Deterrence

This is the concept that an action can be prevented by the doubt of consequences. Not a new idea, nuclear deterrence has been the de facto one for half a century – it’s how North Korea manages to have any semblance of power despite no economic/social structure.

It’s been typically viewed at the global level, between countries. In fact, it applies to our day to day lives. Prison is a pretty effective deterrent, not too many people want to end up there. There’s likely a laundry list of things you don’t do because of the potential consequences, and for the most part, the actions before the consequences are likely amoral or unethical anyhow.

But we’re in a place now where the consequences of an action are not proportionate to the action itself. You steal $10m and get fined $1m. You’re ahead by 9. Or better yet, get fined and increase your bottom line. You want to express your right to vote, but your employer warns you’ll be fired if you miss work. You want to get a health test but it will cost you 2 days pay or more.

It’s really an interesting conundrum. People who want to do the “right thing” are actually disadvantaged to do so. Either they put their own health or their livelihoods at risk. If the only way you’re able to put bread on the table requires you to look the other way from time to time, that is not a choice – it’s an abuse of power. How many people can barely get out of bed with the flu, but still go into work because they aren’t allowed sick leave? Or send their kids to school ‘cause they can’t take time to care for them?

I’m conscious that I live in one of the most liberal countries in the world, where individuals have rights that are only dreamed of. It’s folly to say that we’re good enough and we won’t improve until others catch up. There are plenty of pockets where people barely get by, and there are no options to get out. A homeless person doesn’t just magically stop being homeless – nor was it magic that made them so. Nearly all of the “startup millionaires” had their parents give them money, or connections through angel investors. There’s a good reason they are mostly white males.

Hats off to those who push back. To those who draw that line and say it’s enough. That come up with innovative idea to bypass the systematic deterrence. That find a way to value everyone. That take the time to listen to other points of view, that grow as a community, that are willing to accept they are wrong and grow from it.

We’re all people at the end of the day. We all deserved to be treated as such.

FF7 & PTSD

This is going to be a weird one.

The Final Fantast series has quite a few tropes that keep it going. There’s nearly always a crystal, someone named Cid, and chocobos. They all showed up at some point in the series, and they’ve stuck around. Thematically, they also tend to focus on redemption, righting some wrong. FF4 really hit that one strongly (Cecil the dark knight / paladin) and it took FF6 to really start digging into the grey of morality. The storyline got much more complex.

FF7 was the first in a lot of respects, certainly in terms of visual representation. The swap to 3D brought an in-game perspective change, and with that, a more focused view on the drivers of the individual characters. Cloud is brooding because of guild. Barret is trying to find the balance between revenge and justice. RedXIII trying to find solace as the last of his kind. The story certainly took some long steps through, and while you start off thinking it’s an eco-heavy plot, after about 5 hours you realize that was just the appetizer. The literal world itself is at stake, and you plunge into its heart to save it. You win, but just. Game over.

Except this is where Squenix saw an opportunity to expand the storyline, to look at what happens after the heroes save the world and people try to get back to normal. Advent Children is 15 years old and focuses on that basic question – what do people do after the heroes save the world?

As corny as the idea was at the time, and as fanboy-ish I was when it came out, the film still stands up. The world is dying from a mysterious disease, there are whispers from ghosts that Sephiroth is still around, and CGI battle cinematics abound. Cloud pulls himself out of people’s lives as he’s infected, and eventually you come to terms that while the large battle was won, the war never really ended. The characters all have regrets of what happened, people they lost, and need to come to terms with it all.

The climatic scene puts a face to all of Cloud’s fears, and through clarity and support, he vanquishes it for good. The film could have simply ended with Cloud waking up from some coma, and the storyline would have worked just as well, as his demons are all internal.

There’s a reason that FF7 sticks so darn well in my head. The stakes were relatable, there were timely, the characters acted in a consistent fashion. Cloud was brooding without being a full on arsehole (*cough* Lightning *cough*). The FF series often talks about redemption, of justice. It’s a rare thing for the characters themselves to go through a personal journey. A journey that most of us will go through in our lives – just without giant dragons.

