Where Did Jeromai Go For Most of July?

Well, the blog break wasn’t exactly intentional, but I have to admit it was a pretty refreshing change this month to not feel beholden to writing another post, or indeed, to end up locked in the same habitual cycle of logging in every night to GW2 to faithfully play for 3+ hours and then heading off to bed.

What’s the story there, you may ask?

It was a curious set of coincidences adding up to surprise revelations.

You may recall that I’d previously fallen into a GW2 routine of attending TTS raids every evening, which tend to occupy one’s time from 6.30 – 9.00pm, depending on how early I felt I could attend.

(In truth, I usually missed Karka Queen and Teq most of the time and only stood by for Wurm, having developed a habit of consuming dinner while watching the Dog Whisperer from 6.35-7.35pm. 8.10pm was my local gathering time for Wurm, so sneak in the daily in the half hour in between, done by 9pm, then do whatever else I felt like until bedtime.)

That I can recite the timings sight unseen might suggest how structured and habitual my gaming schedule had become.

On a whim, I decided to make collecting an entire set of Scientific weapon skins my new ‘chase’ goal.

extremeSisyphus

This broke the “attend TTS raid for lack of anything better to do” habit, and replaced it with new and novel (if obsessive) behavior of seeking out gold-earning tactics.

I get drops of Black Lion Salvage Kits faster than I can use them up. Surely there was something I could do with them? There’s the old standard trick of buy stuff off the TP, salvage it, sell the sigil or rune for a profit. But exactly which was profitable?

I ended up in a fun few days of Excel experimentation, trying to figure out how to pull from various trading post APIs (and settled on an on-demand if manual method of getting the JSON direct and converting to CSV for use in Excel, giving me more up to date info than the delayed half hour of GW2spidy) and create formulas for calculating profit.

Turns out, those niches are pretty well-covered by people a little more dedicated than I at playing with spreadsheets, and the profits per BLSK weren’t exactly mind-blowing at the level I was willing to trade at.

There was dungeon-running for gold, which I managed for a couple days before my nature just up and rebelled at the whole grouping thing.

There was sitting on the World Boss bus for rares/ectos… which led to some more novel experimentation with the GW2 Personal Assistant Overlay. Turned out quite handy, if you like that sort of constant UI feedback and had some hours to kill in GW2, making a boss timer worth it.

There was running around being a node miner/harvester while listening to music, watching Youtube videos or movies in the other screen – which I’m really partial to, and started paying more attention to waypoints with clumps of nodes in the vicinity that I could harvest and then waypoint off to some other destination.

Silverwastes chest train? Yup, did that.

Kill things for T6 drops? Did that too.

I even did the whole karma into crab-grabbin’ gloves into linen/wool for gold.

Generally, given the time I had to play, I was earning some 10-20g on the weekdays and more on the weekends, and was gradually and methodically able to afford a scientific skin every 5-7 days or so.

Then, ArenaNet threw a spanner in the works when they released their -next- Black Lion skin set some two weeks after, raising the price of the scientific skins to 3 tickets.

frustrated

For a brief space of time (turned out to be one more week or so, before a patch fixed it,) there was still one particular NPC vendor in the Lion’s Arch area selling scientific skins at 1 ticket.

That promoted a bit of a rush of prices skyrocketing, and I ended up pulling out all the ticket scraps I had saved up to get one or two more skins instead of paying the astronomical prices.

(I also threw some of the 4000 gems from the Heart of Thorns CE into buying 25 Black Lion Chests for the fun of opening them. No lucky ticket, but enough scraps to make up one ticket.)

Then it was a slow grind to accumulate more gold and wait for skin prices to dip a little before pulling out practically ALL my banked gold (and selling off a spare stack of ectos or two, thanks to prices rising from the new gambler NPC) for buy orders.

And I -still- hadn’t finished the collection and had about 7 more skins to go, meaning there was nothing for it but to grind for more gold and stick to the schedule of a skin a week, while hoping prices didn’t soar out of reach, now that the skins were officially 3 tickets.

sisyphus2

Talk about a voluntary grindstone I’d shouldered… for “fun.”

