Nate Dickson Thinks...

100DaysToOffload

If you've ever lived in a desert this is familiar to you. It's been cold all night. But the sun is just coming up and while it's still chilly the hot part of the day is coming fast. The birds aren't fooled; it's not winter, it's just morning. They are singing as they have always done.

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Listening to Plexamp this morning, as per usual. On random, which is slightly less common, but I just want to discover a few gems from my library. Surprise me, Plex.

It just brought up one of my favorite little board game soundtrack songs: Twist Your Mind.

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When I was doing my MBA classes a few years ago we had an operations management class. Ops Management is all about creating a process that is optimized for efficiency; no bottlenecks where resources are waiting to be processed, no overages in productions, but no under-runs either. In that class we had a little simulation we were meant to work on. It was a terrible little web page written in PHP (nothing against PHP. It's a fine language but is often abused into things like this) with minimal styling and a frustrating interface. You were tasked with keeping your machines running, making sure that outputs from A were fed to B at the right rate to meet demand, etc. etc.

Anyway we should have all just played Anno 2205 instead. Or probably any of the Anno games. I've known about the series for years, but I've never played one of these until they were on a Steam sale recently. And I'm kinda hooked.

It starts simply enough. Produce rice for your people to eat. Also produce water. To do this you build factories. In 2205 water comes from desalination plants on the coast. Rice comes from highly automated rice farms.

Then you start producing things that need two steps of processing. Mine this metal, then make it into something that your people want. As you produce fancier goods you can promote your employees (who are also your primary customers, the supply/demand curves in this game are weird) which will make them ask for still fancier goods, which will allow you to promote them, which in turn means they will pay more for goods...

And then you get into real ops management. Before too long you are managing multiple sites, each with different strengths and unique goods. Your “temperate” region is the cheapest to build on, and will be your moneymaking region. The “Arctic” zone produces some specialized goods that you need for other workflows. The orbiting space station (2205, see?) does research. The Moon produces very specialized goods. You start to need raw goods from the Arctic combined with processed goods from the Temperate region to be shipped to the Moon to build an awesome new resource there...

And then you realize that you can often buy goods from the world market for less than your production price, so you start to buy goods instead of building them, until the prices shift and you start selling those goods on the world market.

Then they mixed in my financial accounting class. Your running balance sheet is always top of mind, and top of screen, as it shows the bottom line, your net profits at that moment, and you can dig into it just like any good balance sheet to see your cost and revenue mix.

It's interesting to me that this is a game. This is literally part of my MBA education, handled far better than my professors ever could have. The motivations for your actions are made clear, The payoffs for handling your inventory levels correctly are explicit. And it's honestly really fun.

There are some more video-game-y parts as well. If you want, you can participate in some real-time-strategy battles that will get you some rarer resources, or you can just buy those resources if you don't want to do video game fighting.

I looked into the games pedigree because of course I did this is me we're talking about. It's made by Blue Byte, which warmed my little heart. Years ago I fell in love with The Settlers II and the lineage from that game to this one is clear.

It's not without its flaws, but what game is? If you want to learn operations management you can either read The Goal, a depressing educational novel about a man who fixes his factory while also repairing his relationship with his wife, or you can play Anno 2205. I know which I'd rather do.

I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting 100 Days To Offload.

#100DaysToOffload 63/100

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I've had a Pimoroni Inky pHAT sitting around for a while while I tried to figure out how to make indexed graphics. If I'm honest, it's mostly been a solution in search of a problem.

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Yes, this is going to be another annoying post about someone who has discovered that 3D printing is interesting. But hey, it is!

The thing is, this version of 3D Printing is almost certainly not the future. What we do right now is cool and all, but it's limited in scope. Adding layer upon layer of PLA to build a model is neat! But it's a stepping stone toward whatever comes next. Still, it's interesting for me to be in on this early part of the path.

I grew up in the 1980's and 1990's, and was just behind the curve on a lot of things that have been a major part of my life. I wasn't old enough/rebellious enough to be a phone phreaker, I wasn't ever on usenet, instead I was on Prodigy and CompuServe because my father had accounts on those services. So I always came in just a little after the wild west days of the technologies I find interesting.

When I started into programming for real I picked up a copy of Fire in the Valley, an excellent documentary on the birth of personal computers. The Altair 8800 is a little older than I am, the first computers I used were all-in-ones like the Tandy TRS-80, where I did a little basic programming as a kid (make that BASIC programming, in Color BASIC ) but then I kind of left programming alone until around 2002.