Overhyping Importance

I had a long rant about the insanity of denying global warming. But it doesn’t really matter because in my mind, anyone who actually does deny it is not capable of rational thought. There’s more than enough evidence and experts. And if for some reason they are wrong, then we end up with a cleaner/healthier planet.

I had another rant about social media and it’s poisonous effects on the mental state. Your information is being collected, packaged, and sold to as many buyers as possible. You get nothing out of it but cat memes, and crazy uncles with news stories from some weirdo’s basement. Frankly, there’s not much to say about this other than delete Facebook (and others) and go for a walk.

Others on the state of global politics. Some are killing dissenters, others are rather evidently committing genocide. Somehow we’re cool with that, cause we need out dollar store merchandise and our oil. Or on the youth’s view of cancelling everything in an act of rebellion.

I like to think there’s some good news here. We’re conscious there are problems, and the younger population is educated to a degree that makes rational thought possible. There’s major progress in health care, in renewable energy, and in nutrition. It sucks for my generation, as I’ll be worse off than my parents. But I take some solace knowing that it’s surely going to be better for my kids. No rants needed.

Dune

Start with the trailer.

Like Bel, I consider the Dune book series to be in my top 10 all-time. There’s no possible spoilers for a book like that. Sort of how like everyone know King Kong is supposed to die at the end. The books cover an astounding level of complexity in terms of morals, and what it means to be human. The links to AI (which is from 1965!), religion, mortality, and destiny all come together in an amazing piece.

I think most people are familiar with the David Lynch version, what with Sting in a jockstrap and all. That movie really freaked me out when I was younger, which I guess is the point of all Lynch films. There are a few too many liberties taken here, so that when you read the books it seems quite odd. Netflix has a documentary on Jorodowsky’s Dune. It really seems like a massive acid trip, rather than the B-class movie that Lynch ended up with.

In 2003 there was a Sci-Fi miniseries that covered the first 3 books in the series. That was really well done, and you get to see a young James McAvoy too. It didn’t include the inner monologues, which was a nice change, and it kept the storyline clean rather than disturbing.

What interests me most about this interpretation is the director Denis Villeneuve. He makes incredibly movies and surrounds himself with an amazing team. I’m one of those weirdos who appreciates lighting, color choice, and can identify a director of photography. You look at something like Zach Snyder and his penchant for drawn out set pieces that are more like paintings, or the more signature quick dialogue cuts from Tarantino. You get to appreciate their methods and interpretations.

If you watch the trailer more than once, you’ll notice that most of it is filmed in contrast. It’s practically a black and white film. There are close ups of people’s faces as they live through a moment, or ponder a thought. There’s something about his approach to detail that really brings it to another level.

Really looking forward to it.

Small Goals

Like getting out of bed.

I know I’m in a funk. That makes the funk even funkier. I have a pretty good idea why I’m in a funk. Kids and wife are back in school and it took all of a day for issues to pop up. Learning curve, and we need to adjust – fine. Work is in full transform mode, trying to take advantage of the work from home model to finally implement some much needed changes. Then there are some friends who are going through health issues – seems I can’t go 2 weeks before some sort of major health event going on. Normally I can box these items up and manage them. Those boxes are overfull, and my normal coping mechanisms are lacking.

Writing helps. Talking too. The ideas in my head need to come out, and both are effective ways to do so. Another technique I’ve tried with some success is setting small goals. Things that, on a normal day, are benign and simple. They are simple things, and the act of doing them brings some amount of pleasure.

Getting in and out of bed by a given time is a simple thing. The morning wash. Ensuring I take the time to eat a healthy breakfast. Pausing from desk work and stretching. Taking a few minutes to clean up the kitchen counters. Prepping coffee for tomorrow. Normally I wouldn’t even think of them, I’d just do it. Now it’s conscious.

