Preparation

A few weeks ago, I went duck hunting. It was a 12-hour effort to pack, drive, hunt, drive and unpack. I went mid-week – which is not ideal if you want other hunters to be around to push up a few birds. I went out at the wrong time of day – starting around lunch when birds are not likely to be moving and coming back in before sunset, where there is a window of opportunity of catching birds moving to roost. I went out in the wrong weather – a clear windless day, which reduces the chances of birds moving. Last of all I just walked the relatively open swamp I was hunting – out in the open with minimal chance of success. I had everything stacked against me – and was rewarded with an empty bag.

As I wearily got back to my car the Warden of the private hunting property I was on drove by and tactfully pointed out I was doing it all wrong. I agreed – but said I had a very small window of opportunity to get out of the city, and a bad hunt was better than no hunt at all. He remarked that I might have had more luck if I hadn’t come in so early. I agreed – but said I had to be home to take one of my children to an activity. I then said what I was really doing was scouting for a future hunt, watching the flight paths the birds took, working out where I would setup. I recounted what I had observed, and he was able to confirm what I had thought and gave additional information about where other hunters often went, adjacent wetlands that birds travelled between, and the different behaviour of some of the common species on the swamp.

A couple days ago, I went duck hunting. It was a 12-hour effort to pack, drive, hunt, drive and unpack. I had planned to go earlier but the weather was too calm, so I delayed the trip. This delay also increased the chance other hunters would be about. I was on the road at 3:30am to ensure I arrived and was setup well before sunset. Instead of finding some random spot, I waded straight to the location I wanted to hunt in the dark, under the intersection of two flight paths I had earlier observed. I put out a small set of decoys. At this point in the season birds were weary of landing in anything but larger decoy spreads, so this small grouping was more about confidence and explaining my calls. As the sun rose the wind picked up noticeably and other hunters started to shoot. In very tricky conditions I had an enjoyable and successful hunt and came home with a good feed.

When you hunt solo like I have been the last couple of years you can sometimes stumble into a very successful hunt by chance, but mostly, it requires a lot of preparation and effort to have some semblance of success.

This playing EVE analogy was brought to you by the wild duck stew I will be eating tonight.

Out of game status update – Part 2

To summarise part one – took a break, unsuccessful job search, looked at business opportunities, went back to school.

I haven’t had the normal sort of impetus – like food and shelter – to get back to work as soon as possible. Despite two years of me being unemployed, financially the family is fine. When I finished at my last job the mortgage had already been paid off, we had no debt, and the bank balance was healthy. The situation has not changed, and we live reasonably comfortably on my wife’s wage.

The fairly logical and unrushed journey I’ve been able to take in working out what to do next in my career has been a relatively fortuitous luxury not afforded to most.

By taking primary responsibility for the kids, my wife was able to change jobs twice and rejuvenate her career. I am better at cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping and time management than my wife, so the house is better organised and runs smoother.

My wife has a pathological need to have our kids lives filled with organised activities – aside school five days a week there is soccer training and matches, swimming, karate, athletics, roller-skating lessons, Sunday school and professional appointments for our daughter. Since not working it has been a lot less stressful for us all trying to meet my wife’s overfull and complicated scheduling.

I am better at dealing with our daughter – who is on the high functioning end of the Autism spectrum. Over the last two years we have been able to work with her Paediatrician, Psychologist, Speech Therapist and Teachers to better understand her, and have got her out of control tantrums from happening 15 to 25 days a month down to 3 or 4.

It is not all happy days though.

My wife is supportive – almost always, mostly, sort of. For much of the first year she was keen on me not working as it made it much easier with her job changes. She understands the journey I have gone through, the decisions I have made, and says it all makes sense to her. On the surface I have a great deal to be thankful for.

But – my wife avoids confrontation like the plague and is passive aggressive. The occasional jibe, under breath utterance, and attitude shift suggests she isn’t entirely happy. She expresses annoyance at not being able to spend as much money on the things she wants – travel and entertainment. She jealously remarks on how she would love to be the stay at home parent – while indicating she wouldn’t make anywhere near the effort I do or wangle the kids half as well, so I’d be expected to still cover off lots of that stuff. I’m left with the underlying impression that while she is thankful and happy with my contributions, she thinks a little less of me, and if she was to be completely honest, she would prefer I do all that I do – and earn a good wage at the same time.  She would like to have her cake, and eat it too.

