Proof Reading

While I make an effort with my writing here on the blog, I am not a natural wordsmith.

I have a very large document on my PC (290 pages / 72,510 words as of a minute ago) that contains all my blog notes.  There are post ideas, game play notes, rule change notes, and a very large number of draft posts, most of which won’t ever see the light of day.

I will often draft and redraft a post multiple times across a couple of days.  If it reaches a solid enough state I make an effort to finish it off.  When I am finally happy enough with it I will read it out aloud (or more often quietly under my breath) to try and pick up any last mistakes.  I will then cut and paste the entry into WordPress, where I will add any media, ensure the links are configured, and do one more read.  When happy with all that I will hit publish, then immediately read the uploaded post.  After, I remove the post from my document, and finally do one last check read when the post happens into my RSS Reader.

I don’t do this because I love to read what I write.  In part I take care because obvious spelling and grammatical mistakes distract from whatever message you are trying to convey.  In part it is because I take a bit of pride in my work.  In part it relates to those Anxieties I mentioned in my last post, not wanting to embarrass myself too much I guess.

Despite my care, I can not tell you how often I find obvious mistakes after I have published a post!  Tonight one of them was using the term peripherals instead of peripheries in the last post.

Some days however, I will see an obvious mistake after I have published a post and think – fuck it – the mistake stays.

I am not sure how many mistakes will be in this post – it went straight into WordPress.  To amuse myself I won’t correct any after I hit publish.

(Also, I won’t post any more today.. not sure what came over me.)

Maybe closer to the truth

I’ve sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in my knee. The damage was done while digging out Rose and Black Berry bushes on a steeply sloped garden last Friday. It is only mild, but warranted a visit to the doctor this morning.

While in the waiting room I read the news on my phone. At one point the harsh chorus of noise in the place got too distracting so I looked up. The ladies at the reception were talking, there was a TV on, a young child was watching an episode of Fireman Sam on an iPad at full volume, a bloke in his 20’s was watching what sounded like some comedy segment on his phone at noticeable volume, a grandfather was watching or listening to some Italian show on his phone, and the lady next to me was watching some Arabic video on her phone, tutting at the difficulty of hearing it, and repeatedly turning up the volume.

It was a perfect snapshot of the state of courtesy in our world.

I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as this 10 years ago. Maybe our youth with save us?

My kids attend Karate lessons once a week after school. The Instructors provide plenty of balls for them to play with between when school finishes and the class begins at 4pm. A bunch of kids have taken to kicking the balls against the walls immediately above where the parents sit. Invariably a miskicked ball will clock a parent or two in the face or knock a phone out of a hand each week. At best the child might give the parent an inane smile, but more often they just stare blankly then walk off. Two minutes later they are back doing it again.

The other night my wife and I heard strange rolling noises on our roof. I went outside and found two neighbouring kids under 12, standing in front of our house with a tennis racket. There were stones laying on the ground around the front of the house. When I asked them if they were hitting stones on to our roof I got blank stares and “no we didn’t” replies. I suggested stones seemed to be flying around by themselves, so they had better go home before they got hurt.

Every week I come across a dozen little moments like this. I’m starting to think EVE might not be quite the dystopian environment I thought it was. It might be a little too accurately representing the direction society is heading.

WoWS – Numbers

In a recent World of Warships battle I found myself on the wrong side of the numbers game. My spawn location dictated what capture point I moved towards in my battleship, and I was joined by only three others, a Destroyer, a Cruiser and another Battleship. The remaining eight ships in our fleet went to another capture point. As our enemy showed themselves it became apparent our squad of four would be up against eight, and our squad of eight would be up against four. This sort of split is common, as is my ability to be on the wrong side of the numbers. I resigned myself to an unpleasant early demise.

I didn’t pay much thought to the rest of the fleet, instead concentrating on my closest allies as we began a fairly hectic battle. Our enemy kept passing behind large islands which afforded us cover from their shells and meant our return fire tended to be more focused on those fewer ships in the open. When I took a breath and looked up from my gun sights, our squad had captured the point with the loss of the Destroyer and Cruiser, sunk six of the enemy, and forced the remaining two into retreat.

I had a momentary thought that the battle was in the bag when I stopped to wonder at the status bar across the top of the screen. Our second squad of eight was down to one, having only sunk one ship in return. Our three remaining ships – two badly damaged, were spread out. The enemies five ships were all together, steaming through the capture points, and focusing fire.

I still had my unpleasant demise, it just took longer than expected.

