Sunday, September 29, 2019

Thinking Fast and Slow: Book Review (Monday Musings 84)

I heard about this book from one of my streamer friends after I mentioned how I don't think of myself as good at responding to unexpected things. I rarely think on my feet as well as I'd like. She'd heard about Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and felt it might explain why some people can't respond quickly to surprises. Further, those types of people are more thoughtful, so I might not feel too bad about myself.

However, the book goes into different matters than what I hoped. Kahneman's thesis is that humans are not rational and how that was a huge breakthrough in the world of economics. This surprised me, because we all know that people do really stupid things, even the most rational among us...for example, we all know usually sensible people who don't wear helmets or seatbelts nor take other easy to implement safety precautionss.

Even so, the predominant tendency in economics for most of its existence as a science is to hold that people are rational and will do rational things. Kahneman proposes otherwise. He describes two systems that we use: System 1 is the immediate reaction we have to stimulus, our gut instinct. If we see an animal, we know right away that it's a dog, we don't have to think about it. Or, if we see smoke, we're know to try to put the fire out...or to flee.

While System 2 is your conscious mind, where you think things through. For instance, making a decision to buy one product rather than another. In a series of experiments, Kahneman shows that System 2 isn't always rational and thoughtful, but can be rather lazy. This can be very true, because we have to deal with a lot of issues in life, so that we can't spend that much energy carefully thinking through every decision and thought process. That would be too exhausting.

One experiment proving his thesis is the following problem: A ball and a bat costs $1.10, and the bat costs $1.00, how much does the ball cost?

I would immediately say "definitely not 10 cents" but only because I'm aware of these psychological experiments where the answer is often not what you think at first.

Even so, if I were a participant in this study, I would've answered, "Definitely not 10 cents, but I'm too tired to figure out the true cost of the ball". Most people answer 10 cents, because that's your impulse from System 1, and System 2 is too lazy to override the impulse.

As you can see from this example, your system 1 comes up immediately 10 cents, but your system 2 doesn't override this answer. The correct answer is 5 cents.

Kahneman also describes how system 2 is very biased - in one of many experiments he conducted, he showed how sentences in big bold letters are believed to be true more so than the same sentences in small lettering.

I found the first few chapters very interesting, and the experiments thought provoking. However, midway through the book, I couldn't get past the rest of the book because Kahneman gives so many thought experiments, it becomes tiring.

Indeed, the book appeared to be a monograph, where he would make a statement and then show examples to prove his theory. By answering all of the questions that he asks, I got fatigued.

As a result, I skipped the rest of the book to the conclusion. Because humans don't do things that are good for us, policies should allow for freedom of choice, but steer people toward the right thing to do.

For instance, employees are automatically opted in an IRA retirement savings plan at 10% of their salary. However, you can easily opt out of this plan if you want to.

Therefore, you have a choice to opt in or opt out. But with this policy, people may be too "lazy" to opt out, and unbeknownst to them, 10% goes into retirement fund. 10 years later, they will be surprised that it increased to a really nice sum.

Kahneman didn't mention this in his conclusion, but the conclusion I got from the book is to be open minded. We may think something is absolutely true, come to find out, we didn't realize that we were wrong all along, and never questioned it. By being open minded and nonjudgmental, your life will be more enriching. 

For instance, someone whom you had negative first impressions (System 1 making snap judgments), keep an open mind about that person, and you may find the person becoming your friend. Of course, if that person does awful things one after the other, then your first impressions were correct and System 2 will note to avoid that person. But this will be due to empirical evidence as opposed to a snap judgment.

It's easy to say people do dumb things all the time, but how do you explain why that's the case, and how do you prove it in a systematic way? In Thinking Fast and Slow, Kahneman does a superb job answering those questions, albeit in an eventually exhausting to read manner.

The How of Happiness Review

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

G Fuel Alternative (Monday Musings 83)

When I saw one of my friends stream, she mentioned that she was drinking G Fuel, and felt that it gave her very smooth energy, and no crashes after the effects wore off. She felt too jittery on the other energy drinks. Intrigued, I looked into G Fuel.

