White Mage Thoughts

I still have a decent chunk of MSQ to go, only about halfway done the core Shadowbringer story. Yet from a skill perspective, there are only 2 bits left to go – Afflatus Rapture (AE heal through blooms) and Temperance which is a boost to healing and reduction of damage received. The former is a replacement for Medica, the latter a raid tool for large AE spurts.

Kaylriene has a few posts on this, coming from a more end-space view and both of us have some healing experience in WoW. There are some concept beats that are important to understand in FF14, then the specifics of how the WHM addresses them. First though is being clear that WoW’s healing model is about reactive healing – the tank is always getting beat down so you’re always triaging who needs healing more. If you actually can DPS (a fistweaving Monk is an example), well that’s gravy.

FF14’s healing model is a pro-active one. There are only a few non-telegraphed attacks in the entire game, so for nearly the entire game all damage is predictable. This is helpful as there are cast times in FF14, which means you will learn the dance of seeing a cast bar, and timing your heal to land just after the enemy attack does (if you need to do it at all). For non-tanks, the majority of deaths are due to not moving in time for the AE attacks, or getting cornered because of overlapping effects. The beauty here is that there aren’t a whole lot of 1-fight only mechanics, quite the opposite. You will learn to recognize good and bad AE (colors), stacking icons, spreading icons, and so on. The order of those attacks, and the speed at which they are thrown at you impact the difficulty more than anything else. So, assuming that damage is predictable and mostly avoidable, you should not be healing much at all – you should be doing DPS to bring down the target.

A second important bit is that FF14 “syncs” your stats to the level of the dungeon. If you’re 80 doing a level 34 dungeon, then your stats will be brought down to that level. You can manually un-sync if you wish, but the LFG tool (Duty Finder) applies it. The HUGE benefit here, from a healer, is that few tanks can actually manage a “wall to wall” pull (if the zone even allows it), because they can’t overgear the dungeon. At max level it’s a different beast, but for leveling, you just won’t see it.

DPS for a WHM is simple – one DoT, one direct damage, and one AE attack. At top levels, you effectively become a Glare canon.

Healing is about as straightforward as you can make it. The player has damage, you heal that damage. Until the later parts of the game, you need to be standing to cast, but once you unlock the healer gauge, you get access to some instant-cast versions, on a timer. You don’t have stances, pets, shields, or any multi-step processes.

That makes the class have the lowest skill floor for healing in the game. And because FF14 puts so much emphasis on player control of damage, there are very few instances where healing mistakes cause a wipe. The DPS likely will have stepped in the wrong thing, or the tank will not be actively using cooldowns on “tankbusters”. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience!

Tuesday Morning

Canada had it’s national elections yesterday, and the picture this morning is near identical to the one we had yesterday. The pragmatic in all of us wonders what was the point of this if nothing changed, we certainly could have spent the projected $600m on something else. And there are still 800,000 mail in votes that need to be tabulated, so some shifts are expected.

The results themselves are generally in line with polls, which did undergo some minor swings in this 30-odd day period (that it was short was great!). There were a few hurdles for everyone in this battle, both in the concepts/promises and in the track history.

We have a first past the post (FPTP) electoral system here, so strategic voting makes a big difference. People will vote against someone rather than for, just to avoid splitting the vote. Long story here, but electoral reform is a sensitive subject which we have not yet solved.

The party in power is lead by someone who has a truckload of charisma, there is no denying it. He’s also made some horribly poor ethical decisions, or perhaps they seem anti-ethical when he says he wants to push for transparency and equality. And yet, his platform is very progressive, effectively eating into the platforms of the smaller left-leaning parties. Health care, climate change, national day care, gun control (for automatic weapons) are all part of the platform.

The opposition part is right leaning, with a relatively new leader. He’s a good speaker, but the least charismatic of the bunch. Looks matter in politics, and a old (still younger than the PM!) balding white guy doesn’t resonate so much with everyone. The platform presented was much more center than the last ones, with clear acknowledgement of abortion rights, LGBTQ+ support, and some climate change support. It still had traditional right side ticks, like lower taxes, more jobs, more choices for people. He was pro-choice on vaccine support, and at the provincial level last week, the 2 right-leaning provinces declared emergencies and support for vaccine passports. The problem here is not the leader, the problem is the party.

