Belated New Year

I’m still around. We’ve been in lockdown for some weeks now, expect a few more before the curve starts dropping again. In my city, they check wastewater which gives a sort of 1 week or so window into what’s coming. Right now, we’re on the downslope. We had 3x the cases (while they were still measuring) but only half of the hospitalizations, which is really quite good. This version was less severe, both in the virus itself and the fact that over 90% of the city is vaccinated. The province though… that’s another story. The hospitalizatio – curve is still going up, and it’s already double the April/May peak. So clearly my city is doing a hell of a lot better than others. That said, if this is becomes endemic (like the winter flu), there’s no way for our hospitals to take anything close to this load. Something’s gotta give. Our joint mental health kinda depends on it.

FF14

So apparently they are going to start selling the game again later this month, which is an odd thing given that queues are still around. Last week I was still seeing 2,000 person queues on Cactuar. Last night it was 700, which was a very odd thing… perhaps due to the server reset on Tuesday. It’s better, certainly, but I can’t see any new player wanting to spend an hour+ per day just trying to login. And new NA servers won’t be around until August. I guess we’ll see.

At last pass I had completed the MSQ with my WHM. Since then I’ve leveled all my gatherers to 90, and my retainers just hit 80. Hopefully that will work itself out. I’ve also leveled my crafters…which let me tell you is a very expensive undertaking.

I followed this guide to do so and the total cost from 1-80 was about 5m gil. That’s with server hoping to get better prices elsewhere, which probably saved me close to 2m gil. The good news is that a significant portion of this time is spent in the Firmament, where crafting gives you lottery tickets. Some of the items you can win are worth 100k to 500k each, which kept me going for some time. Still, it’s very expensive.

The journey from 80-90 is pretty simple and figuring out what items sells for which craft is a hell of a dance. I would need to juggle some crazy spreadsheets to sort it all out. Some things that were worth a lot last week have nosedived to 10% of their value. It’s still a fun mini-game.

Also have spent some time leveling a Reaper. This is how melee classes should behave in a game full of AE attacks. Mobility as a melee has always been a pain in my butt, and this class just shines at it. Now, the downside of leveling any job in FF14 is that you’re going to see a lot of the same content, and dungeon queues past 80 are not pleasant for DPS. Bozja still gives a stupid amount of exp, but prevents from queuing in other content. I’ll figure something out.

Winter Game Sales

I didn’t pick up much else. Disco Elysium is still only a few hours in. Cyberpunk 2077 was ok. Wildermyth is a lot of fun on the story aspect, but the difficulty spikes aren’t super pleasant. Death’s Door is a pleasant surprise, great art and controls. The level design is hit or miss to my tastes but it is consistent. Risk of Rain 2 I picked up for like $2, which I may have overpaid for. I don’t mind rogue-likes, truly, but I need a progression system of something other than player skill. Hades has simply spoiled me.

Fitness

I hurt my arm/elbow last spring and it never seemed to get much better. It stopped me from lifting any serious weights, which in the middle of a pandemic with no physical activity, well that didn’t do well for the brainpan. I’ve started up again, trying to fit it in my lunch breaks. So far, so good. Hopefully hockey will open up again and I can get exercise some demons on the ice.

Blog

I should be back to some semblance of “normal” posting schedule. Let’s see how that goes about…

10 Year Project

In 2011 I underwent a rather significant career change – from a medium sized organization to one with a very large scope of work. I was somewhat bored at the time, having completed pretty much all I wanted to at the time, and was hunting for an interesting project. I had a couple names, called around, and ended up taking a very interesting project that allowed me to work remotely for 6 months. I still recall sitting in my car, along a remote highway, just being happy to have 1 bar on my tethered cell phone.

The success on that activity opened some doors to an even larger project, one that was both transformational and made more than enough turns in the national media. I went very deep into that project, taking some gambles that both burned me and turned out well. I suffered a burnout in that period, and learned where that proverbial line is. I spent nearly 6 years on that project, in a direct fashion, before making a pitch for a tangent project.