The ingredients aren't harmful because of the low dosages, but I hate the Sucralose and Acesulfame after taste, which G Fuel contains, and further, G Fuel is rather expensive at $35.99 for 40 servings, approximately $1 per serving, so I thought I can find a healthier and more cost-effective alternative to G Fuel.

After doing research, I found that the most effective way to improve energy and mental alertness is the tried and true, boring and effortful healthy ways such as:
  1. Going to bed and getting up at the same time, i.e. good consistent sleep - most people need 8 hours
  2. Exercising around 30 minutes between 55 to 85% (60% makes the most sense) of your max heart rate, at least 3 times/week, calculator here.
  3. Fruits and vegetables - at least 5 servings - and whole grains
  4. Reduce stress through meditation, problem-solving, and so forth
  5. Smokers, QUIT!
  6. Limit alcohol use 
  7. Diaphragmatic breathing
  8. Hydrate
  9. Avoid sugars
However, there are going to be days when we can't get the 8 hours of solid sleep, eat nutritious foods, exercise, and smokers may slip due to increased stress and anxiety in their lives, and so on.

As streamers, should we then engage in performance drinks and pills, of which G Fuel is the most recently hyped, as marketing states that it was created by professional gamers? 

Reviewing the ingredients of G Fuel, the first part lists vitamins and minerals. However, it's much more cost-effective to take a generic multivitamin which is dirt cheap, and even free with some insurance plans. 

Even so, almost all research studies note that multivitamins don't really improve upon things and I recall my chemistry professor saying that multivitamins only lead to "expensive urine". So, unless you're literally not eating and at risk of scurvy, there's no need for multivitamins.

But, if you want to replicate G Fuel, you can take a cost-effective multivitamin for the first part of the ingredients.

The next ingredient of G-Fuel is the energy complex which consists of 140 to 150 mg of caffeine. Jet-alert caffeine at 100 mg is dirt cheap at $9.95 for 240 pills here at Amazon! You can take 1 and a half tablets (total 150 mg) for fraction of the G Fuel costs.

G-Fuel's other energy complex ingredients include, in addition to caffeine, Taurine, L-Citrulline Malate, Glucoronolactone, and N-Acetyl-Carnitine HCL. All these ingredients, including caffeine, are merely 1.7 grams.

Merely 1.7 grams, because to obtain the stimulating effects of Citrulline, you need on average 3 to 6 grams of L-Citrulline and 8 grams of Citrulline Malate! That's a lot! However, G-Fuel's concentration of Citrulline is well below the dosage needed for its effects (total of all ingredients at 1.7 grams).

Supplemental dosage of Glucoronolactone are between 500 to 3000 mg, so to be conservative, that's 0.5 grams minimum for this ingredient to be effective. Please note that G Fuel does not say how many mgs are included in their drinks, so I'm assuming they don't want to advertise the sub supplemental dosages. I'm assuming it'll be less than 0.5 grams.

Finally, N-Acetyl-Carnitine's recommended dosage to gain effects is 1500 to 2000 mg, and up to 4000 mg for depression.

Taking all these ingredients and breaking them down, the energy complex as to why G Fuel works is pure and simple Caffeine 140 to 150 mg. Again, Jet-alert is the cheaper and healthier alternative (i.e. no artificial sugars).

What can be said of the energy complex, the same can be said of G Fuel's focus complex. Again, total listed of the focus complex is a mere 1.2 grams. Like the energy complex, there's no breakdown of dosage of each ingredient in the focus complex. The ingredients here include L-Tyrosine, Choline Bitartrate, and ATP. ATP degrades through the digestion system, so ingesting ATP gets you nothing.

As for Choline Bitartrate, this study shows no acute benefits in healthy, young human adults - since we're using G Fuel for those immediate, acute effects, Choline Bitartrate does not appear to help in that situation. 