My wife and I have always been very good at making long term plans. We haven’t really been able to since not knowing where my career will go.

Personally, I have found it very hard to quantify my self-worth in the Stay at Home Dad role. A monthly salary was an easily defined contribution to the family. A male keeping the house orderly, the fridge full, the kids in clean clothes, putting a hot meal on the table as your wife walks in through the door – society either assumes I am not doing it, or it is dismissed.

We likely both sound ungrateful – but understanding and meeting your own, your families, and societies expectations in this area has been trickier than expected.

So back to concise context – not working has left me busier than before, there have been real benefits for my family, but it has been tricky to navigate, and leaves aspects of life on hold.

So that is life out of game. Now back to the normal sporadic updates.

Out of game status update – Part 1

This isn’t about EVE. It is background context and an update on topics I have mentioned before.

I’ve been unemployed for two years now. A less than auspicious accomplishment that plays on my mind.

I’ve tried to remark on this before, but I never seem to be able to explain the situation in a succinct enough manner.

I left my last job because it was obvious the organisation was in its’ death throes. It started shutting down just months later. Credit where credit is due – the last remaining Senior Manager was the Accountant, and he handled the process in a very orderly manner. As far as I had heard, no one lost any of their entitlements.

Not long after that, the US Parent company went into Administration and was sold, with the Shareholders losing all their money. The last CEO had in a couple short years taken a large successful international business and ruined it with his Dilbert like jargon and hot air.

A hollow vindication I guess of my initial decision.

I spent about four months just tackling the To-Do list around home. I never really made a dent in it however – as quickly as I accomplished something, two more items would be added.

When I started looking around seriously for work I found there was none. I’d been warned for years by colleagues that this was the reality. Knowing it, and seeing it however are two different things. Of the few jobs that did pop up, I was handicapped by not being able to travel (I had to do the school runs), and by a conscious and considered decision to specialise in a way that was now no longer particularly marketable.

I caught up with many of the people in my professional network, I had my resume reviewed, I looked for options to step sideways into other technologies, I tried to be creative in broadened my job search, but I found myself pigeonholed back into a career that was no longer open to me.

It is a very odd feeling to no longer be able to do the work you enjoy and are good at. Your self-worth takes a knock, you feel grief, embarrassment. It is hard to explain.

After 4 or 5 months I started looking seriously into buying a franchise. There is a romantic notion to being your own boss. I did some online courses and a crap load of research, and had long discussions with several groups. In the end however, while I found a number of Franchisors I really liked, and some products and services I could get enthused about, I did not find them combined. What I ended up with was a very long list of what I would steer away from – any Franchisors who were public companies or run by investment organisations, any franchise less than 5 years old, any pyramid franchises where you reported to a franchised area manager who reported to a franchised regional manager who reported to a franchised state manager and so on. I still get the emails and read the magazines, but currently I don’t have any prospects I am chasing.

Meanwhile I had always remarked that I could just get a lawn mowing business to bring in some money while the kids where still young. I earnt pocket money during High School gardening for half a dozen elderly clients. It was something I was and remained good at. Friends of ours suggested I could start on cleaning up their property, to see how I went. They lived on a large and very steep block that was overgrown with weeds and covered with blackberries. For the last year, for half a day a week, I’ve been doing their gardening. It has been a mammoth, heavy task, but our friends have been genuinely delighted with the results. It did however show me that I could not physically do such a job full time. My fall back option was not an option after all.

So – for the last 6 months I did a lot of research, enrolled and have undertaken study. The particular course I took provides a qualification related to training adults. The thought is to get into corporate IT training or the like. I had very good feedback from the other students and the instructor, who has gone out of her way to look for opportunities for me. That should all be finished by the end of January.

I don’t know if it will provide a solution for my unemployment, but it gives me options. It has also been a reminder, like the gardening, that I can be quite accomplished at what I set my mind to. I’ll have to set my mind in a similar way to finding work in the new year.

Your own way

“They found old 99 knocking on the front door, trying to get back into Atmore..”

