Back from the Seas

10 days off work, 7 days at sea.  Worth. every. minute.

I took a cruise on Harmony of the Seas, on the Eastern Caribbean.  Wife, kids, and my dad.  My in-laws were in a condo near the port, so we spent some time with them before/after to avoid stress around flights.

I’m fortunate enough to afford vacations out of town.  We’ve gone to quite a few places in Canada with the kids.  We’ve done a few all inclusive resorts over the years – with the kids in Cuba and the Dominican.  My wife and I also took a couple cruises as a couple earlier (Celebrity line), though this was the first time with the kids.

On this cruise, we (at least one member) did:

  • Beaches
  • Pools
  • Slides
  • Water Park
  • Flow Rider
  • Zip Line
  • Snorkeling
  • Grotto exploring
  • Waterfall climbing (Dunn’s River Falls)
  • Catamaran
  • Arcade
  • Karaoke
  • Shopping
  • Comedy club
  • Theater (e.g. Grease)
  • Movies
  • Ice skating (watched it… seriously)
  • Water acrobatics
  • 10 story slide (Ultimate Abyss)
  • 26 of the 27 bars
  • 9 different places to eat
  • Self-serve ice cream
  • Exercised / Ran
  • Casino

I’m sure I am missing things.  To give you an idea of things to do, below is a picture of the planned activities for the last full day at sea from 7am until 5:30pm.  There’s even more stuff throughout the evening, up until 2am.

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There’s about 100 things on this alone.  If you’re bored, it’s your own fault.

You pretty much only have to worry about showing up – everything else is taken care of.  Don’t get me wrong, I like resorts too.  But it’s hard to argue that the food quality, security, variety of everything, and general temperament of other guests in better on a ship.  More expensive – no question.  Worth.

Now back to ice and snow for a few more weeks.  Ah well, was a great trip.

Financial Ethics

There are a bazillion different ways to talk about ethics, and a pile more when it’s only about finance.  It’s insanely rare for two people to share the same opinion on this, as their personal experience has a dramatic impact.

I come from an upbringing of modest means.  My parents worked really hard to provide and I worked various odd jobs from 12 on until now.  I started full time hours to pay for school at about 17, and it’s been that way for nearly 20 years.  Bought a house when I was in my 20s.  Been running a budget since my teens, and my job has me responsible for a lot of people, and a lot of money.  I tend to avoid daily expenses (I brown-bag and make my own coffee), and instead make larger purchases that are planned.  Both my wife and I work really hard, make a decent amount, and can provide more for our kids than our parents were able.  We’re both also quite aware of that fact – and try as hard as we can to avoid the sense of entitlement.

That preamble aside, it should give an idea where my financial mindset lays.  Now to the interesting bits.  Thrtee main scenarios, and they relate a lot to the current state of affairs.

Scenario 1

A government agency is running a service that serves its citizens.  It’s time to replace a key part of their technology, and there are 2 main options.  They are functionally similar, and meet the same security requirements.  One product is offered domestically, and costs $10m, and employs 20 people.  The other product is offered overseas and costs $5m.  Not buying the domestic product means that the business is going to have to cut its staff.

  • Should the domestic product win, even though it’s twice the price?  These are tax dollars paying for it.
  • Should the domestic product win, even if it isn’t as fully featured as the international version?
  • Should price always win out?
  • Should the impact to domestic staff be factored?

 

Scenario 2

A large multi-national business, headquartered in your country, is accused of fraud in another country.  This crime is only punishable in your country, as that other one allows it.  All evidence points that this was orchestrated by the CxO group.  The laws in your country state that massive financial penalties should be applied, which effectively means that the business would have to declare bankruptcy.  Thousands of people would lose their jobs.

  • Do you apply the letter of the law and close down the company?
  • If so, who should take care of the thousands of people who lost their job through no fault of their own?
  • Do you only charge the CxO group? If so, who now runs the company?
  • Does the company come under government agency control for a period of time (e.g. probation) until they right themselves?

 

Scenario 3

Your town has a busy main drag, with plenty of local shops offering all sort of items.  A large box store opens up just outside of town, offering all the selection of those shops, but at a larger discount.  The prices are lower due to both larger scale of inventory, and by underpaying their staff.  If the box store is the only one in town, and pay is low, the box store will eventually close.

