Combo Breaker

I’ll start with the proviso that I’ve been pretty goddamn rough this weekend. I had so much planned/to do but my body had other ideas.

We’ve been helping our support bubble mother in law move house and so we had more furniture to build alongside general moving activities. Since I was running D&D on the Saturday we decided to try and get a chunk done on Friday evening after work.

The furniture build took alot longer than expected and we didn’t even finish. Lets just say I’m never going to begrudge ikea their fancy instruction booklets again after experiencing the 1 page “it looks like this” instructions we battled on Friday.

This is important as I think Friday was the straw the broke the camels back. We got home around 10.15 in the evening and I absolutely opted for a bath. Everything was dandy until I sat up at which point the room decided to go for a spin.

It wasn’t fully unexpected as I’d felt knackered for a few days so I aimed to sleep it off. Have you ever tried to get to sleep while the room is spinning? Its not great, not to mention trying to walk in a straight line.

I woke up on Saturday feeling more normal. I sat up and promptly fell back down. I fight my way up and try to refresh my head on my D&D prep at which point my head seems to refuse to stay upright.

By trying to carry on and do everything, I’ve ended up doing nothing. There was no way I’d be able to run 4 hours of D&D and do the prep refresh before hand. I should have listened to my body earlier in the week and treated it a bit better with better sleep, better food and actually not keeping myself coiled like a goddamn spring. I’ve ended up sleeping most of it off but it feels like the aftermath of a particularly nasty migraine. I look forward to the next few days of static fuzziness.

It’s weird to think I’ve been working from home for nearly a year now and it shows no sign of changing. So much for a 2 week work from home trial……but this weekend has shown me that I’ve become a little complacent with the self care. January was so good, I was back to being in decent schedule, exercise was actually being enjoyed. But I think I pushed a little too hard because I was in lockdown and ended up slipping off the wagon, which then became a pattern. This weekend is my combo breaker. Stop stressing about getting it all done now. I’m only human.

Anger


Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.

-Aristotle

I came across the above quote earlier this week and it resonated with me.

Personally, I’ve spent alot of time over the past couple of years “angry” at one thing or another. In truth, most days there is likely something that winds me up.

The reason why the quote resonated with me so well is that I realised it’s my go to method of dealing with the Anger and using it when it’s needed. I learned alot from dealing with the unfairness of our miscarriages that undirected or unresolved anger is a powerfully destructive force. What can you be mad at from a miscarraige? The doctor? The situtation? Your spouse?
None of those are correct but generally you end up directing it at those closest to you.

Don’t get me wrong, there are days when sometimes the fascade will slip and my annoyance is there for all to see. It might not even be aimed at you but it’s there to see.

I’m blathering a bit but let’s try and cap off what I’m trying to say here. It’s ok to be Angry about things.

Angry about Brexit? Great, go do something productive to push whatever side of the cause you are on. Don’t go shouting into the void.

Angry about something someone has done? Find out why, otherwise fuck em and concentrate on yourself.

The right amount of anger is great for getting shit done but it has to be processed, it has to be directed. Don’t be angry and stuff you cannot change, be angry at the stuff you haven’t changed but can.

As Bill and Ted say, Be Excellent to each other

Respect

I have a little bit of a bugbear at the moment and as the title suggests it’s around that little thing called respect.

Let’s get the first bit straight, I dont do things for a pat on the head or a well done.In truth those things make me uncomfortable, however when I give up my time to provide an experience or service to you, I expect that you don’t then shit on me or my work/decisions.

Secondly, I’m a great believer of putting your money where your mouth is. Think you can improve something I’ve done or doing then speak up and get involved. Don’t just sit there telling me something is bad, put up or shut up. Give me solutions, not problems. If your effort wasnt quite reaching what you need then I’d rather help you achieve it rather than mocking your effort. We get through by building up each other not knocking each other down.

The real problem is that the type of people I refer to are actually of low self esteem themselves and feel the only way to better themselves is to belittle others to make themselves try and look good. People forget that we have all needed that helping hand at some point and I’m usually one of the first to offer, at times to my own detriment.

