Complexity and Fear

I am not a rocket scientist, or a brain surgeon.  I work in systems architecture, which is  fancy way of saying that I work in puzzles without pictures, and pieces of different sizes.  My job entails taking an idea, breaking it down into smaller chunks, finding or making things to accommodate those chunks, then bringing it all together.  I make things that are hard from the inside, look easy from the outside.

People, in general, are irrational.  They make knee jerk decisions, and the majority of the time it is based on fear.  Fear is a good emotion, it’s what’s kept us from being eaten by spiders and snakes and alligators.  But we don’t (generally speaking) have that problem anymore.  What we have now are taxes, people who are different than us, massively complex bureaucracies, and dozens of new inventions that connect us to each other without us understanding how.

It is a rather simple matter to explain to someone why a snake would bite you.  It’s also acting in fear and self-defense.  Trying to explain to someone where taxes go and what they do… that’s a challenge.  I had a gentleman ask me why his phone automatically recognized a caller that wasn’t in his contact list.  I had to explain to him that he had shared his LinkedIn and Facebook account, the other had done the same, and the system just linked them.  He immediately went back and set it all to private, then started diving into other applications he had used.  I’ve talked to my wife numerous times about online presence and the mindset of her students that simply cannot disconnect.  Without her experiencing that firsthand, and the insomnia and externalized self-worth that accompanies it, there’s no real empathy.

I read a lot of news, from various sources.  There are some articles that are good, most however are quite poor.  To reduce an argument to a single line, or a single idea… that’s unfair.  Even in this connected age, there is not enough material to fill in 24 hours of fear-mongering news.  Most of it has to be made up, spun up, and screamed about.  Apparently everyone is out to kill me, everyone who doesn’t agree with me should be locked in jail, I should be immune to all arguments, and I should never change my mind.

I do get the flipside.  Issues are complicated.  Like a giant house of cards, you can’t just take one piece on it’s own and remove it.  It’s being supported by, and supporting other pieces.  Ignorance is bliss and people don’t ever want to have a hand in the game.  That’s the worst part about fear.  The thing is, without that knowledge, it’s a slow death.  Everyone has a hand in the game, whether they realize it or not.  By sticking your head in the sand and pretending nothing is going on… there’s only one part of your body left to take advantage of.

I want my kids to grow up understanding that fear is a good thing, it’s a daily challenge. By facing that fear, by diving into it and understanding why it exists, we can make greater changes.  It will be hard going.  There will be failures.  Other people will try to pull them down.  But it won’t matter.  They will ask questions.  They will have sympathy to the plight of others.  They will have empathy to better understand why people act the way they do.  And they will grow smarter and stronger for it.

For that to happen, I have to be better.  We have to be better.

 

 

 

Cold Season

I have a head cold.  It’s one of those annoying ones where my nose runs like a tap and I’m feeling like I’ve had 2 hours of sleep, but it’s not enough to keep me in bed.  I’d prefer the flu, where you sleep it off and 24 hours later you’re back at it.  This feels like it’s going to stick around a while… I guess I need some more gin.

Fitness

I picked up the 45lbs weight plates the other day.  I will say that those two plates are more intimidating than an assortment of smaller ones to make up the same weight.  There’s something comical about a string of plates, compared to the solemness of just massive honkers of steel.  I remember thinking on the first set “am I really doing this?”, which got better later on.

As I mentioned to Isey, playing hockey and working out is not going to plan.  I am not a stay at home player, and I like to rush and move.  After having lifted nearly 3 tons of weight, the body needs some rest and hockey is not that.  I personally like progress and I’m at the point where I can no longer make progress in one without sacrificing in the other.  I need to make some choices.  I have about 3 more months of hockey mind you, so perhaps I can just delay for a bit.

I’ve also gone back to counting calories again.  Not for the minute aspect but for the trends and meal planning.  It also provides some evidence for the way the scale works and the way the training plays out.  I’ve tried a few apps for this but right now, MyFitnessPal taking the prize.  The app is straightforward and links to other things.  All good stuff.

All that to say that I should be hitting my fitness goals by the May timeframe.  Just in time for summer cottage/beer season.

Games

Simply put, I seem to be burned out on games in general right now.  I lack the free time to do much on the organized front, and I’ve played all the single player games I want to right now.  The emulator is fun.  Spending some time flirting with a few games here and there.  StarTropics is done, but Kirby is up.  Illusion of Gaia as well.  I’d play the FF series but I’ve gone through them all numerous times.