To move into gaming for a minute, Stardew Valley is pretty much based on small goals. Waking up and watering my garden. Petting my animals. Repairing a fence or clearing the field of weeds. Making mayonnaise or truffle oil. Collecting roe and pickling it. It sounds ridiculous, but the act of plucking a field of blueberries just feels fun.

The larger goals are there. I’ve fully upgraded the farm house, but I’ve yet to furnish it with all the casks/kegs I want to build a winery. I’m 1 harvest away from finishing up the community center packages. I’m at 5 hearts (of 10) with a few villagers, so lots more talking and presents to go. I’ve got all the rarecrows (meaning access to the casino too!). I have chests and chests of stuff that may have some use, but I’ve yet to figure it out. I’ve got about 200k in the bank. I know I need to reach floor 100 in the Skull Cavern, so I’ll need a ton of bombs and a few healing pots to get there. None of these items can be done in a single day, week, or even a month of game-time. It will take multiple play sessions to get there, and each one still feels good to get through.

Stardew Valley (like Minecraft and similar) is not a game about the end, or major cinematics, it’s entirely about the journey. It’s chocked full of tiny little things to do, mundane even. But they are all linked together in some way. It’s like a dance, where you know the basic steps, but it takes music and a partner to really see it shine. You don’t wait for the music to end, you enjoy it while it plays.

It’s sometimes hard to explain why gaming is such a therapeutic thing for me. Most people only think of FPS/gore when they think of games. But in truth, I don’t play games to see the end credits. I play games to experience small joys. The best games have those joys intertwine into an experience that just doesn’t let go. And even when you do see those end credits, you feel like you just took the most amazing of journeys. It’s a damn good feeling.

Weekend Musings

This was a long weekend, where Monday is a stat that recognizes the efforts labour have provided to society. That’s a whole tangent of a post, but specific to me, it’s the weekend where my family gets together for a fishing tourney.

This year it was a bit different due to COVID, and some logistics around that made the trip up take nearly 11 hours, and back down almost 7. Normally it’s less than 6. The weather was great. The fishing was atrocious, and I’m of the growing mindset we need to change location. The company was super, and really the largest highlight.

My wife and kids went to our cottage for some R&R. Our roof was redone with some contractor grade material. Ice shield applied at the low pitch and the crazy valley we have – tons of it. It looks great. I’m looking forward to the spring and the cottage looking like we left it in the fall. Now we haver some minor finishing details inside, the the vinyl to put up, and some gutters. This year’s cottage reno list includes:

  • 250ft weeping tile
  • new drainage
  • new supports and leveling
  • External and internal reframing
  • New short wall facing
  • Rebuilt custom windows
  • Rebuilt ceiling
  • New wiring
  • Extended door for shed
  • 3yrds of clean fill to level off the yard
  • New roof

I’m looking forward to not having anything to do. Greatly.

No work-related fires this weekend, but some additional setbacks when it comes to health of team members. I won’t go into any detail, but these past few months have been a continual “bad news extravaganza”. It’s depressing, and I’m having to come to terms with how it’s impacting my personal mental state.

Also coming to terms that the summer has come and gone. I need to get back into my workout routine to offset the beer I’ve had during that time. The labour over the summer offset some of it, but the effect it has on mind and body is sorely needed. I’m missing hockey to a crazy degree, so moving is key.

Not much in gaming news. Laptop is still in the shop. WoW apparently has a date for launch, and from the limited bits of info I’ve seen so far, it looks to be inline with BfA rather than Legion. Looking like it will be the first WoW expansion I don’t pick up in launch week. If I can get my laptop back soon, I’ll try and put some time into Divinity 2. I could use an RPG right now.

On the bright side, 3 episodes of The Boys are out now (I like that I can’t binge it). Should be fun to see where that’s gone this season. Hopefully it helps get me out of this funk.

