Bandwagon – #Blaugust21 Wrap-Up

I’ve got a lot of things on my mind today, but they’re not cooked enough for a post yet, I think. In the meantime, I may as well jump on this wrap-up train and make a few comments and observations.

I remain grateful that Belghast continues to organize the event. It provides a nice combination of features that help kickstart my own engagement. It provides a handy goal, daily posting in my case, and some fall-back prompts that help cement the practice as part of my routine. It hasn’t always been enough to keep me engaged, but life is also complicated and that’s no fault of the event itself. Even a months worth of participation is better than having none. Even a single post increases the overall level of activity.

The list of participants and their respective post counts can be found here. Every participant deserves a pat on the back. Metaphorically, at least.

I’ve noticed that overall participation is down from the Blaugust Reborn event in 2018. That’s when I started, so it serves as a bit of a baseline for me, I suppose. We had about 90 bloggers in the first year, followed by 70, 47, and 45 respectively. I’ll admit that I’m more than a little curious as to the cause, but don’t feel comfortable speculating. I was more or less on hiatus before and even when actively writing am not “in touch” with the larger blogging community. Still, two of those 45 are new, and I guess I came back as well, so it’s doing what it’s supposed to do.

I’ve spent a lot of the last month quietly questioning my content quality and direction. While posting daily is good for creating the habit itself, it means that I often find myself pulling poorly thought out ideas out of thin air and committing them to a post. I would prefer to include something with slightly more substance. I’ve considered splitting the blog in two, with one dedicated to my more random musings and the other reserved for the structured and fleshed out ideas. Of course, I’ve always kept to the one because it suits the name quite well. It’s an Unidentified Signal Source because half the time even I don’t know where I’m coming from. Or where I’m going, for that matter.

Now, however, comes what I’ve always considered to be the hard part. With Blaugust behind us, the training wheels are off and I have to continue solely on self-motivation. A task that was somewhat easier in the first couple of years than it is now. Maybe I shall consider that my own challenge. Finding a new normal to work within.

Y’all take care. Excelsior.

Thoughts for September

I typically don’t do well with goal-setting. My desire to get things done often exceeds my willingness to put effort into it. Still, it’s not a bad idea to consider the things I’m at least aware of.

Intend to Do:

I’d like to at least finish Road 96. I don’t think I was that far away from doing so, but other things came up and distracted me. I was enjoying the narrative up until that point though.

I also need to get some more time in on Sims 4. Things were going well and I just decided to use my time elsewhere. I also know there’s a new kit in the works, Industrial Loft. I haven’t actually looked at it, but it sounds like my kind of thing. I don’t know if their idea of industrial is the same as mine, though. Wouldn’t be the first time where I looked at one of these things and decided their interpretation wasn’t for me.

I plan to try and get back in the habit of discussing the free game from Epic. May not be every week, but it gives me something new to look at. The game for this week, Yoku’s Island Express, looks very familiar. One of the kids has played it, or something quite like it.

Going to get some more done in Boundless as well. Nothing really interesting, just slowly rebuilding from where I let everything lapse. Currently spending most of my time mining and wondering why my spark generators don’t seem to be working.

Try some Elite Dangerous on for size. I did end up finding a relatively inexpensive VR headset on eBay. I’ve been experimenting with it a bit and feel like it would be nice to give Elite a try with it as well. That said, the kids ask to use it all the time as well. They seem quite fond of it, considering the lack of content I have available for it.

Should Do:

I really should get caught up in FFXIV. I actually worked on it six to eight weeks ago, but it’s such a time sink just to get caught up at this point. I’ve been away from it long enough now that I don’t feel immediately compelled by the narrative either.

I should probably be paying more attention to New World as well, since it’s actually coming out later this month. It would probably do well in terms of views, but I’m feeling very “meh” at the moment. Not necessarily about NW, just in general. I blame lack of sleep.

