Psychological Mistakes

A quote from The Art of Learning really hit me this morning:

Disappointment is a part of the road to greatness. When a few moments pass, in a quiet voice, she can ask Danny if he knows what happened in the game. Hopefully the language between parent and child will already be established so Danny knows his mom is asking about psychology, not chess moves (almost all mistakes have both technical and metal components–the chess lessons should be left for after the tournament, when Danny and his teacher study the games).

This appears to be a flaw for a lot of people. The first analysis immediately after a game, players tend to focus on the details of the match, “If I had just scouted more, if I build X rather than Y.” This is contrary to what Josh Waitzkin says about paying attention to the psychological mistakes immediately after.

In StarCraft 2 we have the luxury of being able to watch replays. I can look back and see all the technical mistakes I made very easily. This doesn’t retain my psychological state though, which is much more ephemeral. I am going to make this a component of my practice and play. How did I feel, was I feeling rushed, behind, overly confident, was I able to enter flow or not. These are questions I need to start asking myself.

Resistance is Silly

One of the first things that is brought up in The Art of Learning is the how the author had started learning chess on his own and had developed some bad habits. Then, once he had a real teacher, he fought that teacher about the best ways to do things. I find the same issue in my SC2 playing.

Commonly on my stream someone will suggest that I add voidrays or full on skytoss. Or they comment on how I don’t micro at all and just a-move my army everywhere. These are things that are definitely holding me back. I’ve stopped doing these things at one point or another because I don’t feel confident in them and my methods have worked so far to make me better.

I play slow (low APM) so I try to avoid things that I have to speed up my play more for. I don’t take it well when people criticize this part of my play because I feel helpless to it. This is something that I am going to have to let go of because maintaining it will result in a very hard ceiling for my skill.

Going forward I am going to spend a little time each practice session pushing my boundaries. Doing phoenix harass, oracle harass, prism play, blink micro, etc. If I never do it, I’ll never be comfortable when I need to do it. If I push myself to learn it, then I will get a chance to internalize things I am slow at so I can do them at a faster rate.

Different City, Same Place

I am sitting in a cafe in Eugene waiting on my girlfriend Eva to get here so we can drive back Portland. I’ve never really hung out in Eugene, but after asking my friends I found a cafe to hang out at. Now I am sitting here, hacking, chatting, and watching a stream and it feels like home.

This is something I find really interesting. I’ve noticed it a few times previously but this was rather pronounced. I completely forgot I was in a difference city for a couple minutes. Then I heard a sound outside of my headphones, looked up and realize it wasn’t one of my normal cafes.

All it takes for me to enter a flow state is some familiar music, a decent problem to work on and my computer. The last is an interesting note, when a computer is new (new laptop or changed input device like keyboard) I have a really hard time going into flow. It appears to be a matter of comfort, which my environment doesn’t play as much of a role in as I thought it would.

Maybe I could live in another city, I’ve always thought of it as uncomfortable and assumed it would negatively impact me in a number of ways. But, if I have my computer, headphones and something interesting to work on, I think I’d be fine.

Just some random musings.

Publishing New Content

I am currently debating between two different ways of dealing with publishing new posts. On one side I have a really simple fabric file that lets me publish from any of my OS X or Linux systems. On the other side I am considering setting up my weblistener from ZenIRCBot and using that to listen for call back from GitHub saying there is new content.

The fabric solution is an already working solution that doesn’t require much upkeep and because it does the push as well as going to the server and publishing it is the same amount of commands. It doesn’t have a server side component might crash (other than the sshd which I trust.) But it restricts me from posting from certain devices of mine.

The automatic publishing solution has two daemon scripts and the redis daemon to get working. I could cut this down to a single script but that requires writing more code which hasn’t been tested. On the other hand it just requires me to push my new posts and other changes and see them on the site rather rapidly. This allows me to use GitHub for windows or mobile applications. I game from windows and one of my blogs is about gaming which makes this solution pretty ideal.

I think I am going to setup the automatic publishing and see how it goes. I don’t have to remove my fabric setup because I add the automatic publishing which lets me fall back on it. When I have the whole thing working I’ll do a full write-up on it including source.

Categories as Subdomains

So one of the things I wanted to do with my blog is to have Tech, Life, and SC2 under their own domains so I can link to just that domain when things are specific. It was actually surprising easy to do this, just a simple nginx rewrite rule and some modifications of the theme templates.

This is the entry for SC2:

server {
    listen       80;
    server_name  sc2.wraithan.net;

    location / {
        root   /srv/http/wraithan.net/output/;
        index  category/sc2.html;
    }

    #error_page  404              /404.html;

    error_page   500 502 503 504  /50x.html;
    location = /50x.html {
        root   /usr/share/nginx/html;
    }
}

Then I changed the places that linked to the category in the template to look like:

<li {% if cat == category %}class="active"{% endif %}><a href="http://{{ cat.name.lower() }}.wraithan.net/">{{ cat }}</a></li>

I could (should) probably generalize it a bit better, but this is better than nothing!

Goals

Goals is a topic I cover now and then. I also have a history of pondering it then not sticking to things I’ve come up with that would better my life in some way. I think a common thread through this is my lack of stability.

While I am stable enough that I am not living on the streets, that is about where it ends. Some days at work I get a lot of work done, other days I get nearly none done. I can’t really draw a line to figure out what is causing this either which is something that really bothers me.

In November I was going running 3 times a week with my girlfriend. It was pretty great, I got some good shoes for it, wasn’t getting much/any joint fatigue and generally started feeling better about myself. I’ve since fallen off the wagon and need to get back on.

