Posts Tagged day to day

Card Kingdom and Cafe Mox

There is a mecca of gaming in the Seattle area. It arrived about a year and a half ago now, I think, and it is truly outstanding. This haven is Card Kingdom’s store in Ballard, just north of Seattle, and their attached “gamer bar” Cafe Mox. I went there yesterday with some awesome co-workers to play games for like 6 hours and (as always) enjoyed every minute of it.

Card Kingdom’s store space is laid out in a somewhat unusual way for a game store. Rather than packing as many games as possible into as little space as possible, and leaving play/demo space to a minimum, there are large aisles, well organized and categorized sections of product, and many tables on which to play. There’s even an entire three rooms devoted to card games, miniature games and roleplaying games respectively, each with their own appropriate table space! It’s really amazing.

But the reason I keep returning there is actually Cafe Mox, the bar right next door owned and operated by the same folk. In this bar, there are a large variety of beers, wines, mead and even food – sandwiches, salads, some delicious fried stuff. You can check games out from Card Kingdom and play them in Mox, plus there are even two large rooms off the bar you can book for long sessions with big groups (I’ve done so for day-long drafting, for example.)

I highly recommend anyone in town who has any inclination toward playing ANY games at all (and honestly, that means everyone who reads this AT LEAST) to visit and relax there for a few hours. If you come visit me, let me know and I’ll be sure to set up a trip!

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Organizational Notes

Now that I’ve transitioned to a more project-y role and a less programmer-y role, I find myself needing to reference my notes far more often (they aren’t just embedded in code) and also keep track of a variety of tasks on multiple projects (again, not well organized on their own in the manner of a source control repository).  I’ve started relying on a couple of tools, and I thought I’d share.

I use post-its on my work monitor for immediate bite-sized tasks.  This helps me focus when I am drifting, as I am wont to do when my computer is in front of me (it’s just so easy to get into web-browsing or email-sending/reading mode!)  The great thing about these post-its is they are easy to get rid of when I complete a task (although a little wasteful?)  One bad thing is they are hard to bring with me when I am working elsewhere (not my desk) and also difficult to keep track of progress… I’ll have to ponder that.  Maybe little post-it flags attached to the main ones to indicate progress?

I use my little desk whiteboard to keep track of longer-term projects, because it’s set up in a place where I look a lot (and it’s easy to notice when I return to my desk from other locations).  That way I have a good mental picture of the ongoing projects, and I can also attach tasks on post-its to projects (by name).  Since I remember things visually (where on the page, but not what page number, for example), this means I can construct a good picture of what I have to do.

So far, it’s been working well.  I’m a little sad that I am using analog forms to represent this stuff… but maybe I can set up my iPad to be a “digital whiteboard” while I am at my desk?  That’d be neat!

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It Could Happen to You

I’m spending the weekend mostly inside (or gallivanting around at dog parks) with the beagle trio (Max, Tulip, Buddy), so I am reading – programming – watching movies.  I saw It Could Happen to You, a movie from 1998 that I had no idea existed, with Nic Cage and Bridget Fonda.  The premise is that a very honest cop in NY doesn’t have cash on him to leave a tip at a diner, so he promises the waitress half his lottery winnings (from the lottery ticket he just purchased) on the next day.  Obviously, he wins, and then he gives her half, fulfilling his promise.  Antics ensue.

My favorite part of the movie is later, when the two of them are talking, and she says, “I just couldn’t believe you went through with it.”

“A promise is a promise.  Anyone would do the same,” he replies.

“No,” she says, “nobody would do the same.  Nobody!”

How important is a promise?  I used to believe that keeping my word was one of the absolutely most moral things I could do.  Then, as I became a bit wiser (I like to think!) I decided that sometimes doing the right thing means going back on your word, because when you made your promise, you didn’t understand the full consequences of your action.  I do think that honoring one’s word has moral value – it is Right to do it, integrity is a virtue worth promoting, and reliability of stated intent is something valuable.  That implies that I find lies evil, on principle, but unlike my ideas about fairness or the value of sapient life, I don’t think it is as strong a principle as to form a core of a philosophy.

I’d like to believe that I would have done what Cage’s character did, but like all of my moral posturing, I don’t honestly know how I would act in the moment, when the decision actually stands before me.

