Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Contract for the Kids

Now that I have my first teenager I've been thinking a lot about how the frontal cortex is not fully developed until around the age of 25. (This was from that fantastic lecture series by Robert Sapolsky from The Teaching Company - "Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality, 2nd Edition." Again, I highly recommend this course!)

I was thinking about coming up with a contract with my kids to sign, maybe when they start high school, or perhaps when they go off to college. Here's what I was thinking of including:

- Don't get married before 25.
- Don't have a kid before 25.
- Don't get a tattoo before 25.
- Don't get a credit card before 25.
- Do call us if you're ever in trouble.
- Never drive under the influence or ride with anyone under the influence.
- Always wear your seat belt or helmet.
- Always use protection no matter what the other person says.

Hmm. Maybe this is getting a bit long. And kids need to be able to make some of their own mistakes. I'm just trying to figure out how to minimize the possibility of the biggest ones.

I need to mull it over a bit more. I've got another year and a half before my oldest heads off to high school. Probably the best next step is to work on what it should contain together and see if he has any ideas and if he has any questions about what I already put on the list.

Ah, the grand experiment, parenthood. In 20 years I'll let you know if this made any difference. And even then I probably won't be able to be certain. :)

Monday, November 10, 2008

No Corners

After this historic election, reading things on, talking with friends, reading comments online, it's amazing how polarized things get.

As if we were all so different. In reality most of us are trying to do good things with the best of intentions. That's why when people try to demonize people on the other side of a political stance, to me it feels contrived, like so much hyperbole.

This reminds me of the old Tom Lehrer line he said before his song "National Brotherhood Week." "There are people out there that do not love their fellow man, and I hate people like that!"

But seriously, back in my 20s I came to the realization that no one has the corner on the truth market. Most of the polarizing arguments represent a false dichotomy presented in a very biased fashion by both sides.

Fundamentally I think people find clear cut divisions more appealing than fuzzy gray areas and I suppose that's why the divisions we see out there develop and are played upon.

My thought is a little doubt goes a long way. If you're willing to think about the possibility that you may be wrong and look at not just the other side of an argument, but at what might be between those points of view, in the process you'll come to a deeper understanding of your own beliefs and learn more about others as well and possibly come to a new solution even if you simply end up reaffirming what you believe in.

Bottom line - anything worth believing is worth questioning.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Great Article on Credit Default Swaps

On the way home from work on Friday I listened to a fantastic article on NPR about Credit Default Swaps. Sounds really exciting, I know. :)

Here's the article, give it a listen, it's really eye-opening!

As I listened to the article, it became clear to me, at least in part how the economy got to this point. Years of sub-prime mortgages had a large number of families living on the edge. Those same families probably had little to no savings as well.

Although we already had more foreclosures than usual, when the cost on gas and other goods went up substantially people barely hanging on couldn't any more.

The massive amount of foreclosures starts breaking the chains of Credit Default Swaps that have been building up and it all starts unraveling. Poof!

Hindsight is 20-20 of course. If more people were more cautious fiscally and had savings to tide over rough times, if sub-prime mortgages were much more cautiously granted, and if there was complete visibility of the Credit Default Chains, we'd be better off.

I understand there were many other factors, but it seems that at least these three are obvious and actionable. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

And every day I think how much my Mom influenced my financial thinking. Thanks to her we have no worries because the idea of being financially stretched makes me itch. Thanks Mom!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The speed of change

When I was out visiting my Dad a couple of years ago, his brother was there as well and it was fun to listen to them reminisce about their childhood.

One of those stories was about the first time they saw a car. Yeah, that's right. The first time the saw a car! Apparently my uncle was so amazed he ran right out in front of it and it knocked him over and went right over him. Thank goodness for the high clearance of those first cars!

My Mom has been working on writing the memoir of her Dad for some time. I've gotten to see parts of this. Again, one story really stood out to me. He told her about the time when he was around 5 years old, and they were moving from one town to another in Missouri.

