and also gives the flexibility to react to any other flank falling. However, in practice this meant that I would often come up against the great players on the enemy team early on, or I would simply lack the skill and knowledge to survive in those areas resulting in a derp moment and our team would be down a decent player (i.e. me). I knew I played better in slow, heavy armored tanks with big guns at long range because I liked sniping and I didn’t react fast enough to changing tactical situations. Yet I felt obligated to put myself on the front lines with the E-75 because it’s strong point is great frontal armor and it’s good at brawling, and with the Obj 704 I kept pushing aggressively because it’s strong point is that it mounts a FREAKING HUGE GUN and hiding at the back may not give me any targets until my team is dead at which point my FHG is moot.

So now, upon picking up the game again, I told myself to ignore those stats and accept that I am at best a slightly above average player. I’m not going to be great, so just play the way I want to and if I lose so be it. Hang back, let the truly awful 43% win rate players rush in and die and reveal the enemy (hopefully doing at least 1 shot worth of damage) and use my knowledge of the game to do what I can. And it’s working. I’m not winning drastically more, but there has been an improvement and most importantly I’m enjoying the matches. I don’t have that impotent feeling that I can’t control the match, because I’ve accepted that at this tier I’m not going to dominate anyway and I’m just going to try to hold my own and rely on my team (which is a dicey proposition considering that the average skill level of WoT players has gone waaaaaay down).

Now to translate this to my pickup basketball games…

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Shopping for toys

No, not an EVE post so no new shinies.

My wife and I have recently been looking at Transformers toys for our 4 year old son. I used to be a big Transformers fan when I was a kid (ok fine so was every other male kid in my generation) so yeah my wife blames me for getting him all nerdified even at 4 by showing him the animated 1986 movie, which he has watched like probably 200 times. All the kids in his school probably don’t understand him because he keeps going on about fighting Decepticons all the time.

Originally we weren’t really planning on getting him these kinds of toys, at least not at this age. But during our Christmas trip to my sister’s place her neighbor gave him a Transformers Prime Wheeljack toy, and he was super delighted. Kept playing with it for the entire trip, even though he can’t really transform it by himself (does a credible job but honestly these things are like Rubix cubes…)

Wheeljack

What really cinched the deal though was that his grandparents promised to buy him a toy when we go back to visit them in Singapore, and his eyes lit up and he immediately declared that he wants OPTIMUS PRIME! and now every time he talks to them he gets reminded about it and he starts muttering about how he can’t wait to get OPTIMUS PRIME!. So we had to start looking for a nice figure that would look recognizable to him, given that he basically only knows the G1 Transformers instead of the newfangled movies or cartoons.

Looking through modern Transformers toys, it’s really amazing the kind of work these toy designers have done. I remember my old Transformers as these mostly blocky things that tended to look pretty good as vehicles but you had to kinda stretch your imagination for some of those robot modes. The stuff nowadays… by golly the arms flip out and rotate and this hinge opens and this part slides out and tabs in here and you rotate the body with these two hinges and they tab together … these things make a motherboard look simple. I’m guessing that the target audience has shifted from little kids into essentially big kids like me who grew up with Transformers. Probably works too because man I think these new toys are cool, maybe that’s why I kinda want to buy them for him (so I can play with them myself).

So anyway we’ve kinda decided on this Voyager Optimus Prime, mainly because his truck mode looks kinda like the G1 truck mode (kinda) and also because it’s not ridiculously expensive like most of the other Optimus Prime figures. Seriously triple digit prices are insane for a toy figure. The other figure is the triple changer Generations Springer, mainly because Springer was in the movie and it does look a lot like the G1 model, at least in robot mode. Plus, triple changer, value for money!

Voyager PrimeGenerations Springer

Still sorta undecided on the last figure to get (need to get a $50 order for free shipping). We were originally debating between Grimlock or Blitzwing, but now we’re leaning towards getting this Mini-Con assault team set of 3 mini Transformers that combine into a bigger robot. I’ve never heard of them before, so obviously neither has our kid, but the combining thing looks fun and the transformations are relatively simple enough for him to manage on his own. So hopefully that will avoid a reprisal of the 1)”papa can you transform Wheeljack into a car” 2) five minutes later : “papa can you transform Wheeljack into a robot”

Mini-con assault team

Back

I’m a pretty sedentary person, and it always feels good coming back home after a long trip. 10 days in San Fransisco was definitely fun but also very tiring, especially as we had to spend time taking care of my sister’s daughter as well as our son. The weather there is definitely much better, but the people aren’t as friendly either. It was only there that I realised how much I like the friendly, laid-back southern atmosphere here. The roads were full of scowling aggressive drivers, while here people will patiently wait and smile at you while you slowly cross pedestrian crossings with a wandering 4 year old.

