The Great GameStop Short

In all fairness, I have not seen The Great Short, though I’ve heard it’s good.

The general shenanigans that are occuring around reddit and GameStop are, however, something I at least generally understand and find interesting. I don’t really wish to discuss that matter in detail, but I shall review it briefly.

When the market is expecting a share price to decrease, money can be made by “shorting” it. Basically borrowing a share and selling it today in the hope that it will go down and you can repurchase it for a lower price and give it back. It is an extremely risky position because your loss is “unlimited.” That is, if the share price goes to the moon instead of going down, your loss from buying the now-more-expensive shares will also go to the moon.

Since GameStop has been doing very poorly for the last several years, shorting their stock is a fairly “safe” bet, as shorts go. So much so that a great many investors were doing it. The thing with being predictable, though, is that sooner or later someone else will figure out your game and exploit it. That is essentially what reddit did. Realizing that the stock was so heavily shorted that they could force it into a “short squeeze” (upward price cycle caused by short sellers being forced to buy back due to price increase) and set out to give it the nudge it needed.

While the memes are entertaining and the investors knew, or should have known, the risk they were taking, I have seen some sentiments I find concerning.

Hidden underneath the humor is a sort of righteous hatred of professional investors and big business. A number of comments I saw on imgur seem to be suggesting violence. While I agree that some things need to change, it all seems a bit… intense. Given recent events involving a violent alt-right, as it were, it conjures for me images of a violent alt-left as well.

A number of people are quite upset about the heavy handed moderation of this reddit community, both on reddit and on discord, but given the commentary, the reaction seems appropriate. Hatred and violence are not the sole purview of nazis and racists, but rather a part of our human nature that we must acknowledge and find other ways to express. It is okay to be angry, but we must recognize that our fellow homo sapiens, even the ones we dislike and disagree with, should be held sacrosanct.

Maybe I’m just crazy. I’m not asking for world peace or perfect harmony, but to try and keep our discourse… civil. Threatening to harm the other guy does not further discussion. It splinters us into cliques who begin to hold positions based on group narratives rather than facts and information.

Okay, rant over, I guess. Y’all take care.

Cyberpunk 2077: Post Hoc

First, let me say that I played on a fairly decent PC. My experience doesn’t really reflect the hot mess that console was said to be.

The bottom line is that I did, in fact, enjoy the experience enough that I bothered to finish a single playthrough. The larger quests were decently written and within the context of a single playthrough at least some of the choices felt consequential. I liked a number of the characters within the game and still wish I had done more of the side content than I did.

Combat was… acceptable… though the way the game speeds up or slows down time and/or chooses which thing near your cursor you’re trying to target was mildly frustrating at times. This was at least in part to my using a quickhack-focused build. I kinda liked the system itself, but at the end of the day it seems more like a generic stand in for magic. There are only about a dozen or so actual quickhacks to choose from, though the limited slots in the early game made for some interesting strategic choices.

Most of the RPG-style systems seem fairly generic. They were there, I participated because I had to in order to survive. There isn’t really anything wrong with it, I guess, it just didn’t seem all the inspired. Put points here for more pew pew, put points there to make it worse when you give the enemies the stink-eye. Oh, and don’t forget all those cybernetics I couldn’t use cause Body was my dump stat.

The equipment system seems similarly generic, though I rather enjoyed playing most of the game wearing an outdated rock band shirt that counts as super-armor cause I dropped a really sweet mod in it. It also includes one of the most annoying and persistent bugs I found. Any time the game force-changed clothing, it would cause no clothing to show up instead. It was particularly fond of not showing pants. There was not any way to cure this that I found, short of shutting the game down entirely.

I also ran into several situations where quests were or became bugged, requiring me to drop them or restart the game in order to complete them. These two issues combined were severe enough to be outright annoying, but infrequent enough that the game was barely tolerable.