If not on the wrong side of the numbers, I keep finding my Tier VI and VII Cruisers are ending up bottom tier in most of their battles, up against Tier VIII and IX. In one battle my poor La Galissonniere landed 50 main shell hits with her 152mm guns, and did a grand total of just over 500 points damage. Yes – I changed targets, where I was aiming, and shell type, but everything shattered or bounced against the primarily Tier IX opponents. The ship was put out of its misery by just two shell strikes, taking off 90% of its hit points.

In another battle I was impressed to see half our fleet were in the same division and obviously knew each other. They then proceeded to yolo troll the chat channel, shoot each other down to 1/2 health, then suicided themselves into the enemy.

I am still intrigued by the game, but the reoccurring theme over and over is just how random the battles seem to work out. I am just as likely to come out of a battle with a win when I am ineffective and sunk within minutes, as I am to lose a battle when I play a (rare) faultless game and do everything right.  I assume it plays a little nicer if you are top tier.

Collecting

Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE) Middle Earth Role Playing game (MERP) was the very first commercial desktop RPG I played. It was licensed through Tolkien Enterprises and was based on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I absolutely loved the campaign and adventure modules, and found most to be of high quality.

That was back more than 30 years ago – in my early years of High School. I hadn’t yet started earning money and my Dad hated the idea of the game, so unfortunately I was never able to buy many of the books.

We moved on to ICE’s Rolemaster and Terry Amthor’s Shadow World / Loremaster environment – another setting I loved. I was able to purchase most of these books over time, but the MERP gear was rarely available.

By the time I had gone through Uni, started my career and set up house with my now wife, ICE was headed into bankruptcy, had lost its Tolkien license and there were no more new books released.

I did buy all the Forgotten Realm Setting books for D&D 3.0 and 3.5 versions when they came out. I’ve rarely played games using them, but loved the format and quality of the books. They are easily good enough just to read for reading sake, and sit on my bookcase in great condition. I still regretted however not being able to collect the MERP books.

For the last five odd years I have taken to looking for the MERP books on Ebay. I have now picked up some 40 of the 100 odd products released, most in as new condition. I’ve paid less than $10 for some, more than $60 for others, but mostly between $20 and $40. I’ve seen some books go for more than $100, although they often get relisted again soon after as the more successful auctions don’t seem to go through reliably. It amazes me that you can receive in the mail a book that is 30 odd years old, yet in as new condition.

In the last year or so however nothing new seems to be put up for auction – aside the same old over priced items relisted month after month after month. There are more options overseas, but I’ve tended to stick to the Australian site. I take the approach that if I get lucky, all good – if not, never mind.

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Part of the Collection

My history of role playing games certainly plays a big part in why I’ve liked and spent so long in EVE.  My experience with collecting MERP books also probably explains why I have purchased most of the books and what not related to EVE when they are released.

Not related to EVE

An out of EVE update, which I don’t think I have done for a while. Feel free to ignore.

As previously mentioned, I left my job in December last year. The TL;DR is that I’m still an unemployed bum.

I have no regrets on that decision. Since my departure the state office closed, the team I was in no longer exists, and all senior management of the time have gone.

I had planned to take 3 to 4 months off before concentrating on my next move, but that stretched out to July with my wife changing jobs.

A couple years ago we realised our decade long focus on the kids had allowed our careers and related options to really decline. The situation was more salvageable for my wife, and this second job change in two years has continued the positive impact on her resume and employment options we were targeting.

Over the transition period to this new job however she wasn’t able to help with the kids taxi requirements or care during the day, which fell to me.

It turns out I am a good stay at home parent. The house has never been so neat, clean or organised, the schedule is running smoothly and the kids have responded well to the consistency. My wife regularly gets home to a hot meal being served and has more free time now than she has had since the kids arrived. She pointedly remarks that she won’t be doing half the tasks I do when she is next in the stay at home role.

I struggle however with measuring my worth.  For 20 years all I had to do was point at my financial contribution to the family, and everything else I did was icing on top. This is very different. Some comes down to gender and societies views. Whenever my wife has taken time off at home she has been applauded by friends and family. I instead get asked how are my holidays going and when am I ever going back to work.

Meanwhile I have been going through a very logical and structured midlife non-crisis.

I had known the job market would be very difficult – but it has been worse than expected. On average, there has been less than one position advertised a month in my area of expertise across the entire state – and not all of those seemed like real opportunities. From feedback, I know each quickly get a flood of apparently qualified applicants. I have had a couple interviews for one role which I declined to progress further with, but otherwise have gotten nowhere.

There is work interstate – and many of my past colleagues are having to commute to such jobs. That would not however work well for the family, and given there is no financial pressure for me to be working, it isn’t an option we have seriously looked at yet.

I’ve been meeting with past colleagues over the last 6 months. All of them have painted a horrid picture of where our industry is at, and none see a long-term future in it. This networking, or as I call it catching up with old friends, has produced a couple leads and opportunities that may go somewhere.