I tend to get antsy when things are operational, I need to have very hard challenges and love to build teams to get through it. This new project was wilder than the first one, a group had tried for 2 years prior on a technical issue and wasn’t able to get over the hump. My team was able to solve that in a few weeks after having scoured the globe for options. It’s hard to describe the feeling of launching a global-first service, and having done so twice by this point, it’s a rush is like a drug.

I remained a consult on the national project during this time, and was moved around the organization to take on similar ‘impossible’ tasks. I butted heads more than once, but with some people, process, and tool changes, was able to find some success on those challenges. At various points I was asked to come back to the project core, but for a pile of reasons I wanted to do something else. Eventually, I had reached a point where that particular project had to close out, a new one established to replace it, and then this whole pandemic hit us hard.

I guess the tangent here is that our organization supported virtual teams (I’ve clearly supported it for years), while also requiring that management be physically on site. The larger support group also required on site work, typically due to the ‘grey hair effect’, where the older generation didn’t see how it could work otherwise. When the pandemic hit, the organization needed to rapidly pivot to support a fully remote workforce, and that caused a bunch of fires.

Sure enough, I eventually land back into the main project fire to both close out and start something new. And now we’re in the final phases of the original close out – taking up the month of December. I am happy that we are moving to something more modern and sustainable… there are issues of course, the grass is never greener, but it’s where we need to be. Yet I am also finding it bittersweet to close out such a large chapter of my life. I’ve made most of my career off the shoulders of that particular project, met a ton of great people, and delivered what felt like miracles.

It’s making for a very interesting month, at least in the mental space. I opened a major chapter 10 years ago, and this is where the next one is going to begin. Looking back as to where I started, I never would have guessed I’d end up here. What a run.

Busy Busy

Blogging is a type of therapy for me. It organizes my ideas and provides some much needed clarity. When I don’t blog, things start getting mixed in my head, and I feel unbalanced. I haven’t had a post up in quite a few days, and I’m really feeling it.

Work

I’m at the tail end of a multi-year project, and we’ve had enough success that we’ve been able to shave off a few weeks from the schedule. Perhaps best framed like “we’ve removed all the contingency”. This weekend has an absolute massive milestone that’s been in the works for nearly 10 years, and then some weeks of soak to make sure everything lines up. There’s high confidence but still some significant anxiety that it goes through.

It’s been an absolutely chaotic run since the pandemic hit, and this will be a major capstone to that period. There are high odds that my body just crumbles once this crosses the finish line as the stress won’t be there to keep it together. Fingers crossed I’m able to deflect that enough prior.

Coaching

Had an out of town tourney with both kids, and that meant 8 hockey games in 2 days – coaching one of them too. I had a blast, as the groups are really quite fun to be with and the girls really came together for some team bonding. Doesn’t stop the schedule though with regular hockey still taking up 4-6 time slots a week, and some rather significant administrative challenges to boot. I’m also mentoring some new coaches in this process, and making some efforts to build a package for new coaches in the future. A sort of “pay it forward” mindset.

I have been more than fortunate to have an amazing support team through my development – not everyone is in that situation. It takes an army of volunteers to make anything like this look easy, so the more folks we can get involved, the better for everyone.

Family

The “return to normal” for school and hockey has been great for my kids’ metal health. A year to me is like most others. A year to them is a lifetime. We’ve gone to some great lengths to try and replicate the face-to-face experience while doing things remotely… but nothing replaces kids playing with kids. Wife’s mental health is not to be ignore either – she’s a major social butterfly and the outlets now are a HUGE positive.

If anything the pandemic has allowed us to sort of reset on what’s important. There’s less fluff, and more creativity. Less filling time and more filling experience. Hope others have had a similar way.

Games

Pretty much only FF14 for the past while. I’ve got every battle class up to at least 15 now (allowing for easier leveling in PotD). WHM/GNB are at 80, DNC is in the mid-60s. All the harvesters are at 80. Haven’t bothered with any crafters as I expect that Endwalker is going to have some rather major ripple effects on that space.

