Finding Joy

I’m in a weird mental state lately.  My winter hockey has restarted (and I’m short a couple guys).  Both kids have started too, I’m coaching one of them, and I’m the association’s webmaster.  A vendor at work is nearly 4 months late on a critical delivery.  There’s a rather significant re-org underway too, with some new opportunities presenting themselves.  There’s something wonky with my back/shoulder, making it hard to get a good workout.  Our social circles seem to be going through midlife crises.

A lot of spinning plates that are taking up both physical and mental real estate.  Feels like I could use a couple more hours a day.  Blogging as a whole has taken the side.  I am feeling the need to focus on the things that bring me joy/energy, and let the rest of the stuff just wash over.

Hockey

The older I get, the more I realize that playing hockey brings me a ton of joy, as long as the rest of the team is all on the same page.  If I’m playing rec, then it’s a rec attitude.  Comp is the same.  When those two worlds mix… things get less fun.  But there’s always a good beer after the game.

Coaching, that brings something else altogether.  There is something to be said about seeing 15 kids grow before your eyes, and being part of their enjoyment of the sport.  I’ll need to write another post about my process for coaching, but it would appear that it’s popular as a few kids this year put in requests to transfer to my team.

Working Out

We all need to move, or things just stop working.  I’ve been doing strength training for a few years now and it’s made a world of difference in nearly every aspect of my life.  It requires planning (since time is limited), focus (to not get injured), tracking (to see progress), consciousness (smarter eating choices), and provides a solid example to my family.  I can tell you that when you have 225lbs on your shoulders and you’re at the bottom of a squat, if you’re not focused then you’re going to have a bad time.  It’s a different form of meditation I guess, and the endorphin rush you get is a great high.  Plus, when you hit the pillow, you sleep like a rock.  Completing a workout, setting a new lift record, seeing changes in the mirror… all great feelings that push out the rest.

Baking

This is a family root type of thing.  Baking requires planning, patience, and confidence.  I had a pile of recipes from older relatives that just say “a fist of flour”.  Decoding all that is half the battle.  Yet when I am able to replicate a recipe my grandmother made me when I was a child… that hits every single right spot.  It’s a great way to spend time with the kids too, and teaches them a pile of lessons with a great result at the end.  We end up making ~500 cookies as Christmas gifts every year, as well as the boys getting together to make ~50 tourtieres in the fall.  You can’t rush baking…

Active Listening

You can be a wallflower and just listen, or you can be a jabberbox who’s just waiting for their turn to interject and one-up the conversation.  I dislike both, and prefer to have a conversation where the other person(s) get to share, I take it in, and I get to share as well.  That means paying attention, asking clarifying questions, debating ideas.  I enjoy this with my kids… it has them spend more time thinking about what they are going to say.  More enjoyable even with my wife, who brings an entirely different perspective on nearly all topics.  Hockey boys are similar with all types of views.  Does a decent job of avoiding the echo-box that social media builds around us.

Breathing

This sounds corny, but just taking a breath when things go a bit sideways is a great tool.  It’s common enough that my team at work recognizes it as a sign.  I dislike reacting, because it often lacks forethought.  There’s a way to say something is dumb without saying it’s dumb.  Getting that piece of news, taking a breath, allowing digestion of it and looking at potential options… that allows me to focus on the bigger picture.  Example: a team member inadvertently disabled 8,000 clients, and caused a 8 hour outage.  It was entirely accidental, happened while fixing another problem that wasn’t ours and running on little rest, and mistakes happen.  I mean, they know they did something wrong and me reacting negatively is just going to make it worse.  Breathing, focusing on getting them involved in the fix, and away from the mistake… that’s the only way to grow.  Seeing them come out stronger.  One breath makes all the difference.

Next Little Bit

The next few weeks are going to be a bit in the same rough spot, but it should even out at the start of October.  One breath at a time, one day at a time.  Things are good.

 

 

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.

Personality Profile

Lots of interesting talks lately with the other half.  A particular comment that struck was that there are a lot of people considering taking large steps in their life but not actually taking them.  Makes sense, mid-life crises are built around finally having the time to be introspective.  Likely have a career, kids are not requiring 24/7, most finance/health items are under control.  All of a sudden you have time to think.

