Tapping

Should I try to kill the war elephants just with Nubian archers? The mathematical analysis by Muhabir on the East Nagach server suggests that I only need Nubian archers, but I have tried with an army before and lost, and it takes 4-8 hours to rebuild archers. It’s possible that the auto-attack mode in the Egyptian mode is set to the AI’s advantage, and that I should be attacking myself, but it’s been so long, I’ve almost forgotten how.

Also, I lost my pink piece of paper that my daughter helped me construct which explained the Circle of Life, so I’m a little at sea.

600 (Embassy) + 174×4=696 (Houses) + 428 = 1724 Deben Coins per day

Muhabir’s Mathematical Analysis of the FOE Egyptian Settlement
Kajmeister’s 2-year-old Forge of Empires settlement. Crowded, but it’s home.

App life in the 21st century is big business. Entertainment, during this pandemic, is a much larger part of what we have to do, especially when there are also hurricanes, wildfires, and police shooting at protesters at various parts of the country. Best to stay inside. I have been playing a game called Forge of Empires since 2016, since I first got my tablet. It’s now a love/hate relationship. I’m getting a little bored. But I have to solve Egypt first.

Gotta Play

Some of us oldsters back in the day played a game called Sid Meier’s Civilization, which let you build cities throughout history, from ancient days through medieval and industrial times, with the outcome building an Apollo spaceship. I spent many happy hours, sometimes even at work to take a break from the frustrations of middle management, moving my settlers around and trying to decide whether the Great Library of Alexandria was more important than the Lighthouse (it was a push… the Pyramids were key and Leonardo’s Workshop, which gave you gunpowder). Forge of Empires has some of the feel with settlers, cities, advancement–if you’ve played one of these, you know how they go.

KK has been playing the Simpsons game, which I looked into but felt it was more funny than intuitive. Lee used to play a game involving keeping Japanese anime cats happy; I tried that for a while, but it lacked any feel of advancement. The cats just were. Rather realistic, actually. Lee also goes online and shoots at terrifying-looking things with large guns. It scares me just to stand behind and watch them play. I will say that if the zombie apocalypse comes, I know who I will shelter with. Not the cats.

FOE Egypt… the most difficult extra settlement, which I probably will be unable to do, even in a month

The graphics with FOE are good, and they’ve added a lot of features in the last three years. There’s a tavern where you can sit and exchange coins, as well as get various boosts. They added an auction site where you can trade your 4 Shrines of Knowledge for something more interesting, like the 4th piece of the set for the Fall Harvest. A place to just shoot at other teams… randomly placed coins, supplies, or even diamonds you get clicking on strange-looking trees, hippos, or stranded parachutes out in the fields…and once a month or so, there’s a big event with special challenges. If you do these tapping kinds of games, it will sound familiar. Even in the blog space, I wrote about it before (scroll to the bottom). Where else can you build your Atomium next to the Capitol next to the Chateau Frontenac, between the blacksmith, Santa’s workshop, and the tar kiln?

The fundamental underlying problem is that the game limits the space you can occupy. At first, there’s plenty, but as soon as you start acquiring things –and I’m a big farmer/gatherer so I’m good at acquiring–you run out of space to put them. You end up with a giant inventory of Coin Boosts (completely useless), Victory Tower Upgrades, or Faces of the Ancient (37). You get way more stuff than you can use or need. A stupefyingly boring surfeit of stuff. I am at least seven levels away from the top of the game, but I got stuck at about this point two years ago. I think I’m going to have to start over.

Tapping Is Big Business

Ninety billion dollars is spent annually on mobile gaming. Or $1.2 trillion if you count global apps. This is not just big business but GIGANTORRRRR (*echo echo*) business. You may have heard about the “Let’s Play” format where celebrity gamers earn money by others watching them play; some dude named PewDiePie apparently is a millionaire. Hope he’s stashing it in a 401K and not blowing it on, like, online games.

Source: Top App Trend

Some of the companies designing apps, like Epic (which makes Fortnite) and Spotify are banding together because the companies that support the apps, like Apple, don’t give them enough money. Write-ups talk about pitting the “small” firms against the “giants.” Reminds me of what we learned about the railroad robber barons of the 1880s, such as Vanderbilt–yes, the guy with the mansions and universities named for him–who would get other companies to pay for him not to compete. On the other hand, railroads brought food and useful goods to people; the Apple apps that we are tapping are simply distractions. Should they be Giants of Industry?

I was speaking with a young woman yesterday, giving a little career exploration advice, and she said she got a job because she plays Minecraft. (Such things happen, whether through being part of a potential boss’s network or whatever the reason. Better than meeting on the golf course.) Given how tech savvy she is, she could probably get a job in the gaming industry, and why not? if we’re all going to be inside and tapping away, then someone has to be paid to program what it is tapped.

Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow diagram

Tapping in the Flow

The key to game design is to strike the proper design between Boredom and Stress. If it’s too easy, fugeddaboutit. If it’s too hard to reach the top levels, it’s also unpleasant. This is the essence of the famous idea of Flow, that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi described in the groundbreaking research for his book. To get the most out of an activity you need to challenge yourself until it’s too hard, then practice and learn, then challenge, usw. (&c)

Difficulty takes different forms. KK, as her Pokemon friends know, is an avid Pokemon player, really a Master if there’s such a thing. She’s only a handful of levels above me numerically, but she plays with such care and dedication that she really ought to be nationally ranked. In our neighborhood, there are apparently several such people, some of whom hunt in a pack and others who can play the game without going outside and walking around as you are supposed to do. She gets vehemently frustrated when Other Knowledgeable Ones kick her out of the gym after only five minutes, but she also is annoyed when they don’t kick her out after a few days because then she’s missing out on coins. Last night, she went for a short post-prandial walk up the street, to put herself into a gym–there was an elaborate explanation as to why. I made the mistake of asking that it be repeated.

Five minutes after coming home, she checks her phone and gosh darn it (or words to that effect). They had already kicked her out. I was probably insufficiently sympathetic. If she reads this, I’m sorry. You were right to be annoyed that the people who kicked you out didn’t look at how long you were in so that you could have more coins. Selfish bastards!

I would never fight her in Pokemon; I’m no fool. I only take her on in something like Scrabble, which is just as ruthless but has clearer rules. We used to be roughly evenly matched, but then she started playing Words with Friends, and now we are allowed to check the two-letter word list that we have in our cloud… so even with Scrabble, there’s tapping involved. My mother and her sisters were wickedly good Scrabble players; my 86-year-old aunt who is legally blind still beats the pants off of me. Well played, Depression babies, well played.

FOE Circle of Life… what kills what. In theory, Archers kill elephants but…

I Despair

The Egypt portion of FOE still eludes me. It’s a sub-section from the main game, and I did master the Viking and Samurai versions, so I’m not a complete cretin. Here you build out your brick huts and war elephant stables, producing grain and flowers–down the road I think if I produce enough Ceremonial Sacrifices, then I will win a modest-sized pyramid. But you can’t just be a gatherer/producer, which is my specialty. You have to fight. The mathematical analysis said that I only needed Nubian archers and war chariots, but I keep getting killed with the elephants. And they take 8 hours to build. I’ve read so many portions of the Wiki; I think the problem is you have to be willing to read and understand about hit point values, and I just can’t keep that stuff in my head. Don’t ever make me a general in your army, really, put me in the back where I can handle the supply trains.

Because this is the most difficult of the sub-section offshoots, they give you a month to complete it, instead of only ten days, but I don’t think I’m going to make it. I did manage to replicate the Circle of Life. Lee, the gamer, explained to me that they’re all based on some variation of Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock. The key is remembering what the Light Infantry can kill because everything can kill them. Still, I’ve had my Nubian archers going after the Artillery (elephants) as directed, but I think the computer’s AI is not calibrated correctly. I may have to quit soon and start the whole game from mud hut level.

Although, on the other hand, we’re baking now, so I don’t want to quit before I make cinnamon rolls.

Forge of Empires fall harvest=baked goods. I never seem to get enough for pumpkin for the cinnamon rolls.

Author’s note: I have been pandemic-blessed to pick up two significant short-term gigs (one is writing-related) which are keeping me too busy at the moment to write frequently. This happy problem forces me to dial it back from weekly to bi-weekly or monthly. Those who gently commented that my entries are too damn long can catch up on the ones they missed.

I Hereby Bequeath to You My Aloofness and My Fascination with Dinosaurs

Shared Shakespeare. Photo by kajmeister.

“Being of sound mind,” my grandfather said, licking the Colonel’s 11 herbs and spices from his fingertips, “I spent it all.”

We were seated in his huge steel gray Cadillac, eating Kentucky Fried Chicken because he seemed to get a kick out of contrasting his wealth with the idea of eating fast food in the car, as a weird way to impress out of town family. He had built up a thriving business and owned a huge house overlooking a creek that flowed into the Mississippi in a swanky suburb of Minneapolis. Grandpa liked to show off its technical gadgets to his grandchildren, although woe betide any who touched the remote control that opened the curtains or turned on the lights. Whenever my mother referred to “the rich,” I knew she meant her father.

When he died, though, I don’t know where the money went. He had nine children and there were medical needs for my grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s. The only thing my mother seemed to inherit from him was a restless industriousness and a fanatic desire to prove herself. She passed that on to her children.

