Vacation’s Over

Two weeks passed by in a flash.  One of the hottest flashes in a long while I may add.  Nearly every day was in the mid 30s (mid 90s for the imperials), with a few bit more in humidity.  The water was a full 5 degrees (10) warmer than it should be… to the point where it stopped being refreshing and you just felt more wet.  So bring out the parasol, put a chair in the sand, and take out a beer.

We have a cottage on the lake/river, so there’s always a breeze, a good spot to swim, and some decent fishing.  If I recall, we were 25 for the Canada Day festivities, over 4 days.  Lots of fun, but very busy.  Wife did a bang up job organizing a lot of that.  From that point on, it was relax mode with a few visitors here and there.  It’s just nice to get away from the city, the worries of work, and spent a huge chunk of time with the family.  Can never get more time, right?

Side note, I was linked to from the MOP’s Global Chat for my post on a Legion retrospective. Summer months are usually pretty slow, so that spike was interesting to see.

Related the BfA pre-patch it due on Tuesday, giving a month until the next expansion.  I am of the ever growing opinion that Legion will be looked back upon as WoW 2.0, mainly due to the lack of system changes found in BfA.  Instead, the expansion is adding to existing systems (races, PvP, modified artifacts, modified legendaries).  Legion was like a “best of” run, with all the major characters present, and the closure of a story arc that started in 2002.  Now we’ll move into the Void Lords domain…

Time to get back to it!

 

 

The Mystery Box

I’ve talked about this in the past, what with JJ Abrams fascination with the concept.  There are a lot of parallels with the real world.  We are often more fascinated by the unknown than the mundane facts.

I mean everyone likes rainbows, but once you figure the science behind them… it ruins the mystery.  No pot of gold! Northern Lights, bird flight, magnetism, electric static, the sun…all of them have captivated imagination for years and cause amazement with children.  Adults who understand the mechanics move on.

That said, it’s important for there to be a explanation for that box.  Sure, there are a dozen reasons why the box exists, and in literature it’s often just a plot device (see MacGuffin). But it’s a delicate balance between being a plot device, or being the actual plot. When it’s the latter, then the actual box needs to have an explanation to justify the rest of the story.

Recent example is Avengers Infinity War.  The gems/gauntlet are a plot device, and they come with a very high level background.  Across all the films, only the Soul Stone gets something of merit here and in the final movie no less.  The Maltese Falcon, Raiders of he Lost Ark, Fifth Element – all examples of plot devices.

Lost originally had these as plot devices, little side conversations to the actual character growth.  Then after season 4 it went full-on mystery island mode and tried to explain the inner workings.  It did a really poor job of it, and the character development suffered for the new plot.

The flipside to this is someone who is more fascinated with the inner workings of the box that the people interacting with said box.  Zach Snyder is all about detailing that box in minute detail, ignoring the actual characters.  300, Man of Steel, Watchmen, BvS… they are all decompositions of story.  BvS could have been about random people, with the exact same plot, and it would have had the same impact; a dud.

Westworld is in the 2nd season now. I’ve watched 3 episodes.  I really enjoyed the first season as it followed a good balance between hide and reveal.  Season two is a bit too much in the hiding part right now.  Dolores “sees all paths” but the actions taken seem extreme and without reason.  It’s also very liberal with the action pieces and across 3 episodes there hasn’t been any character development to speak of.  Teddy might be a small exception here but what he does with the new information is meaningless.

It’s a hard balance to achieve in storytelling.  Very few ever reach it, or reach it on a consistent basis.  Even Steven King has a pile of weak stories, among his amazing ones.  Just enough mystery to keep people involved, not so much to make them question every motive, and some background thought as to how that mystery actually works.

Weatherman Woes

This has got to be one of the most interesting jobs, right?  Whether you’re right or wrong, it doesn’t appear to matter much.  I’ve seen the same folks on TV/internets giving weather forecasts for years – and even saying what temperature it is currently can be a challenge.  This is more likely due to the large surface area they need to cover, but even so…For example, this weekend was supposed to be rain with a 90% chance from Friday through Sunday.  Most of the daylight hours.  It turned out we had 20 minutes on Friday, a storm overnight, then a sunny day Saturday, and overcast on Sunday.