I really need to start purging installs on my laptop to free up some disk space. It’s low enough now that it’s becoming a nuisance. Some of this should be easy. Cleaning up old files and moving things to my external storage drive. I’ve been lax about organizing and storing my downloaded 3D printing files and those things take up a considerable amount of room.

I also need to review the backlog. There are several little titles buried in past purchases that I’ve had every intention of getting to, but never quite managed. Several of these are turn-based tactical games like Phoenix Point.

Can’t Do:

I was really looking forward to trying Book of Travels. That plan is effectively shut down for the foreseeable future. This has been on my Steam wishlist for what feels like forever now. I suppose it may as well stay there.

Time to wrap this up, I think. The lack of sleep is kicking in and I can feel my focus getting a bit loose. Going to track down some information about this new Sims 4 kit and try not to nod off.

Y’all take care. Don’t let anyone steal your sweetroll.

Hey, it’s Blaugust time! The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.

August Top 10 – A Month’s Worth of Hits

With the end of Blaugust approaching, I thought it would be interesting to take a quick look at the most viewed posts for the month just to see how things shook out. See what was well received and what wasn’t. I already knew what number one would be, but was curious what other general guidance and lessons there were to see.

The New World post really wasn’t a surprise. It’s hard to not notice things like this when the stats page is my “default” landing point. I didn’t really think it was all that great a post, but I suppose it was well-timed. Consider that a point in the “writing about the new shiny” column.

It frustrates me just a bit that number three is one of those zombie posts that just receives a trickle of hits, just two or three a day, and never seems to die. I wrote that post in February 2020 and have no idea if it’s even still relevant. The FFXIV post tied for last place here is in a very similar state. It’s an even older post that just keeps on ticking.

The next two are about planning and time management. Of all the blogging-related posts, I find it interesting that this is the topic that got the most attention. Having said that, I suppose that’s always the number one problem. Even one that I mention regularly myself; finding time to get something done. It’s also worth pointing out that the only other blogging-related post on this list, while being at the bottom, is also more or less about time management and planning.

I didn’t even realize that the 3D printing post was getting hits. They really don’t perform very well. I have a test or two I’d like to try, but otherwise I’m not sure it’s worth writing about for the current blog audience.

It’s nice to see Sims 4 at least showing itself briefly. I only wrote the one post, and it probably helps that this was timely and related to new content. I’ve been meaning to do a follow-up post as well, but wasn’t really in a hurry to do so.

Considering the blog’s name was inspired by Elite, it’s nice to see it on the list as well, though that post was more of a general commentary on VR than on Elite in particular.

The general moral of the story seems to be that the hits are where the new, shiny, and “newsworthy” posts are. Not really a big surprise. It’s also worth pointing out that this chart is likely biased a bit toward things written early in the month, which have had more time to gather clicks.

Another brief note is that the games mentioned are either popular MMOs and/or very sandbox-oriented games. I may consider that a slightly important bit of guidance in some of my decisions down the road. A useful thing to know when I’m weighing what to post and when.

I’m not sure how useful that information really is either. While I loosely monitor site activity, I don’t monetize the blog and therefore stand to gain little from chasing clicks. It’s much more a medium of exploring my own thoughts while also sharing them

Y’all take care. As my youngest child likes to say, “what’s red and you should never eat? A brick.”

Hey, it’s Blaugust time! The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.

3D Printing – FEP Maintenance

I’ve mentioned before how fiddly and maintenance-oriented 3D printers can be at times. On of those occasional activities is changing the thin plastic sheet at the bottom of the vat. It’s called the FEP because it’s made from fluorinated ethylene propylene, a highly transparent and low friction material that allows the UV to pass through effectively and help keep parts from sticking to the bottom. This particular polymer is much more commonly known as teflon.

There are a number of failure states, but the most common are physical damage that allow resin to leak and stretching. The leaks can be extremely bad, as splits and tears tend to worsen quickly and can allow resin to get on top of the display or inside the unit and subsequently cure in this places. It can be extremely difficult to clean these things. The stretching is by far the most common, and leads only to print failure instead of equipment damage. A frustrating problem, but not a damaging one.