This week’s topic is inheritance and, while first thoughts turn to wealth, for most of us inheritance is about traits, values, and interests. If we’re lucky, maybe a prized object or two as well. We all inherit; it’s rarely money.

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The New Normal is Still Us

For today’s question, let’s consider the metaphysics of identity–wait! don’t run away! I promise to make it relevant, not full of highfalutin’ ideas! The intrepid Fandango wonders:

Is the concept of “you” continuous or does the past “you” continually fade into the present and future “you”? Considering that your body, your mind, and your memories are changing over time, what part of “you” sticks around?

Provocative Question #80

To me, this smells strongly of the Theseus Paradox, a thought experiment from the Classical Age of Greece, although my thoughts turn more contemporary. Never mind the You… what about Us? What can the Theseus Paradox tell us about living through a pandemic?

Theseus Paradox

The Theseus Paradox, video courtesy of Carneades.org

Theseus, after slaying the Minotaur in the labyrinth of Crete, sailed home to Athens a hero. His ship was preserved and placed on display for all to see as a testament to his success and valor. Over time, the wooden ship rotted and planks were replaced. Then, the mast, bits of sail, rope certainly … and as decades and centuries wore on, all of the individual bits of the ship were replaced. Some of those replacements may have even changed the angle of the mast and the structure of the hall, since the blueprints were lost. Years later, the ship may not have even looked the same.

The paradox at heart, then, is If the entire ship is replaced, was it the same ship? That’s how I would rephrase that provocative question: What is the essence of You given that You are constantly changing? For some, the answer might be a religious one that mentioned the idea of the soul. For others who describe themselves as spiritual rather than adhering to a specific religious doctrine, they might say it’s your aura.

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Past Picture Perfect

Me, photo suitably dated Dec. 63. See my blog about How to Assemble a 3000 piece puzzle. Photo courtesy of kajmeister.

I have some picture-taking advice for my younger self. Have we invented that time machine yet, so I can go back and tell me? And, while I’m at it, tell my parents and my wife?

Maybe while I’m waiting for the Singularity to work on that, I can just tell you the basics that rank highest on the list. Write stuff down. Reduce to what’s important. Focus on people, not things.

This is top of mind because I just finished part two of the massive picture project–the one we all have–organizing and digitizing our photos. I think that’s on everyone’s “When I’m Retired” list which could also be “When I’m Furloughed… When I’m Stuck Inside for Days on End…” It doesn’t make the project more fun that you might have some time to work on it, though. But you should get started because those pictures are fading as I write. Plus global warming.

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Trash Dance

Photo of plastic lid to collect compost
How shall I collect compost? Let me count the ways… photo by kajmeister.

The biggest excitement in my life for the past week has been hearing the Bulky Trash people pick up my pile of Things. Last Monday, at 7:02 am, after the morning compost truck had banged its way along our suburban street, I heard the sound of backing up. I was, in fact, waiting for it; had, in fact, already gone out to examine the pile we had sneaked out there after dark on Sunday night to see if it was still humbly awaiting pick-up. (It was.)

Oh beautiful Bulky Trash truck, I was never so glad to see you! I heard the discussions outside in between sounds of metal scraping on concrete; I heard dragging; I heard crunching. Then, the Doppler effect of that engine driving away, and I dared to peek. All gone! All gone! I spent the rest of the day humming to myself and doing a little ceremony and dance, Bulky Trash! Bulky Trash! Everybody do the Bulk-y TRASH! Do you think me simple for getting so excited about trash? Definitely. To paraphrase Jango Fett, I am a simple person just trying to make my way through the universe.

Our Education Regarding Trash

We have come a long way just in my lifetime dealing with the Things we acquire and then jettison. Sesame Street many moons ago had a video with a little song, What about garbage? Where’s it go?Where’s it go-o-o-o? as they showed smiling men putting the trash in the trucks, and the trucks putting it on the barges, and off the barges sailed into the sunset….. Well… not exactly, right?

We learned when we got older and put away childish things that the trash got dumped in the ocean. Or landfills which filled up, begatting new landfills and more and more, until we realized we were going to run out of land for landfills. Voila! Earth Day and the 1970s and recycling, first a few hippies dragging trash bags full of beer cans, then a whole industry, and finally a regulatory imperative. Fast cut to 2020 where we have tri-partite trash, multi-colored cans, and 79% of our county trash avoids landfills.

But it’s not so easy, is it? Even though the Bay Area has some of the highest recycling rates in the country, even San Francisco has had to extend its Zero Waste goal another ten years, stuck at 89% because of leather, rubber, flame retardants. Or, as I found out, because nobody wants a 20-year-old metal bunk bed. We already separate out all the organics, cans, bottles, foil, paper, cardboard, egg crates, hard-molded plastic, yet there’s still cellophane. There are still Cheetos bags. (Don’t judge.)

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