Let’s go over the big names this past year.

  • Overwatch – Not a PvP fan.
  • XCOM2 – waiting for the LongMod, otherwise superb game
  • Dark Soul 3 – played a few hours, ehh
  • Doom – heard great things.  Waiting for a sale
  • Civ 6 – still trying to wrap my head around it.  Load times and short play sessions don’t help
  • The Witness – played, stomped my brain, loved it
  • Dishonored 2 – still full of PC bugs, waiting on this one…
  • Firewatch – on my wish list
  • Stardew Valley – not a fan of simulators…maybe later
  • Deus Ex 2 – Better than the first one.  The missions are way better than the hubs.
  • Witcher 3 – A great game hobbled by the worst combat controls I’ve played in a long time.
  • The Division – I should go back now that the big patch is in…but end game is nearly all PvP.
  • Grim Dawn – super ARPG, put in a lot of hours here.
  • WoW Legion – I don’t have time to raid and my time expired with 4 max characters.  LFG not including all dungeons still ticks me off.  Never saw an artifact.
  • Tyranny – played it, cleared it, may go back later.

Not much that I haven’t had a hand in, that I at least have an interest in. I’ll be honest, I’m not missing it terribly.

 

Irony Had a Baby

Ok, less gaming related today.

Two interesting stories to mention.  First, that Republicans are feeling targeted on college campuses (NYTimes) and second, that the CIA is complaining that a foreign government had a direct hand in a democratic election (all over but this one from WSJ).

Reading both, it feels like the Onion no longer has any relevant material to write about and that I need to pay double attention to see if an article is real or a joke.

 

My friends and family can certainly attest that I am far from a bleeding heart when it comes to society.  I am a firm believer that people have way more control over their lives than they think they do, and that the wide majority of actions and reactions are based on their direct input.  I would say that I swing left as compared to my elder generation, center when it comes to mine, and right when it comes to the younger one.

That’s not to say that the system isn’t rigged against them.  You need the chips to play poker, and the collateral to call a bluff.  Very few people on this planet have that.  I am more than aware that I live in the upper echelons of my country and as compared to the world wealth, I’m in the 0.10%.  Minimum wage in Canada would put that person at 3% globally, which is just about our country’s poverty line.

Money is not a cycle, it doesn’t trickle down.  Its distribution curve goes only one way.  It’s entirely reasonable that someone who tries hard, puts in the hours and effort and loses their job because of factors outside their control would be resentful when they lose their job and their boss gets a raise.  (Reminds me a bit of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, where all middle managers are sent away on a space ship to colonize Earth).

I get that when someone gets a bum deal, they start thinking about Maslow’s pyramid.  If you have no personal safety, or for those you care for, then it is not possible to be empathetic to others.  People feel isolated and alone.  They make rash decisions that are shortsighted and emotional.  I can assure you that I’ve been in that boat, longer than I care to admit.  Managing change takes energy, and energy is scarce when you’re just scraping by.

Society then breaks into smaller groups, where sameness is key and threats are diminished.  Individuality is washed away, replaced with group-think.  Uniqueness, the underlying quality of each of us, is squashed. 2 people become 3, become 5, become 100.  Mob mentality, where a sense of accountability is lost, but belonging is strengthened.  You end up with Occupy Wall Street, just a rash cry for attention without any goals.

People are not rational by default.  We are emotional creatures that need stability, caring and purpose.  It is remarkable how easy it is to lose all 3, for the fall is quick  is from up high, and we forget the people that surround us when it happens.

 

It’s just unfortunate that empathy is so difficult to achieve unless someone experiences the same events as another.  Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes has never been more apt.

Fun Times Ahead

I guess I got a BINGO on the previous post, smack through the middle.

Blizzcon Bingo Win.png

I think that was the easiest of the bunch to score upon.  There was certainly a lot of opportunity for surprises… which didn’t really show up.  To me, the high points are:

  • Diablo 3 is getting DLC (necromancer and D1 retro)
  • After 7.2 we go to outer space again in WoW (not sure how an entire planet becomes a patch and not an expansion…)
  • That WoW actually has something planned past the next patch!
  • Varian and Ragnaros in HotS.  Especially the latter who can transform into a raid boss.
  • Blizzard’s own esports league. Why?  Starcraft 2 can’t be there.  There’s no real esport in HS.  WoW hasn’t had any since arenas were a thing.  HotS doesn’t work at that level.  Overwatch seems the only candidate…maybe something else is in the pipes.