  • Do you continue to support local business even though it costs more?
  • Do you find a balance between local and box store?
  • Do you go full box store, knowing that the local businesses will have to close?

Summary

The answers to these differ a lot depending on where you live.  Not even country, even neighborhoods have differing opinions.  Where I live, the downtown is much more financially liberal, while the outlying areas tend to be fiscally conservative.

The important thing here is that there are no easy answers.  With an interconnected society, all the pieces connect to others.  One person’s actions can impact thousands of others, and the ripple effects can last for years.  I’m not saying that there are bad choices, just that sometimes there are choices made in ignorance.  If we understand the factors, and we make a choice from that, then there’s a reason for it.  Even the scenarios above are hyper simplified.  Wal-Mart’s dependency on China’s products has a created a massive trade imbalance, and hundreds of thousands of people in China depend on it.

Gaming

Now what the heck does this have to do with a blog that’s mostly about gaming?  Well, there are 3 large companies in NA that compete for our dollars.  There are half dozen in China that are competing as well (though often through shells/links and focused on mobile).  Gaming was niche 20 years ago, not even close to being true today.  There is more money to be made (revenue) in games than in movies & music combined – it simply dominates.

Some may remember it being acceptable to not buy a band’s music, or go and see a particular movie for X reasons.  There were dozens of media items that were pushing a message, and people buying it expected it.  There have been film boycotts for ages.

But gaming, we make a loud fuss on r/gaming then still spend the money.  We want attention without consequences.

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Iconic

When we decide to reward behavior we don’t like, we promote that behavior.  Large companies are only ever interested in the bottom line.  They will do whatever they need to do in order to get that last penny from the pockets.  Then we feign surprise when they do it again.

If the model work for you, then perfect.  Everyone has different drivers, and levels of acceptability.  For example, Anthem (today’s state) is a good deal at $20, but not for $60.  But if you do make a choice, be ready to follow through on it.  Otherwise, any change you’re trying to push through will never happen.

Gift for the Family

Personal on this one.  My wife and I are celebrating our 10 yr anniversary in March.  We’ve been talking about a bunch of different things to do, which are all complicated by the fact that a) it’s during March break and b) we can’t realistically leave our kids behind for a week without some serious planning / support.

We’ve been fortunate enough to take the kids on quite a few trips over the years, including two down south.  We also took a couple trips on a cruise (just the two of us) and I personally enjoyed that experience more than an all-inclusive.  Thinking was to see if we could find a cruise that was more family-friendly – and that generally means Royal Carribean.

Also motivating – we’re both on the edge of burnout through work.  The winter holidays were good to refresh, but we are clearly in need of the “no need to make big decisions” for a while.

We ended up booking a trip on Harmony of the Seas.  That’s around 5,500 passengers at double occupancy.  And has full time kid activities if the wife and I want to do something else for a bit.  Oh, and an ice rink.  Ridiculous.

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I was in the ship to the far right, and I thought that was immense.  HotS is the 2nd most right.

I am utterly fascinated by the logistics of running a floating city, with people talking different languages, and a very high standard of cleanliness and service.  Just the linen service takes an army.  If you ever have the chance to watch a documentary on how these things run, you should really take the time.

There is one port in particular – Labadee, Haiti – that is entirely self-served by the ship. Over the course of 2 hours, enough food/drinks are pulled off the ship to shore in order to support an 8 hour day at the beach.  Amazing coordination.

I won’t hide the fact that this is entirely a luxury, and one that we are lucky enough to afford.  Every time we bring our kids out on something, we make it a point to have them recognize this fact.  Entitlement is a concern for both my wife and I.  My kids experienced more by the age of 4 than I did until I was in my 20s.

It’s good to have things to look forward to.  Makes driving through feet of snow and ice a bit more bearable.  I’ll see what kind of photo collage I can put together when I get back.

Raising Girls

/rant

The whole Gilette ridiculousness is just more hot air on a topic of division.  I get it, people are tired of being told what to do.  The irony here is that there’d be no need to remind them if they’d just treat people as people.

Being a man today is harder than it was 20 years ago.  No question.  But it was STUPID EASY being a man 20 years ago.  Everything in the world was built for a you.  Nearly all sports, school, jobs, cars, vacations, commercials, movies were built with a man in mind.  It was like shooting fish in a barrel.  A super example is China’s 1-child law, where boys were prized above girls, and where the projection is 30 million more men than women by 2020.  I could write a book about the social impacts of such a disparity.