I had the expectation that I might not be able to continue with my career of the last 20 years – something I am viewed as being rather good at. Having the expectation and facing the reality of that however are two different things, and I’m feeling very odd about it.

I have looked at up or cross skilling – but there are so few jobs advertised that this would give me minimal extra opportunities. I have looked at retraining in new areas, but when you speak to the various professional associations, they all admit that it would be unlikely you would get hired for starting roles. Figures of 1 or 2% of hires in my age group are bantered around – with most of them already working for the companies in other roles and not starting there fresh. I’m not sure how you get into these other roles – even basic jobs to fill time require some sort of background that my current technical and niche resume is highly unlikely to get a look in at.

I guess that all might sound defeatist – but I am just being practical.

In amongst all this I’ve been looking into buying into a business, or more likely, a franchise. I’ve done a lot of research and spoken at length to multiple companies, two of which are at the point I could ask for contracts if I felt inclined. This is the most likely direction I will end up in – but I am suffering somewhat from analysis paralysis at the moment.  I’m also finding it hard to draw a line through my old career.

On a more positive note – aside a much better running household, our daughters behaviour has also been much improved the second half of this year. It was getting so bad that her Paediatrician was testing if she had psychopath tendencies or not (I tell you that is confronting), and was within weeks of prescribing medication. Then, almost overnight, she went from 15 to 30 completely out of control tantrums a month to 1 or 2. We don’t fully understand why or how temporary this reprieve is, but we know part of the reason from her own feedback. She said she got sick of never getting her own way and always losing her screen time when she threw a tantrum. Dad’s ever consistent boundaries have been helpful. We have taken the opportunity with her more amenable attitude and got her back to seeing a psychologist. Her Speech Therapist sessions have also been far less of a battle.

While I am generally more relaxed, and find it easier to manage the kids, I have felt disappointed that after this much time off work I haven’t felt particularly refreshed. It doesn’t feel like I have had a holiday. Having said that – I’m not sure how many stay at home Mum’s feel like they are on  holidays.

As far as gaming has been concerned – I am spending around the same, maybe a bit less on it than when I was working.

Although it might not seem like it, this is only a very short summary of what has been going on.  So as I said, the TL;DR is that I’m still an unemployed bum.

Unhappy

When I first started out in the online world some 25 years ago, it was with dial up bulletin board systems. By today’s standards they were archaic – 2 or 3 dial up lines, 50 to 100 regular users, maybe some simple online games, file downloads, chat boards and news feeds, all wrapped up in an artistically challenged ASCII interface.

Smarter people than I saw them as the vanguard of something much bigger, what would become the ever evolving Internet. They could see the disruption across commercial, social, political and illegal spectrums. I on the other side saw them as a great way to improve on who I was – learn new things and ideas, become less prejudiced, refine and improve on my knowledge and opinions. It was a hermit’s version of travelling the world without having to leave your house.

The harbinger of my online writing – my blogging here, were long debates written on BBS forums. I shudder to think at the number of words I’ve written down over the years. New and age old topics, current events and history, anything and everything you could think of and more you couldn’t have. I would just as often play devil’s advocate on a topic – not to be argumentative, but to challenge my own views and writing skills.

I remember one particular person I spared with often over many topics. In hindsight he would have had Oppositional Defiant Disorder and / or have been on the Autism Spectrum. He was clearly unhinged. You could however – with appropriate dexterity, reason with him. In fact – you could reason with just about every person you debated with. It was ok to agree to disagree, you would still come away with a better understanding of the opposite view, it was ok to change your mind or adjust your view in part, or have your view cemented even stronger.

I became a better person for those years.

On Facebook I have a very diverse array of connections. Family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances, smart and not so smart, wealthy and poor, young and old, wise and foolish, politically far left and far right, from yoga masters, teachers, company directors, spinsters, bachelors, married and polyamorous, religious and atheist, gay, straight, various different skin colours and so on. My news feed should be a melting pot of different opinions and ideas and experiences which I should be able to learn and grow from. Except it is not.

Almost everyone surrounds themselves with people having similar views and go to town on supporting and reinforcing each other, while hating on anyone who disagrees. In fact, over the years they are getting more and more hostile at people who are not just changing their minds to agree with them. There is no focus on becoming a better or more knowledgeable person, instead it is sprint to becoming more insular.

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Every couple of weeks, maybe nostalgic for the good old days, I will pick one out of the hundreds of blatantly toxic memes I see, and call the poster out on it. I’ll check the facts, or ask if they really think the message is right or appropriate. They will either attack me for questioning their opinion, or admit it isn’t important that it is factually wrong, because in the greater scheme it supports their view, which is correct.

