Worth Doing Well

Any job worth doing is worth doing well.

Any job with acceptable compensation (be it monetary, spiritual, emotional or other) is worth doing.

Any job I take on will have acceptable compensation. (I don’t intentionally commit myself to things that I know I will hate doing and gain no form of reward from.)

So, by the transitive property, any job I take on is worth doing well.

If you live your life by these simple rules, it is possible that you might have a job that sucks, but you should never suck at your job. If you find yourself being terrible at your job, you either need to find a way to be better at it or find a job that is a better fit. By knowingly, willingly being terrible at your job, you are choosing to make your own life worse and having a negative impact on everyone you interact with. Conversely, by doing your job well, you will have a positive impact on the people you interact with, and that, in turn, has a chance of making you feel that your job doesn’t suck.

Google+

Allow me to begin with a turn of phrase I stumbled upon that I think sums up quite a bit:

Unlike other networks that I have to actually go to, this one is where I already am.

This above all other things is why I am so drawn to Google’s new social network.  I already keep gmail open most of the time, and I use an Android based phone, and I use the Chrome browser wherever I can.  I use calendar and reader and documents and a host of other Google applications already, so it just makes sense to thread a social network into all of that and put it right at the top of the page for every one of them.

Anyway, if you wish to find me there, click this.

When I first started using Facebook, it was built largely around Groups or Networks.  I remember joining the network for my college and later my high school, one for my work and another for the state I lived in (or it might have been geographic region, I forget exactly).  Of course, that was back when your status was just your status and not a feed of previous status or a place to share random information, but I really liked the groups.  Then the groups got pushed the back and then they went away altogether.  They are back now, but totally different.  Either way, what I liked most about them was that I could talk to someone in the same group as me without having to “friend” them and give them access to all of me.  So I was very happy when Facebook introduced Lists, which I immediately used to sort and group my friends, but still, I missed being able to chat with people who share an interest of mine but weren’t my “friends”.  I suppose to a degree the fault is mine because I didn’t seek out Facebook’s Groups after they re-implemented them, but it is also Facebook’s because they trained me not to seek them out by taking them away in the first place and driving me toward a “one feed to rule them all” design.

I digress.  On Google+ I’m enjoying the Circles.  While on some level they are functionally the same as Lists from Facebook, the interface is much easier to use and it is brought to the forefront of the overall design, not hidden in a dark corner like Lists.  And using Circles when sharing is several clicks easier than using Lists for sharing.  That ultimately ends up being the central factor to why I like Google+ over Facebook so much: everything that is hidden under several clicks in Facebook is closer to or on the surface at Google+.

Google+ also feels more like Twitter than Facebook, which is good.  On Twitter I follow a number of comedians and pundits and other random & assorted people, people who I’d probably have to Like their Fan Page on Facebook.  And again, Liking a Page on Facebook just feels more removed than Following a Person on Twitter, even if the result is exactly the same.  So on Google+ I’ve got a Following Circle that I’ve tossed in the people I’d follow on Twitter that I don’t expect to follow me back.  And while I’m no celebrity, there are people who follow me on Twitter that I don’t follow back, and I suspect the same will eventually be true of Google+.

I’m also excited because I like being in the Beta phase of almost anything, especially when the developers are actually listening.  A couple of rounds of fixes have gone in, and lots more are coming.  It just feels good to be part of the process.  I’ve suggested a few things so far and while I don’t claim all the credit because I’m sure others submitted the same requests it is kind of cool to see those things coming to be.  I’ve made numerous suggestions to Facebook other the years and since not a single one has ever been implemented, either I’m absolutely crazy and wanting things no one else does or Facebook doesn’t listen.

Playing over at Google+ has eaten up a lot of my time and will probably continue to do so.  I’ve always been luke warm when it comes to social networks, dabbling a bit here and there, but I think one has finally pulled me all the way in.  Down the rabbit hole I go…

Movie Round-Up: October 29th, 2010

3D SawSaw 3D: (official site)

I actually like 3D.  I want them to continue developing it and one day perhaps have it without needing the glasses.  I love movies filmed with the 3D cameras, and pretty much universally hate the 3D in every movie that does it in post processing.  I even like horror films in 3D.  That said, I just have absolutely no desire at all to see a Saw film in 3D.  There is just too much blood and gore and torture in the Saw films, and I don’t want that leaping off the screen at me.  I just don’t.  Of course, the 3D isn’t really the turn off I’m making it out to be.  I haven’t seen a Saw movie in the theaters since Saw II.  In fact, I have seen a Saw movie since Saw II.  I might watch them some day, but after the second film and all the copycat torture-porn films, I just don’t have much interest in watching two hours of people being killed in horrendous ways.  However, if this sort of thing is up your alley, the trailer looks like more of the same and in 3D, so you should probably go see it.