Some time in Week 1 of July, I encountered one of those pep talks about efficient setting of goals and was encouraged to put down on paper some work and personal goals.

One of those personal goals was naturally my structured/calendared plan for earning the remainder of those scientific skins.

The other has been nagging at me since time immemorial. There are piles of stuff around the house that have been in existence for a decade (or two) that need to be sorted, cleaned, decisions made on what to do with them, be it figure out a place to keep them, or somehow preserve their memories/essence and then let the physical object go.

Side by side, it was kinda obvious that the piles had been left there because I’d been happy to procrastinate on them and blow all my time escaping into gaming instead. (Why wouldn’t I? Gaming’s a lot happier an activity than mucking around with moldy objects.)

In fact, if you offered me 70-100 bucks to clean up the piles, I’d probably go “Ehh… that doesn’t seem like large enough a sum to undertake such an effort. Handymen and contractors are paid more to do simpler stuff.” (Some of those piles could probably be filmed as a lesser version of those found in Hoarders TV shows.)

It then occurred to me that it was a very curious thing that I was reluctant (yet sorely tempted) to spend the same objective 70-100 (USD 70 = SGD100) bucks on GW2 gems, and convert them into gold and just buy the remaining skins off the TP that way.

Some twisted form of equivalency just sat around in my mind going “Hey, you’re not supposed to spend $100 a month on a single game! You can buy a collector’s edition game at launch price for that kind of sum!”

Yet my obsessive motivation was such that I was throwing a good 3+ hours every day into the chase for skins, earning essentially a pittance in gold. Economists might talk about “opportunity cost” at this point in time.

A blinding revelation then hit me.

I wanted the skins really really badly. So badly that I was willing to move mountains for them.

That intense, obsessive motivation and three hours every night could be channeled into something else constructive, like finally working on those piles I’d been trying to ignore.

All I had to do, was demarcate clearing one area as being worth USD$10, that area $10, another area $20 and so on.

For a working adult, that’s essentially pocket money and not exactly motivating in an objective sense (eh, it’s worth a movie night, look at that highly intimidating pile to clear, nah…) but translated in terms my current OCD could understand… “IT’S A SHINY SCIENTIFIC SKIN, IT WILL FAST TRACK FINISHING YOUR COLLECTION.”

Suddenly, I had all the motivation in the world.

It just took mentally linking a cheesy reward that my weird self somehow valued so highly.

So for two or three weeks, gaming time suddenly became cleaning time.

GW2 time dropped off to the bare minimum for dailies. Blogging didn’t even make it on the priority list.

I finished digitizing the music CD collection. Case finally closed on that.

Clothes closet decluttered.

In certain parts of the house, the floor has actually become visible.

Digitizing the book collection is winding up to be a slower grind than the entire scientific skin collection, but significant progress has been made.

One bookshelf has been cleared, and has been replaced with a display case. The Rytlock statue from the GW2 CE has finally found a home, after being chucked unceremoniously under the printer table for the past… oh, several years?

rytlock

It’s not complete, by any means, but some major portions have been addressed.

All for the low low price of a hundred dollars promised to oneself to spend on something normally deemed too frivolous to fritter away on.

If only I’d realized this brain trick sooner.

A curious but beneficial side-effect was that it broke a number of routine habits (ie. GW2 all night long, blogging) and has encouraged a re-examination of goals and priorities and the creation of new projects.

I’m in my third year of supporting the Reaper Bones Kickstarter and I haven’t painted a single one yet. (Admittedly, some still look good in white, like accidentally gigantic Kaladrax.)

kaladrax unpainted

I’ve been meaning to try other games like Trove, Warframe, Skyforge, Path of Exile’s new expansion, and so on.

The declutter project still has subsequent parts 2 and 3 and more, though I’ll probably tackle those at a more dialed-back, less laser-focused pace.

And I’ll likely squeeze in a bit of time to pick up blogging again.

BRB, Found the Best Game Ever

Yes, I am aware that the Blood and Madness Halloween update just launched in Guild Wars 2, with plenty of recycled old content giving new rewards.

Yes, I know it comes with a talking point so loaded that it’s just -asking- to be commented upon.