We then get into the 3rd party, which was traditionally the most left-leaning. The party in power has eaten into their base, so they opted to go farther left, into the ‘this can’t actually work’ space. They have a very charismatic leader, but their platform is utopian in a country that is traditionally financially conservative. When pressed as to how they would pay for all this, the answer was a simple sound bite ‘we will increase taxes on the rich’. While a good soundbite, there was no answer to the follow-up question ‘how do you keep the rich people in the country?’ This party suffered the most from this election, in that they are not viewed as a viable alternative across the country, and strategic voting moved towards the party in power instead. If we were a proportional-representation system, then they would absolutely be a viable strategic choice.

The last 3 parties are somewhat fringe. One is entirely focused on climate change, and has some serious leadership challenges over the summer. They lack any coherent platform. Another only exists in the province of Quebec, meant to represent their population’s distinct needs. This party is much more aligned to the right, but the national right-leaning party is headquartered in a province that dislikes Quebec and is anglophone – really fascinating dynamics here. And the last party is a bunch of white nationalist imbeciles, with the thought power of a bucket of rusty bolts. They are an extreme right-wing party and their sole part of this election was pushing anti-vax conspiracy theories. They took ~5% of the national vote, which was enough to “steal” some wins from the opposition party.

Lessons Learned

Each party is going to have to do some soul searching after this election, it’s a rare event that the pre/post results are so close.

  • Even with people not wanting an election and a leader that has more than enough bad decisions, they still came away with a “win”. This is the 2nd election in a row with this result…
  • It seems fairly clear that Canadians have accepted that a progressive agenda is here for the foreseeable future and are willing to absolve some poor decisions in that goal
  • There is no new mandate. Nothing promised here was “new” in the big sense. Which is sort of good in that there’s shift in government priorities in the middle of a pandemic.
  • It would appear on the surface, that this election was a quasi-referendum on the pandemic response (as we had during the 2008 economic crisis). The way the prior government handled it vs the style of the opposition was quite the contrast
  • This appeared to be a party-based election rather than a leader-based one, which is a slight shift from the prior one. Perhaps this is due to the shorter time frames and very weird debate format. Ideally this grounds our PM on the impact of his personality.
  • There is a growing regional political divide, as well as an urban/rural one. The inability for provinces and federal parties to “get along” is more striking.
  • That the right still has a significant “fringe” vote and voice that “scares” moderates. (There was a giant unification of the right 20 years ago, there’s the potential of a split)
  • This is still a minority government, which typically have a 2 year lifespan. And we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. This is a tentative endorsement of the party in power, with some checks and balances.

I look forward to see how the various parties adjust their platforms and messages, in particular as to how the provinces adjust.

Are Subs Still Relevant

I would think that many folks that read this blog also read MassivelyOP, which has a recent post on the value of subscriptions in 2021. I have opinions, and I will write them! (In all seriousness, the Massively Overthinking column is probably my favorite one.)

Remember the old days when you didn’t have any choice? Them’s was the good old days, where you paid out of pocket and that was that! If you didn’t like the cost, then you farmed and sold some virtual assets on eBay. In 2021 dollars, I made a lot of money off UO this way. As Evercrack exploded, and the internet in general, a whole lot of dev studios formed to send us out half-baked ideas. WoW + EQ2 are still around, but there aren’t many left from those days anymore. With a bit of internet gaming history, there remained a east/west development wall. The concept of gaming arcades and internet cafes exploded in the east, where the west put internet into your house. That created two different ideas that stayed apart until the wide-scale use of the iPhone.

I won’t lay this all at the feet of mobile devices, but F2P absolutely owes a damn big chunk of it’s existence to it. This is primarily due to the AppStore interface and the ability to sort by price in a sea of garbage. For console/PC games, you could get a decent idea of what the game was by reviews. This is near impossible for mobile games, and the amount of pure garbage on the AppStore at the start was impressive. F2P meant that you could install a game, try it out for free, and then optionally invest money over time. The devs just wanted the app on your phone after all. This model was extremely effective, and it’s pretty much the gold standard for mobile games today.

Success begets copies. We may harp about horse armour being the first amazingly poor-value DLC, but the trophy really does go to EA’s ability to make it pervasive. Box price + micro-DLC for death by a thousand cuts. FIFA makes crazy mint from it! That this model moved into the MMO space only makes sense. MMOs only work if there are people. Even a few free players are going to be an audience for the paying ones to show off. Devs then hope they can get enough whales (or optional subs) to make it all work. SWTOR took this path, though it certainly took the long path to get there!