They loaded up all their belongings on a covered wagon. Yup, a covered wagon! It still amazes me when I think about it. My Grandfather moved when he was 5 in a covered wagon!

Covered wagons, the first cars, these things were part of the lives of people in my life. I wonder now, what it will be that I recall for my kids, or grandkids that will be just as amazing to them in comparison to the world they will exist in.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The AN Plotter

When I was in the military occasionally we'd get training on different areas related to our job. For this training session we were going to deal with charting, we had to know all the different map projection types and how to use tools to write locations on maps.

As the instructor was preparing to start the course he found that most of the AN Plotters were broken. We called these AN Plotters (Air Navigational Plotters) pregnant rulers too, here's an example:
In his frustration he picked up one of the plotters that wasn't broken and started shaking it like a baton in time with what he said next. "I can't understand why all these plotters are broken!" Right as he said the word "broken," right in rhythm with the second syllable as he shook this plotter came a loud *SNAP*. The thing broke in two.

He looked in bemused dismay at the remaining half of the plotter that was in his hand having answered his own question as we all completely lost it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Only 13 Years Old

Next week my oldest turns 13. My first teenager! How quickly this happened makes my head spin. But his turning 13 also reminded me of someone I knew nearly 30 years ago.

Back in the dark ages when I worked at McDonalds I had a coworker who was in her mid 30s I think. We used to have to help her on the little tests we had to take where we had to show we know how long things had to cook, all the rules and regulations, etc. This was because she couldn't read very well.

The reason she couldn't read very well was because she got married at 13. If this isn't enough for you, she actually met her future husband for the first time when she was only 10. And he was significantly older as well, I think in his late 20s when he married her.

Once she was married, she went on to have 3 or 4 kids, I can't remember now. Because of this she never went to High School. I remember her saying she basically grew up with her kids since she was only a child herself when she got married.

So anytime she had to take an exam, we helped her read the questions and write her answers. She was a good person to work with and was ok with where she ended up I think. She didn't resent what had happened to her. And I think at that point she was long divorced.

But I think about that, and then I think of my son just turning 13 and it just blows my mind, the idea of someone marrying at this age and then becoming a parent so young.

I need to tell my son about her today and see what he thinks. Then I'll tell him he's not allowed to get married until he's 30. ;)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Someone Killed My Dog

About 20 years ago, someone killed my dog. It's still kind of amazing to think about it. It's difficult for me to imagine a possible motivation, how you come to deciding to do something like that.

I had just gotten out of the military and started college. I rented an old house in a small country town about 7 miles from the school. My old dog Chekhov that I had gotten shortly after High School was still at home, so I brought him out with me.

After High School, my dad suggested getting a dog from the shelter. We went and looked and saw this bedraggled, matted reserved dog that did not come up to the fence like the others. We decided to get him. We cut off all the matted hair and took good care of him. He ended up being a wonderful dog, and when his hair grew out - beautiful too. He looked like an Alaskan Malamute. And boy could he pull too. And he didn't bark, he kind of warbled instead. He was a character and I loved him.

A couple years after we got him, I joined the military. As I came and went from home the next 6.5 years, he was always there. So when I got out of the military and went back to college I wanted him to be with me out there so I wasn't alone and I thought being in the country would be nice for him too.

So we were having a good life out there, and then one cold morning I went out and there was Chekhov dead at the end of his lead. I cried the whole time when I picked him up and loaded him in my car and drove him to the vet. I wanted to know what had happened.

The vet called after the investagion was done. His stomach was full of food laced with rat poison. Not only that, but he had a huge contusion on his side, like someone had kicked him in the side after feeding him the poison.

I was stunned. No one around me had had a harsh word about him. When I thought back I realized there was a folded up lawn chair right next to his body, had they sat in that chair and fed him the poisoned food?

Someone had decided to kill my dog, and I still find myself incapable of understanding how you arrive at that point. If they had a problem, why couldn't they have talked to me, expressed their concerns if they had any?

