Building a New Routine

I’m used to working from home, at least in the concept of only me being at home.  The schedule works out, I’m on calls most of the day, and work gets done.  The office life is good too, as there’s a lot of social and serendipitous discussion.  I get a more horizontal view of everything that way, and the social links are great.  Each has an advantage.

Working from home with 2 kids and my wife is a different challenge.  If I was working “normal” hours, then it would be challenging but doable.  Now though, it’s 7 days a week of work.  It’s not balanced at all, and the kids need something to keep them from going crazy.  Wife too!

The 4 of us sat down on a Sunday and mapped out the weekday activities for the kids.  They are both in school, so they are used to 1hr blocks of activity.  They get math, language, art, science, social studies, and reading throughout the week.  There are free periods, lunch and breaks too.  So from 9am til about 3:30pm they are in school.  That works most of the time, but they still need some direction/help as well as the social aspects.  My wife works next to them, and she’s in a better situation to answer than I, but it’s still hard for her to get work done with interruptions.  Trying to sort that out.

Thankfully we had invested in learning material a ways back, and there are plenty of online tools we can use too.  They are both pretty good with computers, what with Google Classroom being used already.  I’m quite proud of them playing their part in this new normal.  We try to fit in some video chats with their friends/family every day so that they get some social bits still working.

Wife’s schedule is still being sorted out.  She’s a teacher, and personally calling each family to make sure they are OK and have what need to connect for learning tools.  At 15m per call…that takes days to get through.  After that, then it gets into building new plans for the classrooms.  There’s no real chance school comes back before the summer break… so as much prep work they can do now, the better off in the fall.  (Side note – hopefully this shakes up the teaching profession to the reality of 2020 kids.)

My routine is almost hermit like.  My first call only starts at 8:30, so I have time to take a coffee and catch up on the emails I’ve missed since the night before.  I’m on 6-10 calls a day, up til 4 or 5.  Then it’s catching up on the admin side of work, and emails / IM.  My last check in is around 10pm.  Then the groundhog day starts over.  I have a home gym, and can work out over lunch.  I make/help out with supper.  Then a few hours at night with the kids, before they head to bed.  I’m managing, but it’s not sustainable.

And on April 6th, I expect that in Canada most of my work is going to take the largest beating in history.  We’re already beating records left right and centre.  I’m betting on a 5000% increase on normal volume, since we were just short of 3500% on Monday.

Long story short, kids are doing better than expected, wife is adapting, and I’m surviving.  I have another 2 weeks of insane chaos to get through, and then things should “stabilize” in the sense of not having a new crisis develop.  Fingers crossed.

Stay sane folks!

Empathy for the Extraverts

Blogging moved down in priority these last few weeks.  I know it’s a good outlet, so I am getting back into that habit now.

Start with some interesting stats.  I work in an essential field, and it provides national services, which enable critical functions.  One of those functions’ peak consumption went from a value of 150,000 to 1.7m on Monday.  The expectation is that on April 6, that number will triple.  I’ve gone through crisis management in the past, the longest period was 6 months of pretty much 24/7 workload.  This is different – the impacts of not delivering are personal and in nearly all facets, of higher criticality.  tldr: appreciate the people that let you keep some sense of normal.  Garbage pickup, cellular networks, internet, health care, grocery clerks, and more.

Introvert Heaven

I’m a natural introvert, and I’ve learned how to manage that aspect in order to be social.  Quarantine is an introvert’s heaven, pretty much what they dream of.  You can work from home and provide a lot of value, manage your schedule, stay away from people, self-resource.  All great stuff.  Many introverts can fill in the social needs through calls/text/chat/video.  Not to say this isn’t a hard situation, but introverts certainly are best tooled to manage this.

Extrovert Troubles

In the general sense, extroverts need to be around other people.  They often struggle with working from home, so that isolation is really hitting them hard. Really hard.  Some of my friends are showing signs of depression now, and we’re barely 2 weeks into this mess.  There’s a loss of self-worth when the social aspect goes away.  Combined with the added stress of the world right now (health & finance)… it is really bad.

We’re taking all these large steps so that people do more than simply survive this period.