Value

Paying for something means that as a consumer you are able to estimate the value of an item. You wouldn’t pay $50 for toothpaste, when you know that the there are options at $5. This is possible due to choice and market size, so that you can compare. As items become more widespread in the consumer space, the foundational cost becomes set. When you are presented with a different price, your brain automatically questions the value. If I see a cup of coffee at $1, I am automatically assuming it tastes like old socks, where a $10 coffee better come with a massage. I wouldn’t blink for a $2 cup though.

MMOs aren’t much different. For the older players, we sort of have it burned into us what the value should be. For newer players, that have only every known a world of F2P options, every subscription game looks like a $10 coffee. Why would you spend that there, when you can spend $0 instead? Then there’s the comparison between games. Is there sufficient content in WoW to spend $15 a month? I don’t think so. For FF14? A bit for the content, but more for the environment. SWTOR? That’s entirely the social aspect for me. Look at ESO and GW2, they have no subscriptions – though that then makes you question the up-front cost of any expansion/content.

So perhaps the question is less about what subscription price point is acceptable, and more about how much you want to spend per month on an MMO. I’m less interested in the content/mechanics present in most F2P games, as they drive a different game behavior – which really sorts itself out because I don’t like the actual games. I’m good at the $20 per month range, at least in terms of usage I get out of it. I certainly spend more than that in my social settings, assuming I like the people I play with and the content being presented. I currently spend about $60 a month on gaming in general, so this is just a slice of that pie.

This meandering post really does go into that more general concept. How much do I want to spend on my hobby per month, and then how much of that should be aligned to MMOs. Which then bleeds into the question of what is an MMO in 2021 anyways?

FF14 – To Do List

The achiever in me has a love for lists. In most games I play, I enjoy reaching the end of the main quest, and then discover the various side-quests as I go along. Depending on how those side quests go, I can spend a fair chunk of time in them. AC Valhalla is a good example. There are like 20 different types of sidequests. I’ll say that boat raids are right near the bottom in terms of long-term fun. While I did finish the main quest, I only had about half of the icons cleared. In the MMO space, I tend to avoid the irrelevant side quests as they are often not integrated into the larger story, or are time-gated in such a manner to make it feel like a gatcha game (e.g. Tillers)

FF14 is somewhat different here, as it makes attempts to keep all the content relevant in some fashion. Now, attempts is a big word here, cause success is a different matter. Still, compared to something like WoW, FF14 has a massive chunk of extra content that has some meaning at level cap. Finding it, well that’s a challenge in itself.

The ‘Quest’ icons over NPC

You will have the MSQ icon burnt into you skull by the time you reach 80. I don’t think it’s even possible to get to 80 without it. As you progress in the MSQ, the other icons start showing up. The Sidequest icon (!) is small piece content that gives some small unlock. Chocobo rides are an example. It is generally safe to ignore them, but they do add some interesting content as you go forward. The Repeatable Quest icon is where the dailies show up. They do have some relevance, like clan hunts and so on, but if the goal is leveling then not a whole lot. (The Levequests icon, sort of like a card deck, is a bit like Repeatable Quests).

The blue icon with the +, that’s the unlock quest icon. You will see hundreds of them, and taking them on feels like chasing rabbits down holes. Following an MSQ, you’ll only unlock about half of the content of any given expansion, if not less. Taking on these quests will open new areas, dungeons, raids and so on. If you ignore them while leveling, odds are you will be going back to unlock them over time. There are usually a half dozen or so of these near every Aetheryte crystal. Keeping track of it all though… woo

Enter XVIToDo. Import your character from the Lodestone and get a very simple interface of all the stuff you have unlocked and the things you can unlock. The mobile interface is also super clean. I entered my character information and took a big sigh realizing that as much as my journey has been long, it’s still missing a LOT of big pieces.

Still, now I have a list to work through in addition to the MSQ. Fun times ahead.

Switch Finally Gets BT Audio

Four years? Four years! Finally!

There are some limitations here… first, the controllers use Bluetooth as well, so you can only have 1 pair connected at a time. This outlier is where for some reason, you have people playing the console locally but without HDMI in use. Maybe a Mario Party game while you’re in the car? I can’t really think of too many situations where you need 4 controllers and bluetooth audio.

Second, you can only have 1 active Bluetooth audio on at a time (but can save 10 devices). This is fine I guess, split Bluetooth across multiple devices at the same time is a pain. I guess any local multiplayer game, like 2P Mario Kart you’d be stuck with regular audio. Maybe for those long car rides… you’d have to play with the audio off?