Here is MY problem, many mistake this kindness for weakness. It’s not a weakness to try and help others. The weakness is trying to knock down others for your own benefit. Taking advantage of that kindness is absolutely disrespectful and says more about a person’s character than they realise.

So where does it leave me with this annoyance? I’ve decided that as a kindness, even though its confrontational, that I’m not going to tolerate this kind of behaviour anymore. Change through education.

I think this satisfies fair warning.

Defining Success

Hey team, this ones gonna be a bit of a ramble so just bear with me…

I’ve had a number of thoughts rattling around my head regarding the word ‘success’

  • How do we define success?
  • Against what should we measure our successes?
  • How do people react to others successes?

My first realisation is that actually it’s quite difficult to split those 3 questions out as they are all part of the same question and all impact upon the over.

So how should we define success? On a base task level for me, if my actions have caused me to reach or surpass my original intent then to me, that’s a successful venture. But then what does it mean to be ‘successful’? I had a rather humbling conversation the other day where someone defined their life as ‘successful’ with the following criteria

  • Do you have food in your belly?
  • Do you have a roof over your head?

So far then, all we’ve done is give ourselves another question. The difference between a “success” and considering someone or something as “successful”. Let’s break it out further then to the second question to see if we can get an answer. “Against what should we measure our successes”

In the social media age, it seems we like to compare our successes to our peers. There’s always been an element of “keeping up with the Joneses” in life but social media has amplified that so a yard stick is always available to measure against. To me, this is where success should NOT be measured. Success should be measured against your own yard stick.

Let’s use my own situation as an example. We’ve not been able to have children and to some that would constitute a failure of the entire point of persuing a relationship, procreation. So should I be considered less successful that someone who has had a couple of children? Absolutely not. By extension, should the stay at home mum/dad be considered less successful than someone who could be considered to have a good career? Nope. Both are successful in the situation in which they have found themselves in. So then, the measurement of success should be personal rather than against others.

The final question then of”how do people react to others successes “?

Social media only provides a highlight of what people have going on and generally will only be of a positive light. We only see what people want us to see. The reality could often be different. However, feedback is generally positive via social media for reinforcing success. Most people are polite enough to keep it shut if they have nothing nice to say.

But what about the arena of real life? I’ve found here that the water is a bit murkier. Some people will always try to measure themselves against you both favourably and not.

There are those that would consider themselves ‘more successful’ and this gives them ‘superiority’ over those they consider ‘less successful’. This is an awful outlook held by a minority but this unfortunately seems to tie a stigma, for me at least, to being seen as doing well for myself.

I’d like to think you can celebrate your own successes as you’re proud of what you might have achieved but there are third parties that will always be upset and take your happiness as gloating

So what’s the conclusion i’m trying to reach. I suppose it’s this

  • Be happy with your own successes no matter how large or small
  • Be supportive of other’s success. Someone keeping to a diet might not seem huge to you, but i can guarantee it’s big to them.
  • Measure your successes against your own situation.
  • Don’t get mad at someone who you ‘perceive’ to be doing well.

As always be excellent to each other.

The Kobayashi Maru

For non Star Trek fans the title of this post has likely raised a WTF? reaction. The Kobayashi Maru is a training simulation which cannot be won. It is designed to test how a person reacts in the face of such adversity. In Star Trek canon James Kirk “cheats” by reprogramming the test refusing to accept that it cannot be beaten. Kirk didn’t like the odds so he did what he could to even them.

So what’s my point?

Everyday is the Kobayashi Maru Test.

As I get older I realise that each day decisions are made that are irreversible, one insignificant event can have far reaching consequences in  the sense of both time and magnitude. Alongside this revelation is also the clarity to understand that like the Kobayashi Mari, there are some situations that I just cannot win.

Now, Kirk reprogramming the simulation is an over simplification of the issue because he changes the program so that he could win based on what the program considered a victory .  The real trick is to “reprogram” your win conditions, your expectations and to consider what you would consider a win in the situation that you are facing. Someone once called adulthood “a series of compromises until you die”, I think I prefer my “reprogram” your win conditions to bring you happiness is a slightly more cheerful way of looking at it.