So this loyal, wonderful dog met a cruel demise at a point in his life when he should have had years to enjoy still. And I will never understand it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

My definition of being human

One of my favorite discussions with friends is talking about what makes humans different from other animals.

It's intriguing to read stories about elephants recognizing themselves in mirrors, see video of dolphins playing with bubble rings, or see an animal that from our eyes appears to be mourning the loss of its offspring. So then what makes humans unique?

So my own conclusion when I think about it is this. To be human means having the capability to choose to act differently than our instinctive wiring or our cultural training tells us to.

Even so, I think this is a difficult thing to do. It's so much easier living on automatic pilot. And everything from art to science is influenced by the cultural thinking of the time. If you think otherwise, read some science histories and you'll see this pattern repeatedly.

But I believe it is this capability, this quality of being human, that makes all the difference because not only can we come to a new idea that contradicts the prevailing norm, we can convince others of the same and thereby change the world.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Story Telling and Video Games

A couple of years ago I went to a Story Telling conference. One of the discussion groups I went to was one about video games. Being an avid video game player, I was curious about what people at the conference had to say.

After some fairly negative comments that mainly centered on the perception that video games are mainly things like Grand Theft Auto, Halo, and such I asked if anyone in the group were regular players. The response was no.

So I proceeded to describe games of a completely different nature that are incredibly popular. Stuff like Animal Crossing, The Sims, Harvest Moon, games that center on helping, relationships, and problem solving.

In addition there are games packed with great drama. I'll never forget playing Metroid Fusion for the first time. When you find out what you're up against in the game, it's a shock. And the jump out of your skin moments when you encounter this foe that is trying to hunt you down and is way beyond what you're capable of dealing with? Talk about getting your heart racing! Your only hope to survive is to run like crazy or find a place to hide and hope it doesn't find you. I don't think any other game has had me on the edge of my seat so much.

And the Zelda games? Great stuff! Drama, honor, loss. I still love watching the trailer for Twilight Princess, gives me goosebumps every time.

So I think there is a fairly distorted perception by non-gamers about games all being about shooting and killing, but the reality is there is incredible variety and some amazing stuff worth seeing if you dig a little deeper and give it a chance. The best games do tell great stories.

Monday, September 29, 2008

De Blob

On Friday after a little prodding from my kids and reading some good reviews for the game online, I picked up "De Blob" for the Wii.

Well this Monday morning my left hand is still a little sore from playing the game.

The kids and I took turns playing and between the music, the graphics, and the crazy cut scenes, this one is a blast. The whole game theme is fun - the oppression by the Inkts and how they're taking all the color and fun out of the word and turning people's misery into more black ink. You bounce around as a paint filled blob coloring everything that has been turned black and white including the people. Cute stuff. And it feeds my OCDish urges by having multiple things I can keep track of and try to complete in each level.

The only down side is it looks like it's not that long. I'm already at the final level after this weekend, but there is also a multi-player mode to try out.

So if you're looking for a little diversion, and have enjoyed games like Super Mario Galaxy, Banjo Kazooie, and Donkey Kong 64, give it a whirl, it's at least worth a rental.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sturdy Boots and Thick Rubber Gloves

I don't know about everyone else, but I hate to stick my hand into the bottom of a water filled sink after doing dishes to drain it. Inevitably you encounter a mass of muck and it would always make me shudder even though it's really not that big of a deal.

Besides the sink, as a mom, there are messes I don't even want to describe that I've had to deal with, and my husband is more squeamish than me, so it tends to be me cleaning them up. Why is it that when kids are going to throw up, they come and tell you first?

Add into that clogged toilets, unidentifiable smelly things in the yard, and there are just so many thing out there you have to deal with, but really wish you didn't have to touch.

So I get squeamish too, but I found the cure. All I need is a hefty pair of waterproof boots and some good thick rubber gloves and I feel like I could tackle anything! No smell, horrible composition, or stickiness is too much for me to handle, I feel like superman when I'm properly equipped.

