Learning Through Plateaus

Starts and stops along the way.

I’m a firm believer in the learn/apply/learn model.  You find this model primarily in sports, where there are study sessions, followed by practice, then by games, then repeat.  You rarely find this model in actual schools, which is somewhat ironic.  Schools instead focus on the learn/learn/learn model, with very few instances of practical application, except for one large one at the end of the term.  That final exam rarely has anything to do with much more than ensuring you memorized a textbook.

The flipside is the apply/apply/apply model, where you just brute force your way through a problem.  Sure, this can work if your problem is large hamburger, but there has got to be a cleaner way to finish a plate!  Not to mention the inherent danger of trying something without any concept as to how it works.  How many folks do you know that have electrocuted themselves trying to do some “small repair”?

Outside of fringe cases, you need time to learn, and time to put that study into practice, then learn from that practice.  Without taking the time for that last step is where people hit plateaus.  A plateau in the sense of lack of further progress, where you simply stall moving forward.  In nearly all cases it’s a lack of study of the problem and solutions that holds a person back.

When I initially picked up the guitar, my hands were simply incapable of forming an F bar.  I was twisting my wrist and stretching my fingers, and generally swearing to some old god that I could make this work.  It was a week plus trying to get that thing to work.  I did some reading/watching and found a similar cord that didn’t require a bar, and bob’s your uncle, it works.  It’s not to say that I stopped practicing a bar chord, just that I moved on from that particular plateau onto the next.  A bar B is next.


Of course a game!

The first time I met this guy on PS4, I spent the better part of a week taking him down solo.  I knew his patterns, but there was a particular set of moves that I simply could not avoid – the dive bomb, and front smash/throw (after being hit).  Near constant instant-KO.  With time, I figured out the i-frame dive, which makes you invulnerable to damage.  The catch here, is that you need to have your weapons sheathed.  With Dual Blades, this is a quick animation.

This is not a quick animation with the Charge Blade.  I’m sure I saw grass grow the number of times I tried this.  I failed this quest a half dozen times trying to make the old process work again here.  I tried tweaking my positioning, reading the shade of black on the spikes to predict it… it just wasn’t coming together.  Then I decided to take a small breather than think a bit more.  Brain fart enough, the Charge Blade comes with a shield.

Sure enough, blocking the damage for all his attacks deals minimal damage, and provided a single opening for a SAED.  So for the first 80% of the fight, it was more or less attacking until I was SAED-ready, then waiting to block an attack, then countering with a massive strike.  First attempt failed at the 90% mark, the dive bomb still one shot me and I guess it’s related to the angle of attack.  Second attempt I didn’t faint once.

The old set of tricks were not going to work here, no matter how hard-headed I was to make them fit.  I thought I knew enough, but was clearly proven wrong.  It’s interesting to look back on my mental process for this plateau.  Certainly could have saved some headaches by taking more time to think, than do.  At least I didn’t blow a week like last time, so some bit of progress.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Or non-linear growth.

I’d say schools are the best and worst examples of this.  The basic concept of moving up a grade is linear, and you’ll find enough teachers unwilling to stray from the A–>B–>C learning concepts.  But you will always find at least one in your life (hopefully more) that goes so far outside of bounds that you come out of that class with a deeper appreciation of everything.  (My personal feelings about teachers could fill a novel.)  Your abilities in one area are rarely held back by those in another.  They may have dependencies, or benefits mind you.

I’m a decent hockey player, it’s the sport I spent the most time playing.  But I also played nearly every other sport possible, and I’m above average in most.  I don’t really get by on the physical side, but on the mental one.  You would be surprised to learn how most sports operate on the same concepts – in particular group play.  Seeing the play happen before it does, and then anticipating the next step.  That mental cross link is the key.

We see it in nearly all games.  If you’ve played one tab-target MMO, you likely have all the basic skills required for another.  Sure, you’ll eventually learn the specifics of that other game, the nuances that make it, well, it.  Even some more basic elements, like not standing in fire, that translates to nearly every other game as well.  Now the mechanics of how that fire is created, spread, and your movement abilities are game specific, but the concept of GTFO is the same.

Then you have skills that have very little overlap.  I play a bit of guitar, and it has very little in common with other skills.  Physically, I need to contort my wrist/hands into odd positions.  Mentally I need to recall sets of notes, large structures, timing, and then the actual song.  It’s a performance skill, meaning 99% practice, 1% actual presentation.  And that 1% requires a level of confidence that can be hard to find.  But when you try a bit, and you fail, and you succeed, you start to see how it fits into other abilities.  Many songs are built on the same set of cords or transitions, so it’s less about memorizing the notes but the overall pattern.  The rhythm in music is fundamentally based on heart beats, which many athletes are conscious about while active.  The fine motor movement on the strings is similar to typing, or a heavy APM game like SC2.  Even the wrist movements are quite similar to just good knife technique in the kitchen.