I did learn to do maps the other weekend. What a surreal experience that’s more in line with an ARPG like Path of Exile or D3. As with many FF14 things, the in-game explanation isn’t super clear. And yet, I am continually amazed at how this game continues to find ways to make you spend time in a group without this massive time pressure to get stuff done.

I also have enough tokens (100) to get that jacket from the Moogle event. I don’t think I would have been able to if not for the 2 week delay.

I will say that this is one of the first expansions I’ll be going through where I have little interest in just plowing through to the end-game. I have months of not years of content that I can get through before the Endwalker stuff is pressing. Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly looking forward for the journey, but compared to most MMO’s, I am not so much chasing the destination of hitting level 80.

There’s not much else on the gaming radar otherwise. The Steam winter sale will come along shortly, I’ll likely clear up my wishlist then. And there are certainly enough dumpster fires in the AAA space to fill up blogs-a-plenty in time. I’m curious about Horizon Forbidden West, but not like “let’s buy a PS5” level of curious. Monster Hunter Rise is already on my Switch (you should get it on PC if you don’t have a Switch). Elden Ring means nothing to me. Maybe give Outriders another go, as it announced a DLC coming out. Dyson Sphere Program will get another run through after the holidays.

Misc

I did pick up my first Gundam a few weeks ago. It was about 20 hours to put together, with my eldest daughter. I’ll have a post on that soon enough. It’s like LEGO for adults, and I am still amazed at the engineering required to produce a sprue with 2 different types of plastic.

I’ll have to force myself to blog for the next few days, to get back into the right mindspace. Let’s see what pops out.

Site Updates

Figured it was time for some house cleaning. I’ve updated the blogroll to clean out the deprecated blogs (except Isey, I hold out hope!!!) and some other bits and bobs that were no longer working. I should change my blog image header at some point, but it’s also bee the same for something like 12 years now. Like an old sweatshirt… it just feels comfortable.

I followed the Blaugust and read a pile of blogs there too. That’s the next logical step to update those. I’ve got a bunch in Feedly now, just need to take the time to curate it a bit more. The discord channel is super useful as a way to keep up to date as well.

RL has been ultra busy lately. I’m a head coach for one of my girls, helper for another, and it feels like I’m also a sort of guidance counsellor for new coaches/managers in the association. September has always (except last year) been a rock and roll month, and I am looking forward a bit to have a bit more wiggle room with my time. A week or so and things should be good.

Take care!

Break Time

A much deserved one if I do say so. Cottage time for a bit…and all the big reno work is done.

My little piece of paradise

Hope you all get some time away from it all as well. Been a hell of a ride. Cheers.

Age. It’s a Fact.

Age is an interesting thing. It’s inevitable, but manifests differently for us all.

My grand father was an active man until he passed this fall. Active in the sense of 2 hour daily walks, planting gardens, trimming trees… things that people half his age didn’t do. My father was an all-star athlete is his youth, but that didn’t stick around as he got older, and larger. It’s a weird topic to have with your dad. When my youngest was born, I do recall casually saying it would be nice for them to be able to grow up with him as I did with my grandfather. Since then, he’s pulled a near 180 in terms of overall health and activity.

My father-in-law was also an athlete and his career path was as a tinsmith, and to some degree, a handy man. He hunts, and loves to be outdoors. His self-worth is based on what he can do with his hands. Well, years of that has had a cost, and his back just can’t take it anymore. He’s had surgery. He still thinks he’s 40 years old, acts accordingly, and then his body more or less shuts down for a while. He doesn’t live alone, so that has an impact on the people around him. He’s just not able to accept that he can do less and still have a full life.