Third, is that you can’t have local multiplayer across multiple devices and Bluetooth audio. I get why, the Switch uses Bluetooth to host local games, rather than a subset of WiFi. This is the one that seems the largest impact to me. There are numerous instances of 2P meeting each other for some local gaming and this means that they need to stay wired (or the weird bypass option). Doesn’t look like this problem will ever be solved without a full re-architecture of the Switch.

Still, for those situations where you want to game without using a TV, and have some sort of practical use for the kickstand, this is a win. It’s also a confirmation that the device was built with this in mind a long time ago, as only firmware was required. In that respect, impressive planning and I can only assume the hurdles Nintendo had to surmount to get this thing work consistently. 4 years!

Urban vs Rural

I had a post prior about our ongoing elections and how there’s a somewhat generic split between urban and rural voting tendencies. Given the timeframes, what that post focused on was the historical trends, which effectively built ‘strongholds’ for a generation +.

A reminder that the side effect of a stronghold is that the party which controls that stronghold has zero interest in addressing any of those voters concerns. The party wants to expand their control/voting base, so they really are only targeting other areas. The people in that stronghold never really hold their members to account, so there’s no reason for the party to actually do anything. In today’s social media age, that causes anger at being ignored… and well, here we are.

But that’s a tangent. What I really wanted to talk about is the rural urbanite. Depending on the city you live in, there was a small, yet noticeable population of rural residents that actually spent most of their time in an urban setting (long-haul commuters). You can see this more as the baby boomers retire and cottage country undergoes a massive shift in demographics and engagement. There are quite a few reports of camping grounds taking over small town councils, with seasonal representation. That’s a generational shift with geographic tendencies. And yet, that particular demographic (retired and can afford to move to cottage country) also has a rather particular voting trend. The older you get, and the more money you have, the more likely you are to be right leaning.

This doesn’t apply to the ‘true rural’ areas. You’re not going to find a densification in the Appalachians of retired wall street bankers. Instead, you’re more likely to find that urban sprawl doubles the geographical size. Folks will retired and move 1-2 hours away from an urban centre. It actually squeezes the rural centers to smaller and smaller sizes. This is generally accounted for in Canada’s 3rd party redistricting exercises. Gerrymandering is extremely rare here – the US is a real edge case globally.

So that’s one particular trend, the ‘aging out’ of the urban centres. There’s another one, that won’t necessarily impact THIS election but will impact the next one.

I’m going to call this the pandemic spread. Or more specifically, the massive proliferation of remote workers. Where areas were having emigration issues where the high school graduates would move to urban centers for education, and stay for employment, that shift is starting to reverse. A lot of education can be done remotely, or even those that have been away for studies can now return to urban centers IF they have a reliable internet connection. Canada has some serious challenges here, mainly due to geography and lack of population density (90% of Canada is within 100km of the US border). Low Earth Orbit (LEO) will have a massive impact on the ability to remote work, and therefore the distribution of the population.

This isn’t about urbanites (born and bred) leaving in droves to rural settings, but more about slowing the haemorrhage from rural to urban. Small towns now have an incentive (outside of politics) to build an environment and services that support more than the grey-haired club. It’ll also mean that the traditional strongholds, structured often due to geographical location, and likely to see some chipping at their control.

Which is a really interesting paradigm shift. Rural was often seen as being more and more irrelevant in the larger picture of politics. Yet the reality is that the age curve of baby boomers and the ability for younger remote workers (where property costs are extremely lower) can lay their roots are causing a heck of a shift. Not for this election (1 week to go!) but it will certainly be there for the next one. A more spread set of political views would certainly help with the more ‘extreme’ and echo chamber spaces we have seen these past few years. Let’s see how this plays out.

Balance is Hard

There’s enough bad news on Blizz that I figure I can at least try to explain some of the more complex factors that are working against them from a design perspective. This one will be on the concept of class balance. I’m picking on Blizz (WoW) here because they are an edge case compared to other MMOs

For each character/class, you have a base toolkit. Let’s just call that the baseline, where everyone starts on the same page. Your level 1 rogue is identical to any other level 1 rogue. As you progress, you make choices, and your power level changes. Of those, the following categories of choices directly impact your power level.