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Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday

Wow today was busy.  I wish I was exaggerating when I say this is the first time today where I feel like I can really sit down and write a blog, but it’s basically true.  I guess I could have not socialized at lunch, but other than that brief period of time, I was booked up.

It began with an early morning and work on this new website, trying to get it ready to look at by this afternoon’s meeting.  The website, of course, is launching essentially Thursday and hasn’t had any QA eyeballs on it at all.  Fun!  In the midst of that, I had some design pow-wow with Ken, Brian and Mark, and then a chat with a different Mark about long-term job thoughts.  Pile on the second project, another website, in the last throes of bug zaps before it gets sent out the door, and you can see why I wanted a break for foods.

Post-lunch was a blessedly short Magic R&D update meeting, which dovetailed nicely into my back-to-back-to-back meetings on Gatherer imports, the afternoon meeting for the to-be-launched website (at which we did not look at said website, merely talked about it), and then rushing to home with carpool buddy Peter to feed Max, and getting over to Bellevue just in time to play cards with the Community Cup participants in town this week.


I did not have time to look up places to eat for Friday’s date, nor did I have time to do my soon-to-be-overdue expense report.  There’s always tomorrow!

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San Juan

Heading out to San Juan tonight on a red-eye flight; going to do event coverage there, and as two added bonuses, (1) it’s Puerto Rico so it’ll be a great get-away in a vacation-style destination, and (2) it’s my birthday on Saturday, and I’ll have tons of great friends there due to the Pro Tour.

To prepare for this trip, like all trips, I made a checklist.  I have checked all but three items off of it – pack, “bring Max to Turians”, and “get to airport” – but I noted while I was going through the list that I have started to accumulate a large number of burdens while traveling.

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I really enjoyed Michael Crichton’s non-fiction autobiography-work Travels.  In it, he describes a lot of the personal development experience he achieved in the course of traveling all over the world.  One thing that stuck in my mind was his comment on loading himself down with all of his magazines, books, food, blankets, etc. on flights.  He felt overburdened and was enjoying the trips much less.  So he decided to just go on the plane with basically nothing – terrifying at first, but ending up wonderful.

I will have to try this – I have been reducing my load on flights (in terms of stuff I bring with me, but also expectations of getting “stuff” done) but I could just do a cold-turkey experiment and see how it goes.  I know I had a great time conversing with this woman Cindy on the flight back from L.A. two weekends ago — meeting people is great!

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Seminar Day

I’m spending the whole day at a seminar in Seattle, learning a little bit more technical detail about some 3rd party products used by our company, taught by a 4th party collaborator. Eric and I are sitting out on the balcony during the lunch break talking about the usefulness of such seminars given the age of the Internet and an inquisitive mind.

I definitely think having an “expert” who is an actual person you interact with over the course of the seminar is key. Tons of learning happens in a dialog-type process where two thoughtful people are disussing the various merits and problems with (in this case) a technology. Even when one participant has extra/asymmetric knowledge, that person can be delightfully surprised by insights of the other, even as the less-knowledgeable person learns the “normal” way.

There’s also definite merit to having an atmosphere of learning, particularly focused on one specific area, separate from day-to-day activity. I can focus better, and I’m essentially forced to pay attention. Multitasking can certainly be efficient, but as Starcraft rapidly taught me, attention is a resource that you should willfully spend or you lose it.

Overall, I’m happy to have this opportunity to learn in a seminar context but kind of wish it was on something I cared more personally about.

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Wallyball is all about the right amount of randomness plus a lot of teamwork and a lot of mental calculations (that feel great when they work out, and feel silly when they don’t!).  The basic premise is that it is volleyball, with a volleyball-sized raquetball, in a raquetball court, with a volleyball net.  Yeah, crazy, I know.  The walls are legal, even on serves, as long as you don’t hit the ceiling or back wall (or two walls) on the over.

I’ve been playing it off and on with a great, fluid crew from Wizards Saturdays for almost two years.  It’s a fun group activity, even though the activity level is much lower than volleyball.  Usually this is because the ball is hitting a lot of walls / you can use the walls to propel your shot into position – as opposed to normal volleyball, where it’s all about position and shot strength / type.  We’ve had more than a fair share of injuries, because like raquetball, the ball can move in unexpected and dangerous ways.