Are you going to the movies this weekend?

Driving Tips & Truths

I’ve been driving cars for over twenty years now, and what follows is a mixture of helpful tips and venting about stupidity.

  • Turn signals are not for the driver. It would almost be better if they somehow made it impossible to turn left or right, or change lanes, without using a turn signal.  The problem is that doing those things is possible without the turn signal so many drivers don’t use them.  But the turn signal isn’t for the driver, hence why they are on the outside of the car, where the driver could not possibly see them.  This is because turn signals are to tell other drivers what your intentions are and allows them the ability to react.  Brake lights work the same way, which is why it’s nice when people “cover” their brakes (touch the pedal lightly so that the lights kick on but the car isn’t actually braking yet) before they start braking.
  • No one knows what flashing your head lights means. One time, I was driving down the road and a person coming the other direction was flashing their head lights.  Over the next hill there was a police car waiting to catch speeders.  Obviously, flashing head lights means “cop ahead!”  So, another time I was driving and a person coming the other direction was flashing their lights.  I slowed down because there was going to be a cop… only there wasn’t.  Instead there was a large dead animal in the road.  Flashing head lights must mean “something ahead!”  This held true for years as people flashed lights for construction and accidents and other things, until I realized that in my own driving I’d only ever flashed my head lights at two other people and both times it was because the other drivers didn’t have their head lights on after dark, and I recalled someone doing that for me once too.  So, flashing head lights must mean “something!”  In the last twenty years, I’ve come to realize that flashing head lights can mean almost anything from a cop to trash in the road to head lights being off to acknowledging that the driver of the other car is attractive, and so now I pretty much ignore them.  Well, I do make sure my own head lights are on, because that’s the only meaning that matters.
  • No one can see you waving. Really, the only time anyone will ever see you wave is when they are looking for it.  If someone lets you in ahead of them in traffic, a courtesy wave to that someone is not only encouraged, it is greatly appreciated.  Always do it.  On the other hand, if you are coming up on a left turn and you see someone on that street you are about to turn on also wishing to make a left turn, especially if the road you are on is a busy one, there is a temptation to slow down and wave them out.  Only, 90% of the time, they can’t see you waving.  Want to know why?  A) they aren’t looking at you, they are watching traffic for gaps so they can make their left turn.  B) Window tinting and glare and about a dozen other things means when they do look at your car, they can’t see you except for perhaps a faint ghostly swishing of something that might be a wave, but they can’t tell.  By the time they can see you waving, you’ve stopped short, there are now ten cars backed up behind you and the gap in traffic they were actually paying attention to a couple cars back is now closed.  And odds are you may have to honk your horn to let them know you are waiting for them.  Being nice is one thing, letting people in to stop & go traffic is awesome, but if the traffic is flowing, the best thing you can do is to get where you are going as quick as you can.  Don’t stop traffic and break up the flow just to be nice to some random person.

Got any tips or truths you wish to share?

My turn at the wheel

As I said before, I’m helping out with the MMO Track at Dragon*Con this year and part of that is every couple of weeks I post videos on the blog.  This week is my turn, and here is my entry.

Mostly, I point this out because, A) I’d like to drive what little traffic I have over there because every little bit helps, and B) I had a particularly clever turn of phrase in today’s entry.

“And now you MMO, and MMOing is half the battle.”

Sometimes I kill me! Ha!

Cats & Bags, Ledges & Jumping

Mostly, this post exists entirely to commit me to action so that I can’t back out and if I do people can call me out on it and say, “You said you were going to, then didn’t!”