You can see the sheet on this upside-down vat, mostly because it’s a little bit dirty. Most of them are held on by one or two of these metal rings, which tension the plastic much like a drum. The tightness is actually tested using a spectrogram to see what frequency it vibrates at when struck lightly. The typical target is considered 275-350 Hz.

Most of the tutorials, as well as my own experience, show the method involving two rings screwed together that form a sandwich with the sheet. Apparently Phrozen only uses a single ring, which has some pros and cons, I guess. The upside is there’s a lot less labor involved, with fewer screws and less accessories needed to get the sandwich tension correct. The main con is that it’s nearly impossible for me to get near the traditional target tightness. Without the second ring to provide some initial tension I just couldn’t get there before the main tensioning screws bottomed out.

While I was doing all of these because of print failures due to stretching, there was a spot in one of these that was slightly damaged. It looks like a split in the picture, but it’s actually more of an indention. Probably a spot where I pressed a little too hard trying to remove a failed part. It’s still a good idea to go ahead and replace these due to the failure risk.

If you only own one printer, you can actually buy these in smaller “ready to use” size sheets. Since I have multiples, including a larger printer, it’s actually cheaper and easier for me to order A4-sized sheets and simply cut it in half for the smaller ones. This is usually the cheapest method regardless, but not everyone wants to fool with cutting it. A steel ruler and a hobby knife are all you really need.

It’s also worth mentioning that the sheets shown here still have their protective plastic on, which makes it much easier to see. I don’t know what happens if you forget to peel it off, but it’s probably not anything good.

I managed to get all three of these done. All of them at least tested higher after the change, if not exactly ideal, so that’s and improvement at least. I started a test print on each printer just to see how things would go, but didn’t have time to inspect them closely before I left home. I know both of the small printers had issues, so I may re-level the print bed on each of them and try again.

At the very least, it’s nice to have them running again instead of sitting idle waiting for this.

Y’all take care. Watch out for the adhesive used on teflon coated tape. It’s the only thing I’ve ever seen stick to teflon in any meaningful way.

Hey, it’s Blaugust time! The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.

Unplugged – An Internet Usage Observation

This seems somewhat relevant to this weeks theme, though it’s really more of an observation than a lesson. I would normally say I’m not one for extensive social media usage. Twitter is notifications only and only for a couple of webcomic artists. I actively avoid Facebook. I only use messenger, and only for a single contact. Reddit as a community has lost whatever appeal it once had. The only thing I really use to any great extent is imgur.

I’ve noticed something of a trend in usage, though. Not just of imgur, but of online communication in general. I tend not to engage in much of it over the course of the weekend. I’ve been keeping up the blog posts, but I don’t check my email frequently, if at all. I also don’t tend to check in on most of the online forums I use more than once or twice. This is a recent trend in behavior, though. Go back more than a couple of weeks and I was spending much more time on these things.

While the forums are much more of a platform for communication and idea sharing, I cannot help but wonder if my usage of imgur is born more out of boredom than anything else. It’s mildly entertaining at times, but far less so than many other things I could spend that time on. Having said that, I went through a period there where it was nearly the only thing I was doing.

Could be a mild depression thing, or simply a product of laziness. Sitting around poking through the randomness of usersub requires very little effort compared to getting up and actually doing something productive, especially if and when you don’t feel like doing the latter. This is somewhat opposed to the times like this weekend where I’ve barely touched it but done plenty of other things that have been on my to-do list for entirely too long.

At the very least, it’s a behavior I should keep an eye on. Not that you can always think your way out of those moods, but it’s good to at least recognize them.

It’s also possible that it’s a shift in motivation. By trying to keep material lined up for blog posts I have perhaps positioned myself a focus more on activities with more interest and sharing capacity than my meme mining trips into imgur.