The irreversible nature of a decision further adds to the complication of the Kobayashi Maru but plays into the above of defining your victory parameters.

As time goes on I’ve noticed that I can tell which people have encountered their own “unwinnable” situation. They’ve experienced a true taste of defeat and it shows in how they react to situtations. I’m not trying to dumb down a problem that you might be having in your life but what I am saying is that your “Kobayashi Maru” moments  tend to put other problems into perspective. The danger is that sometimes people, myself included, can be a little dismissive of problems to people that havent faced the unwinnable. It’s still a problem to them, they just don’t have the scale to give it perspective.

The Lost Mines – Session 10/11 – The Finale

The continuing adventures of the murderhobo group, Droop Troop.

Droop drawing by Roland

 Sessions 8-9 can be viewed here

Possible spoilers for the Starter Kit….but we’ve gone Waaaaaayy off book at this point..

Session 10 – Escape from Tressandor Manor

Our intrepid adventurers suffered a crushing defeat in our last session, after knocking out Nezznar, the Black Spider, they didn’t account for his reinforcements in the next room and unfortunately bit off more than they could chew. The party find themselves in familiar surroundings, sadly for them these surroundings are the makeshift cells under Tressandor Manor where they had earlier rescued Mirna Dendar and her children. It seems that the Redbrands have moved back in and they’ve got a number of Hobgoblins with them.

With the group coming to, a tall wiry man enters the room holding a long staff with a Glass Ball on top.

“Welcome my friends, I hope your accommodations are satisfactory” With a smirk, the man introduces himself as Iarno Albrek, aka Glass Staff who had escaped them earlier in the adventure.

“You see, you’ve caused me a bit of a problem, I try to be nice about these things but you made me look foolish in front of the Black Spider and now in order to redeem myself in his eyes, I need to know how much you actually know about this whole mess. But I’m still a courteous man, and I will let you choose who will be the first person I…..talk with”

Roland steps forward knowing full well this means torture….

….after a number of hours Roland is returned near exhaustion with the party being told that “talks will continue” tomorrow.

Milo in this time had secreted a single lockpick from his person and was stealthily attempting to pick the lock on his and Droops Cell, while Ryswynn and Roland attempted to distract the single guard. As Milo neared the end of his attempt, another redbrand enters the room holding another prisoner. The redbrands had also captured Sildar Hallwinter! The second redbrand threw Sildar to the floor whilethe original guard crouched down and went to get into Sildar’s face. Seeing a knife in the second Redbrands hand, they assumed this was going to end poorly for Sildar but in a single deft move, the second Redbrand grabbed the first and slit his throat. Pulling back the facemask, George Everdeen reveals himself and grins “See what happens when I leave you all to your own devices?” Sildar and George elaborate on their plan for breaking out the party but clearly see it wasn’t quite needed.

Milo informs Sildar that Iarno is in the manor, whose eyes suddenly darken at the news.

“Then we need to confront him, I’d like to take him alive but if it comes to it, then his sentence is death for his crimes. Your gear is in the storageroom to the north of here, I’d ask that you join me in putting an end to Iarno’s threat, one way or another.”

Using their knowledge of the layout of the manor, our party deftly despatched any guards with ease and split up, aiming to trick Iarno into using his secret exit and trapping him between the two groups. Despite his love of Rats, Roland didn’t fall for the same trick by the familiar this time and killed it instantly alerting Iarno to their escape. As predicated, he attempted to run via his secret exit but ran directly into the group hiding there. The party attempted to grapple Iarno after he charmed Roland but failed as he cast Misty Step to escape, it wasn’t enough however as Iarno was eventually knocked out. Our adventurers leave the Manor and return to town, with Iarno as a prisoner in tow. The remaining Red brands vanish into the woods.