My only wish is when the fur starts to fly at work I could come similarly equipped so I could have that feeling of invincibility. But somehow, I think showing up for a software meeting with my boots and gloves on might raise a few eyebrows.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


My kids were in an incredibly chatty mood last night as they were finishing up homework.

My youngest (9 years old) had finished up early and was having an ice cream cone and was talking with me in the kitchen about the different kinds of ice cream he's had, but in that process he remembered something that was connected. The roller coaster at King's Island he rode around the same time he first had Dippin' Dots. And that lead to a whole sequence of related thoughts about vacations and what to do for vacation next summer.

Then he stops and says "That drives me crazy, you think about one thing, then something else, then something else, then something else, pop, pop, pop!" I laughed - "That's how our brains work, making connections between everything."

We started playing around with this idea, contrasting how things in the real world are connected physically, but then the same things can have completely different connections in our brains.

My two older sons hopped right into the conversation bringing up example after example of crazy associations they experience. One of my favorites was my oldest describing how he always remembers some treat he got from Dairy Queen when he plays a particular part of "The Clone Wars" on the Game Cube because the first time he played that mission he was having that treat at the same time.

I love these kinds of conversations with my kids. Seeing them take an idea, understand it and zoom off, it was like popcorn popping as ideas and memories came flooding out for a few minutes.

I would swear as a kid I did not think this way - thinking about thinking. So on a regular basis my kids surprise me with observations and questions about why things are they way they are, about how what's happening makes them feel, or how it is that ideas that pop into their heads at all. I don't get this kind of conversation from adults in many cases!

It just makes me look forward to seeing what kinds of ideas are going to pop out next as they look beyond the surface and the web of connections we've formed as we interact every day comes into play with every new experience.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Latrine Duty

While I was in the Navy, one of the usual chores we'd end up with from time to time was cleaning the bathrooms.

On this particular night a friend of mine, Nora, and I had to clean both the men's and the women's bathrooms. Of course cleaning the women's was not a problem, but at some point we needed to get into the men's room.

I knocked, opened the door a little and announced our intentions. No one replied so we went in. Well this bathroom smelled awful, the stench was just intense and Nora loudly proclaims "It smells like s*** in here!" Just as she's saying this I look over and notice that one of the stall doors is closed - some guy is in one of the stalls!

Nora loudly continues her diatribe about the foul smell in the bathroom going on and on and I'm trying to pull her out of there. All the while the guy in the stall is saying nothing. Finally I manage to drag her out and let her know some guy was in there the whole time. "WHAT!!??" She's mortified. So we stand there and wait and a few minutes later this guy sheepishly comes out and quickly disappears.

Why he didn't let us know he was in there, I have no idea, but to this day remembering this still makes me laugh.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

No Rest for the Weary

With everything that’s gone on in my life, I’ve been thinking lately, it would be so nice to be able to just sit back and rest on my laurels. To have some time in my life to coast and bask in what I’ve gotten done, even if it’s just for a little while. It seems like it would be such a luxury, it’s hard to understand why more people, particularly those who have made great achievements, don’t do it.

It was interesting to see that Lance Armstrong is coming out of retirement. Talk about someone with nothing to prove. I wonder, is it what helped him achieve what he did that drives him to come back? Is it ever really possible for the most extraordinary achievers to be able to let go and just bask for the rest of their lives?

It’s funny. All my work life has always been about focusing on the job at hand. What needs to get done, how can we do it better? I am about as non-political as you can get, and I am not ambitious in the ladder climbing sense. My driving interest is taking what I’m responsible for and optimizing how it gets done and getting it done better. It’s what keeps me going at work.

Now multiple times in my life I have run into situations where this isn’t enough. I’ve proved my worth at work by delivering and going beyond on what’s needed from me. But time and again I’ve found myself in a situation where there was more than that to deal with.

To be honest I’m having a difficult time getting a handle on describing this, so the best way to go is probably an example.