Yes, I am cognizant of the fact that most of the launch locusts are still in Archeage, focused upon the best made plans disintegrating in contact with other players and not really interested in anything else but the strange jargon of that world.

Or that the Warlords of Draenor expansion is soon to be upon us, so all the WoW stalwarts will make their way back home.

Yes, much of my singleplayer game attention is still being sucked up by Minecraft, where I’m trying to play both Agrarian Skies and Crash Landing without forgetting what the hell I was doing in the other map, while accumulating a list of other mods and modpacks that look damn interesting to “try one day.”

And thanks to Bragtoberfest and other bloggers, it’s suddenly occurred to me that:

a) Team Fortress 2 is kinda fun and I should make a point to play it more

b) Path of Exile still exists

c) Orcs Must Die 1/2 and Defense Grid 1/2 are both tower defense games I should play more of (yes, I actually Kickstarted DG2, and finally got around to checking my mail and found a Steam key waiting for me)

d) I haven’t played/continued Skyrim for a while, nor have I really given Civ 5 or various Tropico versions a fair shake in a bit

and e) I need to stop looking at my Steam games list again.

BUT I have found a game even better than all of the above, and it is likely to take up much of my attention for the week, with not much time left over for blogging once I factor in trying to keep apace in GW2 and sating a currently insane Minecraft addiction.

What game is that, you ask?

It’s something I haven’t had the opportunity to play in years. It’s the “contemplate and plan, then build your own dream PC” or the “endless wallet daydream” game.

Yep, my budget’s finally opened up the purse strings this month.

I’ve been reading computer hardware reviews actually dated this year, scanning the catalogue of parts available at the local store, narrowing down the choices to “things I want” and “things that fit my current priorities for this new computer” then applying the filter “things I can actually afford.”

That filter is pretty generous this month, which why I’m playing the game now, rather than a year ago or 2 or 3 or more, where I would feel awfully depressed and constricted with too low a budget.

See, here’s the odd thing about what I like out of my computers.

It’s not so much their objective performance as compared to everyone else at a current point in time (in which case, I would have to upgrade a lot and fast to keep up with the Joneses) but more that I want the computer I build for myself to be a lasting, quality piece of work. That it was pretty high-end, if not the absolute top-of-the-line, -when- it was built, at that period of time.

The Chinese have a saying, ” 一分钱一分货” (yī fēn qián yī fēn huò), which sorta literally translates to “one piece of money one piece of goods” or rather, you get what you pay for.

If you pay pennies, you’ll get goods worth that amount or basically, rubbish. For each cent or dollar extra that you pay, you get that amount of goods/value/worth/quality in return.

Like all proverbs, that doesn’t necessarily hold true all the time, but speaking generally, I find there’s more than a few grains of truth in it.

My old and current computer, as much as I joke about it to others (mostly to explain why my load times or graphics is way behind the current norm,) is still going strong, with not much breaking down beyond one X-Fi soundcard that decided that its drivers simply wouldn’t play nice with this newfangled Windows 7 any longer (ended up yanking it and falling back on the on-board Realtek audio – just as old if not older, and doing just fine – and some rattling case fans that took turns to protest that they were getting way too dust clogged at last (some reluctant cleaning took care of that – the front fan was a nuisance as graphics card and hard disks had to be pulled out of the way to work on it.)

I believe the reason it’s lasted so long, going on 7-8 years now, is because I bought good quality parts from known brands that generally do solid work and didn’t skimp or cut corners while doing so.

That priority is one of the factors I’m weighing quite heavily in my next selection of parts, along with the usual suspects of “great games performance” and “not insanely priced.”

Granted, I might have gotten a mite carried away at -finally- seeing the light at the end of the “new computer” tunnel and splurged a bit while I can afford it this month.

Without further ado, the parts list:

  • CPU: Intel Z97 4690
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte Z97X UD5H Black
  • Memory: Corsair Vengeance Pro 1866Mhz 16GB
  • Graphics Card: Gigabyte GTX 980 G1 Gaming
  • Power Supply: Corsair HX750i 750W
  • Case: CoolerMaster CM690 III windowed
  • CPU Cooler: CoolerMaster V4 GTS
  • Hard Disks: 2 Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSDs, 1 WD Black 7200rpm 1TB HDD
  • Optical Drive: LG16x Blu-Ray BH16NS40
  • OS: Windows 7
  • (To be added in November) Sound Card: Creative Soundblaster ZX
  • Monitor and speaker upgrades pending…

Words can’t describe how thrilled I am.

