(Il)Logical Progression

Random Musings by the Truly Random

What Should I Say?

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Haha. Made you look. Real post to come soon!

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November 8, 2012 Posted by | General Musings | | Leave a comment

I Have No Idea Why I Feel Like Saying This…

…but vote. It’s a right and a privilege and it shouldn’t be wasted. Democrat or Republican, Libertarian or Green… Vote.

Don’t take it for granted.

My 2 yen,

Akiosama

November 6, 2012 Posted by | General Musings | , | Leave a comment

The Trouble with Raiding…

Sometimes I just curse my luck.

Last Friday, my new guild, Memories of Xendor (or MOX), put together a 8-man Hardmode Denova run for those of us who were on and not part of their regular teams.  They’re a World-class guild, having gotten the World 3rd completion of Hardmode Terror from Beyond, and their progression teams are sharp and dedicated.  I believe our team is going to be a regular raiding team at some point, and while we’re probably not going to be a progression team – I don’t think that most of us who are regular on this new team (which I’m hoping will be MOX Sapphire – since any Magic player who’s been studying the game seriously knows that the Sapphire is the best Mox) will be able to dedicate serious progression time to the game the way it would need to be done – we are shooting for having a reliable, regular raid team.

Given that MOX Sapphire is in its infancy, we’re a pretty motley crew of participants, most of whom still need to finish getting our top-tier gear.  Still, while we have some great players in there, we’re struggling – Hardmode Denova has not yet been completed, and we’ve only run very limited Story Mode (normal) Terror from Beyond.  And there are some things about resuming regular raiding, especially since I’m not raid leading at this time, that are frustrating.

I believe some of this stuff will work itself out soon, but it’s been a while since I was just a raider and not a leader and what has been given up by not taking up the torch for this new group is becoming evident.  Further, just raiding regularly has shown me some frustrations that I hadn’t thought about in some time.

Back to Friday – we ran Denova with a pretty ragtag group, including one person who had nearly no experience with group content.  We get in and things seem to look like we’re going to have a smooth start, but one tank-swap mishap late in the fight and we wipe, with Toth and Zorn nearly dead.  And that was the best attempt we had, up until we had to swap out one of the healers when one of our starting healers had to leave, and then we managed to complete the fight.  I think it took us about two hours to finish that first boss.

And the fun didn’t stop there, we proceeded to have a comedy of errors on the next boss encounter – Firebrand and Stormcaller – and we did not get them down.  Tanking errors, mechanical errors, equipment errors (lag/disconnects), and such filled our attempts.  Not once did we actually meet the enrage timers, so whether DPS was an issue or not wasn’t even apparent.  Our healers were the sharpest aspect of this fight, and other than trouble getting under the shields during the Defensive phase, I don’t think they made any serious errors.  Wipe after wipe, we continued at this for two more hours, until we called the raid due to time, with nothing to show but repair bills for the fight.

Saturday ended up being Story Mode Terror from Beyond, since we had a completely different set of people on, and I actually was asked to heal it, given the lack of guild healers on at the time we started.  I think I healed it ok, though I had a couple of sticky spots, which my partner, Cronoan, was able to cover.  The majority of our wipes were not healing related and I think that gave me some relief, though I seriously need to work on my healing.  In any case, no Hardmode Denova on Saturday.

Sunday came around, and the group decided to resume Denova, except they decide on a time when I can’t be there.  Not a huge issue – I felt a bit miffed that I couldn’t be there, but that’s just how it was.  I don’t think I would have thought much about it, if it weren’t for the results.

They downed the damn second boss despite some serious errors, in two attempts.

It turns out they had to swap out a couple players for that run.  One of those new players apparently had made some pretty bad mistakes, but our healer, Cronoan, managed to pull him out of the fire through excellent healing and timely reactions (Extrication), and they defeated Firebrand and Stormcaller in two attempts.

Two attempts, with a DPS botching up somewhat badly.

It’s just bad luck, I know – I did my part on Friday for two hours, but the encounter went undefeated until the next attempts that I wasn’t part of.  But it’s the fact that despite the botches, that the aforementioned DPS player was rewarded for two attempts’ worth of effort that I didn’t get for two hours of effort that is frustrating.  I felt I did my role well on Friday for that fight, and the person who didn’t on Sunday walked away with the rewards.

It’s one of those frustrating things about being a raider, rather than a leader, that you can be left out of attempts because you’re not automatically at every raid.  Further, it’s about collective success – the group did better as a whole on Sunday than they did on Friday – and that can be frustrating, if you’re only there for the night when the group is a bit more off.  On Friday, our group brought their “B” game, even if there were some “A” games mixed in, but on Sunday they brought their “A” game, despite a “C” player in the group.

It sucks, and yeah, I’m a little frustrated about it.  It’s part and parcel, though, of being three time zones away from the majority of players.

Hopefully, this week’s raiding will be better.  Our raid leader is going to seriously gearcheck people before we run, which should help.  The majority of our group was there for Sunday, so they know they can get through at least the first three fights.  And people in our group did get some gear from Sunday’s successes, which should help this week’s run.