When I was in the military, I knew my stuff. I certainly was not the best of the best, but I could figure things out better than most. But the pattern that I eventually noticed was that each time I started working with a new guy, or went to a new command, I had to prove it all over again. No reputation for being good carried along with me like it did for guys.

Was it because I hadn’t earned it? No, because every time I proved myself to someone new I eventually gained their respect and reliance on my skill. But I could see that this was something I was going to face again and again throughout the rest of my military career. Practically every new guy I interacted with I’d have to establish my reputation all over again. The idea just wore me out.

I finally decided that I had nothing to prove. Not to any more guys in the military, to no one. My life wasn’t going to be about proving a woman could do a technical job well. My life wasn’t going to be about proving a point about anything to anyone that did not relate to just getting the job done. From that point on I was going to find settings that accepted my competence and skill and appreciated it when I delivered. I was not going to bash my life out against the brick wall of other people's preconceptions or hidden motives.

So I recognize that this desire to be able to rest on my laurels has its roots in what’s happening right now in my life. Just like it has before, I can feel that something beyond doing my job is going to be demanded of me, and it makes me feel tired. Does it always come down to this? So far it seems it always does eventually in every environment I’ve worked in.

So I envy those who get to sit on their laurels, and wish I could do that too for just a little bit. Instead there’s no rest for the weary yet again.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Closing the Circle

This morning I was thinking about Obama’s candidacy. They were talking on NPR about how he was at some small gatherings shaking hands and I got to thinking about how much I’d like to shake his hand.

I was picturing it in my head, reaching out and shaking his hand, how I’d use both hands and look him in the eye and try to encourage him in a meaningful way. And much to my surprise as I was picturing this and thinking of the moment of this happening, tears welled up in my eyes. It truly caught me by surprise. And I wondered about how strongly it was making me feel.

I grew up in the 60s and 70s. My parents were both college professors, and I can remember that they participated in civil rights marches. I remember the protest signs my mom made with her silk-screening frame. She’s an artist and art historian. I just remember as a kid it was amazing to see the signs she had made of black and white hands open and overlapped. I learned what my parents thought was important.

My parents bought a house in the poorer area of the town we grew up in, and as a result my brother and I went to schools that were about 80-90% African-American from Kindergarten to 8th grade. This was a deliberate choice on my parents’ part, and it taught me so much.

So I feel like for years I’ve had at least a little more appreciation for the issues of race than many other whites. And so when I thought about shaking Barack’s hand and being able to look him in the eye and wish him well, although he would have no idea, I realized it would be a moment that would have so much meaning for me personally, and how strongly and sincerely I would really mean what I would say to him.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Chocolate Waffles and Deep Thoughts

This weekend I was making something I haven’t made in a long time for breakfast – chocolate waffles. My oldest son (12 years old) barely remembered them, and my two younger ones (11 and 9 years old) had no memory of them at all.

As I was making them, I was trying to tempt my youngest son into trying them since he was intently watching the process of making the waffles and he was enjoying the chocolate smell wafting from the waffle iron. Of course as many parents know trying to get kids to try new foods can be a very frustrating endeavor. Often they’ll just try such a tiny piece that they couldn’t possibly get a sense of the flavor of what they’re trying. And once they’ve tried that molecule sized piece they conclude (of course) that they don’t like it.

In the process of declining trying the chocolate waffles, my youngest son perked up and excitedly made the following observation. “I wonder how I figured out that I liked the foods I like to eat?”

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sometimes it Sucks

At this point, it seems like it might have been an overreaction. But this morning I ended up cutting my walk short. I live in a small self-contained neighborhood. You only drive into it if you live there, are visiting someone there, or have something to deliver. That makes it nice to walk in because in the wee hours of the morning I just about never encounter a car.

But this morning I did. It came down the road I was walking down from the main street. I gave it a wide berth. Now I’m already on alert because it came down the street from the main road, but then this car slows way down towards the other end of the street and just creeps around the corner.

At this point, I’m not taking any chances, I hoof it as quick as I can straight home altering my normal walking route.