Here, have a little Ascii cheer instead.

\o/

As to the rationale:

As much as I would have liked to open the wallet even further and get one of those crazy X99 chipset processors with a super-blinged out motherboard, there IS a limit to my enthusiasm, and it sounded like a good idea to wait for the real enthusiasts to be the guinea pigs and break in all the new technology first.

I’d been leaning towards a Z97 4790K processor, except that I didn’t think experimenting with overclocking and possibly burning out what was intended to be my next stable and reliable gaming computer was a good idea, plus there were some mildly scary reports that this particular i7 processor was seriously overheating. After reading the whole rather current thread, it suddenly seemed wise to sit on the idea for a while and let the early adopters hash it out with Intel. Also, perhaps in six months to a year, the X99 processors would have gotten more affordable and the whole thing might be a moot point.

So I backed down step-wise to a 4690 and decided that I’d just go with the stock clock – since the priority for this particular computer, after all, is to be a worthy successor to the one that I’m typing on right now, old and still hearty.

I’ll save the creative and experimental overclocking or dream watercooling setups (had quite enough of unlikely water leaks over electronics, thank you) for when my budget can next afford a more modest hobbyist build computer – perhaps salvaging the guts of the old one after the new one is up and running and stable enough to let me log on daily to GW2 without freaking out that I’m missing a laurel reward. 🙂

The same thought of reliability led to picking up that particular Gigabyte motherboard.

I briefly considered Asus, since that seemed to be one of the stronger rivals, but decided that aesthetically, the whole armor-encased look didn’t quite work for me. The marketing jargon went rather overboard with the military-sounding stuff, and I rather imagine it might appeal to those who play some variant of Battlefield or Call of Duty all day long perhaps.

The whole plastic shield over the motherboard did look interesting, but it also struck me that it looked more like a dust trap when air blew up through the little wind tunnels – possibly improving air flow over the components, yes, right up to the point when dust jammed into all the nooks and little crevices, necessitating maintenance via needing to unscrew the plastic shield off, just to remove the dust.

So I backed away from that and decided to head back to Gigabyte, whose DSP4 motherboard is still doing excellent work in my current system.

They, on the other hand, have gotten carried away with quite a bit of game and audio-related bling, with a whole series of Gaming motherboards that apparently come with a special Killer NIC that prioritizes gaming packets, with the top of the line versions sporting a built-in Creative Soundcore 3D processor and what not.

Now, hang on a minute, I thought, I know I have a fondness for Creative audio solutions (from old good reputation and they’re a Singapore company), didn’t I -just- have the worse time trying to get their stupid drivers to play nice with Windows 7, granted on a card that’s marked “end of service life”?

And I’ve heard reports that folks have problems too with the drivers for the Killer NIC, and that it does use up extra CPU processing power…

I drooled over all the marketing bling for a while, then decided that for a motherboard, what I really wanted was redundancy.

As much as it sounded nice to just have a Creative chip on the motherboard itself, saving the need and money for a separate sound card, one can’t exactly pluck it out if it’s giving problems. I may as well just pay the extra 40 or 50 bucks and get a separate sound card, which would still have the same processor and possibly better components and supporting software, AND have a Realtek audio solution on the motherboard to fall back on, if/when the Creative shit decides it wants to break down. (It’s such NICE sounding shit though.)

Ditto, I didn’t just want a Killer NIC as my only connection to the internet. What if it decides it won’t play nice one day?

Fortunately, Gigabyte did have some motherboards that have both an ordinary Intel LAN and a Killer LAN. And it also so happened that this was on one of their ultra durable range, which goes through extended durability testing and with a warranty of up to 5 years.

Now that sounds like something that would meet my goal of having a computer built sturdy enough to last the next 5-7 years, if necessary.

Imo, the RAM’s fairly normal, if higher-end. Corsair’s a known brand.