I have 2 girls, and I live in Canada.  Honestly, they won the damn jackpot.  They don’t need to get married at 8.  They don’t need to work in a rice field instead of going to school.  They can’t be discriminated against in terms of career choice – they are measured as equals in terms of skill/knowledge.  We have access to high caliber women’s sports.  They are, by law, treated as equal.

But you know what?  They still have a 1/3 chance of being sexually assaulted.  They will be judged more by what they wear, than what they say or do.  They will be told that STEM is for boys.  They will have to always have to travel in a group, else risk being attacked.

The problem with laws is that we need them.  There are assholes all over the place, and most of them don’t even think they are assholes.  If you’re being told to not grope women, and you somehow find that offensive, then then problem is you.

Here’s a quick test that can help prove the point.  Name 10 male role models, and time how long that takes. Doesn’t matter what they do, as long as you think they are role models. Good?  Now do it again, but for female role models.  Did you even get to 10?

But I get it.  Men have been in power for centuries.  We’ve been raised that we are better.  We are stronger, wiser, and a dozen other -ers.  Bullshit.  Men are cowards.  Cowards hide, and lie, and complain.  Strength comes from sharing and growing with others.

When people learn that women can be as vindictive, as evil, as troll-like, as corrupt as men, maybe then they will get the equal footing that is still lacking today.  Women can be more destructive than men, no question.  When we start using the same rules for both, then we can have progress.  It has nothing to do with women being better than men.  It has everything to do with them being equal, judged by the same rules.  Not special treatment – equal treatment.

Feminism isn’t coming after football (CTE is).  It isn’t coming after beer (liver disease and drunk driving are).  It isn’t coming after your job (merit-based appointments, and automation are).

This /rant brought to you by stupid people, who think that their mothers, wives, daughters, and friends deserve less respect than their male counterparts.

Holiday Break

2 weeks without work, and just some good family time.  It was a bit odd not to blog, as I use it as a mental sieve.  It was still one of the best breaks I’ve had in a very long time.

A few interesting bits to start the week, with some larger posts coming later.

  • Wife got us an NES Classic.  I picked up some wireless controllers right after, since the 3ft cables on a 50″ TV makes no sense.  Whole family has had a turn at it.  Old school controls make for some interesting frustrations.
  • Family took a trip to see the Habs play vs the Canucks.  First time the little ones got to see an NHL game, and I think the bar may be set a bit too high considering we live in Ottawa.  We’ll do it again in the future, it was a super experience.  There’s something about seeing things through a kid’s eyes that makes you appreciate things even more.  Think my wife is going to convert to a Habs fan!
  • My wife bought me some tickets to see the Habs vs Leafs in Feb with a friend.  That’s a hell of a nice gift!
  • Everyone was spoiled for the holidays.  I really have a better appreciation for the family after this holiday break.  Everyday seemed to be just great.  Putting all the work aside and just living in the moment helped.
  • I think we had 1 day off in 2 weeks, where there wasn’t a party, or hosting, or sleepovers, or just things.  That day was spent watching Harry Potter movies.  It felt good to not move.
  • Outdoor rink is being used nearly every day where it’s not raining.  Which seems to be every other day this year.  Massive temperature swings are not fun.
  • Picked up some things from the Steam sale: Celeste, Slay the Spire, FFX/X2, Frostpunk.  All will get a post.  Of them all, Celeste is the must buy.
  • Saw Aquaman with the wife.  Apparently Jason Momoa is good looking.  So I’ve been told daily.  Movie is better than expected.  It’s rare that I take issue with the soundtrack, but it made little sense here.  Felt like Indiana Jones meets Lord of the Rings.  I will say that super hero movies continue to have horrible villains.
  • Pulled my back on Jan 1st.  Got a chest cold 2 days later.  It’s been a rough few days.

 

So New Year starts and we’ll see where it goes.  Hope everyone had as good a time as I did.

Opposing Views

Technology is a tool, how we use it depends on who we are as a people.

I like blogging, I like reading other bloggers.  I tend to follow bloggers that have interesting stories, and points of view.  The ramblers are as fine as the short and sweet.  I find that I generally agree with most view opinions, though rarely in their entirety.  I do follow some folks just to see the other side of the fence, because it’s good to have differing opinions.