First Day of School

My gaming laptop is in for repairs (4 unresponsive keys) so nothing on that front this week. I will state that finding replacement parts for any laptop is a hell of an adventure – most ship out of China. Anyhoot, should be fixed in the next couple days. I still have my tablet which currently hosts Stardew Valley. Still very zen.

In my part of the world, today is the first day of school for my girls. My wife is also a teacher, but in high school which starts next week. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to a certain amount of anxiety. I know teachers are going to do their best, with the tools they have at hand. I also know they are not first responders, they are caretakers. Nurses don’t apply discipline. Firefighters don’t help kids that fall and get a scraped knee.

I also know that my level of understanding on medical issues is not the same as others. In the limited exposure I’ve set myself for, I’ve not yet experienced people who don’t want to wear a mask, or who are challenged with keeping a social distance. I’ve heard of it though friends, that’s for sure. And it’s going to be an interesting event if a parent is given the choice between a kid with sniffles going to school vs. an un-paid day of work.

Let alone a child’s ability to respect distancing. No monkey bars. No basketball. No street hockey. I’ve seen the classrooms, it’s not possible for them to keep this distant when there’s 25 in a room that fits 15.

But my kids are happy to see their friends again. They are looking forward to meeting their new teachers. They want to learn. They were all smiles today when I dropped them off at school. Who am I to break that? So I do my best to not bring up my worries around them, just some conversations with the wife instead. And when they come home tonight, we’ll focus on all the good/cool stuff they did today. Need to make the best out of the situation and find some positive in uncertain times.

Dumpster Fire

I really try to keep away from politics, it rarely ends well.  Sweet igloo, there’s a dumpster fire going on with our neighbours down south.

185,000 people are dead, which is the equivalent of having a 9/11 event every 3 days.  9/11 being the most defining US moment in the past 50 years, where everyone came together.   Not saying the counterpunch was relevant, or on target, but the country at least was unified.  And the whole world is impacted, the US decides to go it alone.

There have been escalating protests, with everything being put under a lens.  Things people did 20+ years ago are being measured against today’s standards.  And no one is actually doing anything about it, just posting blogs/tweets.  People are still being shot for no reason other than the colour of their skin, and there’s no consequences.

This seems more like Lord of the Flies, where the adults have simply left the room.  It’s us vs them, which is exactly how fascist states run.  But it’s cool, cause the stock market went up a couple points.

It’s not like we don’t have challenges here in Canada, we most certainly do.  Big ones.  But they are such small potatoes to the insanity south of the border.  It would be sad if it wasn’t so god darn scary.  To witness the fall of a modern empire in such a small time frame is beyond comprehension.

I am reminded of two pertinent quotes.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

Tomorrow I want to post something good.  I need to.

The 5 Ds

No, not Dodgeball. Time management. And since I am often starved for time, I need to do this all too often. This applies when you’re presented with a choice of competing events for time.

I say 5, when the larger view is that there are only 4. I’ll explain the 4 first.

DO

The act of doing the task. Most people time this at the 2 minute mark, if you can get it done in that time, then do it. Being a good writer helps tremendously on this, as you can do more in 2 minutes. My personal bar is closer to 5 minutes, given the types of decisions I need to make and associated actions.

DEFER

Things that take longer to do but you don’t have time to do them. Work-related, this is a rather big pile. I have a fully booked schedule to track piles of activities, and a tracking sheet for outstanding items. Woooo is this a big pile.

DELETE

Most people struggle with this one. We are inundated with requests and many of them can be ignored. If I’m not in the TO field, I don’t need to do the work and I move on. I get dozens of requests from vendors to meet them, I ignore most of those too. I tend to hoard information though, so while I may ignore it, I don’t necessarily delete it.

DELEGATE

This doesn’t only apply to management roles. Let’s say I have repairs to do, I can do most of them myself but I know that the finishing work takes a PILE of time and I’d look at my mistakes for years. So I’ll end up paying someone to do that work for me. In group games, there’s a ton of delegation. Raid leaders know this all too well.