  • Class/spec boost
  • Gear
  • Enchants / Gems
  • Legendary
  • Talents
  • Potions
  • Drums
  • Food
  • Covenants
  • Conduits
  • Shards of Domination
  • RNG of Torghast (some classes have horrible RNG here)

Each of these has a particular scale of power increase as well. Some are big boosts, some are smaller. Some are additive, some are multiplicative. Some stack, some don’t. When a person says “my class is underpowered”, they are effectively pointing to a magical list of attributes that are a nightmare to balance out.

  • Is it because you’re not using the rotation properly?
  • Are you using the “best” temporary stat boosts?
  • Did you pick the “right” covenant/conduit?
  • Did you get RNG lucky on the borrowed power system?

If you were to take 2 Rogues, in the exact same gear, same talents, same covenant, and same conduits, you would still see massive power swings due to the other temp boost options (potions, drums, shards… heck, even the timing of bloodlust), not to mention their rotations. Raids have a particular baseline to balance against, where the devs go in with the assumption of a given power level, and try to allow variance to be related to player performance.

You can compare to FF14 here, where there really aren’t that many potential boost to look at. There are no borrowed power systems, and food buffs are relatively small. 2 jobs at the same gear level are going to be pretty much the same, excepting the execution of the rotation.

Blizzard has a major challenge in finding the right balance in difficulty on a sliding scale that swings wildly – if not an impossible task. I’m not feeling sorry for them though, this is entirely of their own making. They continually insist on building more and more complex systems on top of this balance tower. And the only way to “balance” this effort, is to make one section dramatically stronger than all the others (think Infinite Stars in BFA) – essentially breaking everything. And this has nothing to do with the concept of class identity, which is its own balancing act.

So yeah, I feel bad for the devs who have to balance all of this because the game directors created and maintained this model. And conversely, I’m really happy for the devs who had leadership make decisions that benefit both the overall game health and their ability to balance it all out.

Epic vs Apple – Big Win

This was a very interesting lawsuit because it hit 3 fundamental aspects of the App Store – first, the need to even use the AppStore at all, second the % of cut that Apple took from developer sales, and finally the requirement to use Apple for any in-game purchases. That business line accounts for a big chunk of Apple’s income. There was a fair amount of mud slinging on this, which was certainly entertaining.

Now we have some answers for the 3.

AppStore Is Mandatory

This was expected, and to most people, a long shot to start, if not a red herring. Epic was smart here, as it forced some disclosure on Apple’s part of the inner workings. For multiple reasons (if not primarily security) this has to be the case.

AppStore Cuts are Pro-Rated

The rate is low for the first $1m in revenue, and scales depending on the size of the application. Again, this makes sense for the smaller organizations that barely recouped any costs, and Apple is big enough to absorb it. The downside here is that it will likely generate more bloatware as the cost of entry has dropped. See itch.io as a good example.

AppStore Must Support 3rd Party Payment Options

This was the real meat of the case, though the one that had the least amount of press. Today, if you only use your phone for Spotify and pay your sub through the app, then Apple takes a cut. For multi-platform apps, this isn’t a huge deal as you’re unlikely to use a mobile app as the primary method of payment. Well, it seems a judge ruled that Apple no longer has full domain over payment processing inside the applications. That leaves a particular use case that is going to be a massive change.

No question that the AppStore makes a ton of money off F2P/IAP. The game industry made about $110 billion on F2P games in 2020 – the market is massive. Apple makes a chunk from that for games like Clash of Clans, Honor of Kings and so on. Does anyone really think that Tencent wants to pay Apple 15% moving forward? And you know that Google has got to be sweating as well!

This one is a big deal, and a massive shift in the market. Odds are it will generate alternative payment programs that are lower % cuts for the smaller apps, and then some in-house machines for the bigger ones. Heck, it may even mean that Apple themselves needs to re-price themselves appropriately.

The details still need to be worked out, as well as the timing. And certainly there will be some appeals. Lots of them. But from what’s come out so far, it really looks like Epic won this battle.

Blasphemous 100% Complete

I’ve got a thing about this genre where I really enjoy finding every nook and cranny. Didn’t know I had this until I played Metroid 2 on the GameBoy. I played the heck out of that thing! And since then, there’s just some weird itch about it.

I wrote prior about Blasphemous (I’m on Switch) being an attempt to merge Dark Souls and the larger genre. I still hold to the idea that this doesn’t make any real sense, since it’s actually the other way around. What makes a Souls game is not the respawning enemies, or the healing mechanic, or the difficulty curve. It’s the hit box mechanics in 3D. If you were to somehow move Souls into a 2D space, you’d be looking at a grimy Celeste.