What was supposed to be a weekend indoors at the cottage turned into a large labour effort in the yard instead.  Physical work always feels good, offsets the office hours nicely.

Friday Game

That said I did get a couple chances to play some Friday.  This is the solitaire/war – like card game for solo players.  I had mentioned that it was a hell of a challenge due to the RNG at the start.  That trends continues.

The game provides you with 4 phases – green, yellow, red, and pirates.  The first 3 phases are growth phases, where you are attempting to grow the power of your deck, by acquiring new cards and getting rid of bad ones.  Each of these phases moves forward once you complete the “challenge deck” – which shrinks in size over time.  The pirate phase is a set of bosses, where your deck is locked and you have to take on 2 large challenges.  The overall goal is to complete both of those challenges, with at your health points remaining.

Each card has a power level (ranges from -4 to +4) and has various skills attached (more health, card swaps, duplication, doubling of power).  The starting state is poor – you have many negative cards.  In order to grow the power of your deck, you need to beat various numerical challenges (e.g. get 2 points across 3 cards). Beating a challenge has you gain that challenge card.  Losing a challenge allows you to sacrifice life points and get rid of poor cards.  In the green phase, you want to do both, though losing is arguable more efficient in the long term.  At best, by the end of this round you have shrunk the challenge deck in half (from 30 to 15).   More likely, you’ve shrunk your hand deck from all negative point cards and acquired 5 challenge cards.

The yellow phase is the same as green, except that you need more points for the same set of challenges.  The goal here is to win as much as possible and shrink that challenge deck as much as possible.  This is hard, since most cards are only 1 power point and you need an average of 1.5 to beat any given challenge.  Skills come into play now, where you swap/boost other cards.

The red phase is attrition.  Whatever challenges remain are nigh impossible to win unless you have the best cards.  The weakest challenge cards from Green are actually the hardest now.  What was a 1 card pull for 0 points, now requires 5.  There are no 5 point cards.

If by the grace of some deity you complete red, you move onto pirate mode.  These require you to draw 6-10 cards to meet specific skill point values.  One has a 10/40 cap, which means you need an average of 4 points per card.  The only way to do this is with specific skill cards – doublers and copy cards.  A near perfect deck.  The other pirates aren’t much better.  Either you attack points are worth less, or you need to fight all the remaining challenge cards, or a set of other handicaps.  So in truth, it isn’t about surviving the first 3 phases.  It’s entirely about preparing for this one.

Across a dozen games:

  • reached yellow majority of times
  • reached red half the time
  • reached pirates a quarter
  • defeated 1 pirate once
  • never defeated both pirates

That 1 pirate victory cost me every single card and life point.  And it was a softball card compared to some others.

There’s some strategic growth to be had, but it’s clear that only a single strategy will work and that the card-to-card tactics require more card counting for success.

Master of None

Prefaced by the obligatory “jack of all trades”.

I am an information hound.  I live to learn new things.  Maybe not apply them so much, but at least have it in my back pocket.  I think it’s more to do with pride of having to ask for help.  Or maybe it’s the whole waiting for them to show up part.  In fact, it could simply be that most experts are anything but.

My wife and I did the majority of the renos within the house.  I have a more than solid understanding of framing, roofing, wiring, flooring, plumbing, and finishing.  I would prefer to avoid finishing work (except maybe painting) given that it takes me longer to set up/get warmed up than a real pro would take to do the entire job.  I recall a friend who split his house baseboard work into 2 zones.  Upstairs for 1 pro.  Downstairs for 6 guys.  The guy upstairs was done a long time before the downstairs folks.  Clear experience in working efficiently.

Plumbing is a bit different now.  Before, it was an upfront investment to get all the equipment to run pipe.  Copper lines of different sizes, PVC drains, cutters, connectors, valves…And that’s without counting the fact that the solders have to be rock solid or you’ll have a mess.  Nowdays, a child could lay out PEX pipe, without any tools but utility knife.  Sure, you need to know where to put valves, but it’s not rocket science.   (the main, in/out of hot water, exits to outdoor connections, before each end point.)

Flooring is easy until you reach a door or transition, then you need some magic hands.  Plus it kills the back without the proper tools on hand.