Before the age of around 12, music did not really play much of a part in my upbringing. While my father had a strong preference for us kids to spend our days outside, I think the dearth of music related more to my parent’s lack of spare money. It wasn’t really until the first year of high school that popular music hit my radar. It was around the same time I became a lot more aware of the concept of conforming to the norm and trying to fit in.

My early exposure to music came from commercial radio, what other kids listened to during lunch at school, and of course the now iconic Australian music TV show, Rage. I was destined to have very mainstream tastes until my Mum pulled out a very old record player and let me listen to her collection of LPs. It turned out Music had been a big part of her life growing up, especially when she was working and single.

I listened to the likes of The Carpenters, John Denver, Kenny Rodgers, Dr Hook, Elvis, ABBA, The Beatles, Neil Diamond – music that at the time was very uncool. I consumed their full albums, and in amongst a lot of stuff I didn’t think much of, I got an appreciation of what a truly classic song can be, found B side gems, and realised I was going to miss out on a whole lot of good music if I just followed what everyone else listened to. It was my first – easily hid – move to being an individual.

I’m not talking about being an individual by rebelling against conformity. That just ends up being a sort of conformism in its self. I’m talking about making choices and decisions on what you like truly for yourself – even if that is what everyone else likes, or if it is as obscure as all hell.

I am proud of my digital music collection. It currently has a bit over 4,000 songs in it, carefully gathered over the last 20 odd years. It is made up of only songs I love and can listen to over and over again – usually just a couple from each album. It is a very eclectic mix divided across 13 genres, current to more than 90 years old, from very popular to completely uncool. It doesn’t matter what I click on – I know I will enjoy listening to it. It wouldn’t be there otherwise. It is more than just a source of entertainment, but a partial reflection of what makes me, me.

On the weekend, I spent half a day searching for music on YouTube. One of the Yachting videos I was watching used Christopher Cross’s award-winning song, Sailing, as part of its background music. I had forgotten just how brilliant that song was, so I went off to find the best version I could to add to my music library. YouTube suggestions lead me further down the path of classics from the 70 and 80, by artists including Lionel Richie, Billy Ocean, Roger Hodgson, David Gilmour, and in the end, Dr Hook.

One of the B sides I loved in my youth was by Dr Hook. It talked about the stories a boy and his brother heard from their prison guard grandfather. The final stanza or two was about one prisoner who was transferred to a different jail, broke out, and was found knocking on the door of their old Jail asking to be let back in. It had always struck a chord with me, and I had looked for the song a number of times over the years without luck. (I couldn’t remember enough details to identify it). It was also not on the various Best of Compilations I had purchased, hoping to find it that way.

At the end of my music hunting on the weekend I stumbled across it. It was called Atmore – but I think it is actually meant to be called 99 and me.

If you want to know why I play EVE the way I do – my own way – this song was one of the very first reasons.

This idle thought was brought to you by

The Nosy Gamer –

http://nosygamer.blogspot.com.au/2017/08/winter-is-coming.html
http://nosygamer.blogspot.com.au/2017/09/eve-online-lifeblood-surprise-expansion.html

And Wilhelm Arcturus

https://tagn.wordpress.com/2017/09/05/meaningful-progression-in-new-eden-pve/

Who got me thinking once again about how the game of EVE can be for the Solo Empire Player, and where it might be heading, if anywhere.

Opened Eyes

(One of the Non-EVE Posts I mentioned earlier.)

My son regularly tries to access Reddit. He is 12.

He has two iPads (one for school, one for home), an Xbox One S, and a Windows Gaming Desktop. On each I have set up restrictions around age, applications and store purchases, given him non-administration accounts, locked him into child friendly DNS, use Norton and Windows Family software and what not. I also keep a semi regular eye on what he is doing, reviewing his logs and history.

I must annoy him no end when I refuse to allow him to install lots of games his friends do – generally based on if they are too realistically gory or violent, or with concepts that are just too dark.

What I have done won’t protect him fully, but it helps, and it is why I’m aware of his interest in Reddit.

He loves gaming and wants to be a game developer after school. His wayward web searches have always been aboveboard, hunting down game and development tips and reviews and bug fixes. When blocked he knows just to move on and try the next link.

