40 years and all is well

Today marks 40 years of Sig. So far so good 🙂

Probably the best present is a new Job I start next week. I’m going to work for a cool printing company as a Quality Assurance Engineer. That means I am creating software that tests other software to make sure it works properly. It’s something I’ve not done before but I’m looking forward to learning and excelling at it. My c# skills are developing nicely and I feel comfortable writing code in it though there is still a lot to learn. Perhaps most exciting is the chance to “wow” some new folks with my work.

I’m going some Lan Gaming Sunday to celebrate which should be fun. We are playing an Indi game that simulates a Star Trek like bridge with each person at a different station, a central command screen and a captain without their own computer. Should be very interesting and fun. Huge thanks to my friend Steve for putting it together for me.

I also treated myself to a new graphics card for my computer which means I can play some recent game acquisitions at an acceptable speed. Binged on Civ V for a couple of nights and it sure felt good! Still haven’t won on Emperor level yet but I came very close.

It’s been a really interesting year. It was sad and frustrating to leave my old job, but the chance to do freelance writing full time was a wonderful experience. I hope I can keep up some measure of that up but I won’t quite have the time for it I did. I’m actually coming out of unemployment feeling pretty financially stable. I had to dig into my retirement a bit, but I’m debt free (other than the house), have a new car, lower house payments, and a decent hunk of money in my bank account.

As to feeling old; I’m not especially. A little fat perhaps and not exactly young, but mostly I still feel like a kid that has more wisdom, courage and smarts than I’d otherwise be entitled to. In a way being a gamer is a bit like membership in the peter pan club: think young and play till you die.

Announcing: The Home Cooking Party

I am hereby staking my claim to “The Home Cooking Party” as the name and identity of my own political party. I thought it would just be a good idea to do so publicly before anyone else did. In my research I could not find any prior claims.

But Sig, what is The Home Cooking Party?

For now it’s mostly a notion I have for a political party. Perhaps it will be something serious; perhaps it will just be a way to express my own political views. At the moment I just want to kind of stake claim to the name and perhaps share the idea behind it with folks.

Right Sig, I still don’t know what this party is about, politically that is.

I know, but that would take a long time to really lay out and I’ve got to get back to some other work. My political views are decidedly out of step with mainstream American political definitions, though I would say they are not that out of step with their spirit since this is the country I grew up in. I’ll give you a taste however with a bit of branding and then something about the name itself.

 

What is the Home Cooking Party?

A well balanced meal of rational thinking and heartfelt emotion with a cool glass of humor, and a slice of humble pie for desert.

What does the party name mean?

I wanted to make a political party that represented my way of thinking but would also appeal to other people. Finding some middle ground between the politics of the Left and Right in twenty first century America was part of the goal. Many words that represented ideals I might ascribe to my views were already taken as party names or sounded too narrow. I wanted a name that was in itself neutral in the political spectrum yet still spoke to both my values and the values of others.

My wife actually suggested the name, partly in jest but I felt it was perfect. It captured elements of American traditionalism that could appeal to both left and right camps. And for me that is what I wanted to speak to, the common human thread we all share before we start arguing about how to best represent it as a nation.

For me the name is about taking the time and doing the work needed to show others you love and care about them as well as enjoying and appreciating those efforts. It is about having a practical approach to getting things done that isn’t written in stone or entirely made up from scratch. Home cooking is a mix of traditions passed through generations and the inspiration each new generation adds to the mix to create tomorrow’s traditions.

Strength deserves Strength

I recently learned that a relative of mine and her family have recently gone through some life experiences that are truly horrifying and possibly about as painful as life can get. I learned about it because they decided to go public with it to protect them-selves and others from further victimization.

My heart goes out to them, and I offered a few words of support but honestly they are far away and not part of my daily life so there is little I can actually do for them. What really saddened me was that part of their story was the fact that many members of their church turned away from the when they learned about what had happened, either by avoiding them or trying to blame them for what happened in some way. I got the impression these were the first people they believed they could rely on in troubled times for love and support.