Session 11 – The battle of Phandalin

With Iarno safely stowed in the town hall but remaining tight lipped our party took the opportunity for some rest at the Inn. Sildar  sends word for them to all meet at the Inn the next morning to discuss what’s next for the party and the town as word has travelled that the Black Spider has raised a goblinoid host and is marching in this direction. Reinforcements from the Lords alliance were on their way to meet the host but Sildar is unsure where they are and if they will reach the town in time.

The following morning our heroes convene in the Inn only to be Interupted by sound of the urgent horn blasts. To the east they spot a single wounded scout with an arrow protruding from her shoulder emerging from the woods being followed close behind by 4 hobgoblins. Rushing to her aid the party quickly despatch the creatures as the scout collapses from exhaustion.

The scout shares with the group that the main bulk of the spiders forces had been engaged by the Lords alliance host to the east, however a group including what appeared to be the Black Spider has split off after receiving messengers “in red”. Redbrands that had escaped have warned the Black spider of their escape, whether he comes to silence the party or Iarno is unknown but either way, he comes to Phandalin.

A choice is made to evacuate the villagers while Sildar,the scout and sister Graele stand alongside the party to delay whatever comes through to give the villagers chance to leave. With news that the host is to the east, the group spend the day building barricades with whatever they can to funnel the incoming invaders into the village centre.

As nightfall approaches, the first wave of hobgoblins emerge from eastern woods. The plan to funnel them appears to work as Sildar and Roland hold the barricade while Ryswyn, Droop and Milo harass the hobgoblins in the funnel. More and more hobgoblins continue to poor for  the woods as the dead hobgoblins continue to mount at the barricade. Finally on the hillside by the manor Nezznar the Black Spider can be seen watching the carnage below, seemingly disinterested.

From the north Milo notices Hobgoblins, sneaking in behind their line. With their flank unprotected the party are about to split to cover the north as well when a horn blast is heard. A group of lords alliance soldiers have chased down the hobgoblins from the north and a melee ensues buying our party time. How long they can hold is still in the balance…

Droop realised that in his hubris, the Black Spider hasn’t realised he is within the range of Droops longbow. Catching the Black Spider squarely in the shoulder, the Black Spider pulls back and stops what appeared to be an incantation.

As the hobgoblins began to slow, and victory seemingly within grasp, the Black Spider himself begins to advance flanked by his giant spiders. The spider however was not alone, with a roar and a flap of wings overhead, the Dragon venomfang lands behind our heroes barricade.

“The balance of power has changes in this region, morsels. I will have Thundertree as my lair and will have revenge for you taking it from me”

Letting the Dragon escape had been a grave mistake.

As the Dragon breathes it’s poison breath crippling Sildar, Roland using the boots of leaping, courageously and foolishly  leapt onto Venomfangs back.The distraction was enough for the party to split up and keep Venomfang from targeting them efficiently. Sister Graele managed to pull Sildar to safety but the fight was now purely with the party. Each time Roland was dislodged, he leapt back up and continued to hack away at the dragons neck.

During this time Riswynn and Droop engaged the Black spider who unfortunately charmed Droop. Forcing droop to attack his friends, Droop, managed to keep enough control to deliberately miss the shot.

Milo used the distraction to sneak around Venomfang, and launch an arrow directly into it’s eye. The action reared Venomfang onto his hind legs throwing Roland violently to the floor. As Venomfang came back down jaws open about to bite down on the prone Roland. At the last minute, Roland grabbed his sword and thrusts it into the roof of Venomfangs mouth through to his brain. With a shudder the Dragon falls to the side, dead.

Droop manages to shake the Black spiders control and despatched the last of the giant spiders. Seeing the Dragon fall almost simultaneously, Nezznar attemps to flee the scene. Giving chase and grabbing a javelin from a fallen hobgoblin, Roland makes a desperate throw which catches Nezznar in the back straight through the chest. The black spider falls face first into the dirt as last sounds of the battle subside.

Epilogue

-Ryswyn travels with the party and reclaims the remains of her cousins  Thurden and Nundro. They are buried in Thundertree

– The town of Thundertree is rebuilt and prospers under the protection of our party, the tower where Venomfang used to reside becomes a central point for the region as the party’s base.