MH:W is making me think of all this due to the 14 weapon types.  Conceptually they fit one of 3 molds – attack, defense, range.  Mechanically, they are all quite different.  If you use a long sword like you use dual blades, you’re gonna have a bad time, mmkay.  But they do share something in common, they are all rhythm based.  A charge blade is more akin to a waltz, where large sweeping and deliberate movements are key.  Sword and shield feels like you are waiting for the bass to drop (defend), then go all out.  The glaive is more like prancing in an instrumental ballet.  Each weapon has a best suited monster to fight, where their own rhythm impacts its pairing.  Rather than thinking the entire game needs to be learned from scratch, you can take previous experience in many fields and apply it here with great effect.

I am continually fascinated at how all my learning can be applied to other fields, and that there’s never really a feeling of time lost.  Something as simple as making a puzzle forces you to look at the big picture before making sense of the details.  Breadth of experience and understanding how to tap into that skill set… that’s the key to versatility and adaptability.  Depth of experience certainly has it’s uses (e.g. get a certified electrician) but in the wide majority of cases it’s better to expand one’s knowledge rather than perfect it.



Canadian Thanksgiving

I think the timing is more related to the 1 holiday per month theme in Canada.  Which is nice.

Thanksgiving, where we celebrate murdering an indigenous people and taking their land, by thanking our forefathers.  In reality, that holiday has instead morphed into a more general feeling of thanks for the people and life that we do have.  It’s reflective without the somberness of Nov 11th.

We’re heading out of town for some time away from the ever-too-busy city life.  I mentioned in a previous post that life recently have been quite effective at chipping away my energy.  A 6 week crisis at work, a death in the close family, the return to school, kids starting new activities, wife back to work… September is just general 1st world chaos.  I make no allusions that the (majority of) chaos is both a) self-inflicted and b) one of privilege.

Still, it’s a time where the weather permits long days outside.  A good coffee with a sweater in the morning, or a campfire at night.  It’s a bit like the bottom of the roller coaster drop, where you can catch your breath, look around, and see the next hill coming fore.  You appreciate what you just went through, generally with a smile.

I’m personally more than thankful for the life I have.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to be an astronaut, but this is a close 2nd.  Great wife, great kids, super job.  Finances are never a concern.  Solid set of friends.  In good general health.  A healthy set of hobbies.  I recognize that a lot of people don’t have all of that… some have none of it.

So corny post and all, I needed to get this down on virtual ink.  I have a good life. Hope you do too.


Comfy Questions

While I’m sure I’ve done this a few times over the years, here’s another pass on oversharing.


  • How do I drink my tea?

I am not a mixer.  I drink my tea black.

  • Favorite dessert?

Lemon meringue pie.  It’s such a pain to make that it’s all that more enjoyable.

  • Favorite season?

Summer.  I love to fish, and I can still play some hockey.  Plus the wife and kids are off during the summer, so I get to see more of them.

  • What cheers me up?

Laughing and seeing someone succeed at a difficult task.

  • Dogs or cats?

I’ve had both, and neither.  They are not made for urban living, being locked in a house for 8-10 hours a day.

  • Dream Holiday?

Perhaps this is a European term, since holidays in NA are already set in the calendar (e.g. new year’s).  I’ll assume this is vacation.  There’s a long list of trips I’d like to take, though the Louvre, and the highlands in Scotland are at the top.  Visiting the rockies, and maritimes in Canada is also on the list.  Most of the time though, just a trip to the cottage for a week… that is extremely pleasant.

  • How many kids do I want?

I have 2.  Having more is a logistical challenge.  Maybe adoption later on, or providing foster care.

  • Favorite weather?

Don’t really have any.  I like snow for outdoor hockey, rain for peaceful time, sun for fishing/swiming, and clear skies for a starlit campfire.  I dislike extremes but I enjoy all types of weather.

  • Last meal?

I like all types of food… this is like asking to pick your favorite child.  No idea.

  • Where would ideal 24 hours be spent?

At the cottage, with friends and family.  I’ve done it numerous times over the past few years.  Worth it every time.

  • Where would I haunt as a ghost?


  • What is my family ancestry?