Still, Blasphemous has a dark theme to it, a rip on some religions’ need to focus on guilt. It takes a very long time to make sense of the lore, the text within isn’t super clear on the overall intent. I guess Souls has that in common. It does allow for some very enemy and boss art styles. Fighting a bishop’s corpse held aloft on bony hands, or a weird baby monster with a snake attack, or even a triad of warring sisters. It’s consistent, I’ll give it that.

In terms of difficulty, this is where things get a bit weird. The game starts with making enemies the challenge, but as you increase in power, it then starts adding the environment as a larger hazard. I certainly died more to giant laser beams, exploding bombs, flying scythes and spike pits than I care to admit. Since you only ever get 1 weapon and it just swings harder, there’s not much in terms of mechanics that changes the pace. Even the magic powers you get aren’t terribly useful since they a) cost a lot to use and b) leave you vulnerable while casting. You learn the cadence early and the rest sorts itself out. I mean, I beat the final boss on the 1st attempt. (The penultimate boss though, that was a war of attrition)

Fine enough, but the chase for 100% is what drives me here to look beyond the wrinkles. There are quite a few collectibles in the game – bones, stones, beads, cherubs, spells and so on. You can mark the map for these items if you pass them and don’t have the required skill to collect them. Collecting all of a given set gives a reward, nothing big mind you. I am 99% sure you don’t actually need to collect any special skills to work your way to the boss. The real challenge in this game is that you have no idea how to actually collect any of these skills in the first place!

Take the Three Gnarled Tongues – which allows for branches to spawn where you can climb up them. Look at the steps to unlock this thing. You need to find a given room, then give the “thing” in that room 3 items – one of those items needs another skill to get. Then you get an egg that you need to lay at a tree (?!) and take that resulting hatched egg to a frozen pool. There’s no way any of this is intuitive. You’re just going to reach things, press the interact button, and then hope you happen to have some object that interacts. I won’t even go into the whole Redento quest line.

Which means the game effectively has a “quick path” and then what amounts to a “100%” mode. The latter is really only enabled through donating 20,000 gold (tears) to the church to enable a much better teleport option, as you’ll be backtracking like crazy. Once that is unlocked, the whole path to 100% becomes very enjoyable.

Plus, I got this for $12. The game may not be perfect, but for that price, it’s a crazy good deal.

Super spoiler video, but gives a good show of the art style of all the bosses

Restart The Normal

It’s been a solid 18 months since things were even close to normal for me. For many of us. The pandemic changed the way I work, the way I play, the way I interact with people. My kid’s school and my wife’s job were turned upside down as well. In the larger scope of things, we’ve come out of this pretty darn well. I lost my grandfather to COVID, that’s going to stick with me for a long time. The days of not quite knowing what’s coming next, those have been draining.

These last 2 weeks have been some semblance of “normal”. My kids are back in school, with some limitations as no child is vaccinated yet. They have masks and relative social distancing. Already after a few days I can see major improvements in their social abilities. It was like they regressed for a while and getting back into it. Sort of like riding a bike I suppose.

My pick up hockey starts tonight. It’ll be great to play with the boys again. But I do have butterflies as to how this large social setting will work out. Everyone has both shots, so I’m less worried about them having ill effects, but it doesn’t negate the fact that it can still spread to other people from us. I’m sure once I get back onto the ice, things will just feel better. At least, I hope so.

The kids also start their hockey back up this weekend, so I guess my weekends for a while will be in the rink. I’m coaching again this year, which is extremely rewarding. There’s a new coach in the fray that I’ll be helping along, and some of my own rust I’ll need to get through. That means a new set of practice plans, goals, fundraising, parent meetings, equipment, ice bookings, and oh yea, ensuring the kids are having fun. Next few weeks are going to be some busy days to get it all sorted out. The kids themselves are still too young for shots, but any adult stepping into a rink will need their full doses by the start of October.

You can infer from this that I am clearly on the “get vaccinated” bus. This is not the forum to explain why. I am not a doctor and frankly, no one should be taking medical advice from anyone who isn’t actually trained in it. I can say that there are certain obligations we all have as individuals to be able to co-exist in a society, things we do or don’t do to make it all run smooth. I am glad we don’t have polio around anymore, and the odds of my kids getting whooping cough or varicella are next to nil. That’s not because I made a choice, but because we all did.

The more we act as a society that wants to get along and that trusts each other, the quicker we get back to “normal”. Whatever that means anymore.