I gave up sweetened drinks at the start of November as well. This one stuck a lot harder, but recently I’ve cheated a few times. I had a couple rum and cokes at the bar, a 5 hour energy when I wanted to game for longer, etc. I’ve not strayed far from this one so it is very likely that I’ll be able to keep this up and go back to my sticking to it. Perhaps even expanding it to no foods with fructose (including sucrose) in them other than naturally occurring (fruits and such.)

I want to get better at SC2, I think my ultimate goal is to hit Master league. Unfortunately I can’t seem to regimen myself enough to get out of Silver league really (though I did make it out of Bronze into Silver in HotS which has me pretty excited.) I am hoping blogging about my progress and looking more into that will help.

Really, that is what a lot of getting this site off the ground is. A place for me to blog about my progress. Life will have my exercise and diet stuff, tech will have side projects and work, and SC2 will have (you guessed it) StarCraft 2 developments.

So here is to a new year, a new blog, and hopefully by the next time this topic comes up, a new me that will be hard to recognize other than the beard.

Promoted to Silver

I was pretty bummed when I was placed in HotS and got placed into Bronze. In WoL I was Silver and the MMR tool said I was nearing Gold. So a placement into Bronze was almost a slap in the face. It made me want to quit playing right there.

Instead I started playing more and more, and found that I really belonged there. I was losing a majority of my matches still. Learning to deal with all these new units and buffs and nerfs to various abilities and didn’t deserve my previous rank.

Last night I was promoted to Silver. This is after 69 ranked games of HotS (this is not counting my unranked games and 1v1 with friends). I have been learning quite a bit while playing those 69 games. Some of it was getting better at countering various units. Some of it was just playing more so I can flesh out my playing style and my builds. And finally, lots of it was watching players like Wilko stream.

Next steps will be getting a bit more comfortable with skytoss, at least mixing it into my composition a little bit. As well as sitting down and playing with my build orders in a sandbox so I can figure out what order I should build things and what is the fastest I can complete it.

I am trying to stream at least an hour or two a day. You can the link to my twitch account in the side bar to the left.

Learning How to Practice

I’ve been pondering how to get better at SC2. There are a lot of opinions on this, watch soandso’s videos, use one generic build for everyone that teaches the basics, don’t care about mirco or winning and learn to macro, etc. I have been having trouble deciding between these and/or how to mix and match them so I feel like I am improving.

The first thing that comes to mind for improving myself is just playing more. I need to get to the point where I am getting several matches in on several days a week. I think of this as akin to eating better or going to the gym. What you do at the gym for those first couple weeks while you get used to going regularly is less important than building up the habit of doing it.

My next plan for improving is to play more on my stream and just listen to advice of people who are watching. I’ve not been good at this and in fact I rebel against their advice. While I can’t implement everything people suggest, I can work toward what they suggest and take it under advisement. My predisposition against certain units that are more micro heavy or I’ve had a hard time incorporating is no reason to just reject what a viewer suggests.

In that vein of thinking, it was noted on my stream that I don’t generally micro. In the interest of becoming more comfortable with microing I’ve started playing Darglein’s Micro Trainer. Playing though all the levels a couple times then focusing on Blink Stalkers, SCV Train, and Multiple Ability Control. Partially because I don’t even know how to do this effectively and partially because I need to teach my hands to do this. With the game timer, I figure if I do an hour of concentrated practice a day, my micro and mouse control will improve and I’ll feel more confident in using my unit’s spells.

Finally, there is TheStaircase, which is a very interesting way to learn to play. Unfortunately, because I play HotS, I am forced to make a best guess at my income rate so I can calculate SQ. This will be this way until GGTracker supports HotS which I hope will be in the near future. I am in the process of building a site that will be able to harness GGTracker’s automatic gathering of SQ for people (both the collective averages by league and for the individual player) so that you can see if you are passing or not. That said, because I am playing in the AHGL I can’t purely use this as I need to have my build orders refined for real play.

This is the start of my thoughts on training. I am going to go back and re-read The Art of Learning and see what thoughts and ideas come from that and adjust accordingly.

Switching to Pelican

So, I haven’t been blogging lately because I’ve been meaning to scrap my Blogger setup and move to using Pelican. Part of the battle was getting a theme that made me happy, the other part of the battle was sitting down to actually make things happen.

First off, let me just say that Pelican is a pretty great platform. And I am not saying that because I have the pleasure of working with Alexis, but because it lets me use reST to write my entries and I can heavily customize everything about its display.

One of the things I knew I wanted was the ability to use bootstrap themes. Luckily someone else had already made that possible, two someones in fact! I found both of them in the pelican-themes repo which houses a number of themes for Pelican. themes/bootstrap and themes/bootstrap2 are the two that are included in this aggregation and I found I liked the layout of themes/bootstrap a bit more.

Unfortunately, I found that themes/bootstrap was built for a much older version of bootstrap and that I’d have to modify things to make it work. Also, I found a couple stylistic nits with it (especially when I changed to a darker theme) that needed addressing as well. Fortunately for me, it wasn’t very hard to update it to the newest bootstrap and I’ll be sending a pull request to pelican-themes with the fixes needed once I am pretty sure I have ironed everything out.

Tracking my Progress

This will be my blog for tracking my progress in StarCraft 2. I find myself
wanting more direction in what I am working on. In turn the goal of this blog
will be for me to talk about what I am going to focus on in the next
week. There will be other topics like build orders I am using, tools I’ve
built, games I am particularly proud of or highlight mistakes I’ve made, and
other SC2 and eSports related things.

To chronicle the start of this journey, I am Wraithan. I have fully switched to
playing Heart of the Swarm beta (HotS) as I am the Captain of Mozilla’s After
Hours Gaming League (AHGL) team, which is taking place in the beta. I am
currently in Bronze league and look forward to rising up over time as I
improve.