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.

comfy_questions

  • 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?

Parliament.

  • 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.

Unplugging

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

 

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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.

Privacy

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

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.

Repetition is Key

Getting better at something means that you need to be doing that thing, multiple times, until it becomes second nature.  Repetition of an activity means you naturally get better at said activity.  This applies to absolutely everything we do.  In some cases, people conflate the thought/research of doing something vs actually doing something.

Simulators are a good example of this.  Many games have simulators that artificially optimize gameplay & statistics in order to provide a ranking of options.  On paper, a DK is better at DPS than a Rogue (example).  Sure, if the entire environment is controlled.  That assumes that the lag is the same, that no movement is required, that they take no damage, that the procs are perfect, and that the player’s timing is perfect.  Let’s even go a step further, where all the variables except the player are the same – the output is absolutely going to be different.  The player skill is one of the ultimate factors.

Sports are also a prime example.  Hitting balls in a batting cage has only a little to do with actually hitting a real-life pitch.  Hitting a hundred shots on the driving range only goes so far on the actual course.  The real-world variables take time for the body to adjust and compensate.

Hockey

This one hits a bit more for me as my eldest daughter is playing hockey as a first year player.  The season is over now and there’s some analysis that always comes from it.  My kid barely knew how to skate to start the season, and the strides forward were significant, but they were despite the actual season.  There were 18 kids on the squad, meaning that in a 50 minute session, she would be on the actual ice for about 7 minutes.  Practices were better, but the coach:player ratio was large, meaning a lack of directed feedback.

I am glad I built a backyard rink.  It gave dozens of hours of skating practice – more time than she had for the entire “team” season.

The good news is that the kids are young, so these things don’t really click with them. The bad news, for the sport at least, is that the kids are not as excited or involved as they could be, and the parents have a hell of a time justifying the cost for the time spent on ice vs pretty much any other activity.

Swimming

Another example I can use my kids for.  They’ve been taking swimming lessons for a few years now.  30 minute sessions, every week.  The last 2 seasons have been just the 2 kids, rather than 6 – again, a lack of actual swimming doesn’t make them progress.

We are lucky in that we can afford travel, luckier still that the travel includes pools.  Cuba, one weekend in a hotel, and another week in Florida gave about 4 hours a day of pool time in 4 months.  That’s about 60 hours of swimming.  That is more time in the pool in 4 months than all the time in swimming classes combined.

Games

One of my gripes with PvP games is the lack of practice due to either mechanics or power curves.  Aimbots and 1-shot-kills mean that you have a very low amount of actual combat gameplay.  Large maps where you spend 3/4 of the time walking around an empty zone is worse when combined with low combat times.  You could spend 20 minutes doing nothing but walking, then get sniped.  Not my definition of fun.

Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate the tactical aspects of the game at elite levels.  But the path to get to the elite level is littered with rookie corpses.  And that’s aside from the abhorrent cultures within the games themselves.  Toxicity breeds more of itself and I’d rather avoid it altogether.

And let’s avoid the paint-chip-eating tutorials that most games implement.

Future Think

My gut tells me that the next gap to be bridged in competitive games is exactly that “starter to ok” mode.  The gap between starter & top tier is a massive gulf of negative junk.  A focus on the core mechanics that allow someone to get better, combined with a social atmosphere that helps with growth is the next logical step.  Guess is that the former will be required before the latter… unless someone really decides to tighten their belt and start having serious repercussions on behavior (positive/negative).

Transhumanism

Wikipedia article to get you started.

The concept that humanity can evolve from its current trappins and dramatically expand both intelligence and physical limitations.  I’d argue it’s where philosphy, technology, and religion intersect.

For a long time this was the domain of the golden age of sci-fi.  Tomorrowland.  Star Trek’s utopia.  Meritocracy.  Some would say, the childish naivety of the greater good.  My favorite book, Childhood’s End, covers this topic.  Foundation and Empire finishes with this.