Last year, I sat down on December first, thoroughly disappointed that I’d failed the NaNoWriMo, again, and thought to myself, “What I need is a smaller goal.”  So I decided I was going to write a short story and post it on Christmas Eve.  The story that I wrote, however, was very very depressing.  Not that I had intended to write something light and happy, but my initial turn toward darkness wound up being a death spiral into oblivion.  In the year since I didn’t post it I’ve only read the story twice and hated it both times because it was not only dark it was needlessly so.  It wasn’t just dark, it was black.  There was just nothing redeeming about it at all because it wasn’t even well written.  Obviously, I didn’t post it.

So, another NaNoWriMo has gone by and I didn’t win, again, but I had the same thought as last year.  That I just needed a smaller goal.  I kicked around the idea that sparked last year’s short and decided that since I, personally, am not in such a dark place this year (last year in addition to failing the WriMo I was also unemployed and a number of other things) I would take another crack at it.  I am very pleased with the results.  I still need to make another pass or two at it for glaring errors and then give my editorial staff (wife) a shot at it, but I do think it will be ready before Christmas.

As such, I am stating here and now that I will be posting a short story on Christmas Eve.  It is entitled “The Last Christmas” and I hope you return to read it and enjoy it.

30 Days of Game: Elements

About two months ago, a friend sent me a link to Elements.  I played around with it for a few days to see if it would be something I was interested in, and it was.  So I backed away from it and then came at it fresh for 30 days.

If you’ve ever played and enjoyed collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering, then this is probably right up your alley.  When you begin you pick an element from Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Light, Darkness, Entropy, Gravity, Time, Aether, Life and Death.  Don’t worry about picking wrong, you can change later if you like, or just make a new account.  You’ll be given a starter deck and your first Quest: to defeat a Level 0 foe.  This first quest works like a tutorial, explaining how to play the game.  A coin is flipped to see who goes first, on your turn, if you aren’t first you draw a card, then you can play any resource cards you have and any cards you have the resources to play, and then you end your turn where any monsters you have will attack, any effects you have will process, and you’ll collect a round of resources.  The goal is to reduce your opponent to zero hit points before he does the same to you.

There are too many cards to spend any time talking about there here, but you can go to the bazaar and see them all.  You’ll earn money from winning duels, and sometimes even win cards in bonus spins after a win which you can use or sell, and you buy cards to continue constructing your deck.  If you are worried about spending money on the wrong cards, go play in the trainer that lets you have unlimited money but you can’t save your deck.

I started the game with a Death deck, built mostly on poisons and infections and boneyards (that produce skeletons when monsters die).  If you can survive long enough with this deck, you can kill just about anyone… its the surviving that is the trick.  After a while, I switched to playing Darkness, which I enjoyed more as it was definitely more active.  Basing the deck around Drains (a card that sucks life out of the opponent and gives it to you) I started regularly ending matches with 100 health and earning double the winnings.  I really ended up liking this slim deadly deck, but I felt I should also try out some others.  I played in the trainer and eventually I decided to build a deck based entirely on quantum pillars/towers (random 3 resources instead of 1 specific) and drawn resources (1 of each resource), and even went so far as to look up the ultimate god killing deck which was similar to but much better constructed than my rainbow deck.  Now I take turns playing my god killer for cash and my darkness for fun.

To be honest, this would never be a game that I played “seriously”, as in “for hours straight a day”.  But it is a very nice throwaway game to keep running in the background while you work (if your work doesn’t mind you playing games and they don’t block the site).  As a programmer, I know I occasionally need a momentary distraction from work in order to let my brain wander away from a problem so I can approach it from a new angle later, and Elements is perfect for that.  The only negative I would say exists in the game is that it is very grindy in that it takes quite a lot of time to be able to upgrade cards and build a better deck unless you play a certain way (Google “elements god killing deck”).  One “would be nice” thing is I would love to be able to build multiple decks and switch them out easily instead of having to rebuild them every time.

Overall, the game is very well constructed, it doesn’t appear to have any game breaking balance issues, and since it is free to play there is no harm in giving it a shot.  And if you enjoy playing it, feel free to throw a few dollars at the developers via their PayPal donation link.

Get to da Choppa!

I know I promised zombies, but I lied… you get this instead…

I signed up for and am participating in an online game design class.  On our first day of “class” (which I actually read a couple days later), part of the reading was an example to show you that making a game is not a Herculean effort.  Simple games are exactly that: simple.  What follows is the game I designed in less than 15 minutes.