I hope everyone brings their “A” game this week.  I know I try to every week, and I know others do too, and I would like to see us getting the results that reward the “A” game.  We definitely should be making progress every week, not getting stuck on the boss we downed the week before.

So, the goal for this week?  Three bosses for Friday’s raid.  Toth and Zorn (in an hour tops), Firebrand and Stormcaller (in two attempts?) and the Minesweeper boss (which I have yet to do on Hardmode).  We should be able to get those down in one session with as much experience as we have on the first two encounters.

I won’t be satisfied with less.

Should I be?

My 2 yen,

Akiosama

October 22, 2012 Posted by | General Musings, Memories of Xendor, Star Wars - The Old Republic | , , , , | Leave a comment

What to do, what to do… Looking for inspiration

There isn’t enough time in a day.

Really, there just isn’t.

Too many things I want to do – Star Wars, World of Warcraft (and yes, I think what I’ve seen of Mists of Pandaria is pretty nice), Magic: The Gathering and other Trading Card Games, miniature stuff (painting, gaming, etc.), music (violin and cello), other games (CoD, Dishonored, Borderlands 2, etc.), movie watching, writing, learning new things, and more.

Geez – and that doesn’t even get into the stuff that I need to do like eat, sleep, chores and work.

But hey, life’s about choices and sacrifice, isn’t it?  And with choices comes analysis…

I’m part of a world-class Star Wars guild now.  This means that I should be logging in every day and doing at least some of the activities that help me gear out for end-game raiding.  Maybe I should work on getting a utility set for my Mercenary (Taoren), and get a tank up.  It’s part of what being in a top-tier guild is about, even if I’m a casual player in the top-tier guild.  I need to learn the fights (I don’t know why Denova seems so complex to me – the stuff I was doing at the beginning of Cataclysm seemed like it was more complex and I have more problems now).  I need to keep it fun to keep me playing, while doing what I need to show that I deserve to be in Memories of Xendor.  So that should be my ‘MMO priority’.

World of Warcraft has unleashed its siren call yet again, in the form of Mists of Pandaria.  Ah, good ol’ WoW.  I didn’t think I’d go back to it – it feels weird now after being gone from it for over a year, with half of Cataclysm being completely foreign to me, and while I desire to talk to some of my old friends there, I’m wanting to avoid resuming any guild connections as of yet – my stint as a Guild Officer/Raid Leader still has me feeling burnt.  And I’m also trying to bring in some of my Star Wars friends to the game, so I’m trying not to look too hard at the endgame.  I want to play this game again, even though the Burning Crusade content really makes me go “ugh” for needing to go through it yet again…  But the new Specialization system, while not as thought provoking or choice filled as the previous systems were, actually makes me smile.  If I want to look at a tree, I can play Star Wars or Rift.  The interactions between abilities have always been something I’ve enjoyed (go Shammy healing), and it looks like there’s more of this in this release, so I’m pretty excited.  That, and having the ability to use external add-ons to manage things is such a breath of fresh air compared to Star Wars.  I know my new guildies are part of the reason Star Wars has a Combat parser at all, but I do wish MOXParser was more like Recount.

I have a feeling that these are going to be two priorities going forward.  Still, the desire to do some of those other things hasn’t passed, and is probably going to get worse shortly – Assassin’s Creed III and CoD: Black Ops II, and Rift:  Storm Legion all come out soon.  Guild Wars 2 is tempting, especially with its good reviews and that it’s lack of subscription fee, but really, Star Wars and WoW look like fantastic games too, right now.  It’s refreshing to have too many choices, in some ways.

I do miss WoW raiding, though.   I enjoy Star Wars raiding, but it feels different.  Could be because I’m DPS… but I dunno.  It’s just different.

/sigh

I’m looking forward to it all, though.  In one way, shape, or form it’ll be fun.  I just want another Arthas, though.  I don’t see anything out there that even comes close to the anticipation of downing Arthas.

I hope there comes something that will.

My 2 yen,

Akiosama

October 19, 2012 Posted by | General Musings, Life, Star Wars - The Old Republic, World of Warcraft | 2 Comments

Goal achieved! One down.

That’s one thing I can mark off my list as complete.  Last night was the Lady Antebellum 2012 Own the Night Tour concert in Los Angeles at the Staples Center, and it was awesome.

I can’t think of any other words to describe it.

The seat I had in the first level was great – in front of the stage, no obstructions, and it was an aisle seat, with room to spare. The people in the section were energetic, adding their own fuel to the concert – dancing, laughing, and in general having a great time.  It was a packed house, loud and heartpounding, and I’m sure I used up my voice cheering and singing along.

It was a great night of music to be had by three artists (well, there were six artists, in three ‘groups’) – Thompson Square, Darius Rucker, and Lady Antebellum.

The show started with Thompson Square, who as relative newcomers to the country scene, performed a shorter set of 4 songs that were pretty well received.  In true LA fashion, though, the crowd was muddling on in – the arena seemed like it was only about half full for the duo, yet there was still a good energy through the arena.