Still, the story was just compelling enough to convince me to finish the game. Once. I then promptly uninstalled it, for now. I wouldn’t really recommend it as an experience right now, though it certainly has some potential buried in it. A few patches and maybe some DLC down the road I’m looking forward to a second playthrough with some different decisions, more side content completion, and a different playstyle. Hopefully with a little more polish as well.

Y’all take care, and watch out for the Johnny Silverhand fellow. Bernie Sanders wishes he hated the corpos that hard.

Once More Unto the Breach

This seems one of those instances where I should take my own advice and simply… start. Posting again, that is. Been telling myself this for the better part of two months, yet here we are.

The reality is that many of the subjects I typically discussed here are mostly on standby, and as such I was often unsure what, if anything, to write about. It’s not that there’s nothing to discuss, just not much of my standard content. I’ve only played one game in the last couple of weeks, Mindustry. It’s an odd pixelart-Satisfactory meets tower defense game. I shall endeavor to discuss it in the near future.

Outside of that, most of my time is spent tinkering with 3D printers. Not only did I end up acquiring one, but I currently have three. As a random side-habit, I have also been exploring the field of miniature painting. While fun, the uniform color of printed objects is not to my liking. I’m sure I will discuss any and all of this in due time.

In fact, the process of writing this post in and of itself is helping me form a list of topics and post ideas. Not quite like riding a bike, but it’s comfortingly familiar.

I must also re-consider my posting schedule. Before, I generally aimed for 10AM (-5GMT) as this gave me enough time to write something if I didn’t already have a post waiting. Since I work third shift now instead of first, and in a slightly different role, that seems like an odd time. In fact, I would be asleep when the post went live. I still could, I suppose, but I don’t know if I’m feeling “the schedule” right now. Perhaps one will simply emerge naturally as the 10A time did.

On the bright side, I still seem to be perfectly able to ramble on with little to no overarching point. I shall, however, ramble on somewhere else while my brain finishes processing the keystrokes and before they begin to seem like a bad idea.

Y’all take care. I intend to be back tomorrow.

In Defense of Ticket/Product Scalpers

This is one of those moments where I realize I’ve come to a conclusion even I think is slightly off the rails. People snatching up high demand items and reselling them at much higher prices are widely disliked, especially by those who would be the ordinary consumer of said product. While I think I was already halfway to my conclusion, the item that brought it to mind and forced me to process it was a recent episode of the Paint Bravely podcast. (2hr runtime)

In a relatively capitalist society, there will always be individuals who exploit a product with high demand and low supply. Like it or not, that isn’t a bug but a feature. It’s quite similar to the buy low/sell high seen in traditional arbitrage, though not without risk.

The mystery I really keep coming back to is why the opportunity exists at all. It means that the company producing the product could extract additional sales or value and either doesn’t see it or deliberately chooses not to. I’m willing to allow for the former case to happen, but suspect it to be rare. Corporations that cannot accurately gauge demand for their product typically don’t fare well in the long run.

This leaves us with the assumption that most of them are knowingly shorting supply. That for logistical or strategic reasons they are going to market with a product understanding or hoping that supply will be insufficient. This is especially true in a somewhat hype-driven market where demand has been intentionally pumped up ahead of launch.

There are plenty of good logistical reasons why you would want to do this. I’ve always heard that margins on major gaming hardware are extremely narrow. That’s a situation where you would want to be extremely careful not to over-produce. It may also simply be that we’re operating in an environment where component availability necessarily throttles production. Many of the manufacturers in my area are running non-stop overtime struggling to keep up with unheard of levels of demand.

I struggled for a while to grasp any good strategic reasons to do this though. Why would any company intentionally pass up first day/week/month/quarter sales for a major product? I feel it’s a bit of a stretch, but keeping the product slightly hard to obtain gives it the appearance of being “hot” or desirable. Does this lead to an increase in sales? It’s hard to say. Logically it shouldn’t. In the economic sense it would simply lead to a higher price, which the company cannot ask without losing face. Those with the proper foresight and capital, however, can exploit the difference between the MSRP and the true price and extract the value that the corporation cannot.