L-Tyrosine may be the only ingredient in G Fuel's energy complex that may have effects, even so L-Tyrosine had mixed results in reducing stress and improving focus. Some research showed benefits from taking L-Tyrosine, but at 500 to 2000 mg, but because there's no breakdown in G Fuel label, it's unclear if there's at least 500 mg of this ingredient in G Fuel, which I suspect is not the case. Again the total listed of all three ingredients is a mere 1.2 grams, and there's no breakdown for each ingredient!

Lastly, G Fuel notes the antioxidant complex, consisting of various fruit and vegetable powders and extracts, and given how many are listed, these might be in such small amounts that they don't have any effect. Indeed, they don't list how much of these powders are in the drink.

Let's pretend that G Fuel's combination does add up to having some antioxidant effects. You can quickly consume orange juice, or shove a handful of grapes or blueberries before stream, and have the same, or even higher antioxidant effects with less effort. No need to waste money and spend effort mixing your G Fuel powder and water!

Even so, the fact that G Fuel doesn't list how much powder and extract they use, most likely there's no antioxidant effects.

Therefore, after breaking down these ingredients, it appears that the effects of G Fuel on focus and mental energy are due to caffeine 150 mg and questionable multivitamin (per research studies). Again, you can get these extremely cheap or even free (multivitamin through insurance).

You may ask why my friend didn't feel jittery on G Fuel compared to other energy drinks? I'm suspecting it's because other energy drinks often include Guarana. G Fuel does not contain Guarana, and the other ingredients listed in G Fuel are such low dosages that you won't feel the effects except for caffeine. The combination of Guarana and caffeine in many energy drinks can make you feel jittery. I think in my case, it also caused heart racing.

The tried and true method in the above numbered list is the best way to improve energy and focus. However, if there's a day that you'll be streaming when you couldn't incorporate these healthy but boring strats, and you found G Fuel helpful, taking caffeine at 100 to 150 mg and a multivitamin will work the same. Not only that, this alternative is not only significantly cheaper than G Fuel, but healthier (no artificial sweeteners).

Conclusion: G Fuel is making a lot of money by brilliantly marketing popular Twitch streamers and professional gamers. However, you can get the same effects by taking cheap caffeine tablets (or drinking your favorite coffee beverage!) and any multivitamin. More effective yet, incorporate healthy life style changes. Don't believe the hype and save your dollars!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Shea Butter Variants (Monday Musings 82)

At the risk of sounding twee or like Maria Bamford's imitation of a high maintenance customer, nevertheless, I feel compelled to write about the various Shea butter types as it can help anyone with dry skin - though if you suffer from moderate to severe eczema, consult your dermatologist.

Growing up, I had extremely dry skin that during the winter months, my hands cracked with thin bleed lines. I wasn't surprised when I was diagnosed with eczema a couple of decades later.

My dermatologist recommended the extremely cost-effective petroleum jelly, i.e. Vaseline which works very well for my eczema, which is mild. I'm not sure how effective it is for those with more severe forms of eczema.

The only issue is that petroleum jelly feels horrible, so I dread taking a shower because it means putting on the Vaseline when I was initially compliant with my dermatologist's recommendation. Vaseline felt so bad that eventually I stopped using it. I'd rather deal with dry skin (only using Vaseline when I absolutely had to) then using it on a regular basis.

Because of my non-compliance with Vaseline, I had an eczema flair. Because I didn't want to use Vaseline for the rest of my life, I researched the alternatives. 100% raw and organic African Shea butter kept coming up as the best alternative, given the fact that it has antioxidants and known for its remarkable moisturizing powers - but it has to be raw to keep its healing properties, noted the many sources.

On Amazon, I was searching through raw organic Shea butters that are fair trade and has an expiration date, and I found two that met the description at the time. One of them, Amazon is no longer selling, so the second time, I bought the other brand.

The type of Shea Butter I initially bought was West African Shea butter, imported from Ghana. Because it's raw, therefore no processing, it's "clumpy" but if you warm it in your hands, it melts though there may be some smaller chunks as you apply, which is no big deal.

The feel is absolutely luxuriant, and my alligator skin felt almost like baby skin. My dermatologist even remarked how soft my skin was. In other words, the Western Shea butter works and feels better than Vaseline - not only does it feel better, but it feels wonderful. The only difference between the two is that after washing your hands 2 times you have to reapply the butter, whereas Vaseline, I only had to reapply after 4 hand washings, but that's not a problem at all.