Darius Rucker was the second act of the show.  His performance was fantastic – over ten songs, with a couple of Hootie and the Blowfish classics, and Prince’s “Purple Rain” as the closer.  His voice is impressive – powerful and resonant, just as it sounds on the radio.  Being most familiar with his songs, I taxed my voice, singing along in the crowd, our section standing, singing, dancing and yelling to the entire set.  It was an amazing presentation, and by the end of it, I wasn’t sure if it could be topped – Darius performed like he was the main act, and not the second act of three.  I think he must have been up on stage for nearly an hour – and it was about 8:30pm when his set finished – an hour and a half after the concert started.

To my surprise, Lady Antebellum came out and topped Darius’ performance – home-run over the fence style.  16 songs, including a section of classics where the other performers came back out and sang in a large group, and a guest performance by Ryan Tedder of One Republic.  They played all their major songs, had the now-packed Staples Center’s audience totally immersed in the show, dancing and singing along with the group on stage.  From the start of the set with “Own the Night” to the ‘encore’ performance of “Need You Now”, it was a non-stop energy packed festival of light, music, and song.  It was a completely awesome show, from start to finish, and the time flew.

From start to finish, the concert ran nearly four hours, and yet it didn’t feel long at all.  I left happy, with that buzz in my ears that comes from three hours of live music, and barely a squeak of a voice.

And credit has to be given to Shauna and Chelsea from the OC who were the self-appointed rallying point that maintained the energy in our section.  It only added to the experience.

Thompson Square was great.  Darius Rucker was off the scale.  Lady Antebellum owned the night.

What more could a country music fan want?

One down, many, many more to go.

My 2 yen,

Akiosama

March 28, 2012 Posted by | General Musings | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Glass half full? Glass half empty? I dunno…

It’s been a while since I’ve been inspired enough to write something here – I’m surprised that there are still hits coming in.  For those who are still looking around here, thanks.

I’ve been trying to keep busy here – been working on some models for Warmachine, playing lots of Star Wars – The Old Republic, reading (finally finished Eldest), and catching up on television programs that I like (such as Game of Thrones).  Some days, though, it feels like I’m just getting through the day, other days it actually feels like I’m doing something (semi-?) productive.

One thing, though, that I’ve been told, recently, is that I can be a pretty negative person, especially when it comes to myself.  Me?  Negative?  I never used to think so – I always felt that I was a ‘look on the brighter side’ kind of person.  But I do think that my friend is right in a lot of ways – I’m pretty positive… when it comes to other people.  When it comes to myself, I tend to be a doomsayer, I think.

“I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell…” – Matchbox Twenty, “Unwell”

Yeah, I think I’m a little crazy.  Well, actually, I know I’m crazy in some ways, but that’s not what I’m talking about here – I mean insane by Einstein’s definition.

“Insanity:  doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

Every day, I feel like I do the same things.  Same motions at work.   Same hobbies.  Same interactions with others.  And I wonder why things don’t change.  I see myself doing the same things in similar situations and while it feels like maybe things will be different this time, eventually things feel like they’re heading back in the same, rather disappointing directions.  Although, I am pushing myself this year to do things differently, there’s a great deal of inertia to overcome – the inertia of my past habits – and it’s been an uphill climb.

And further, that positivism that I can offer up to others?  Very different from the attitudes I carry about myself.  I need to believe I can succeed, in order to succeed.

This all came up over a night of Star Wars talking about PvP, and the capabilities of classes.  I was running Arsenal on my Mercenary at the time, a great PvE build, but I was getting murdered in PvP, because its main weapon – Tracer Missile – is a stationary shot with a 1.4 second cast time.  I’d get hit while shooting, and not really have anything else I could do once set upon, since the bulk of my abilities have cast times – making them useless when trying to run – and those I could use while running just didn’t hit hard enough.  I have a couple of unreliable interrupts, and very little crowd control.  Blah, blah, blah…

This topic is not a new one for me, and my friend had pretty much become tired of hearing me complain about my class, my performance, and how I just wasn’t any good at PvP.  She told me so, in plain, clear language that she’d heard enough, didn’t want to hear anymore about it, and that if I didn’t like it that I needed to own up and do something about it.

It went a bit further downhill after that, and she pointed out to me, rightfully so, that I – a) am not nearly as poor a player as I portray and think I am, b) that my performance in that Arsenal spec was not as bad as I made it out to be as I had been playing it, c) that I could hold my own against the people we regularly play with, and d) that I wasn’t really playing it as well as I could be, because I wasn’t playing it as what it is – a ranged DPS spec – that I was running in and trying to play the front lines and getting killed for it.

And it’s all pretty much true – I definitely wasn’t adapting in PvP and was just complaining about the poor(-ish?) results I felt I was getting doing it the same way almost every time.

Talking to a couple other people, reading up on it a bit, and actually thinking about it, I realized I needed to change my playstyle in order to change the outcome.

It worked that night – I started trying to survive, and snipe, instead of running into the firefight every time, and lo and behold, my performance stats went up.  I earned badges faster.  I was able to get more PvP gear.  My performance went up as my gear got better…  See a trend?

So, with all that in mind, I started looking around online, and I found something that would boost my performance way up in PvP – a new build.  A mobile build.  One I could go toe-to-toe effectively with people at a distance and up close.  Pyrotech build  (3/7/31).