I think I fall in line with the majority of urban Canadians in my age group, when it comes to general views.  I know that my parent’s generation tends to be more fiscally conservative and less socially liberal.  We tend to be fiscally conservative, and socially liberal.  I do not agree with most “winged” party views, as a lack of balance on any one of those items causes a massive shift over time.  The world is just too complicated to boil it down to broad statements of X will do Y.  And while I live in a city in Canada, I also share the planet with 7 billion other individuals.  That sense of scope makes it a really hard to get past our own personal Monkeysphere.

I used to have a large list of “friends” on Facebook, back when it was used to provide personal updates.  That was replaced by Twitter.  Which is replaced by a dozen other tools.  I stopped using Facebook a few years ago when it became pretty clear that the feed was focused on link dropping.  Most of those links were sensationalist opinion articles, that progressively got more and more out there.  It became an echo chamber.  And frankly, Facebook is one of the worst ways to have a debate/conversations on a topic.  I kept Facebook for the contact information and group invitations, but ended up deleting it nearly 2 years ago when I realized there were better options out there.  I still keep Twitter, but I’m not quite sure why.  The early intent was sound, but short sound bites make for a dumb population when trying to be used as a news machine.

Finding differing view points, dissecting their arguments, and coming to your own conclusions is important.  Being able to defend a position with reasonable arguments is the foundation for decision making.  Arguments that include the words “any”, “all”, or “always” tend to be self-defeating, yet that’s what gets the clicks/eyes/ears.

Confirmation bias is a real thing.  It narrows our potential for growth, by making us take the same decisions again, and again.  A whole lot of the golden age of sci-fi was built upon this concept, of arbitrary separation between groups.  From the outside, it looks ridiculous – see Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.

It’s possible for two people to have different opinions on a matter and both be correct, or both be wrong.  The context and perspective of each individual matters when forming an opinion.  Financial management is much different for someone with a relatively poor background vs someone with no financial burdens.  I get it.

But we didn’t get to this point in history without talking to other people.  Without trusting other people.  If we didn’t have disagreements we’d never have seen a telescope, a lightbulb, calculus, or space exploration.  Civilizations that became self-absorbed in their own righteousness rot from within.  As soon as we start suspecting our neighbors, we’re already heading down that slippery slope.

And to think, we have tons of history to show us the end result of that mindset.  We have much more in common with each other than differences.

High Times

Pretty good odds you’re aware that Canada legalized marijuana (cannabis/weed) on Wednesday.  This was an election promise from 2 years ago, and more like 10 years in the making.  Holland was the first country, and there are certainly many states/provinces globally that have also taken this change to heart.  Still, there are about 40 million people here, so it would be fair to say that we’re the largest group globally with this new law.

I won’t argue the merits of taking drugs.  I won’t bother discussing the various strains with all level of THC.  Or the empirical data supporting medicinal use.  There are more than enough posts/blogs/studies/evaluations/theses on this to blind a man.

From a personal lens, this has nearly zero impact.  I don’t use it, and have no plans to use it.  There’s already plenty of it to go around.  Walking pretty much anywhere downtown, you’d get a whiff of it.  It was always going to be part of the “drugs are bad, mmkay” talk with the kids.  People still can’t smoke in cars, or in non-smoking areas (99% of buildings).  Can’t show up to work blazed.

Big scope it’s going to take a long time to figure out.  Sure, it probably will mean cleaner strains (no fentanyl) for those that go through official supply lines.  More variety.  The price point will need to be tweaked to offset organized crime supply lines – just like contraband cigarettes.  The changes to society are going to take quite a few years to sort out.  We’re a large (physically) country, with different cultures from coast to coast – hard to say how NL will cope with this as compared to BC, which was practically legal there anyhow.

There will be the negative voices on this as well.  There always are for any change.  Think about the children! they will scream.  Of course think of the children.  Who doesn’t?  It’s not like this is saying “give $20 weed-infused gummy bears on Hallowe’en”.   Who would even think of actually giving that away, or what parent would accept gummies in a ziplock for their kid?  And if they did, do you think now those kids are in danger?

There are plenty of cautions to this change, lessons to be applied from other areas, and tweaks that will be made along the way.  Nothing is ever perfect.  But damn if this isn’t something interesting to talk about that doesn’t feel like a Twilight Zone episode.