That makes the end of this campaign.thanks to everyone involved. 

Join us again for our next adventure in Waterdeep

The Laws of Work

With my recent job changes, I thought it poignant to actually finish this post.

I wanted to share some guidelines that I’ve realised I tend to live my working life by. It’s true we are formed by those around us and I’ve picked up many of these tips from my bosses and coworkers over the years and feel they are not always common knowledge.

So, Jon’s guide to surviving the workplace? I sense a book deal! Anyway onward!

“I do a job, I get Paid”

Ok, I’ll admit that the first one is a little bit cheaty and isn’t wisdom from work but rather the glorious Captain Malcolm Reynolds of the Firefly class vessel Serenity. The site is called Geeklish, what do you expect?

Anyway, at first glance the rule sounds a little harsh and somewhat dismissive in that you only care about getting paid. I however would just consider it an over simplification. I do a job and I like to think I will do that job to the best of my abilities and hopefully do it well, in return I expect to be reimbursed correctly for the work that I do. A job well done is it’s own reward, but I find colleagues appreciate someone who they know will get on with the Job in hand, you will get a “reputation” for just doing the job.  Your workplace will appreciate your attitude and your continued employment will be smooth(er). Which leads me nicely to my next point…

Time vs Skillset Worth

This is one of the earliest lessons that I learned in my first “proper” job. I worked in a somewhat well known Frozen Supermarket Chain and my manager at the time Neil, imparted the following wisdom.

“You are paid for your time, people no longer work jobs that provide goods, such as a blacksmith. You need to decide what your time is worth and set your expectations and hone your skillset  accordingly”

It was a discussion about moving into a supervisory position and working my way up the retail food chain as it were. At the time, I don’t think I truly appreciated what he was trying to tell me. The take away is that for most employed people, your wage is your reimbursement for the time you give to your job. You don’t produce a product that you personally sell and profit from, your employer pays you for your time working for them

Wage = Time Reimbursement.

At 17, I worked in said supermarket with no real quantifiable skills. I had good soft skills with people but nothing on paper that would push me into a higher wage. My lack of skill set meant that there was more competition for a job of that level, which essentially was a part time Stock handler. Higher competition means the job is not as valuable to the employer. Therefore my wage was lower as the “skillset” i bought was not as valuable.

Nowadays, I thankfully command a more niche skillset as a Business Analyst for a software company. It took self learning starting on microsoft access, learning about relational databases and generally honing my skills in my own time. I was honing the skillset I needed for a career that provided a better “re-reimbursement” for my time and skills.

So, never be afraid to spend your own time learning for the path you want. A friend of mine has just started a new career/job in a field she has been talking about for well over a year. The thing that impressed her new manager the most? The fact that she had gone out of her way to sign up for a course in a field she was not qualified in a determination to learn and break into the field..

Comprehension level.

This one is a more of a warning and something everyone should be aware of, although I’ll admit we all slip. It’s particularly prevalent in a support environment but carries across all fields in my opinion.

Everyone has a different comprehension level on a given subject. Just because you understand it and it’s “easy” doesn’t mean that someone else finds it just as “easy”.

My most common example is someone who will always go to google to type a URL that they know into google rather than just typing it into the bar at the top. They just don’t understand how it works, to someone who does this is silly behaviour but to this person, this is their understanding on how it works and shouldn’t be frowned upon but rather seen as an opportunity to enhance someones experience. Sometimes all it takes is someone to explain it to you.

Smoothly this also leads to my next point…

It’s OK NOT to know

This one is almost painfully obvious once you realise it. You’re not going to know everything, and if you say you do then I’m going to give you my “doubt” face. It’s actually OK not know something but you should go and find out. Someone will know so use the available resource and find out what you need. Retaining that knowledge will increase your own confidence and also feeds back into my earlier point of the worth of your skillset.

The key point however is that you have the initiative to go and find out.

Getting it done, and getting on with what you want.

One of my favourites that has helped formed my working day came from my manager in a retail shop that constantly had edicts handed down from head office. They were always given priority for a few reasons.