Simple Steps

In short, introverts need to teach extroverts some coping mechanisms.   There are dozens of things that we do that extroverts need to start doing.  Not all of it, but with enough options they’re bound to find something that works for them.  Maybe they pick up art, learn a new instrument or language.  Maybe they start writing.  Maybe they get board games going over video chat.  They need to find meaning and purpose in their days.

Introverts also need to come out of their shells and reach out.  Every day.  Make a point of having contact with other people (at least voice) multiple times a day.  Set up regular events with friends and family to have joint chats.  Let the other person talk as much as they need to.  Figure out if there’s a local / neighborhood “caremongering” group you can help with.  Even the tiniest of stones causes ripples felt miles away.

The Long Haul

Aside from the US president (which you know, wow), the world has accepted that we’re in this for a while.  A solid 6 weeks of lockdown, if things work out.  Aside from going to work, most people have never done something for 6 weeks straight.  This is the new normal.

To end, here’s a link to the John Hopkins Medical University’s COVD-19 global tracker.  One of the best sources of analytics possible.

It’s Only Crazy If You Let It

These past few weeks have been a rollercoaster of activities.  Hockey was full steam, across two teams.  More family activities now that Spring is here.  And work.  It’s end of our fiscal, a new financial model is being deployed, new authorities being granted – mostly a lot of paperwork and meetings.

But this health stuff.  Jeebers.  A lot of people at work were not paying attention, and this seems to have caught more than a few unawares.  The job I have supports key pieces that let a ton of people work remotely.  Snowdays, strikes, things of that nature usually push us to capacity.  But they are generally pretty rare, and localized.

Right now in Canada, we have an entire province on lockdown, and quite a few big cities.  So nearbouts 90% of my userbase, and pretty much my entire team.  Where we’d see spikes to say 30,000 – now we’re looking more like 300,000.  Fine enough.  Most of the pieces were built to work on agnostic networks (anywhere, anyplace, anytime).  Some require bums-in-seats to work, which is going to cause a lot of headaches.  Some support emergency health services… so that’s clearly top of pile.

Managing the regular workload + end of year workload + COVID19 prep work is bonkers.  Individual people are generally pretty good about it, but people, people suck.  One bad grape can ruin an entire bunch with stupid conspiracy theories, or irrational behaviors.

I have my own opinions about it, but the gist is that the people in charge of this here globe of ours are not dumb.  WHO is made of some of the brightest minds on the planet.  Governments are consulting like crazy, and not making decisions lightly.  (They may be lead by morons, but that’s over a beer or two.)  Everyone is acutely aware of the impacts of shutting down trade for a month.  Impacts that will be felt for 10+ years.  Making those calls is not easy, and it’s not simple.

For the next few weeks I’ll continue to work from home, same with the team.  Kids will be around for an extra break (some homeschooling will be needed).  And with every group activity cancelled and gathering spot closed, it’s going to be a lot of “back to basics” around the house.  Entirely manageable, and I’m quite looking forward to spending more time with the family.

Stay healthy.

Growing Up is Cathartic

While this applies in general, I’ll be using MHW to explain this point.

Screw Deviljho.  That giant enraged pickle was the bane of my existence when I stopped playing base MHW.  He takes up a massive amount of screen real estate, loves to get in close, moves like the wind, and goes super mode when he has something in his mouth.  Sure, I killed him a few times but I really needed a better setup, and decorations where a very long farm.

I’ve got the start of my end game builds going now in Iceborne.  My elemental Charge Blade build (4 piece Namielle) is just ridiculous damage, and my Light Bowgun (Rajang Sticky) can keep almost any monster stunned for most of the battle.  Battles are generally under 10 minutes now.  Figure it’s about time to clear out the ol’ quest log from the base game and collect the last bits I didn’t have.

That means hunting a pile of tempered monsters (rare, random, and hard hitting), as well as some interesting duos (Teostra & Lunastra).  Bring it on.

You know what happens when you put a tempered High Rank monster next to a Master Rank geared player?  The player doesn’t get touched, and the battle lasts about 3 minutes.  Doesn’t matter which monster.  Even that damn pickle.