It’s an amazing build.  It ratcheted my damage up by nearly 200% and my survivability like crazy.

And for the first time in a long time, I felt like I was able to keep up in those WarZones.  I wasn’t just going out to die.  I was enjoying the fights and doing well.

Now, I’m still not all the way there – I have to learn a bit more on tactics and awareness, but I’m better than I was before I made the switch.  And the best part is, after the first time I used it, I felt like I could do this.  And that’s the important thing.

And it’s important I remember that, so that I can transfer it to my work and other hobbies.  I’m actually painting again, a little bit here and there, and right now, the Reinholdt, Gobber Speculator I’m working on is looking decent.

Learning to persevere and to have some confidence in myself is going to be important for a lot of the goals I have my eye on this year – job, personal, and hobby-related.  And this all is a first step – I’m a slow learner sometimes, but it’s really far past time to get over the fact that while I’m probably not going to be the very best at anything I do, that it doesn’t mean I’m not good at what I do, and that I need to determine a realistic level of performance to aim for and to be happy when I reach it.

Old dog.  New trick?  I think so.

The glass is always full – 1/2 drink, 1/2 air.

My 2 yen,

Akiosama

“Yeah you may think that I’m a zero
But hey, everyone you wanna be
Probably started off like me…

Just go ahead and hate on me and run your mouth
So everyone can hear
Hit me with the worst you got and knock me down
Baby I don’t care
Keep it up and soon enough you’ll figure out
You wanna be, you wanna be
A loser like me
A loser like me…”

-New Directions, Glee, “Loser Like Me”

March 27, 2012 Posted by | General Musings, Life, Star Wars - The Old Republic | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Desperately Seeking… Something

Time seems to fly sometimes, and not just when you’re having fun.  It’s been about a week since I wrote anything here, and I think it’s because I’m not sure what I feel like writing about.  The Velvet Cafe has seen some of my writing – Jessica, per her usual talent, has managed to put up a few topics that got me to respond.  Theatre on film, Miyazaki, and scriptwriters forgetting about little things – she got some words out of me in her comments section – quite a few, in fact.  But I still can’t seem to figure out what to put up here, sometimes.

It’s really easier to respond to someone else’s topic, rather than come up with your own.  It’s part of the reason I started this blog – I wanted to say what I felt needed to be said, but at the same time, I didn’t want to usurp peoples’ articles from them on their pages.  (Fortunately, Jessica’s very forgiving about my ‘walls-of-text’ comments on her site, even when they’re longer than what she wrote herself.)  But, not reading as many blogs as I used to on a regular basis, I feel like I don’t have as much to talk about these days.

So, in response, I went to creative writing, but even that’s kinda blocked up right now.  The two stories here were experiments – one to see what I could come up with as a short story at all (“The First Soul”), and one to see what I could do with a varied perspective (“Courier Duty”).  Both were successful, I believe, though, I’m now not sure where to take the stories – I’m trying to develop the world, without actually getting into the main story that I have been imagining for the years that this world’s existed in my mind.

I’m a bit blocked, I think.  I’m seeking out… something.  A muse.

Something I’m watching?  Already wrote about Glee and haven’t watched much else.  Though I can’t seem to get “Defying Gravity” out of my head.

Something I’m reading?  Still trying to finish Eldest and The Way of Kings but it’s a tad slow at the moment.

Something I’m doing?  I’ve been playing a lot of Star Wars:  The Old Republic and having fun, but I don’t have too much to write about that yet that I didn’t already mention before.  I am 43 on my Mercenary (Taoren) now, though, and healing instead of DPS.  Fighting with the urge to move to a hybrid spec, to DPS better while still maintaining healing, but I don’t think I’m good enough at healing yet to be ready to add DPS back into the mix.

Sports?  My Sacramento Kings are doing terrible this year, and it seems like the majority of their problems stem from lackluster 3rd quarters.  I don’t put any stock into the score (unless they’re way down already) before the end of the 3rd, since they seem to blow leads regularly at that time.

I guess it’s just a little “blah” right now – I’m hoping that just putting this up will get something going soon.

Any ideas?

My 2 yen,

Akiosama

 

February 22, 2012 Posted by | Creative Writing, General Musings | | Leave a comment

Was High School Really That Exciting?

I’m not sure whether to curse or praise my friend who first got me to watch Glee on NetFlix, but it’s too late for regrets.  I’m not a full-on Gleek, but I am hooked on the show now (I’ve only seen about half of the first season, so far), and was charmed since the first episode.  It’s at the point that I have to make sure to check the time before I start it playing, because if I don’t, I end up watching two or three episodes in a row and the time just flies by – I have to make sure not to use it as one of my late night distractions, lest I lose too much sleep.

I ought to know better, by now, though – her recommendations have been pretty good to date – it’s because of her that I know about Merlin, Shinedown, and Rascal Flatts.

What it is about Glee that hooked me, I’m not certain, but I think it has to do with music, and its effect on the human condition.  I’m a pretty big fan of any music that’s singable, and this show is all about singable music.  Further, I have a soft spot for Les Miserables, and when Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) sang “On My Own”, Eponine’s haunting solo, I knew this was a show that I could get behind.  She has a fantastic voice, and her rendition reminded me of the performance of another Lea, Lea Salonga, whose performance of the same song for the 10th Anniversary concert for Les Mis is probably my favorite performance of the song.