Get to da Choppa!

Welcome to the jungle!  You are in the thick of it, and something is after you.  But if you can be the first to the helicopter, you can survive.

Supplies:
26 Game Tiles – 1 “Start” tile, 1 “Choppa!” tile, 14 blank “Jungle” tiles, 2 “Tunnel Entrance” tiles, 4 “Lose a Turn” tiles (tangled in vines, stuck in mud, broke through bridge, and lost my way), 2 “Advance 1 Space” tiles, and 2 “Retreat 1 Space” tiles.
12 Opportunity Cards – 3 “Cover Fire” card (Advance another player 2 spaces), 3 “Decoy” cards (Advance yourself 3 spaces), 3 “Rest Up” cards (Do nothing this turn, next turn move 5 spaces instead of rolling), and 3 “Frag” cards (Cause another player to lose a turn).
1 Six-sided die.
12 player pieces (green plastic army men if you have them).

Game designed for 2 to 12 players.

The Rules:
The 26 tiles are placed in a pile, face up, on the table.  The 12 Opportunity cards are placed, face down, on the table.  Each player chooses a playing piece and roles the die to determine play order.  Highest first, roll again to break ties.  The “Start” tile is placed on the table and all playing piece are placed on it.  Starting with the highest rolling player, each person in turn will take a game tile from the tile pile and place it on the table so that it connects to the previous tile.  The game path can turn left and right, however when a tile is placed it must only connect to one other tile.  When tile placing is complete, and the last player placed the “Choppa!” tile, you should have a board that takes 25 forward movements to complete.

Beginning with the next player in the rotation, each player draws an Opportunity card from the face down pile.  Do not show your card to other players until you play it.

After each player has drawn a card, the game moves into the Movement rounds.  If the player is on the “Start” tile, they must roll the die.  A roll of 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 allows the player to move their playing piece forward that many spaces.  If they land on a tile with an action on it, they must adhere to it (Advancing 1 space, retreating 1 space, losing their next turn, or moving to the other end of the tunnel).  Tile actions “stack” in that if you land on an “Advance 1 Space” tile and doing so lands you on a “Lose a Turn” tile, you lose your next turn.  If a player rolls a 6, the player believes they have been spotted and hides, not moving that turn.

After the player has moved off the “Start” tile, on their turn they may choose to use their Opportunity card instead of rolling the die.  Any player moved by an Opportunity card onto a tile with an action must adhere to that action.

The game ends when a player “Gets to da Choppa!” and leaves the rest of the players in the jungle.

—–

My first prototype of the game was as basic as possible.  Sticky notes for the game tiles, more sticky notes (folded in half to hide the sticky part) for the cards, a die and some army men.  If I am inspired, I may make a “better” prototype and post some pictures.

If, my dear reader(s), you are so inclined, feel free to make your own copy of this game and try it out.  I’d love feedback on how it plays.  I feel it might need more special tiles, or some other game element to spice it up.  If you do play it, please come back and let me know how it went…

Prince Caspian

9 out of 13 nots.
for being good and fun, but not spectacular

I actually saw The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian on Monday at a screening, but since it opened yesterday, I figured I’d go ahead and put up a review.  Keeping in mind that on my ratings scale a 7 means “average, not bad but also not good”, I’m giving this movie a 9.  It was better than average, but…

Okay, so, I’ve never read the Narnia books.  Even so, from the opening scene all the way to the end, this movie did not surprise me.  Not once.  Every turn of the story was, to me, telegraphed.  I saw everything coming.  It was… formulaic.  Now, while nothing surprised me in a plot sense, the special effects were fantastic, the fight scenes were great, but without a plot that really drew me in it felt like any other summer special effects laden blockbuster.

I enjoyed the film… really, I did… it just didn’t knock my socks off.  See it, but I would definitely say to catch this one at a matinée or early morning price.

My Jeep

I have a love hate relationship with my Jeep Cherokee. On the one hand, it was the car I wanted. Of course, at the time of purchase, gas was about $1.19 a gallon. With typical prices of $2.80 a gallon these days I begin to hate my car. In the years that I have owned it (6), we’ve been through a number of things… flat tires, break ins, minor accidents, and the usual tune-ups. About two years ago, it developed a squeek.