My birthday is coming up, and I’m certainly in what folks call middle age. I don’t feel old. There are some things I can’t do today that I was able to do when I was 20. Most of those things just don’t interest me anymore, so it sort of works out I guess. The things that I do enjoy, I can still do well. I don’t feel like I’ve lost a step in any particular field, if anything I feel that things are easier because of experience. Don’t get me wrong, I am finding it painful not being able to play hockey due to the pandemic… as much for the physical aspect as the social. I’m quite antsy for that to come back!

As I’m watching my elders get older, and my kids grow up, I’m coming to terms with the concept of age. As much as I’m my dad’s son, I’m my kids’ father. The expectations are different for each role, yet I’m fortunate enough that my dad has been really good with that evolution. Sure, there’s some deference to him in a few areas, but it’s still adult level conversations and respect. I’m not indebted to him raising me, which I always find a fascinating space for some of my friends.

I’m coming to terms that at some point, I will be less than I was in areas where I take pride. I’m less worried about it on the physical side… or perhaps because it’s physical and we can see it everywhere, it isn’t so much a surprise. Yes, quality of life, but that’s a different topic than just not being able to lift a couch. The stuff that really gets me is the hidden part. My wife’s side has a fair amount of dementia. Seeing a fully able person lose their mind is a terrifying prospect! I’m overly fortunate that this is not something on my side of the family, so less of a concern I guess. And yet… my mind is what makes me, me. So I can’t mow the lawn, big deal. If I can’t read, or remember what happened yesterday, there isn’t someone else that can do that for me. It’s the most isolating of all things.

This is a really off topic post, but my thoughts of late are really focusing on my centre self, my purpose, goals, and fears. Changing jobs often triggers this reaction in me, because it’s such a LARGE impact. This blog gives me the ability to put words to ideas, to digest concepts, and to move forward. It’s an interesting concept…publicly writing personal thoughts. A sort of side appreciation to it all I suppose. A cathartic act. A much needed one at that.

Holiday Break

I have many, many faults. Oh boy. Lots. One of the larger ones is when someone tells me I can’t do something. It’s like a dare and I have to prove them wrong. Enough introspection on this is really a self-confidence aspect where I need to prove to myself that there’s nothing I can’t do. There’s a 1 sentence summary of 20 years of self-reflection for ya!

So what does this mean in a practical sense? It means I just don’t give up, and will try and try until I wreck myself. I live on the edge of eternal burnout, always pushing myself to do more. It has serious impacts on every part of my life, and without counsel, it can be destructive in my relationships. I might invest myself into a project so fully that my mind just cannot disconnect from the topic, even if I’m with my family. I seem distant and detached. I can be irritable if there’s a big problem I’m on the edge of solving and something “simple” gets in the way. I can be downright hostile if someone gets in my way of implementing a change.

I’ve taken to multiple tools to help regulate this. Games are a massive one, where my problem solving/optimization mindset can target something else. Physical activity / workouts allow me to burn energy in a focused spot, though I do tend to push myself to limits here. Reading and talking about my mindset are also great outlets. Talking to myself in the mirror is how I start and end my days (it doesn’t answer me yet, so I’m good).

When I don’t do this, when I push myself too much, my body enters survival mode. I lose my appetite, I have trouble sleeping, and I’m effectively running on fumes. I can live in this mode for a very long time, but my body will continually degrade. I’ll catch horrible chest colds. I’ll get the stomach flu. And I’ll just plow through it towards my goal.

But everything has a cost, and the moment I let down my guard, the body just shuts down completely. Vacations and holiday breaks have been really bad for this, where the first 2-3 days I’m practically in a coma. What kind of deal is that for the people close to me?

The last time this happened was about 5 years ago. Since then, I’ve taken larger steps to self-regulate, to manage my stress levels. I take more time off to recharge, I divest and share the responsibility. It allows me to not work and trust that even though stuff wont move at my speed or even stall, at least it won’t regress. With the holiday break coming up, this year is a bit different. COVID has hit me something fierce, though a lot of comfort knowing my job is secure. I’m really looking forward to the break, and stepping away from work for a good bit. Sure, there are big files underway, things that have kept me awake late at night, but I’m confident I can disconnect for a period and enjoy what I have.