Yet, while people are often stuck in the rut of complaining about something rather than taking action.  They are paralyzed in the “what if” scenario.  That, perhaps, with motivation the external factors will change into a positive one.  That the next roll of the dice, or lottery ticket won’t be a bad one and they will strike it rich.  Rather than simply picking up and stop playing the game entirely.

Don’t get me wrong, no one can succeed in life alone.  I am far removed from being hard-ass to the point where other people around me have to follow my way or get out of my way.  I truly believe that everyone is good at something.  It’s just that often people are not doing the thing they are good at.  And people will not simply take an external voice and agree to change – that has to be driven internally.

I used to see this particular psychologist and she articulated the mindset with a single question.  “What’s likely to happen, and can you live with it?”  The person that’s 300lbs and is wondering what to do.. well, they either going to be healthier and live longer, or they are just going to stay obese.  Is it harder to eat better and take a walk, or struggle to get out of bed and use the washroom?  The person in an unhappy relationship, counselling either improves communication and the other party wants to succeed, or it solidifies the fact that there’s no salvage to be had.  Either way, it’s better than waking up to someone you don’t get along with.

The older I get, the more I realize how I fit into the spectrum of “let it be” and “let’s do something”.  In the wide majority of situations, I want to do something, and I want to do it with other people.  If those other people don’t want to, I won’t go around convincing them… I’ll either do it myself, or find other people to do it with.  I feel much better looking in the mirror and saying that I at least tried to make a positive change, compared to just complaining.

Not to say that people aren’t allowed to blow off some steam.  There are times when things get just right under the skin for a short period and you just have to deal with it. But we all know plenty of folks who have been singing the same tune for months/years and nothing to show for it.  If they are stuck in talking about all the things wrong and never thinking about what control they have over improving things…I’m finding that my relationships with those people are getting frayed.

Introspective post that’s a mix of all over the place.  That’s the reason this blog exists, letting me put some structure to the thoughts.  Hopefully it has a similar impact on readers.

tldr; don’t complain or ignore, do something for positive change

Gaming Accessibility

Hockey is expensive.  How’s that for a byline?

No, seriously.  I put both my kids in last week, and that’s $800 a head.  Then there’s the actual equipment which for little squirts is about $200 each.  Then there’s the year’s additional team expenses (tourneys, activities, etc…) that runs close to $2000 each – every year.  All for a season that lasts from October until Feb.  I won’t get into how much it costs for me to play hockey (or the beer following).

The return is worth it.  Hockey is a team-based sport, and everyone needs to work together for success.  My eldest was quite shy prior to her lacing up.  That went out the door pretty quick in the rink.  But yeah, expensive.

Gaming is another expensive endeavor, but significantly less so today.

First, you need a piece of tech to play (phone, tablet, PC/laptop, console/tv).  Prices here have gone down over time.

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Console prices are relatively stable.

I can buy a large flat screen TV for $100 today.  That sure as hell wasn’t an option when I was a kid.  And nearly everyone over 16 has a cell phone that can double as a gaming appliance.  Even PC prices today are rock-bottom compared to the 80s/90s.

Game prices themselves are crazy cheap.  The $60 price point is still the most common one… and one that’s been around for nearly 30 years.  That’s around $190 today.  And that’s for games with actual upfront fees and no Steam Summer Sales.  The F2P genre has made gaming even more accessible, since you can get ~75% of a game for $0.  Some are so generous with their models (Warframe, Path of Exile) that they float almost entirely on good will.

Connectivity to other people is built-in for a large swath of the population too.  Internet access is still growing – in Canada it’s 92% of the population that has access.  Cell reception is increasing (I could talk about 5G for a week), meaning people are gaming on the go with other people.  Cripes… I still remember LAN parties and paying for dial-up.

Now, this isn’t without some risk.  Gaming addiction is a real thing, and there’s always a risk of everyone becoming like those in Wall-E.  But as more people game, you get more types of people.  The ol’ neckbeard stereotype for gaming is becoming the exception.

And that’s not even taking into account the ability to watch people game, rather than game yourself, which has a near $0 cost itself.  I could watch amateur hockey for free, but I’d need to go to the rink to do it.

When the gateway has been smoothed out, it’s easy to see why gaming is so prolific. Curious to see where this path leads.