Further, while I wasn’t anything near athletic in high school, I found myself relating to the insecurity that the other lead character, Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith), went through during his joining of the New Directions in the pilot.  I’m definitely an amateur karaoke/shower/car singer, and it’s one of those things that I really enjoy doing.  I know I don’t sing particularly well, but I enjoy it nonetheless – and that’s saying something for me, being the harsh critic I am about myself.  Finn’s insecurity about his singing, his reluctance to join the glee club at the beginning, and his view about the general ‘geekiness’ of the kids that were a part of the club were all things that I saw when I looked at the choir in my own high school.  I knew a couple people in it, hung out a bit in the mornings with them when they were just fooling around – Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” was a particular favorite (I enjoyed trying to do the low backup part) – and I enjoyed it a lot, but I just couldn’t get myself to join it.  I’m not a great performer, and I couldn’t see myself up onstage in costume, singing in front of an audience.  I guess it’s ironic that I spent a great deal of time in high school in my USMC Dress Blue uniform (costume?) doing close order drill routines (performing?) in parades (in front of an audience?).  Yeah, maybe I don’t know my own abilities and shortcomings as well as I think I do.

Cliques, fights, drama, and just high school everyday pressures – yeah, I saw it when I went through it, too.  I had the ‘honors nerd’ crowd in most of my classes, and the ‘Junior Jarheads’ for ROTC.  I shot .22 rifles for my sport activity – how many kids can say they got to use firearms at school legitimately?  My class trips were spent on military bases – in mess halls, on firing ranges, and in barracks.  And those were great memories, some of the best of all times.  As my Marine Instructor, SgtMaj McClymonds used to say when we were back on his familiar stomping grounds at MCRD San Diego, “You ain’t had it so good!”

I remember being very self conscious of what I did in the public eye in high school, which was pretty funny in retrospect, given that I wasn’t really part of any ‘in’ crowd.  I was one of ‘those guys’ into Dungeons and Dragons, one of the first-generation American anime fans, and I came to school at least once a week in Camouflage utilities (Wednesdays were inspection days).  I had a good number of friends that were girls, but didn’t have a girlfriend, and had a better record of setting my friends up in relationships, than setting myself up.

And while there’s a lot different about my own high school memories, I find myself relating to some of the things that pop up in this show.  I find that I connect to ideas easier in song, and that because so much of this show is musical in nature, I am touched by the themes far more often than I am with other shows that I watch.

They sing and perform, and I smile.  I sing along (to myself, of course) with the songs I know.  The plots and their resolutions, while often not surprising, do make me grin and frown, make me happy and sad to watch.  When the club triumphs, I feel it, and remember back to parades in high school where my drill team won awards.  When the characters find their attractions unrequited, I remember that one ‘that got away’ from my Junior year, and wonder what ‘could have been’ and how she did once she moved back to Canada.  I watch them perform and wish that karaoke had been around when I was that age, and that I had taken that extra step to join the choir.

I don’t think that high school was as exciting as this show makes it out to be, but in remembering it, it was a pretty fun place to be, despite all the work there was in being a student.  I know I miss being a student – high school or college, really – where classes were the main priority of any day, and that homework and tests were the activities of the day, and where I didn’t know what it was all about.  The “real world” is a pretty sobering place, even with the availability of alcohol, especially in this poor job market.

It’s certainly not all bad – I used to think in high school that I wouldn’t be caught dead living in Los Angeles, and now I can’t imagine myself going back to Sacramento.  I’ve met great people, and my work experiences have been generally ok, even despite all the idiots.  Yes, as I’ve written before, I relate now with Office Space, and I understand and enjoy Dilbert.  I’ve done things that I never thought I’d do, because it was generally unavailable in Sacramento,  like surfing or game testing (as a job).

But I do wonder about some of those things that I didn’t do when I’d had the chance.  I think that’s what I like about this show – it’s all about the characters doing what they want to despite their own fears of doing so.  It’s about the relationships that form in the ‘outcasts’ simply because they have that in common.  And it’s about people singing fun stuff and enjoying it, and that’s something that I wish I did more.

I do feel, though, that if Glee or Rock Band had existed when I was in high school, I don’t know how different I’d be now.  There’s something about saying ‘Fuck it’ and doing what you want to do, despite whatever anyone else thinks and just laughing about it after, that’s refreshing.  Exciting.  Energizing.

It restores passion.  It makes me positive again.  It makes me smile.

And I think we all need a little more of that in this world, especially in today’s world.

It’s time for New Directions.   It’s a good time for Glee.

Don’t Stop Believin’!

My 2 yen,

Akiosama

February 14, 2012 Posted by | General Musings | , , , | 2 Comments

All Hail the New York Giants… (New York Giants!)