African Shea butter is the clear winner over petroleum jelly, at least for dry to very dry/mild eczematous skin. I can't speak for moderate to severe eczema.

The issue with the West African Shea butter is that it has a rather strong odor, though once applied, the smell dissipates. However in time, it became unpleasant to me, that again, I was non-compliant. The first Shea butter expired (I probably only used it a dozen times), and same with the second Shea butter expiring, purely because of the smell. Albeit, after application, you don't smell it.

As this second Shea butter expired as well, as usual in Amazon searches, I stumbled upon an East African Shea butter (imported from Uganda) that is also 100% raw, organic and fair trade, with expiration date. This company noted that Eastern Shea butter has more nutrients than its Western counterpart, and also has a lighter smell and better absorption. Upon receiving this new Eastern variant, they were absolutely right about the much lighter smell. The smell was significantly more pleasant than the stronger smelling butter. 

This new Shea butter still has the smoky, buttery smell to it, but it's very mild, and didn't make me gag. I would say it's not pleasant but not unpleasant so I have no hesitation in slathering it on. Further, the fragrance disappears after application.

Upon application, the lovely East African Shea butter melted much easier with no clumps, and so much easier to apply as it absorbs much better than the Western variant. This is the first time that I no longer fear taking a shower (at risk of dry, itchy and painful skin) because this new Eastern Shea butter is so luxurious in feel and moisturizes phenomenally that I can take multiple showers a day and not be dry, as long as I apply this amazing butter.

However, I'm not sure about the claims that East African Shea butter is more nutrient-rich than the West African type. All I know is that experiencing both, the worse smelling one moisturizes equally well as the better smelling Shea butter. In other words, they both work equally well in moisturizing.

Both types are incredible, luxurious-feeling moisturizers - I just found the Eastern one more pleasant in smell and easier to apply.

Conclusion: You can't go wrong with either Shea Butters - though the East African Shea Butter originating from Uganda smells and applies better than the West African Shea Butter from Ghana.

The How of Happiness Review

Monday, September 9, 2019

Bimonthly Progress Report For My Twitch Channel, FuzzyJCats, July 2 to Sept 1

FuzzyJCats Twitch Channel

Now that I accomplished the most important improvement to my stream, not caring about numbers, I was able to focus on my goals listed in my last progress report during this period.  

I was getting better at talking and gaming at the same time, as it didn't quite take as much effort as before. I was able to stream without exercising just as well as before when I really had to exercise to perform.

Interestingly, as streaming seemed to be more and more natural (though not quite effortless which is where I want to end up at), I felt that near the end of the period, I actually fell into complacency, so I didn't really work on self-care issues, improving fluency, removing vocal tics and filler words, and the like.

I could tell that I was starting to become complacent around last week, because I didn't have that passion I have when I want to improve upon things. The good news is that this week, after realizing that I was almost going through the motions (albeit while streaming, I was having fun being with my community), I rediscovered that excitement and drive to work on improving my content.

I found one obvious area to improve is to have more purposeful gaming while chatting. My default strat of just moving the character around as I'm chatting just to provide some change in scenery is certainly better than nothing, i.e. having my character stand in one place. But clearly, we can do better than that!

Admittedly, the strat was a good crutch as I was getting acclimated to the multitasking, but since it's taking less effort to stream thanks to experience, I'd like to actually chat and purposefully move toward the boss, as boss fights are amongst the most exciting content.

The roadblock is that for some reason, I feel compelled to narrate what I'm doing in gaming, so if I'm moving toward a goal, I'd talk about that, as opposed to talking about more interesting subjects that my viewers present.

Therefore, I have to make a concerted effort to only talk about why I'm doing something if there's nothing else to address in chat, and I can't think of any other topics to talk about.

I feel by consciously gaming purposefully the entire stream, my streaming content will improve immensely. But by doing this, I do in fact have to exercise as that's going to take so much more mental energy than just going through the motions (that might explain why I was recently able to stream despite not exercising).