First of all, you don’t necessarily know the full picture of what you’re being required to do. Secondly, if you get it done and out of the way, you can get on with what you want/need to get on with for the benefit of your own working day.

If something is handed down to you from a higher up in the chain, most times there is a good reason for this whether you agree/see the reasons why it’s needed. There’s a chain of command, (it’s the chain I go get and beat you with ’til ya understand who’s in command – More firefly – STOP IT) and that that chain may have visibility of something you don’t or want to know about.

It’s not to say everything that comes down might be correct, but do the job raising any valid concerns and everyone is happy.

Which leads me back to my original point, you do a job, you get paid. I know some of this may be painfully obvious but hopefully it might give some of you a better framing for work.

As always, Be excellent to each other.

 

The Biscuit Gamer

Trying to define what is a gamer is a long and arduous task and something that has been done to death. I consider gaming to be an inclusive hobby ranging through PC gamers, consoles and mobile. In my opinion if you play games on your mobile, this makes you a gamer. For me it’s not about what is a gamer but more “What type of gamer?”

You can tell I’m a little bit of a chunky monkey as I’m far too fond of the food based metaphor, so ladies and gentlemen, after the “Finger buffet gamer” I present to you my latest study based on my wife Cat, “The biscuit gamer”

It’s a discussion that comes up every so often in our household as my wife doesn’t really consider herself a gamer and it could be argued that my influence has introduced her to more gaming. It can also be said that she’s been playing the same Chef game on her iPad for at least a year, if she’s not into gaming that’s some great commitment that she has there.

So how do we define the “biscuit gamer”?

Primarily the name comes from the rather delicious/disgusting habit of dunking biscuits into your cup of tea. I’m not here to argue the merits of such a habit but if you don’t like dunking your biscuits in your tea, then you’re wrong. I’m digressing but the analogy here is that like a nice biscuit dunking, my wife likes to dip into gaming like you dip your biscuit into tea. You don’t do it very often but when you do it’s delicious.

It also defines your gaming habits, like a good biscuit dunk you can’t leave the biscuit in the tea too long or remove it too quickly. Remove it too fast and the end result isn’t as satisfying yet leave it dunked for too long and the biscuit disintegrates leaving a mushy mess combined with bitter disappointment. Cat enjoys gaming but experiences gaming fatigue a lot sooner than I do, she is the biscuit that disintegrates if she games for too long. I’ve thought about this a little too long as I could even break games into different biscuits…

You’ve got your “Rich tea” biscuit, once described by the late Great Sir Terry Wogan as the “Lord of all biscuits”. A biscuit who’s very purpose is tied intrinsically to dunking in your cuppa. The Rich tea however cannot stand to be in the Tea for very long, and as such I equate games such as Speedrunners, Tricky Towers, Broforce and Castle Crashers as being the Rich Tea dunkers. These games are delicious morsels enjoyed in short bursts but not something the biscuit gamer can remain focused on for any long period

Next we come to Digestives biscuits, slightly sturdier than the Rich Tea brethren and apparently the top selling biscuit for their manufacturer here in the UK. The Digestive biscuit lasts a bit longer dunked in the tea and for me can cover such games like Sonic Mania or Crash Bandicoot. The biscuit gamer has an interest in the subject matter, Cat loves some older properties from when she was younger thus Sonic and Crash. She can play these for a bit longer before the fatigue sets in/the biscuit disintegrates. The digestive biscuit it used for those rare moments she wishes to play by herself while the Rich Tea is a lighter “snack” for those multiplayer evenings at Chez Chard.

Now the mighty Hobnob, a solid beast of a biscuit that can withstand a large amount of dunking. The honour of the Hobnob is going in my mind to games such as “The last of us”. The first story based game that Cat really enjoyed, the first one to really make her lose track of the time. Hobnob games draw you into their world soaking up all that tea based goodness.

There is an argument to say Cat developed more gaming tendencies from living with a gamer(Hi) but in truth, I think it’s always been there for her but with the Stigma that she’s not a Real gamer attached. Games, like biscuit dunking is a pastime that everyone should be able to enjoy freely.