Either way, it’s something I’ll continue to keep an eye on. This change certainly hasn’t helped me get caught up on blog posts. I nearly forgot entirely, and I was lucky to remember to write at all.

Y’all take care. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with looking at funny pictures until it keeps you from doing what needs doing.

Hey, it’s Blaugust time! The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.

Free from Epic – Automachef

While I’ve largely been ignoring Epic’s free games for a while, I figured I would take a break from my usual stuff today to try the latest one. At a glance it reminds me a lot of other logistics games that I’ve played such as Satisfactory and Mindustry, but with a slightly more culinary direction. I didn’t play it all that long, but it was a pleasant enough experience.

The game is broken down into a series of levels in a somewhat tree-like structure. It requires you to complete the previous ones first, and is more of a linear progression with a small occasional side tree based around a specific theme. I did the tutorial and about the first three or four levels in the main sequence.

Each level is effectively set up as two stages. A placement/setup phase and a run cycle where it actually executes what you’ve set up as customer orders come in. Most of my time was spent in the setup phase, especially since you can fast-forward the execution phase.

The tutorials themselves are fairly direct, requiring you to place machines in very specific locations and orientations. I suppose they were more interested in demonstrating how to do something instead of allowing you the freedom to play around.

While the mechanics of the machines themselves are fairly well explained, they don’t directly address some of the slightly more subtle aspects of efficiency. Yeah, they show you how to automatically toggle equipment on and off the order processor, but not how to adjust the transfer arms or machinery directions that are needed for some of the more compact areas. This was more of a trial and error process of wondering why something wasn’t getting moved or picked up.

There are also a lot of factors I didn’t run into, but are mentioned on some pieces of equipment, such as spoilage. Perhaps the most complicated thing I did was operating a single grill with three different items passing through it.

So far, the actual placement of machines seems fairly straightforward. With what I have access to there’s only so many layouts I can get away with. My primary strategy revolved around looking for ways to minimize the amount of conveyor being used to create as compact a design as possible. After that, I buy as many order computers as I can and try to keep equipment shut off when it’s not needed. It’s worked pretty well insofar as I’ve played.

The other purpose of these order processors is to limit how many ingredients you spit out. This way you only produce the items you need as dishes are ordered. This limits the “ingredients used” metric that each level has tied to it, but presumably also saves on power as well.

I can see where some of these could get quite complicated. Hopefully they eventually add some better logic processing as well, though I don’t know if I’ll end up getting that far into it. Toward the end of my play session, I was getting into territory where my efficiency was starting to drop. I might could deal with this by changing the speed of the final assembly machines, making the fast recipes slower to save power and speeding up the complicated ones to get them out the door.

Not a bad game. Very different from the more real-time type of logistics I’m used to, but very similar in nature. If you like Satisfactory or Factorio you’d probably enjoy this too, at least a little bit.

Y’all take care. Remember to turn the grill off when you’re not using it. Can’t be having an inefficient exploitation of humans.

Hey, it’s Blaugust time! The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.

Boundless – Still Here

I thought I’d written about Boundless before, but apparently I was mistaken. It occupies a very strange niche of the MMO market by being very much like a persistent shared Minecraft. It has a buy to play with optional subscription model, as well as a premium currency. I’ve never felt that their monetization was particularly aggressive, but this has some downsides as well.

As MMOs go, it has a miniscule player base. Since the game doesn’t bring in a lot of money, the studio is presumably busy working on other titles to make ends meet. Most notably Baldur’s Gate 3. To quote their community representative, “there are some incomplete changes in the next update that need to be completed before it can be released. At the moment we’re struggling to make sufficient time to complete the work.” I assume this is part of the reason why the player base has dropped off a bit in the last six months as well. A lot of people seem to be assuming that the game is some combination of dead and/or abandonware. Live services cost money, gotta get the cash from somewhere if it’s not coming from here, and it’s hard to justify to an investor or publisher why you’re dedicating resources to this other thing instead of their project.