In the end, I have a hard time saying that there are really any “bad guys” here. I think that by and large the companies would do their best to maximize unit sales and for logistical or financial reasons cannot reach true demand. The scalpers are simply evidence that supply and demand theory is “working as intended.”

However, for those that would see them fail, the only real option is simply patience. You must wait until the supply catches up or otherwise be lucky enough to catch one available at MSRP. They only succeed because a small portion of the market is willing to bear the much higher cost. Especially around the gifting season. The emotional weight of giving others, especially the young ones, that thing they want seems to carry a fairly thick wallet.

Either way, I’ll go practice my necromancy somewhere else for a while. Y’all take care.

Promptapalooza – How did you get your online nickname?

Today’s prompt is “How did you get the name that you regularly go by online, and what if anything does it mean?” presented by Magiwastaken of Indietale.

SDWeasel is a curious inside joke that I chose to embrace. First and foremost, SD are my initials. They were included because such a simple noun as Weasel would not be easy to grab as a consistent screen name. I don’t really recall what the first service I used it for was.

The Weasel portion is a work story. At the time, I worked with 6 or 7 other people. As tends to be the case in manufacturing, one of us had the task of releasing a part from a rack into the hands of whoever had it, who walked a couple meters and hung it on a different rack going somewhere else. We walked in a circle doing this all day. Needless to say, this gets old.

Our primary forms of entertainment were talking to each other and engaging in much frowned-upon horseplay. After perhaps one too many instances of this, I was offered a choice of nickname: Weasel or Stumble-ina.

I’ve never been super clear on what inspired it, though the last one is probably the more obvious. I am not the most sure-footed individual, though I tend to recover fairly well. As for weasel, I never really asked. Maybe I smelled funny, maybe I was too mischievous, maybe both. Regardless, I made what seemed like an obvious choice and decided I liked it enough to continue using it.

Outside of a few odd references, such as Weird Al’s song Weasel Stomping Day, it was rarely brought up. If referred to by nickname I was more typically called (the) Pagan. Certainly an accurate assessment at the time.

That’s all there really is to it. No epic backstory or anything, just a random short-lived joke that’s persisted in username only.

Y’all take care, or else.

Promptapalooza – Hobbies Outside of My Specific Niche

Today’s prompt is brought to us by Ace Asunder: Tell us about some of your hobbies outside of the realm of your specific niche.

I possess a similar problem to Ace, in that my niche is a bit vague at times. I do like to talk about games and MMOs, which I’ve done little of lately, and economics. I’ve spent a lot more time expressing personal thoughts outside that realm with all the prompts.

I shall start by saying that I find the idea that I have time for additional slightly amusing. Because of the shift in how I’m taking classes, there are days where I must pay a price for my hubris. A price typically paid in lack of sleep.

My schedule is a bit too complicated to present in an easy to follow format, but Tues-Thurs my sleep is broken into small blocks an hour or two at a time, with Wed being by far the worst. Yesterday I got about an hour nap on campus, a couple hours between class and picking the kids up, and another couple of hours after doing so at the expense of gaming time.

The result being that I find myself in a position where I have to ask myself if I should really be playing games or working on other things instead of being asleep. Do I really want to go to work on three hours of sleep and be miserable the entire time?

Of course, this is what I signed up for. It is more an observation and explanation than a complaint. Many things like these blogs posts, homework, and studying, actually happen on the slower days at work.

Still, I continue to dabble in a few other things I don’t talk about on the blog. I’ve been entertaining the idea of picking up a 3D resin printer. No real good reason, just figured it would be an interesting thing to play with and the smaller entry level units are reaching a price I might be willing to pay. I really like the quality of items I’ve seen with resin printers compared to the filament printers.

Now, considering what I wrote yesterday about not really sticking with most hobbies, I’d say that the chances are slim of it really going anywhere. Combined with a schedule that’s keeping me from even gaming many days, I’m not even sure there’s time to engage in such a thing and at this point the money may be better spent paying someone to mow my yard.