The Fifth

This is where people get stuck, and it’s the ability to decide. Too often people get paralyzed with a decision to make and end up not making one at all. There’s the flip side where people make decisions too hastily and come to regret the outcomes. The act itself is a skill, rather than an outcome, and everyone needs their own practice and set of rules. What I may delegate, another may do.

Back from vacation, I have ~750 emails to get through, which isn’t too bad at all compared to a normal work week. A lot of them are more of the FYI type, but there are a couple in there where I was tasked with work in the future. In a lot of cases, I will delete those actions because the folks can’t understand how an Out of Office / delegate system works. They will ask for a status update and I will just say “did you send it to my clearly indicated delegate?”. A small but important amount will be generic tasks, like performance target updates that are for a larger group, including me.

Over time I’ve become better at time management. Maybe a tad too good at times, and managing expectations becomes complicated. What I can do in 2 hours may take a team member a week to follow through. I know a guy who can put baseboards on an entire floor faster than a team of 5 amateurs can do it. The larger challenge them becomes in delegating, and ensuring the people who do need to do the work are trained/coached along so they get better over time. It takes time, but the payoff is immense. Less work for me, more experience for them, and we get to build a relationship from it.

And that’s my work goal for the rest of this calendar. In the personal space… that’s a really open question. More of a team game there.

Back Into the Fire

Two weeks of vacation isn’t enough – I’ll just put it as plain as that. The first week was all renovations, the second was rain pretty much every day. It wasn’t office work, granted, and I was able to disconnect from email/chat for that time, but it wasn’t what I’d consider a break. When I did get back to the house, the back to school stuff was needed, our fridge needs to be replaced, and my Raider laptop has 4 faulty keys. First world problems much.

The Laptop Keyboard

I have a GE75 Raider, it’s a bit over a year old. The ESC, ~, Y and numpad 5 are not working for some reason. I checked the mechanical parts, everything is fine. The backlight is fine too. I figure I’ll order a new keyboard and replace it. But the GE75 is too new, so I’m rather looking for replacement parts for a GE73 (1yr earlier model). Most ship from China, but I did find one at a reasonable price nearby.

I’ve built my own PCs for years. I’ve repaired numerous laptops. Keyboard on laptops are the absolute worst thing to replace, since you need to take everything out. The GE75 has 2 hidden screws, or hidden in a way that you can’t really get to them without taking more parts first. I was really hoping not to have to take the fan off, and just the board, but everything is glued to something else. The form factor is so small, there are cables connected to both sides of the main board, and I always felt like I was breaking something. Finally get to the keyboard case and there’s a damn shield covering it. One that’s set with plastic rivets. It’s impossible for me to repair without breaking a pile more.

So now I need to find a shop that can do the work for me.

Stardew Valley

I use gaming as stress management. I picked up Stardew Valley for my tablet a while ago, never really got into it. Given the past few weeks, I took it for a spin.

It’s certainly calming. Managing energy levels to get through a day is a fun set of constraints. It’s impossible to lose, which is also good for stress. What it has a bit too much of is breadth to start. There are so, so many objectives that are possible, and nearly all of them are gated behind multiple days of work. They are optional, but they often unlock some other activity – like a greenhouse that grows plants year long.

The gameplay is such that you always get that “one more day” drive. Nearly every action can be automated in some manner, but that requires materials/money. Getting that also takes time and months of in-game effort. The systems are intertwined, and not easily explained, making wiki almost mandatory.

Not saying that’s a bad thing, just that sometimes I end up hitting a wall cause I can’t figure out how the next step completes. Say like a fish that only shows up when raining in the summer, at night, at a lake. How am I supposed to know that?

It is fun to discover new things. Realizing that almost everything has a value aside from money. It’s a drastic departure from most modern games, what with the grey/green/purple quality info. Once into the groove, things start working out.

I’m starting Spring in year 2 now. I understand enough of the mechanics now to close out the community Center this year and those extra unlocks. It’s fun setting up long term goals, then the short term ones as steps.

Plus it has fishing.