That leaves me now with electric work.  My dad’s an electrician, so that’s part of the history here.  But aside from the main panel, nearly all connections are extremely straightforward.  There are 3 wires, color coded, and it’s quite hard to mess up replacing something.  When you are installing something, then it gets a mess.  Want a 4 way switch?  Go get a book from the library.  Ceiling fan install?  Get half a case of beer.  When it comes to troubleshooting, then just retire because so much can go wrong.

Trailer Woes

I have a boat.  It has a trailer.  And I have a hitch.  The trailer lights flickered on an off for a while now, and no matter what the diagnostics said, no one was able to find the root cause.  I got fed up last night and started digging some more.

I checked the wire harness with a tester – everything was ok.  I checked the trailer, all the connections are on 3 wires – meaning the ground (essential for this to work) is in the wiring and not directly connected to the metal in the trailer.  Since it’s a boat trailer, and it goes in the water, this makes a lot of sense.

I went back to the wire harness and started tracing it back.  Ever try to remove the filler in the back end of a vehicle before?  It was 15 minutes of unclipping things to trace a 12 inch wire.  I finally lost the wire behind a panel and could not figure out where it went.  Out comes the screwdriver to take off the screw holding that panel.  Lo and behold, this screw was holding the ground and had come lose.  Tighten it up, put the connector on, and things are fine.

That went through 2 mechanics, 3 people who own hitches/trailers, and 2 years of wondering what the hell was going on.  For a single screw.

Moral

I guess the end result here is that as much as there are experts, it’s important for you to know what they are talking about and to challenge the assumptions/conclusions.  I didn’t do that for the trailer, due to lack of understanding of the mechanics.  I don’t need to know everything, but I need to know enough to have a conversation about it.  Otherwise I would have waited a few more years to get this fixed.

 

Prepping for Summer

Winter was a long slog this year, and had me put off a lot of work that would have normally been completed by this point.  We’re mid-May and it feels like everything is a month late.  I was only able to take out my backyard rink last weekend, as I had snow up until then.

Cottage Work

We went up for the weekend to finally open it up.  Ice had melted in nearly all the spots, though still some areas frozen underneath the cottage.  Put the dock in, cleared out the shed, laid out the outside.  All great.

Water pump worked pretty quick, then filled the hot water tank.  Which caused the sink line to explode.  When we bought the place, the previous owners had retrofitted the main lines to PEX (the plastic lines) which are much better in the cold weather than copper.  They kept the main attachments as copper lines, since they were soldered to the taps.  Finally busted.  A trip to the local hardware store, 20 minutes before closing, got me what I needed.  Of course, the actual PEX lines were short, with no shut off valves… so some 10 creative minutes later, we had hot water.

Now I need to re-examine all the lines.  And it further motivates me to think about the next step of cottage building.

Outdoor Work

My yard is a mess.  The neighbor had an outdoor pool, a yard of sand, and 2 dead trees.  The pool came out, the trees were cut to stumps, and the sand blew all over.  Every year there’s a field of yellow on that side of the fence, and it slowly makes its way across to our side.  Weed management is like half the yard.

So I’m going to take a different approach and choke out the weeds with stronger grass.  Fertilizer, watering, overseeding…I’ll give it 2 years to see what comes.

Plumbing

A theme it seems.  In the winter my washbasin taps were leaking, and my shut off valve for outside was the same.  The washer gaskets were too old I guess.  The basin taps were easy enough, but the shut off was in a closed area making access quite tough.  A surprising amount of water in a shut off line, truth be told.  Thankfully the swap took all of 2 minutes.

Aquarium

And more water woes.  I have 10 gallon aquarium for some guppies.  Looks like a seal busted overnight since the tank was empty this morning.  Was able to save 5 of the fish, which means it happened near 6am.  Lucked out in that all the water was absorbed by a nearby carpet.  Cleanup was pretty quick, but it does mean that I have to get some acetone and silicone to make the repair.

The Weekend

It’s May24 this weekend.  Fishing season opens, though the water is still ice cold.  We’ll be heading to the cottage for some (hopeful) sun.  That means getting the boat from storage, spring cleaning, battery charging, pole posting, and general maintenance for the next few nights.