Either way, that’s where I find myself at the moment. Giving up time to do the hobbies already in my niche in order to advance my educational goals. A curious combination of scarcity and ration self-interest in action.

Y’all take care, and make sure you get enough sleep. I do not necessarily recommend the Nietzschian “that which does not kill me” approach.

Promptapalooza – Do you finish games/hobbies/projects?

I believe the full prompt, as introduced by Nogamara from Battle Stance, is: Do you “finish” games/hobbies/projects and move on or do you come back to the same things again and again?

Spoiler, no, I don’t tend to finish games or projects when left to my own devices.

The root problem is that I like to dabble and tinker, then inevitably bite off more than I can chew. I enjoy poking around the edges of things, learning new systems, looking under the hood, and maybe working out a solution to a few basic problems. As with any form of entertainment, I don’t typically enjoy it once it becomes work. In this case, work is often a form of time investment. Particularly if the time spent doesn’t feel like it has any forward momentum. Lack of money or equipment can cause this as well. If I am unable to acquire some critical piece of gear, I will wait for an opportunity to do so while doing research. The end result being either burnout or realization that it’s currently beyond my means.

This had led to a somewhat cyclical pattern for some hobbies and games, and simply abandonment of others. Games tend to be cyclical, where physical hobbies are typically abandoned. It’s not all bad, I know how to knit and crochet, for example, and respect anyone with the patience to finish a large and/or complicated project. A few other things that are in various stages of “never got off the ground” are blacksmithing, metal casting, and archery. I have given the equipment for the first and last to others as time has gone on. I technically still have my torches, crucible, and all that, but it’s neither together nor easily locatable.

“Gaming” is perhaps the most consistent of my hobbies, and even that has gone through a few dry spells over the years. I don’t tend hold onto any one game over the long term, though. I rotate through playing whatever seems interesting at the moment. There’s a lot of solo or two-player experimentation with MMOs, a little tinkering with the odd and generally unfinished single-player RPG, and an increasing amount of co-op building/survival. Minecraft, Terraria, and Starbound, typically modded, feature regularly. Some other recent titles I’ve added are things like Satisfactory, a co-op logistics simulator?

For the most part, I would categorize myself as falling well into the “come back to the same things repeatedly” category. I have arguably finished the base game experience in some cases, but how exactly does one finish an MMO or the nearly infinite pool of mod-based content? I suppose it depends on how one defines finished, and that is a personal choice that cannot be made for us.

So I have decided that I’m finished with this post. I have some homework for my Calc II class I need to be doing anyway.

Y’all take care, and remember that when we walk away from a project, we are always at least temporarily finished with it.

Promptapalooza – What is your earliest memory related to one of your core fandoms?

This prompt was covered by Syp over at Bio Break. Since he’s the one that plugged Blaugust 2018 on the Massively OP Podcast, a case could be made that it’s his fault I’m here at all.

As a random topic, I shall choose the console RPG. It’s a genre that I still tangle with today, though in many ways the lines between genres has become much more gradient these days.

The first memory I can recall about the old-school console RPGs are small snippets of my slightly older cousins playing Final Fantasy 2 (JP4), specifically the intro sequence or cutscene and watching some combat. It’s interesting to note that I never actually played the game as a child. In fact, the first one of the series I would play is 3 (JP6), and it wasn’t exactly new at the time.

I’m not exactly clear why those games stood out, really. I wasn’t a very picky player. I spent as much if not more time playing adventure games with slightly RPG-like elements such as Zelda or Soul Blazer, or even platformers and Mario Kart, than I ever did on the strictly RPG games. I rarely finished any game, to be honest, but certainly not any of the RPGs. I think I may have finished Lufia at some point, and I adore it’s sequel to this day.

I would certainly be remiss if I didn’t at least mention Chrono Trigger.

Still, there’s something in that gameplay loop that I seem to like. Maybe it’s just an ideal combination of story, strategy, and action. I don’t really feel any current need to understand it.

