Small and Meaningful

Every morning at work, I look at my coffee cup with the words:

There’s no such thing as quality time.  There’s just time.

The point here is that people often wait for events, or put a lot of effort into a thing, while ignoring everything else around them.  It can be seen as a lack of appreciation for the simple things, but it’s often more related to an effort/reward mindset.    I’ll give some examples.

A successful relationship is not at all defined by the number of times you go out for dinner, or how expensive it is.  It’s defined by doing the dishes, telling them you care on a regular basis, actually wanting to spend time with them.  I can’t think of any marriage that ended in divorce because they didn’t get a new car, or take a trip.  Nearly all were chipped away over the years because they didn’t appreciate the small things.

My greatest memories with my dad have nothing to do with trips to the cottage as a kid (which was still amazing mind you), it was spending entire days at the rink, either skating or helping out other people.  My kids smile way more when we’re doing Legos, a puzzle, or a board game.

My best MMO memories are from EQ, farming experience with a friend in OoT til the wee hours, talking about life.  I did every raid for the first 2 expansions, yet this is what sticks most with me.

Even the best games today are not about the large payoffs, but the ridiculous refinement of the seemingly mundane.  Horizon’s best moments are outside of dungeons and bosses, and simply related to taking down a T-Rex that can shoot lazers.  The Last of Us excels at the quiet moments.

 

As I’m looking forward into 2020 and the messages I want to share with my family, the general theme is going to be on appreciating all the moments, not just the “big” ones.  That 2 minute chat in the car ride, telling my daughters that I think they’re beautiful every day, helping my wife without her needing to ask.   Even the smallest of gestures can make a mountain of difference.

Looking Back at 2019

Still quite a few days left, but since the holidays are just around the corner, I’d be surprised if much else pops up.  Or that I properly digest it in time.

Macro

2019 at the macro level has been a new level of insanity.  Society seems to be going off the deep end, with the simple idea of respecting another person considered taboo.  Social media is a ridiculous enabler of the worst facets of humanity.  And when our global leaders focus on lying, ridiculing, insulting and just plain being poor role models… we’re not going to go far.  It’s depressing.

And that’s inclusive of the “woke culture” of finding fault with everything from behind a keyboard.  It’s a sad day when someone’s personal value is measured in the number of re-tweets they get.  Just focusing on problems instead of working on solutions doesn’t help anyone.  And “cancelling” is not a solution.

On the flipside, it’s making me much more conscious of my behaviour and the one I want my kids to emulate.  It’s a very strong driver for the extra volunteering load I’ve taken on.  We can all do better.

Micro

My year’s been solid.  Love my wife more and more every day.  Kids are growing up to be people I want to spend time with, and so far want to spend time with me.  Our social circles are all undergoing major mid-life crises (which I guess is normal at this age), making for some serious wake up calls.  I still have a lot of friends who are having trouble coming to terms with the fact that they are adults.  Both my wife and I are making extra time to support as many people as we can fit.  It’s impressive what a small gesture can mean to someone.  Sometimes just a 5 minute phone call can turn around a person’s day.

Career wise things have been going along at a breakneck pace.  There are days where I wish I was still a code monkey, but on the whole I am enjoying what I do.  Some day I’ll explain it, but for now let’s just say that it’s high enough to have global impact, yet direct enough that I can talk to the amazing people doing the work.  And I’ve entered a career development program that will both open new opportunities, and help me grow as a leader.  Lots (and lots) of work to get here.  I’m glad I can recognise it, and the support along the way.

Summer at the cottage was great this year, but went by a tad too fast.  Next year I’ll take some more time off and spend more with the fam.  There’s something special in seeing your kid’s face light up when you’re out on the water, or around the fire.  Something like that can make my week.

I blogged more than I thought I would, which is good.

Games

If I was to look at 2019, it would be the year of less is more.  The best games this year were able to focus on key aspects and deliver amazing experiences.  It didn’t take 40 hours to get through a slog of repetitive content.  Most were in the 8-16 hour range.

  • I started the year with a buch of indies.  Celeste, Frostpunk, Return of the Obra Dinn, Dead Cells.
  • I picked up Outer Wilds in the late spring and was amazed at what was presented (my personal GotY winner).
  • Bloodstained scratched that Castlevania itch, but didn’t really go beyond.
  • Outer Worlds showed everyone what can be done with a clear vision and a smaller set of resources – I’m looking forward to more adventures in that setting.
  • Jedi Fallen Order is an actually good Star Wars game from EA, and no loot boxes.  Call me pleasantly surprised.
  • I bit back into SWTOR to see what content I’ve missed over the years.  I do like what’s presented, and I’m going back with a Republic Shadow to compare both ends.  Won’t sugar coat it… it’s rough.  But that just means the game has progressed.
  • Lots of Dauntless, which has been a pleasant surprise.  Their official launch was in the fall, and their release structure should be applauded.  There’s tons of content here, it’s entirely cross-platform (Switch too!), and bite sized enough to make Monster Hunter look like paint drying.  Oh, their F2P model is impressive to boot.
  • Warframe has been an on/off thing for a while now.  It still has one of the craziest on-ramps I’ve ever seen, next only to EvE.  The depth here is stupifying.  Like if you went to a buffet, and found out there were 30 other buffets all linked together.  There are times where it feels like staring into the Abyss.