I can understand how this happens. When someone has such a life shattering experience which is both terrifying and strange, it scares the hell out of folks. Their instinct is to put as much distance between them and the danger as possible and they do that by running or getting hostile with anyone “infected” by the events. They would like to unheard what they have heard and pretend it never happened.

For the victim, I think there is a lot to be gained by speaking out and revealing the truth of their experience to others. Crimes like these can make you feel great shame and leave you feeling as if you are just as monstrous as the person committing the crimes and since reactions like those above are common, you risk losing a lot of friends. But what getting it out there does, is make you feel more normal, less of a monster, more of a person. I think it is often the first step to overcoming or at least coping with the problem. I think it is both smart and brave.

What brave people deserve and what they need most are other brave souls, those who will share their own secrets and those who will stand by them despite their own fears. Solidarity is critical to feeling accepted and loved which is critical to feeling human. Hearing someone’s story, acknowledging it, and then treating them normally goes a long way to helping them actually feel normal again and I think when tragedy strikes, normal is what folks desire most.

So if someone you love is showing strength, show them strength back and don’t run away. I was happy to see that many of their friends did exactly that and it gives me hope their lives will heal in time.

Dungeons Deep

I recently did a little bit of writing for Dungeon a Day and though I’d promote it a little. Dungeon a Day is a project Monte Cook started where they would build a mega monster dungeon by putting out a new room 5 days a week. It’s been going on for a couple of years now and getting very near to finished. This thing is massive and unlike many mega dungeons there is pretty much zero filler with each room getting a good dose of loving care.

I cooked up a few rooms for level 19 of the beast where the characters enter a series of strange pocket dimensions. It was a fun assignment since it was pretty much anything goes so long as it rocks. So far my rooms have gotten a warm reception by the regulars and I’m real happy with the work I did. I can’t wait till they get a look at the latest concoction of madness I worked up.

Unfortunately, if you are not a member of the site you can only see the first level so my rooms aren’t on view. None the less it’s a fun site to look around in if you are a role player and just a really cool project. They plan on doing another dungeon when this one is done so if it sounds cool, that may be the time to jump in. Or, if you want what may well be the most massive adventure module ever written, I definitely recommend it.

Worthy of my attention

That phrase rose up for me today and slapped me around a bit. It sounds kind of arrogant but it’s a decision all of us have to make, “Is this worthy of my attention?” It is especially true these days if you are an on line entity as I have become over the years.

 

With the power to connect to everyone in the world at a moment’s whim comes the ability to pay attention to so much more than was ever possible before. Yet ultimately, each of us as individuals has limited time and mental capacity to track it all. Even the process of deciding what to pay attention to can demand attention itself!

 

There are a few things in life I just don’t care about, but they are few and far between. My interests cover a pretty wide gamut: Gaming, Movies, Politics, Philosophy, Science, Psychology, Ethics, Computers, Acting, Writing, Art, Music, History, People, and more. I vacuum up everything my brain can get its grubby folds on.

 

Along with the breadth of what is available, there is tremendous depth. Who knows how long I could spend reading about plant breading, or the physics of soap, or breeds of dogs, or the nostalgia of 1st edition D&D players. Once you walk any given path it goes ever deeper, and once you start interacting with others, or creating your own information the vortex opens wide and drinks deep of you without end.

 

I rarely seem to lose interest in anything, I just wander into the next sand trap of knowledge and involvement, and yesterdays focus becomes today’s neglect. I’m not much good of just letting go, the memories remain and the passion I have for it is part of my fabric. This brings us back to what is or is not worthy of my time.

 

It comes down to motivations of course. Simple enjoyment of the moment, health, prosperity, love, pride, and obligation to others are all high on the list of my motivations. But being the gamer than I am, I am often thinking strategically about attention.

  • How to get the most done with the least effort (efficient attention)
  • Directing my gaze in directions that can make me money (pragmatic attention)
  • Avoiding burn out by keeping fun and relaxation in my mix (attention sanity)

 

And that is enough attention on blogging for now, time to get some sleep and let my brain file away today’s discoveries, triumphs, and challenges. One final contention that I think must be true.