Is it fun though?  Oh yeah.  It’s not so much in the sense of revenge, but in seeing how MUCH this difference really means.  The increased offense/defense has a major impact, I get that.  But the number of decorations and build variety are oh so pleasant.  I no longer feel like I’m playing a slower cousin’s version of a real build.  And there’s still plenty of optimizations I can take.

Real World Analogy

I was having a chat recently about mindsets, and how my wife and I have friends that are still in that teenager mindset.  Where the boring aspects of life don’t phase them, since they are often not considered.  I don’t mean this in the narcissistic way, where they know they exist but choose to ignore them.  More in the “life will figure it out” way.

I have some fond memories of those days – like the bank account being empty a few days after pay day and some solid partying.  I have depressing memories of realizing the burden of responsibility my 20s brought upon – like heating and a mortgage.  The sheer amount of effort required to build a foundation so that I could manage that and STILL have a good amount of fun.  I can do the things I did as a teen today.  It may seem there’s the same lack of worry, but it just means I’ve become so much better at finding the right balance to fit that stuff in.

The world has changed a lot since I was a teen, and so have I.  It’s not like there’s a time capsule I can enter and use my knowledge of today on the kid I was then.  Hell, most of it wouldn’t really apply.  But growing up, finding the a similar amount of joy as I had as a teen and still finding the balance in the “adult stuff” is friggin’ euphoric.  I am thankful to be in this position at my age.  I’m content.  Hope you are too.

Building Compete

My personal mindset is one of compete.  It often manifests itself in sport, or perhaps that’s the most obvious outlet.  It does however permeate my personal drive in my day to day life.  It’s not about lack of contentment, it’s about trying to continually get better.  I think I’m a decent cook/baker, and there are a few recipes that are locked down, but I generally continue to tweak every thing I make to see if I can make it better.  Same with work.  Everytime someone says no, I see it as an opportunity.  I’ve made a career out of it frankly… and about 20 years faster than most.  I know what I can accomplish and really dislike not meeting that level of effort.

The largest challenge I have had with this is projecting this mindset onto other people.  It was a real hurdle in my 20s, and as I’ve grown (let’s say matured), it’s been easier to just let people be themselves.  Rather I just lead by example, and people are typically motivated enough by that alone.  Certainly is the case in my men’s hockey.

Kids

With my own kids, this is a really tough skill set to teach.  Even leading by example is hard, because they don’t quite grasp what success/failure means in most activities.  Guitar is a good example.  I’m quite bad at it, but the kids think I’m solid.  Plus, there’s the superhero complex kids have with their parents, where we are infallible.  They will be teens or low 20s before they can look back and understand what it actually took to get through these years.

One thing I’m really not good at (but again, my kids think I’m good at) is visual arts.  I’m more in the architecture space, rather than the painterly one.  Before the spring hits, I’ll be investing in some art supplies, Bob Ross videos, and some happy mistakes.

Coaching

I’ve coached boys competitive in the past. There are dips in compete, but generally they get the concept of compete.  They know that they can’t win if they don’t have the puck, and will have a very high drive to get it back once they lose it.

For the past two years, I’ve been coaching girls house.  House is the where players learn the sport and play for fun.  And girls (at this age at least) are certainly as good as boys, there’s just a WHOLE lot less of them in the sport.  Like 10:1 ratio in my area.  That leaves two challenges here.

  1. Instill a sense of compete in the house girls, where only a fraction have it innately
  2. Get more girls in the sport

And 1 cannot come at the expense of 2, so it’s not like I can push the girls extra hard… they need to have fun and spread the sport around by word of mouth.  If it was boys comp… well that’s pretty easy, there’s a lineup of other boys wanting that spot.

I don’t have an answer to this yet.  The other coaches are in a similar spot, and they have many years of experience between them.  As frustrating as it is to watch someone underachieve continually, it’s infinitely more rewarding to see them meet that potential and make the link of effort –> reward.  Sometimes that clicks for a long time, sometimes it’s an etch-a-sketch and they’ve forgotten about it by the next game.

I think I’ve got some reading to do.

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.