Overall, not disappointed with Blizzcon but not impressed either.  Wasn’t really expecting much either, given that WoW and Overwatch launched to acclaim this year.  Guess it means next year…

Mobile Stuff

I like idle games.  They scratch the RPG itch of growth, the rogue-like of restarting, and don’t require full attention.  I have played a metric ton of them as well.  Soda Dungeon is right at the top for set-it-and-forget-it gameplay. There are countless others in that stream and most people have to try a couple out to get a feel for it.

The one currently hitting the right notes in Endless Frontier.  It has the same level progression as others, plenty of characters, guild wars, PvP battles, dungeons, and pets.  It’s a rather complicated system to grasp at first but it is quite generous with mistakes.  The best part is the dev’s approach to in-app-purchases.  Gems are used for nearly everything, but you get an ample daily credit, and more during special events.  In a good week, you could get 20k or more.  So while you certainly can use the IAP to progress, it isn’t mandatory at all.  It is exceedingly rare for a game to find the right balance on this front, and eventually they all tend to tip towards dumbness (hello Non-Stop Knight!)  Might as well take a look at it today if you can.

US Elections

Up here in igloo-town (Canada, eh?!), our media cycles are captivated by the US election.  I am also quite curious to see what goes down.  Regardless of what happens, I think the end result is that everyone will have a poorer opinion of the US overall.  For a country that prides itself on the “best of the best”, the options that are on the table are so dramatically polarizing, it boggles the mind.

And that’s on top of a congressional approval rating (11%) that is lower than most warlords in other countries.

It’s just a sad state of affairs, and one I hope that they can get out of without dragging the rest of the world through the wake.  That said, I think we’re all going to wake up to a different world-view tomorrow.

 

Shutting Down the Cottage

This wet weekend was spent shutting down the cottage for the winter.  I had helped with doing that exact work at other cottages in the past, and we did open it this year, but it was the first time where the wife and I were left to our own devices.

Saturday we had the final fire in the pit and got to watch the hunter’s moon (a giant blood moon) come over the rise.  That was seriously impressive.  Plus, the cottage is in the laurentian hills, which means hills everywhere with changing colors… I should get some pictures up about that view.  Combined with the rain clouds, it’s a bit like watching a movie.  Very serene.

A few lessons learned

  • Get the work done outside before it start raining.  Especially if it’s a downpour.
  • Containers that stack together empty and pile on when full are a solid investment
  • Hot water tanks hold an incredible amount of water
  • Don’t bleed the hot water lines until the pressure is off the tank.
  • There is a surprising amount of bedding to store in a cottage with 5 beds
  • The water is ice cold in October.  Bone chilling cold.
  • There’s a certain amount of sorrow when locking the door for the last weekend

So the first year is done.  Nothing but positive things to say about that.  Great memories, lessons that we all learned from, and very much looking forward to the spring.

Fall Habits

With that official closure, it means getting into the fall and winter habits.  I had a few too many beer over the summer and I need to work that off.  But the food in the fall is the best food of all.  Soups and stews and muffins…oh my.

Some people may have this too, but the lack of sunlight has a rather dramatic impact on my energy levels.  Waking up and heading to work in the dark, and coming home in the dark, that’s the worst part of this time of year.  Last year was a good year, and I hope that this one follows suit.  So far, the best remedy is exercise.  A rather tough gambit this month as it seems every night is booked with something.  Heck, I have hockey 4 times this week alone.

Yet it’s manageable and I’m having fun.  And at the end of the day, that’s really what matters.  Now for a cup of hot chocolate…

Self-Motivation

Duke of O has an interesting comment that bears some expansion.  How to get self-motivated.

I think it’s fair to say that I’m an outlier when it comes to motivation.  My wife thinks it’s borderline OCD, though in fairness it has more to do with anxiety & stress management.  At work, I take spontaneous decisions multiple times per day.  Each one is based on the available facts, my memory, expert advice, and finally the analysis of the long-view.  Most people can understand everything but the long-view.