 

Great deeds are defined as much by what was forgone as by what was accomplished.

 

I love interviews

I know a lot of folks hate interviewing but I have to say I always look forward to it. I do get a little nervous but it pretty quickly dissipates as I get into conversation about myself, the company, and work in general. I get to meet new and generally interesting people, show off a little when answering questions, talk about myself, and best of all: learn about different companies and how they think and do business.

 

The worst that happens is they don’t want me but that is the default in my mind. Unless I show up and interview they don’t even know who I am much less want to work with me. If I get the job, that’s golden, if not, then I learned some things and met new people.

 

You also never really know how well you did. I’ve had some where I thought I was a perfect fit and didn’t get the job, and others where I though I did badly, or really wasn’t trying too hard and won the position. While they are judging you, its a judgement relative to their needs and the other candidates you are up against. You just can’t take it personal because 95% of the time it really isn’t.

 

At any rate. Today I had perhaps the coolest interview I’ve ever gotten. Six hours and 10 different people from various parts of the company, plus a cool tour of the business. Exhausting? You bet. But it really was great fun and with so many different interviewers I really felt like I learned a lot about the business and got some great tips and ideas from them. I’d love the offer, but I trust they will make the decision that is best for them and if I don’t get it, then I look forward to the next opportunity.

 

 

Paizo Con Aftermath

Back from Paizo con where I spent nearly all my weekend; from early Friday to Sunday afternoon. Paizo Con is a gaming convention for the Pathfinder RPG; which is in turn a D&D offshoot.

 

I tend to go to this Con mostly to support my friends Wolfgang and Shelly with their Open Design company, but this year it was personal! I had my first print RPG book with my name on it available for folks to buy, so in addition to selling their fine products I was selling my own.

 

Beyond manning the booth, collecting emails, and talking up the latest OD offerings I had special missions to run some adventures created and sponsored by the company as well as to host a panel about the wide world of feats. Both games and panes went off great, and we seemed to sell a pretty decent number of books considering the small size of the convention.

 

Some highlights for me

  • Players in my adventures praised them and I even got a hug and some chainmail as spontaneous tribute.
  • Despite the early Sunday morning panel time, I had a solid audience for my feats panel. (I find a small audience much scarier than a large one.)
  • Someone told me that their experience with the Netbook of Feats was what launched their freelance writing career.
  • Many people had kind words about my work and wanted to talk about feats with me.
  • I scored more freelancing missions to keep me hammering away at the keyboard.

 

What we want to believe

The recent spate of rapture news and debate on Obama’s birth status got me thinking a bit about faith and belief in a slightly new way. I was very curious to read about the reaction of the believers after the date of rapture had passed to see if their faith would be shaken or transformed in some fashion.

 

The Pastor, Harold Camping seemed genuinely shaken but quickly bounced back and modified his prediction for future disaster. Few were much surprised by this. Of course the thing of it is, people have been doing this since the very earliest days of Christianity despite bible scripture being pretty clear that such predictions would always be false.

 

In the case of Obama, the facts are pretty well established that he was indeed born in Hawaii, and any evidence to the contrary is vastly overshadowed by the much more direct evidence in favor. But again, no matter how much evidence is provided, some will still cling tenaciously to the opinion that it is simply not possible for him to be American and they only need dig deep enough to prove that truth.

 

What these two cases hold strongly in common is a desire for the belief to be true. In the case of rapture it is the promise of eternal life, freedom from misery, and being part of the greatest event of all time. For the birthers it’s about their own self identity as Americans and the danger that their vision of it is no longer true. An America where a liberal black man is president is not their America which means their whole identity is false, something that they could not accept as being true.

 

I see the same thing in those who believe in astrology, in ghosts, in faeries, and all manner of things which plain evidence speaks strongly against. All they need is some tiny elements of possibility along with desire and enough other people to form a consensus of faith. Having tried to debate true believers, I know that they have uncanny powers for ignoring or failing to address contrary arguments or evidence. They often start certain and gun-ho but when the going gets rough they find an escape hatch of some kind.