Accepting Change

A long time ago I realized I was an agent of change.  In nearly everything I do, there has to be some form of change – and the status quo gets under my skin.

School was where it started to click.  I was able to get to the right answers, but my methods were quite a bit different than those taught.  I recall one math teacher who was sure I was cheating.  One of my programming teachers couldn’t figure out how the code was able to run, since it was nearly 30% shorter than the approved solution.  It’s kept through my career, where I seem to be drawn to complicated projects that focus on both tech and culture transformation.

Not to say I don’t like stability.  My daytime meals are really quite boring in that regard.  Simple, healthy, and all the macros I need.  Let’s me focus on things I find more important.  Like as if I’ve made the necessary changes and can move on.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that a few people in my social circle are going through what appears to be mid-life crises.  From my perspective (and lacking all the necessary context) it would appear that they just didn’t adapt to change over time, simply accepted that things were ok – up until the point they were not.  I mean, I get it.  Change is exhausting, and it never seems to end.  Figuring out what you can handle and what you can’t, that takes a lot of time.  But they do say that time waits for no person…

At a larger scale, I find it fascinating to see people’s resistance to change.  Like there are things that simply are not going to pass if we close our eyes enough.  Some quick thoughts.

  • Climate Change.  Ignore it if you want to, but it’s pretty damn clear that we have a problem.  Doing nothing is not an acceptable course of action.
  • Automation.  Who would say no to a machine that can work 10x as hard and never take a break?  Basic robots are here and going to stay.  We’re at the cusp of AI taking over more complicated analysis jobs.  Hell… day trading is almost entirely driven through algorithms.
  • GMOs.  We, as a planet, consume more than nature can provide on its own.  We hit the annual value last week.  GMOs provide higher yields, better nutrition, and require less chemicals.  This doesn’t negate the risk of single strains – see the Banana crisis for more.
  • Immigration.  This is a math exercise.  To keep an even amount of people in a country, you need to have just about 2.1 kids.  Right now, we’re about 1.7 in North America.  That gap has to be filled by immigration.  And that’s not even talking about the MASS of baby boomers who are retiring and turning into a net weight against social services (they pay into it less than they take out), meaning more people are needed to fill in the tax-paying ranks.
  • Vaccines.  Oy.  This isn’t hard.  There’s a reason people don’t have polio today.  Frankly, we’re a generation away from genetic modifications that can address birth defects.  The ethics of this… that’s a separate topic.

Each of these has an impact on people.  Some more than others.  Some appear simple, but are in reality quite complicated.  It’s natural for people to look for correlation in causation.  ex: Ms. McCarthy’s crusade against vaccines has led to more child deaths than should be reasonable.  We all but eliminated measles in North America up until a few years ago.

Adapting to change is hard.  If folks don’t understand their current value, it’s near sure they won’t understand their value after a change.  Natural reaction is to resist the change.  Ignoring that the change has these impacts makes for disenfranchised people, and can build a massive wave that seems to come from nowhere.  And when people are filled with this anger, they stop seeing clearly.  They stop wanting to talk about it, to perhaps tweak their ideas, to not see other people as enemies.  It’s a slippery slope.

And people who are in positions of power think they are in leadership positions.  They’ll stoke the emotional flames to stay in power or to try an attain more.  Why?  Because it’s the easiest thing to do.  And who doesn’t like easy?

There’s an old saying that goes:  If you meet an asshole during the day, you’re having a bad day.  If you meet nothing but assholes… you’re the asshole.

At the end of the day, we’re all in this together.  Change will never stop, no matter how much we wish it would.  And it’s certainly better to go through change with people than against them.  We’d all be better off trying to have some empathy for those undergoing change.  Can’t really succeed if we leave people behind.

Let’s Go Meta

I remember reading The Forever War a while back, and the main point I took from that story is a person’s ability to adapt to a changing society.  It’s a sci-fi story where a soldier is under the effects of time dilation (e.g. he gets 1 week, earth gets 10 years) and when he comes back for shore leave, he barely recognizes the place.

Today’s pace of societal change is just absurd.  Go ahead and watch the Hangover (2009).  There are bunch of jokes in that movie that simply could not make it to the screen today.  Actions from 20 years ago are brought up and judged against today’s standards.  Those are pure time capsules, and to try and shoehorn today’s values on that time piece makes no sense.  As I’m sure in 50 years that society will look back on what we do today and think Holy Shit.