Overall, it’s great fun, and I recommend it to everyone.  Nothing quite compares (in my team physical activity experience) to the coordination of a volleyball bump-set-serve with the walls to add power… and then continuing the volley with an amazing dig and off-the-wall return.  It’s not really volleyball, but I think I love it more for that, having been crushed in volleyball too many times. 😉

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Month in Review: February

The lateness of this post is the first criticism I have of myself: this month, I let myself become less routine and therefore more of a procrastinator.  I am still getting a blog done a day (with vacation trips, they have sometimes been erratically posted, but it’s still one-a-day, so that’s good).  I am not really hitting on a few of my other resolutions: cooking, side projects, exercise, physics and stress are not really at the levels I want them.

I did excellent on travel and going out this past month, with a plethora of new friends from the Magic Cruise, plenty of time out dancing and singing (both here in Seattle, and on my recent trips to the Caribbean and to San Diego), and generally getting out of the house.  The flip side of this is that I haven’t really found a plan that works for me for cooking meals or exercise.  The sporadic nature of “going out” (it tends to be unscheduled because the people I go out with – friends, and great people – are not super organized, nor have I been, about scheduling) has made my time at home very unorganized.

My plans for the upcoming (current) month:

  • Keep organized around my planned trip this month (GDC in San Fran, next week) so that both before and after, I am still on track to cook-exercise-side project.
  • Finish cleaning / unpacking so that I can move on with my furniture plan, making the second bedroom into an actual bedroom, and get visitors.
  • Choose nights beforehand where I know I want to go out and do something.  I’m sure, even if there’s no plan, that I can find something to do on those nights, and figuring out which ones I want to do in advance will reduce my overall stress AND work better with the cook-exercise-side project track.

Overall, February was a great month, but I feel like I’m slipping on my resolutions and need to redouble my efforts.

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Due to emergency preparedness scenarios at work, many people I know – including nearly all the people in my group – are receiving laptops in trade for their normal desktop machines.  I spent the better part of yesterday and today coordinating with our TS folks to setup said laptop.  I am not thrilled about this.

Pros of the Laptop

  • I have a work computer, with work stuff on it, that I can bring on work trips and into meetings in rooms without a computer.  So that’s nice… but I already had a laptop for bringing with me on work trips! 😛
  • It has a cool docking station, and is basically as good as my desktop – but those are just parity with the desktop I already have!

Cons of the Laptop

  • I don’t work as efficiently on a laptop.  The existence of the keyboard and mousepad, and the smaller size of the monitor, both conspire to make my workspace uncomfortable.  I do have a second monitor at work that I have plugged into it, which helps, but I need to investigate a way to put the laptop off to the side and just use two regular monitors, a regular keyboard and a regular mouse (i.e. remove the laptop from the equation – which sort of defeats the purpose)
  • I have to lug it back and forth each day, or else I am shortcircuiting the plan if and when there is an emergency.
  • I have a ton of resources and random files on the ol’ desktop machine that I either need to transfer or delete… and I don’t really have the time to spend doing those things!

As you can tell by my negative tone even in the Pros section, I am definitely not thrilled about this.  The new laptop case, which I was able to select from a catalog, is pretty sweet, but man, I find these interruptions in my normal workflow (to switch systems, etc.) to be frustrating even if they are determined necessary for the business as a whole.

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Taking a Break

I’m stuck at Seattle Tacoma International for a while, on the way to the third of three vacation weekends out of town. But for all of these “vacation” trips, I end up returning and feeling rushed or terribly fatigued. Part of the problem, and I’ve whined to various friends about this before, is the feeling of having no “free” time. This is true especially when work becomes draining during the week – it feels like all of my time not at work (or eating, or asleep) is planned out or taken up by activities with friends.

It’s not like I am upset about spending time with friends – far from it! I think there’s just something about my personality where if I don’t have a night or two a week where I am decompressing and relaxing, I feel super stressed.

That’s why visits with friends that are more optional feeling (not scheduled commitments) tend to be great, all the more so when it’s with an entire group I feel very comfortable with. The creation of mutual comfort with friends is not something I have spent a lot of time thinking about, but maybe I should.

Of course, this is probably all in my head. There’s a definite activation energy required for me to get out and do stuff even when I feel exhausted, but once I’m out, it never fails to be an excellent (even rejuvenating) time.

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