 

Overall

In terms of things that directly impact me, it’s been a really good year.  One of my best.  A year of reducing the complexities and at the same time spreading out to help more people.  I prefer to spend my energy on people who are positive, or are making attempts to be.  I try to let the negativity just slide off, and it makes for more enjoyable days.

As I get older (and hopefully wiser), I guess I’m just more appreciative.  Thanks for reading.

More Volunteering

When I was a young lad, I clearly recall spending most weekends in a hockey rink.  Either I was on the ice, my dad was coaching, or he was organizing other bits.  When I stopped playing competitively, I opted to get into coaching.  I did that for a few years, but live took a hell of a left turn and I needed to refocus.  I stopped skating altogether for about 3 years, then joined some league play and have been skating 2-3x a week since.

I make a concerted effort to not have hockey fall into family time.  The majority of my games are after 9pm.  The flipside is that my kids know I play (and watch) the sport, and they’ve been to a fair share of games in their years.  My eldest started playing 3 years ago, and I helped on the ice.  Last year I was assistant coach, this year head coach.  I figured since I was at the rink anyway, it would work out.

Which in one space that’s true.  Assistant coach is a near similar time investment as a spectator – emotionally not quite.  Head Coach, it’s about double the time.  I’m extremely grateful to have an awesome support team of AC, manager, and treasurer.  We just spent an amazing weekend in North Bay for a tourney.  The girls had a blast and progressed like crazy.  The parents stayed up late and polished off WAY to much vodka.  That we were able to experience the moments without worry is a highlight.

I’m also the webmaster for the association.  I took this on after noticing in my first year how atrocious the site was.  Updates were months apart, files were no longer valid, really important information wasn’t present.  I’m a big proponent of open & transparent communication, and I really dislike complaining without providing options.  So in the Spring, I ran a new build for the site, updated all the content, and added extra bits to help out the volunteer staff.  I also have it set up on my phone so I can make updates from anywhere.  Very happy with the results… just a ton of hours at start/end of the season.

There’s also a development stream (DS) offered through the association, but they need extra volunteers to run it.  At my level (Atom) they spent a fair chunk of time searching… and I figured my kid would be there anyways.  More volunteering ahead.

An important part here for me is that this is time I’m spending with my family, so it’s not really seen as a  lost opportunity.  The kids get to see their parents involved in the community, and hopefully they can catch the same “give back” bug when they get older.  When they age out (or simply leave) the sport, then that will be a harder decision to stick with it, or move on to other things.  But that’s not going to happen tomorrow.  Tomorrow, I need to run a game and a practice.

It’s Over, It’s Done

Canadian elections are over and everyone is full sorry.  Liberals remain in power, but with a minority.  There coalition that will form will have two main goals, social equality and climate change.  There are high odds that the 0.1% are going to get a tax hit (estate taxes are bit odd here).

The downside here is that the country is effectively split east/west.  West prioritises more immigration control, and less environmental regulation.  The former topic is way more complex, depending on what part of the country you live in.  This election had only 1 party talking about this, and they didn’t get a single person elected, not even withing voting margins of error.  So yay Canada!

The second issue is the environment and here is a split that is much more straightforward.  The “center” of the west is Alberta, where our oil fields are located.  For 100 years now, Alberta has been a boom or bust location, and nearly all of that is due to natural resources.  This part I understand… when all you’ve ever known is somehow deemed as evil, you get super defensive and confused.  There’s a similarity to the coal mines in the US.  It doesn’t matter if people promise more jobs, people need to be willing to buy it.  And it’s pretty hard to compete with indentured labor overseas in terms of cost.  The fact that Alberta hasn’t diversified, even in the boom years, is a true lost opportunity.

I won’t go into the west’s “less taxes” mandate, which historically has shown as non-tenable.  It gets complicated, so quickly.  Canada’s programs that are “ripe” for cutting are education and health care.  Two programs that if you cut, all hell breaks loose.  A similar aligned party tried it in Ontario… reverted everything.

Now for the good news.  As a general rule, even though we have different parties, we have shared views on nearly all topics.  There really isn’t a dramatic gap between parties, except on election-specific topics.  I say that in the objective sense… of course people between parties have significant disagreements.  But you’ll never hear of main line party rallies being assaulted, or threats from leaders.  There’s some comfort in knowing that at the end of the day, regardless of the political parties in charge, we’re still all Canadians.

Sorry.

 

Training Wheels

A /venting post if there was one.

Two things are providing oodles of stress lately – work and coaching hockey.  There are a surprising amount of similarities between both.

At work I’ve taken on some new responsibilities, and a large part of that is to replicate the culture I put in place elsewhere.  The group I oversee now has their own culture, and one that really is a struggle to understand.  They certainly have their hearts in the right place, but the approach taken is just full of grievances.  Extremely valid ones.  I’ve done a bit of digging and the history behind this is just full of interesting bits.