Now I can imagine some folks reading this might say – what the heck? What was the problem? Well I’ve learned from experience, being a woman alone you have to be careful, you have to think about things and avoid stuff that guys never have to worry about.

There are many small incidents I could go over, but two stand out for me because of the impact they had on me.

The first one was when I was back in the military. I was alone in an office with a guy, someone I knew well. In fact in the past we’d had a relationship, but he had broken it off. That was long since done, and I was involved with someone else. So I had brought over some documents and I was alone in this office with him, and he grabbed me. He locked his arm around my neck and pulled me to him, and I was astounded by his strength. I tried to pull away from him and it was impossible.

He’s saying stuff to me that I won’t go over here, but it was freaking me out – I knew I was in trouble. The oddest thing was that I knew I should scream, yell something, but I had this overwhelming urge to not cause a problem. I’m sure that’s some social wiring thing or something. So I just started babbling, said I had to go in all kinds of ways, and eventually he let me go and I rushed out of there. I was lucky.

Then a few years later in college, I lived about 7 miles out in the country from the campus. I took great joy in riding into school between the farms and such early in the morning. I can’t describe how beautiful it was, it was just a wonderful way to start my school day.

But then one morning as I was riding along a section of this isolated route, someone pulled up next to me in a car and started saying stuff and making noises at me. It scared the crap out of me, here we were in the middle of nowhere, if this guy decided to do something I’d be toast! I rode as fast as I could with him repeatedly coming close to me with his car until I found a house and pulled into the driveway. I turned to face him and he drove his car backwards down to the previous intersection and sped away. I never rode my bike to school again.

So those incidents, and there were other smaller ones too, taught me that I, as a woman, have to take care about what circumstances I put myself in. Even for my early morning walk in my neighborhood I am careful to not walk all the way out to the main road so that I’m not seen by people driving on the main road.

So most of the time, I’m happy with my life, I love who I am, I’m optimistic and try to think the best of others. For long stretches of time I can go about my morning walks and other activities and just enjoy myself. But sometimes it’s brought home to me that there are some things I have to be extra careful about just because I happen to be a woman. And when that happens it just sucks.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Wisdom of Youth

As I was working in the kitchen on something I could hear my two younger sons (11 and 9) discussing the problem of a video game that was broken. A few months ago their Super Smash Bros. Brawl got scratched in such a way that it now no longer works, and I'm waiting for them to save up enough money to replace it.

So the younger one says "That was a really fun game, it's too bad it's broken." And the older one replies "Yeah, it's just like they say: 'You never know what you have until it's gone.'"

The discussion continued, but at this point I'm just trying not to laugh out loud. It's moments like these I wish I could wrap up and give back to them when they're grown and have kids of their own.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Just Two Feet

For about the third time in just as many weeks as I was pulling up to pay for my breakfast at the McDonald's drive through, I stopped behind the person in front of me who was in the process of paying.

So they pay and pull forward, but only just a little. They don't pull up all the way behind the car that is picking up their meal. There must be a gap of 2-3 feet. The result? I can't pull up to the cashier and pay for my meal.

I'm reminded of that old George Carlin routine - how all other drivers besides you are either idiots or maniacs (RIP George Carlin!). I'd swear there is a population of drivers that are totally oblivious to anyone else out there.

I'll be the first to admit, I make the occasional boneheaded mistake driving, but in general I try to drive in a way that takes into account how I might affect people around me. I don't block intersections, I always pull up as far as I can, and in heavy traffic and merge situations, I try to fairly let people in (sometimes to the protest of those behind me!)

So if you drive and are reading this, don't leave gaps when you're going through the drive through, just pull up as far as you can. Most of the time it might not make a difference, but every so often someone behind you is really going to appreciate it, and that includes me.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How I Play World of Warcraft

I consider myself somewhat antisocial. I’m not into group activities much. I only have a few close friends. So why in the world am I playing an MMORPG at all?

