Life is a game

Reflections as another round begins

It’s my birthday weekend, a fact which I exploited last night to tie one on. The girls and I watched half of the The Phantom Menace last night before we tried to put them to bed at their normal time before giving up. We’ve got them trained on melatonin gummies, and I don’t give them any on the weekends, so they wind up staying up an hour or more past their bedtime. So we wound up having a little party afterward. I put a song on the piano and Younger banged around on it, singing some silly song she was making up. It was too cute. We took the girls outside to see if we could watch the moon, but it was cloudy so we just sat out there for a while until Missus took Younger to bed.

I bought Factorio, on Tobi Lutke’s recommendation, and it is right up my alley. Building little systems to harvest resources, transport them, and build more and more things. I am going to spend too much time on that game if I’m not careful. It’s addictive.

Systems thinking is affecting my brain. Everything is a process now, threads of the machine we call life. I only have control over my attention, and I need to guard it carefully. I’ve spent most of my life with it scattered in dozens of different directions, focused on one project or another for a few months, then onto the next. Of course there have been themes around them, music and computers, mainly, but the threads within them have run deep in various directions. Mostly broad, rarely deep. Jack of all trades, master of none.

There has always been so much to do, that it’s been hard to focus on what I ought to do. Every decision made, another choice abandoned, and so paralysis ensued. Attentioned wandered to what was easy, not to what was complex. These days I’m forcing myself to delve into things, tracking them and holding myself to account to work on them.

I still make music these days, but I don’t write songs. My coding is getting better. My designs are still huge messes that I wouldn’t share with anyone, so I’ve started building test coverage around them so that I can make the changes I need without fear of breaking things, or of getting overwhelmed by my own construction and forgetting where I am in some abstraction. There’s always a purity about starting from scratch that is addictive also, new and promising, that threatens to pull me away. Burn it down and start from scratch. The grass is always greener.

It’s much harder to fix what’s broken when you’re flying by the seat of your pants. After an hour in Factorio, running my little toon from one resource pile to the other, I realized I could have the the coal extractor feed itself, and I could run extend the conveyor here to feed this other machine. I woke up this morning thinking about it. Instead of maintaining two separate lines of conveyors for different goods, why don’t I just create a loop with everything on it, so that the machines can just pull what they need? The game has already infected my mind.

There are tons of games on Steam that gamify things things that some people pay to learn at college or tech schools. Learn networking through HackNet or computer science through 7 Billion Humans. Then there’s Zachtronics, who makes games that teach you how to code assembly language. Truly insane.

Last night I stayed up too late, drank too much, and woke up this morning hungover. As I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling fan spinning round, I was thinking what I wanted to do with the day. I couldn’t decide, and I didn’t need to. I got up and did what I always do, (after popping an ibuprofen): put water in the microwave, do pushups, make tea, meditate. Write. The day will come to me, I just need to go along with it. Watch out for the traps, optimize this, tweak that.

My designs may look like much of my house, a mess, things strewn haphazardly in this room or that, piles of clutter here and there. As the days weeks and years go by, I’m becoming more aware of the way everything is threaded together, of how the cycles are repeating. Change this, move that. Optimize, optimize, optimize.

Another trip around the sun almost complete.

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