 

This for me is a tip that a belief is powered not by argument or reason but by desire and identity. I think once you have discovered that the more meaningful path is not to try and change that desire or identity but to understand it. These kinds of desires or feelings are deep rooted and no measure of reason or rationale will change them. Even first-hand experience can be subverted in any number of ways to support a position backed by strong desire. Getting at those root desires and understanding how they can be fulfilled is the only means to affect any change.

 

And I am not entirely convinced that such beliefs should be changed unless they pose dire harm to others. A belief in something you desire and the commitment to living by it is simply part of the human condition. It ultimately doesn’t matter if that belief is true or not true so long as it gives some measure of peace and purpose to one’s life. Of course if someone tries to push that belief, there will and should be push back, but to hunt it down simply for falsehood is beside the point. Such beliefs are often and end in themselves.

 

I think if someone does want to directly challenge a belief of this kind, you must provide an alternative view that still satisfies the underlying desire that prompts adherence to the belief. If you try to pull someone out of a cult that provides purpose, family, and love, you had better be prepared to deliver all those things yourself. So next time you face off against someone who seems to hold a position against reason, ask yourself what personal needs and desires would require or be satisfied by that position. Of course you should not assume you are right, but you could likely ask directly or do some exploring by question that could discover the truth.

 

Weekly Podcasting

Most folks who will read this already know I run a weekly podcast, but not everyone does so… Now you will know all about it. J

 

The podcast is called DDOCast. You can find it on iTunes and Zune as well as other places including our file host, Cyberears. We’ve been doing it since late 2010, around 30 weeks or so which translates to around 30 shows or so. It’s about two hours long, I’m the host, Anne is the producer (meaning she runs the show and handles the technical aspects), and we have various guests and contributors that do short five to ten minute segments for us. The show is about the game Dungeons and Dragons Online and features news, commentary, and game strategy. We record the show live on U-Stream and then edit and publish the recorded podcast.

 

The show started years ago by a fellow named Jerry Snook who now works for Turbine. It was landing that job that forced him to stop hosting the show, and we volunteered to take over (after some serious deliberation). Jerry logged almost 200 episodes and pretty much did one every week for many years. I had always been amazed by his steadfast regularity in getting it out there. Now that I’m doing the show I can see how that happens. I expected to be less consistent but it gets to be a kind of rhythm to doing it and overall it’s a fun process.

 

Each week we spend some time gathering news and stories to feature on the show. We write up a set of notes that outlines each story or topic. Folks send us their segments to play and we get them set up in a folder along with whatever other files we need. Anne makes a quick screenshot picture for the show from something we did that week in game. Anne gets the software needed set up (it’s pretty complicated). We do sound checks and if we’re having a guest we get them in on our Skype call. We perform/record the show. Anne edits the show and writes up show notes in the podcast ready format. We upload it to cyberears and make a post on the DDOCast site and on the DDO Forums. Anne also keeps folks updated via our Twitter and Facebook accounts dedicated to the show.

 

It’s lots of work, but it’s fairly fun work and the fans are universally kind and helpful so there is very little to discourage doing it. I think we skipped only one week so far and a couple times did a recorded rather than live show due to our schedule, but beyond that we’ve been running like clockwork on it. By far the hardest weekly activity is editing the recorded show. Anne is a stickler for quality and tries to make everyone on the show sound good by chopping out mistakes or mouth noises. The other folks that do segments are always great and I love the team feeling.

 

I don’t generally look at the audience figures but Jerry built the show nicely and it’s the most popular show on our file host with weekly audiences in the one to two thousand ranges. The live show generally has only a dozen or so listeners but it’s a fun way to record it because listeners can talk to us via a chat room and create comments or questions for us while doing the show.

 

If you like MMO games, I’d recommend DDO and if you like DDO or are interested I’d recommend listing to our podcast if you don’t already. For everyone else… it’s probably not going to be very entertaining. Our sister podcast, DDO Cocktail hour may appeal to general geek types though. It’s still about DDO much of the time but drinking and movies often play a big part of their discussion and they are somewhat dedicated to not being serious or educational if they can help it.