Daily 013: Coding Clarity, Beautiful Games, Eccentric Projects

Happy Monday! We’re sticking with the MONDAY/THURSDAY blog update schedule this week. I liked how it went last week, but it takes me a minimum of two weeks to see if a new routine really works. After about 10 days, the novelty has worn off and I can get a better feel for it. Today I’ll review the experiences of the last few days. It’s been a productive weekend!

Work Achievements

My improved carb-free diet has restored my ability to focus, but it took a while to get into the deep programming groove for my main contract. I’ve been working on the infrastructure for our prototype webapp incorporating data visualization for the digital humanities, specifically using the popular Javascript web libraries React, D3, and Bootstrap 4 to give us a lot of power. However, it’s been up to us to come up with a good way to make all these elements talk to each other using our own modular Javascript conventions. There are a lot of concepts and moving parts, and I’ve been finding it very hard to “get into the headspace” that helps me write code of this nature. I tried and I tried to keep to a “regular working hours” schedule (NOPE THAT SUCKED) that rewarded the act of accruing “incremental daily progress” (IT DID NOT FEEL REWARDING).

On Friday, I finally had it and declared I would do an old-school all nighter to get into the right headspace. IT ACTUALLY WORKED. While all-nighters are not a sustainable way to work, there’s something about the commitment to the mission that works for me. While I spent that first couple of hours in unbilled reading and researching, eventually I reached an activation point where I COULD maintain enough focus to SOLVE enough small problems. I suspect there is more to it than this, but I’m going to be mindful of the conditions that lead to this.

As for the quality of the Javascript itself? During my work session I allowed myself to pursue excellence in code as I understand it rather than shovel out the first thing that “works”. I find this fulfilling and enjoyable. I also spent a lot of time trying to get the big system concepts clear in my mind, and my “Universal System Interface” now implements flexible shared state manager, lifecycle management, and events. The two remaining capabilities to add are networked extensions to distributing events and state across multiple webapp instances. I am pretty pleased with how it’s going, and think it will be a nice foundation that simplifies building webapps that can talk to each other easily across the network.

Trouble with Stickypads

ETP StickyPadsAs I mentioned last week, there was a snafu with the ETP StickyPads being unlisted on Amazon due to an anonymous customer complaint that identified my stock as counterfeit. Amazon immediately froze the listing and asked that I validate the legitimacy of the products I was selling. I think a possible source of confusion for the anonymous complainer was that the new packaging (RIGHT) and slight margin differences didn’t meet his expectations, so he assumed it was a knockoff.

There are two major complaints I know of with the stickypad: it’s not sticky enough and there’s not enough space to write. Regarding the first issue, my printer is looking into sourcing genuine 3M PostIt® notes to improve stickyness, Secondly, the genuine 3M pads actually have slightly more room for content (3 and 3/4 width versus 3 and 7/8 width on the version 4 design). Here’s hoping that we can switch to another variety of sticky note and improve the overall experience!

Silly Personal Amusements

Canonical Personal MediaSticker SelectionSilver Nail Polish with Pen

On a sillier note, I made a secret thumb drive (LEFT) that will contain media that I consider “formative” to my development of a middle-aged nerd. This will eventually include artwork, music, and any text that I consider really important, but for now the only thing this drive is rockin’ is Season 2 Episode 17 of the television show Community, the famous Advanced Dungeons and Dragons episode that introduced me to the series. It’s amazing. Anyway, the thumb drive is just a cheap Sandisk that’s stuck into place using double-sided foam tape so it doesn’t move. I like the idea of this; it’s sort of like a personal mixtape of media I like. I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes.

I finally chose which Sam and Max sticker to put on my laptop (MIDDLE). This sticker captures the pleasant yet vaguely threatening quality of Max’s behavior, while also looking adorable.

Lastly, I tried the silver nail polish that matches my Lamy Al Star to see if it was as cool as my last pens matching nail polish experiment. I really don’t like the way this polish looks. It’s not quite blue enough and the reflections feel very flat. I would have liked something that felt more like liquid mercury or changed hues depending on the angle (I think those are the holographic polishes). I’m still glad I got it, but I might be removing this polish soon because it’s pretty boring.

FarCry 5 Mini Review

Opening GraphicsCharacter CustomizationQuest Map

Last Friday I caved-in and bought Farcry 5, the latest installment in the first person shooter (FPS) genre from Ubisoft. Primarily I’d been impressed by the beautiful environmental graphics (left) that the game engine is capable of; they really have gotten the light modeling down! It runs at over 60fps solid on my upper-mid-range gaming computer. I spent about four hours playing after making my traditional female ponytail-adorned game avatar (center)—I am mesmerized by ponytails and ANY opportunity to pretend to have hair—and plowed through a few of the hundreds pop-up quests that you find by exploring the large map (right).

Frankly, I’ve been a little bored because none of the game mechanics are very novel. The quest structure is very reminiscent of 2004 World of Warcraft, except with 2018-quality cinematics. They are also frequently bugged and confused because it’s tough to design a quest experience that focuses your attention at the right place at the right time when the player (you) has a freely-roaming camera. The shooting mechanics are pretty standard FPS, and not very satisfying. I had just played Titanfall 2 a couple weeks ago, and it has dazzling motion and gunplay. The major thing that Farcry 5 has going for it, in my opinion, are the beautiful vistas that you can freely explore…behold!

Panoramic View in Farcry 5 This is a panoramic landscape (made with Lightroom) showing a nighttime view from up a tower. It’s all realtime graphics and you can walk to every place you can see…it’s astonishing how far games have come in this regard. I just wish that there was more varied activities to do. Many of the supporting systems (like crafting) seem dumbed-down and not very interesting…

I’m still early in the game; maybe it will get more exciting later.

Interesting Stuff in the Virtual Coworking Chat

I saw that @zenlinux gave himself an April Challenge to make improvements to a toy task manager app he made in Rails, and that inspired me to add some of my own:

  • 30-min 3-times-a-week low-intensity cardio (the minimum for conditioning the heart!)
  • Wearing my bowler hat when I’m out and about, overcoming self-consciousness pre-embarassment
  • cook and eat leafy vegetables daily

There’s been lots of interesting discussion in #talk_orgdev and talk_lyceum channels, plus I added a new #talk_creative to complement #talk_technical. @Fluxus has spent quite a bit of time organizing our topicmark index so it’s possible to go back and find an interesting discussion. While chatting with a group of coworkers in the Noisy Work Audio Channel, I had the idea for making a “Dungeons and Dragons coworking group”, with the Dungeon Master serving as a task scheduler and making party members roll dice to try to vanquish their tasks and advance as a team.

Coming Next

My April Groundhog Day Resolutions Review #2 is coming up fast, as is my trip to Taiwan to celebrate my dad’s 90th birthday! This is my last week of focused work before I start winding down this work period for a 4-week vacation.

What’s Up Dave Livestream Archive for April 2