I did notice that locally hosted worlds are part of the next update as well. That seems like a good move on their part, as it allows them to off-load some of the hosting onto willing players rather than having to foot the bill themselves, and it also means that the game could remain playable if those services had to shut down.

I mention it of course because I wanted something I could just casually wander around and build a bit in, and I prefer the design, mechanics, and aesthetic of Boundless over most of my other alternatives. The major downside being that you have to make sure to feed your plots once a month, and it can be excessively grindy if you’re trying to do everything yourself.

I may come back and do a deeper look at the game in the future if I keep playing.

Y’all take care.

Hey, it’s Blaugust time! The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.

Saints Row Reboot – Super Unrealistic Campy Kitsch

Only the finest of clickbait for you today, friends.

I would generally consider the Saints Row franchise something of a guilty pleasure. I’m not exactly a fan, per se, but I have to admit that I have enjoyed its particular brand of absurdity from time to time. It did eventually burn itself out, jumping the shark well before it reached the fourth game. A particularly absurd piece of work. I can claim to have finished all four of the major installments though, though I can’t really tell if that’s a pro or a con.

The announcement of the reboot is half surprise and half not. I had largely stopped thinking about the series because there just wasn’t anywhere to take it as a continuation of the fourth game. In that context, a reboot makes a lot of sense. There are few modern competitors to GTA and enough time has passed that a reboot makes sense. It’s been 15 years since the original title and eight years since the last major release.

The announcement trailer from yesterday may be found here.

The trailer itself leaves me with a variety of thoughts on the whole thing. First is its tagline, “Self Made,” as well as the narrative and launch materials. It seems to be putting itself in a position similar to that of the original game. A small ragtag gang of characters trying to get started and make a name for itself by taking down what looks to be, big surprise, three other factions. Certainly not breaking any molds in format.

The second is that it has a sort of part mid-western part Vegas thing going on. That could at least set it apart somewhat from the exclusively “generic big city” vibe most of the previous games had. I’m curious how much of it is borrowing from the semi-urban/semi-rural setting of GTA V.

The last thing is that the trailer shows absolutely nothing especially gameplay related. While not a surprise, it feels like a clip from your standard over the top action movie. Guns, check. Explosions, check. Driving backward across rooftops, check.

I am mildly curious how close to the over the top absurdity of the other entries it would be. Most of the scenes in the trailer give off a slightly more down to earth vibe. No pony rides, dubstep guns, or penetrators are on show. Having said that, the neon cat emoji helmet seems like it would be perfectly at home in the previous games. Probably the headwear for the main protagonist in the opening scene and something of a nod to the other games. You’re apparently not the Boss if you don’t have some absurd thing on your head.

I’ve also noticed a distinct lack of purple in the materials available. Yet another departure from their normal branding. Instead there’s a great deal of blue. Blue skies in particular, but just generally blue. It seems like a genuine attempt to split the difference between something new and something that will appeal to the existing fan base. I can only hope they’ve managed to do it without alienating both sides.

I’ll give them credit for one thing. They waited until they were six months out to make any real announcement. I’d say that’s way better than, say, whatever Bethesda is doing with Starfield or Elder Scrolls VI. It’s nice to hear about a title for the first time and not have the release date several years down the road.

I got a little tickled when I saw the preorder packages. For those that aren’t aware, you can currently claim the Saints Row: The Third remaster for free on Epic until Sept. 2nd 2021 in celebration of the announcement. This basically invalidates the current “Platinum” tier. At least purchases of it have been disabled.

I guess we’ll see how it goes. I’m not exactly optimistic or excited. Best case scenario is that it’s more of the same thing wrapped in newer and more accessible packaging. I’ll keep an eye on it from time to time to see how things develop.

Y’all take care. Remember, don’t preorder a product when you don’t even know what the product is.