As the holidays approach for many of us, I do hope you can all enjoy and appreciate that time we do have. I’m conscious that this year is different for a bunch of reasons, and all the more reason to stop, think, and thank for what I do have. Wouldn’t be here without the people around me. Take care!

Building and Maintaining Lore

World-building is dependent on setting up consistent lore, and then respecting that lore with the stories in that world.  In single stories, that’s certainly of value, but over larger series it’s essential to keep people invested.

Why?  Value.  If the stuff you put out at the start is discarded, then it means it has little value and consumers can easily skip it.  It also instills a level of doubt that the current story will have no links to the world and reduce it’s impact.

Game of Thrones has some serious world building going on in the books.  Even the TV show did a very respectable job of maintaining that world.  The issues with the TV show don’t relate to lore with respect to the world, but in respect to the actions taken by the characters.  Like how you don’t set up a main villain for 6 years and then dispatch him in 1 episode.

Harry Potter had a consistent world up until book 7.  Then the play came out and decided time travel was a good way to impact the main storyline and alternate universes.  The JK decided that twitter was a great way to pad extra content to the original books and throw in some major curveballs.  Now, if you ignored everything that came after book 7, odds are you’re a happy camper.

In the comic book world, there are plenty of retcons.  In some sense this creates larger arcs across multiple volumes.  Superman has undergone multiple versions, depending on the needs of the writers and society as a whole.  Batman has had tons of versions.  The slight difference here is that when a retcon comes along, there’s usually some advanced notice and the break is clean.  Rarely do they every try to blend both stories and worlds together.

Playing through SWTOR brings more of this to mind.  While nearly all of it is considered “Legacy” now, it still bears mind that it’s consistent.  The stuff done in Chapter 1 is not negated by anything in Onslaught.  That there are so many intertwining storylines and that they rarely conflict is quite impressive.  Typically the storylines would branch/fork and then come back to a mainline resolution.  Onslaught is a bit different in that space, as the branches/forks are still present at this point.

This is in conflict with the recent Star Wars trilogy.  The Force Awakens was somewhat consistent, with a few interesting bits.  Finn’s battle with a lightsaber against a shock weapon was a bit odd.  The Last Jedi took a baby & bathwater approach, which kept the setting but ignored most of the lore from prior.  Apparently the Force can help you live in space, it can transmit you across the galaxy, lightspeed can be tracked and can be used as a weapon.  There are a few dozen more examples.  The problem with this isn’t so much that they break the existing lore, but that they negate all tension in the film.  The implications of each of those changes the entire galaxy.  Think of it this way – every Xwing is now a nuclear bomb, capable of taking out a capital ship.

I know there are a lot of people who are more interested in the individual story, and that’s ok.  I’m much more interested in the thought process of the world, and seeing how other stories could add to the base presented.  Wheel of Time had some amazing world building.  Sword of Truth was pretty solid.  Lord of the Rings was only written because a world was built beforehand.  When it works, it means the sum is greater than the parts.  When it doesn’t, you get something like the Terminator franchise, where you burn the audience so badly that even when you do get quality (Dark Fate) no one cares.

I’d like to say I’m hopeful that is not the case with Star Wars, but given Kathleen Kennedy’s comments that there is no source material to draw from… that raises some eyebrows.

Weekend Ramblings

Warning – RANDOM.

Went to a pool party for a few friends that were hitting 40 this weekend.  I think it’s the 6th such party I’ve had this year, each one with a completely different vibe.  Mine was axe throwing & a pub.  This particular group’s history with pool parties dealt a lot with actually being in the pool.  That was not the case here, and it was extremely mellow.  There were tacos from a local truck.  Mellow people tend to have odd conversations.  Refreshing since it’s not at all small talk, but still out of left field.  The really neat bit was that there were people taking differing views on all the topics – far from an echo chamber.