I have a phone book’s worth of family history from my father’s side at home – mostly from France.  Mother’s side is Irish and German.  I can trace back my family’s landing to the 1600s in Canada.

  • What scares you?

People’s capacity for willful ignorance.

  • Most grateful for?

Most everything I have. I come from a somewhat poor upbringing with social assistance.  I’ve had to work extremely hard for what I have, and realize I wouldn’t have been able to get any of it without that original assistance.

  • Dream job?

Pastry chef, specifically pies.  2nd best, is the job I have currently.

  • Believe in aliens?

Anyone who thinks that humanity is the only life in the universe is delusional.  There are 10x more stars in our universe than all the grains of sand on Earth.  Do I believe that little green men abduct people?  No.  If someone could travel space/time, you really think that they’d be caught on a camera?

  • Favorite sport?

Hockey. I’ve played pretty much all sports in the america’s at some point.

  • How do you relax?

Games, reading, fishing.  Time alone is also quite useful.

  • Which historical person who you like to meet?

Isaac Newton and Alexander the Great share that top spot.

  • What would you teach?

I would not be a teacher in a school in Canada, and less so in the US.  Teachers are the most important asset a country has to build their future.  Both society and the teacher’s unions have lost that perspective.  I could talk for a year about this topic, as it’s probably the one I’m the most passionate about.

I’ll volunteer as a sports coach instead.

  • Perfect day?

Same as the previous version of this.  At the cottage with friends and family.

  • Who I am, in one sentence?

A pragmatic agent of change, who wants to ensure that my kids have a better inherited world than I did.

  • What makes me laugh?

Dark humor.  I much prefer British comedies than those in north america.  Black Adder / Red Dwarf stuff.

  • What superpower would you choose?

Super intelligence, no question.  One of the few super powers where you can actually help other people without physically being present.

  • Favorite animal?

Fish I guess.  I eat animals.

  • Biggest accomplishment?

Great wife and 2 super kids.  I work to live, not the other way around.  It just so happens that I really enjoy my work.


I spent the weekend in Northern Ontario, on the Canadian shield.  It’s essentially pure bedrock, so that leaves mostly pine/cedar trees to grow.  While the Rockies (out west) certainly shine, I still think that proto-typical Canada is the rivers & lakes surrounded by rolling hills of pine.  I’ve got a few Tom Thompson paintings to reinforce that bias.

It was a long weekend up here, and normally I try to take the Friday off as well, given the 6 hour drive to get here.  That didn’t work out this year, and I needed to bring my laptop up.  So from 8 til about 1 I was typing and chatting away while the rest of the family was puttering around the cottage.  I managed to get a video conference going too, which honestly is a bit odd to have in a Muskoka chair, sitting on a deck with a cup of coffee.  I left to hit some golf balls shortly thereafter, and finished one large procurement on my phone on the 2nd hole.

The feeling of putting it down, and just breathing was very nice.  Sure, it was there in case I needed it, but I was able to just unplug and enjoy time with family and the great outdoors.

I’m finding it hard sometimes, with what would be a nervous habit of pulling out a phone to check on something.  Usually work related.  So to be able to spent 8 hours in a boat with my father & father-in-law, not even see the time go by, not get a single ding, and have a smile for most of it… that was more than great.  And while nearly everyone has a some piece of tech with them, we all spent a ton of time just sitting and talking and laughing.  The habit of playing cards with some, while others scroll on a tiny screen was replaced by being outside til midnight with beer and a smile.

While the irony of using technology to share this story is not lost on me, I still find it important to share stories relating to relationships without technology.  There’s a lot of good to come from putting things down, and just looking someone in the eyes.

BfA Launch



From the /r

In my humorous thoughts, I considered building my own bingo card.  Lo and behold someone had already done so and covered most of it already.  I guess we’ll see the Teldrassil/Server is burning memes later in the day.

I still have not ordered BfA.  I play on Stormrage, a launch server with 99.9% Alliance characters, which has gone down every single expansion launch for multiple days.  Which has also had stability issues since 8.0 – which apparently have a lot to do with the auto-groupfinder function it seems.  Gut says a full week before it’s considered “normal”.

Not to say I haven’t prepared for an expansion.  My bags are relatively empty. My Legion currencies are all spent and gold collected.  That action in the last week has added about 100,000 gold to my coffers.  I wonder if that actually has any meaning anymore, aside from WoW time tokens.

So tonight I’m heading back up to the cottage and working remotely tomorrow. I think it will be much more relaxing.  Plus, it’s the Perseid meteor showers right now combined with a new moon – making for some rather spectacular nights staring at the sky.