Being around my sister’s family also made me feel very thankful for my own family. Now I can really see what a great job my wife does with our family and how well she takes care of her two boys, one big and one small. Also dealing with my sister’s daughter reinforced how much I dislike small girls (pink, princesses, dress up… ugh) and how lucky I am to have a relatively very well-behaved boy who runs around pretending to be a robot that transforms into a car. He got a ton of loot from Christmas which just filled up the house even more, but most of it is stuff that we can play with him like Legos and my old Lasy set so I get to enjoy them too.

While I was at my sister’s place I didn’t have any time for EVE except updating orders once or twice. However, a look at the market shows that I’m not alone in this (unsurprisingly). There’s very little liquidity resulting in crazy high prices. Amazingly even with the 2 weeks spent traveling I’ve still managed to pull in 3.1 billion ISK so far just from trading, so that easily pays for the skill training. My alt is learning T2 sentries for the Stratios, while my main is on Trajectory Analysis 5 just because it was kinda the right length of time.

Hello… anyone home?

Well.

*blows off the dust* whooo wee it’s been a long while since I’ve been here. More than a year, in fact, judging from the date of my last post.

So much has happened in the past year, I’m tempted to break it up into multiple posts rather than write some ginormous thing that will wallow in the depths of the internet like a beached whale.

First of all, I’m a student again. I was successful in my PhD applications last year, and in August made the move all the way over to the USA with my wife and our son. That was an adventure all by itself, the trip taking 3 days in total with a stopover in Japan to enjoy some yummy ramen before being left with the horror known as American instant ramen. To be fair I did consume a fair amount of that during my college days but I don’t think anyone wants to go back to eating what they ate during college. The human body was not meant to survive on chips and soda, despite what college meal plans tell you.

Judging from my last post here, I was still enjoying WoW. However, I think not too long after that I stopped playing again. I had done a lot of the heroic dungeons, leveled up a couple of alts… but it wasn’t the same without my wife playing. I think WoW has really evolved past me at this point, and is clearly targeted at a different audience. Of course I’ve said that before (I think) and I still came back and had fun for a while.

I’ve been having a busy schedule trying to adjust to being a student again, and in an unfamiliar place. The USA has really changed a lot in the past 10 years. I like a quote that I heard during a graduate student orientation here, which was that the biggest effect that 9/11 had was to make the entire country insane for 10 years. In any case, despite all that I still try to have some time for some games (probably more than I should…)

    World of Tanks

This was the main game I’ve been playing since May 2011 I believe. World of Tanks is a fun simulator/arcade tank game that is Free-to-Play, although there are admittedly some pay-to-win elements in it like gold ammo. But frankly I wouldn’t be too concerned about that since there are so many other factors that go into a match that having a higher shell penetration chance isn’t a big deal. It’s not like gold ammo lets you 1-shot opponents, and if you bother aiming for weak spots you mostly penetrate anyway.

The biggest appeal to me was 1) no subscription and 2) I could jump on for quick matches instantly when I had some free time. Each 15 vs 15 match lasts 15 minutes at most, and often under 10 minutes, which meant I was less likely to be interrupted by our son. It still happened, but it didn’t have as much as an effect as say, being the healer in a 5-man heroic in the middle of a boss fight and having to go baby-afk.

I did alright despite being historically pathetic at shooters like Counter-Strike. I think I ended up with a 51% win rate, which is above average, and I have a tier 9 IS-4 tank which is due to become tier 10 in the next patch. In fact I actually let my EVE subscription lapse so I could have more time with WoT. I hadn’t been doing much but skill-flip and update market orders for a few months already in any case.

Eventually, however, I guess my attention wandered away, as it seems wont to do nowadays. Most matches were pretty similar, and once you get to high tiers there isn’t much incentive to grind another tree. I mean, I chose to get the IS-4 due to how I read it plays (i.e. heavy armor, slow, decent gun) which suits my playstyle since I seem to suck at fast tanks and end up playing peek-a-boo anyway. So since I can only play one tank at a time, there’s no point grinding up another tier 9 just to have it sit in the garage. The other, very big, downside is the free-to-play community. The Internet in general is the cesspool of humanity, and looking into it shows you a reflection of just how shitty most people are. Free-to-play games, however, are like that kink in the plumbing where the scum of scum congregate and gather. The absolute stupidity of some of these players is mind-boggling, as is the aggressive manner in which they believe they are the greatest ever.

One of these days I might chronicle my journey in WoT, and very likely I’ll hop on after the next patch to give my new tier 10 a spin, but for now I’ll move on…

    Random games

So as I mentioned my attention wanders… in addition to WoT, during the past year I also tried out a bunch of other games, none of which held my attention for that long. I played a bit of XCOM: UFO Defense, which was a game that I played way back in secondary school. Great fun, tried it on a harder difficulty setting this time and still did pretty well. I didn’t finish it though, once I realised that I would have no trouble killing anything it became a bit repetitive since I already knew the ending and how it was going to go. Other games I tried were Dungeon Defenders (since it was on sale from Steam), Neverwinter Nights : Diamond edition, and Kingdoms of Amalur:Reckoning.