I’ve always liked RPG games. I played the original game “Adventure” on an HP3000 I would telnet to from school when I was supposed to be looking up college information for people. And I’ve played plenty of other RPG and adventure type games on all types of systems. I’ve always enjoyed them.

In addition, I love games where you have to find everything. I know these games drive some people nuts, but I really like finding it all, unlocking hidden endings, etc. I still dig out Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie every once in a while, but my favorite collecting game was Donkey Kong 64. In that game you could tell if you found everything in an area. So I loved checking the list, and seeing that I had one more banana to find. It used to drive my kids nuts – “Just go to the next area!” they’d shout. Alright, alright. Then when they’d be in bed, I’d go back and find what I missed.

So then a couple of years ago I decided to try a trial of World of Warcraft. And I loved it. Did I run instances with groups of people? Nope. Did I join raids? Nope. In fact I hardly ever joined a group or guild for anything.

I tooled around solo for almost everything and only grouped if someone directly asked me for a little help when we happened to be working on the same thing. I didn’t add people to my friends list, in fact one particularly chatty person has caused me not to play one of my characters until the wee hours of the morning because they seemed to have latched onto me and always want to talk when I show up online.

On a very simple level, my pleasure of finding things transfers to working on skills or finding a complete set of armor, or specific weapons and such. I’m going to get my fishing to 215. I’m going to get all the pieces for this armor set. I can tell you, it sometimes takes more than a month to collect what I’m looking for, and so a character may sit doing nothing other than checking the auction house for weeks and weeks.

And of course I’ve got a nice little matrix of all possible character and class combinations, and I’m making sure as I make characters to always use a new combination – no repeats! Don’t even get me started on all the little checklists I’ve made. All recipes available at vendors from what faction, and on and on.

And Professions – I love leveling up those, finding recipes – I can’t remember how long it took me to get the shadow hood recipe for my tailor! And I love optimizing leveling them. What uses the least materials, or at least sells well.

There are wonderful websites like,, and that just add to my enjoyment of the game and looking up things I could find.

And then the whole process of twinking a character is fun as well. Farming or combing the auction house for what I need. And plying the auction house to make money. I love flipping items that I find under-priced.

All of these kinds of things let me satisfy my OCDish tendencies. But really, I could do similar enough activities on non-multiplayer games. So when WoW is mostly about Multi-player possibilities, why don’t I just play a console RPG? Then I wouldn’t have to deal with other people.

But there’s just something about being in that multi-player environment that I really like, even though I don’t want to chat and group with other players. I like all the random stuff having all the other people there brings to the game. The environment is dynamic, it’s a living world instead of a place waiting around for you.

Also, different than a console RPG, I’m not the center of the story. I can do whatever I want basically. I could level up without doing any quests at all if I liked. I get to be a bit player instead of the central figure.

What’s interesting is how much that mirrors how I like to work in real life as well. Which leads to the bigger question, how much does how people behave in MMORPGs reflect how they behave in real life? Considering some of the behavior I’ve seen, I certainly hope it doesn’t in most cases. But I still get a kick out of seeing the crazy stuff some people do, so I'll be playing for quite some time to come I'm sure.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Favorite Quotes

I have a few favorites quotes, I thought I'd jot them down here for fun...

"Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right." - Laurens van der Post

"It's most often the small things, done consistently in strategic place, that make the most difference." - David Allen

"Who benefits? -- is always a useful question to ask about deeply entrenched and widely accepted practice." - Alfie Kohn

And I need to find the attribution on this one...

"It's inevitable and normal to see our lives as narratives of our own creation, but it becomes a problem when we mistake the stories in our minds for The Truth." - who said this?

And from a true sage...

"Secretly, I'm a little naive." - Spongebob

And finally one from me...

"Anything worth doing is worth questioning." - me

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I don't count?

At some point I volunteered to fill out a VET-100 form for the company I work for. I figured I’d do it because I had served 6.5 years during the Cold War, and that it would be nice to count for the company when it came to hiring veterans.