Hey, it’s Blaugust time! The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.

The Great Draft Purge

Starting to think this is housekeeping and general maintenance week.

When I logged in today, I had 51 posts in the “drafts” section. Now I have 9. Not counting this one, of course. I just looked at the list and decided I’d had enough and started purging them with extreme prejudice.

It’s something I’ve been considering for a while. The vast majority of them were like yesterday’s post. Slightly dark or negative, or at least ended up going in that direction. In some cases there were even multiple attempts at the same topic as I tried to figure out what angle I wanted to approach it from.

Another large portion of them were personal stories that were abandoned half-told or contained things that I felt were overly biased, judgemental, or just too risque. My general then-to-now history of religious position, for example. I simply never saw the point of sharing it given the highly personal nature of such things.

There were also some random quotes, book passages, and writing assignments floating around in there as well. Not all of those were purged, but the majority of them were. I don’t even remember why I felt compelled to save some of them.

While there’s something to be said for saving them as a sort of journal entry, I remembered writing enough of them that I no longer felt invested in them. All that’s left now are my blank post with the pre-written Blaugust footer and a half-dozen ideas that need finished or updated. Chances are high that they’ll be re-written from scratch, but keeping them around keeps the idea in front of me.

There are also a couple of them I can’t remember if I wrote about or visited, but if I don’t remember nobody else probably does either, so I’ll consider them fair game for an update.

At the very least I feel better for having cleared out the extra stuff and dusted a few things off.

Y’all take care. I think drafts are kinda like tribbles.

Hey, it’s Blaugust time! The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.

Literally just me ranting about COVID stuff.

I have been loathe to discuss anything overly COVID-related. Surely we all get enough of that on a daily basis, and have been for well over a year at this point. The sheer absurdity of how everything continues to play out has become somewhat cartoonish.

This was somewhat reinforced when the first day of school literally ended with an entire homeroom class being shut down for exposure. Certainly a portent of what was to come.

The local school system communicates mostly via robo-call. It was just the occasional call here and there before the pandemic began, but has at several points become a daily occurence. To no real surprise, right now is also one of those times. Sure, if they determine you’ve been impacted directly, you receive a personal phone call as well, but right around 6PM every day “the calls” begin. Today, there were five instead of the usual two.

In fact, today was the 9th day of school this year and I’ve received 14 exposure-related robo-calls. Averages out to about 7 out of 9 days.

It’s hard to tell how much of it is COVID-related, exactly, but there is suddenly a lot of labor pressure this week. Entire assembly lines shut down for a week, school bus routes operating on a 75min delay due to driver shortages, that sort of thing. The bus delay was one of my five for today.

The last two were the unsurprising announcement of schedule changes. Switching back to the “hybrid” model they used at one point last year so there were less people on-site on any given day, though I wouldn’t be surprised if that moves back into all online for a little bit as well.

Turns out opening the schools back up with a new extra-contagious strain on the loose was a bad idea. If only we could have foreseen this.

Perhaps the most concerning aspect to me is the overall wear and tear on my sympathy. I try to approach most things with a healthy dose of charitable assumption. I increasingly find that pool of empathy and compassion somewhat drained. This lack of sympathy is not an entirely unfamiliar side of myself, but it’s one I’ve been increasingly trying to get away from.

I lived in that state for several years. I changed positions to escape from the places and systems that were allowing it to manifest, which helped quite a bit. I am much happier and in arguably better shape now than I have been in a very long time. Perhaps that has simply left me overly sensitive to it out of fear of returning to how things used to be.

It seems I’ve gotten just a bit dark and broody here. At this point I’d normally can it and start over, but we’ll do something different and keep this one. Perhaps now that I’ve written it my brain will allow itself to return to its field of paper flowers.

Y’all take care and stay safe. Masks, distance, vaccine, we should all know the drill by now. This isn’t the kind of lottery we want to be playing.

Hey, it’s Blaugust time! The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.