Another year of NFL football has come and gone, and I’ve got a pretty big smile on my face.  Things didn’t go exactly as planned; if they had, the San Francisco 49ers, who played a fantastic regular season this year, would have emerged victorious with their first title since the whole owner-scandal incident back in 1997.  Despite having a relatively error-free season of football, they made a couple of key errors in the conference championship game against the NY Giants, one of which led to excellent field position in Overtime.  Given that the other teams I watch for – the Oakland Raiders, who despite the loss of Al Davis (which while sad may prove to be what the organization needs to rebuild properly) didn’t rally and make something of their season; the San Diego Chargers, who, as is their norm, played a great first half of the season and then lost whatever momentum/energy/whatever in the second half of the season, to miss out on the playoffs again; and the Indianapolis Colts, who we don’t even need to talk about, and who need to figure out how to run their team at all without Peyton Manning.  Given that the NBA teams I watch are the Sacramento Kings, the Phoenix Suns, and the LA Clippers, I wouldn’t put too much stock in my sports advice, even though the Clips aren’t half bad this year.  Same goes for hockey – my San Jose Sharks, who seem to be playoff plagued, and despite having been no less than 2nd place in the Pacific Division in the last five seasons, can’t manage to close the deal, losing in embarassing fashion in the Conference Finals 0-4 and 1-4 in the last two years.  I’m really good at picking teams in sports.  But then again, I’m a Sacramento State Hornet – check out our records online sometime, and you’ll understand.

But back to this year in football…  or rather, let’s go back a few years to the first meeting of this years conference champions – the New York Giants and the New England Patriots – back in Februrary, 2008.

The Patriots were the team to beat.  Having had a perfect season of 18-0 to date, they were the favorites to win Superbowl XLII by 12 points.  Their organization had already put in for trademark rights to “19-0” and “19-0 The Perfect Season”.  Tom Brady was unstoppable, having fantastic receivers in Randy Moss (who didn’t do squat on the Raiders), and Wes Welker.  They had set records for the most points scored in a single season (589), the most touchdowns in a single season (75), and the highest point differential in a single season (+315).  They had the best offensive line in the NFL, and that showed in Brady’s stellar performances in their 18 wins that season.  It should have been in the bag.

Then the New York Giants met them in the Super Bowl and turned it all around.  They were a longshot to have made the Super Bowl at all, with all their post-season games as away games.  They had finished the season only 10-6, coming into the playoffs as the wild card, their last game a loss to the Patriots, in a failed bid to rob them of their perfect regular season.  Despite that, they managed to upset the playoff run, all of which were come-from-behind victories, and earned their bid at the Vince Lombardi trophy.

And the game was pure magic – at least if you weren’t a Pats fan.  Brady, considered untouchable up to that point, was sacked five times and fumbled the ball once, and was held to only one TD, despite passing for 30/48 completions.  Eli Manning, Brady’s counterpart on the Giants, managed to throw two TDs.  The second TD was set up by a phenomenal escape of two sack attempts by Manning into a pass to David Tyree, who caught the ball on his helmet, despite coverage, for a 32-yard gain.  Three lead changes in the fourth quarter, and in the end, Eli Manning and the NY Giants emerged with a hard-fought 17-14 win over the NE Patriots, who ended their season at 18-1, with no trophy.

So, it might have been fate that brought the two teams together for a rematch on February 5, 2012.  Super Bowl XLVI.

The Patriots won the toss, but elected to kick.  The Giants punted on the first drive, and dropped the ball at the 6-yd line.  Brady stepped up the very first play, and intentionally grounded the ball on a long pass to nobody, from the endzone, scoring two points for the Giants, and giving the ball back to the Giants, who scored on their drive to make it 9-0.

In the second quarter, however, the Patriots would rally, and score 10, making the Giants’ defense look soft, as Brady’s touchdown drive tied an NFL record 96-yards.  They would enter the locker room with a 10-9 lead, and Giants fans wondering how their defense could allow Brady to make 8 consecutive passes, in that 14 play drive.

In the third, it would look like the Giants still had no answers to Brady and the Pats defensively, as the Pats would put 7 more points on the board, putting the Pats up 17-9.  The Giants made two pushes to the redzone on succeeding drives in the third, but could not convert them to touchdowns, settling for field goals instead.  The score at the end of the third quarter, 17-15, New England.

An early interception in the fourth, by Giants defenseman Chase Blackburn, on the 8-yard line on a long Brady pass attempt, appeared to bring life back into the Giants’ game, but on the next drive, the Giants punted from the 43-yd line.

Two second half misplays by the Giants lead to them having only one timeout remaining when they received the ball on the 12-yd line with 3:46 left on the clock.  The Giants’ fortunes would change on the next play when Mario Manningham made a spectacular sideline catch falling out of bounds for a 38-yd gain, which would also cost the Pats a timeout, as the catch was close enough to be challenged.  Losing the challenge, the Pats were left with only two timeouts which would prove critical in the final plays of the game.