I did drool a ton over the thought of their Dominator Platinum RAM, which just looks ridiculously blinged out and dead sexy, with soft white LED lights that would light the interior of the case… but sanity prevailed over serious temptation and I decided paying an extra hundred bucks for slick design and LED lighting was not something I oughta do at this point in time. (Maybe someday… *sighs dreamily*)

No, what I did, was I threw the wallet at the graphics card instead.

As far as I’ve gathered from reading, the GTX 980s are pretty much the newest thing on the block currently, but not dumb expensive expensive. Just expensive, but with really good performance and better power-savings and cooler temperatures than prior cards. I’m, in fact, still waiting for the shop to call me when their shipment arrives, because it’s that new, I guess, and still in transit from country to country.

I briefly entertained the thought of getting the GTX 970, which is a step down, but maybe getting two of those and SLI them together. Then I decided to leave that as a hobbyist project for the other dream computer and go with a single card solution for now, which is probably less likely to end up with a whole bunch of troubleshooting problems with specific games or programs.

Stable. Reliable. Durable. That’s the hope, anyway.

Same goes for the power supply, which isn’t the absolute high-end, but the next closest. It’s got a 7 year warranty, which I suppose, ought to count for something.

One mild annoyance I’ve encountered is that the 24-pin ATX connector is not fitting properly, either with the motherboard or the power supply. It goes in, but not all the way. There’s a couple of milimeters of gap, blocking the clip from clasping properly. After some Googling, I suspect it may be a common manufacturing defect from whatever company Corsair got those connectors from, as it seems to be turning up as an issue in other types of Corsair power supplies. It’s just that particular wire. All the rest of the wires fit fine.

So the build is on hold for now, while one pays a visit to the local distributors/repair center to make some noise and gripe until they hopefully give me a satisfactory solution to make me go away.

I’m still quite zen about the whole thing. I suppose I’ve already waited so long, a couple more days or a week won’t really hurt.

I’ll try to share some pictures at some point later.  I’m in love with the case. It’s a really cool case. Some really clever engineering in this one, plus a ginormous front fan.

I’m looking forward to having SSDs for Windows, Guild Wars 2 and current Steam games I’m playing that might benefit from those load speeds, while the rest of the Steam library, music and what not goes on the HDD.

I’ll confess I’m not exactly thrilled with the choice of a WD Black hard disk – Western Digital has not really struck me as a brand that makes stable, long lasting hard disks – it’s just practically the only brand the local store had in stock, that still had a decent warranty period… I decided not to go crazy on the terrabytes as a result, didn’t want excessive amounts of spinning platters, or a giant hard disk that would make backing up of data to external disks difficult. I suppose there’s room for this disk to surprise me.

After all, I’ve got Maxtor and Seagate hard disks in the current computer, and while I’m still somewhat pessimistic about how long they’ll last, so far so good… and this is an old computer, as I’ve said.

We’ll see. I suspect the best solution is just to get plenty of affordable hard disks and make multiple redundant copies of the data one wants to keep. If one disk fails, there’s still others, that kind of thing.

I’ve no clue if the Blu-Ray drive is any good, it’s just also what was available. As long as it does what it’s supposed to, it can’t be that different from any other brand.

The sound card’s not essential, and there’s a ubiquitous computer fair in my part of town coming up in November, so it’s earmarked for pickup then. Spares my wallet just a tide this month too.

One will have to cannibalize and use the existing monitor, speakers, keyboard, mouse and other such peripherals for the time being.

So yep, those are the big plans taking up most of my mind and time, front and center, for now.

I’ve already hauled home a good amount of the parts and am midway through the build, pending a graphics card and a properly fitting 24-pin ATX connector. Two more outside errands to run. No idea when the card will get here though.

Gonna take it nice and slow and savor every moment, inhaling all the new and shiny. That’s part of the fun of building yer own computer, imo.

I’ll see you all, when I next see you. Computer building time’s got to come in front of blogging time, though it needs to share some space with gaming time.

Hopefully soon(TM), I’ll actually have screenshots on this blog that belong in this decade.

P.S. Does this count as Bragtoberfest? It should, right? Like, look at my soon-to-be system specs, whee! *brag brag brag*

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(touches wood)