Coming into this I’m put in the middle of the process and find myself saying “no” on a daily basis, because rarely does it pass the sniff test.  A fair chunk of this can be handled with some simple guides and training.  It’s frankly surreal that I have to train people at this, given their current job titles, but at the same time it seems clear they’ve not had the necessary support in the past.  If I can hit 80% of them taking a “smarter” way to tackle these big issues, that will have significant morale impacts.

As for hockey, we’re in a new league and a different approach to scheduling.  Our first game is this Saturday, and the schedule is still undergoing daily updates.  I have conflicts on Sunday, no practices from Nov until end of Jan, and games across town at 7am.  I coach house league, and if the game is not fun, then people won’t play.

It does beg the question as to why this is so difficult though.  People have been making sports schedules for over 100 years, using computers to do it since the 80s.  It’s entirely likely this is just learning curve, and next year will be 100x better.  Yet here it is also pretty clear that no one seems to have asked anyone how to make this work – checked with other leagues that have done this before.  Previous years, it was all done in a single Saturday with all coaches in a large room.  Somehow this new process is taking 3 weeks.

Enough venting for now.  Time to breathe.

 

 

Politics and Life

I rarely post anything political here.  There’s just so much complexity on the topic, and a significant portion is impacted by your local culture.  A person only an hour’s drive away may have a completely different set of motivating factors, let alone someone half-way across my country.

I don’t begrudge any political view, but I do take note when views are so entrenched that they can’t stand up to any form of discussion or debate.  If your point of view is so fragile that it can’t take a couple knocks, then there’s no real point, is there?  I’ve lucked in that my family and I have realms of similarity, but differences in specific points.  I can have a conversation about immigration with my grandfather, and we both come out the better for it.

Canada generally has a tame political sphere.  We’re often seen as being polite to a fault.  This electoral cycle is fraying my sense of own.  We’re a multi-partied country, and the parties themselves move along the social/financial axis as they seem fit.  Often it’s to chase more votes, and to stay in power.  The alternative is that parties start looking really similar.  And when things get a little to similar, then the differentiation becomes qualitative – which our US cousins exemplify in name calling & attack ads.  A bit of irony there, since their policies are often so diametrically opposed.  I digress.

There’s some batshit crazy stuff going on around the world right now.  Or perhaps it’s best said that there’s more light shone on the stuff.  People are taking some really interesting stances, in nearly all cases financially motivated.  China is, by simple definition, a dictatorship (absolute authority) regardless of the window dressing.  It’s a hell of a lot more complex than that summary statement, but the point remains that any voice that conflicts with government wishes is crushed.  Any voice – regardless of where it takes place.  The NBA and Blizzard are the latest two to get caught in this trap of ethics vs. finances.  It’s interesting to see how each has taken their stance on the subject.

In Blizzard’s case, does that really matter?  Is anyone on this side of the Firewall going to stop giving money to Blizzard because of this ethical stance?  Should they?  China has 20% of the world’s population.  (India will pass then in ~10 yrs due to the 1 child policy and aftershock effects – see, complicated!)

As with most political discourse, there’s no answers, just a discussion.  It’s just not possible to please everyone, and even pleasing the majority is something that only seems to happen every 10 years or more.  More food for thought.

A Little Bit OCD

My brain works with structure.  I put things into imaginary spreadsheets, liking big ideas in chunks, and allows me to reference a whole bunch of stuff really quickly.  It allows me to absorb a new situation, reference previous occasions for options, evaluate those options, and take action without a whole lot of panic.

Well, more like a duck on the water – peaceful on the surface but paddling like crazy underwater.

With that, there’s an upper limit on the amount of new data I can absorb in any given time.  That number changes based on fatigue, hunger, and mood.  Right now, I’m running at about 120% intake.  It’s making me lose focus in other areas to make up for the backlog.  A week or so ago I was running a squat routine, clearly lost focus in the middle of a rep, then felt a tweak.  A wake up call I guess.

And sleep is harder to come by too.  My brain is digesting all my normal things (wife, kids, job, hobbies) and now has to deal with

  • wife & kids return to school
  • new kids activities and scheduling
  • new job starting in a week
  • job opportunity for an interesting position, outside comfort zone
  • coaching duties for kids hockey (start of year is crazy)
  • friends in social circle going through really rough spots
  • my comp hockey team needing WAY TOO MANY SPARES

The act of digesting all this new intake means a lot of brainpower and not enough hours in the day.  So I’m now thinking about this stuff when I would normally be resting.  Falling asleep is taking longer.  I am dreaming about these things.  I am putting them in their boxes, and building plans to – for lack of a better term – mentally survive.

The good news here is that nearly all of this is good problems to have, and they are extremely rewarding.  I also know that quite a few of these items will get dramatically better in the next 2-3 weeks.  Having managed way more chaos for longer periods of time, I know that this is just a speed bump.

For now, I am hyper-focused and obsessed with this new data set.  Just need to ensure that the essentials that make my family health & happy are not neglected.  Writing about it, that’s a big part of it.  Best cure for everything is sunlight.