So I dutifully printed out the form and to my surprise, Cold War veterans are not counted to this purpose. The form counted the following groups –

- Special Disabled Veteran
- Veteran of the Vietnam-Era
- Other Veterans – (served between 1941-1952 OR if you served on active duty in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized)
- Newly Separated Veterans (left military within the past year)

So basically my service doesn’t count for this purpose since the Cold War was never given campaign status.

Although it has faded now, I can’t begin to tell you how tense things were at that time (I served in the 80s). During my service, the job I did saw the busiest time in its history, we actually received a Meritorious Unit Commendation because of how much we had to deal with.

I guess veteran’s groups have been trying to get the Cold War Era declared as a campaign. It will be interesting if that ever comes about. But I don’t know how well people will remember how it felt, regardless. And I’m guessing veterans of all the different wars must feel similarly about their own experiences as well. But at least they count. :)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Rolling the World

Most days I go for a walk at least once. Sometimes I’m walking with a friend, but most often I’m walking alone. Usually I’ve got a tune in my head to try to keep a quick tempo to my step. I used to use Darth Vadar’s Theme from Star Wars Episode V – that’s got a great pace to it. My current favorite is the track “The Raising Fighting Spirit” which I’m assuming is a mistranslation of the name of the track, but it’s from the show Naruto (did I mention I love Naruto?)

But sometimes on a walk I like to play a little mental game. I imagine that I’m actually standing in one spot and rotating the earth under my feet like a clown on a large ball at the circus. This works best if you have a nice straight area to walk. Just a bit of focus and suddenly it feels real, like each foot step is rolling this immense ball under my feet.

Next time you go for a walk try it out. And if some mornings you notice something odd going on with the earth’s rotation between 4:00 and 4:30 AM, now you know what’s going on. :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Virtual Presents with Real Impact

As my oldest son has gotten older, he has become motivated to get me gifts for Christmas and my birthday now. He’s just become more tuned in, I think, and wants to do something nice for me. And I really appreciate the thought more than anything. But what was neat was how he went about it.

He found the perfect way to be able to afford to get me spectacular presents. Earn gold in World of Warcraft and buy really nice stuff for my characters. So this past Christmas, among other things, he got my priest character a really nice mace – Heaven’s Light. Probably not the best mace for a priest, but it looks awesome.

But the best thing about it is not so much the gift itself, but how much enjoyment he gets out of finding stuff and then giving it to me.

So for a couple of weeks he’s been searching out and buying items for my birthday. Half the time I can’t come upstairs when I get home from work because he doesn’t want me to see what he’s shopping for. Finally a couple days ago he announced that he’d gotten 4 things for me, and get this – you can buy wrapping paper in WoW and wrap your gifts! He is beside himself wanting to give these things to me ahead of time. The anticipation is driving him nuts.

So shortly it will by me birthday and he can finally give this stuff he’s been diligently searching for and I’ll open them up and get to express my appreciation. I love it. And the fact that the items will help me play the game is just icing on my birthday cake.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


It all started with an old HP-25 calculator back in 1975, there were a couple of games you could program, Nimb, and some kind of lunar landing game. Well I keyed in those games and played them repeatedly. Next came the home console for Pong, and I never looked back.

At home I've got 6 computers on the network I set up, a TV just for game consoles, a NES, two Super NES consoles, a Nintendo 64, 3 game cubes, a Wii, and XBox, and... oh yes, nearly every handheld from Nintendo as well. I'm currently contemplating a PS3, but I'm still on the fence.

Oh, and I have 3 sons and a husband too. And as life would have it, my husband hates video games. Oh the irony. But from as early as possible I got my three boys into playing video games with me. They're completely corrupted now.

And work too, that does take up part of my time as well. Just something I have to get out of the way so I can get back to playing, or (ugh) cleaning our perpetually cluttered house (my three boys are agents of entropy!)

I'll see if I can squeeze in a blog between family, work, and gaming now and then.