Related – I just came back from a weekend at the cottage with 2 families of friends.  Spectacular weather, food to die for, tons of tubing, great kids, long nights of guitar by the campfire, and very little sleep.  Likely the best weekend I’ve had in years.  Really makes you appreciate what you have.


Facebook and Ethics

Zuckerberg’s face is all of the media right now.  Quite a few items remarking on his poor social abilities.  He’s clearly on the autism spectrum and if I recall it’s more in-line with Asperger’s.

That generally means that the switch inside the head doesn’t register non-vocal feedback, and that the social skills never truly develop.  Socially inept.  We’ve all met people where social cues just go right by.  This is more evident in high school and college settings, where everyone is showing tremendous social growth, while others seem stalled.  As adults, the social aspects are usually screened out during the hiring process.  Or in.  Or the individual has learned some tricks to manage that lack of skill.

Or, they deploy a data harvesting tool with the guise of connection building, and become a billionaire.


I work in IT.  Specifically at the intersection of consumer functions and security/privacy controls.  I know more than I should, or at least some days I’d prefer to know less.  First point – if you’re online you are giving up privacy.  Full stop.  Either you pay to control it (part of it at least, or the appearance of control), or you do it for free and give up that control.

There’s a reason it’s so easy to DOX someone.

The internet may be temporary – sites come and go – but it’s all archived somewhere.  It is both permanent and impermanent at the same time, making it really quite hard for people to navigate.  What people were doing 10 years ago is still being used to screen new hires.  That is not going away anytime soon.


Ethics are a social construct.  We don’t eat dogs in North America, rarely eat horse.  In other parts of the world it’s a regular meal.  Ethically we have issues with that, while other do not.  That’s at the national level.  Even at the community level this changes.  Find two churches and you’ll find two different sets of ethics.

Now throw in someone who has no ability to understand the social implications of ethics.  They are not un-ethical in the sense that they purposefully go against ethical norms, but more so in that they just don’t understand the nuances of ethics.

For better or worse, this also means that they are immune from international ethics.  Say in one country, it’s entirely acceptable to scrape all user related data to make a giant database of behavior (China).  In another, the company must disclose all private data to the users (Germany).  A company working in both areas has to find the right balance, let alone their corporate policies to manage their service.  That Facebook said it would apply GDPR is a good step.  Considering that they fought it tooth and nail, is more like a thief admitting guilt after caught, but it’s still some progress.

I will say that for all the faults, the EU seems to take this more seriously than most other countries.  Canada would be wise to integrate those policies, as we tend to align the same way.  I mean that in the context of post-national ethics.  We’re all humans before we’re nationals after all, much more alike than dissimilar.

Silicon Valley

Generally run by people with poor social skills focused more on the what can we do, rather than why should we do it.  There’s a really good reason why so many harassment issues have come out of the woodwork in these companies.  A psychopath is someone who lacks empathy – they are not not just serial killers.  A lack of social skills is right in line with that behavior.

Many people are driven by power/money, and once bitten by that bug, it’s hard to go back.  People get blinded by their own agenda that they lose sight of the impacts of their decisions.  Uber simply didn’t care that there were existing markets, they just dropped down illegal cabs, paid a few fines and disrupted an entire market.  There’s only a small difference between that and WalMart moving into a small town, closing all the mom and pop shops, milking the town dry, then closing their shop down for good.

And we let them.  Because it’s practical.  Or it’s cheaper.  We’ll sell our souls to the devil without a blink of an eye.  Most times, we won’t even realize we’re doing it.  Or we think it doesn’t affect us.

Some Progress

The conceptual idea of adding more connections is certainly good.  It’s the foundation of the internet after all.  We are too soon into that space as compared to other social advances, for a web of ethics to have developed.  By breaking down the geographical barriers, we have exposed the sensitive nerves of ethic boundaries.  It’s much easier to ignore dog eating in China if you don’t ever hear about it.  Much harder to do when it’s on the newsfeeds, websites, and social media.

We’re growing.  We’ve taken a long swim in the infinite ocean and lost our footing at times.  The “go local” movement is meant to ensure we have both a foot inside our real space and the virtual one, and a better appreciation for both worlds.  There’s still a lot of work to do.  I’ll be spending my time educating myself and my family on the risk/reward facets of internet use.  Paying more attention to the terms of use, changing permissions on my devices, removing myself from some tools.  Still being involved, but under my terms.

And if it costs me more, or takes more time.  So be it.