The two minute warning would hold the clock, with the Giants at the Pats’ 18-yd line.  A minute later, the Pats would use their second timeout, with the Giants at a 2nd and Goal situation from the 6-yd line.  It looked like the Giants would use up the clock by stopping short of the endzone at the 1-yd line, kick a very short field goal, and give the Pats the ball back with about 20 seconds left, one timeout and a one point deficit.  New England coach Bill Belichick would see this as the probable scenario and had his defense allow Ahmad Bradshaw to run the ball up the middle, and stop at the 1-yd line.  However, not realizing this strategy – Manning admits to having not told Bradshaw – Bradshaw saw the opening, ran the ball, and by the time he realized Manning was shouting “Don’t score!” to him during the play, momentum  caused him to tumble into the endzone, with 58 seconds on the clock.  The Giants were up 21-17 after a failed 2-point conversion, and the Patriots would start the ball at their 20-yd line on a touchback on the following kickoff.

Two dropped passes, and a 6-yd loss on a sack, which forced the Pats to call their final timeout, Brady would be staring down a 4th and 16 situation, on their own 14-yd line.  Brady rose to the challenge and completed a superb 19-yd pass to Deion Branch for the first down.  He followed it up with an 11-yd pass to Aaron Hernandez, with a spike after, to stop the clock.  The next play would be an incomplete pass, but due to the Giants’ penalty for having 12 men on the field, the Pats would have the ball on their own 49-yd line with 9 seconds left.  The next play would be an incomplete pass, and with 5 seconds left on the clock, the final play of the game would be a Brady hail mary pass to Rob Gronkowski, deflected to the ground in a sea of Giants’ defenders’ hands.

And another year of football comes to an end – except for the Pro Bowl, which doesn’t count.

It was a fun season this year, especially the playoffs.  The games were exciting, and while I could hardly believe it myself, the Super Bowl did manage to eclipse the San Francisco – New Orleans playoff match up that ended with the 49ers making two lead-changing touchdowns in the last three minutes of the game.  While they were defeated by the Giants in the next week, I could not be too disappointed, once I heard that the Patriots were to join them in the Super Bowl.

I’ve never been a Tom Brady fan, which is one reason why I’m not a fan of the Pats.  A lot of his success can be attributed to the fantastic offensive line that the team has, which was demonstrated when Brady was injured in the season opener, and the untested Matt Cassel came in and was able to finish the season 11-5.  However, in this Super Bowl, there were examples of Brady’s true talent, as he was able to make some difficult passes when the defense was able to break through, such as the 19-yd pass on 4th and 16 which kept the Pats alive at the time.  Unlike the previous Super Bowl, the Giants’ defense was not as successful in breaking through to Brady, with only two sacks for 10 lost yards.

The Pats were able to keep pressure on the Giants for much of the game – the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third had me pacing, as the Giants defense came up short, allowing two touchdowns in two successive drives.  However, the Giants were able to recover, and played a solid game down the stretch, preventing any more scoring by the Pats, though there were moments, such as the last drive, where it was nerve wracking to watch.  Both teams played very well, and felt closely matched, which showed in the nail-biter finish that they provided this year.

It will be interesting to see what happens to both teams next year – both teams have proven to be extremely strong teams this year.  History, however, had the Giants’ season following their win (2008 season) with a mediocre finish, washing out to the Carolina Panthers in the first round, while Brady has showed signs of being ‘skittish’ in the playoffs, if his offensive line isn’t able to stop the defense from getting to him.  I hope that these two teams are able to maintain their strengths, as both teams are extremely entertaining to watch, and earned their spots in the Super Bowl this year.

And hopefully, one of my teams can give them a run for their money, one of these years.

But for now…

All Hail the New York Giants!

(New York Giants!)

-The Lemurs, Madagascar

My 2 yen,

Akiosama

February 6, 2012 Posted by | General Musings | , , , , | Leave a comment

Uh…we have sort of a problem here. Yeah… 

“You apparently didn’t put one of the new coversheets on your TPS reports.” – Bill Lumbergh, Office Space

I treated myself last night to a couple hours of laughing at life.  I picked Office Space on Netflix, and spent some time enjoying the comedy that is working corporate.  It’s a laugh riot, simply because while some of the stuff that goes on in that movie seems ridiculous, it’s really closer to the truth than we’d like to admit.

The amount of time and effort that goes into things around an office that seem so inefficient can be staggering.  Waiting for a piece of equipment, for example, to be moved officially from one desk to another – something that requires next to no installation and is light enough to carry under one’s arm – that could be moved in five minutes,  which is now on its third week of waiting for IT to move and install.  A supervisor ordering that all vendor requests for technical fixes go through him, despite him having no technical expertise in that vendor’s program, nor any relationship with the vendor itself – something that often could be fixed in a single phone call.  A boss who disregards the content of a report she’d asked for assistance in producing to comment on how the font had been changed from the original font she’d used in the mock-up.

The corporate workplace brings out weird things in people.  People who could normally work efficiently, think for themselves, and get work done in a reasonable amount of time seem to become inefficient, mindless workers who spend so much time in meetings that there’s no way to get work done on time.

“Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about mission statements.” – Peter Gibbons, Office Space

And yet, that’s the normal corporate day.  Maybe not every task is useless.  Maybe the boss does know something about what’s going on.  But often that’s not the case.