Then the age of computers came upon us and we went through the cyberpunk phase.  Phillip K. Dick took the concept and turned it sideways to practical mental disease.  Rather than ask what’s next, it was more like what else is there.  We’re moving from the digital age into the quantum one now, where things are so small, things are so integrated, that it’s becoming much harder to see the line between human and machine.  Siri, Alexa, OkGoogle… all are integrated into society to a degree that we only realize they are there when we’re out of range.

And all of this is predicated on a singularity – a single transforming event.  We won’t likely understand it when it happens, but we’ll be able to point back to it.

Small Steps

Time is the ultimate currency.  You can always make more money, but you can never make more time – hence it’s value.  Opportunity cost is based on this principle – given the choice between two options, which provides the largest overall benefit?

It’s a simple fact that automation is here to stay, and will take over more and more of our lives.  Driverless cars seem neat, but driverless trucks are going to put thousands of people out of work.  Even super menial jobs for teens are going away (see Flippy).  Assembly lines and mining/timber have been gutted with this fact.  Regardless of what is being said, those jobs are not coming back.  Even the countries that were outsourced to in the past 20 years are moving away from hiring people.

People require food, rest, space… robots do not.  One robot working 24/7 replaces at least 4 people in terms of time, and likley dozens in terms of productivity/accuracy.  The math is not hard here, and the people doing the math are the ones without any interest in the people. If you have any stocks, then odds are you actually have no idea what the impact is to the workers on the other end of that stock.

Everytime we make something more efficient, or connect something, or share something, we are taking smaller steps to a collective.  It’s hard to articulate the tangible differences between someone in north america and someone in Autralia – aside from culture.  Even culture is blurring… there are more 2nd language English speakers on the planet than native speakers.

The Big Question

What makes you, you?  If you were to replace a bit of you every week(eye, arm, foot) with a robotic part, when do you stop being you?  If you were to completely swap human bodies, but kept your mind, are you still you?

What proof do you have that you exist?  If memories are just triggered synapses, could they be faked?  Sensory input is just electrical charges, those can be replicated (see Matrix for one argument, and many bionic limbs do this as well).  It is possible, though unlikely, that we are just a few days old – the imaginings of a more powerful set of beings.  No different than restarting from a save point in a video game, and we go back to some default state.

How can anyone prove either for or against?

Progress

It’s our unfailable certainty of our own existence that keeps us sane and grounded.  It’s the basis for science, in that what is observed is fact.  It took a long time for science to delve into things we cannot see (the 4 forces, notably), and even longer into things we cannot easily comprehend (quantum mechanics for starters).

At each step of progress, there’s the discovery and then the integration into society.  We can’t imagine a world without electricity, but even 100 years ago it wasn’t all that common.  Nowdays our kids are infinitely connected to all sort of people and things, and privacy is a 4 letter word.  And there’s no going back, that genie is out of the bottle.  Best we can hope for is an educated consumption of technology.

But how do you educate when society changes so rapidly?  Facebook hit its apogee years ago.  Kids (well college age folk) were all over it, then younger kids came onboard.  Time has gone on and as much as grandparents use it, today’s youth wants nothing to do with it.  They’ve moved on.

The blogging community is somewhat unique, in that we live in a world of tech, to differing levels.  I can generally understand the technology presented to my children, and I can communicate my set of values and ethics within.  But it doesn’t prevent them from finding a youtube channel by chance, that is full of content I don’t want them to see.  I have to be extra vigilant, and take the time.  I can near guarantee that the majority of my social circle doens’t even process that thought.

Change for the sake of change.

What’s Next

VR & automation.  We’re at the cusp of both being integrated into our daily lives.

VR is a much higher fidelity now.  Even just augmented reality is on the doorstep.  People reprenting themselves with avatars has been commonplace for 20 years, but to integrate that concept with reality isn’t far off.

Automation not in the sense of robots, but in the concept of anticipatory intelligence.  I wake up and make a coffee most mornings.  Automation would detect me waking up, and based on my behavior patterns, make a fresh brew.  I’m a few years from asking for an “earl grey, hot” and it magically appearing.

As cool as it all sounds, I’m terrified.  I’m not altruistic enough to always make the right decision, and I’m not evil enough to take advantage of the situation. The future is much closer than it appears.