Sure, a decision today has an immediate impact, but what about a few weeks from now, or a few years?  How does it impact me, the people close to me, and the people outside my circle?  How does it impact other decisions?  These are all items that go through my head and are incredibly hard to shake.  I’ll give an example, home renos.

For a long while we wanted to knock down a wall and open up the kitchen.  Sounds simple enough.  After I looked at all the details it actually turned into a whole floor reno.  I needed to re-arrange the kitchen cabinets, get a new counter, open up another wall to run pipes & electricity, move some switches, re-enforce an adjoining wall, change the flooring in the kitchen and remainder of the floor to match, which also joined into a bathroom…it was never ending.  What seemed like a simple job turned into a 6 week reno.  None of it was surprising, as I had thought it all out, but it took time.

How does this link to self-motivation?  I think long term and I think in terms of return on investment.  I worked for about 4 months on a particular work project from my basement. I spent a few weeks at the cottage too, working at odd hours to get it done.  I knew that if I crammed as much work as possible into the right time space, I could get double that in free time later in the day.  I made sure that the environment was conducive to that as well, so I eliminated any distractions.  I basically set up the perfect environment for me to succeed, removing any excuses.

Same goes for exercise.  I just don’t have time to physically travel to and from the gym.  The closest one is about 5 minutes away.  Including the driving, changing, and shower, I lose at least 30 minutes of my day.  And that’s not counting the waiting for a machine/weight to free up.  What would take me 60-90 minutes in a gym, I can get done in 45 at home.  That’s massively motivating.  The equipment I have, and the setup I have, make it extremely easy to get going, listen to music or a movie, and get the workout done.   I’ve removed all excuses from the equation, with the exception of “I’m too tired”.

And that’s the hardest one because it’s often true.  So I use various applications to keep me honest.  My wife uses social groups.  Getting a notification on the phone/tablet that it’s time to workout is motivating.  Seeing the progress between workouts is even more motivating.

Self-motivation is like a chemical reaction.  You need the right conditions and the right ingredients to get it going.  And once it starts, it’s usually quite hard to stop.

Geek Market Family Outing

Last post I mentioned that I had brought the family to a geek market.  This Geek Market.

I did a bit of pre-sale for the event, and both the little ones were all smiles about heading there.  My other half wasn’t so sure.  I knew that spending 4 hours wasn’t going to be an option, but a solid 2 would do.  We headed over, paid the entry and then started walking around the kiosks.

I’ve been to my fair share of these types of events, where people are selling stuff.  I have a great dislike of pressure sales, and the high level of energy required when you’re just browsing.  Geeks are introverts, by and large, so that was certainly the biggest shock (or lack thereof) while browsing.  People just smile and let you look around.  Those that built their own crafts are quite proud just to be sitting there, and are more than willing to share their stories if asked.  But there’s no pushing.  That’s one of the best parts.

Anyhoot, the first spot was a couple guys selling dice sets.  They also had a random dice bin, which my eldest treated like diamonds.  Every 30 seconds, “when can we get some dice”.  Jeebers.  It was the last thing we did before leaving and she was super happy with her choices.  She also managed to find a dice with two 5s and a 7.  Now that’s something!

There was a neat Lego setup, with a perpetual marble machine as the centerpiece.  Again, my eldest just stopped moving and stared for a few minutes.  I think we all did.  Off to the side were 2 millennium falcons, one of which was custom built.  It was like Christmas.  The gent had spent 3 months building it and was practically glowing with pride.  All the rest of Lego was custom sets too, and I could see the wheels turning in my kid’s head for future projects.

My littlest one really liked the toys, all of them.  She ended up with some miniature winnie the pooh figures, similar to one we found in one of our old boxes at home.  She was super pumped.

There were a bunch of other neat kiosks around.  Jewelry, clothes, toys, mugs, boardgames… even a bunch of furries and stormtroopers.  Another section of the floor plan was set up for tabletops and some cosplay.  We didn’t have a chance to explore that side with the time we had.

It was interesting to see my wife’s reaction in all of this.  My guess is that she was expected a set of boardgames and underground culture, when it reality it was just a bunch of people with similar interests, sharing them.  Ninja Turtles, GI Joe, Harry Potter (wands and all) all seemed to resonate with her, though not as a geek mentality.  She did mention that she appreciated the more calm atmosphere, compared to some other trade shows.

Long story short, brought my 2 kids and wife to a geek market.  Confirmed I have raised the 2 kids well, and wife is a slow convert.