Fortunately, I exercised for the first time yesterday when my asthma was stable, and I have to make sure that I exercise regularly like I used to during the beginning of my streaming.

I also want to improve being more fluent. Due to being so excitable, my mind goes all over the place, leading to my speaking in fits and starts, and often not completing sentences. 

A great example of a streamer who is warm, friendly, constantly talks to chat, addresses and knows all of his viewers, and offers amazing gameplay the entirety of his stream is RichieTwoTeas. Although Richie's a professional streamer, and I'm a hobbyist, it helps to have a lofty goal to strive toward.

I believe that purposeful gaming and fluency are the two major improvements to focus on for my second year of streaming as achievable goals. The third improvement of community building does not appear to have concrete steps to take, but I can work on finding solutions this period. My first stream was on July 25, 2018.

Improving equipment to stream through PC using OBS greatly improves audio-visuals to a noticeable effect, so getting a decent PC and learning how to set up OBS is definitely something I'll be working on down the road.

Although I tend to do better with improving on one aspect rather than multiple, it appears that having good game content and fluency are intertwined, so it won't be "confusing" to work on both at the same time, as they are what you do when streaming.

An easy improvement I made is buying 4 season-specific sub badges through Own3D, which was rather cost-effective, and they often (always?) have 50% discounts. One set of sub badges costs $15 with the steep discounts - you get 3- 6- 9- and 12- month badges. So far, I featured the ice cream and pumpkin sub badges, and the other two will follow upon season change.

Responding to viewers have improved. I obtain logs through Chatty.

Goals Achieved:
  • No longer caring about viewer numbers
  • Incorporated 4 Sub Badges 
  • Using Chatty
Improvement to focus on for next period:
  • Purposeful gaming while chatting  and fluency = must do self-care

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Why You Should Allow Backseat Gaming (Monday Musings 81)

FuzzyJCats Twitch Channel

Almost all streamers I've met and have immense respect are really against backseat gaming, so this post is to explore reasons why you should reconsider.

I invite backseat gaming enthusiastically because I do need help in games and I don't care if someone says to watch out for x and y even if I'm aware of those particular issues, as well as for other reasons as will be explored below.

Albeit, I don't like story spoilers because other viewers may not know what happens in the end and you really don't want to spoil things. Unfortunately, I've made mistakes during stream where I inadvertently divulged which I then have to apologize.

Of course, I'm not talking about allowing toxic backseat gaming where your viewers are saying that you're a complete loser and waste of space because you missed a secret in game, or other hateful statements. 

Rather, I'm talking about the kind of backseat gaming when your viewers are very excited and enthusiastic about the game and offer tips and suggestions, which then spark a discussion in the community about best weapons, best builds and other gaming matters. This may lead to much needed conversational threads and sense of camaraderie amongst your viewers, since dead air is a death knell.

When new viewers come in and see friendly exchanges about the game in chat, they see that the stream is active and "not dead", and might even join in the lively conversation because they may feel compelled to put in their own two cents.

Now, if you're streaming just for the hobby and you don't care at all about viewers or streaming income, and you absolutely can't stand back seating, by all means, do prohibit it in your streams and ban/timeout anyone who doesn't follow your rules.

However, if you're interested in growing your channel and wanting to get some pocket money from your streaming endeavors, I would consider not just allowing backseat gaming, but perhaps even encouraging.


The key objection to backseat gaming is that it spoils the experience for you as a streamer, but the point is, you're streaming for your audience, not for yourself! Recall that streaming is a form of entertainment.

Another reason is that subconsciously, the streamer wants to figure things out which will make them seem clever to the community to stroke your own ego, but who cares? I found by listening and understanding others (rather than trying to impress by seeming clever and accomplished), people have found me "fun".

I'm emphatically not being a home body, but because I spend hours asking questions about their favorite subjects, such as their children (even as my eyes glaze over, I hate to admit), they enjoy talking to me.

That's not to compliment myself, because the reality is, people want to be seen and heard, and if you give them the platform, they find you absolutely charming.