Weather

I live in the national capital (Ottawa) and we get some wild weather swings in a year.  We’ve had:

  • Coldest = -33C (including wind) (-27F)
  • Warmest = 43C (including humidity) (109F)
  • Most snow = 25cm (101.8cm in Jan)
  • Most rain = 35mm (300mm over Apr/May/June)

It was a 76C swing between hot and cold, and there are few places on the planet that have those swings.  It was also the year with some recordbreaking snowfall, and a repeat 50-year flood from 2 years ago.  Oh, and a couple tornadoes to boot.  We shouldn’t be breaking records every other week.  This isn’t the Olympics.

US Electoral System

What pool party doesn’t talk about this???  I’ll withhold comment on the current administration, there’s more than enough people to pipe in on that.  What I will talk about is the insane electoral system.  No rational person can think that this is a reasonable system, right?

  • 1980 election – Reagan wins with 50.7% of the vote but 91% of the colleges.
  • 1984 – Mondale wins 40% of the popular vote and gets 2.4% of the colleges.
  • 1992 – Perrot wins 20% of the popular vote, 0% of the colleges
  • 1996 – This was a really close race, and the person with more votes lost. 537 votes in Florida (0.009%)
  • 2012 – This was also a close race, though not as close as ’96.  Nearly 3m total votes more (2%), yet lost the colleges by 77 (14%).

It’s utterly fascinating to see that machine at work, and the absolute insane amount of gerrymandering at play.  This was a problem in Canada a long time ago, but there’s an independent group that draws elections lines based on population totals – politicians have no say in it, except at municipal levels.

It’s one of those odd things were there’s a special list of countries that endorse gerrymandering.  I wouldn’t think any of those countries are on a top 10 destination list, if you catch.

Elon Musk is Lex Luthor

So deep thoughts on this one.  Elon is clearly at the genius level intellect.  You don’t manage to do what he’s done if that’s not the case.  Plus, you don’t build a working flamethrower and sell it.

He really does have all the comic book signs of a super villain.  Rough upbringing.  Makes wave as a teenager.  Successfully builds and runs multiple multi-million/billion dollar industries, in different genres (IT, auto, power, engineering, heavy machine, rocket propulsion, AI).  And it’s not like he’s Warren Buffet-owns-tons-of-stock leadership here.  He’s the face of all those companies.

His stated goals match the Foundation series, where all his actions are meant to improve/prolong humanity’s chance at survival, and reduce the change/duration of a dark age.  That he has the actual power to accomplish these goals…

So if you look at the current Lex Luthor, there’s a lot of maniacal drive move forward.  A lot of ends justify the means, where only he can do it and no one else.  There is an ultra fine line, and the absolute best comic book villains thread it (Victor Von Doom).

And More!

There were plenty more conversations that had nothing to do with each other, but none were really debated/discussed as much as the above.  There’s a part of me that’s both confused and impressed at the types of conversations that exist when you’re not throwing an axe at a piece of wood.  I really should go to more pool parties.

Weekend on the Shield

Canada is a massive country, with amazing sights all around.  Each part of the country has something different to showcase, with it’s own unique lens.  There are few places however that are as uniquely Canadian as the shield.  A giant ring of rock, with practically nothing but coniferous trees.  The Group of Seven had an odd focus on it.

I am not dismissing the maritime’s colorful & stark views, the mountains of the west, the central plains, or the tundra of the North – but if you took pictures of each, most could be found elsewhere (‘cept Newfoundland…).

While my own cottage is on the outer limits of the shield, my father’s side is smack dab in it.  There’s a serenity that comes with the solitude.  Water, rocks, and pine trees.  Most of Canada was built on the fur trades through these waters.

voyageur-channel-french-river

Beautiful French River.

I spent the weekend up there, breathing the air, swimming the river.  Indoor and outdoor games.  Nothing but sun.  Kids laughing, family smiling.  It’s a hell of  way to recharge the batteries.

This may seem like a crappy tourism spot, but it’s really just an appreciation post for what we have in our (relative) backyard.  Get outside and enjoy.