Some of my son’s peers have far more restricted access to the internet. One has an extremely technically minded father who has rewritten their modem’s firmware with all sorts of parental controls over access, times, length, sites visited and what not. A handful are simply not allowed to access the internet at all without their parent sitting with them.

The majority however – the vast, vast majority, have minimal or no restrictions or monitoring on their Internet use. In some cases, they have even circumvented the rudimentary controls that their non-technical parents had tried to implement, or have their older siblings do it for them.

I’m sure there are lots of healthy and useful areas in Reddit, but it really isn’t a platform I want my son to be familiar with at his age. The mind truly boggles at just what the majority of kids must be accessing on their devices, and from such a young age. My god that could mess up the minds of so many kids.

While I make an above average effort to protect my son, I don’t go to the extremes I am technically able to. I use it more as an opportunity to explain why some of the sites are blocked, and he uses it as a debating point on when or why he should have access. I hope the fact that it is something we openly communicate about helps him when he visits friends or sleeps over, and doesn’t have the same sorts of restrictions or protections in place.

Time Flies out the door

Aside a couple sessions working on T3 fittings, I’ve spent very little time playing EVE over the last few weeks. I have been reading about the current and approaching wars, but it all tends to come across as the same old story, just a different day. The style of propaganda probably doesn’t help much there. I think the August release is arriving today. I looked at the patch notes but not much stood out. There is a new event starting called Lucky Clash, a new Standings UI, and some updates to the map and scanning interfaces I’ll have to look at. One nice change is that scan results no longer clear on session changes.

I have been playing a bit of World of Warships, and try to fit in a couple battles each day. I actually feel like I am playing ok – not brilliantly, but regularly being in the top 3 or 4 experience earners in my team. This is not however reflected in my stats. My win rate for the last 3 months is sitting at around 40% from 215+ battles. I know it shouldn’t matter, but it does. It doesn’t make it a particularly satisfying game.

I am sailing a lot of Tier VII and VIII Cruisers at the moment, and often find myself bottom tier up against Tier IX and X ships. The Battleships just chew through you – the majority of your strikes just shatter, but every time one of their shells land, boom, 30 to 40% of your hits are gone. It only takes one or two salvos and you are out of the game. I say the same thing over and over – but it pretty much sums up my experience.

Recently I resorted to running a few Tier III/IV matches, up against a generally lower level of player. I am finding I am normally effective, sometimes enough to carry a match. It was a confidence boost I needed. The above battle was particularly memorable with the Murmansk captain well and truly outclassing everyone. I am pretty sure he came out with around half his hit points still. I did a lot of spotting and had many torpedo hits in that game – being untimely robbed of several kills. I cemented the win by soloing a Battleship parked in one of the Capture points, and then choosing not to engage the Murmansk and focus on ensuring a strategic point win. I have seen a lot of games lost by players focused just on drawing blood. It is an easily exploited tactic used in EVE.

I am still doing a DDO Session every week or so with friends. They use the one night I join them to do loot runs, primarily in EPIC level quests. They all have characters with many reincarnations and highly optimised set ups and equipment. They run these quests solo, and in groups they move mindlessly at breakneck speeds. There is no such thing as stopping to smell the roses. Often, I spend the entire session running to catch up, struggling to even just target opponents before they are swiftly killed by the others. It doesn’t tend to be fun. I had to put aside all but one of my highest-level characters as they just fell too far behind. I am down to just using my original Cleric now, and while I often pull my weight in the kill count, it is just a handful of crowd control tactics used over and over and over again. I just don’t have the time – or the inclination – to spend the months required to partially catch up. The reality is I should stop playing.

Speaking of stopping, I’ve pretty much stopped playing all my iPad games – with just the occasional glance at them with weeks or months between. Interesting how none of them have really been able to hold my interest like EVE had.

All told my gaming time has dropped by more than 50% over the last year. I should have a bit of spare time on my hands, maybe to tackle something new. Real life however energetically vacuums any of that time up. Mostly it sees me taxiing kids around to their silly number of activities and events. I am struggling a bit with the lack of escapist downtime.

I have written various more personal blog entries that I never posted. I might throw one or two of them up for the other middle-aged gamers with kids to nodded their heads at and mumble yep.

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.)