Next time at a party of strangers, just listen and ask pertinent questions, that person will find you riveting and will talk to you for hours if you let them - they will never make a questionable excuse that they have to go home and feed their cats. Don't be surprised if that person tells their friend that they would like to get to know you better.

Why do people backseat game? There are many reasons, but the main one is because they're very enthusiastic about the game and want to show how much they know, as people want to be seen as intelligent, knowledgeable and helpful, even as backseat gaming grates on almost everyone's nerves. People love to show off and/or share their knowledge and expertise.

Next, what is the purpose of entertaining an audience, of which streaming is a form? People engage in entertainment to have fun and feel good. What better way to do that by allowing your audience to actively participate, and hence feeling good about themselves for being smart, helpful and capable!

Often, when I ask my community what to do in a particular situation or how to get to a certain location due to my horrific sense of directions, they always give me superb advice which adds to chat content.

By telling your viewers how helpful and intelligent they are - and you're not lying because they are exceedingly astute since they also play these games, often spending hundreds to thousands of hours - they feel good about themselves and a sense of accomplishment. Though I think I exhausted some of my viewers when they were giving me directions, so perhaps something I have to dial down in the future. But in general, viewers do enjoy being seen as smart.

The exciting thing is that through the power of backseat gaming, my community literally pushed me through half of Borderlands 2, which is no small feat, given I never succeeded in any FPS! At that time, I could complete Borderlands 2 but it was too mentally exhausting for me to stream since I was inexperienced. Even so, I know I can beat the game off-stream (or even while streaming when I gain more experience) thanks to my lovely community.

The other good thing about allowing backseat gaming is that no one likes to follow rules - freedom here is the key - so if you have a long list of don'ts, it can led to a sense of suffocation. Then there's the inevitable backlash where they do exactly what you don't want them too.

So often, when you hear someone say "Whatever you do, don't touch that",  you're going to want to touch said offensive object, even if in one million years, you'd never think of touching it.

As for objections, I'm sure streamers feel that if they allow backseat gaming, everyone will tell the streamer what to do and the chat will be a chaotic mess. This is actually good since Twitch specifically looks for engaged and active chats! This is Partnership material!

However, don't get excited, because the reverse is true. There are times when I'm practically begging chat to help me find a way, but because they're used to the general etiquette of backseat gaming = bad, they only relent after quite a lengthy period of time, when I'm tearing out my hair.

The other objection I can see is that other viewers might be annoyed with the advice and tips, but at the same time, they can ignore reading the chat comments. They're not forced to be glued to their seats, eyes trained on your chat box.

However, if your community is reasonable, another one of your viewers (maybe a new one) will invariably chime in that there is yet another way to get there, as well as tease you for bad sense of directions. The dialogue tends to go into other intricacies of the game that foster further comments, which is a must if you want to obtain partnership.

Another reasonable objection is that by stumbling about and the community seeing you figure out things your own way could be entertaining, so backseat gaming will prevent that. Again, because the ethos is backseat gaming = bad, even as I'm encouraging my chat to tell me what to do, crickets are chirping until I flounder for up to 30 minutes, maybe for even longer.

Even so, you can thank the viewer and mention that's very smart, but then mention, you'll try it this other way. This is where you can be clever, by finding another solution then what is recommended, in effect showing off your creativity!

The last objection I can think of is what if your viewers are toxic about backseat gaming? Well, timeout or ban said viewer, exactly as you do for any other type of toxic comments on chat, whether it's bigoted remarks, insulting others, or what not.

I can't think of any further issues or problems in empowering your community to give out advice and tips, only positive ones.

What about you? Do you agree, or do you see pitfalls?

The How of Happiness Review

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Bimonthly Progress Report For My Twitch Channel, FuzzyJCats, March 2 to July 1

Twitch Channel FuzzyJCats

After a hiatus due to my friends being in hospital, when I came back to streaming, it finally dawned on me to not care about viewer numbers - at last! Even as I theoretically realize that ignoring numbers is a major solution to preventing burn out, there was always a part of me that cared, due to ego issues.