Now, having been through squeeks before in other cars, I decided to have someone look at it and tell me where the squeek came from before deciding to fix it. Some squeeks are bad. Some are not so bad. In a previous car, the squeek ended up being a need to replace a $5 plastic fan blade that was part of the airconditioning system. So I had the car checked and… same problem. They fixed the squeek. But there was a side effect. Appearantly, they knocked a wire loose, and from then on sometimes the dashboard would go dead. They looked for the wire, checked the plugs, but ultimately couldn’t find anything to fix, but I could home remedy the problem by banging on the dashboard and it would spring back to life.

About six months ago, the car developed a squeel. The squeel could be stopped by turning off the air conditioning and then turning it back on, so I figure it wasn’t a big deal. Probably another fan blade issue.

Sunday, I’m driving over to Acworth from Duluth, the back way using Pleasant Hill and Arnold Mill. As I’m driving, the dash goes dead and the Check Gauges light comes on. I bang the dash and it all goes back to normal. I cross over 400 at Old Milton, and the light comes on again, only this time the rest of the dash is working fine. We drive for a bit as I look at my gauges. Gas, fine. Battery, fine. Oil, fine. Temperature, fine… no, wait… no… fine… umm… redline!

It was kind of like in the movies. I pulled off the side of the road and popped the hood, steam blowing off the engine. I give it a minute, then check the coolant. Empty. So we call my brother and have him drive over to pick us up and bring some coolant. I’m fuming now because I just got an oil change and they were supposed to check this stuff.

My brother arrives with the coolant, we fill it up and head on our way. All is right with the world again and I’m talking about how I’m going to give those guys a piece of my mind. Then the temperature redlines again. We stop, the coolant is fine, but still its over heating. We give the car a few moments, then head out again.

A little while down the road, redline. Once again I check the coolant and once again its fine. I decide to check everything. The oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid… basically everything with a dip stick or a valve I can open I check. All is a-okay. So we begin to travel yet again. Everything is going great until we start hearing an awful clanging under the car. And of course the temperature redlines again. We finally decide to give up.

Everyone piles into my brother’s girlfriend’s car, a VW Bug Convertible, four people and a dog, and we leave my car to deal with it later.

After dinner with Dad, we borrow one of his cars and the wife and I head to get the Jeep. The plan is to limp the car, which should be fully cooled now, to the Goodyear place not too far away, and leave it for them to inspect and repair the next day. So we get to the Jeep and I start limping it while the wife follows me.

Now, I’ve never been one to treat my car like a person, but somehow the moment felt like a good time to start. Back when I got my white Jeep Cherokee, some people insisted that I name it. The only thing I could think of was “Moby Dick”. So as we drove, I began, for the first time, to talk to Moby (Mr. Dick to strangers). I promised we’d make it better, that the Goodyear guys would fix everything that ailed it. All it needed to do was get there.

Moby almost did it. As I topped the last hill, I felt the engine begin to go. We were a hundred yards from the station and there was only a left turn remaining to go. But I knew that it would quit on me when I made the turn. I was right, and as I slowed to make the turn the engine gave up, along with the power steering, and I fought the wheel to make the left into the shopping center, and then the right into the parking lot of the Chinese place, and Moby finally silently pulled to a stop… with about a hundred feet to go. I tried the key twice and realized that it was no use.

Swept up in the moment, I threw open the door, popped the truck into neutral and began to push and steer. The truck was really heavy, but adrenaline gave me the strength to get it moving, and the power to steer. Across the parking lot we glided, but one more obsticle stood in our way… a small incline and a speed bump. The front tires cleared the bump, but not the rear, and quickly I hopped back into the car and slammed on the breaks.

For one last time, I turned the key and the engire roared to life. Together we made the last fifteen feet into a parking spot, and then I let Moby rest. It had done its best.

Honestly, I figured Moby and I were done, that it’d gone to big junkyard in the sky. However, one water pump, some hoses, new breaks, a transmission, and a head gasket later, and it appears Moby will be sticking around a while longer. And that makes me smile.

It may only get seventeen miles to the gallon, but I still love my Jeep. Hopefully in the near future, I’ll start working from home and more of my time in Moby can be spent enjoying the road.

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