Interestingly, my wife is a Royal watcher and wants to stay in town to see the wedding on Saturday morning.  Ehh…I really like waking up with a cup of coffee and staring out at the water.  We’ll see how it turns out.

Would be nice to just be able to fully relax without a pile of work to do.

Wishes and Dreams

A bit off topic this one.

Maybe it’s mid-life, maybe it’s just that I’m able to look forward a bit more.  I’ve been considering the difference between wishes and dreams, at least in terms of what’s next for me and my family.

Wishes are the types of things that are out of the ordinary, or require a substantial amount of luck to achieve.  Nobody dreams of wining the lottery, they just wish that they did.  The types of things that you do need a genie to grant.  They are not in your control.

Dreams are long term goals that require effort to achieve.  A dream job.  A dream car.  All things that are usually long term, and/or require a lot of work.  They are often times largely within your control.

A simple example is that you dream of having a retirement of relative ease.  You’d stash away parts of your pay for a long time, sound investments, and get a decent return at the end.  Not worry about bills and have some flexibility to do various things.  Alternatively, you could wish for a jet-setting retirement after winning the lottery by playing every week.

Fun stats:  Powerball in the US is around 1:300,000,000 odds of wining.  6/49 in Canada is about 1:13,000,000.  Getting hit by lightning, twice, is 1:9,000,000.

I’m already living part of the dream though.  I have a really great job/career.  Great family/kids.  Financial stability.  Pretty much every plan I put into play when I was finishing high school has worked out.  A immense amount of work & effort to get there, but I got there.

Now it’s about enjoying what I have, and planning for the next part.  And truthfully, there are 3 major things left on this.  A specific type of cottage, a set of trips to specific locations, and a good education for my kids.  The last 2 are long term and already have some pieces in play.  The former… that’s been on my mind for 20 years.

Enough that I have it etched into my mind.  I know the layout, the size, the items within, the fixtures, the sunrise… it’s quite ridiculous in fact.  For the next couple years, I’ll be building a book of ideas.  Pictures, articles, plans, estimates – enough to transfer the picture in my mind’s eye to reality.

I think I’ll use this blog, and a new page to keep track of some of them too.  I love new projects.

Stressy McStressface

I’ve been leading a particular project for over a year now, with no breaks.  The big go-live date is this Thursday.  There’s a few loose threads but nothing too big.  Like most large projects.  I’ll explain what it is in a few weeks, so as not to jinx anything.

The kicker in this one is that it’s a project I’ve been trying to implement for years, and one that I am quite vested in its success.  I work for a group that doesn’t have the best of reputations and has a more corporate view of change.  In other words, the change we traditionally bring is more overhead, not something people are exactly clamoring for.  This project, it’s different.  Those that have been on the pilot have had nothing but positive feedback and wanting to accelerate the schedule.  Good stuff, generally.

The side effect of a large project, with high demand, is a lot of stress.  I’ve taken a better approach at managing this over the years.  I delegate what I can, prioritize the work, re-scope/focus the team.  I’ve really lucked out at the quality of the individuals on this project, though truthfully I’ve just used amazing references and keeners to get this far.  Still, the stress is there and I can feel it gradually pulling me down into exhaustion.

Family life has been good and busy.  It’s motivating to work hard when you know you have a good spot to go home to after the day is done.  The outdoor rink was built over the weekend.  3 hours of cutting, 1 hour of setup, with a team effort.  I’m quite happy with what’s there and I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time out there this winter.

Side note – my wife is rather empathetic to my stress, and naturally worried about my health.  I usually crash during the holiday break, the body just has had enough.  Then there’s a dozen activities with friends and family.  I recharge by being alone/small group, so this isn’t exactly restful.  I proposed simple skipping it all and heading down south.  She called the bluff (which in hindsight wasn’t a bluff) and booked something within a couple days. Awesome wife.

Long rambling post to say that I feel somewhat frayed.  I know the people I work with are doing a super job and that once this is done, it will be a highlight for everyone’s career, and have a dramatic impact on hundreds of thousands of people.  I know that I will crash something fierce when the stress is gone.  I just hope that it’s in that order.