As a result, I was watching a lot of Twitch streams as that's the best way to grow numbers (i.e. networking = making friends), that it's caused migraines, not to mention, feeling imprisoned because I "have" to watch streams for numbers.

In other words, I was afraid to limit Twitch viewing as it may lead to decrease in numbers. However, during the period of time when I was visiting and supporting my friends, I didn't have time to watch Twitch, and despite this very sad period, I felt physically better due to lack of migraines.

When I came back to streaming, I had such a huge outpouring of support that I finally internalized deep down that it's my viewers who are the most important, not reaping numbers. Because of my viewers (and it can never be overstated, your viewers make your stream), I was able to internalize this completely. 

Indeed, one of the most deadly things you can do as a streamer is to take your audience for granted. Having all this support and love from my community make streaming worth it, and that certainly prevents burn-out. I must never forget how I felt when my community was there for me when I came back to streaming.

I'm not sure if my viewers noticed that I was more spontaneous and free during this time, but I felt like a burden was lifted from my shoulders. Indeed, you can ad lib more when you don't have to worry about turning off viewers. Although I enjoyed streaming before this revelation, my joy was constricted by worrying about concurrent viewers. Now, without my joy being choked off, I feel liberated while streaming.

Interestingly, since not being concerned about numbers, I noticed that I was able to stream just as well as ever. In fact, I may have been better at streaming since I had the same (or perhaps better) mental focus despite not exercising. Almost all of my past streams, I made sure to exercise. I think having this psychological freedom made streaming less taxing. When you're truly happy in what you're doing, in other words, you're able to be more effective.

It took almost a year to get to a place where I finally know and feel that numbers are irrelevant, and that's a breath of fresh air. In the meantime, I've come up with strats, a flowchart that I follow, that help guide my stream:

If there's someone commenting, stop everything and talk to the person (though remember what you were talking before that and continue that thought process).

Once talking to the person, if there's a pause in chat, go back to previous thought and complete the thought.

If there's no one there, comment on gaming action (why you did this, what you're going to do, how you feel about the cinematic cut scenes and the like), or tell interesting stories (more on that later)

Use load screens to catch up on chat and talk.

It gets rather stale talking about the same points (i.e. gaming action and streaming issues), so to improve content, discussing life experiences are key as you can fill dead air by telling stories. Talking about life experiences is material enough.

Further, these experiences don't have to be unique and exciting ones - often any common mishaps that you experience can be told very humorously. Making people laugh is one of the best forms of entertainment.

I never had reason to be a story teller, so being an entertaining story teller is a skill that I'll be working on. This is an entirely new and exciting new adventure that I'll be experiencing!

Progress made:
  • Truly not caring about concurrent viewer numbers (finally!).
  • Realizing that story telling can make streams more compelling.
  • Putting in scheduled vacations, and notifying community, to prevent burn-out.
Improvements to be made:
  • Be a better story teller.
  • Thank new viewers for stopping by stream (use cbenni.com chat log to review chat history) - I was consistent in past, but not currently.
  • Completing my thought processes and sentences (I have a tendency to do this IRL as well).
  • Get back into exercising and self-care.
  • The usual being able to chat and game at same time (this is not habit yet).
  • The usual decreasing filler words, vocal "tics" and the like.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles: A Comparison (Monday Musings 80)

I've decided to write as many posts as possible, and titling it Monday Musings from now on, to insure that I don't "fall behind" lol.

As another hobby to consider (to give your eyes much needed rest from all the blue light of video games) is jigsaw puzzles. I got into puzzles once again as my friend introduced me to the Wentworth wooden puzzles. I was so impressed with these puzzles because of the quality and the satisfying tactile feel when you put the pieces together, that I wanted to order some myself.

Upon visiting Wentworth's online site, my heart sank as the puzzles were rather pricey, though at $50 for a 250-piece puzzle, the cost/time is actually reasonable, as long as you do the puzzle a couple of times. Since I'm very slow, it takes about 2 hours, so if you do the puzzle 2 or 3 times, it's cheaper than going to the movies. So I thought of getting one, but then the shipping charges were astronomical, since it's shipping from the UK. However, I found out later that Wentworth often has free shipping to US! But not realizing that at the time, I decided to see if there are US manufacturers which will have lower shipping costs.