I called out one particular meme on the weekend as blatantly rewriting a historical event to support a view – and asked why lie when there are more current and appropriate examples which would have done a much better job. One of the posters friends took umbrage to my opinion, and said because I was a White Male Christian I lived a life of privilege, so my opinion would be disregarded. I pointed out that I was not a Christian, and what did that colour of my skin and sex have to do with the validity of accepting demonstrable lies. Her response was that she was entitled to her opinion.  (Where as I was not.)

In context she was sexist, a racist complaining about racism, an anti-Christian complaining about Islamophobia. She was completely oblivious to the fact and irony that she was a closed minded bigot – exactly what she thought she was championing against. She had a number of people click like on her comments, supporting her.

This is now the norm. I rarely seem valuable debate any more online. You have people demanding tolerance with intolerance, education with ignorance, peace with hostility. Something seems seriously wrong with the society around me.

Over the last year there has been a real hostility across the EVE related media I follow – large echo chambers, vile attacks on others, a failure to listen to or consider other people’s views. It has died down a bit of late, but that seems more a result of less people bothering to offer up a dissenting opinion than any healing or resolution. I went to remark on it multiple times, but never finished a post.

I don’t really think it is an EVE problem. The western, democratic, capitalist society I am familiar with seems really unhappy within itself at the moment.

Corsair K95 RGB keyboard mini-review

I’ve used a Logitech 710+ keyboard for almost 3 years. It is mechanical with Cherry MX Brown switches and has 6 programmable keys along its left edge, which I used day to day for things such as closing windows or moving forward and backwards between browser tabs, and options such as select all for in EVE. It is probably the longest I have ever used a keyboard, but it was starting to show its age with a glitch here and there and a couple loose keys.

I recently looked around for a replacement, but Logitech did not offer anything exactly the same and neither did the myriad of other brands. I ended up getting a Corsair K95 RGB keyboard – also with Cheery MX Brown switches but with 18 programmable keys along its left edge.

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The K95 is a very solid weighty keyboard which doesn’t flex or readily move in normal use. The lack of flex was its first negative. I use a 15 year old desk with a return. There is a very slight height variation between them – a fraction of a millimeter. I could straddle the Logitech keyboard across this, but the stiffer Corsair rocks slightly when used in the same position.

A little surprisingly, the Corsair keyboard fits within the same footprint of the Logitech, so does not use extra desk space. It fits 2 extra columns of keys into that footprint, which makes it feel a little squishy in comparison to the Logitech. I am still not used to this after two weeks, so my typing accuracy still suffers, and my hands are more likely to ache after a long day of typing.

I do like the design of how the keys sit on the back plate. It makes it much easier to clean away crumbs and what not. Having said that, the matt surface on the keys tends to show up your finger prints more.

The keys themselves are louder and feel heavier than the Logitech, but some of that might just be due to the age of the older keyboard.

While I did not need 18 programmable keys, I figured I would set them up like the old Razer Nostromo Game Pad I still used for Dungeon and Dragons Online. While it certainly works functionally, its smaller size means my hand tends to get cramped and sore after an hour of gaming.

I’ve used programmable keyboards for years now, and am very comfortable with the Logitech, Steelseries and Razor software. While the Corsair Gaming software covers everything I would expect, I have not found it as straight forward to use. It was very odd that there was not a default solid-lighting effect, you had to create one. While I like the option of saving the profiles to the keyboard, the way you do this should be more obvious.  The setup of Macros / Assignments wasn’t as nice.  There were also odd colour assignment issues. If I assigned a colour to the predefined key combinations – All keys, Arrow Keys, G-Keys or WASD, and then assigned the same colour to a single key – it would not appear the same. In the photo above you can see All keys were assigned red. The WASD keys were then assigned the same red colour individually – yet were clearly a different colour.

Now despite this all I don’t regret the purchase. (Probably lucky given its price.) There seemed to be few other options. I also know some of my issues relate to my age and I suspect a level of RSI in my hands from 20 years of excessive technology use. I know some might view the macro keys as a gimmick, but when you get the right combinations setup and the finger memory to use them automatically, they can really work well. I’ve used keys besides each other for such things as All Drones Engage, or All Drones Return to Bay. I might move forward and backwards through targets, or have two keys to resize the Probe Scan Size and Refresh the Probe Scan results. Some would also think the keyboard colour adjustment is even more of a gimmick. Some comes down to appearance – being able to match your mouse and keyboard colours for example, but if set up right, I find it useful to have different layouts for different games, with important keys highlighted in a different colour than the rest of the layout.

So all told, you can configure the keyboard in lots of useful ways, but it requires a bit more effort than it should.