Round and round we go…

    And so, where do things stand now? I think one of the reasons my attention kept wandering was that none of the games I was playing were real MMOs. World of Tanks technically is, but you can really play it like a single player shooter with really retarded NPC teammates. Dungeon Defenders has multiplayer, but I never got into that and mostly played solo. So it seemed like I’ve been a bit spoilt by MMOs, which tend to have more new content. But I didn’t want to play anything with a sub fee since money is tight now that I’m a poor student with a family to support, and I have extremely limited play time.

    I always follow TAGN’s posts with great interest as his situation resonates with me (being ancient, a gamer and quite often a noob). So I read with a fair bit of interest about him joining Goonswarm and taking part in null-sec fleet battles. And after a while, I heard the siren song of EVE pulling me back again… EVE has always been a game where there is so much to do, its almost impossible to do it all. I had yet to explore low-sec, null-sec, PVP, industry, invention, wormholes, Incursions…

    Plus, the good thing about skill-flipping for a while is you come back able to fly lots of new shinies!

Finally over with

And finally my Ph.D applications are over with. My god, such a completely soul-draining experience. Applied to 7 schools this round, which will be my last. If I am unable to get into a decent program with financial aid, then I’ll have to start looking for a job again. In a sense it’s actually quite a relief too because then I’ll be able to put this idea of getting a Ph.D out of my mind forever and get on with my life.

Pwned by Application Turtle

At least I can now relax over the holidays (going on week long trip tomorrow) without having to worry about this crap.

Feeling my age

Even after 1 year, I often look at my son and think “wow I can’t believe I’m a dad”. When I play basketball on weekends, I often find myself playing with teens and or young twenty-somethings. And amazingly I find that I get along with them better than I do the older crowd, who tend to come later at night and always talk about boring stuff like the economy or the stock market or cars. Most of them would probably be amazed to find out how old I am.

Well after today I’m officially 30.

Ok fine so maybe that’s not that old. But it’s still a sobering feeling that I’ve been muddling around for 30 years already. Geez. By the time my son is 30 I’ll be a 60 year old geezer. And here I am, still trying to go back to school for a Ph.D, still playing games. Sitting down with a roomful of adults still bores the heck out of me.

It’s funny how people always have such good impressions of stuff that happened “during their time”. Things were always better in the good old days. By the time our son is old enough to play games, he’ll probably look quizzically at the games I used to play and wonder how anyone could make out what all the pixelated crap is supposed to be. I intend to dig out my old SNES-clone and show him classics like Super Mario Bros and Balloon Fight too.

Boxy characters in a boxy world

Is that a bird or animal or robot or what

Even when I play basketball, I keep hearing kids nowadays talking about Kobe Bryant being the greatest player ever. And I’m like…. how can anyone who plays basketball not have heard of Michael Jordan? Then I realize that these kids were like… 6 years old when Jordan retired in 1998. I don’t even remember a single thing from when I was 6 years old. When you mention Michael Jordan the image in my mind is like this:

In reality this is what Jordan looks like now, and this will be how those kids remember Jordan:

Kinda sad that in a few short years the Greatest Of All Time could so easily be forgotten by young basketball fans. I post up and do a fadeaway jumper and they go “wow good Kobe move!” I have to restrain myself from telling them to go actually watch some real basketball and see how Kobe learnt everything he knows from Jordan.

Anyway I guess I’m officially middle-aged now, although the burgeoning white hairs on my head were already testament to that. Despite my earlier post about not coming back for Cataclysm, I’m still feeling tempted and might resubscribe after all, for a couple of months at least. I’ll see how it goes after I finish my Ph.D applications and after I come back from a planned trip to my in-laws.

On the EVE front, I’ve really been getting the itch to blow some stuff up. I was training Heavy Drone Operation V on Noork, when I realized that I was wasting skill points with the upcoming removal of learning skills. I had remapped my attributes to favour Perception and Intelligence after getting T2 medium drones, so I wasn’t getting Drone skill points at the maximum rate since they use Memory as the primary attribute. What I should have done was immediately switched to training some Perception/Intelligence skill. That way, I would get more skill points now and when the learning skill reimbursement comes in (about 1.3 million skillpoints) I could just dump it in Heavy Drone Operation V and finish it off immediately. Oh well, its not a big loss.

With Incursion out, I’ve bought the new ORE Industrial skill book and will train it up to try the Noctis, which looks pretty good. The prices for these are stupidly crazy now though and it’s not like I desperately need it, so I’ll just wait for the market to return to sanity. I like the fact that faction ships are on the market now, hopefully that will push the price down a bit with the better availability of information on historical prices so we won’t see crazy swings with limited volume.

Unfortunately, now that I feel like playing EVE I can’t seem to login to the EVE servers from this PC. The connection keeps timing out when trying to authenticate. CCP’s tech support is pretty helpful though and per their instructions I’ve just sent them back some DirectX diagnostics and a ping trace sample. Interestingly I’m experiencing 100% packet loss somewhere in Europe along the way to their servers, no idea why. Hopefully this will be resolved soon.