Something I do find strange is that this style of RPG is largely a thing of the past. Modern tastes seem to favor the more fluid gameplay of action combat instead of the older transition/random battle with a turn-based combat system of some sort. Even the Final Fantasy franchise has moved in that direction, leaving MMOs and XCOM-like strategy games the bastion of turn-oriented RPGs. After, what is the global cooldown if not your own personal ATB gauge?

Maybe I’m just overlooking some titles, I don’t know. I actually do feel like I need to think about that one just a bit. Is it really a change in the taste of the gamer, or simply the corporate tendency to keep copying the things that work? Maybe it’s just a general trend toward multiplayer-oriented gameplay where turns are… less useful.

Y’all take care. May your heals always go off before the boss’s turn.

Promptapalooza – How Neo-Paganism Made Me Athiest

Clickbait title is clickbait. This is part of the Blaugust Promptapalooza, and today’s prompt is “A Person or Thing That Has Greatly Influenced You.” Today’s host is Chestnut, of Gamer Girl Confessions. This one is… long. It is the story of how I discovered science and critical thinking. Nearly everything in the last decade of my life is somehow connected to this. Or am I just retconning my memory?

So many choices among influences past and present. I have spoken more than once about the my work-related escapades, this time I think I’ll reach a bit further back in history and poke a topic I rarely speak about, religion.

I do feel obligated to point out that this is a notoriously dangerous topic. It is not my intention to attack anyone’s beliefs. If you feel that I have done so, I apologize, and feel free to leave me nasty comments about it.

Literally a decade ago, I considered myself to be neo-pagan. I frequented a “pagan store” 40 minutes or so away from home and ultimately became involved in a group that would be generally identified as some brand of Wicca. I was certainly the sort of person who respected someone that could pull out an acoustic guitar and belt out Weird Al’s The Saga Begins relatively effortlessly.

The group had a very formal educational tone to it, especially during the first year. We had weekly classes, took notes, and maybe had assignments? Not sure about the last one, it seems like another lifetime now.

The beginning of the end for me was in fact in this first year. I cannot remember the exact details of the lesson. It was something about being a better person, or success, or something, and involved building a pyramid where the sides were… specific traits or something? See, this is why you take notes.

Anyway, I remember there being a discussion about using spells to assist in this process. One of my own thoughts was that this didn’t really make sense. If the effect of something is proportional to the energy put into it, and the energy I can put into something is necessarily limited, then those aspects that were assisted would end up weaker than the ones that were 100% personal effort.

As a result, I began to eschew the idea of magic or spells. I figured if they had the ability to assist me, then that ability was with me from the beginning and would be greater if I invested that time and effort into the ability rather than the magic.

After a year or so passed, I began to question the efficacy of the magic to begin with. We were taught that effort must be put into any real change, that the magic by itself was insufficient. Maybe, I reasoned, it was insufficient because it did nothing. Still, I had seen the results of ritual magic for myself and “seeing is believing,” apparently.

I couldn’t shake the idea, though. I began to ask myself if it was possible to answer this question. How does one determine what’s real and what isn’t. Is it testable? What does that test look like? Has somebody already done this?

Somehow I eventually came to the idea that this is what science does. It answers questions like this, to a point. I didn’t really know a lot about science, though, as school focused mostly on earth sciences and I lacked the high school or even college level science education to understand. Considering I had an associate’s degree, I find that mildly sad, but I digress.

That search would eventually lead me to the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe podcast, which I still listen to now. While not the first podcast I ever listened to, it is the oldest and longest-running one in my rotation by a longshot. Think I discovered it when one of the hosts did a guest appearance on a different podcast.

As I listened I slowly learned about the process of scientific study. Where it works, where it doesn’t, and how it can go wrong. I learned why science reporting in the media is horrible. Spoiler, it’s usually reporting a single study, not an entire body of literature. On top of that, it usually overstates the effect or implies causation where only correlation exists.