Back to 3D Printing

Anyway back to 3D Printing. This is clearly a new technology. It has all the earmarks: you have to do everything by hand. You can buy pre-built 3D Printers, but the technology is young enough that you will have to re-build them yourself if anything goes wrong, and things will go wrong. Getting something from “idea” to “production” is a multi-step process, and there are vehement arguments about which steps along that chain are the “best” steps. It's frustrating, the results may vary (and do vary) wildly, and...

And I love that. This is what I missed on my first go-round.

I own a QIDI Tech X-Smart, a printer that has the distinction of being on almost nobody's radar, which is a shame because it's surprisingly excellent at being a good printer for idiots like me. Even with it being a cool little beginner printer, I've still had to completely disassemble the print head, clean things out, figure things out, play with settings, physically adjust sensors, replace parts...the works. Kudos to QIDI, they have fantastic service who will email you back almost instantly (if you're up in the middle of the night because they're based in China) and will help you get up and running again, even years after you bought the printer.

I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting 100 Days To Offload.

#100DaysToOffload 61/100

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I think in Markdown. I've been using it for so long, for so many things, that it's hard for me to not put things in underlines or asterisks for bold and whatnot. But even harder to avoid is the use of links. I use Markdown links in my writing, from books to articles.

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I know I'm late to the party but whatever. I figured I'd publish this anyway.

  • Hades. This is my number one with a bullet, not that I'm alone in that. It’s not even close. Art, story, game play, music, innovative use of the rogue lite format, this game rocked my year. And this is even though I've been playing it since it first came out in Early Access, a couple of years ago.
  • Rimworld I wouldn't have made it this year without a somewhat peaceful little colony with low fidelity graphics and tons of weird story generation stuff. I have spent so many hours helping my colonists make cool living rooms, throne rooms, bedrooms, etc. And traps. So many traps.
  • Final fantasy 14. So much story, so many hours, so many interesting ways to MMO. This is a fun game to play if you have friends playing.
  • Terraria. It’s back for one last outing. The latest updates are incredible. This is another fun multi-player game with a ton of mods and other interesting moving pieces.
  • Torchlight 3 It’s not as bad as people said it is! I loved the first two Torchlight games, and this one isn't quite as deep or repeatable, but still a lot of fun!
  • XCOM: Chimera Squad. Surprisingly fun for a cheap game that dropped out of a clear blue sky. I feel like this probably began life as DLC for XCOM 2, but was turned into a stand-alone product near the end of development. It's really fun though, with good, solid XCOM action and a lot of heart in the writing. Story-wise, it's kind of a mash-up of XCOM and Brooklyn 99.
  • Destroy All Humans! Such a silly remake, such silly powers, so much fun. Basically this is just a good mayhem simulator. The writing gets in its own way from time to time. There are a lot (too many) jokes about people in 1950's America being deeply homophobic, and those started out annoying and went to really grating. But the action is enjoyable.
  • Dungeon of Naveulheulk. I can’t spell this game, but it’s an XCOM like in a fantasy setting, so that’s all for the good.
  • Fuser it’s so good. It’s what DropMix wanted to be, but better. This is the best game to make middle aged dudes in their bathrobes feel like awesome DJs.
  • Chess okay it’s a little weird to list a super ancient game, but this is the year I discovered Chess.com and I’m playing chess again on the regular.
  • Stellaris. I’m very bad at it, but I really enjoy it. You can combine this with Endless Space 2, another space-based 4X. Both are fun, both are of the whole “build a tech tree, build an empire” variety, and I'm bad at both of them.

I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting 100 Days To Offload.

#100DaysToOffload 59/100

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There's a rule in business that's often called the “Peter Principle “. It's given in many forms, but here's my simplest summation:

People will be promoted to their level of incompetency, where they will come to rest.

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Some twenty-one years ago I was on a Jeepney in Dagupan, in the Philippines.

fig. 1: A Jeepney. Technically this one is from Olongapo, not Dagupan, but close enough.

And the radio was playing. A song came on which I had never heard, but the first line I heard made me laugh so so hard, and even though I only heard it once, I've never forgotten it:

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It's not a Bandcamp Friday, but I wanted to write about some music I picked up on Bandcamp recently.

Girls Who Care is not-so-secretly the same one guy who makes comedy music as Hot Dad. The difference seems to be that “Hot Dad” is comedy rock, whereas “Girls Who Care” performs more serious rock. In either case it's Erik Helwig.

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