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.

Age is a Number

My eldest and I are a few days apart in birthdays.  I’m hitting a “milestone” year and I have to keep answering the same questions about feeling old.  Until you become legally eligible for something, there really isn’t a difference between the day before and the day after.

I’m in good shape and in great health.  I have the money to do what I want, though not always the time.  I’ve got a loving family.  Tons of stuff to be thankful for.  As an individual, the number doesn’t define me.  And really, it’s a time where you should have both time, money, and the wisdom to know what to do with both (in particular if you still have your health).

Yet, events do.

When my kids started school, I felt old.  When I started hiring students that were blank slates to my field ’cause the tech simply didn’t exist for them, I felt old.  When I realized there were more funerals than weddings, I felt old.  Seeing the kids ride bikes, learn to read, develop their own streams of thoughts… hell just grow a few inches…I felt old.  In the clearest of sense, age is relative.

I can relate to being not so much a kid, but living those same experiences when I was younger.  I did a lot of things, not always with permission but certainly with some guidance.  You learn from falling down and getting back up (or knowing when to stay down).

I am not suffering from some sort of existential crisis.  A wave of that has certainly hit the social circle… and in the wide majority it is with people who are still with the folks they were with at the end of their teens, and whose kids are now in the more self-sufficient block.  All of a sudden, they have much more time on their hands and they start looking around and wondering where the time went, looking at their biological clock.  More like regret than bitterness, but all are willing to take major steps for change to ensure primarily their happiness, and by proxy, others around them.  It takes a lot of courage to make big changes, and not expect some outside force to make you suddenly happy.  Not everyone is willing to make that change.

(I’m not immune to this phase.  The wife and I went through a hell of a rough patch a few years ago, but we put in a lot of effort at improving communication and I believe we’re better now than at any point prior.  Honest conversations open a lot of doors.  And once open, those doors open an entirely different world view.)

So as I edge all the closer to this magic number, I don’t think the date matters as much as my current state.  I would not have been able to get here earlier, and would not want to have waited longer.  I am happy, I am loved (with love in return), and I am content.  More than anything when I do celebrate the birthday, it’s about being thankful for what I have and being able to share with those I care about.  The larger step is taking that mindset an applying it outside of this single date, and trying to live it every day.  I’m not all the way there, but I’m trying.

This post certainly has a more philosophic vibe to it.  Feels good to write it out.  Hope you all find what makes you happy, and the right people to share it with.

Spring Energy

Where GoT didn’t ever have a winter that came, here in igloo-ville, winter came early and left late.  Spring is a solid 2 weeks late, and there are areas that are still experiencing record-breaking floods.  I am extremely sensitive to the weather, and my energy levels pretty much plummeted for a near month.  That has a a trickle down effect on nearly every aspect of my life… and my usual coping mechanisms aren’t sufficient.  And the cycle continues…

This past weekend was supposed to have a 90% chance of rain the entire time.  Took a chance, went to the cottage, and it turns out it was a nice time pretty much the whole weekend.  Whole bunch of various projects are lined up, and it was good to just be outside in shorts, with a pint in hand.  Had some friends over, indulged a tad too much, and felt a form of alive on the last day.

Was a good kick in the shins.  Time to get back on track.

Dauntless

The game launched on consoles and the Epic store yesterday.  The typical launch day woes apply, where servers are taking a beating (and have been for a couple weeks now).  There’s an account linking guide, which will provide cross play for everyone regardless of platform.  (The social/gaming interconnections here are a real contrast to MHW.)

I still think Dauntless is worth a shot.  There’s no need to pay a cent, everything is pretty much there for players.  If you want cosmetics, then you can use a Hunt Pass (as with all other monthly “get points to unlock” systems).  The system is structured on completing 4 weekly tasks, and most of them can be completed in 15 hunts.

The last big patch did a lot of good things to the game.  It will take a lot of hunts to get to the end of the game (shrowd/reza), and a near surreal amount of grinding specific subsets.  I will say that the grind truly forces the mindset that you need to prepare for an enemy rather than just zerg through it.

If there was a downside, it would be the maps where you perform the hunts.  They are just large arenas, with minimal interactions.  More often than not, you spend 2 minutes running around trying to find the target.  Meh.

With an investment of $0, there’s a WHOLE pile of fun to be had.

Misc Gaming

I am seeing a lot of posts about WoW classic.  It will be a meta experience for me.  I am very curious to see who sticks around in that space past a month.  I clearly remember Vanilla, I wrote a fair chunk of guides on it too. (How is that even still up?!)  I know what the investment requirements are, and even more so what the returns are.  Happy for those who enjoy that niche – but we all need to admit that it’s a niche.

Diablo 3 started season 17.  Weird theme, where you actively want to avoid sets.  Ever since 2.0 launched the game has been about sets.  And season 16 was the RRoG season – an even LARGER focus on sets.  I usually get some class to 70 and paragon 100 every other season.  Think I’ll give this a shot.

Path of Exile has a new expansion in about 2 weeks.  Good.  The last season (Synthesis) wasn’t any fun.  Betrayal was ok, and I really enjoyed Delve.  PoE is really different than D3, since you never really hit max level.  Well, I guess you can, but it would take something close to 200 hours.

Also, Lego Star Wars (1-6) has aged well.  Kids are enjoying it, and I’m still getting a kick of collecting bits.  Guess we never really grow up.

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.