From filing alphabetically by customer name items that are not consistent in their customer name format (some last name first, some first name last) – items that have a unique item number on each item, to driving 70 miles round trip for a meeting that was just a set of group introductions that lasted maybe 15 minutes, efficiency does not appear to be a corporate goal, even if management has expressed explicitly that “we want to improve efficiency in our processes this year…”

Bosses that don’t have a clue what their subordinates are doing.  Layoffs of key personnel during the busy period of the work cycle and hoping that the remaining folk can pick up the pieces, without finding out if the people left even have the tools or resources to do what the departing person could do.  Having to cover work on a project because the people running the project don’t seem to acknowledge what the ability levels of the people on the project are, even if it feels like it’s staring everyone on the project in the face.

It made me wish that I could do just what Peter Gibbons did in that movie – to walk into the office in jeans and a casual shirt, stroll down to my desk, feeling like no matter what happened to me, it’s all good.  To know that it’s not this office that defines who I am in life.  To not find myself saying “Oh, I work for <company>, doing <job>.”

How many people out there would answer, if you asked them “Who are you in life?” with “I’m a doctor/accountant/clerk/janitor/whatever”?  Is that really who we are, what we do at work?  I certainly hope not.

I shouldn’t be an analyst.  I just am one for my job.

I should be a miniature enthusiast.  I should be a gamer.  I should be a creative writer.  I should be what I try to make time for, not what takes up my time.  I mean, if we classified ourselves by where we spent our time – our waking hours – then shouldn’t the answer to “Where do you live?” be “I live at <company> on floor <number>, in cubicle <number>?” for many people out there?   I mean we spend upwards of forty hours of our awake time there.

Forty hours a week at work.  Since most people have to commute to work, that can add a couple more hours to your ‘work day’.  That’s fifty hours a week of awake time spent towards the work process – and that’s assuming no work is being done at home or assuming one isn’t on call.   Fifty-five, if you count the unpaid lunch hour.  Generously assuming that one is getting the recommended eight hours of sleep each night, that’s fifty-five hours of a 112 hour week.

That’s 49% of the week spent actually in the work process.

Factor in, then, the time spent preparing for work – which could be as short as getting up in the morning, and getting showered, groomed and dressed – and that percentage goes up.  If we say it takes one hour each morning to get ready to go out the door to work, then we’re at sixty of 112 hours spent towards work, or 54%.  That’s over half the week!

It’s no wonder that people don’t get enough to sleep.  It’s one of the only ways to extend the awake hours in order to recapture life.

It’s no wonder people stress out when trying to do things that are supposed to be relaxing – gotta get as much relaxation in that 46% of the week as possible.

It’s no wonder people have problems outside the workplace – work stresses people.  Work makes people drink.  Work makes people crazy.

Just recently I had the experience of being with a company that had a ‘workplace incident’ while I was at work.  Fortunately, it was not in my building, but it was fairly nearby, especially by Los Angeles standards.  Our building was put on ‘lockdown’ and we were instructed not to leave the building, and then an hour later, once it was deemed ‘safe to proceed’, we were sent home for the day.  How likely was it that the ‘incident’ was caused by work related issues such as stress in the workplace, or on some workplace relationship?

And here’s the main issue for the average worker…

“It’s a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don’t see another dime, so where’s the motivation?” – Peter Gibbons, Office Space

We tend to stress out at work, but what does it get us?  We try hard to do things better, but unless you’re a shareholder in the company – and a fairly major one at that – you’re not making much extra for the stress.  Why does overtime seem like a bonus these days?  We trade more of our free time for extra money, saying to ourselves that the free time is better spent trying to better ourselves financially.

It’s unfortunate that this world runs on money.  I don’t see it running any other way, but it seems like the current generations in the workplace cannot make happen what previous generations were able to make happen on their normal jobs alone.  Not too many years ago, people could actually dream about saving for a house and buying one through hard work for a company.  Now it seems like just holding a permanent job is what people are hoping for – hoping for medical benefits which are far too expensive without the company help; hoping that they can find a company that they will be able to stay with for the years to come for the financial safety and stability; hoping that the economy doesn’t chew them up and spit them out, discarding them for the cheaper option.  It’s a tough world out there.

But it feels like we don’t have a choice.  We have to live, right?  Lodging, food, utilities and transportation all cost money, right?

We may have to work, but it doesn’t mean that’s who we are.  Perhaps it’s time to reexamine that.

Why is it that most people don’t work in the job or field they want to be in?

“Our high school guidance counselor used to ask us what you would do if you had a million dollars and didn’t have to work. And invariably, whatever you’d say, that was supposed to be your career. So if you wanted to fix old cars, then you’re supposed to be an auto mechanic.” – Peter Gibbons, Office Space

I think this is something that we as a society are lacking – the desire to seek out the occupation we want to work in.  Some do, certainly, but the majority of us out there do what we must do, personal feelings aside.

It’s time to take control again, and figure out what we want to do, both in our work and in our lives – and that should be the path we walk.

It’s not an easy path, nor one to take lightly, but it’s what we should truly aspire to.  We only live once.

“Peter, most people don’t like their jobs. But you go out there and find something that makes you happy.” – Joanna, Office Space

I couldn’t say it better myself.  Find something that makes you happy.

That should be Goal #1 for 2012.

My 2 yen,

Akiosama

January 24, 2012 Posted by | General Musings | , , , | Leave a comment