Therefore, I did more research and stumbled upon the ridiculous Stave puzzles (Barbara Bush-endorsed) at average price of $1000 (perhaps even $2000 as some are $15K), so this brand will not be reviewed. I then fell upon the much more affordable and reasonable Architect and Liberty puzzles.

I find that they are all equal to each other, so the puzzle manufacturer that is best for you is based really on your preferences and what you're looking for. I'll outline the differences between the three, in alphabetical order.

Artifact puzzles is the most creative of not just the pictures offered, but the many interesting puzzle shapes. I don't find the tired, drab images of known paintings, and boring, uninspired nature scenes, as compelling as the fantastical pictures including monsters, cartoon characters, and so forth that Artifact offers.

Although Artifact pieces are the most loose fitting of the three, the irregularly irregular pieces are significantly more bizarre and odd than the other brands, and therefore quite compelling. It's interesting to see how these weird pieces fit together, often leading to a lot of "Ah ha" moments. They're coming out with the new Ecru line which offers tighter fitting pieces with no glare design, but it's more costly of course. Further, the designs aren't as whimsical or fantastic as their regular line, so I have a feeling that I'd prefer the regular over the upcoming Ecru. Picture for me tends to be most important.


Artifact's Mechanical Griffin
Artifact tends to have the most whimsy pieces out of the three, meaning pieces that are shaped thematically. So a cat puzzle will have cat-shaped pieces.

The image quality on Artifact and Wentworth is better than Liberty in the sense that the images seem like it's actually painted on the wooden pieces. One of the Liberty puzzle pieces had a small peel, that can be glued, so I don't find this a deal breaker.

If interested in Artifact, I would recommend the Griffin that comes with a clever surprise (spoilers avoided here). 

All the Artifact puzzles I own are so completely different from each other (I have 4!). Other customers also noticed that any time you get a puzzle from Artifact, it's a whole new experience.

As for the Liberty Puzzle, it has the same thickness as Artifact (6.35 mm), but the fit of the pieces are much tighter, so in that sense the pieces are better quality than Artifact's regular line, only marred by the fact that a piece may (or may not) have some peeling (it seems like this would be a rare occurrence), unlike Artifact and Wentworth. 

Liberty does have a lot of whimsy pieces, not as much as the Artifact, but more so than the
Liberty's and Wentworth's An Exuberant Success
Wentworth. The pieces are more redundant than Artifact, tending to be more regularly irregular, rather than the irregularly irregular shapes of Artifact.


The Wentworth is made of considerably thinner wood than Artifact and Liberty, less than half the thickness (3 mm versus 6.35 mm). The thicker wood feels more luxurious, but because the Wentworth pieces are thinner, it's the best fitting of the three. The sensation of putting the pieces together in a satisfying click, so it  has the most pleasant sensory experience out of all three. There are whimsy pieces, but nowhere near as much as Artifact and Liberty, and more regular-shaped pieces than even the Liberty.

Wentworth includes a rather lovely felt bag to hold the pieces within its sturdy box. Sadly, Artifact and Liberty don't.

If you prefer unique pictures, and thicker, peculiar, odd and whimsical pieces, I'd recommend Artifact. If you prefer an equally thick cut with better fit, and you don't mind more regularly irregular shaped pieces, than I'd chose the Liberty. Finally, if you want that tactile, satisfying click feel with nice bag, and don't mind less creative shapes, then Wentworth is the puzzle for you. With these criteria in mind, Artifact is my favorite of the three due to the creativity aspects.

If none of these issues matter to you, I'd recommend ordering the designs that you find the most pleasing, because you can't go wrong with any of these puzzle manufacturers. They all cost around the same price, and Wentworth frequently has sales where shipping is free to the US.

For all three manufacturers, prices are cheaper ordering online at their websites:

Artifact Puzzles
Liberty Puzzles
Wentworth Puzzles

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