But that’s not to say that people are not trying to catch the wave of change, trying to make a buck.  There’s a reason they call it a wave, because if you’re not at the crest, then you’re done.  And it’s damn hard to stay at the crest, especially when that crest changes every other week.  The shock-jock stuff from the Logans seemed a somewhat natural evolution from the Jackass culture.  But as time has moved forward, it’s become less and less accepted, regardless of how much energy they put into it.  They need to change.

Then there’s the people who fight tooth and nail against the wave.  There are a million reasons why.  We all have relatives who seem like they live 50 years in the past and have no inclination to move forward.  Some for interesting reasons, others simply due to exhaustion of seeing all the non-stop change.

I remember being a kid in school.  There was a bunch of stuff I liked that my parents just didn’t understand.  At least is was physical (POG?) and tangible.  And the rate of change was moderate enough since it typically cost money to participate in a trend.  Kids today?  Trends are set on a daily basis, and almost entirely free to participate.  There were no ice bucket challenges when I was a kid, it simply wasn’t possible to have something that viral exist.  If I was to look at the top 15 Twitch Streamers (subjective, fine) I only recognize 5 of them.  Dr Disrespect is one who technically should be in jail right now (at least, he would be if it was in Canada.)  And that 6 month old list is now out of date.

One of the old school memes (2012 is apparently old school) – Overly Attached Girlfriend (OAG) – recently announced that she’s leaving the scene.  Technically she hasn’t been active in 2 years, but wanted a farewell.  It’s a poignant video, primarily due to the openness of the mental health issues that being a content creator imposes.  99% of those issues are created due to the internet culture.  I can only imagine how that impacts others who feel obligated to create non-stop. They get so involved in the lifestyle that they have no backup plan – just stream/create until they can’t.

I’ve been blogging for over 15 years now.  In that time, I’ve found side projects that paid a decent amount of money, and there were points where I considered doing it full time.  The problem then (more-so now) was that full time was many more hours than I’d work in normally.  I made a choice then, as I do now, to only do what I want to do and do it within timeframes I’m comfortable with.  Giving me a million dollars and making me work 200 hours a week… I’m good, thanks.  As a teenager, I don’t think I would have had that same perspective.

What a long winded post to get the the point where I simply shake my head looking at how society self-reflects today.  Wild swings of popularity, and the anonymity of the masses.  There are no mirrors anymore, just cameras.  Exhausting.

 

Summatime!

Away for a while now, taking advantage of the cottage, the lake, and the beer.  I hope others are able to take time away from their number boxes too!

It was a needed break from work.  I’ve been running with a rather short fuse lately, and that’s not fun for anyone.  I had some stress when leaving a fairly large work package, but I ended up delegating it through 4 different teams.  When I came back, things were in a good place.  Oh, there’s always levels of the dumb, but it’s at acceptable levels.

What’s real nice about the cottage is that there’s no real technology.  I had my phone for news articles (avoiding social media) but the amazingly solid weather had me out of doors nearly all the time.  Didn’t answer any calls from work, just full decompress.

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Loon family & chick, with my youngest taking in the sights

I am quite fortunate to have both a cottage and one that’s about an hour’s drive from home.  The kids aren’t technology bound (‘cept perhaps a tad too much Netflix), and get to explore all parts of the outdoors.  Tangent time!

We had quite a few guests over the break, and a few of them are not the outdoors type.  It is really interesting to see how they (and their children) cope with the openness of the outdoors.  There are trees to climb, forts to build, rocks to throw, branches to burn, popsicles to eat, fish to catch, and importantly – bruises to acquire.  Compared to a more urban style, where you simply consume rather than create, it can give the appearance of boredom when in fact it’s a world of growth.  I’m quite glad that my kids get to experience both of those worlds, and have an appreciation for both.  I’m even more glad that other kids get to be exposed to it.

I will say that after 2 weeks of sun, boat & beer, playing hockey again the other night was a tad painful.  It is a worthwhile exchange, and shouldn’t take too long to get rid of the water weight.

Being away from tech for nearly a month means I have a bit of catch up to do.  A few bits on Steam to clear out.  Stranger Things 3 to get through.  Some books sitting needing some reading.  And some continued slowed breathing.

Stay zen folks.