I learned the difference between correlation and causation. How two variables can be related and yet not cause each other because there are other factors at work. I learned that seemingly real correlations can simply be due to chance. Sometimes it be like it is, sometimes it don’t.

I learned about critical thinking and the cognitive biases that skew my view of reality, and ultimately even manage to catch myself doing it from time to time. How anecdotes make great stories but poor evidence and how generally garbage human memory tends to be.

Early on, I resented these things. I felt that, as Green Day once sang, “my mind breaks the spirit of my soul.” The world suddenly seemed very… mundane. At this point, I could no longer identify myself as neo-pagan. I could not find a way to reconcile one set of beliefs with the other in a way that wouldn’t lead to conflict. Is it fair to an entire religious group for me to remain an active participant? Their own belief system would hold that might doubt would undermine what they were doing.

When other conflicts between myself and the leader began to appear, I chose to leave. While a decision I’m not necessarily proud of, I just ghosted the group. I experimented with other things for a few years after that, but I ultimately ended up labeling myself as agnostic. A word I learned from EverQuest, ironically. Atheist implies a disbelief in a God, god(s), and/or goddess(s), and I simply find that I don’t care that much and consider the answer largely irrelevant.

It is not possible to prove that a God does not exist. Science cannot do that. We do have evidence, however, that systematic divine intervention of any sort doesn’t seem to have a predictable or detectable effect. From this, I have drawn the conclusion that He, they, it, whatever, could possibly exist, but don’t seem interested in helping or hurting us in any predictable way. Therefore, it is up to us, the humans, to do the best for each other. A position that believe is generally considered humanism.

Anyway, that’s a rather long story about how neo-paganism made me an “atheist.” By no means is it meant to demean any religious group. I believe that there are valuable lessons and stories to be had in all religions, but just like your diet, any one thing taken to the extreme is rarely good.

Y’all take care, and be kind to each other.

Applied Economics – MMO Crafting, Pricing, and Opportunity Costs

I have long been a rather simple user of the match (or slightly undercut) the lowest market price method of pricing my goods for sale in MMOs. This doesn’t mean taking a loss, generally, as I typically gather all my own materials. My cost is in terms of time, and I try not to think too long or hard about how much my “gaming time” is worth in a monetary sense. That is not it’s purpose and would probably suck the life out of it.

Enter Star Wars Galaxies. My primary goal was to goof off with space and/or shipwright. While I have busied myself with a number of other things, I finally got around to building some ship blueprint for sale. It’s a very small market, as they do not need to be acquired or replaced often. At least in my experience, there are few competitors on the bazaar terminal or vendor searches to provide any guideline for how to price my goods.

This led me to opportunity cost as a pricing method. The opportunity cost is the next most useful, next most profitable in this case, thing that we can do with a given resource. When I consider the resource-heavy ship blueprints, then, it makes not sense to price the ship below the market rate of the materials used. Otherwise it would be more profitable to simply sell the materials and a call it a day.

So I created a quick spreadsheet that can calculate the material value of a ship based on the market price of each component.

Now, the scary thing is that this is significantly higher than the only other seller I came across, who was selling them for mostly 60-90k/ea with no real allowance made for increased material usage. I would say theirs are priced in the 1.5-2 credits/resource unit while mine, well, obvious are not. I was using fairly good resources to build mine.

Still, it does not matter how well thought out the price is if the market will not bear those prices. It may be that the demand is so low that selling the resources will always be a more profitable venture. Of course, the resources themselves cost me far less than that to collect, so it’s at least still profitable. Just not as profitable as selling the materials it is made from.

Still, somebody has to do it. Working at a restaurant may not be the most profitable way for someone to sell their time, but if we wish to eat there someone must provide that service. We also get into that wibbly-wobbly grey area that is the utility value of enjoying what you’re doing, or other non-monetary utility values that are harder to price.

I just thought it was an interesting exercise to try pricing goods using a method other than going market rate. It’s an interesting way of considering my options, at least.

Y’all take care, and remember that profit is only part of utility value, not the sole indicator.